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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Isaiah 3



Verse 1

“For, behold, the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah supporter and means of support, every support of bread and every support of water.” The divine name given here, “The Lord, Jehovah of hosts,” with which Isaiah everywhere introduces the judicial acts of God (cf., Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 19:4), is a proof that the proclamation of judgment commences afresh here. Trusting in man was the crying sin, more especially of the times of Uzziah-Jotham. The glory of the kingdom at that time carried the wrath of Jehovah within it. The outbreak of that wrath commenced in the time of Ahaz; and even under Hezekiah it was merely suspended, not changed. Isaiah foretells this outbreak of wrath. He describes how Jehovah will lay the Jewish state in ruins, by taking away the main supports of its existence and growth. “Supporter and means of support” ( mash'en and mash'enah ) express, first of all, the general idea. The two nouns, which are only the masculine and feminine forms of one and the same word (compare Micah 2:4; Nahum 2:11, and the examples from the Syriac and Arabic in Ewald,

Verse 2-3

“Hero and man of war, judge and prophet, and soothsayer and elder; captains of fifty, and the highly distinguished, and counsellors, and masters in art, and those skilled in muttering.” As the state had grown into a military state under Uzziah-Jotham, the prophet commences in both vv. with military officers, viz., the gibbor , i.e., commanders whose bravery had been already tried; the “man of war” ( ish imlchâmâh ), i.e., private soldiers who had been equipped and well trained (see Ezekiel 39:20); and the “captain of fifty” ( sar Chamisshim ), leaders of the smallest divisions of the army, consisting of only fifty men ( pentekontarchos , 2 Kings 1:9, etc.). The prominent members of the state are all mixed up together; “the judge” ( shophet ), i.e., the officers appointed by the government to administer justice; “the elder” ( zâkēn ), i.e., the heads of families and the senators appointed by the town corporations; the “counsellor” ( yōetz ), those nearest to the king; the “highly distinguished” ( nesu panim ), lit., those whose personal appearance ( panim ) was accepted, i.e., welcome and regarded with honour (Saad.: wa'gı̄h , from wa'gh , the face of appearance), that is to say, persons of influence, not only on account of their office, but also on account of wealth, age, goodness, etc.; “masters in art” ( C hacam C harâshim : lxx σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων ), or, as Jerome has very well rendered it, in artibus mechanicis exercitatus easque callide tractans (persons well versed in mechanical arts, and carrying them out with skill). In the Chaldean captivities skilled artisans are particularly mentioned as having been carried away (2 Kings 24:14.; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2); so that there can be no doubt whatever that C harâshim (from Cheresh ) is to be understood as signifying mechanical and not magical arts, as Gesenius, Hitzig, and Meier suppose, and therefore that C hacam C harâshim does not mean “wizards,” as Ewald renders it ( C hărâshim is a different word from C hârâshim , fabri , from C hârâsh , although in 1 Chronicles 4:14, cf., Nehemiah 11:35, the word is regularly pointed חרשׁי ם even in this personal sense). Moreover, the rendering “wizards” produces tautology, inasmuch as masters of the black art are cited as nebon lachash , “skilled in muttering.” Lachash is the whispering or muttering of magical formulas; it is related both radically and in meaning to nachash , enchantment (Arabic nachs , misfortune); it is derived from lachash , sibilare , to hiss (a kindred word to nâchash ; hence nâchâsh , a serpent). Beside this, the masters of the black art are also represented as kosem , which, in accordance with the radical idea of making fast, swearing, conjuring, denoted a soothsayer following heathen superstitions, as distinguished from the nabi , of false Jehovah prophet (we find this as early as Deuteronomy 18:10, Deuteronomy 18:14).

(Note: According to the primary meaning of the whole thema , which is one of hardness, rigidity, firmness, aksama ( hi . of kâsam ) signifies, strictly speaking, to make sure , i.e., to swear , either by swearing to the truth and certainty of a thing, or by making a person swear that he will do or not do a certain thing, by laying as it were a kasam upon him. The kal , on the other hand ( kasama ), gets its meaning to divide from the turn given to the radical idea in the substantive kism , which signifies, according to the original lexicographers, something fixed (= nası̄b ), definite, i.e., a definite portion. There is just the same association of ideas in ‛azama as in aksama , namely, literally to be firm or make firm, i.e., to direct one's will firmly towards an object or place; also to direct one's will firmly towards a person, to adjure him to do a thing or not to do it; sometimes with a softer meaning, to urge or invite a person to anything, at other times to recite conjuring formulas ( ‛azâim .)

