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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 3


The great confusion which cometh by sin. The impudence of the people. The oppression and covetousness of the rulers. The judgments which shall be for the pride of the women.

Before Christ 760.

Verse 1

Isaiah 3:1. For behold, the Lord, &c.— The prophet had, in the preceding chapter, declared in general the terror of the day of the Lord. He now descends to a more particular explication of it. The connecting particle for, in this verse, evidently shews its connection with what has preceded. We have in this prophecy, first, a general proposition, in which God denounces that he will deprive the Jews of all protection; in this verse:—Secondly, a declaration of the particulars of this calamity, such as, a want of provision;—at the end of this verse: A deprivation of all desirable and proper human protection; Isaiah 3:2-3. A substitution of a protection inadequate to their wants, Isaiah 3:4 a dissolution of all order, and total confusion of their polity, Isaiah 3:5-7. This prediction also refers to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees. See Joe 1:1-4 and Jeremiah 14:1; Jeremiah 14:22; Jeremiah 37:21; Jeremiah 38:9.

Verse 3

Isaiah 3:3. The eloquent orator The skilful charmer, or enchanter. Le Clerc.

Verse 4

Isaiah 3:4. And babes shall rule over them And they shall wantonly lord it over them. Schultens. See Ecclesiastes 10:16-17. This was the state of things in Judaea, after the carrying away of Jehoiachin to Babylon.

Verse 5

Isaiah 3:5. And the people shall be oppressed, &c.— Shall deal hardly one by another, &c. See the 38th chapter of Jeremiah throughout, and his Lamentations 4:16.

Verses 6-7

Isaiah 3:6-7. When a man, &c.— In these verses the description of the confused state of the nation, mentioned in the fifth verse, is continued under an elegant figure, whereby the government, which otherwise is anxiously sought after, is refused by a person to whom it is offered. I have neither clothing nor bread, means, that he had not what was sufficient for sustaining the dignity and the expence of government. See chap. Isaiah 22:21. And the phrase, I will not be an healer, means, that it was not in his power to bind up and to cure the wounds and miseries of the nation. See chap. Isaiah 1:6. The sum of what the prophet means is, that the confusion and desperation of those times should be the greatest possible. He alludes to the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah, after the carrying away of Jehoiachin, or the time of the last siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldees, when, as we learn from the sacred history, nothing could be more deplorable than the state of things. See Vitringa.

Verse 8

Isaiah 3:8. For Jerusalem is ruined The fourth member of the second part of this discourse begins here, which contains the justification and explanation of the divine judgment hitherto set forth, and may be thus divided: The first part is general, against the whole people, whose manners are described, Isa 3:8-9 and the event is set forth, Isaiah 3:10-11. The second is particular, against the rulers of the people, whose state and vices are set forth, Isaiah 3:12-15. The third taxes the pride, luxury, and softness of the female sex, Isa 3:16 to chap. Isaiah 4:1. The past tense in this verse, as is very usual in the prophets, is to be understood of the future. See Vitringa, and Bishop Lowth's Prelections.

Verse 10

Isaiah 3:10. For they shall eat the fruit of their doings The certain consequence of righteousness is, by the divine determination, happiness either in this world or the next; as the contrary is the certain consequence of wickedness, Isaiah 3:11. This is an admirable sentence to support the souls of the pious, amidst all the troubles of this life; God will not forsake those who truly love and serve him. This reason teaches us, the experience of all times confirms, and it is the constant and comfortable doctrine of the word of God. The event must and will be happy to the good man.

Verses 12-15

Isaiah 3:12-15. As for my people, &c.— In these verses the prophet describes the incapacity and weakness, the ignorance and corruption, the oppression and cruelty of the priests and rulers of the people; such as we learn from history they were before the Babylonish captivity.

Verse 16

Isaiah 3:16. Moreover, the Lord saith After God had accused the rulers of the Jews of iniquity, injustice, and rapacity, in spoiling the people, he draws an argument of the same thing from the pride and luxury of the noble matrons and virgins, whose ornaments, collected from the spoils of the people, were borne proudly and insolently by them; upon whom, therefore, he denounces judgments; for of these two parts consists, this last period of his reproving discourse: urging first, in this verse, the crimes of luxury and wanton haughtiness; denouncing, secondly, the punishment with which God would pursue these crimes, Isa 3:17 to chap. Isaiah 4:1. Making a tinkling with their feet, alludes to the custom, among the Eastern ladies, of wearing large hollow rings or circles, with little rings hanging round them. The cavities of these rings are filled with small flints, which make them sound like bells on the least motion. The rings or circles themselves open like a half moon, through which they put the small of the leg. There is a peculiar emphasis in referring these vices of haughtiness, luxury, wantonness, and the love of superfluous ornament, to the daughters of Sion, that is, to the matrons and virgins of the holy city, chosen by God, and in which he himself inhabits; the hater of luxury and vanity: a mountain and city, which those daughters of Abraham inhabited, whom, above all others, outward adorning became not, the plaiting of hair, the wearing of gold, and the putting on of fine apparel; but the hidden man of the heart, modesty, humility, subjection. See 1Pe 3:3 and Vitringa.

