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What is Isaiah 28:9-13 saying about doctrine?


What is knowledge, doctrine, and precept?

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Isaiah 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. 10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: 11 For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. 12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear. 13 But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

The Hebrew word translated precept is used 8 times in these verses. It is only used once elsewhere and that is in Hosea 5:11 where it is translated as ‘commandment’.

Hosea 5:11 Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked after the commandment.

In Hosea 5:11 it almost certainly refers to Jeroboam’s commandment to worship the Golden Calves at Bethel and Dan rather than the true God at Jerusalem. From this we might reasonably suppose that when the same word is used in Isaiah 28:9-13 it is also referring to the precepts of men. Isaiah continues in chapter 29:

Isaiah 29:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:

The Septuagint translates it thus:

Isaiah 29:13 And the Lord has said, This people draw nigh to me with their mouth, and they honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me: but in vain do they worship me, teaching the commandments and doctrines of men.

Matthew records Jesus quoting Isaiah 29:13 from the Septuagint when rebuking the Jews for replacing God’s commandments with their own.

Matthew 15:6 ...Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Mark records:

Mark 7:5 Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? 6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. 9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.

The Jews built upon the commandments of God by hedging them about with more and more rules to the point where the original intention of the Law was subverted. The lives of Jews today are still ruled to a greater or lesser extent by the minutia of laws built upon the Law given to Moses. The Jews extended the Law to do no servile work on the Sabbath Day (Numbers 28:25) to forbid healing. Because Jesus healed on the Sabbath they went about to kill him.

John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.

The second charge of saying that God was his Father was also made a capital offence by their tradition. The Law only proscribed blasphemy, their tradition defined what constituted blasphemy.

John 19:7 The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.

Both of the charges on which Jesus was condemned to die came not from the Law given through Moses but from precepts of men built upon the Law. So it was that the doctrine preached by Christ and his apostles differed from the doctrine of the Jews.

Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

Matthew 16:12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mark 1:22 And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

The Jews’ traditions placed on the people a grievous burden of rules.

Matthew 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

Christ’s teachings based on the principles of the Law were easy by comparison.

Matthew 11:28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Isaiah speaks of the rest that God intended:

Isaiah 28:12 To whom he said, This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing: yet they would not hear.

Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? 7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

The Jews of Jesus’ day were so far removed from God’s principles that they used their ‘precepts’ to take widows’ houses.

Matthew 23:14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows‘ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer...

Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11 when speaking of the Jews’ refusal to turn back from their traditions even when Jews from different nations hear the gospel in their mother tongue as happened first at Pentecost (Acts 2:7-11).

1Corinthians 14:21 In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that will they not hear me, saith the Lord.

When they heard the word of God they did not desire it as newborn babies desire milk. They were as men weaned from the milk. They were unteachable. We on the other hand are to desire the milk of the word of God and be as teachable as little children.

1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:

Mark 10:15 Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.

So they fell and were broken as a nation and taken into captivity.

Christ fulfilled the law and took it out of the way; complete with all the nullifying traditions of the Jews.

Ephesians 2:15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Colossians 2:14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;

Paul is at great pains to warn us not to be sucked back into a religion built on the commandments of men.

Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, 21 (Touch not; taste not; handle not; 22 Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?

Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

Christianity went the same way as Judaism in that by the 4th century AD it had substituted the teachings of the Church Fathers for the doctrines of the apostles. Today there are many churches with different doctrines and gospels even as Paul prophesied.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

What Isaiah 28:9-13 is saying about doctrine is that the Jews substituted their own and would not listen to the truth and so worshipped God in vain.

Matthew 15:9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Christians must learn from this and make sure that the doctrine that they believe is actually in the Bible and not a piece of embroidery by the Church Fathers, otherwise we too will be worshipping God in vain.

I hope this helps.

Glenn Smith

 
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