Isaiah 3:5
And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.
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(5) The people shall be oppressed . . .—The words paint the worst form of the decadence of an Eastern kingdom. All is chaotic and anarchic; a fierce struggle for existence; the established order of society subverted; the experience of age derided by the petulance of youth. The picture of the corruption of a monarchy is as vivid and complete in its way as that which Thucydides (3:82-84) draws of the corruption of a democracy. It might seem to have been drawn from the Turkey or the Egypt of our own time.

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 the people shall be oppressed - This describes the state of anarchy and confusion which would exist under the reign of children and babes Isaiah 3:4, when all law would be powerless, and all rights violated, and when the feeble would be oppressed and borne down by the strong. The word used here, properly denotes that "unjust exactions or demands" would be made, or that the people would be "urged" to fulfill them.

Every one by another - In turn they shall oppress and vex one another. Hebrew 'man by man; and man by his neighbor' - a strong mode of expression, denoting that there would be a state of mutual strife, and violation of rights; compare 1 Kings 20:20.

The child ... - All ranks of society shall be broken up. All respect due from one rank in life to another shall be violated.

Shall behave himself proudly - The word used here means rather to "urge," or "press on." The child shall "crowd on" the old man. This was particularly descriptive of a state of anarchy and disorder, from the fact that the Jews inculcated so much respect and deference for age; see the note at Isaiah 3:2.

The ancient - The old man.

And the base - The man of low rank in life. The word properly means the man that is despised, the vile, the ignoble; 1 Samuel 18:23; Proverbs 7:9.

The honorable - All the forms of respect in life would be broken up; all the proper rules of deference between man and man would be violated. Neither dignity, age, nor honor would be respected.

5. The anarchy resulting under such imbecile rulers (Isa 3:4); unjust exactions mutually; the forms of respect violated (Le 19:32).

base—low-born. Compare the marks of "the last days" (2Ti 3:2).

The people shall be oppressed, by the command or connivance of such childish rulers.

The child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable; foolish and unworthy men shall by wicked arts gain the favour and abuse the power of the prince, and thereby behave themselves insolently towards their betters. And the people shall be oppressed, everyone by another, and everyone by his neighbour,.... There being no governors, or such as were unfit for government, no decorum was kept and observed, but a mere anarchy; and so everyone did as he pleased, as when there was no king in Israel; and everyone rushed into the house of his neighbour, and plundered his goods; this was the case of Jerusalem, at the time of the siege, it abounding with robbers and spoilers:

the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient; show no respect to them, nor honour them, as the law requires in Leviticus 19:32 but behave insolently towards them; and so the Jews say (d), that when the son of David is come, as he now would be, young men shall make ashamed the faces of old men, and old men shall stand before young men:

and the base against the honourable; persons of a mean birth and extract would rise up against and insult such as were men of families and fortune, of noble birth and of high degree.

(d) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 97. 1.

And the people shall be {e} oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the elder, and the base against the honourable.

(e) For lack of good regiment and order.

