Isaiah 3:12
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.
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(12) Children are their oppressors . . .—This points, as before (Isaiah 3:4), to the youth and yet more the character of Ahaz. The influence of the queen-mother or of the seraglio was dominant in his counsels. Cowardly (Isaiah 7:2), idolatrous, delighting in foreign worships and foreign forms of art (2Kings 16:10), such was the king who then sat on the throne of Judah. And the evil worked downwards from the throne. Those who should have been the leaders of the people were quick only to mislead. Princes, priests, judges were all drifting with the current of debasement.

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.

3:10-15 The rule was certain; however there might be national prosperity or trouble, it would be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked. Blessed be God, there is abundant encouragement to the righteous to trust in him, and for sinners to repent and return to him. It was time for the Lord to show his might. He will call men to a strict account for all the wealth and power intrusted to and abused by them. If it is sinful to disregard the necessities of the poor, how odious and wicked a part do they act, who bring men into poverty, and then oppress them!As for my people, children are their oppressors - This refers, doubtless, to their civil rulers. They who "ought" to have been their "protectors," oppressed them by grievous taxes and burdens. But whether this means that the rulers of the people were "literally" minors, or that they were so in "disposition and character," has been a question. The original word is in the singular number (מעולל me‛ôlēl), and means a "child," or an infant. It may, however, be taken collectively as a noun of multitude, or as denoting more than one. To whom reference is made here cannot easily be determined, but possibly to "Ahaz," who began to reign when he was twenty years old; 2 Kings 16:2. Or it may mean that the "character" of the princes and rulers was that of inexperienced children, unqualified for government.

Are their oppressors - literally, 'are their exactors,' or their "taxers" - the collectors of the revenue.

And women rule over them - This is not to be taken literally, but it means either that the rulers were under the influence of the "harem," or the females of the court; or that they were effeminate and destitute of vigor and manliness in counsel. The Septuagint and the Chaldee render this verse substantially alike: 'Thy exactors strip my people as they who gather the grapes strip the vineyard.'

They which lead thee - Hebrew "They who bless thee, or call thee blessed." (See the margin.) This refers, doubtless, to the public teachers, and the false prophets, who "blessed" or flattered the people, and who promised them safety in their sins.

Cause thee to err - Lead you astray; or lead you into sin and danger.

And destroy - Hebrew "Swallow up."

12. (See Isa 3:4).

oppressors—literally, "exactors," that is, exacting princes (Isa 60:17). They who ought to be protectors are exactors; as unqualified for rule as "children," as effeminate as "women." Perhaps it is also implied that they were under the influence of their harem, the women of their court.

lead—Hebrew, "call thee blessed"; namely, the false prophets, who flatter the people with promises of safety in sin; as the political "rulers" are meant in the first clause.

way of thy paths—(Jer 6:16). The right way set forth in the law. "Destroy"—Hebrew, "Swallow up," that is, cause so utterly to disappear that not a vestige of it is left.

Women; either,

1. Properly so called, by their favour and power with the rulers; or,

2. Weak and effeminate rulers, such being called women both in sacred and profane writings.

They which lead thee; thy rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, whose duty it is to show thee the right way. Or, as others, they that bless thee, i.e. thy false prophets, which flatter thee, and speak peace to thee.

Destroy the way of thy paths; keep thee from the knowledge or practice of that way which leads to thy salvation, and mislead thee into evil courses, by their wicked counsels or examples.

As for my people, children are their oppressors,.... Or rulers; for in the Ethiopic language, signifies a king: or "exactors", as in Isaiah 60:17 princes are so called, because they exact tribute of their subjects, and sometimes in a tyrannical and oppressive manner, and so get the name of oppressors. The sense is the same with Isaiah 3:4. The words may be rendered, "as for my people, everyone of their governors, is a child" (n); not in age, but in understanding:

and women rule over them, or "over him" (o); either over the people of Israel, as Alexandra before Hyrcanus, and Helena queen of the Adiabenes; or over the child their governor, as women had great influence over their husbands, the governors of Judea, in those times, as Herodias, Bernice, and Drusilla; or it may be understood of men, weak, effeminate, and given to pleasure:

O my people, they which lead thee: as the former may design their political governors, this their ecclesiastic rulers, who were to direct and lead them in the paths of religion and truth. Some render the words, "who praise thee", as the Targum; "or bless you", or "call you blessed", as the Septuagint and Arabic versions, though guilty of the most flagitious crimes:

cause thee to err, or wander from the way of God's commandments,

and destroy the way of the paths, by turning them out of the right way; by enjoining them the traditions of the elders; by taking away the key of knowledge from them, and not suffering them to go into the kingdom of heaven, or attend the ministry of the Gospel and ordinances; as did the Scribes and Pharisees, who were blind leaders of the blind.

