For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, does take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread…
The words carry on the sense of the closing saying of the preceding paragraph, "Cease ye from man."
I. THE RULERS OF THE PEOPLE REMOVED. Government is one of the necessities of human life. Hence the rulers are spoken of as "staff and stay, staff of bread and staff of water." Even bad rulers are better than none, so that they may be described as main props or supports of life. In the same way says Ezekiel, "I will break the staff of bread in Jerusalem" (Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 5:16). To see how truly good government may be thus described, let us remember that, by timely and wise legislation, bread and other necessaries of life have been cheapened and secured to the people. With good government men may be well fed and prosperous even in unkindly lands, while through evil government once fertile plains (like the Roman Campagna) have become wastes.
II. THE NERVE AND STRENGTH OF THE NATION BROKEN. A nation needs heroes, men of courage for the battle-field. It needs men of discretion and integrity for the seat of justice and the bar. It needs men of religious faith and insight as prophets and teachers; and in every department, military, civil, ecclesiastical, scientific, there is a constant demand for able and honest men. There is to be a dearth of them in Jerusalem. The false leaders to whom the people have looked up, the idol-prophets and the magicians, are to be taken away along with the true. "Children" and "baby-boys," the prophet caustically says, shall become the princes and rulers of the nation. Ahaz was quite a young man; his "weakness of character and foolish humors would have been quite sufficient, in the sixteen years of his reign, to put the whole kingdom out of joint." The picture may remind us that men of intelligence and virtue are the great necessity in every time. If in the state statesmen are not being bred, and in the Church weak and illiterate men swarm, it is a sign of most certain moral weakness and decay.
III. ANARCHY THE RESULT.
1. In private life. Good neighborhood is broken up, for it must rest on the common recognition of law and custom; and what if these be subverted? Age and rank no longer command respect. The beardless boy affronts the hoary head, the churl would level the gently born with himself. Nothing is more odious than the leveling temper of troublous times; for the fine gradations of rank are part essentially of a system of higher culture.
2. In public life. So extreme is the need of guidance and rule, that private proposals will be made to almost any seeming respectable man to take up the reins of government. But none will be found willing to govern "these ruins," or to be chief of so mere a rabble. We may use the picture as an allegory of the soul. When sin has set our being at variance with itself, and all our confidence and self has failed, we may be glad to find any yoke that we may creep beneath. Yet this may be denied. Those who, in the rebellion of lust and self-will, have sought to be "lords of themselves," may find a heritage of woe entailed. "The soul would never rule. It would be first in all things; but this attained, commanding for commanding sickens it." - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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,