Verse 17

Isaiah 3:17-24. Therefore the Lord will smite Punishment, which, though slow, always follows vice, is here denounced upon the luxurious and proud women: First, A taking away not only of the ornaments with which they set off their beauty, but also their garments, which were of necessary use; which is proposed in this verse, and largely set forth in the following; Isaiah 3:17-24. Secondly, deprivation of their husbands and children; Isaiah 3:25-26. Thirdly, the consequence hereof, by which this loss might be repaired, chap. Isaiah 4:1.

With a scab Vitringa reads, will make bald. This and the other indignities mentioned, in this verse were used to slaves, and were reckoned the highest degree of infamy and disgrace: and they refer to the captivity of these women under Nebuchadnezzar. See chap. Isaiah 20:4.

Verses 18-24

Isaiah 3:18-24. In that day the Lord will take away, &c.— In that day will the Lord take from them the ornaments, of the feet-rings, and the net-works, and the crescents; the pendents, and the bracelets, and the thin veils; the tires, and the setters, and the zones, and the perfume-boxes, and the amulets; the rings, and the jewels of the nostril; the embroidered robes, and the tunics; and the cloaks, and the little purses; the transparent garments, and the fine linen vests; and the turbans, and the mantles: and there shall be, instead of perfume, a putrid ulcer; and, instead of well-girt raiment, rags; and, instead of a zone, a girdle of sackcloth: a sun-burnt skin, instead of beauty. Lowth. Instead of a rent, Isaiah 3:24, the LXX read a rope. All this intimates, that they should be reduced, from the most exalted and opulent, to the most abject and servile state. They who would see the particulars in these verses fully explained, will find ample satisfaction in Vitringa.

Verses 25-26

Isaiah 3:25-26. Thy men shall fall, &c.— We have in these verses the second evil; the desolation and widowhood of the matrons and virgins. See Lamentations 2:21-22. We may observe, that the prophet here does not address the women themselves, but Sion; which frequently is spoken of and represented in the character of a woman. Here she is described as a desolate widow, lamenting her ruined country, her solitary streets, and, in the posture of a mourner, bewailing her sad calamity. See Job 2:13.Lamentations 2:10; Lamentations 2:10; Lamentations 3:28.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, God had commanded them to cease from man and creature-confidences: these he here threatens to destroy, and mentions his glorious titles; the Lord, the Lord of hosts, able to the uttermost to execute the sentence that he pronounces.

1. Famine should come upon them; and terribly it raged in Jerusalem, both when besieged by Nebuchadnezzar, and afterwards by Titus; which last destruction seems to be chiefly the subject of this prophecy.
2. Desolations should be spread on every side; their mighty warriors fallen, and none remaining to lead their armies; no judge left to administer justice, no prophet to instruct or comfort them. The power had been taken from them to decide in matters of life and death, forty years before their destruction, Joh 18:31 but after they had revolted, and were besieged by the Romans, a state of utter confusion began within the walls; the prudent and the ancient were removed by famine, or the sword: not so much as an inferior officer left, or one honourable man or counsellor to be found; or when all order was dissolved, neither office, honour, nor wisdom maintained any longer reverence or attention. The cunning artificer ceased, when all business was at a stand; and the eloquent orator was silenced, when his voice could be no longer heard for the tumult.

3. The government devolved on those who were weak as infants, and unable to restrain the general disorder; or men of illusion, as in the margin of our English Bibles, every arrogant factious spirit who headed the populace; whence a scene of violence and strange disorder must ensue, as was the case when, during the siege of Jerusalem, factions rent them in pieces, and every street afforded scenes of murder, rapine, and violence; all respect for age and station was lost, and lawless anarchy reigned.

4. So desperate would be their state, so ruined and desolate, that every one who had aught to lose would decline the administration, though pressed to be their ruler, as having clothing when the rest were naked as well as famished, and that this ruin might be under their hand, in order to alleviate, or extricate the nation from it: but not a man could be found who would accept the office: seeing their state desperate and incurable, each would swear himself incapable of healing the deadly breaches, and that he had neither food nor clothing to maintain such dignity, or to relieve their wants.

5. The cause of all this misery was their sins: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, and especially against his Christ, in their malignity and cruelty reviling him as an impostor, and crucifying him as the greatest of malefactors; to provoke the eyes of his glory, who, justly offended with such insult and rejection of himself and his gospel, caused this wrath to come upon them to the uttermost.

