Isaiah 3:3
The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counseller, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
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(3) The captain of fifty, and the honourable man.—The first title implies a division like that of Exodus 18:21, of which “fifty” was all but the minimum unit. So we have the three “captains of fifty” in 2Kings 1:9-15. The “honourable man” (literally, eminent in countenance) would seem to occupy a position in the civil service of the State analogous to that of the “captain of fifty” in the military.

The counsellor, and the cunning artificer.—From the modern stand-point the two classes seem at opposite extremes of the social order. The latter, however (literally, masters in arts), would seem to have occupied a higher position in the East, like that of military or civil engineers or artists with us. So in 2Kings 24:14, Jeremiah 24:1, the “craftsmen and the smiths” are grouped with the “men of might” who were carried to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, and contrasted with the poor who were left behind. The military works of Uzziah had doubtless given a prominence to the “cunning men” who were employed on them (2Chronicles 26:15). By some critics, however, the word is taken as equal to “magician.”

The eloquent orator.—Literally, skilled in speech. The Authorised Version suggests the idea of the power of such skill in controlling the debates of popular assemblies. Here, however, the thought is rather that of one who says the right words at the right time; or possibly the enchanter who has his formulæ (the word implies the whisper of incantations, as in Isaiah 8:19) ready at command for all occasions.

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.The captain of fifty - By this was probably denoted an officer in the army. The idea is, that the commanders of the various divisions of the army should be taken away.

The honourable man - Hebrew פנים נשׂוּא nes'û' pânı̂ym. "The man of elevated countenance." That is, the man high in office. He was so called from the aspect of dignity which a man in office would assume. In the previous chapter, the phrase is used to denote rather the "pride" which attended such officers, than the dignity of the office itself.

And the counselor - Note, Isaiah 1:26.

The cunning artificer - Hebrew, The man wise in mechanic arts: skilled in architecture, etc.

And the eloquent orator - לחשׁ נבון nebôn lâchash. literally, skilled or learned in whispering, in conjuration, in persuasion. The word לחשׁ lachash denotes properly a whispering, sighing, or calling for help; (Isaiah 26:16, 'they have poured out a prayer,' לחשׁ lachash - a secret speech, a feeble sigh for aid.) It is applied to the charm of the serpents - the secret breathing or gentle noise by which the charm is supposed to be effected; Psalm 58:6; Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:11. In Isaiah 3:20 of this chapter it denotes a charm or amulet worn by females; see the note at that verse. It is also applied to magic, or conjuration - because this was usually done by gentle whispering, or incantation; see the note at Isaiah 8:19. From this use of the word, it comes to denote one that influences another; one who persuades him in any way, as an orator does by argument and entreaty. Ancient orators also probably sometimes used a species of recitative, or measured cadence, not unlike that employed by those who practiced incantations. Jerome says that it means here, 'a man who is learned, and acquainted with the law, and the prophets.' Chaldee, 'The prudent in council.' It "may" be used in a good sense here; but if so, it is probably the only place where the word is so used in the Old Testament. A prophecy similar to this occurs in Hosea 3:4 : 'For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim.'

3. captain of fifty—not only captains of thousands, and centurions of a hundred, but even semi-centurions of fifty, shall fail.

honourable—literally, "of dignified aspect."

cunning—skilful. The mechanic's business will come to a standstill in the siege and subsequent desolation of the state; artisans are no mean "stay" among a nation's safeguards.

eloquent orator—rather, as Vulgate, "skilled in whispering," that is, incantation (Ps 58:5). See Isa 8:19, below; and on "prudent," see on [690]Isa 3:2.

The captain of fifty; there shall not be a man left able to command and manage fifty soldiers, and much less such as could command hundreds or thousands, which yet were necessary. The honourable man; men of high birth, and place, and power, and reputation. The counsellor; wise and learned statesmen. The cunning artificer, who could make either ornaments for times of peace, or instruments for war; which therefore conquerors took away from those nations whom they subdued, 1 Samuel 13:19,20 2 Kings 24:14.

The eloquent orator, Heb. the skilful of charm; whereby he understands either,

1. Charmers, whom he threatens to take away, not as if such persons were blessings to a people, or the removing of such were a curse, but only because they made great use of them, and trusted to them. And so he signifies that God would remove all the grounds of their confidence, both right and wrong, and make their case desperate. As, in like manner, and for the same reason, God threatens the Israelites that they should be, as without a sacrifice, so without teraphim, Hosea 3:4. Or,

2. As most understand it, such as could powerfully persuade, and, as it were, chain that ungovernable beast, the multitude of common people, by their eloquence, to do those things which were necessary for their peace and safety; for this word may be taken in a good sense, as divination is, Proverbs 16:10.

The captain of fifty,.... A semi-centurion, such an one as in 2 Kings 1:9. So far should there be from being captains of thousands, and of hundreds, that there should not be one of fifty:

and the honourable man; by birth, breeding, and behaviour, through riches and greatness; and one of power and authority among the people, and in their favour and esteem:

and the counsellor; one able to give advice in matters of moment and difficulty, and in controversy between man and man; it suggests that nothing should be done with advice and counsel, with wisdom and discretion, but all tumult and sedition, as the history of these times shows: the Jews (b) interpret this of one that knows how to intercalate years, and fix the months: and the

cunning artificer: in any kind of metal, old, silver, brass, and iron, and in any sort of wood, and in any kind of manual and mechanical business; which would now be laid aside, shops shuts up, and all trade and business neglected and discouraged, occasioned partly by the siege without, and chiefly by their internal divisions and robberies, and by their zealots and cutthroats, which swarmed among them. The Septuagint render it, "the wise architect", or "masterbuilder"; the same word is used by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:10,

and the eloquent orator; who has the tongue of the learned, and can speak a word in season to the distressed; or who is able to plead at the bar the cause of the injured and oppressed, the widow and the fatherless. Aben Ezra interprets it of one that is skilful in enchanting serpents; that charms wisely, as in Psalm 58:5 it may be rendered, "one that understands enchantment" (c): with the Septuagint it is a "prudent hearer"; sad is the case of a nation when men of so much usefulness are taken away from them. See 2 Kings 24:15.

