Can you explain Isaiah 5:8, “Woe unto them that join house to house…?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

We read in Isaiah 5:8: “Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” What is this all about?

Here is the first of six “woes” in Isaiah chapter 5 (cf. verses 11,18,20,21,22). In these verses, JEHOVAH God is pronouncing warnings to the Jews concerning their specific sins.

To “join house to house,” to “lay field to field,” is qualified by “till there be no place.” In other words, they have crammed into one plot of land as much as they possibly can. Think of massive apartment complexes or merged estates that have no vacant spaces between them. Avarice—extreme greed—has consumed the nations Israel and Judah. They are so materialistic and selfish: their purpose or intent in packing the land is “that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!” They do not want neighbors; they want God’s land all for themselves.

Contemporaneous with the Prophet Isaiah, the Prophet Micah wrote in chapter 2 of his Book concerning the covetous Jews: “[1] Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. [2] And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. [3] Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil…. [8] Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war. [9] The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever.

The Jews have perverted their own court systems so as to steal property from their fellow Israelites (thus making them poor and homeless). They purchase that land, disobeying the Law of Moses that said they were neither to sell the land nor let it fall into the hands of Jews from other tribes. Plots of land were to stay within the family.

Reading the Law of Moses in Leviticus 25:23-25: “[23] The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine, for ye are strangers and sojourners with me. [24] And in all the land of your possession ye shall grant a redemption for the land. [25] If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.”

With excessive greed driving the Jews of Isaiah and Micah’s day to buy up land and build houses, the LORD gives them a solemn promise. Let us go back to Isaiah chapter 5: “[8] Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! [9] In mine ears said the LORD of hosts, Of a truth many houses shall be desolate, even great and fair, without inhabitant. [10] Yea, ten acres of vineyard shall yield one bath, and the seed of an homer shall yield an ephah.(Verse 10 is severe famine, extreme agricultural hardships.)

The houses they were so fixated on buying and building, the land they were so determined to purchase and keep for themselves, God would take it all away during the fifth course of judgment or chastisement. Gentiles (Assyrians and Babylonians) would enter the land of Palestine in the decades following Isaiah and Micah and take the Israelites (north and south) captive! Both Bible history and secular/world history testify to that fact that the Jews lost their land as they were scattered amongst the Gentiles’ lands.

Leviticus chapter 26: “[27] And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; [28] Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. [29] And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. [30] And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you.

“[31] And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. [32] And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. [33] And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. [34] Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies’ land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths. [35] As long as it lieth desolate it shall rest; because it did not rest in your sabbaths, when ye dwelt upon it.”

Also see:
» Why do Amos 4:4 and Amos 5:5 give opposite commands?
» Why did Ezekiel in Babylon warn of Jerusalem’s fall?
» How could God forbid Jeremiah to pray for His people?