Isaiah 5:18 MEANING

Isaiah 5:18
(18) That draw iniquity with cords of vanity.--The phrase is boldly figurative. Evil-doers are thought of as harnessing themselves as to the chariot of sin. The "cords of vanity"--i.e., of emptiness or ungodliness--are the habits by which they are thus bound. The "cart ropes," thicker and stronger than the "cords," represent the extreme stage, when such habits become irresistibly dominant. Probably the words may point to some idolatrous procession, in which the chariot of Baal or Ashtaroth was thus drawn by their worshippers, like that of Demeter or Cybele in Greece, or Juggernath in India.

Verse 18. - Woe unto them, etc. We come here to the third woe, which is pronounced against those who openly pile up sin upon sin, and scoff at God. These men are represented as "drawing iniquity with cords of vanity," i.e. dragging after them a load of sin by cords that seem too weak; and then as "sinning with a cart-rope," which is a mere variant expression of the same idea. Mr. Cheyne quotes from the Rig-Veda, as a parallel metaphor, the phrase, "Undo the rope of sin."

5:8-23 Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed. Here is woe to those who dote upon the pleasures and the delights of sense. The use of music is lawful; but when it draws away the heart from God, then it becomes a sin to us. God's judgments have seized them, but they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures. The judgments are declared. Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low; ever so mean, death will bring him lower. The fruit of these judgments shall be, that God will be glorified as a God of power. Also, as a God that is holy; he shall be owned and declared to be so, in the righteous punishment of proud men. Those are in a woful condition who set up sin, and who exert themselves to gratify their base lusts. They are daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts; it is in scorn that they call God the Holy One of Israel. They confound and overthrow distinctions between good and evil. They prefer their own reasonings to Divine revelations; their own devices to the counsels and commands of God. They deem it prudent and politic to continue profitable sins, and to neglect self-denying duties. Also, how light soever men make of drunkenness, it is a sin which lays open to the wrath and curse of God. Their judges perverted justice. Every sin needs some other to conceal it.Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity,.... The prophet returns to the wicked again, and goes on with the account of their sin and punishment; and here describes such, not that are drawn into sin unawares, through the prevalence of their own hearts' lusts and corruptions, through the temptations of Satan, the snares of the world, or the persuasions of others; but such who draw it to themselves, seek after it, and willingly commit it; who rush and force themselves into it; who solicit it, and seek and take all occasions and opportunities of doing it; and take a great deal of pains about it; and make use of all arguments, reasonings, and pretences they can devise, to engage themselves and others in the practice of it; which are all cords of vanity, fallacious and deceitful.

And sin as it were with a cart rope; using all diligence, wisdom, policy, and strength; labouring with all might and main to effect it. Some by "iniquity" and "sin" understand punishment, as the words used sometimes signify; and that the sense is, that such persons described by their boldness and impudence in sinning, by their impenitence and hardness of heart, and by adding sin to sin, draw upon themselves swift destruction, and the greater damnation. The Targum interprets it of such that begin with lesser sins, and increase to more ungodliness; paraphrasing it thus,

"woe to them that begin to sin a little, and they go on and increase until that they are strong, and "their" sins "are" as a cart rope;''

to which agrees that saying in the Talmud (g),

"the evil imagination or corruption of nature at first is like a spider's thread, but at last it is like to cart ropes; as it is said, "woe to them that draw iniquity", &c.''

(g) T. Bab. Succa, fol. 52. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 99. 2. Vid. Bereshit Rabba, sect. 22. fol. 19. 2.

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