Isaiah 5:20 Meaning of Woe to Those Who Call Evil Good and Good Evil

Isaiah 5:20
“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

Explanation and Commentary of Isaiah 5:20

There are two kingdoms, two paths, two ways of life. There is good and evil, love and hate, right and wrong. Those of the evil one love the darkness and “like Cain…belong to the evil one.” (1 Jn 3:12).

Similarly, Paul said that we are the aroma of Christ (2 Cor 2:15-16), sweet to those who love God but smelling of death to those who are perishing. The world will look at the love and goodness of the people of God and hate it. The darkness hates the light (Jn 3:19-20). In every generation there are things that the culture loves and finds good and pleasing, but that God despises.

John 15:18
“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.”

Christians should not seek to be hated but should understand that the world will not tolerate Christlike behavior, particularly when it convicts their own behavior.

1 Peter 4:4
“Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So they slander you.”

Breaking Down the Key Parts of Isaiah 5:20

#1 “Woe to those…”
“Woe” is a term of judgment. Whenever a prophet or Christ uses the term it is to pronounce a bad end for the object. It will not go well at death and the Final Judgment for whoever the object is, and sometimes even in this life, judgment will come for them (1 Pt 4:17).

#2 “…who call evil good and good evil,”
This characterizes those on the wide path that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13) who are of the dominion of darkness and follow the ways of the world and of satan. Cain murdered his brother because his own works were evil (1 Jn 3:12) and he hated the goodness in his brother, Abel. Sin twists and warps our sense of love, mercy, and justice.

#3 “who put darkness for light and light for darkness, and put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
These word images are restatements of the same principle as the previous phrase. Isaiah is one of the most highly skilled poets in all the prophets. It is a fact that the line between good and evil is bold, and God warns humanity of this tendency to confuse the two when we are in our sin and of the world and of the evil one. Stay firmly on the narrow path, even if you are one of only a few.

Expert Overview of Isaiah Ch. 1-39

Biblical Translations of Isaiah 5:20

NIV
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.

NLT
What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

ESV
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

KJV
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

NKJV
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Isaiah 5:20 Meaning

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years. If you would like to reach out to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.