Isaiah 3:1
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,
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(1) For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem . . .—From the general picture of the state of Judah as a whole, of the storm of Divine wrath bursting over the whole land, Isaiah turns to the Holy City itself, and draws the picture of what he saw there of evil, of that which would be seen before long as the punishment of the evil.

The stay and the staff . . .—In the existing Hebrew text the words receive an immediate interpretation, as meaning the two chief supports of life—bread and water. So we have the “staff of bread” in Leviticus 26:26; Psalm 105:16; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16. Possibly, however, the interpretation is of the nature of a marginal gloss, which has found its way into the text, and “the stay and staff” (in the Hebrew the latter word is the feminine form of the former) are really identified with the “pillars of the state,” the great women as well as the great men who are named afterwards. On the other hand, Isaiah 3:7 implies the pressure of famine, and the prophet may have intended to paint the complete failure of all resources, both material and political.

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.

3:1-9 God was about to deprive Judah of every stay and support. The city and the land were to be made desolate, because their words and works had been rebellious against the Lord; even at his holy temple. If men do not stay themselves upon God, he will soon remove all other supports, and then they must sink. Christ is the Bread of life and the Water of life; if he be our Stay, we shall find that is a good part not to be taken away, Joh 6:27. Here note, 1. That the condition of sinners is exceedingly woful. 2. It is the soul that is damaged by sin. 3. Whatever evil befals sinners, be sure that they bring it on themselves.For - This is a continuation of the previous chapter. The same prophecy is continued, and the force of the argument of the prophet will not be seen unless the chapters are read together; see the Analysis prefixed to Isaiah 2. In the close of the second chapter Isaiah 2:22, the prophet had cautioned his countrymen against confiding in man. In this chapter, a reason is given here why they should cease to do it - to wit, that God would soon take away their kings and princes.

The Lord - האדון hā'âdôn; see the note at Isaiah 1:24.

The Lord of hosts - see the note at Isaiah 1:9. The prophet calls the attention of the Jews particularly to the fact that this was about to be done by Yahweh "of hosts" - a title which he gives to God when he designs to indicate that that which is to be done implies special strength, power, and majesty. As the work which was now to be done was the removal of the mighty men on which the nation was depending, it is implied that it was a work of power which belonged especially to the God of armies - the Almighty.

Doth take away - Is about to remove. In the Hebrew, the word here is a "participle," and does not mark the precise time. It has reference here, however, to the future.

From Jerusalem ... - Note Isaiah 1:1.

The stay - In the Hebrew, the words translated "stay" and "staff" are the same, with the exception that the former is in the masculine, and the latter in the feminine gender. The meaning is, that God would remove "all kinds of support," or "everything" on which they relied. The reference is undoubtedly to the princes and mighty men on whose counsels and aid the nation was resting for defense; see Isaiah 3:2-3.

The whole stay of bread - We use a similar expression when we say that "bread is the staff of life." The Hebrews often expressed the same idea, representing the "heart" in man as being "supported or upheld" by bread, Genesis 18:5 (margin); Judges 19:5 (margin); Leviticus 26:26; Psalm 105:16.

Stay of water - He would reduce them from their luxuries introduced by commerce Isaiah 2 to absolute want. This often occurred in the sieges and wars of the nation; and in the famines which were the consequence of the wars. The reference here is probably to the invasion of the land by Nebuchadnezzar. The famine consequent on that invasion is described in Jeremiah 38:21; Jeremiah 38:9; Lamentations 4:4 : "The tongue of the sucking child cleaveth to the roof of his month for thirst; the young children ask bread, and no man breaketh it unto them."


Isa 3:1-26.

1. For—continuation of Isa 2:22.

Lord of hosts—therefore able to do as He says.

doth—present for future, so certain is the accomplishment.

stay … staff—the same Hebrew word, the one masculine, the other feminine, an Arabic idiom for all kinds of support. What a change from the previous luxuries (Isa 2:7)! Fulfilled in the siege by Nebuchadnezzar and afterwards by Titus (Jer 37:21; 38:9).


Great confusion on both people and rulers for their sin and impudence in it, Isaiah 3:1-9. Peace to the righteous, and misery to the wicked, Isaiah 3:10,11. The oppression and covetousness of the rulers, Isaiah 3:12-15. The pride of women, and its judgments, Isaiah 3:16-26.

Behold; look upon it as a thing as certain as if it were already done.