These came next to bread and water, and were in a higher grade the props of the state. They are mixed together in this manner without regular order, because the powerful and splendid state was really a quodlibet of things Jewish and heathen; and when the wrath of Jehovah broke out, the godless glory would soon become a mass of confusion.

Verse 4

Thus robbed of its support, and torn out of its proper groove, the kingdom of Judah would fall a prey to the most shameless despotism: “And I give them boys for princes, and caprices shall rule over them.” The revived “Solomonian” glory is followed, as before, by the times of Rehoboam. The king is not expressly named. This was intentional. He had sunk into the mere shadow of a king: it was not he who ruled, but the aristocratic party that surrounded him, who led him about in leading strings as unum inter pares . Now, if it is a misfortune in most cases for a king to be a child ( na'ar , Ecclesiastes 10:16), the misfortune is twice as great when the princes or magnates who surround and advise him are youngsters ( ne'ârim , i.e., young lords) in a bad sense. It produces a government of tâlulim . None of the nouns in this form have a personal signification. According to the primary meaning of the verbal stem, the word might signify childishnesses, equivalent to little children (the abstract for the concrete, like τἀπαιδικά amasius ), as Ewald supposes; or puppets, fantocci , poltroons, or men without heart or brain, as Luzzatto maintains. But the latter has no support in the general usage of the language, and the verb yimshelu (shall rule) does not necessarily require a personal subject (cf., Psalms 19:14; Psalms 103:19). The word tâlulim is formed from the reflective verb hithallel , which means to meddle, to gratify one's self, to indulge one's caprice. Accordingly tâlulim itself might be rendered vexationes (Isaiah 66:4). Jerome, who translates the word effeminati , appears to have thought of התעלּל in an erotic sense. The Sept. rendering, ἐμπαῖκται is better, though ἐμπαίγματα would be more exact. When used, as the word is here, along with ne'arim , it signifies outbursts of youthful caprice, which do injury to others, whether in joke or earnest. Neither law nor justice would rule, but the very opposite of justice: a course of conduct which would make subjects, like slaves, the helpless victims at one time of their lust (Judges 19:25), and at another of their cruelty. They would be governed by lawless and bloodstained caprice, of the most despotic character and varied forms. And the people would resemble their rulers: their passions would be let loose, and all restraints of modesty and decorum be snapt asunder.

Verse 5

“And the people oppress one another, one this and another that; the boy breaks out violently upon the old man, and the despised upon the honoured.” Niggas is the reciprocal niphal , as the clause depicting the reciprocity clearly shows (cf., nilcham , Isaiah 19:2); nagas followed by Beth means to treat as a tyrant or taskmaster (Isaiah 9:3). The commonest selfishness would then stifle every nobler motive; one would become the tyrant of another, and ill-mannered insolence would take the place of that reverence, which is due to the old and esteemed from boys and those who are below them in position, whether we regard the law of nature, the Mosaic law (Leviticus 19:32), or the common custom of society. Nikleh (from kâlâh , the synonym of הקל , Isaiah 9:1; Isaiah 23:9; cf., Isaiah 16:14, kal , to be light or insignificant) was a term used to denote whoever belonged to the lowest stratum of society (1 Samuel 18:23). It was the opposite of nichâd (from Cabed , to be heavy or of great importance). The Septuagint rendering, ὁ ἄτιμος πρὸς τὸν ἔντιμον is a very good one (as the Semitic languages have no such antithetical formations with ἃ στερητικόν ). With such contempt of the distinctions arising from age and position, the state would very soon become a scene of the wildest confusion.