5. A general description of the state of anarchy; “the bonds of discipline and order are loosed, all authority disappears” (Dillmann).Verse 5. - And the people shall be oppressed, etc.; rather, shall oppress each man his fellow, and each man his companion. This would be no new thing (see Isaiah 1:17, 21, 23), but perhaps might be more widely spread, having passed from the upper classes to the lower ones, as is usual with vices. The child; rather, the youth. Shall behave himself proudly; or, insolently. The respect for age inculcated by the Law (Leviticus 19:32) shall disappear. Youths shall set at naught the counsel of the aged. The spirit of Rehoboam shall prevail over that of Solomon, with the usual result - rashness, recklessness, and failure. And the base, etc. Respect for station shall likewise disappear. The dregs of the people shall grow insolent towards those above them in the social scale; and thus the old social order shall be inverted. "To creep into the cavities of the stone-blocks, and into the clefts of the rocks, before the terrible look of Jehovah, and before the glory of His majesty, when He arises to put the earth in terror." Thus ends the fourth strophe of this "dies irae, dies illa," which is appended to the earlier prophetic word. But there follows, as an epiphonem, this nota bene in Isaiah 2:22 : Oh, then, let man go, in whose nose is a breath; for what is he estimated at? The Septuagint leaves this v. out altogether. But was it so utterly unintelligible then? Jerome adopted a false pointing, and has therefore given this marvellous rendering: excelsus (bâmâh!) reputatus est ipse, by which Luther was apparently misled. But if we look backwards and forwards, it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the verse, which must be regarded not only as the resultant of what precedes it, but also as the transition to what follows. It is preceded by the prediction of the utter demolition of everything which ministers to the pride and vain confidence of men; and in Isaiah 3:1. the same prediction is resumed, with a more special reference to the Jewish state, from which Jehovah is about to take away every prop, so that it shall utterly collapse. Accordingly the prophet exhorts, in Isaiah 2:22, to a renunciation of trust in man, and everything belonging to him, just as in Psalm 118:8-9; Psalm 146:3, and Jeremiah 17:5. The construction is as general as that of a gnome. The dat. Commodi לכם (Ges. 154, 3, e) renders the exhortation both friendly and urgent: from regard to yourselves, for your own good, for your own salvation, desist from man, i.e., from your confidence in him, in whose nose (in cujus naso, the singular, as in Job 27:3; whereas the plural is used in Genesis 2:7 in the same sense, in nares ejus, "into his nostrils") is a breath, a breath of life, which God gave to him, and can take back as soon as He will (Job 34:14; Psalm 104:29). Upon the breath, which passes out and in through his nose, his whole earthly existence is suspended; and this, when once lost, is gone for ever (Job 7:7). It is upon this breath, therefore, that all the confidence placed in man must rest - a bad soil and foundation! Under these conditions, and with this liability to perish in a moment, the worth of man as a ground of confidence is really nothing. This thought is expressed here in the form of a question: At (for) what is he estimated, or to be estimated? The passive participle nechshâb combines with the idea of the actual (aestimatus) that of the necessary (aestimandus), and also of the possible or suitable (aestimabilis); and that all the more because the Semitic languages have no special forms for the latter notions. The Beth is Beth pretı̄, corresponding to the Latin genitive (quanti) or ablative (quanto) - a modification of the Beth instrumenti, the price being regarded as the medium of exchange or purchase: "at what is he estimated," not with what is he compared, which would be expressed by ‛eth (Isaiah 53:12; compare μετά, Luke 22:37) or ‛im (Psalm 88:5). The word is בּמּה, not בּמּה, because this looser form is only found in cases where a relative clause follows (eo quod, Ecclesiastes 3:22), and not bama equals h, because this termination with ā is used exclusively where the next word begins with Aleph, or where it is a pausal word (as in 1 Kings 22:21); in every other case we have bammeh. The question introduced with this quanto (quanti), "at what," cannot be answered by any positive definition of value. The worth of man, regarded in himself, and altogether apart from God, is really nothing.

The proclamation of judgment pauses at this porisma, but only for the purpose of gathering fresh strength. The prophet has foretold in four strophes the judgment of God upon every exalted thing in the kosmos that has fallen away from communion with God, just as Amos commences his book with a round of judgments, which are uttered in seven strophes of uniform scope, bursting like seven thunder-claps upon the nations of the existing stage of history. The seventh stroke falls upon Judah, over which the thunderstorm rests after finding such abundant booty. And in the same manner Isaiah, in the instance before us, reduces the universal proclamation of judgment to one more especially affecting Judah and Jerusalem. The current of the address breaks through the bounds of the strophe; and the exhortation in Isaiah 2:22 not to trust in man, the reason for which is assigned in what precedes, also forms a transition from the universal proclamation of judgment to the more special one in Isaiah 3:1, where the prophet assigns a fresh ground for the exhortation.

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