The stay and the staff; all the supports of their state and church. The whole stay of bread, called elsewhere the staff of bread; whereby is understood either,

1. The nourishing power of bread, which wholly depend upon God’s blessing; or rather,

2. Bread itself, as this phrase is understood, Leviticus 26:26 Psalm 105:16 Ezekiel 4:16, and directly explained, Ezekiel 5:16, bread which is the staff of life.

For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts,.... These titles of Jehovah, expressive of power and authority, are used to show that he is able to execute what he threatens to do; and the word "behold" is prefixed, to excite attention to what is about to be said:

doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judea; the present tense is used for the future, because of the certainty of what would be done to the Jews, both in city and country; for as in the preceding chapter Isaiah 2:1 it is foretold what shall befall the antichristian party among the nations of the world, this is a prophecy of the destruction of the Jews by the Romans; at which time there would be a dreadful famine, signified by the taking away

the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; bread and water being the stay and staff of man's life, which support and maintain it; and, in case of disobedience, a famine was threatened this people very early, and in much such terms as here, Leviticus 26:26 and as there was a very sore famine at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 52:6 so there was a very dreadful one when the city was besieged by the Romans, as related by Josephus, and predicted by Christ, Matthew 24:7.

For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the rod {a} and the staff, the whole support of bread, and the whole support of water,

(a) Because they trusted in their abundance and prosperity he shows that they should be taken from them.

1. the Lord, the Lord of hosts] as in Isaiah 1:24 : the Sovereign, Jehovah of Hosts.

the stay and the staff] The second word is the fem. form of the first. The conjunction of similar-sounding words (like “bag and baggage” in English) frequently expresses exhaustiveness. The meaning is simply “every kind of prop.” Cf. Nahum 2:10; Zephaniah 1:15.

the whole stay … water] This explanation is exceedingly unnatural in view of the enumeration which follows. The clause is probably a marginal gloss (readily suggested by such passages as Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16; Psalm 105:16) which has crept into the text.

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. Isaiah 3:1"For, behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah supporter and means of support, every support of bread and every support of water." The divine name given here, "The Lord, Jehovah of hosts," with which Isaiah everywhere introduces the judicial acts of God (cf., Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 19:4), is a proof that the proclamation of judgment commences afresh here. Trusting in man was the crying sin, more especially of the times of Uzziah-Jotham. The glory of the kingdom at that time carried the wrath of Jehovah within it. The outbreak of that wrath commenced in the time of Ahaz; and even under Hezekiah it was merely suspended, not changed. Isaiah foretells this outbreak of wrath. He describes how Jehovah will lay the Jewish state in ruins, by taking away the main supports of its existence and growth. "Supporter and means of support" (mash'en and mash'enah) express, first of all, the general idea. The two nouns, which are only the masculine and feminine forms of one and the same word (compare Micah 2:4; Nahum 2:11, and the examples from the Syriac and Arabic in Ewald, 172, c), serve to complete the generalization: fulcra omne genus (props of every kind, omnigena). They are both technical terms, denoting the prop which a person uses to support anything, whilst mish'an signifies that which yields support; so that the three correspond somewhat to the Latin fulcrum, fultura, fulcimen. Of the various means of support, bread and wine are mentioned first, not in a figurative sense, but as the two indispensable conditions and the lowest basis of human life. Life is supported by bread and water: it walks, as it were, upon the crutch of bread, so that "breaking the staff of bread" (Leviticus 26:26; Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16; Ezekiel 14:13; Psalm 105:16) is equivalent to physical destruction. The destruction of the Jewish state would accordingly be commenced by a removal on the part of Jehovah of all the support afforded by bread and water, i.e., all the stores of both. And this was literally fulfilled, for both in the Chaldean and Roman times Jerusalem perished in the midst of just such terrible famines as are threatened in the curses in Leviticus 26, and more especially in Deuteronomy 28; and in both cases the inhabitants were reduced to such extremities, that women devoured their own children (Lamentations 2:20; Josephus, Wars of Jews, vi. 3, 3, 4). It is very unjust, therefore, on the part of modern critics, such as Hitzig, Knobel, and Meier, to pronounce Isaiah 3:1 a gloss, and, in fact, a false one. Gesenius and Umbreit retracted this suspicion. The construction of the v. is just the same as that of Isaiah 25:6; and it is Isaiah's custom to explain his own figures, as we have already observed when comparing Isaiah 1:7. and Isaiah 1:23 with what preceded them. "Every support of bread and every support of water" are not to be regarded in this case as an explanation of the general idea introduced before, "supporters and means of support," but simply as the commencement of the detailed expansion of the idea. For the enumeration of the supports which Jehovah would take away is continued in the next two verses.
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