Verse 6-7

At length there would be no authorities left; even the desire to rule would die out: for despotism is sure to be followed by mob-rule, and mob-rule by anarchy in the most literal sense. The distress would become so great, that whoever had a coat (cloak), so as to be able to clothe himself at all decently, would be asked to undertake the government. “When a man shall take hold of his brother in his father's house, Thou hast a coat, thou shalt be our ruler, and take this ruin under thy hand; he will cry out in that day, I do not want to be a surgeon; there is neither bread nor coat in my house: ye cannot make me the ruler of the people.” “his father's house” - this is not an unmeaning trait in the picture of misery. The population would have become so thin and dispirited through hunger, that with a little energy it would be possible to decide within the narrow circle of a family who should be ruler, and to give effect to the decision. “In his father's house:” Beth âbiv is an acc. loci . The father's house is the place where brother meets with brother; and one breaks out with the urgent petition contained in the words, which follow without the introductory “saying” (cf., Isaiah 14:8, Isaiah 14:16, and Isaiah 22:16; Isaiah 33:14). לכה for לך with He otians , a form rarely met with (vid., Genesis 27:37). תּהיה , which would be written תּהי before the predicate, is jussive in meaning, though not in form. “This ruin:” m acshelah is used in Zephaniah 1:3 for that which occasions a person's fall; here it signifies what has been overthrown; and as C âshal itself, which means not only to stumble, strip, or slide, but also to fall in consequence of some force applied from without, is not used in connection with falling buildings, it must be introduced here with an allusion to the prosopopeia which follows in Isaiah 3:8. The man who was distinguished above all others, or at any rate above many others, by the fact that he could still dress himself decently (even if it were only in a blouse), should be made supreme ruler or dictator (cf., kâtzin , Judges 11:6); and the state which lay so miserably in ruins should be under his hand, i.e., his direction, protection, and care (2 Kings 8:20; Genesis 41:35, cf., Isaiah 16:9, where the plural is used instead of the ordinary singular yâd .) The apodosis to the protasis introduced with C hi as a particle of time ( when ) commences in Isaiah 3:7. The answer given by the brother to the earnest petition is introduced with “he will raise (viz., his voice, Isaiah 24:14) in that day, saying.” It is given in this circumstantial manner because it is a solemn protest. He does not want to be a C hobēsh , i.e., a binder , namely of the broken arms, and bones, and ribs of the ruined state (Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 1:6; Isaiah 61:1). The expression ehyeh implies that he does not like it, because he is conscious of his inability. He has not confidence enough in himself, and the assumption that he has a coat is a false cone: he not only has no coat at home (we must remember that the conversation is supposed to take place in his father's house), but he has not any bread; so that it is utterly impossible for a naked, starving man like him to do what is suggested (“in my house,” ubebethi with a Vav of causal connection: Ges. 155, 1, c ).

Verse 8

The prophet then proceeds, in Isaiah 3:8-12, to describe this deep, tragical misery as a just retribution. ”For Jerusalem is ruined and Judah fallen; because their tongue and their doings (are) against Jehovah, to defy the eyes of His glory.” Jerusalem as a city is feminine, according to the usual personification; Judah as a people is regarded as masculine.

(Note: As a rule, the name of a people (apart from the personification of the people as beth , a house) is only used as a feminine, when the name of the land stands for the nation itself (see Gesenius, Lehrbegr. p. 469).)

The two preterites C âs'lah and nâphal express the general fact, which occasioned such scenes of misery as the one just described. The second clause, beginning with “because” ( C hi ) , is a substantive clause, and attributes the coming judgment not to future sin, but to sin already existing. “Again Jehovah:” אל is used to denote a hostile attitude, as in Isaiah 2:4; Genesis 4:8; Numbers 32:14; Joshua 10:6. The capital and the land are against Jehovah both in word and deed, “to defy the eyes of His glory” ( lamroth ‛ēnē C hebodo ). עני is equivalent to עיני ; and lamroth is a syncopated hiphil , as in Isaiah 23:11, and like the niphal in Isaiah 1:12 : we find the same form of the same word in Psalms 78:17. The kal m ârâh , which is also frequently construed with the accusative, signifies to thrust away in a refractory manner; the hiphil himrâh , to treat refractorily, literally to set one's self rigidly in opposition, obniti ; mar , stringere , to draw tightly, with which unquestionably the meaning bitter as an astringent is connected, though it does not follow that m ârâh , himrâh , and hemar (Exodus 23:21) can be rendered παραπικραίνειν , as they have been in the Septuagint, since the idea of opposing, resisting, fighting in opposition, is implied in all these roots, with distinct reference to the primary meaning. The Lamed is a shorter expression instead of למען , which is the term generally employed in such circumstances (Amos 2:7; Jeremiah 7:18; Jeremiah 32:29). But what does the prophet mean by “the eyes of His glory?” Knobel's assertion, that C hâbod is used here for the religious glory, i.e., the holiness of God, is a very strange one, since the C hâbod of God is invariably the fiery, bright doxa which reveals Him as the Holy One. but his remark does not meet the question, inasmuch as it does not settle the point in dispute, whether the expression “the eyes of His glory” implies that the glory itself has eyes, or the glory is a quality of the eyes. The construction is certainly not a different one from “the arm of His glory” in Isaiah 52:10, so that it is to be taken as an attribute. But this suggests the further question, what does the prophet mean by the glory-eyes or glorious eyes of Jehovah? If we were to say the eyes of Jehovah are His knowledge of the world, it would be impossible to understand how they could be called holy, still less how they could be called glorious. This abstract explanation of the anthropomorphisms cannot be sustained. The state of the case is rather the following. The glory ( C hâbod ) of God is that eternal and glorious morphē which His holy nature assumes, and which men must picture to themselves anthropomorphically, because they cannot imagine anything superior to the human form. In this glorious form Jehovah looks upon His people with eyes of glory. His pure but yet jealous love, His holy love which breaks out in wrath against all who meet it with hatred instead of with love, is reflected therein.

