Isaiah 3
Matthew Poole's 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,

Great confusion on both people and rulers for their sin and impudence in it, Isaiah 3:1-9. Peace to the righteous, and misery to the wicked, Isaiah 3:10,11. The oppression and covetousness of the rulers, Isaiah 3:12-15. The pride of women, and its judgments, Isaiah 3:16-26.

Behold; look upon it as a thing as certain as if it were already done.

The stay and the staff; all the supports of their state and church. The whole stay of bread, called elsewhere the staff of bread; whereby is understood either,

1. The nourishing power of bread, which wholly depend upon God’s blessing; or rather,

2. Bread itself, as this phrase is understood, Leviticus 26:26 Psalm 105:16 Ezekiel 4:16, and directly explained, Ezekiel 5:16, bread which is the staff of life.

The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,
The mighty man; strong and valiant men. The judge; the civil magistrates. The prophet; either strictly so called, the want of whom is matter of grief; see Psalm 74:9; or largely, so as to include all skilful and faithful teachers.

The prudent; whose wisdom and conduct was necessary to preserve them from ruin. The ancient; whose wisdom was increased by long experience.

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

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

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:
A man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father; whereas envy ordinarily reigns in near relations, when one brother is advanced far above all the rest.

Thou hast clothing: we are utterly undone, and have neither food nor raiment; but thou hast something yet left to support the dignity which we offer to thee, and to enable thee to execute thine office.

Be thou our ruler: he showeth that misgovernment should cause the dissolution of the government, and that the former governors should be removed either by foreign force, or by domestic insurrection.

Let this ruin be under thine hand, to wit, to heal it, as it is explained in the next verse. Undertake the charge of this tottering state.

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.
He shall swear, Heb. he shall lift up; understand either,

1. His voice; he shall cry aloud, to show his earnestness in refusing the offer; or,

2. His hand, which was the usual gesture in swearing, Genesis 14:22 Deu 32:40, &c., to show his resolvedness.

An healer; a repairer of the ruins of the state.

In my house is neither bread nor clothing; I have not sufficient provisions, either of food or raiment, for my own family; much less, as you falsely suppose, for the discharge of so high a trust.

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.
Of his glorious majesty, whom they ought to reverence and adore.

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.
The show of their countenance doth witness against them; their pride, and wantonness, and impiety manifestly shows itself in their very looks and carriages, and will be swift witness against them both before God and men.

They declare their sin; they act it publicly, casting off all fear of God, and reverence to men, and they glory in it.

They hide it not, as men do who have any remainders of modesty or ingenuity.

They have rewarded, i.e. procured a fit recompence for their wickedness, even utter ruin. Or, they have done; for this word is oft so used, without any signification of a recompence, as Psalm 7:4. They cannot blame me, but themselves; their destruction is wholly from themselves. Compare Hosea 13:9.

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
Say ye: God hath said it, and doth now by me say it; and you, O ye priests and Levites, say it in your sermons to the people.

They shall eat the fruit of their doings; let not them fear, for God will be their safeguard and portion in the common calamity.

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
Woe unto the wicked! these heavy judgments are designed against them, and shall certainly find them out, though here they be mixed with the righteous.

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.
Women; either,

1. Properly so called, by their favour and power with the rulers; or,

2. Weak and effeminate rulers, such being called women both in sacred and profane writings.

They which lead thee; thy rulers, civil and ecclesiastical, whose duty it is to show thee the right way. Or, as others, they that bless thee, i.e. thy false prophets, which flatter thee, and speak peace to thee.

Destroy the way of thy paths; keep thee from the knowledge or practice of that way which leads to thy salvation, and mislead thee into evil courses, by their wicked counsels or examples.

The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
The Lord standeth up; he will shortly and certainly stand up as a judge, to inquire into the cause, and to give sentence.

To judge the people, i.e. to defend and deliver them, or to judge for them, as this phrase is oft used.

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.
The ancients; the princes or rulers, as it is explained in the next clause, who are oft called elders, because such were commonly and fitly chosen out of those who were ripe in years.

Eaten up; destroyed instead of preserving and dressing it, as you should have done.

The vineyard; the church and commonwealth of Israel, which is oft called God’s vineyard, as Psalm 80:8,14,15 Isa 5:1 Jeremiah 2:21, &c., and here the vineyard, by way of eminency; or, the vineyard which was committed to your care to keep.

The spoil of the poor; the goods which you have violently taken away from the poor.

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

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:
The daughters of Zion; the women; as hitherto he reproved the men.

Walk with stretched forth necks; affecting stateliness, Psalm 75:5, and to seem tall.

Wanton eyes; or, as others, twinkling with their eyes in a lascivious manner.

Walking and mincing as they go, after the manner of loose and wanton persons. Making a tinkling with their feet, by some ornaments which they wore upon their shoes.

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.
Will smite with a scab the crown of the head; will by sending scabs, or by other ways, take off the hair of their head, which is a woman’s glory, 1 Corinthians 11:15, and which doubtless ministered to their pride and wantonness. Others render it, he will make bald, &c. Discover their secret parts, by giving her into the power of those enemies that shall either strip her of all her raiments, not leaving her sufficient to cover her nakedness; or otherwise abuse her by such immodest and contemptuous actions. Compare Isaiah 47:3 Ezekiel 16:37 23:10,26.

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,
Cauls: as for this and the other Hebrew words here following, I judge it unnecessary and improper to trouble the English reader with the differing interpretations given of them by learned men, which the curious may find in my Latin Synopsis. It is agreed by all that they were ornaments used by that people in those times, and made fuel to their lusts. And it is of no concernment to the direction, either of our faith or manners, exactly to understand the nature and differences of them. And therefore I shall take them as they are in our translation.

Round tires like the moon; there were in ancient time, and at this day there are, some jewels or other ornaments worn which carry a manifest resemblance to the moon or half moon. Compare Judges 8:21,26.

The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
No text from Poole on this verse.

The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
The bonnets: these were ornaments to cover the head, common both to men, as Exodus 39:28, and to women, as here.

The tablets, Heb. the houses of the soul, or of life, or of breath; whereby he seems to mean boxes of excellent perfumes, which are of great efficacy to revive our drooping spirits, and to that end are oft applied to such as are ready to faint away.

The rings, and nose jewels,
Which were fastened to the head, and hung down upon the forehead to the beginning of the nose; of which see Genesis 24:22,47 Jud 8:24, &c.

The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
Of silver or gold, either used to curl the hair, or rather fastened and worn in the hair; which custom is not altogether disused at this day.

The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
The glasses; the looking-glasses, as we call them, though in truth they were not made of glass, but of bright and burnished brass.

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.
Instead of sweet smell, those perfumes mentioned Isaiah 3:20,

there shall be stink, from their scabs, mentioned Isaiah 3:17, or from other ill usages of their enemies.

Instead of a girdle, which were fine and costly, and useful to gird their garments about them,

a rent; either the rending of their garments for grief; or torn and tattered garments, not sufficient to cover their bodies.

Burning, by the heat of the sun, to which they are now commonly exposed, from which they used formerly to guard themselves with great care.

Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
No text from Poole on this verse.

And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
Her gates; the gates of Zion or Jerusalem, which, by a figure very usual in sacred Scripture and all authors, are said to lament, to imply the great desolation of the place, that there should be no people to go out and come in by the gates, or to meet together in the gates, as they used to do. Shall sit upon the ground, like a mournful woman bewailing the loss of her husband and children.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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