Isaiah 28: Don't Drink and Preach

In Isaiah 28, God describes the dangers of trying to teach when you're drunk or hungover. It sounds pretty obvious, but you know what, I think this is more of a spiritual message than a literal message—especially since He goes on to reveal the promise of salvation through the Cornerstone (aka Jesus the Messiah). Let's dig into it.
In Isaiah 28, God describes the dangers of trying to teach when you're drunk or hungover. It sounds pretty obvious, but you know what, I think this is more of a spiritual message than a literal message—especially since He goes on to reveal the promise of salvation through the Cornerstone (aka Jesus the Messiah). Let's dig into it.


Isaiah 28 gives us a reminder not to be drunk, that God is the ultimate authority, and by His ultimate authority, He has given us a way to redeem us from death. One of the most beautiful things about the Bible is that even when God is telling us about our sin and wickedness, He gives us hope.


Photocredit: Masat
I don't think anyone will argue about the Bible condemning drunkenness—how we carry that into our daily lives might be another topic. The first part of Isaiah 28 is evidence of God's stance against drunkenness. In His judgements against the drunkards of Ephraim, God points out their inability to do what is needed because of their drunken stupor. The reason it is illegal to drink and drive is because alcohol impairs our reaction time as well as our decision making. Have you ever seen videos of people after getting their wisdom teeth removed or other surgeries? The drugs used to put them to sleep leave them in a confused but often heightened stupor. Some are extremely emotional,[1] some are rambunctious,[2], and some are forgetful.[3]

Now imagine your pastor standing in the pulpit trying to explain the word of God in that condition. His words would be slurred, his interpretation probably wouldn't make sense. He would struggle to hold his composure and likely have random outbursts that you wouldn't be able to follow. His body would be fighting an internal war trying to process the alcohol, meanwhile his brain would be trying to recall the word of God. That's not an easy task.

Literal Interpretation

God describes this disaster in literal form. Isaiah 28:7-8 is exactly the image I had in my mind, complete with the after effects of a hangover. A person in this condition is in no shape to teach someone—to do anything, really.

Spiritual Interpretation

We know the literal effects of drugs and alcohol, but if we step back for a minute and realize that God is always talking to us about our salvation, we would see that there is spiritual meaning here as well. In Revelation 17:2, we see the "kings of the world" become "drunk" from sin. The specific sin mentioned is sexual immorality, but in context, we can infer that this references all sin. Why? Because, throughout the Bible God always refers to the Israelites' breach of the covenant as adultery or fornication with pagan gods. In Revelation, the woman is the false church, so the passage is referring to being a part of this false church and following her instruction instead of God's—which could be any and all types of sin.

In that light, if we are drunk with sin, we distance ourself from God. Our ability to understand His message or the visions He gives us becomes impaired. Similarly, it is hard for us to bring others into the Body of Christ or teach the gospel when we are so embroiled in our own problems.

Precept Upon Precept

Have you heard the phrase "precept upon precept, line upon line?" I've heard it a plenty. Usually it's given to mean that the interpretation gathered from a particular verse must match the rest of the Bible. It is basically a warning not to take things out of context. The actual verse is found in Isaiah 28:10 and Isaiah 28:13. Isaiah 28:10 seems to fit the use that I've heard it all my life, but Isaiah 28:13 confused me. The fact that the Word of God was given to them in this manner causes them to fall implies that this isn't a good method.

I read a few commentaries trying to figure out what was being said. Some agree with usual interpretation, concluding that in this passage, people were mocking the way Isaiah taught and wouldn't listen. The response in verse 13 is therefore God repeating their mockery to remind them why they are being punished.

Others had a slightly different take on it. They believe this is a reference to how children are taught, in simplistic terms with repetition. Reading the commentaries, I had a flash back to elementary school when we had math drills. We learned multiplication through memorization, which used repetition. 7 year old me probably couldn't tell you why 7 x 8 = 56 or 6 x 9 = 72, but I could have spat out the times table with ease. Sometimes, this is how we teach the Word of God. It's simply drilled into us with out tapping into the fact that the Word is living. It is meant to help us form a relationship with God, not robotically obey.

Regardless of which interpretation you agree with, I think there is truth in both. To understand the Word you do need to go line by line and each piece of the puzzle has to fit. It also beneficial to teach the Word through living examples as opposed to simple beating it into memory. Just as I could rapidly recite the times table as a child, but had no connection to what I was saying, the same can happen to believers who only memorize their beliefs. When we simply memorize the Word of God, it hasn't necessarily touched out hearts yet so it has no effect on us.

A Deal with Death

Isaiah 28:15 talks about mankind's covenant with death. Because we have sinned, we have chosen death over life. By sinning, we do Death's bidding and thus are marked as his instead of God's.


The great news is that God has found a way to get us out of this contract with death. If you remember a few years ago, the LA Clippers owner was caught saying racist things. The players, though likely offended by his comments, could not just up and quit their jobs because they signed legally binding contracts that committed them to that team. This is what we have done with death. Luckily, God is a phenomenal lawyer, judge, and jury. He has agreed to both represent us and judge our case, ensuring that we can break that contract. All we need is to accept His cornerstone

The cornerstone discussed here is none other than God's Son, the Messiah. Other passages that speak of this cornerstone are Psalm 118:22, Zechariah 10:4, Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:11, Ephesians 2:20, and 1 Peter 2:6-7. From these verses, it is evident that here God is explaining the plan of salvation, redemption, and freedom from our covenant with death.

God's Approach to Justice

The last few verses in the chapter discuss the differences that happen on a farm, since that is was that is what the people would know best. He reminds us that there are several different tasks needed to grow crops (plowing, planting, etc.), and each crop needs different things. For instance, a cactus needs very little water to grow, but some plants actually grow submerged in water. This same principle carries over to the treatment of people. God judges us on a case by case scenario, determining what is needed for our specific situation.


  1. Jayci Underwood. " Girl Desperate to be Nicki Minaj After Wisdom Teeth Removal". Youtube. October 21, 2014
  2. Dolan Twins. "Ethan Gets His Wisdom Teeth Removed !!". Youtube. Dec 13, 2016
  3. CNN. "Man after surgery: 'You're my wife?'". YouTube. September 10, 2013
  4. "Isaiah 28:10 Commentary". Bible Hub; visited February 2019

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