Isaiah 3:15
What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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!What mean ye - What is your object? Or, What advantage is it to you? Or, By what right or pretence do you do this?

Beat my people to pieces - That is, that you trample on them; or cruelly oppress them; Psalm 94:5.

And grind the faces of the poor - This is an expression also denoting great oppression. It is taken from the act of grinding a substance on a stone until it is worn away and nothing is left. So, by their cruel exactions, by their injustice to the poor, they exhausted their little property until nothing was left. The word "faces" here is synonymous with "persons" - or with the poor themselves. The word "face" is often used in the sense of "person;" Exodus 33:14; 2 Samuel 18:11. A similar description, though in still stronger language, is found in Micah 3:2-3 :

Who pluck off their skin from off them,

And their flesh from off their bones;

Who also eat the flesh of my people,

And flay their skin from off them;

And they break their bones, and chop them in pieces,

As for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron.

15. What right have ye to beat, &c. (Ps 94:5; Mic 3:2, 3).

grind—by exactions, so as to leave them nothing.

faces—persons; with the additional idea of it being openly and palpably done. "Presence," equivalent to "face" (Hebrew).

What mean ye? what warrant have ye for it? how durst you presume to do it?

Grind, or batter, as the word is used, Exodus 32:20; smite them cruelly: see Isaiah 58:4.

What mean ye, that ye beat my people to pieces,.... Reduce them to the utmost poverty; so the Targum,

"wherefore do ye impoverish my people?''

as they did by exacting tithes of all that they possessed; by requiring large sums for their long prayers; and by various traditions they enjoined them to observe:

and grind the faces of the poor? either by smiting them on the cheek, as Christ, who became poor for our sakes, was smitten by them; or by bringing them into such low circumstances, by their exorbitant demands, that they had not sufficiency of food to eat; by which means their faces became pale, thin, and meagre:

saith the Lord God of Hosts: who saw all their actions, and was able to plead his people's cause, and take vengeance on their oppressors.

What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, {m} and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

(m) That is, you show all cruelty against them.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. The strongest metaphors are used to express the cruelty with which the poor are treated.

What mean ye that ye crush my people (Proverbs 22:22), and grind the face of the afflicted as between two millstones, determined to wring the uttermost farthing from them. The expression does not occur elsewhere, but in its fierce energy it may be compared with Micah 3:2 and Amos 2:7.

16–4:1. An oracle addressed to the women of Jerusalem. Like Amos (Isaiah 4:1-3) in Samaria, Isaiah sees in the luxury of these pampered ladies a measure of the extortions practised by their husbands (cf. also ch. Isaiah 32:9-12).

16, 17 are connected as protasis and apodosis.

Verse 15. - What mean ye? i.e. "What has come over you?" or "What strange perversity has possessed yon?" (Kay). That ye beat my people to pieces, etc. The strongest possible expressions are used to mark God's abhorrence of the oppression to which the poor were subjected. Under the Law, he constituted himself the champion of such persons (see Exodus 22:22-24).

2. The sins of the women. (Vers. 16-26.) These may be summed up under the three heads of pride, wanton manners (ver. 16), and love of dress and ornament (vers. 18-23). It was natural that, with increased commerce (2 Kings 14:22; Isaiah 2:16) and more frequent communication with foreign nations, such as Assyria (2 Kings 16:7-10) and Babylon (2 Kings 20:12, 13), there should be an increase of luxury, and quite in accordance with Eastern ideas that the luxury should particularly show itself in the dress and adornment of the women. The Egyptian remains show an advanced state of luxury among the women at a time anterior to Moses; and in Assyria, though the evidence is less abundant, we find also indications of a similar kind. The Jews, whose regard for their women was high, are not likely to have been behindhand in the gallantry which shows itself in heaping ornament and the newest appliances of civilization on the weaker sex. Isaiah 3:15"Jehovah will proceed to judgment with the elders of His people, and its princes. And ye, ye have eaten up the vineyard; prey of the suffering is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind the face of the suffering? Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts." The words of God Himself commence with "and ye" (v'attem). The sentence to which this (et vos equals at vos) is the antithesis is wanting, just as in Psalm 2:6, where the words of God commence with "and I" (va'ani, et ego equals ast ego). the tacit clause may easily be supplied, viz., I have set you over my vineyard, but he have consumed the vineyard. The only question is, whether the sentence is to be regarded as suppressed by Jehovah Himself, or by the prophet. Most certainly by Jehovah Himself. The majesty with which He appeared before the rulers of His people as, even without words, a practical and undeniable proof that their majesty was only a shadow of His, and their office His trust. But their office consisted in the fact that Jehovah had committed His people to their care. The vineyard of Jehovah was His people - a self-evident figure, which the prophet dresses up in the form of a parable in chapter 5. Jehovah had appointed them as gardeners and keepers of this vineyard, but they themselves have become the very beasts that they ought to have warded off. בּער is applied to the beasts which completely devour the blades of a corn-field or the grapes of a vineyard (Exodus 22:4). This change was perfectly obvious. The possessions stolen from their unhappy countrymen, which were still in their houses, were the tangible proof of their plundering of the vineyard. "The suffering:" ani (depressus, the crushed) is introduced as explanatory of haccerem, the prey, because depression and misery were the ordinary fate of the congregation which God called His vineyard. It was ecclesia pressa, but woe to the oppressors! In the question "what mean ye?" (mallâcem) the madness and wickedness of their deeds are implied. מה and לכם are fused into one word here, as if it were a prefix (as in Exodus 4:2; Ezekiel 8:6; Malachi 1:13; vid., Ges. 20, 2). The Keri helps to make it clear by resolving the chethibh. The word mallâcem ought, strictly speaking, to be followed by chi: "What is there to you that ye crush my people?" as in Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:16; but the words rush forwards (as in Jonah 1:6), because they are an explosion of wrath. For this reason the expressions relating to the behaviour of the rulers are the strongest that can possibly be employed. דּכּא (crush) is also to be met with in Proverbs 22:22; but "grind the face" (tâchan p'ne) is a strong metaphor without a parallel. The former signifies "to pound," the latter "to grind," as the millstone grinds the corn. They grind the faces of those who are already bowed down, thrusting them back with such unmerciful severity, that they stand as it were annihilated, and their faces become as white as flour, or as the Germans would say, cheese-white, chalk-white, as pale as death, from oppression and despair. Thus the language supplied to a certain extent appropriate figures, with which to describe the conduct of the rulers of Israel; but it contained no words that could exhaust the immeasurable wickedness of their conduct: hence the magnitude of their sin is set before them in the form of a question, "What is to you?" i.e., What indescribable wickedness is this which you are committing? The prophet hears this said by Jehovah, the majestic Judge, whom he here describes as Adonai Elohim Zebaoth (according to the Masoretic pointing). This triplex name of God, which we find in the prophetic books, viz., frequently in Amos and also in Jeremiah 2:19, occurs for the first time in the Elohistic Psalm, Psalm 69:7. This scene of judgment is indeed depicted throughout in the colours of the Psalms, and more especially recals the (Elohistic) Psalm of Asaph (Psalm 82:1-8).
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