Isaiah 3
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water,

Isa 3:1-26.

1. For—continuation of Isa 2:22.

Lord of hosts—therefore able to do as He says.

doth—present for future, so certain is the accomplishment.

stay … staff—the same Hebrew word, the one masculine, the other feminine, an Arabic idiom for all kinds of support. What a change from the previous luxuries (Isa 2:7)! Fulfilled in the siege by Nebuchadnezzar and afterwards by Titus (Jer 37:21; 38:9).

The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
2. Fulfilled (2Ki 24:14).

prudent—the Hebrew often means a "soothsayer" (De 18:10-14); thus it will mean, the diviners, on whom they rely, shall in that day fail. It is found in a good sense (Pr 16:10), from which passage the Jews interpret it a king; "without" whom Israel long has been (Ho 3:4).

ancient—old and experienced (1Ki 12:6-8).

The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counseller, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.
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.

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

And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable.
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).

When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand:
6. Such will be the want of men of wealth and ability, that they will "take hold of" (Isa 4:1) the first man whom they meet, having any property, to make him "ruler."

brother—one having no better hereditary claim to be ruler than the "man" supplicating him.

Thou hast clothing—which none of us has. Changes of raiment are wealth in the East (2Ki 5:5).

ruin—Let our ruined affairs be committed to thee to retrieve.

In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.
7. swear—literally, "lift up," namely, his hand; the gesture used in solemn attestation. Or, his voice, that is, answer; so Vulgate.

healer—of the body politic, incurably diseased (Isa 1:6).

neither … clothing—so as to relieve the people and maintain a ruler's dignity. A nation's state must be bad indeed, when none among men, naturally ambitious, is willing to accept office.

For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of his glory.
8. Reason given by the prophet, why all shrink from the government.

eyes of his glory—to provoke His "glorious" Majesty before His "eyes" (compare Isa 49:5; Hab 1:13). The Syriac and Lowth, by a slight change of the Hebrew, translate, "the cloud of His glory," the Shekinah.

The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.
9. show—The Hebrew means, "that which may be known by their countenances" [Gesenius and Weiss]. But Maurer translates, "Their respect for person"; so Syriac and Chaldee. But the parallel word "declare" favors the other view. Kimchi, from the Arabic, translates "their hardness" (Job 19:3, Margin), or impudence of countenance (Jer 3:3). They have lost not only the substance of virtue, but its color.

witness—literally, "corresponds" to them; their look answers to their inner character (Ho 5:5).

declare—(Jude 13). "Foaming out their own shame"; so far from making it a secret, "glorying" in it (Php 3:19).

unto themselves—Compare "in themselves" (Pr 1:31; 8:36; Jer 2:19; Ro 1:27).

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
10. The faithlessness of many is no proof that all are faithless. Though nothing but croaking of frogs is heard on the surface of the pool, we are not to infer there are no fish beneath [Bengel]. (See Isa 1:19, 20).

fruit of doings—(Pr 1:31) in a good sense (Ga 6:8; Re 22:14). Not salvation by works, but by fruit-bearing faith (Isa 45:24; Jer 23:6). Gesenius and Weiss translate, Declare as to the righteous that, &c. Maurer, "Say that the righteous is blessed."

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
11. ill—antithesis to "well" (Isa 3:10); emphatic ellipsis of the words italicized. "Ill!"

hands—his conduct; "hands" being the instrument of acts (Ec 8:12, 13).

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.
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.

The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
13. standeth up—no longer sitting in silence.

plead—indignant against a wicked people (Isa 66:16; Eze 20:35).

The LORD will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.
14. ancients—Hence they are spoken of as "taken away" (Isa 3:1, 2).

vineyard—the Jewish theocracy (Isa 5:1-7; Ps 80:9-13).

eaten up—"burnt"; namely, by "oppressive exactions" (Isa 3:12). Type of the crowning guilt of the husbandmen in the days of Jesus Christ (Mt 21:34-41).

spoil … houses—(Mt 23:14).

