The earth is defiled by its inhabitants, for they have violated laws, disregarded the regulation, and broken the permanent treaty. – Isaiah 24:5 (NET)
Before one reaches the verse above, one also encounters the verses which state that “The earth will be completely devastated and thoroughly ransacked. For the Lord has decreed this judgment. The earth dries up and withers; the prominent people of the earth fade away” (24:3-4). Though this was clearly not the Creator God’s intention for His good creation, this is the situation wrought by man’s rebellion in the garden. Man was able to have this impact on the earth because He is the creature made in God’s image (the divine image-bearer). Man was specifically tasked by God and was given the responsibility to steward the creation---to steward it wisely as the vice-regent of the Creator God---and failed to do so, introducing evil and its effects into the world.
In the Scriptural narrative, it is Adam’s faithlessness to what were his God-given responsibilities and limitations by which the earth becomes defiled. The narrative insists that Adam willfully and egregiously violated the law that had been given to him by his Creator. Tying this together with what is offered by Isaiah, it can be said that he most certainly disregarded the regulation. The covenant God of Israel had designed His creation to be permanently good, and for man to tend His good creation in perpetuity, but that permanence proved to be fleeting. As Isaiah writes, mankind broke “the permanent treaty.”
Another rendering of the Hebrew that is here translated “permanent treaty” would be “the everlasting covenant.” Adam, representing all mankind, violated the everlasting covenant of the Creator God. Naturally, any talk of covenant would immediately call to mind the covenant governing the relationship between Israel and its God. What was the result of this defiling, violation, disregarding, and breaking? “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly increase your labor pains; with pain you will give birth to children. You will want to control your husband, but he will dominate you’. But to Adam He said, ‘Because you obeyed your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” cursed is the ground thanks to you; in painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, but you will eat of the grain of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat food until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you will return’.” (Genesis 3:16-19)
Yes, the Lord decreed this judgment. The earth would be devastated and ransacked by thorns and thistles and pain and hostility. Though the earth had produced bountifully, in effect it would now be dried up and withered. Man would indeed fade away into dust. It is in the stream of identity that flows from this understanding of their story that begins with Adam in which Isaiah would write, “So a treaty curse devours the earth; its inhabitants pay for their guilt. This is why the inhabitants of the earth disappear, and are reduced to just a handful of people” (24:6). Isaiah, whose worldview is shaped by the Adam story and all that flows from it, appears to indicate that Israel is effectively recapitulating the fall of Adam, failing in their stewarding responsibilities and their everlasting covenant.
Thus, as one continues to focus in on what occurred with Adam, so as to read or hear Isaiah from within the sweep of the Scriptural narrative, it can be seen that God cursed the earth because of the broken treaty, the ignored agreement, the disregarded covenant. As a result, man has continually suffered from death and decay and all that goes with man stepping outside of the bounds of God’s covenant.