“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: “Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine; a homer of seed will yield only an ephah of grain.”
“Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, pipes and timbrels and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no respect for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; those of high rank will die of hunger and the common people will be parched with thirst.” Isaiah 5:8-13
“Here, then, is a classic passage on the corrupting power of riches (or at least of the desire to acquire them). The land-grabbing of verse 8 was contrary to the basic principle in the law of Moses that the LORD owned the land, and that all His ‘tenants’ were to have a fair share of it. The wealth was gained by oppression and could be held on to only by further oppression.
When confronted with their sin, the offenders either became brazen or resorted to specious arguments to justify their actions. But nothing could conceal the fact that they had rejected the law of the LORD Almighty. Pretending to be wise, they actually became fools. In their drunken debauchery they could no longer understand God’s ways or see what He was doing.
In contrast to all this stands the God of justice and righteousness, whose word they have despised. God’s holiness consists essentially in His moral character, and this means that He cannot be indifferent to evil. But the judgments, foreshadowed here — desolation of houses and land, exile, famine and death — will affect rich and poor, noble and commoner alike. By their actions the ruling élite have brought about the ruin of the nation.”
J.A. Motyer in The Message of Isaiah (TBSP; Downers Grove: IVP, 1996) 56-57.
These are two of six woes proclaimed against the Judah and they relate to greed, the antithesis of generosity. This oracle was proclaimed sometime during the reign of King Uzziah (c. 750 BC). The LORD Almighty was not happy.
Grabbing land and building extra houses revealed a complete disregard for the command of God that His people were tenants and not owners of the land. God’s desired that every family have a place: that was the right or just use of land in the eyes of the LORD. Their greed would lead to their own destruction. Notice the ironic twists.
The houses of the ones who were land-grabbing would end up desolate. Though they were inflamed with wine, they would end up hungry and cause everyone to thirst. Because they did not use property following God’s design and desire, that is, with righteousness and justice, everyone would suffer and the land would cease to be fruitful.
Don’t miss the message. When greed people us to acquisitiveness, that is stockpiling money, possessions, lands, and houses for themselves, they won’t even get to enjoy them. While these oracles were proclaimed more than 2,700 years ago, God’s heart remains the same, and it seems like times have not changed a bit.
We must all see ourselves as tenants in this world who handle property with justice and righteousness. While the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, God sees. What should we do? Anything more than basic food, clothing, and shelter should be shared with others. Accumulating for self what God intends all to enjoy never pleases Him.
For years I followed the cultural narrative that said, “I earned it. It’s mine.” It’s a lie. God owns and sees everything. Nothing is hidden from His view. He wants us to live as faithful tenants for justice and righteousness, which means we get to live is as pilgrims in this world, eager to share generously all He supplies so that everyone has enough.Read more