Verse 9

But Israel, instead of walking in the consciousness of being a constant and favourite object of these majestic, earnestly admonishing eyes, was diligently engaged in bidding them defiance both in word and deed, not even hiding its sin from fear of them, but exposing them to view in the most shameless manner. - “The look of their faces testifies against them, and their sin they make known like Sodom, without concealing it: woe to their soul! for they do themselves harm.” In any case, the prophet refers to the impudence with which their enmity against God was shamelessly stamped upon their faces, without even the self-condemnation which leads in other cases to a diligent concealment of the sin. But we cannot follow Luzzatto and Jos. Kimchi, who take haccârath as used directly for azzuth (impudence), inasmuch as the Arabic hakara ( hakir‛a ), to which Kimchi appeals, signifies to be astonished and to stare (see at Job 19:3). And in this case there would be nothing strange in the substantive form, which would be a piel formation like בּלּהה חטּאה . But it may be a hiphil formation (Ewald, §156, a ); and this is incomparably the more probable of the two, as hiccir panim is a very common phrase. It signifies to look earnestly, keenly, or inquiringly in the face of a person, to fix the eye upon him; and, when used of a judge, to take the part of a person, by favouring him unjustly (Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19). But this latter idea, viz., “their acceptance of the person, or partiality” (according to Proverbs 24:23; Proverbs 28:21), is inadmissible here, for the simple reason that the passage refers to the whole nation, and not particularly to the judges. “The look of their faces” ( haccârath p'nēhem ) is to be understood in an objective sense, viz., the appearance ( τὸ εἶδος , Luke 9:29), like the agnitio of Jerome, id quo se agnoscendum dat vultus eorum . This was probably the expression commonly employed in Hebrew for what we designate by a very inappropriate foreign word, viz., physiognomy, i.e., the expression of the face which reveals the state of the mind. This expression of their countenance testified against them ( anah b' , as in Isaiah 59:12), for it was the disturbed and distorted image of their sin, which not only could not be hidden, but did not even wish to be; in a word, of their azzuth (Ecclesiastes 8:1). And it did not even rest with this open though silent display: they spoken openly of their sin ( higgid in its simplest meaning, palam facere , from nâgad , nagâda , to be open, evident) without making any secret of it, like the Sodomites, who publicly proclaimed their fleshly lusts (Gen 19). Jerusalem was spiritually Sodom, as the prophet called it in Isaiah 1:10. By such barefaced sinning they did themselves harm ( gâmal , lit., to finish, then to carry out, to show practically).

(Note: It may now be accepted as an established fact, that the verb gâmal is connected with the Arabic 'gamala , to collect together, 'gamula , to be perfect, kamala , kamula id ., and gâmar , to finish (see Hupfeld on Psalms 7:5, and Fürst, Heb. Lex. ).)

