Isaiah 29:21
That make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought.
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(21) That make a man an offender for a word . . .—The words indicate that Isaiah had been accused, as Jeremiah was afterwards (Jeremiah 37:13), of being unpatriotic, because he had rebuked the sins of Israel and its rulers. Another interpretation gives, “that make men sinners in word,” i.e., suborn false witnesses against him. The former seems preferable, but the general drift of the passage is the same. The “snare” was laid for the “righteous man,” precisely because he “reproved in the gate:” i.e., preached in the open air in the places of public concourse, even in the presence of the rulers and judges as they sat there.

Turn aside the just.—The phrase is used in Exodus 23:6; Amos 5:12; Malachi 3:5, for the deliberate perversion of justice.

A thing of nought.—The Hebrew word is once more the tohu (“without form”) of Genesis 1:1. The accusations brought against the prophet were, as we say, incoherent, absolutely chaotic in their falsehood.

29:17-24 The wonderful change here foretold, may refer to the affairs of Judah, though it looks further. When a great harvest of souls was gathered to Christ from among the Gentiles, then the wilderness was turned into a fruitful field; and the Jewish church, that had long been a fruitful field, became as a deserted forest. Those who, when in trouble, can truly rejoice in God, shall soon have cause greatly to rejoice in him. The grace of meekness contributes to the increase of our holy joy. The enemies who were powerful shall become mean and weak. To complete the repose of God's people, the scorners at home shall be cut off by judgements. All are apt to speak unadvisedly, and to mistake what they hear, but it is very unfair to make a man an offender for a word. They did all they could to bring those into trouble who told them of their faults. But He that redeemed Abraham out of his snares and troubles, will redeem those who are, by faith, his true seed, out of theirs. It will be the greatest comfort to godly parents to see their children renewed creatures, the work of God's grace. May those who now err in spirit, and murmur against the truth, come to understanding, and learn true doctrine. The Spirit of truth shall set right their mistakes, and lead them into all truth. This should encourage us to pray for those that have erred, and are deceived. All who murmured at the truths of God, as hard sayings, shall learn and be aware what God designed in all. See the change religion produces in the hearts of men, and the peace and pleasure of a humble and devout spirit.That make a man an offender - literally, 'who cause a man to sin' (מחטיאי machăṭı̂y'ēy); that is, who hold a man to be guilty, or a criminal. Lowth renders this singularly enough:

'Who bewildered the poor man in speaking.'

Grotius supposes it means, 'Who on account of the word of God, that is, the true prophecy, treat men as guilty of crime.' Calvin supposes it means, 'Who bear with impatience the reproofs and denunciation of the prophets, and who endeavor to pervert and distort their meaning.' Hence, he supposes, they proposed artful and captious questions by which they might ensnare them. Others suppose that it refers to the fact that they led people into sin by their new doctrines and false views. The connection, however, seems to require that it should be understood of judicial proceedings, and the sense is probably correctly expressed by Noyes:

'Who condemned the poor man in his cause.'

This interpretation is also that which is proposed by Rosenmuller and Gesenius. According to the interpretation above suggested, the word rendered 'who make an offender,' means the same as who holds one guilty, that is, condemns.

A man - (אדם 'âdâm). It is well known that this word stands in contradistinction to אישׁ 'ı̂ysh, and denotes usually a poor man, a man in humble life, in opposition to one who is rich or of more elevated rank. This is probably the sense here, and the meaning is, that they condemned the poor man; that is, that they were partial in their judgments.

For a word - (בדבר bedâbâr). "In" a word; denoting the same as "a cause" that is tried before a court of justice. So Exodus 18:16 : 'When they have "a matter" (דבר dâbâr "a word"), they come unto me.' So Exodus 18:22 : 'And it shoji be that every great "matter" (Hebrew every great "word") that they shall bring unto me.' So Exodus 22:8 (in the English version 9): 'For all manner of trespass,' Hebrew for every word of trespass; that is, for every suit concerning a breach of trust. So also Exodus 24:14 : 'If any man have "any matters" to do,' (Hebrew, 'any "words, '") that is, if anyone has a law suit.

And lay a snare - To lay a snare is to devise a plan to deceive, or get into their possession; as birds are caught in snares that are concealed from their view.

That reproveth - Or rather, that "contended" or "pleaded;" that is, that had a cause. The word יכח yâkach means often to contend with any one; to strive; to seek to confute; to attempt to defend or justify, as in a court of law Job 13:15; Job 19:5; Job 16:21; Job 22:4. It is also applied to deciding a case in law, or pronouncing a decision Isaiah 11:3-4; Genesis 31:37; Job 9:33. Here it means one who has brought a suit, or who is engaged in a legal cause.

