Isaiah 3
Pulpit Commentary
For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water,
Verses 1-7. - GOD'S JUDGMENT UPON JERUSALEM. The general denunciations against Israel of the two preceding chapters are here turned especially against Jerusalem. God will deprive her of all her superior and more honorable classes (vers. 1-3); and will give her "children" for her rulers (ver. 4). There will be continued oppression, and the rise of an insolent and undutiful spirit (ver. 5). Those fit to bear rule will refuse to do so (vers. 6, 7). Verse 1. - The Lord, the Lord of hosts (see note on Isaiah 1:24). The stay and the staff; rather, stay and staff. Neither word has the article. The latter is the feminine form of the former; and the intention is to announce that all support of every kind is about to be withdrawn. The whole stay of bread... of water. Mr. Cheyne agrees with Hitzig and Knobel that this clause is probably a gloss on the text, subsequently introduced into it, and a gloss which (lid not proceed from a very enlightened commentator. The "stay" and "staff" intended are certainly not, literal "bread" and "water," but the powerful and respectable classes enumerated in the two following verses. If the words are Isaiah's, he must have intended them to be taken metaphorically.
The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
Verse 2. - The mighty man, and the man of war; or, hero and warrior. The first rank is given to those distinguished in war, as being held in the highest esteem, and perhaps as actually, under the coming circumstances, the men of most importance to the country. It is thus implied, as later (vers. 25, 26) it is expressly taught, that the impending visitation will be a terrible invasion. The judge, and the prophet; literally, judge and prophet. The judge holds his place as one of the highest officers of the state (see Isaiah 1:26); the prophet holds a lower position than might have been expected, on account of the writer's humility. The prudent; rather, the diviner, as the word is translated in Deuteronomy 18:14; 1 Samuel 6:2; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8; Ezekiel 13:9; Micah 3:7; Zechariah 10:2; or soothsayer, as in Joshua 13:22. Isaiah arranges the classes, not so much according to the order in which he values them, as to that in which they were valued by the people. The ancient; i.e. "the elder," as the word is translated commonly. The "elders" had an ascertained position in the state under the monarchy (2 Samuel 5:3; 2 Samuel 19:11; 1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 20:7; 2 Kings 6:32, etc.).
The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counseller, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
Verse 3. - The captain of fifty. "Captains of fifties" were scarcely at this period "civil officers" (Cheyne). They represent simply the lowest grade of officers in the army (2 Kings 1:9, 11, 13). Honorable. The same expression is used again in Isaiah 9:15. It occurs also in 2 Kings 5. I and Job 22:8. The cunning artificer. "All the craftsmen and smiths" in Jerusalem were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar in the captivity of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:14; cf. Jeremiah 24:1). They were among the most valuable of the population, in time of war no less than of peace, since on them depended the construction and repair of the military engines which were regarded as of so much importance (2 Chronicles 26:15). The eloquent orator; rather, the expert enchanter (comp. Ecclesiastes 10:11; Jeremiah 8:17).
And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
Verse 4. - I will give children to be their princes; rather, youths than "children." The extreme youth of the later kings of Judah at the date of their accession is very remarkable. After Hezekiah, only one was as much as twenty-five years old when he came to the throne. Jehoahaz was twenty-three (2 Kings 23:31); Amon, twenty-two (2 Kings 21:19); Zedekiah twenty-one (2 Kings 24:18); Jehoiachin, eighteen (2 Kings 24:8); Manasseh, twelve (2 Kings 21:1); and Josiah eight (2 Kings 22:1). Thus this prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. And babes shall rule over them; literally, puerilities shall rule over them; i.e. the youths shall behave in a childish way.
And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.
Verse 5. - And the people shall be oppressed, etc.; rather, shall oppress each man his fellow, and each man his companion. This would be no new thing (see Isaiah 1:17, 21, 23), but perhaps might be more widely spread, having passed from the upper classes to the lower ones, as is usual with vices. The child; rather, the youth. Shall behave himself proudly; or, insolently. The respect for age inculcated by the Law (Leviticus 19:32) shall disappear. Youths shall set at naught the counsel of the aged. The spirit of Rehoboam shall prevail over that of Solomon, with the usual result - rashness, recklessness, and failure. And the base, etc. Respect for station shall likewise disappear. The dregs of the people shall grow insolent towards those above them in the social scale; and thus the old social order shall be inverted.
When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
Verse 6. - When a man shall take hold of his brother. A new departure. In the general anarchy described (vers. 4, 5) it will be felt that something must be done. A man will take hold of his brother (i.e. his fellow) in his (i.e. the latter's) father's house, where he lives in seclusion, and say to him, "Thou hast clothing" (or, "thou art decently clad"), "thou must be our ruler; let this ruin" (i.e. "this ruined state") "be under thy band." This ruin; literally, this stumbling-block (see Zephaniah 1:3; and compare the uniform translation of the kindred noun mikshol (Leviticus 19:14; Psalm 119:165; Isaiah 57:14; Jeremiah 6:21; Ezekiel 52:20; 7:10, etc.). The Jewish community is meant, which was full of stumbling itself, and might well cause all those to stumble who came into contact with it.
In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.
Verse 7. - In that day shall he swear; or, lift up his voice - speaking with emotion (Kay). I will not be an healer; literally, a binder-up (comp. Isaiah 1:6); "I will not undertake to heal the calamities of the state." In my house is neither bread nor clothing; i.e. "I am not a wealthy man; I have no stores laid up; I am quite unfit to be the people's ruler." Make me not; or, ye shall not make me. The decently clad man entirely declines to be advanced to the helm of the state.
For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