From the whole, we may learn, (1.) That sin unrepented of, will be sooner or later the ruin of every nation, and each individual sinner. (2.) It is among the sad symptoms of God's abandoning a people, when he sends them a famine of his word, and removes the ministry of his Gospel from them. (3.) The kingdom is in the way to speedy ruin, when folly and weakness are at the helm and popular tumults dare interrupt the administration of justice.
2nd, We have,
1. An awful woe denounced upon a wicked people. Woe unto their soul! the judgments were great through the weakness and wickedness of their rulers; who, though effeminate as women, and unable as children to protect them from their enemies, harassed and oppressed them: but this was the least part of their misery; their souls, their immortal souls, were more terribly exposed to the eternal wrath and curse of God: they have rewarded evil to themselves, their ruin is their own choice, and their sufferings the just reward of their sins. Note; (1.) If we lose our souls, we lose our all. (2.) In the day of God, the sinner will have none to blame for his misery but himself. Several grievous provocations are here mentioned.

[1.] They sin with a high hand, take no pains to conceal it, nor blush; with hardened impudence, openly avowing their abominations, as Sodom, shameless before men, and fearless of God. Note; (1.) Habitual sin hardens the conscience. (2.) They who are past shame are on the brink of ruin.

[2.] Their priests were the corrupters; they who should have led, deceived them by false doctrines; they who should have rebuked, cried peace to them; they whose examples should have reformed, hardened them. Such were the Pharisees in our Lord's day. But were they the only false teachers, the exalters of human merit, the false prophets of peace, and examples of iniquity? How many a priest will this suit in every age!
[3.] Their magistrates were oppressive, devouring the poor whom they should have protected; and, greedy of gain, sought only to fill their coffers, instead of exercising mercy and doing justice.
2. For these things the Lord standeth up to plead, expostulating with them on the wickedness of their ways; What mean ye? &c. and standeth to judge the people; either to vindicate his people from their oppressors, or rather to execute judgment upon the wicked, and this without respect of persons; the ancient, and princes, as deepest in guilt, will be the first in punishment. Note; (1.) When God standeth up to plead, what sinner but must tremble? Why will they not consider their ways, and prevent their ruin? (2.) The greatest find no favour as such at his tribunal; none can appeal from his sentence.

3. A distinction will be made amid these judgments. The righteous few shall not suffer with the wicked. Say ye to the righteous, who is justified through Jesus Christ, and by divine grace renewed in the spirit of his mind, it shall be well with him; peace of conscience, the sense of God's love, and the hope of his glory shall be his support in whatever national visitations he may be involved; for, they shall eat the fruit of their doings: as they have not provoked these judgments, they shall be delivered from them, or supported under them. Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him in time and in eternity; all his sufferings are embittered, his prospects dark, his life miserable, his death terrible; and after death he is accursed; he is doomed to devouring fire and everlasting burnings. Woe indeed to the impenitent, when the reward of his hands shall thus be given him!

3rdly, The daughters of Zion had contributed to swell the national guilt, and must therefore share in these plagues.
1. Their sins are vanity and lewdness. Proud of their persons and ornaments, with elevated heads, and stretched-forth necks, they treated with an air of disdain their inferiors; while wantonly they cast their amorous glances around, and all their motions bespoke desire of admiration. Note; (1.) Vanity is woman's besetting sin. (2.) They who lay snares for others, are justly chargeable with every evil consequence which follows. (3.) A wanton eye betrays an impure heart.

2. Their punishments should correspond with their sins. Loathsome disease should deform and humble the proud beauty: their ornaments, which fashion dictated, and their vain hearts affected, pleased with the finery, and never thinking they had enough, must all be plundered; themselves enslaved, and led into captivity, and a girding of sackcloth should be their miserable covering: instead of perfumes and fragrance, they should be nauseous through poverty and ulcers; their shining girdles should give place to rags, tattered and rent; their braided locks, dressed with such curious art, now torn for anguish, or falling off through sickness, should leave them bald; and the scorching sun, or burning carbuncles, disfigure that fair face, which in the glass had led so often to self-idolatry; while their husbands should be slain by the sword, and no man left to marry them. Thus, sunk under universal desolations, the gates of the very city would mourn; and Jerusalem, as a disconsolate widow, in the dust bewail her irreparable ruin. Note; (1.) The sins of lewdness often make those loathsome, who were once most lovely. (2.) Extravagant finery easily leads to pinching poverty. (3.) Beauty is a dangerous gift, and often proves the bane of its possessor. (4.) Dress according to our station is becoming; but to be curious and expensive is to turn the covering of our shame into an increase of our sin.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.