Verse 10-11

The prophet's meaning is evident enough. But inasmuch as it is the curse of sin to distort the knowledge of what is most obvious and self-evident, and even to take it entirely away, the prophet dwells still longer upon the fact that all sinning is self-destruction and self-murder, placing this general truth against its opposite in a palillogical Johannic way, and calling out to his contemporaries in Isaiah 3:10, Isaiah 3:11 : “Say of the righteous, that it is well with him; for they will enjoy the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! it is ill; for what his hands have wrought will be done to him.” We cannot adopt the rendering “Praise the righteous,” proposed by Vitringa and other modern commentators; for although âmar is sometimes construed with the accusative of the object (Psalms 40:11; Psalms 145:6, Psalms 145:11), it never means to praise, but to declare (even in Psalms 40:11). We have here what was noticed from Genesis 1:4 onwards - namely, the obvious antiptôsis or antiphonêsis in the verbs ראה (cf., Isaiah 22:9; Exodus 2:2), ידע (1 Kings 5:17), and אמר (like λέγειν , John 9:9): dicite justum quod bonus = dicite justum esse bonum (Ewald, §336, b ). The object of sight, knowledge, or speech, is first of all mentioned in the most general manner; then follows the qualification, or more precise definition. טוב , and in Isaiah 3:11 רע ( רע without the pause), might both of them be the third pers. pret. of the verbs, employed in a neuter sense: the former signifying, it is well, viz., with him (as in Deuteronomy 5:30; Jeremiah 22:15-16); the latter, it is bad (as in Psalms 106:32). But it is evident from Jeremiah 44:17 that הוּא טוב and הוּא רע may be used in the sense of καλῶς ( κακῶς ) ἔχει , and that the two expressions are here thought of in this way, so that there is no לו to be supplied in either case. The form of the first favours this; and in the second the accentuation fluctuates between אוי tiphchah לרשׁע munach , and the former with m erka , the latter tiphchah . At the same time, the latter mode of accentuation, which is favourable to the personal rendering of רע , is supported by editions of some worth, such as Brescia 1494, Pesaro 1516, Venice 1515, 1521, and is justly preferred by Luzzatto and Bär. The summary assertions, The righteous is well, the wicked ill, are both sustained by their eventual fate, in the light of which the previous misfortune of the righteous appears as good fortune, and the previous good fortune of the wicked as misfortune. With an allusion to this great difference in their eventual fate, the word “say,” which belongs to both clauses, summons to an acknowledgment of the good fortune of the one and the misfortune of the other. O that Judah and Jerusalem would acknowledge their to their own salvation before it was too late! For the state of the poor nation was already miserable enough, and very near to destruction.

Verse 12

“My people, its oppressors are boys, and women rule over it; my people, thy leaders are misleaders, who swallow up the way of thy paths.” It is not probable that m e‛olel signifies maltreaters or triflers, by the side of the parallel nâshim ; moreover, the idea of despotic treatment is already contained in nogesaiv . We expect to find children where there are women. And this is one meaning of m e‛olel . It does not mean a suckling, however, as Ewald supposes (§160, a ), more especially as it occurs in connection with yonek (Jeremiah 44:7; Lamentations 2:11), and therefore cannot have precisely the same meaning; but, like עולל and עולל (the former of which may be contracted from m eolēl ), it refers to the boy as playful and wanton ( Lascivum , protervum ). Böttcher renders it correctly, pueri , lusores , though m eolēl is not in itself a collective form, as he supposes; but the singular is used collectively, or perhaps better still, the predicate is intended to apply to every individual included in the plural notion of the subject (compare Isaiah 16:8; Isaiah 20:4, and Ges. §146, 4): the oppressors of the people, every one without exception, were (even though advanced in years) mere boys or youths in their mode of thinking and acting, and made all subject to them the football of their capricious humour. Here again the person of the king is allowed to fall into the background. but the female rule, referred to afterwards, points us to the court. And this must really have been the case when Ahaz, a young rake, came to the throne at the age of twenty (according to the lxx twenty-five), possibly towards the close of the reign of Jotham. With the deepest anguish the prophet repeats the expression “my people,” as he passes in his address to his people from the rulers to the preachers: for the m eassherim or leaders are prophets (Micah 3:5); but what prophets! Instead of leading the people in a straight path, they lead them astray (Isaiah 9:15, cf., 2 Kings 21:9). This they did, as we may gather from the history of this crowd of prophets, either by acting in subservience to the ungodly interests of the court with dynastic or demagogical servility, or by flattering the worst desires of the people. Thus the way of the path of the people, i.e., the highway or road by whose ramifying paths the people were to reach the appointed goal, had been swallowed up by them, i.e., taken away from the sight and feet of the people, so that they could not find it and walk therein (cf., Isaiah 25:7-8, where the verb is used in another connection). What is swallowed up is invisible, has disappeared, without a grace being left behind. The same idea is applied in Job 39:27 to a galloping horse, which is said to swallow the road, inasmuch as it leaves piece after piece behind it in its rapid course. It is stated here with regard to the prophets, that they swallow up the road appointed by Jehovah, as the one in which His people were to walk, just as a criminal swallows a piece of paper which bears witness against him, and so hides it in his own stomach. Thus the way of salvation pointed out by the law was no longer to be either heard of or seen. The prophets, who ought to have preached it, said m um , m um , and kept it swallowed. It had completely perished, as it were, in the erroneous preaching of the false prophets.