1. The sins of the men. (Vers. 8-15). These are declared to be partly sins of speech, but mainly sins of act (ver. 8). Of sins of speech the only one specified is the open and shameless declaration of their wickedness (ver. 9). Under the head of sins of act are enumerated

(1) childishness and effeminacy;

(2) irreligion and leading people away from God (ver. 12);

(3) oppression of the poor and afflicted (vers. 14, 15).

The enumeration of the sins is mixed with exhortation and comment in such a way as to give rise to the conjecture that we have here, not the original prophecy as the author penned it, but a later "summary" of several prophetical discourses, which summary itself is "a little fragmentary" (Cheyne). Verse 8. - Jerusalem is ruined; or, has come to ruin - the "perfect of prophetic certainty" (Cheyne) - (comp. Amos 5:2, "The virgin of Israel is fallen"). Their tongue and their doings. Sins of the tongue are denounced in the Old Testament as well as in the New, though not, perhaps, so frequently (see Exodus 20:7; Exodus 21:17; Exodus 22:28; Exodus 23:1, 2; Psalm 31:18; Psalm 94:4, etc.). To provoke the eyes of his glory. This is an unusual metaphor. God's glory seems here to be identified with himself, as being of his very essence; and thus "provoking the eyes of his glory" is simply provoking him to look on them with anger.
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
Verse 9. - The show of their countenance doth witness against them. This is not in itself a sin, but it is a sign of frequent and habitual sin. Vice, long indulged in, stamps its mark upon the countenance, giving men what is called "a bad expression" - a guilty and hardened look. It does not require a skilled physiognomist to detect at a glance the habitual criminal or sensualist. They declare their sin as Sodom. Not only does their countenance betray them, but, like the Sodomites (Genesis 19:5, 9), they boldly and impudently declare their wicked purposes beforehand, and make no attempt at concealment. Hypocrisy has been said to be the homage that vice pays to virtue. Where there is none, where vice has ceased to shroud or veil itself, a very advanced stage of wickedness has been reached. They have rewarded evil unto themselves. They have "received in themselves the recompense of their error which was meet" (Romans 1:27). Their sins have at once marred their countenance and injured their moral nature.
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Verse 10. - Say ye to the righteous. The mention of the fact that the men of Jerusalem have permanently injured their moral natures by sin, and thus "rewarded evil to themselves," leads the prophet to declare at this point, parenthetically, the general law, which extends alike to the evil and the good - that men receive in themselves the recompense of their deeds. The righteous raise their moral nature, become better, and, in becoming better, become happier. "It is well with them, for of the fruit of their doings they eat." The wicked deprave and corrupt themselves, lower their moral nature, become worse than they were, and, in becoming worse, become more miserable. "Woe unto them! with them it is ill; for the achievement of their hands is given them."
Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.
Verse 12. - As for my people. Return is now made to the sins of the dwellers in Jerusalem, and the first thing noted is that the people suffer from the childishness and effeminacy of their rulers. The rulers are called "oppressors" by the way here, the sin of oppression being dwelt on later (vers. 14, 15). Here the emphatic words are "children," "women." Children (see ver. 4). The rulers are "children," or rather "babes" - foolish, capricious, cowardly. It is not clear that any prince in particular is meant; rather, by the plural form, the upper class generally seems to be intended, as in Isaiah 1:10, 17, 23, etc. Women; comp. Herod., 8:88, where Xerxes says that "his men have shown themselves women, and his women men;" and see also Virg., 'AEneid '-

