Isaiah 5:8-13 – The Consequences of Injustice
SummaryThose who appropriate the land of others find themselves desolate and alone.
This text directly reflects the social situation of the eighth century B.C.E. referred to above ("The Eighth-Century Prophets" in Introductory Issues). Either legally or illegally, some have appropriated the land allotted to others. (Isaiah's contemporary Micah more clearly describes the appropriation as illegal--Micah 2:1-6.) Here the issue is not merely injustice, but access to the land that was God's gift to Israel, allotted to all the tribes when they settled in the territory of Canaan (Joshua 13:1-19:51). This was not just acreage; it was the land of promise that marked participation in the community and the covenant. To be robbed of the land was to be cut off from God's promises. In this text some buy up or steal land simply because they can, only to find themselves alone since others now have no place to live. Now they are without community as well.
The text demonstrates a common feature of the prophetic oracles of judgment: the punishment fits the crime, or, as some now say, what goes around comes around. The wealthy build many houses, but those houses will be empty; they seize land, but that land will prove unproductive; now they eat and drink lavishly, but they will find themselves hungry and thirsty. This judgment follows the Bible's sense of justice throughout: you reap what you sow (Galatians 6:7). Evil acts have evil consequences--not so much because God delights in "getting" those who do bad things, but simply because they do.