What does Isaiah 5:11 mean?
ESV: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may run after strong drink, who tarry late into the evening as wine inflames them!
NIV: 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.
NASB: Woe to those who rise early in the morning so that they may pursue intoxicating drink, Who stay up late in the evening so that wine may inflame them!
CSB: Woe to those who rise early in the morning in pursuit of beer, who linger into the evening, inflamed by wine.
NLT: What sorrow for those who get up early in the morning looking for a drink of alcohol and spend long evenings drinking wine to make themselves flaming drunk.
KJV: Woe unto them that rise up early in the morning, that they may follow strong drink; that continue until night, till wine inflame them!
NKJV: Woe to those who rise early in the morning, That they may follow intoxicating drink; Who continue until night, till wine inflames them!
Verse Commentary:
Isaiah pronounces his second "woe" of grief and judgment upon those in Judah and Jerusalem. Given the context, this is likely directed at those who were wealthy as well (Isaiah 5:8). In the ancient world, only the wealthy could afford to spend all day, every day, from early in the morning until late at night, getting drunk.

These people have turned pleasure and drinking into a full-time pursuit. Drunkenness and debauchery is why these wealthy people get out of bed in the morning. The constant drunkenness brings with it nightly rounds of being "inflamed," likely indicating participation in sexual immorality.

Scripture does not condemn the consumption of alcohol. After all, Isaiah's song and parable was about the production of grapes to make wine, and table wine was a staple of Israel's diet (Isaiah 5:1–4). And in the New Testament Paul instructs Timothy to drink some wine for his ailments (1 Timothy 5:23) We see throughout Scripture it is drunkenness that is condemned, not alcohol itself. In this passage, Isaiah is calling out the excessive lifestyles of the wealthy. As the following verse reveals, it robs them of concern for anything else, including the work of the Lord.
Verse Context:
Isaiah 5:8–30 contains Isaiah's dire predictions about the upcoming judgment of Israel. The first "woes" are to the greedy and the pleasure-seeking drinkers. They will go into exile and to the grave for refusing to acknowledge God. The Lord then will be exalted for restoring justice and righteousness. The next woes are to those who embrace sin and mock the coming judgment. These are also those people who have mixed evil and good and believe they know better than God. The final listed woes are those who make it a point of pride how much alcohol they can drink, as well as how they can work the system with bribes. The Lord will summon the armies of the nations to bring judgment on His people.
Chapter Summary:
Isaiah 5 begins with a parable about a farmer who builds a vineyard that produces sour grapes. The owner says he will lay waste to the vineyard. Isaiah reveals the owner to be the Lord and the vineyard to be Israel. Israel's bad fruit includes the greed of the wealthy and the hedonism of the people. They will go hungry and thirsty, into exile, and the grave. The Lord will be exalted for His righteousness. Isaiah pronounces woe on the sinners, the mockers, and the unjust rulers. The Lord will summon the nations to judge His people.
Chapter Context:
Early chapters (Isaiah 1—4) established a prophetic message given to the people of Israel. Isaiah 5 begins a new section with a parable about a vineyard that produces wild grapes despite all the work the owner has done. The vineyard is Israel, and the owner is the Lord. He will lay waste to the vineyard for the greed and drunkenness of the people. They will go into exile and the grave. The Lord will be exalted, but woe to those who embrace sin, and mock God's judgment. As well as those who take bribes against the poor. He has summoned the nations. Judgment is coming. The next chapter includes one of the Bible's most famous visions (Isaiah 6).
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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