"O vere Phrygia, neque enim Phryges." The rulers were womanly, i.e. weak, wavering, timid, impulsive, passionate, and are therefore called actual "women." There is no allusion to female sovereigns. They which lead thee cause thee to err; or, they which direct thee lead thee astray. Professing to point out the right path, they led men away from it. Destroy the way; literally, swallow it up, or obliterate it.
The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
Verse 13. - The Lord standeth up to plead. The great sin of the time was oppression of the poor by the rich, and especially by the rulers (Isaiah 1:15, 17, 21). In noticing this, the prophet, to give more weight to his denunciation, introduces Jehovah as standing up, and coming forward on the popular side, to plead the people's cause, and remonstrate with their oppressors. There is great force in this sudden entrance on the scene of Jehovah himself, as Pleader and Judge. And... judge the people; rather, the peoples. Primarily, Israel is God's care; but he does not stop at this point. All the nations of the earth are also under his protection.
The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
Verse 14. - The ancients... the princes. These were the chief oppressors. They delivered the judgments, and it was by them that justice was perverted. Jehovah therefore enters specially into judgment with them. For ye have eaten up; rather, So ye have eaten up. Jehovah is supposed to address the unjust judges. He reproaches them with having "eaten up," or rather "scorched up," his vineyard, i.e. Israel (comp. Isaiah 5:1-7), and taxes them with having still their ill-gotten gains in their houses. "So ye," he says, "have thus acted - ye whose duty it was to have acted so differently."
What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
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.
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
Verse 16. - The daughters of Zion. It is over-fanciful to go beyond the plain meaning of the words here, and suppose allegory. "The daughters of Zion" are the female inhabitants of Jerusalem. Are haughty; or, proud - like the men (Isaiah 2:11, 12, 17). Walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes. Mr. Cheyne translates, "ogling eyes." Both actions indicate the desire to attract men's attention, and are shameless and immodest. Walking and mincing as they go; i.e. taking short steps in an affectedly childish way. Making a tinkling with their feet. This meaning is generally accepted, though not very certain. It has been suggested that the anklets which they wore (ver. 18) had silver bells attached to them.
Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
Verse 17. - Therefore the Lord will smite with a seal. Thus destroying their beauty by producing baldness (comp. ver. 24; and for the meaning "smite with a scab," see Leviticus 13:2; Leviticus 14:56).
In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
Verse 18. - The bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet; rather, of their anklets. Anklets were worn by the Egyptian women from the time of the twelfth dynasty (about B.C. 1900). They were, in general, plain rings of metal, but appear to have been sometimes set with precious stones (see Lepsius, 'Denkmaler,' pt. 2. pls. 128, 129). No bells appear attached to any; but bells were known in Assyria from the time of Sennacherib ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. p. 417, 2nd edit.). Their cauls; margin, networks. The marginal rendering is probably correct (comp. LXX., ἐμπλόκια). Network caps to contain the hair seem to be intended (so Kimchi, Saadiah, Jarchi, Rosenmüller, Kay). Mr. Cheyne prefers "wreaths worn round the forehead, reaching from one ear to the other." Round tires like the moon; rather, crescents. Flat ornaments in metal, like a young moon, generally worn suspended round the neck (see Judges 8:26, where the same word occurs).
The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
Verse 19. - The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers; rather, the ear-drops, and the armlets, and the veils. Earrings were worn from very ancient times by both the Assyrians and the Egyptians. The ring had frequently a pendant hanging from it. Men wore armlets in Assyria, and both men and women in Egypt (Lepsius, 'Denktamer,' pt. 3. pl. 1). Veils have always been regarded in the East as almost a necessary part of female attire.
The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
Verse 20. - The bonnets; rather, the headgear. It is quite uncertain what this was, since we have no representations of Hebrew women. Egyptian women commonly wore a mere fillet with pendant ends. The Hebrew word here employed is used in Exodus of the head-dress of the priests (Exodus 39:28). The ornaments of the legs. These are explained as chains connecting the two anklets together. The head-bands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; rather, the girdles, and the scent-bottles, and the amulets. Scent-bottles and jars for holding sweet-smelling unguents are among the most frequent toilette articles recovered from Egyptian tombs and Assyrian palaces. Amulets have been worn in the East from very ancient times, and are still trusted in as much as ever. They frequently take the form of ornaments.
