Isaiah 3
Benson 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,
Isaiah 3:1. For, &c. — The prophet, having in the preceding chapter declared, in general terms, the terror of the day of the Lord, now descends to a more particular explication, and special confirmation of what he had advanced concerning it. Behold — Look upon what follows to be as certain as if it were already accomplished; the Lord doth take away, &c., the stay and the staff — All their supports, of what kind soever; all the things they trust to, and look for help and relief from; the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water — Bread is commonly called the staff of life: see Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 14:13. But by bread and water here are meant all kinds of aliment, whereby the body is supported. This judgment seems to relate especially to the siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, when bread and water were both very scarce: see Jeremiah 14:1-6; Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9.

The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
Isaiah 3:2-3. The mighty man, &c. — Strong and valiant men. The judge — The civil magistrates; and the prophet — Either strictly so called, the want of whom is matter of grief, (Psalm 74:9,) or more largely taken, so as to include all skilful and faithful teachers; and the prudent — Whose wisdom and conduct were necessary to preserve them from ruin; and the ancient — Whose wisdom was increased by long experience. This likewise relates to the same times, particularly to Jehoiachin’s captivity, when all the men of note were carried away captive with him, 2 Kings 24:14. The captain of fifty — There shall not be a man left able to command fifty soldiers, much less such as could command hundreds or thousands, who yet were necessary; and the honourable man — Men of high birth, place, power, and reputation; and the counsellor — Wise and learned statesmen; and the cunning artificer — Who could make either ornaments for times of peace, or instruments for war, whom therefore conquerors were wont to take away from those nations whom they subdued, 1 Samuel 13:19-20; 2 Kings 24:14; and the eloquent orator — Hebrew, נבון לחשׁ, literally, the skilful of charm, or the skilful charmer, or enchanter; whereby he understands either, 1st, Charmers, whom he threatens God would take away, not as if such persons were blessings to a people, or the removing of them a curse, but only because they made great use of them, and trusted to them. And so he signifies that God would remove all the grounds of their confidence, both right and wrong, and make their case desperate. Thus, for the same reason, God threatens the Israelites, (Hosea 3:4,) that they should be, as without a sacrifice, so without an image and teraphim. Or, he may mean, 2d, Such as could persuade powerfully, and, as it were, charm people, by their eloquence, and induce them to do those things which were necessary for their safety; for the expression may be taken in a good sense, as קסם, divination, is Proverbs 16:10. Accordingly, Bishop Lowth translates it, the powerful in persuasion.

The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counseller, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
Isaiah 3:4-5. And I will give children to be their princes — Either, 1st, Children in age, whose minority corrupt ministers of state commonly abuse, to the producing of much evil: or, 2d, In understanding and experience. When all the eminent persons, mentioned Isaiah 3:2-3, were removed, the necessary consequence must be, that persons of no qualifications for government must succeed in their places. This also was fully accomplished in the succession of weak and wicked princes, from the death of Josiah to the destruction of the city and temple. And the people shall be oppressed — By the command or permission of such childish rulers. The child shall behave himself proudly, &c. — The child in understanding, or the young and inexperienced; and the base against the honourable — “The usual effects,” says Lowth, “of a weak and unsettled government, where faction grows too hard for justice, and seditious men become so bold as openly to insult those that are in authority.”

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.
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:
Isaiah 3:6-8. A man shall take hold of his brother — Of his relation, friend, or neighbour. To take hold of another implies entreating his assistance; see Isaiah 4:1; Zechariah 8:23; saying, Thou hast clothing — We are utterly undone, and have neither food nor raiment; but thou hast something left to support the dignity, which we offer to thee; be thou our ruler

And we will be subject to thee. It is taken for granted that there would be no way of redressing all these grievances, and bringing things into order again, but by good magistrates, who should be invested with power by common consent, and exert that power for the good of the community; and let this ruin be under thy hand — Namely, to heal it. In that day he shall swear — To show that he was resolved. Hebrew, he shall lift up, namely, his hand, which was the usual gesture in swearing; I will not be a healer — A repairer of the ruins of the state; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing — I have not sufficient provisions, either of food or raiment, for my own family; much less, as you falsely suppose, for the discharge of so high a trust. For Jerusalem is ruined — The case is desperate, and past relief: it will be to no purpose to attempt affording any; because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord — They have broken the law of God in word and deed, and that in contempt of his authority and defiance of his justice. Their tongue was against the Lord, for they contradicted his prophets, and their doings were against him, for they acted as they spoke; to provoke the eyes of his glory — Of his glorious majesty, whom they ought to reverence and adore; the all-seeing eyes of Him who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, unless with abhorrence.