Verse 13

This was how it stood. There was but little to be expected from the exhortations of the prophet; so that he had to come back again and again to the proclamation of judgment. The judgment of the world comes again before his mind. - “Jehovah has appeared to plead, and stands up to judge the nations.” When Jehovah, weary with His long-suffering, rises up from His heavenly throne, this is described as “standing up” ( kum , Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21; Isaiah 33:10); and when He assumes the judgment-seat in the sight of all the world, this is called “sitting down” ( yashab , Psalms 9:5, Joel 3:12); when, having come down from heaven (Micah 1:2.), He comes forward as accuser, this is called “standing” ( nizzab or amad , Psalms 82:1 : amad is coming forward and standing, as the opposite of sitting; nizzab , standing, with the subordinate idea of being firm, resolute, ready). This pleading ( ribh , Jeremiah 25:31) is also judging ( din ), because His accusation, which is incontrovertible, contains the sentence in itself; and His sentence, which executes itself irresistibly, is of itself the infliction of punishment. Thus does he stand in the midst of the nations at once accuser, judge, and executioner (Psalms 7:8). But among the nations it is more especially against Israel that He contends; and in Israel it is more especially against the leaders of the poor misguided and neglected people that He sets Himself.

Verse 14-15

“Jehovah will proceed to judgment with the elders of His people, and its princes. And ye, ye have eaten up the vineyard; prey of the suffering is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind the face of the suffering? Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts.” The words of God Himself commence with “and ye” ( v'attem ). The sentence to which this ( et vos = at vos ) is the antithesis is wanting, just as in Psalms 2:6, where the words of God commence with “and I” ( va'ani , et ego = ast ego ). the tacit clause may easily be supplied, viz., I have set you over my vineyard, but he have consumed the vineyard. The only question is, whether the sentence is to be regarded as suppressed by Jehovah Himself, or by the prophet. Most certainly by Jehovah Himself. The majesty with which He appeared before the rulers of His people as, even without words, a practical and undeniable proof that their majesty was only a shadow of His, and their office His trust. But their office consisted in the fact that Jehovah had committed His people to their care. The vineyard of Jehovah was His people - a self-evident figure, which the prophet dresses up in the form of a parable in chapter 5. Jehovah had appointed them as gardeners and keepers of this vineyard, but they themselves have become the very beasts that they ought to have warded off. בּער is applied to the beasts which completely devour the blades of a corn-field or the grapes of a vineyard (Exodus 22:4). This change was perfectly obvious. The possessions stolen from their unhappy countrymen, which were still in their houses, were the tangible proof of their plundering of the vineyard. “The suffering:” ani ( depressus , the crushed) is introduced as explanatory of haccerem , the prey, because depression and misery were the ordinary fate of the congregation which God called His vineyard. It was ecclesia pressa , but woe to the oppressors! In the question “what mean ye?” ( m allâcem ) the madness and wickedness of their deeds are implied. מה and לכ ם are fused into one word here, as if it were a prefix (as in Exodus 4:2; Ezekiel 8:6; Malachi 1:13; vid., Ges. §20, 2). The Keri helps to make it clear by resolving the c hethibh . The word m allâcem ought, strictly speaking, to be followed by c hi : “What is there to you that ye crush my people?” as in Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:16; but the words rush forwards (as in Jonah 1:6), because they are an explosion of wrath. For this reason the expressions relating to the behaviour of the rulers are the strongest that can possibly be employed. דּכּא (crush) is also to be met with in Proverbs 22:22; but “grind the face” ( tâchan p'ne ) is a strong metaphor without a parallel. The former signifies “to pound,” the latter “to grind,” as the millstone grinds the corn. They grind the faces of those who are already bowed down, thrusting them back with such unmerciful severity, that they stand as it were annihilated, and their faces become as white as flour, or as the Germans would say, cheese-white, chalk-white, as pale as death, from oppression and despair. Thus the language supplied to a certain extent appropriate figures, with which to describe the conduct of the rulers of Israel; but it contained no words that could exhaust the immeasurable wickedness of their conduct: hence the magnitude of their sin is set before them in the form of a question, “What is to you?” i.e., What indescribable wickedness is this which you are committing? The prophet hears this said by Jehovah, the majestic Judge, whom he here describes as Adonai Elohim Zebaoth (according to the Masoretic pointing). This triplex name of God, which we find in the prophetic books, viz., frequently in Amos and also in Jeremiah 2:19, occurs for the first time in the Elohistic Psalm, Psalms 69:7. This scene of judgment is indeed depicted throughout in the colours of the Psalms, and more especially recals the (Elohistic) Psalm of Asaph (Psalms 82:1-8).