(b) T. Bab. Chagiga & Jarchi, ut supra. (fol. 14. 1. Jarchi in loc.) (c) "intelligentem incantationis", Vatablus.

The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the skilful craftsman, and the {c} eloquent orator.

(c) By these he means that God would take away everything that was of any value, and which they had any opportunity to want in themselves.

3. honourable man] lit. “man of respect”; either one high in the king’s favour (2 Kings 5:1) or a man of good social standing, without official rank (Job 22:8).

cunning artificer] lit. “skilled in arts.” It is disputed whether the arts in question are mechanical or magical; hence the alternative “charmer “in R.V. marg. At all events

eloquent orator should be skilful enchanter (R.V.).

Verse 3. - The captain of fifty. "Captains of fifties" were scarcely at this period "civil officers" (Cheyne). They represent simply the lowest grade of officers in the army (2 Kings 1:9, 11, 13). Honorable. The same expression is used again in Isaiah 9:15. It occurs also in 2 Kings 5. I and Job 22:8. The cunning artificer. "All the craftsmen and smiths" in Jerusalem were carried away by Nebuchadnezzar in the captivity of Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:14; cf. Jeremiah 24:1). They were among the most valuable of the population, in time of war no less than of peace, since on them depended the construction and repair of the military engines which were regarded as of so much importance (2 Chronicles 26:15). The eloquent orator; rather, the expert enchanter (comp. Ecclesiastes 10:11; Jeremiah 8:17). Isaiah 3:3"Hero and man of war, judge and prophet, and soothsayer and elder; captains of fifty, and the highly distinguished, and counsellors, and masters in art, and those skilled in muttering." As the state had grown into a military state under Uzziah-Jotham, the prophet commences in both vv. with military officers, viz., the gibbor, i.e., commanders whose bravery had been already tried; the "man of war" (ish imlchâmâh), i.e., private soldiers who had been equipped and well trained (see Ezekiel 39:20); and the "captain of fifty" (sar Chamisshim), leaders of the smallest divisions of the army, consisting of only fifty men (pentekontarchos, 2 Kings 1:9, etc.). The prominent members of the state are all mixed up together; "the judge" (shophet), i.e., the officers appointed by the government to administer justice; "the elder" (zâkēn), i.e., the heads of families and the senators appointed by the town corporations; the "counsellor" (yōetz), those nearest to the king; the "highly distinguished" (nesu panim), lit., those whose personal appearance (panim) was accepted, i.e., welcome and regarded with honour (Saad.: wa'gı̄h, from wa'gh, the face of appearance), that is to say, persons of influence, not only on account of their office, but also on account of wealth, age, goodness, etc.; "masters in art" (Chacam Charâshim: lxx σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων ), or, as Jerome has very well rendered it, in artibus mechanicis exercitatus easque callide tractans (persons well versed in mechanical arts, and carrying them out with skill). In the Chaldean captivities skilled artisans are particularly mentioned as having been carried away (2 Kings 24:14.; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2); so that there can be no doubt whatever that Charâshim (from Cheresh) is to be understood as signifying mechanical and not magical arts, as Gesenius, Hitzig, and Meier suppose, and therefore that Chacam Charâshim does not mean "wizards," as Ewald renders it (Chărâshim is a different word from Chârâshim, fabri, from Chârâsh, although in 1 Chronicles 4:14, cf., Nehemiah 11:35, the word is regularly pointed חרשׁים even in this personal sense). Moreover, the rendering "wizards" produces tautology, inasmuch as masters of the black art are cited as nebon lachash, "skilled in muttering." Lachash is the whispering or muttering of magical formulas; it is related both radically and in meaning to nachash, enchantment (Arabic nachs, misfortune); it is derived from lachash, sibilare, to hiss (a kindred word to nâchash; hence nâchâsh, a serpent). Beside this, the masters of the black art are also represented as kosem, which, in accordance with the radical idea of making fast, swearing, conjuring, denoted a soothsayer following heathen superstitions, as distinguished from the nabi, of false Jehovah prophet (we find this as early as Deuteronomy 18:10, Deuteronomy 18:14).

(Note: According to the primary meaning of the whole thema, which is one of hardness, rigidity, firmness, aksama (hi. of kâsam) signifies, strictly speaking, to make sure, i.e., to swear, either by swearing to the truth and certainty of a thing, or by making a person swear that he will do or not do a certain thing, by laying as it were a kasam upon him. The kal, on the other hand (kasama), gets its meaning to divide from the turn given to the radical idea in the substantive kism, which signifies, according to the original lexicographers, something fixed ( equals nası̄b), definite, i.e., a definite portion. There is just the same association of ideas in ‛azama as in aksama, namely, literally to be firm or make firm, i.e., to direct one's will firmly towards an object or place; also to direct one's will firmly towards a person, to adjure him to do a thing or not to do it; sometimes with a softer meaning, to urge or invite a person to anything, at other times to recite conjuring formulas (‛azâim.)

These came next to bread and water, and were in a higher grade the props of the state. They are mixed together in this manner without regular order, because the powerful and splendid state was really a quodlibet of things Jewish and heathen; and when the wrath of Jehovah broke out, the godless glory would soon become a mass of confusion.

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