Chapter twenty-eight contains a new judgment prophecy against Ephraim, representing all of northern Israel. In the first section, Ephraim is compared to drunks and babies (Isaiah 28:1-13). Although Ephraim may have seen themselves as the “splendid crown” of the nation, God saw them stumbling around like drunks, slipping and falling in their own vomit. He saw them as babies, babbling “meaningless gibberish” instead of coherent words. Both drunks and babies have difficulty walking straight without falling over. The point is that God himself is the “beautiful crown” of Israel, but they did not understand anything he said. Because of this, God declared that they would have to learn by foreign languages, rather than their own. Paul quoted this to explain the purpose of speaking in tongues in the New Testament. He said that “tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers,” especially Jews (1 Corinthians 14:21-22).
In the section half of the chapter it seems that the Jews had somehow “made a treaty with death,” so that they were not afraid of being destroyed (vs. 15). Constable thinks that this refers to a pact with another nation (possibly Egypt) that they thought would protect them against an invasion from Assyria. As opposed to the Jews’ contrived methods to protect themselves, God said that he would give them one source of protection – a “stone” (Isaiah 28:16). This “cornerstone” is explained by Paul (Ephesians 2:20; Romans 9:33; 1 Corinthians 1:23) and Peter (1 Peter 2:6) to be Christ, himself and his gospel. Thus, God himself would be their judge, nullifying any contract they thought they had for protection (Isaiah 28:16-18). They thought they had security (like a bed and blanket), but they would discover it to come up short (Isaiah 28:19-21). Instead, he called them to return to him (Isaiah 28:22-29). A farmer does not keep plowing when it is time to plant, does he? And he does not harvest fragile crops with a sledgehammer, does he? Then why would Israel continue to do the wrong things, in the wrong ways, at the wrong times, when they have the wisdom of Jehovah himself at their disposal? It is a good question for believers today as well.