To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Isaiah 29:21; Proverbs 27:5.
The needy - daliym - דלים dalı̂ym. Those of humble rank and circumstances; who have no powerful friends and defenders. "From judgment." From obtaining justice.
And to take away - To take away by violence and oppression. The word גזל gāzal, is commonly applied to robbery, and to oppression; to the taking away of spoils in battle, etc.
That widows may be their prey - That they may rob widows, or obtain their property. This crime has always been one particularly offensive in the sight of God; see the note at Isaiah 1:23. The widow and the orphan are without protectors. Judges, by their office, are particularly bound to preserve their rights; and it, therefore, evinces special iniquity when they who should be their protectors become, in fact, their oppressors, and do injustice to them without the possibility of redress. Yet this was the character of the Jewish judges; and for this the vengeance of heaven was about to come upon the land.
take away the right—"make plunder of the right" (rightful claim) [Horsley].From judgment; or, from their right, as it is in the next clause; or, from obtaining a just sentence, because they either denied or delayed to hear their causes, or gave a wrong sentence.
From the poor, whom I have in a special manner committed to your care.
Of my people; of Israelites. who profess themselves to be my people, and whom I did take into covenant with myself; and therefore this is an injury not only to them, but to me also.
and to take away the right from the poor of my people; for not to do justice to the poor is the same as to rob and plunder them, and take away by force what of right belongs to them; wherefore it follows:
that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless; who have none to protect and defend them, and whose protectors judges ought to be, in imitation of God, whom civil magistrates represent, who is the Judge of the widows and the fatherless; and therefore this is observed as an aggravation of their sin, which was very great indeed: it is very wicked in a judge to pervert the judgment of the poor and needy, the widow and the fatherless, contrary to laws that are made by God and men; but to make and prescribe wicked and unrighteous laws, that wickedness may be framed, and mischief committed by a law, that the poor and the needy, the widows and fatherless, may be injured under colour and pretence of law and justice, is the height of injustice. See Psalm 94:20.To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)2. The effect and real purpose of this legislative activity.
To turn aside the needy from judgment] See on ch. Isaiah 1:23.
my people] as Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 3:15.Verse 2. - The poor... the widow... the fatherless. These were the classes who were the chief sufferers by the perversion of justice (comp. Isaiah 1:17, 23). They were exactly the classes for whom God had most compassion, and whom he had commended in the Law to the tender care of his people (see note on Isaiah 9:17). Isaiah 10:20, where Asshur is intended). The article and suffix are used together, as in Isaiah 24:2; Proverbs 16:4 (vid., Ges. 110, 2; Caspari, Arab. Gram. 472). But there was coming now a great day of punishment (in the view of the prophet, it was already past), such as Israel experienced more than once in the Assyrian oppressions, and Judah in the Chaldean, when head and tail, or, according to another proverbial expression, palm-branch and rush, would be rooted out. We might suppose that the persons referred to were the high and low; but Isaiah 9:15 makes a different application of the first double figure, by giving it a different turn from its popular sense (compare the Arabic er-ru 'ūs w-aledhnâb equals lofty and low, in Dietrich, Abhandlung, p. 209). The opinion which has very widely prevailed since the time of Koppe, that this v. is a gloss, is no doubt a very natural one (see Hitzig, Begriff der Kritik; Ewald, Propheten, i. 57). But Isaiah's custom of supplying his own gloss is opposed to such a view; also Isaiah's composition in Isaiah 3:3 and Isaiah 30:20, and the relation in which this v. stands to Isaiah 9:16; and lastly, the singular character of the gloss itself, which is one of the strongest proofs that it contains the prophet's exposition of his own words. The chiefs of the nation were the head of the national body; and behind, like a wagging dog's tail, sat the false prophets with their flatteries of the people, loving, as Persius says, blando caudam jactare popello. The prophet drops the figure of Cippâh, the palm-branch which forms the crown of the palm, and which derives its name from the fact that it resembles the palm of the hand (instar palmae manus), and agmōn, the rush which grows in the marsh.
(Note: The noun agam is used in the Old Testament as well as in the Talmud to signify both a marshy place (see Baba mesi'a 36b, and more especially Aboda zara 38a, where giloi agmah signifies the laying bare of the marshy soil by the burning up of the reeds), and also the marsh grass (Sabbath 11a, "if all the agmim were kalams, i.e., writing reeds, or pens;" and Kiddsin 62b, where agam signifies a talk of marsh-grass or reed, a rush or bulrush, and is explained, with a reference to Isaiah 58:5, as signifying a tender, weak stalk). The noun agmon, on the other hand, signifies only the stalk of the marsh-grass, or the marsh-grass itself; and in this sense it is not found in the Talmud (see Comm on Job, at Isaiah 41:10-13). The verbal meaning upon which these names are founded is evident from the Arabic mâ āgim (magūm), "bad water" (see at Isaiah 19:10). There is no connection between this and maugil, literally a depression of the soil, in which water lodges for a long time, and which is only dried up in summer weather.)
The allusion here is to the rulers of the nation and the dregs of the people. The basest extremity were the demagogues in the shape of prophets. For it had come to this, as Isaiah 9:16 affirms, that those who promised to lead by a straight road led astray, and those who suffered themselves to be led by them were as good as already swallowed up by hell (cf., Isaiah 5:14; Isaiah 3:12). Therefore the Sovereign Ruler would not rejoice over the young men of this nation; that is to say, He would suffer them to be smitten by their enemies, without going with them to battle, and would refuse His customary compassion even towards widows and orphans, for they were all thoroughly corrupt on every side. The alienation, obliquity, and dishonesty of their heart, are indicated by the word Chânēph (from Chânaph, which has in itself the indifferent radical idea of inclination; so that in Arabic, Chanı̄f, as a synonym of ‛âdil,
(Note: This is the way in which it should be written in Comm on Job, at Isaiah 13:16; ‛adala has also the indifferent meaning of return or decision.)
has the very opposite meaning of decision in favour of what is right); the badness of their actions by מרע (in half pause for מרע
(Note: Nevertheless this reading is also met with, and according to Masora finalis, p. 52, Colossians 8, this is the correct reading (as in Proverbs 17:4, where it is doubtful whether the meaning is a friend or a malevolent person). The question is not an unimportant one, as we may see from Olshausen, 258, p. 581.)
equals מרע, maleficus); the vicious infatuation of their words by nebâlâh. This they are, and this they continue; and consequently the wrathful hand of God is stretched out over them for the infliction of fresh strokes.
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