Verse 16-17

But notwithstanding the dramatic vividness with which the prophet pictures to himself this scene of judgment, he is obliged to break off at the very beginning of his description, because another word of Jehovah comes upon him. This applies to the women of Jerusalem, whose authority, at the time when Isaiah prophesied, was no less influential than that of their husbands who had forgotten their calling. “Jehovah hath spoken: Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk about with extended throat, and blinking with the eyes, walk about with tripping gait, and tinkle with their foot-ornaments: the Lord of all makes the crown of the daughters of Zion scabbed, and Jehovah will uncover their shame.” Their inward pride ( gâbah , as in Ezekiel 16:50; cf., Zephaniah 3:11) shows itself outwardly. They walk with extended throat, i.e., bending the neck back, trying to make themselves taller than they are, because they think themselves so great. The Keri substitutes the more usual form, נטוּית ; but Isaiah in all probability intentionally made use of the rarer and ruder form netuvoth , since such a form really existed (1 Samuel 25:18), as well as the singular nâtu for nâtui (Job 15:22; Job 41:25 : Ges. §75, Anm. 5). They also went winking the eyes ( mesakkeroth , for which we frequently find the erratum mesakkeroth ), i.e., casting voluptuous and amatory glances with affected innocence ( νεύματα ὀφθαλμῶν , lxx). “Winking:” sâkar is not used in the sense of fucare (Targ. b. Sabbath 62 b , Jome 9 b , Luther) - which is all the more inappropriate, because blackening the eyelids with powder of antimony was regarded in the East of the Old Testament as indispensable to female beauty - but in the sense of nictare (lxx, Vulg., Syr., syn. remaz , cf., sekar , Syr. to squint; Targ. = shâzaph , Job 20:9). Compare also the talmud ic saying: God did not create woman out of Adam's ear, that she might be no eavesdropper ( tsaithânith ), nor out of Adam's eyes, that she might be no winker ( sakrânith ).

(Note: Also b. Sota 47b: “Since women have multiplied with extended necks and winking eyes, the number of cases has also multiplied in which it has been necessary to resort to the curse water (Numbers 5:18).” In fact, this increased to such an extent, that Johanan ben Zakkai, the pupil of Hillel, abolished the ordeal (divine-verdict) of the Sota (the woman suspected of adultery) altogether. The people of his time were altogether an adulterous generation.)

The third was, that they walked incedendo et trepidando . The second inf. abs. is in this case, as in most others, the one which gives the distinct tone, whilst the other serves to keep before the eye the occurrence indicated in its finite verb (Ges. §131, 3). They walk about tripping ( tâphop , a wide-spread onomato-poetic word), i.e., taking short steps, just putting the heel of one foot against the toe of the other (as the Talmud explains it). Luther renders it, “they walk along and waggle” ( schwânzen , i.e., Clunibus agitatis ). The rendering is suitable, but incorrect. They could only take short steps, because of the chains by which the costly foot-rings ( achâsim ) worn above their ankles were connected together. These chains, which were probably ornamented with bells, as is sometimes the case now in the East, they used to tinkle as they walked: they made an ankle-tinkling with their feet, setting their feet down in such a manner that these ankle-rings knocked against each other. The writing beraglēhem (masc.) for beraglēhen (fem.) is probably not an unintentional synallage gen .: they were not modest virgines , but cold, masculine viragines , so that they themselves were a synallage generis . Nevertheless they tripped along. Tripping is a child's step. Nevertheless they tripped along. Tripping is a child's step. Although well versed in sin and old in years, the women of Jerusalem tried to maintain a youthful, childlike appearance. They therefore tripped along with short, childish steps. The women of the Mohammedan East still take pleasure in such coquettish tinklings, although they are forbidden by the Koran, just as the women of Jerusalem did in the days of Isaiah. The attractive influence of natural charms, especially when heightened by luxurious art, is very great; but the prophet is blind to all this splendour, and seeing nothing but the corruption within, foretells to these rich and distinguished women a foul and by no means aesthetic fate. The Sovereign Ruler of all would smite the crown of their head, from which long hair was now flowing, with scab ( v'sippach , a progressive preterite with Vav apodosis , a denom. verb from sappachath , the scurf which adheres to the skin: see at Habakkuk 2:15); and Jehovah would uncover their nakedness, by giving them up to violation and abuse at the hands of coarse and barbarous foes - the greatest possible disgrace in the eyes of a woman, who covers herself as carefully as she can in the presence of any stranger (Isaiah 47:3; Nahum 3:5; Jeremiah 13:22; Ezekiel 16:37).