In the gate - Gates of cities being places of concourse, were usually resorted to for transacting business, and courts were usually held in them Genesis 23:10, Genesis 23:18; Deuteronomy 17:5, Deuteronomy 17:8; Deuteronomy 21:19; Deuteronomy 22:15; Deuteronomy 25:6-7; Ruth 4:1. The sense is, they endeavored to pervert justice, and to bring the man who had a cause before them, completely within their power, so that they might use him for their own purposes, at the same time that they seemed to be deciding the cause justly.

And turn aside the just - The man who has a just or righteous cause.

For a thing of nought - Or a decision which is empty, vain (בתהו batôhû), and which should be regarded as null and void,

21. Rather, "Who make a man guilty in his cause" [Gesenius], that is, unjustly condemn him. "A man" is in the Hebrew a poor man, upon whom such unjust condemnations might be practiced with more impunity than on the rich; compare Isa 29:19, "the meek … the poor."

him that reproveth—rather, "pleadeth"; one who has a suit at issue.

gate—the place of concourse in a city, where courts of justice were held (Ru 4:11; Pr 31:23; Am 5:10, 12).

just—one who has a just cause; or, Jesus Christ, "the Just One" [Horsley].

for a thing of naught—rather, "through falsehood," "by a decision that is null in justice" [Barnes]. Compare as to Christ, Pr 28:21; Mt 26:15; Ac 3:13, 14; 8:33.

That make a man an offender; that condemn and punish a man as if he were a great criminal.

For a word; for a verbal reproof, as appears from the next clause.

For him that reproveth; for God’s faithful prophets and ministers, whose office it is to reprove ungodly men, such as these were.

In the gate, publicly; which they took for a great affront and disgrace; although the reproof ought to be public, where the sin is public and scandalous. He mentions the gate, because there the people used to assemble, both upon civil and sacred accounts, and there prophets used to deliver their prophecies; of which see Jeremiah 7:2 17:19.

Turn aside, to wit, from judgment, as this phrase is more fully delivered, Isaiah 10:2, or from his right; which is elsewhere called the perverting, or overturning, or overthrowing of a man’s right or judgment, as Deu 27:19 Proverbs 17:23 Lamentations 3:35.

The just; the faithful prophets and ministers of God, and among others Christ, who is oft called the just or righteous one, both in the Old and New Testament.

For a thing of nought; not for any great advantage, but for a trifle, which is a great aggravation of their injustice. Or, with vanity, i.e. with vain and frivolous pretences, or without any colour of reason or justice.

That make a man an offender for a word,.... Inadvertently spoken, unwarily dropped, without any bad design or ill meaning; or for a word misplaced or misconstrued; or for preaching and professing the word of God, the Gospel of salvation, and adhering to it; which is the true character of the persecutors of good men in all ages: some render the words, "who make a man sin by a word" (e); by their words and doctrines; and so apply it to the false prophets, as Jarchi does; and very well agrees with the Pharisees in Christ's time, who made men to sin, to transgress the word of God, by their traditions. The Targum is,

"who condemn the sons of men by their words;''

or for them; particularly for their words of reproof, for which they make them offenders, or pronounce them guilty, as follows:

and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate; either for just judges, who sat in the gate of the city, and faithfully reproved and punished men for their sins; or for such that had boldness and courage enough to reprove wicked men openly, and before all, for their wickedness, the gate being a public place, where people pass and repass; and such that sin openly should be reproved openly; and particularly the true prophets of the Lord may be referred to, who sometimes were sent to publish their messages, which were frequently reproofs of the people, in the gates of the city; but, above all, Christ seems to be respected, who in the most public manner inveighed against the Scribes and Pharisees for their wickedness, on account of which they sought to entangle him in his talk, and to lay snares for his life; see Matthew 22:15,

and turn aside the just for a thing of nought; the Targum is,

"that falsely pervert the judgment of the innocent;''

that turn away their judgment, decline doing them justice, but condemn them on frivolous pretences, for just nothing at all, what is mere emptiness and vanity: Christ is eminently the "just" One, righteous in himself, and the author of righteousness to others; yet, on account of things for which there were no foundation, and contrary to all justice, he was proceeded against as a criminal.

(e) "qui verbie faciunt ut peccent homines", Castalio; "peccare facientes hominem in verbo", Pagninus, Montanus. And to the same sense the Septuagint, V. L. Syr. and Arab.

That make a man an offender for a {q} word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nothing.

(q) They who went about to find fault with the prophets words, and would not abide admonitions, but would entangle them and bring them into danger.