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.
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.
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.
Isaiah 3:9. The show of their countenance — Their pride, wantonness, and impiety, manifestly show themselves in their very looks and whole behaviour, and will be swift witnesses against them, both before God and men. They declare their sin as Sodom — They commit it publicly, casting off all fear of God, and reverence to men; and they glory in it. They hide it not — As men do, who have any remains of modesty or ingenuity. They have rewarded evil to themselves — That is, procured a fit recompense for their wickedness, even utter ruin; or, they have done evil, &c. They cannot blame God, but themselves: their destruction is wholly from themselves. The word הכרה, rendered show, in the first clause of the verse, not occurring elsewhere in the Bible, is of rather uncertain signification. Bishop Lowth renders it, steadfastness; and Dr. Waterland, impudence. The former translates the whole verse thus: “The steadfastness of their countenance witnesseth against them: for their sin, like Sodom, they publish, they hide it not: wo to their souls! for upon themselves have they brought down evil.”

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Isaiah 3:10-11. Say ye to the righteous — O ye priests and Levites, in your sermons and exhortations to the people; that it shall be well with him — Even when it is ill with the wicked, and with the nation in general; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings — God will be their safeguard and portion in the common calamity; therefore let them not fear, but let them commit themselves, and their all, to his protection, and resign themselves up to his disposal. They shall either be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger, or shall have divine supports and comforts, which shall abound in proportion as trials and troubles abound. “This is an admirable sentence to support the souls of the pious, amidst all the calamities of this life. God will not forsake those who truly love and serve him. This, reason teaches us; this, the experience of all times confirms; and it is the constant and comfortable doctrine of the word of God. The event must and will be happy to the good man.” Wo unto the wicked, &c. — These heavy judgments are designed against them, and shall certainly find them out, though here they be mixed with the righteous. As happiness, either in this world or the next, is, by the divine determination, the certain consequence of righteousness, so the contrary is the certain consequence of wickedness.

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.
Isaiah 3:12. As for my people — In this and the following verses, says Dr. Dodd, “the prophet describes the incapacity and weakness, the ignorance and corruption, the oppression and cruelty of the priests and rulers of the people; such as we learn from history they were before the Babylonish captivity.” Children are their oppressors — Persons young in years, of little experience, and who have not due consideration, but, following the impulse of their passions, without regard to any thing else, have the power in their hands, which they use at their pleasure, of exacting tribute of the people; and women rule over them — Weak and effeminate rulers. Or, perhaps he speaks of the wives and concubines of their kings and great men, who, by their arts, gaining an ascendency over their husbands, induced them to act as they desired, though frequently to the people’s prejudice, and in a manner contrary to all the laws. Thus it was in the reign of Jehoram, king of Judah, whose wife Athaliah, a cruel and weak woman, occasioned great disorders in the state; see 2 Chronicles chap. 21. and 22.; and thus undoubtedly it frequently happened after the time Isaiah uttered this prophecy. They who lead thee — Thy rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, whose duty it is to show thee the right way; or, as מאשׁרין, may be properly rendered, they that bless thee; that is, thy false prophets, who flatter thee, and speak, peace to thee; cause thee to err — From the way of truth and duty, from the way of safety and prosperity. Instead of leading thee to repentance and reformation, they encourage thee to go on in sin and rebellion against him, on whom thou art dependant for all things. Those teachers are indeed impostors, that pronounce a people safe and happy who continue in sin; for it is contrary to the very nature of things, that any people can be happy who are contemners of the divine laws. Their punishment may be delayed, but it is not therefore remitted; and every step they take in such a way is a step toward misery and ruin. And destroy the way of thy paths — Keep thee from the knowledge or practice of those paths which lead to safety and happiness, and mislead thee into evil courses, by their wicked counsels or examples.

