8 Woe to those who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is no more room, and you are made to dwell alone in the midst of the land. 9 The Lord of hosts has sworn in my hearing: “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant. 10 For ten acres of vineyard shall yield but one bath, and a homer of seed shall yield but an ephah.” (Isaiah 5:8-10)
The prophets of God had a twofold message from God to the people of God. The prophet’s message from the LORD was called an oracle. An oracle was a divine revelation communicated through God’s spokesperson (prophet, priest, or king), usually pronouncing blessing, instruction, or judgment.
An oracle of blessing would be prefaced by the word “blessed.” However, an oracle of judgment would be preceded by the word “woe.” In the Song of Isaiah the Prophet, which is contained in Isaiah 5, Isaiah issued a series of six woes upon the Nation of Judah in general, and the Jewish people in particular. The reasons for the woes was Israel’s bad fruit of unrighteousness, previously referred to in Isaiah 5:1-7. The first woe is contained in vs. 8-10.
The LORD pronounced judgment upon Israel because of their greedy real estate owners and their crass materialism. The vocabulary indicates that these owners were violently attacking dwelling place after dwelling place and pasture and pasture in their desire for more.
Dr. Roy Zuck explains that, “Selling houses permanently in a walled city was allowed under the Law, but selling houses in unwalled cities and fields was allowed only until the Year of Jubilee when the houses would revert back to their former owners. Because God had given the people the land they were not to get rich at others’ expense.”
Due to this materialism, the houses and lands, which were so coveted, would become desolate. No one would inhabit them. This would be God’s judgment upon them.
Dr. John Walvoord comments that, “As noted in the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 28:20–24), their crops would fail. Normally a large vineyard would produce many gallons of wine, but here the amount would be a mere six gallons (a bath). And six bushels (a homer) of seed would normally yield scores of bushels of grain, but ironically the grain would be only one-half a bushel (an ephah), just 1/12 the amount of seed sown!”
Dr. John MacArthur explains that, “God judged the greedy rich by reducing the productivity of their land to a small fraction of what it would have been normally. Such amounts, (as listed by Isaiah) indicate famine conditions.”
Proverbs 30:7-9 says, “7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die: 8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, 9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
I Timothy 6:6-11 says, “6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.”
Perhaps the LORD has allowed this recent pandemic to remove the sin of materialism from our own souls. It is worth considering.
Soli deo Gloria!