21. That make a man an offender for a word] The verb rendered “make an offender” usually means “lead into sin” (Exodus 23:33; Ecclesiastes 5:6, &c.); and is so understood in R.V. marg. “make men to offend by their words.” Here, however, the second part of the verse seems to shew that it is used in a declarative sense (= “make a man out to be an offender”). for a word should be translated either by a (false) word; or (as R.V.) in a cause.

him that reproveth in the gate] (cf. Amos 5:10). The person indicated may be either a judge (“umpire, as Job 9:33) or a private individual who stands up for justice in the place of public assembly.

turn aside the just (from his right, ch. Isaiah 10:2; Amos 5:12) for a thing of nought] rather, as R.V. with a thing of nought, “on an empty pretext.”

Verse 21. - That make a man an offender for a word. The meaning of this clause is very doubtful. Kay translates, "That lead men into sin by words;" Mr. Cheyne, "That make out people to be sinners by their words," i.e. by bearing false witness against them; while Delitzsch upholds the rendering of the Authorized Version. Mr. Vance Smith has other suggestions ('Prophecies,' p, 171). There seems to be, on the whole, no sufficient reason for setting aside the authorized rendering, which con-demus one form of oppression - the severe punishment of mere words. And lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate. "The gate" was the place where judgment was given and public assemblies held. If any one boldly stood up and reproved the oppressors "in the gate," they instantly set to work to lay a trap for him and bring him to ruin. And turn aside the just for a thing of naught; rather, and deprive the just [of their right] by empty charges. "Turning aside the just" means turning them from their right (Amos 5:12; Exodus 23:6); and bat tohu is not "for nothing" but "by nothing," i.e. by some vain empty pretence. Isaiah 29:21But the prophet's God, whose omniscience, creative glory, and perfect wisdom they so basely mistook and ignored, would very shortly turn the present state of the world upside down, and make Himself a congregation out of the poor and wretched, whilst He would entirely destroy this proud ungodly nation. "Is it not yet a very little, and Lebanon is turned into a fruitful field, and the fruitful field esteemed as a forest? And in that day the deaf hear scripture words, and the eyes of the blind will see out of obscurity and out of darkness. And the joy of the humble increases in Jehovah, and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. For tyrants are gone, and it is over with scoffers; and all who think evil are rooted out, who condemn a man for a word, and lay snares for him that is free-spoken in the gate, and overthrow the righteous through shameful lies." The circumstances themselves, as well as the sentence passed, will experience a change, in complete contrast with the present state of things. This is what is affirmed in Isaiah 29:17; probably a proverb transposed into a more literary style. What is now forest becomes ennobled into garden ground; and what is garden ground becomes in general estimation a forest (לכרמל, ליער, although we should rather expect ל, just as in Isaiah 32:15). These emblems are explained in Isaiah 29:18. The people that are now blind and deaf, so far as the word of Jehovah is concerned, are changed into a people with open ears and seeing eyes. Scripture words, like those which the prophet now holds before the people so unsuccessfully, are heard by those who have been deaf. The unfettered sight of those who have been blind pierces through the hitherto surrounding darkness. The heirs of the new future thus transformed are the anâvı̄m ("meek") and the 'ebhyōnı̄m ("poor"). אדם (the antithesis of אנשׁהים, e.g., Isaiah 29:13) heightens the representation of lowliness; the combination is a superlative one, as in הצאן צעירי, Jeremiah 49:20, and הצאן עניי in Zechariah 11:7 (cf., חיות פריץ in Isaiah 35:9): needy men who present a glaring contrast to, and stand out from, the general body of men. Such men will obtain ever increasing joy in Jehovah (yâsaph as in Isaiah 37:31). Such a people of God would take the place of the oppressors (cf., Isaiah 28:12) and scoffers (cf., Isaiah 28:14, Isaiah 28:22), and those who thought evil (shâqad, invigilare, sedulo agere), i.e., the wretched planners, who made a חטא of every one who did not enter into their plans (i.e., who called him a chōtē'; cf., Deuteronomy 24:4; Ecclesiastes 5:5), and went to law with the man who openly opposed them in the gate (Amos 5:10; yeqōshūn, possibly the perf. kal, cf., Jeremiah 50:24; according to the syntax, however, it is the fut. kal of qūsh equals yâqōsh: see at Isaiah 26:16; Ges. 44, Anm. 4), and thrust away the righteous, i.e., forced him away from his just rights (Isaiah 10:2), by tōhū, i.e., accusations and pretences of the utmost worthlessness; for these would all have been swept away. This is the true explanation of the last clause, as given in the Targum, and not "into the desert and desolation," as Knobel and Luzzatto suppose; for with Isaiah tōhū is the synonym for all such words as signify nothingness, groundlessness, and fraud. The prophet no doubt had in his mind, at the time that he uttered these words, the conduct of the people towards himself and his fellow-prophets, and such as were like-minded with them. The charge brought against him of being a conspirator, or a traitor to his country, was a tōhū of this kind. All these conspirators and persecutors Jehovah would clear entirely away.
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