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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Isaiah 3

Verse 1

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,

For - continuation of Isaiah 2:22.

Behold, the Lord ( haa-'Adown (H113 )), the Lord ( Yahweh (H3068 )) of hosts - therefore able to do as He says.

Doth - present for future, so certain is the accomplishment.

Take away from Jerusalem ... the stay and the staff ( mash`een (H4937), mash`eenaah (H4938)) - 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! (Isaiah 2:7.) Fulfilled in the siege by Nebuchadnezzar, and afterward by Titus (Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9).

Verse 2

The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,

The mighty man, and the man of war - fulfilled under Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:14).

The prudent. The Hebrew (qsoseem) often means a soothsayer (Deuteronomy 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, Proverbs 16:10, "A divine sentence (quesem) is in the lips of the king;" from which, passage the Jews interpret it a king: "without" whom Israel long has been (Hosea 3:4).

The ancient - old and experienced (1 Kings 12:6-8).

Verse 3

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

The captain of fifty - not only captains of thousands, and centurions of a hundred, but even semi-centurions of fifty, shall fail.

The honourable - literally, of dignified aspect.

The cunning artificer - skillful. Fulfilled 2 Kings 24:14. The mechanic's business will come to a stand-still in the siege and subsequent desolation of the State: artisans are no mean "stay" among a nation's safeguards.

The eloquent orator - rather, as Vulgate, skilled in whispering; i:e., incantation (Psalms 58:5) [ laachash (H3908)]. See Isaiah 8:19 below, and note on "prudent" (Isaiah 3:2) above.

Verse 4

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

And I will give children - in ability for governing: antithesis to the "ancient" (see Isaiah 3:12; Ecclesiastes 10:16).

(To be) their princes, and babes shall rule over them - "babes" in warlike might: antithesis to "the mighty" and "man of war."

Verse 5

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, every one by another ... the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient. The anarchy resulting under such imbecile rulers (Isaiah 3:4); unjust exactions mutually; the forms of respect violated (Leviticus 19:32).

The base - low-born. Compare the marks of "the last days" (2 Timothy 3:2), "men shall be lovers of their ownselves ... boasters, proud ... disobedient to parents ... despisers of those that are good ... heady ... highminded."

Verse 6

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:

When a man shall take hold of his brother, of the house of his father, (saying), Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler. Such will be the want of men of wealth and ability, that they will "take hold of" (Isaiah 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 (2 Kings 5:5).

And (let) this ruin (be) under thy hand - let our ruined affairs be committed to thee to retrieve.

Verse 7

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.

In that day shall he swear - literally, lift up; namely, his hand: the gesture used in solemn attestation. Or, his voice - i:e., answer: so the Vulgate.

I will not be an healer - of the body politic, incurably diseased (Isaiah 1:6).

For in my house (is) neither bread nor 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.

Verse 8

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.

For Jerusalem is ruined - reason given by the prophet why all shrink from the government.

Because their tongue and their doings (are) against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory - to provoke His "glorious" Majesty before His "eyes" (cf. Isaiah 49:5, which are "purer than to behold evil;" Habakkuk 1:13). The Syriac, and Lowth by a slight change of the Hebrew [ `aanaan (H6051), for `eeneey (H5869 ], translate, 'the cloud of His glory,' the Shechinah.

Verse 9

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. The Hebrew means, 'that which may be known by their countenances' [ hakaarat (H1971)] (Gesenius). Maurer translates, 'their respect for persons:' so the Syriac and Chaldaic. But the parallel word "declare" favours the other view. Kimchi, from the Arabic, translates, their hardness (Job 19:3, margin) or impudence of countenance (Jeremiah 3:3). They have lost not only the substance of virtue, but its colour.

Doth witness against them - literally, corresponds to them: their look answers to their inner character (Hosea 5:5, note).

They declare their sin (Jude 1:13, "foaming out their own shame)" - so far from making it a secret, 'glorying' in it (Philippians 3:19).

They have rewarded evil unto themselves. Compare Proverbs 1:31; Proverbs 8:36; Jeremiah 2:19; Romans 1:27, "receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

Verse 10

Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.

Say ye to the righteous, that (it shall be) well (with him). 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 Isaiah 1:19-20.

