Isaiah 3:15
What mean you that you beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? said the Lord GOD of hosts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
3:10-15 The rule was certain; however there might be national prosperity or trouble, it would be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked. Blessed be God, there is abundant encouragement to the righteous to trust in him, and for sinners to repent and return to him. It was time for the Lord to show his might. He will call men to a strict account for all the wealth and power intrusted to and abused by them. If it is sinful to disregard the necessities of the poor, how odious and wicked a part do they act, who bring men into poverty, and then oppress them!What mean ye - What is your object? Or, What advantage is it to you? Or, By what right or pretence do you do this?

Beat my people to pieces - That is, that you trample on them; or cruelly oppress them; Psalm 94:5.

And grind the faces of the poor - This is an expression also denoting great oppression. It is taken from the act of grinding a substance on a stone until it is worn away and nothing is left. So, by their cruel exactions, by their injustice to the poor, they exhausted their little property until nothing was left. The word "faces" here is synonymous with "persons" - or with the poor themselves. The word "face" is often used in the sense of "person;" Exodus 33:14; 2 Samuel 18:11. A similar description, though in still stronger language, is found in Micah 3:2-3 :

Who pluck off their skin from off them,

And their flesh from off their bones;

Who also eat the flesh of my people,

And flay their skin from off them;

And they break their bones, and chop them in pieces,

As for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

15. What right have ye to beat, &c. (Ps 94:5; Mic 3:2, 3).

grind—by exactions, so as to leave them nothing.

faces—persons; with the additional idea of it being openly and palpably done. "Presence," equivalent to "face" (Hebrew).

What mean ye? what warrant have ye for it? how durst you presume to do it?

Grind, or batter, as the word is used, Exodus 32:20; smite them cruelly: see Isaiah 58:4. What mean ye, that ye beat my people to pieces,.... Reduce them to the utmost poverty; so the Targum,

"wherefore do ye impoverish my people?''

as they did by exacting tithes of all that they possessed; by requiring large sums for their long prayers; and by various traditions they enjoined them to observe:

and grind the faces of the poor? either by smiting them on the cheek, as Christ, who became poor for our sakes, was smitten by them; or by bringing them into such low circumstances, by their exorbitant demands, that they had not sufficiency of food to eat; by which means their faces became pale, thin, and meagre:

saith the Lord God of Hosts: who saw all their actions, and was able to plead his people's cause, and take vengeance on their oppressors.

What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, {m} and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

(m) That is, you show all cruelty against them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. The strongest metaphors are used to express the cruelty with which the poor are treated.

What mean ye that ye crush my people (Proverbs 22:22), and grind the face of the afflicted as between two millstones, determined to wring the uttermost farthing from them. The expression does not occur elsewhere, but in its fierce energy it may be compared with Micah 3:2 and Amos 2:7.

16–4:1. An oracle addressed to the women of Jerusalem. Like Amos (Isaiah 4:1-3) in Samaria, Isaiah sees in the luxury of these pampered ladies a measure of the extortions practised by their husbands (cf. also ch. Isaiah 32:9-12).

16, 17 are connected as protasis and apodosis.Verse 15. - What mean ye? i.e. "What has come over you?" or "What strange perversity has possessed yon?" (Kay). That ye beat my people to pieces, etc. The strongest possible expressions are used to mark God's abhorrence of the oppression to which the poor were subjected. Under the Law, he constituted himself the champion of such persons (see Exodus 22:22-24).

2. The sins of the women. (Vers. 16-26.) These may be summed up under the three heads of pride, wanton manners (ver. 16), and love of dress and ornament (vers. 18-23). It was natural that, with increased commerce (2 Kings 14:22; Isaiah 2:16) and more frequent communication with foreign nations, such as Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-10) and Babylon (2 Kings 20:12, 13), there should be an increase of luxury, and quite in accordance with Eastern ideas that the luxury should particularly show itself in the dress and adornment of the women. The Egyptian remains show an advanced state of luxury among the women at a time anterior to Moses; and in Assyria, though the evidence is less abundant, we find also indications of a similar kind. The Jews, whose regard for their women was high, are not likely to have been behindhand in the gallantry which shows itself in heaping ornament and the newest appliances of civilization on the weaker sex. But Israel, instead of walking in the consciousness of being a constant and favourite object of these majestic, earnestly admonishing eyes, was diligently engaged in bidding them defiance both in word and deed, not even hiding its sin from fear of them, but exposing them to view in the most shameless manner. - "The look of their faces testifies against them, and their sin they make known like Sodom, without concealing it: woe to their soul! for they do themselves harm." In any case, the prophet refers to the impudence with which their enmity against God was shamelessly stamped upon their faces, without even the self-condemnation which leads in other cases to a diligent concealment of the sin. But we cannot follow Luzzatto and Jos. Kimchi, who take haccârath as used directly for azzuth (impudence), inasmuch as the Arabic hakara (hakir‛a), to which Kimchi appeals, signifies to be astonished and to stare (see at Job 19:3). And in this case there would be nothing strange in the substantive form, which would be a piel formation like בּלּהה חטּאה. But it may be a hiphil formation (Ewald, 156, a); and this is incomparably the more probable of the two, as hiccir panim is a very common phrase. It signifies to look earnestly, keenly, or inquiringly in the face of a person, to fix the eye upon him; and, when used of a judge, to take the part of a person, by favouring him unjustly (Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19). But this latter idea, viz., "their acceptance of the person, or partiality" (according to Proverbs 24:23; Proverbs 28:21), is inadmissible here, for the simple reason that the passage refers to the whole nation, and not particularly to the judges. "The look of their faces" (haccârath p'nēhem) is to be understood in an objective sense, viz., the appearance (τὸ εἶδος, Luke 9:29), like the agnitio of Jerome, id quo se agnoscendum dat vultus eorum. This was probably the expression commonly employed in Hebrew for what we designate by a very inappropriate foreign word, viz., physiognomy, i.e., the expression of the face which reveals the state of the mind. This expression of their countenance testified against them (anah b', as in Isaiah 59:12), for it was the disturbed and distorted image of their sin, which not only could not be hidden, but did not even wish to be; in a word, of their azzuth (Ecclesiastes 8:1). And it did not even rest with this open though silent display: they spoken openly of their sin (higgid in its simplest meaning, palam facere, from nâgad, nagâda, to be open, evident) without making any secret of it, like the Sodomites, who publicly proclaimed their fleshly lusts (Genesis 19). Jerusalem was spiritually Sodom, as the prophet called it in Isaiah 1:10. By such barefaced sinning they did themselves harm (gâmal, lit., to finish, then to carry out, to show practically).

(Note: It may now be accepted as an established fact, that the verb gâmal is connected with the Arabic 'gamala, to collect together, 'gamula, to be perfect, kamala, kamula id., and gâmar, to finish (see Hupfeld on Psalm 7:5, and Frst, Heb. Lex.).)

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