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

Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:
16. Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, &c.—Luxury had become great in Uzziah's prosperous reign (2Ch 26:5).

stretched forth—proudly elevated (Ps 75:5).

wanton—rather, "making the eyes to glance about," namely, wantonly (Pr 6:13) [Maurer]. But Lowth, "falsely setting off the eyes with paint." Women's eyelids in the East are often colored with stibium, or powder of lead (see on [691]Job 42:14; Jer 4:30, Margin).

mincing—tripping with short steps.

tinkling—with their ankle-rings on both feet, joined by small chains, which sound as they walk, and compel them to take short steps; sometimes little bells were attached (Isa 3:18, 20).

Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the LORD will discover their secret parts.
17. smite with a scab—literally, "make bald," namely, by disease.

discover—cause them to suffer the greatest indignity that can befall female captives, namely to be stripped naked, and have their persons exposed (Isa 47:3; compare with Isa 20:4).

In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon,
18. bravery—the finery.

tinkling—(See Isa 3:16).

cauls—network for the head. Or else, from an Arabic root, "little suns," answering to the "tires" or neck-ornaments, "like the moon" (Jud 8:21). The chumarah or crescent is also worn in front of the headdress in West Asia.

The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
19. chains—rather, pendants, hanging about the neck, and dropping on the breast.

mufflers—veils covering the face, with apertures for the eyes, close above and loosely flowing below. The word radically means "tremulous," referring to the changing effect of the spangles on the veil.

The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
20. bonnets—turbans.

ornaments of the legs—the short stepping-chains from one foot to another, to give a measured gait; attached to the "tinkling ornaments" (Isa 3:16).

headbands—literally, "girdles."

tablets—rather, "houses of the breath," that is, smelling boxes [Vulgate].

earrings—rather, amulets suspended from the neck or ears, with magic formulæ inscribed; the root means to "whisper" or "conjure."

The rings, and nose jewels,
21. nose jewels—The cartilage between the nostrils was bored to receive them; they usually hung from the left nostril.
The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
22. Here begin entire articles of apparel. Those before were single ornaments.

changeable—from a root, "to put off"; not worn commonly; put on and off on special occasions. So, dress-clothes (Zec 3:4).

mantles—fuller tunics with sleeves, worn over the common one, reaching down to the feet.

wimples—that is, mufflers, or hoods. In Ru 3:15, "veils"; perhaps here, a broad cloak, or shawl, thrown over the head and body.

crisping pins—rather, money bags (2Ki 5:23).

The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
23. glasses—mirrors of polished metal (Ex 38:8). But the Septuagint, a transparent, gauze-like, garment.

hoods—miters, or diadems (Isa 62:3; Zec 3:5).

veils—large enough to cover the head and person. Distinct from the smaller veils ("mufflers") above (Ge 24:65). Token of woman's subjection (1Co 11:10).

And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
24. stink—arising from ulcers (Zec 14:12).

girdle—to gird up the loose Eastern garments, when the person walked.

rent—the Septuagint, better, a "rope," an emblem of poverty; the poor have nothing else to gird up their clothes with.

well-set hair—(1Pe 3:3, 4).

baldness—(Isa 3:17).

stomacher—a broad plaited girdle.

sackcloth—(2Sa 3:31).

burning—a sunburnt countenance, owing to their hoods and veils being stripped off, while they had to work as captives under a scorching sun (So 1:6).

Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
25. Thy men—of Jerusalem.
And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
26. gates—The place of concourse personified is represented mourning for the loss of those multitudes which once frequented it.

desolate … sit upon … ground—the very figure under which Judea was represented on medals after the destruction by Titus: a female sitting under a palm tree in a posture of grief; the motto, Judæa capta (Job 2:13; La 2:10, where, as here primarily, the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar is alluded to).

A Commentary, Critical, Practical, and Explanatory on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown [1882]

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