Isaiah 3:4
And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) I will give children to be their princes.—Better, youths. The words may point obliquely to Ahaz, who had ascended the throne at the age of twenty (2Chronicles 28:1). Manasseh was but twelve when he became king; Josiah but eight (2Chronicles 33:1; 2Chronicles 34:1). In an Eastern monarchy the rule of a young king, rash and without experience, guided by counsellors like himself, was naturally regarded as the greatest of evils, and the history of Rehoboam had impressed this truth on the mind of every Israelite. (Comp. Ecclesiastes 10:16.)

Isaiah 3:4-5. And I will give children to be their princes — Either, 1st, Children in age, whose minority corrupt ministers of state commonly abuse, to the producing of much evil: or, 2d, In understanding and experience. When all the eminent persons, mentioned Isaiah 3:2-3, were removed, the necessary consequence must be, that persons of no qualifications for government must succeed in their places. This also was fully accomplished in the succession of weak and wicked princes, from the death of Josiah to the destruction of the city and temple. And the people shall be oppressed — By the command or permission of such childish rulers. The child shall behave himself proudly, &c. — The child in understanding, or the young and inexperienced; and the base against the honourable — “The usual effects,” says Lowth, “of a weak and unsettled government, where faction grows too hard for justice, and seditious men become so bold as openly to insult those that are in authority.”

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.And I will give children - Not children in respect to age so much as in regard to talent for governing. I will commit the land to the government of weak and imbecile princes. This would naturally occur when the wise and great were removed; compare Ecclesiastes 10:16 : 'Wo to thee, O land, when thy king is a child;' compare Isaiah 3:12.

And babes shall rule ... - That is, babes in experience and knowledge. This was fully accomplished in the succession of weak and wicked princes that succeeded Isaiah, until the time of Zedekiah, the last of them, when the temple was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. - "Lowth."

4. children—in ability for governing; antithesis to the "ancient" (see Isa 3:12; Ec 10:16).

babes—in warlike might; antithesis to "the mighty" and "man of war."

Children; either,

1. In age, whose minority corrupt ministers of state commonly abuse to great mischiefs; or,

2. In understanding, experience, and manners; foolish, froward, unteachable, &c.

And I will give children to be their princes,.... Either in age, or in understanding, who are really so, or act like such; and in either sense, when this is the case, it is an unhappiness to a nation, Ecclesiastes 10:16,

and babes shall rule over them; which is the same as before. The Targum is,

"the weak shall rule over them;''

such who are weak in their intellectuals, or are of mean pusillanimous spirits, "effeminate", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; and so as "children" are opposed to the "ancient", that should be taken away, these are opposed to "men of might" and courage, who would now be wanting: or "men of illusions", as in the margin; such as were subtle as foxes, and should deceive them, and impose upon them, and were audacious and impudent, and would mock at them, and despise them. So Jarchi and Abarbinel; and according to this sense of the word the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "mockers shall rule over them".

And I will give {d} children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.

(d) Not only in age: but in manners, knowledge and strength.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. The supreme power passing into the hands of weaklings, a Reign of Terror ensues among the people. The sudden change of speaker is very striking.

and babes …] Rather, and Outrage shall rule over them. The word rendered “babes” is really an abstract noun, occurring again only in ch. Isaiah 66:4 (A.V. “delusions”). It is derived from a verb meaning “to outrage” or “to insult” (see Jdg 19:25; 1 Samuel 31:4; Jeremiah 38:19; Numbers 22:29), and seems here to denote those personal affronts and outrages which invariably accompany social confusions. The rendering “capriciousness,” preferred by many, does not suit Isaiah 66:4. Some take the word as adverbial acc. (see R.V. marg. “with childishness shall they rule”), others think the abstract is used for the concrete (“capricious youths”). But the translation given is perhaps the most forcible,—Outrage instead of Justice.

Verse 4. - I will give children to be their princes; rather, youths than "children." The extreme youth of the later kings of Judah at the date of their accession is very remarkable. After Hezekiah, only one was as much as twenty-five years old when he came to the throne. Jehoahaz was twenty-three (2 Kings 23:31); Amon, twenty-two (2 Kings 21:19); Zedekiah twenty-one (2 Kings 24:18); Jehoiachin, eighteen (2 Kings 24:8); Manasseh, twelve (2 Kings 21:1); and Josiah eight (2 Kings 22:1). Thus this prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. And babes shall rule over them; literally, puerilities shall rule over them; i.e. the youths shall behave in a childish way. Isaiah 3:4Thus robbed of its support, and torn out of its proper groove, the kingdom of Judah would fall a prey to the most shameless despotism: "And I give them boys for princes, and caprices shall rule over them." The revived "Solomonian" glory is followed, as before, by the times of Rehoboam. The king is not expressly named. This was intentional. He had sunk into the mere shadow of a king: it was not he who ruled, but the aristocratic party that surrounded him, who led him about in leading strings as unum inter pares. Now, if it is a misfortune in most cases for a king to be a child (na'ar, Ecclesiastes 10:16), the misfortune is twice as great when the princes or magnates who surround and advise him are youngsters (ne'ârim, i.e., young lords) in a bad sense. It produces a government of tâlulim. None of the nouns in this form have a personal signification. According to the primary meaning of the verbal stem, the word might signify childishnesses, equivalent to little children (the abstract for the concrete, like τἀπαιδικά amasius), as Ewald supposes; or puppets, fantocci, poltroons, or men without heart or brain, as Luzzatto maintains. But the latter has no support in the general usage of the language, and the verb yimshelu (shall rule) does not necessarily require a personal subject (cf., Psalm 19:14; Psalm 103:19). The word tâlulim is formed from the reflective verb hithallel, which means to meddle, to gratify one's self, to indulge one's caprice. Accordingly tâlulim itself might be rendered vexationes (Isaiah 66:4). Jerome, who translates the word effeminati, appears to have thought of התעלּל in an erotic sense. The Sept. rendering, ἐμπαῖκται is better, though ἐμπαίγματα would be more exact. When used, as the word is here, along with ne'arim, it signifies outbursts of youthful caprice, which do injury to others, whether in joke or earnest. Neither law nor justice would rule, but the very opposite of justice: a course of conduct which would make subjects, like slaves, the helpless victims at one time of their lust (Judges 19:25), and at another of their cruelty. They would be governed by lawless and bloodstained caprice, of the most despotic character and varied forms. And the people would resemble their rulers: their passions would be let loose, and all restraints of modesty and decorum be snapt asunder.
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