Isaiah 5:23
Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
5:8-23 Here is a woe to those who set their hearts on the wealth of the world. Not that it is sinful for those who have a house and a field to purchase another; but the fault is, that they never know when they have enough. Covetousness is idolatry; and while many envy the prosperous, wretched man, the Lord denounces awful woes upon him. How applicable to many among us! God has many ways to empty the most populous cities. Those who set their hearts upon the world, will justly be disappointed. Here is woe to those who dote upon the pleasures and the delights of sense. The use of music is lawful; but when it draws away the heart from God, then it becomes a sin to us. God's judgments have seized them, but they will not disturb themselves in their pleasures. The judgments are declared. Let a man be ever so high, death will bring him low; ever so mean, death will bring him lower. The fruit of these judgments shall be, that God will be glorified as a God of power. Also, as a God that is holy; he shall be owned and declared to be so, in the righteous punishment of proud men. Those are in a woful condition who set up sin, and who exert themselves to gratify their base lusts. They are daring in sin, and walk after their own lusts; it is in scorn that they call God the Holy One of Israel. They confound and overthrow distinctions between good and evil. They prefer their own reasonings to Divine revelations; their own devices to the counsels and commands of God. They deem it prudent and politic to continue profitable sins, and to neglect self-denying duties. Also, how light soever men make of drunkenness, it is a sin which lays open to the wrath and curse of God. Their judges perverted justice. Every sin needs some other to conceal it.Which justify - This refers, doubtless, to magistrates. They gave unjust decisions.

For reward - For bribes.

And take away the righteousness - That is, they do not decide the cause in favor of those who have just claims, but are determined by a bribe; see the note at Isaiah 1:23. It is remarkable, that this is introduced in immediate connection with their being mighty to mingle strong drink. One effect of intemperance is to make a man ready to be "bribed." Its effect is seen as clearly in courts of justice, and in the decisions of such courts, as any where. A man that is intemperate, or that indulges in strong drink, is not qualified to be a judge.

22, 23. Sixth Woe—against corrupt judges, who, "mighty" in drinking "wine" (a boast still not uncommon), if not in defending their country, obtain the means of self-indulgence by taking bribes ("reward"). The two verses are closely joined [Maurer].

mingle strong drink—not with water, but spices to make it intoxicating (Pr 9:2, 5; So 8:2).

take away the righteousness—set aside the just claims of those having a righteous cause.

Justify the wicked for reward; not by mistake or incogitancy, but wilfully for bribes.

Take away the righteousness of the righteous from him, to wit, juridically; they pronounce sentence against him, as if he and his cause were unjust. Which justify the wicked for reward,.... This is either spoken of judges, and civil magistrates, who gave the cause in favour of the wicked, that bribed them, contrary to law, Deuteronomy 16:19 or rather of the Scribes and Pharisees, who pronounced the wicked righteous men, provided they kept the traditions of the elders, and paid tithes of all they possessed, and gave them money for their long prayers, Matthew 23:14,

and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him; by condemning them as unrighteous persons: so the Jews did Christ and his apostles; they pronounced them wicked, and condemned them to death; and as much as in them lay took away their righteousness from them, by taking away their character from them as righteous persons among men; though their righteousness itself could not be taken away, it being an everlasting one.

Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. These valiant drinkers are weak enough in their official capacity; they acquit the guilty and condemn the innocent. justify the wicked] “wicked” and “righteous” are here used in their forensic sense: “he who is in the wrong” and “he who is in the right” (cf. Exodus 9:27). So “take away the righteousness” means “declare guilty”—the opposite of “justify.”Verse 23. - Justify the wicked; i.e. "decide his cause in his favor," declare him to be right, and his adversary wrong. For reward; or, for a bribe. Take away the righteousness of the righteous; i.e. "declare him to be in the wrong by deciding his cause against him." And when we consider that the Holy Land is at the present time an extensive pasture-ground for Arab shepherds, and that the modern Jerusalem which has arisen from the dust is a Mohammedan city, we may see in this also a literal fulfilment of Isaiah 5:17 : "And lambs feed as upon their pasture, and nomad shepherds eat the waste places of the fat ones." There is no necessity to supply an object to the verb ורעוּ, as Knobel and others assume, viz., the waste lands mentioned in the second clause; nor is Cedâbrâm to be taken as the object, as Caspari supposes; but the place referred to is determined by the context: in the place where Jerusalem is sunken, there lambs feed after the manner of their own pasture-ground, i.e., just as if they were in their old accustomed pasture (dober, as in Micah 2:12, from dâbar, to drive). The lambs intended are those of the gârim mentioned in the second clause. The gârim themselves are men leading an unsettled, nomad, or pilgrim life; as distinguished from gêrim, strangers visiting, or even settled at a place. The lxx have ἄρνες, so that they must have read either Cârim or gedâim, which Ewald, Knobel, and others adopt. But one feature of the prophecy, which is sustained by the historical fulfilment, is thereby obliterated. Chârboth mêchim are the lands of those that were formerly marrowy, i.e., fat and strutting about in their fulness; which lands had now become waste places. Knobel's statement, that âcăl is out of place in connection with gârim, is overthrown by Isaiah 1:7, to which he himself refers, though he makes he-goats the subject instead of men. The second woe closes with Isaiah 5:17. It is the longest of all. This also serves to confirm the fact that luxury was the leading vice of Judah in the time of Uzziah-Jotham, as it was that of Israel under Jeroboam II((see Amos 6:1-14, where the same threat is held out).
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