For they shall eat the fruit of their doings (Proverbs 1:31) - in a good sense (Galatians 5:22; Galatians 6:8). Not salvation by works, but by fruit-bearing faith (Isaiah 45:24; Jeremiah 23:6). At the same time, righteousness shall be its own great reward. There is no arbitrary, but a natural and necessary connection between the character which is rewarded and the reward (Matthew 5:7). The reward grows out of the character as naturally as a fruit is developed from its own kind of tree. The wicked man's work is not dignified, either in the doing or in the judicial and natural result, with the name fruit (Romans 6:21; Galatians 5:19; Galatians 5:22). That honourable term is reserved for the doings of the godly and their blessed results (Revelation 22:11; Revelation 22:14).

Verse 11

Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

Woe unto the wicked, (it shall be) ill (with him) - antithesis to "well" (Isaiah 3:10): emphatic ellipsis. The Hebrew is simply "ill!"

For the reward of his hands shall be given him. "Hands," his conduct; hands being the instrument of acts (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13).

Verse 12

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.

(As for) my people, children (are) their oppressors, and women rule over them - (see Isaiah 3:4.)

Oppressors - literally, exactors; i:e., exacting princes (Isaiah 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.

O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err - Hebrew, they which call thee blessed (meashreka); namely, the false prophets, who flatter the people with promises of safety in sin: as the political 'rulers,' are meant in the first clause.

And destroy the way of thy paths (Jeremiah 6:16) - the right way set forth in the law. "Destroy" - Hebrew (Billeehu), swallow up; i:e., cause so utterly to disappear that not a vestige of it is left.

Verse 13

The LORD standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.

The Lord standeth up - no longer sitting in silence.

To plead - "by fire and by His sword," and consuming judgments, so as, however, to leave a remnant. Indignant against a wicked people (Isaiah 66:16; Ezekiel 20:35).

Verse 14

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 Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients - hence, they are spoken of as "taken away" (Isaiah 3:1-2).

For ye have eaten up the vineyard - the Jewish theocracy (Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalms 80:9-13).

Eaten up - Hebrew, (bihhartem), burnt; namely, by 'oppressive exactions' (Isaiah 3:12). Type of the crowning guilt of the farmers in the days of Jesus Christ, which is the ulterior reference here (Matthew 21:34-41).

The spoil of the poor is in your houses - (Matthew 23:14.)

Verse 15

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 (that) ye beat my people to pieces? - What right have ye to beat? etc (Psalms 94:5; Micah 3:2-3.)

Grind - by exactions, so as to leave them nothing.

The faces of the poor. "Faces," the persons, with the additional idea of it being openly and palpably done. Presence is expressed by 'face.'

Verse 16

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:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty. Luxury had become great in Uzziah's prosperous reign (2 Chronicles 26:5; 2 Chronicles 26:15).

And walk with stretched forth necks - necks proudly elevated (Psalms 75:5).

And wanton eyes - Hebrew ( uwmsaqrowt (H8265), to deceive), 'deceiving with their eyes.' But Buxtorf and Mercer write it mªsaquqerowt (from saaqar (H8265), to wink and throw wanton looks). Winking wantonly (Chaldaic, sequar, to gaze at): making the eyes to glance about-namely, wantonly (Proverbs 6:13). So the Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic. Lowth, after the Chaldaic, 'falsely setting off the eyes with paint.' Women's eyelids in the East are often coloured with stibium, or powder of lead, (note, Job 42:14; Jeremiah 4:30, margin)

Mincing as they go - tripping with short steps.

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

Verse 17

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.

Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab - Hebrew, sipach (H5596); cf. Isaiah 5:7, margin; Leviticus 13:2; Leviticus 13:6. Others take it, make bald-namely, by disease, or else by the enemy shaving off the hair, as is done to slaves. The Septuagint, Arabic, Vulgate, Syriac, and Chaldaic translate by terms meaning to humble. To deprive a woman of her hair is to take away "her glory given her for a covering" (1 Corinthians 11:15).

The Lord will discover their secret parts. He will cause them to suffer the greatest indignity that can befall female captives-namely, to be stripped naked, and have their persons exposed (Isaiah 47:3: cf. with Isaiah 20:4).