The rings, and nose jewels,
Verse 21. - The rings; literally, seal-rings, or signet-rings. Such were known in Egypt from the time of Joseph (Genesis 41:42), and probably earlier. It would seem from the present passage that their use was not confined to men. Nose-jewels. Actual nose-rings are not represented in any of the ancient remains; and the use of them seems to be confined to very barbarous communities. Probably the "nose-jewels" here mentioned were ornaments depending from the forehead and touching the upper part of the nose,
The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
Verse 22. - The changeable suite of apparel; rather, the festival robes (Revised Version), or the full-dress suits; i.e. those worn upon grand occasions, and then put off and set aside. The mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping-pins; rather, the upper petticoats, the wraps, and the purses. An inner and an outer tunic or petticoat were commonly worn by females of the higher class in the East. The inner tunic was a simple linen vest; but the outer was generally of a better material, and richly ornamented. Outside this, a sort of wrap, or cloak, was worn occasionally (see Ruth 3:15). Purses were, no doubt, carried by wealthy persons of both sexes; but their mention in this list does not seem very appropriate. Perhaps toilet-bags of some kind or other are intended (see 2 Kings 5:23).
The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
Verse 23. - The glasses; rather, the mirrors. In ancient times these were not made of glass, but of some metal which took a high polish. Most commonly, the material seems to have been bronze. Many such mirrors have been found in Egypt, a few in Assyria, in Etruria a considerable number. They are of small size, intended to be carried in the hand, and have for that purpose a metal or a wooden handle, which is sometimes highly artistic. The fine linen; rather, the muslin robes. Sedin, the Hebrew word used, is probably a corruption or analogue of sin-don, the Greek name for Indian fabrics. It is only used here and in Judges 14:12, 13; Proverbs 31:24. The hoods, and the vails; or, the turbans and the scarfs. The word translated" hood" is nearly the same as that which designates the head-dress of the high priest in Exodus (Exodus 28:4, 37, 39; Exodus 29:6, etc.) and Leviticus (Leviticus 8:9; Leviticus 16:4), which seems to have been a "turban" (see note on Exodus 28:4). The other word, here translated "vail," occurs only in this place and Song of Solomon 5:7. Its exact meaning is uncertain; but it can scarcely be a veil; since "veils" have been already mentioned (ver. 19).
And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
Verse 24. - Instead of sweet smell; literally, spice (comp. Exodus 35:28; 1 Kings 10:10, etc.). Stink; rather, rottenness, as translated in Isaiah 5:24 (compare the cognate verb in Leviticus 26:39). Instead of a girdle a rent. So Lowth and Kay; but most moderns prefer the meaning given by the Septuagint and Vulgate, "instead of a girdle, a rope." The word used occurs only in this place. Instead of well-set hair baldness (compare above, ver. 17). By "well-set hair" seems to be meant "hair arranged with such exactness and order as to look like a work of art." The exact arrangement of the hair is very remarkable, both in the Egyptian and the Assyrian sculptures. Instead of such elaborate attempts to improve their looks, the daughters of Jerusalem would soon pluck their hair out by the roots, or shave it off, in mourning. A girding of sackcloth (comp. Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31, etc.; and for the adoption of the custom by women, see 2 Samuel 21:10; Joel 1:8). Burning instead of beauty. This meaning is now generally acknowledged, the sense of "burning" being borne out by the cognate verb used in Proverbs 6:28; Isaiah 43:2, and the cognate noun used in Exodus 21:25. The" burning" intended is probably branding by a barbarous enemy (see Herod., 7:233; 'Hist. Tamerlau.,' p. 320).
Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
Verse 25. - Thy men; rather, thy people; i.e. the inhabitants of Jerusalem generally. Note here the first distinct statement that the coming visitation will be one of war.
And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
Verse 26. - Her gates. The sudden change of person is common in Oriental poetry. Shall lament and mourn. On account of their destruction, which would be very complete (see Lamentations 1:4; Lamentations 2:9; Nehemiah 1:3; Nehemiah 2:13). Conquerors could not do more than break breaches in the walls of a town, but they carefully destroyed the gates. Being desolate; or, emptied - plundered of everything, and so far "cleansed" from her abominations. Shall sit upon the ground. In deep grief (see Job 2:13; and comp. Isaiah 47:1; Lamentations 2:10). So in the coin of Vespasian, the captive Judah (Judea capta) sits upon the ground.

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