The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
Isaiah 3:13-15. The Lord standeth up to plead — He will shortly and certainly stand up as a judge to inquire into the cause, and to give sentence; and standeth to judge the people — To call the wicked into judgment, and to denounce upon them as they deserve; or to defend and deliver his own people, judging for them, as this phrase often means. Will enter into judgment with the ancients — The princes or rulers, as it is explained in the next clause, often called elders, because they were commonly chosen from those that were advanced in years. For ye have eaten up the vineyard — Destroyed, instead of preserving and dressing it, as you should have done. The church and commonwealth of Israel is often called God’s vineyard, and here the vineyard, by way of eminence, intrusted to the care of these rulers. The spoil of the poor is in your houses — The goods which you have violently taken away from them. What mean ye that ye beat my people? — What warrant have ye for it? How durst you presume to do it? and grind the faces of the poor — A strong metaphor to denote grievous oppression; but it is exceeded by the Prophet Micah 3:1-3.

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.
What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
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:
Isaiah 3:16. Moreover, the Lord saith — After God had reproved the rulers of the Jews for their iniquity, injustice, and rapacity in spoiling the people, “he draws an argument of the same kind from the pride and luxury of the noble matrons and virgins, whose ornaments, collected from the spoils of the people, were borne proudly and insolently by them; upon whom therefore he denounces judgments; for of these two parts consists this last period of his reproving discourse: urging, 1st, In this verse the crimes of luxury and wanton haughtiness; denouncing, 2d, The punishment with which God would pursue these crimes, Isaiah 3:17 to chap. 4:1:” see Vitringa and Dodd. Because the daughters of Zion are haughty — Proud and disdainful; and walk with stretched-forth necks — Affecting stateliness, (Psalm 75:5,) and endeavouring to appear tall; and wanton eyes — Hebrew, משׂקרות, falsifying their eyes; that is, falsely setting off their eyes with paint, as Bishop Lowth translates it, observing that he takes it to be the true meaning and literal rendering of the word; walking and mincing as they go — Taking petty tripping steps in their walking, that they may appear the younger; making a tinkling with their feet — Dr. Waterland renders this clause, and with chains, or shackles, upon their feet. The prophet is thought, by some learned men, to “allude to a custom among the eastern ladies of wearing on their legs large hollow rings, or circles, with little rings hanging round them; the cavities of these rings being filled with small flints, which caused them to sound like bells on the least motion.” Bishop Lowth translates the last two clauses, “Mincing their steps as they go, and with their feet lightly tripping along.”

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.
Isaiah 3:17. Therefore the Lord will smite, &c. — Will humble the head of the daughters of Zion; and Jehovah will expose their nakedness. Thus Bishop Lowth renders the verse, observing, that “it was the barbarous custom of the conquerors of those times to strip their captives naked, and to make them travel in that condition, exposed to the inclemency of the weather; and, which was worst of all, to the intolerable heat of the sun. But this, to the women, was the height of cruelty and indignity; and especially to such as those here described, who had indulged themselves in all manner of delicacies of living, and all the superfluities of ornamental dress; and even whose faces had hardly ever been exposed to the sight of man. This is always mentioned as the hardest part of the lot of captives. Nahum, denouncing the fate of Nineveh, paints it in very strong colours,” Nahum 3:5-6.