Verse 18

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,

The bravery - the finery.

Tinkling - (see Isaiah 3:16.)

Cauls - Hebrew, shebisim, net-work for the head. Or else, from an Arabic root, little suns, answering to the

Tires, or neck-ornaments (Hebrew, sahªroniym (H7720)).

Like the moon - (Judges 8:21, margin) The crescent is still worn in front of the head dress in western Asia.

Verse 19

The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,

Chains - Hebrew, hanªTiypowt (H5188), from naatap (H5197), to drop: pendants hanging about the neck and dropping on the breast. Or else pendant scent-bottles, containing drops of perfume: so the Hebrew commentators.

Mufflers - veils covering the face, with apertures for the eyes, close above and loosely-flowing below. Hebrew, haarª`aalowt (H7479), from raa`al (H7477), to tremble. The word radically means tremulous, referring to the changing effect of the spangles on the veil.

Verse 20

The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,

Bonnets - tiaras, or turbans.

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

Tablets - rather, houses of the breath, i:e., smelling-boxes (Vulgate). Earrings - rather, amulets suspended from the neck or ears, with magic formulae inscribed; the root means to whisper or conjure (Hebrew, lªchaashiym (H3908), from laachash (H3907)): cf. note, Isaiah 3:3, "the eloquent orator," and Isaiah 2:6.

Verse 21

The rings, and nose jewels,

Nose jewels. The cartilage between the nostrils was bored to receive them: they usually hung from the left nostril.

Verse 22

The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,

The changeable suits of apparel. Here begin entire articles of apparel. Those before were single ornaments.

Changeable - from a root, to put off ( machalaatsowt (H4254), from chaalats (H2502)): not worn commonly; put on and off on special occasions. So dress-clothes (Zechariah 3:4, "change of raiment.")

Mantles - fuller tunics with sleeves, worn over the common one, reaching down to the feet.

Wimples - i:e., mufflers, or hoods. In Ruth 3:15, veils: perhaps here a broad cloak, or shawl, thrown over the head and body.

Crisping pins - chariyTiym (H2754), akin to the Arabic kartah, a purse; rather, money bags attached to the girdle (2 Kings 5:23).

Verse 23

The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.

Glasses - mirrors of polished metal (Exodus 38:8). Hoods ( hatsªniypowt (H6797), from tsaanap (H6801), to wrap round) - mitres, or diadems for the head (Isaiah 62:3; Zechariah 3:5).

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

Verse 24

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 there shall be stink - arising from ulcers (Zechariah 14:12).

Instead of a girdle - to gird up the loose eastern garments when the person walked.

A rent - the Septuagint, Arabic, and Vulgate translate, a rope, an emblem of poverty: the poor have noticing else to gird up their clothes with. But the Hebrew [ niqpaach (H5364)] favours the English version (from naaqap (H5362), to read or break).

Instead of well-set hair (1 Peter 3:3-4) baldness - (Isaiah 3:17.)

Instead of a stomacher - a broad plaited girdle.

Sackcloth - (2 Samuel 3:31.)

Burning instead of beauty - a sun-burnt countenance, owing to their hoods and veils being stripped off, while they had to work as captives under a scorching sun (Song of Solomon 1:6).

Verse 25

Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.

Thy men - of Jerusalem.

Verse 26

And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.

Her gates shall lament. The place of concourse personified is represented mourning for the loss of those multitudes which once frequented it.

She being desolate shall sit upon the 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, Judea capta (Job 2:13; Lamentations 2:10), whereas here, primarily, the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar is alluded to, but ultimately that under the Roman Titus.

Remarks: When God takes away the earthly stays of men, they have nothing to fall back upon for help. Might, valour, and prudence avail only so long as God is not against a nation. These all fail the moment when the Lord wills it. "Jerusalem is ruined and Judah fallen, because their tongue and their doings were against the Lord, to provoke" Him before His "eyes." Herein we have a sample of God's principle of dealing with nations and individuals. Shameless sin brings on shameful punishment (Isaiah 3:9). Evil recoils on the evil-speaker and evil-doer as the only "reward" of his pains.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.