"Woe unto them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strength to mingle strong drink: Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!" (Isaiah 5:22-23)
This sixth and last woe vividly brings to light the hopeless condition of Israel's citizens and the resultant punishment of that condition. Instead of being a nation full of men who were strong in God's righteousness, Israel was a nation of drunkards. They misappropriated the blessings of God's creation and used them to satisfy their lusts. The wicked man enjoys that which robs him of his senses lest he hear the convicting voice of God's Spirit.
Men of strength could be translated men of wealth. Likely, these were those who were using their wealth and position to feed their flesh rather than to help the needy and to better their society. These men were justifying the wicked rather than condemning them for their sins. Why? Because, they wanted the bribe offered to them. They were being payed off; therefore, the one who offered the most was the one who was aided in his case. The righteous man had become a prey in the middle of an unjust society, and God saw it all.
Human judges are intended to represent the righteous judgment of God. In fact, in Exodus 21:6, the Hebrew word behind judges literally means gods. The Lord commanded Israel's judges to be ruling in the fear of the Lord, always concerned with accurately representing God's righteous nature; but instead, the Israelites had perverted this holy office and converted the judgment halls of Israel into dens of thieves.
No one is beyond the perversion of justice. Believers can easily distort righteousness due to peer pressure, advantage, personalities, etc. God expects His people to do what is right based upon the truth of Scripture and not upon human advantage.
"Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom shall go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore is the anger of the LORD kindled against his people, and he hath stretched forth his hand against them, and hath smitten them: and the hills did tremble, and their carcases were torn in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 5:24-25)
Every decision has its consequences whether good or bad. The Holy Spirit now shares the result of Israel's choices. All for which Judah's citizens had worked would be destroyed. The ill-gotten land, the bribes and the posterity of the wicked would be destroyed or taken away by the coming Assyrians and Babylonians. Ignoring the Scriptures has serious ramifications.
The word for torn literally means animal entrails, refuse, waste or decomposing animal flesh. When the enemy came, he would butcher the inhabitants of the cities. Bodies would line the streets and be torn in pieces as the chariot horses trampled them under foot. Human entrails would be spread all over; yet, this would not be the end of the matter. The hand of the Lord would remain stretched out until Judah's sin was fully recompensed.
"And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly: None shall be weary nor stumble among them; none shall slumber nor sleep; neither shall the girdle of their loins be loosed, nor the latchet of their shoes be broken: Whose arrows are sharp, and all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs shall be counted like flint, and their wheels like a whirlwind: Their roaring shall be like a lion, they shall roar like young lions: yea, they shall roar, and lay hold of the prey, and shall carry it away safe, and none shall deliver it. And in that day they shall roar against them like the roaring of the sea: and if one look unto the land, behold darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof." (Isaiah 5:26-30)
The word hiss means to whistle. God would call for the Assyrians and the Babylonians to punish His people. The reality God's ability to move nations against the rebellious may be seen in II Kings 24:1-2 when God brought the surrounding nations against Jehoiakim. As time progressed, the Lord allowed the Assyrian Empire to continue its push westward until Jerusalem found Sennacherib knocking at the door. Eventually, the Babylonians would come against Jerusalem with great ferocity and leave it in ruins.
The Lord promised to give Israel's enemies the needed strength for inflicting her punishment. Much later, God would command Jeremiah to tell King Zedekiah, "For though ye had smitten the whole army of the Chaldeans that fight against you, and there remained but wounded men among them, yet should they rise up every man in his tent, and burn this city with fire (Jeremiah 37:10)." God is in control of all. He can strike fear into the heart of the enemy and cause him to flee in terror, or He can give the enemy frightening power. The Lord used these vivid illustrations to remind the Israelites that their confidence in themselves and their Egyptian neighbors was useless.
A lion was the primary symbol of the Babylonian Empire. Perhaps this is why the Lord used a lion in His illustration of the coming foe. Regardless, in the day of Israel's punishment, deliverance and hope would be absent.
These last verses seem to have somewhat of an apocalyptic undertone. They closely parallel the end-times prophecy of Zechariah 14:2. "For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity... ." Oftentimes, Old Testament prophecies have both a near and a far fulfillment. Such may be the case in this instance.