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,
Isaiah 3:18. In that day the Lord, &c. — “Punishment, which, though slow, always follows vice, is here denounced upon the luxurious and proud women: first, taking away, not only the ornaments, wherewith they set off their beauty, but also their garments, which were of necessary use, to Isaiah 3:24; secondly, deprivation of their husbands and children, Isaiah 3:25-26; thirdly, the consequence hereof, by which this loss might be repaired, Isaiah 4:1” see Vitringa. Will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments, &c. — It is justly observed by a learned commentator here, that the words which describe the women’s ornaments in this and the following verses are of very doubtful signification; the modes of every age and country varying so often, that the succeeding fashion makes the former to be quickly forgotten, and the words that express it to become obscure, or even unintelligible. Probably a hundred years hence the names of some of the ornaments that are now in use in our own land will be as little understood as some of those here named. It is judged unnecessary and improper, therefore, to trouble the reader here with the different interpretations which learned men have given of them. It is agreed by all, that they were ornaments used by the women in Judea at that time, and that they were made the means of increasing their pride and other vices, and therefore were displeasing to God. And it is of no concern exactly to understand the differences of them. Instead therefore of spending time on this barren subject, we shall content ourselves with laying before the reader Bishop Lowth’s translation of the Hebrew terms used to express them, with some occasional observations which he has made on some of the articles. In that day will the Lord take away from them the ornaments of the feet-rings, and the net-works, and the crescents, Isaiah 3:18. The pendents, and the bracelets, and the thin veils, Isaiah 3:19. The tires, and the fetters, and the zones, and the perfume-boxes, and the amulets, Isaiah 3:20. The rings, and the jewels of the nostril, Isaiah 3:21. Many commentators explain this of jewels, or strings of pearl, hanging from the forehead, and reaching to the upper part of the nose. But it appears from many passages of Holy Scripture, that the phrase is to be literally and properly understood of nose-jewels, rings set with jewels, hanging from the nostrils, as ear-rings from the ears, by holes bored to receive them. Ezekiel, enumerating the common ornaments of women of the first rank, has not omitted this particular, and is to be understood in the same manner, Ezekiel 16:11-12; see also Genesis 24:47, and Proverbs 11:22.

The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
The rings, and nose jewels,
The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
Isaiah 3:22-24. The embroidered robes, and the tunics, and the cloaks, and the little purses, Isaiah 3:22. The transparent garments — A kind of silken dress, transparent like gauze; worn only by the most delicate women, and such as dressed themselves, as Sallust observes, “elegantius quam necesse esset probis,” more elegantly than was necessary for modest women. This sort of garments was afterward in use among the Greeks. And the fine linen vests; and the turbans, and the mantles, Isaiah 3:23. And there shall be, instead of perfume, a putrid ulcer — A principal part of the delicacy of the Asiatic ladies consists in the use of baths, and of the richest oils and perfumes; an attention to which is, in some degree, necessary in those hot countries. Frequent mention (as we have seen) is made of the rich ointments of the spouse in the Song of Solomon; and the preparation for Esther’s being introduced to King Ahasuerus was a course of bathing and perfuming for a whole year; six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, Esther 2:12. A diseased and loathsome habit of body, instead of a beautiful skin, softened and made agreeable with all that art could devise, and all that nature, so prodigal, in those countries, of the richest perfumes, could supply, must have been a punishment the most severe and the most mortifying to the delicacy of these haughty daughters of Zion. And, instead of well-girt raiment, rags; and, instead of high- dressed hair, baldness; and, instead of a zone, a girdle of sackcloth: a sun-burnt skin, instead of beauty, Isaiah 3:24.

The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
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.
Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
Isaiah 3:25-26. Thy men shall fall, &c. — We have in these verses the second evil; the desolation and widowhood of the matrons and virgins: see Lamentations 2:21-22. But we must observe, that the prophet here does not address the women themselves, but Zion, which frequently is spoken of and represented in the character of a woman. Her gates shall lament — The gates of Zion, which, by a figure, are said to lament, to imply the great desolation of the place, that there would be no people to go out and come in by them, or to meet together there as they used to do. And she, being desolate — Bereaved of her children; Hebrew, נקתה, emptied, or cleansed, that is, deprived of all that she had held dear, and delighted in; shall sit upon the ground — In the posture of a mourner, bewailing her sad calamity. Sitting on the ground, the reader will observe, was a posture denoting deep distress: see on Job 2:13. The Prophet Jeremiah has noticed it, in the first place, among many indications of sorrow, in an elegant description of this same state of distress of his country, Lamentations 2:8-10. Thus also the psalmist, By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. For, undoubtedly, Isaiah in this prophecy had in his view, at least first and immediately, the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, and the dissolution of the Jewish state under the captivity of Babylon. His prediction, however, received a second, and still more awful accomplishment, in the destruction of that city and nation by the Romans. And, what is remarkable, in a medal coined by Vespasian’s order, Jerusalem is represented, according to the picture drawn of her here by the prophet, as lamenting that calamity, under the emblem of a woman sitting on the ground in a melancholy and mournful posture.

And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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