(n) "exactorum ejus quisque parvulus est", Piscator. (o) "in eum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "in illum", Cocceius.

As for my people, {k} children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they who lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.

(k) Because the wicked people were more addicted to their princes than to the commandments of God, he shows that he would give them such princes, by whom they would have no help, but that they would be manifest tokens of his wrath, because they would be fools and effeminate.

12. The threat of Isaiah 3:4 is already on the way to be fulfilled; the conditions of anarchy are present in the childish character of the reigning monarch, Ahaz. Cf. Ecclesiastes 10:16. The prophet’s pity for the nation breaks out in the repeated exclamation, “My people!

children are their oppressors, &c.] Rather, his tyrant (plural of majesty) is a child and women role over him (i.e. the people): the queen-mother and women of the harem attain an undue and dangerous influence under such a régime.

they which lead thee cause thee to err] thy leaders are misleaders, an expression found again in Isaiah 9:16. The word for “lead” is that used in Isaiah 1:17, “set right.”

destroy] have swallowed up; according to others: “have confused.” The meaning is that the landmarks of national righteousness have been effaced from the minds of the people by the conduct of its statesmen and guides.

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. Isaiah 3:12"My people, its oppressors are boys, and women rule over it; my people, thy leaders are misleaders, who swallow up the way of thy paths." It is not probable that me‛olel signifies maltreaters or triflers, by the side of the parallel nâshim; moreover, the idea of despotic treatment is already contained in nogesaiv. We expect to find children where there are women. And this is one meaning of me‛olel. It does not mean a suckling, however, as Ewald supposes (160, a), more especially as it occurs in connection with yonek (Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 2:11), and therefore cannot have precisely the same meaning; but, like עולל and עולל (the former of which may be contracted from meolēl), it refers to the boy as playful and wanton (Lascivum, protervum). Bttcher renders it correctly, pueri, lusores, though meolēl is not in itself a collective form, as he supposes; but the singular is used collectively, or perhaps better still, the predicate is intended to apply to every individual included in the plural notion of the subject (compare Isaiah 16:8; Isaiah 20:4, and Ges. 146, 4): the oppressors of the people, every one without exception, were (even though advanced in years) mere boys or youths in their mode of thinking and acting, and made all subject to them the football of their capricious humour. Here again the person of the king is allowed to fall into the background. but the female rule, referred to afterwards, points us to the court. And this must really have been the case when Ahaz, a young rake, came to the throne at the age of twenty (according to the lxx twenty-five), possibly towards the close of the reign of Jotham. With the deepest anguish the prophet repeats the expression "my people," as he passes in his address to his people from the rulers to the preachers: for the meassherim or leaders are prophets (Micah 3:5); but what prophets! Instead of leading the people in a straight path, they lead them astray (Isaiah 9:15, cf., 2 Kings 21:9). This they did, as we may gather from the history of this crowd of prophets, either by acting in subservience to the ungodly interests of the court with dynastic or demagogical servility, or by flattering the worst desires of the people. Thus the way of the path of the people, i.e., the highway or road by whose ramifying paths the people were to reach the appointed goal, had been swallowed up by them, i.e., taken away from the sight and feet of the people, so that they could not find it and walk therein (cf., Isaiah 25:7-8, where the verb is used in another connection). What is swallowed up is invisible, has disappeared, without a grace being left behind. The same idea is applied in Job 39:27 to a galloping horse, which is said to swallow the road, inasmuch as it leaves piece after piece behind it in its rapid course. It is stated here with regard to the prophets, that they swallow up the road appointed by Jehovah, as the one in which His people were to walk, just as a criminal swallows a piece of paper which bears witness against him, and so hides it in his own stomach. Thus the way of salvation pointed out by the law was no longer to be either heard of or seen. The prophets, who ought to have preached it, said mum, mum, and kept it swallowed. It had completely perished, as it were, in the erroneous preaching of the false prophets.
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