Verses 18-23

The prophet then proceeds to describe still further how the Lord would take away the whole of their toilet as plunder. “On that day the Lord will put away the show of the ankle-clasps, and of the head-bands, and of the crescents; the ear-rings, and the arm-chains, and the light veils; the diadems, and the stepping-chains, and the girdles, and the smelling-bottles, and the amulets; the finger-rings, and the nose-rings; the gala-dresses, and the sleeve-frocks, and the wrappers, and the pockets; the hand-mirrors, and the Sindu-cloths, and the turbans, and the gauze mantles.” The fullest explanation of all these articles of female attire is to be found in N. W. Schrצder's work, entitled Commentarius de vestitu mulierum Hebraearum ad Jes . Isaiah 3:16-24, Ludg. Bat av 1745 (a quarto volume), and in that of Ant. Theod. Hartmann, consisting of three oc tavo volumes, and entitled Die Hebrהerin am Putztische und als Braut (The Jewess at the Toilet-table, and as Bride, 1809-10); to which we may also add, Saalschtz, Archaeologie , chapter iii., where he treats of the dresses of men and women. It was not usually Isaiah's custom to enter into such minute particulars. Of all the prophets, Ezekiel was the one most addicted to this, as we may see, for example, from Ezek 16. And even in other prophecies against the women we find nothing of the kind again (Isaiah 32:9.; Amos 4:1.). But in this instance, the enumeration of the female ornaments is connected with that of the state props in Isaiah 3:1-3, and that of the lofty and exalted in Isaiah 2:13-16, so as to form a trilogy, and has its own special explanation in that boundless love of ornament which had become prevalent in the time of Uzziah-Jotham. It was the prophet's intention to produce a ludicrous, but yet serious impression, as to the immeasurable luxury which really existed; and in the prophetic address, his design throughout is to bring out the glaring contrast between the titanic, massive, worldly glory, in all its varied forms, and that true, spiritual, and majestically simple glory, whose reality is manifested from within outwards. In fact, the theme of the whole address is the way of universal judgment leading on from the false glory to the true. The general idea of tiphereth (show: rendered “bravery” in Eng. ver.) which stands at the head and includes the whole, points to the contrast presented by a totally different tiphereth which follows in Isaiah 4:2. In explaining each particular word, we must be content with what is most necessary, and comparatively the most certain. “Ankle-clasps” ( acâsim ): these were rings of gold, silver, or ivory, worn round the ankles; hence the denom. verb ( icces ) in Isaiah 3:16, to make a tinkling sound with these rings. “Head-bands,” or “frontlets” ( shebisim , from shâbas = shâbatz : plectere ), were plaited bands of gold or silver thread worn below the hair-net, and reaching from one ear to the other. There is some force, however, in the explanation which has been very commonly adopted since the time of Schröder, namely, that they were sun-like balls (= shemisim ), which were worn as ornaments round the neck, from the Arabic ‛sumeisa ( ‛subeisa ), a little sun. The “crescents” ( saharonim ) were little pendants of this kind, fastened round the neck and hanging down upon the breast (in Judges 8:21 we meet with them as ornaments hung round the camels' necks). Such ornaments are still worn by Arabian girls, who generally have several different kinds of them; the hilâl , or new moon, being a symbol of increasing good fortune, and as such the most approved charm against the evil eye. “Ear-rings” ( netiphoth , ear-drops): we meet with these in Judges 8:26, as an ornament worn by Midianitish kings. Hence the Arabic munattafe , a woman adorned with ear-rings. “Arm-chains:” sheroth , from shâra , to twist. According to the Targum, these were chains worn upon the arm, or spangles upon the wrist, answering to the spangles upon the ankles. “Fluttering veils” ( re'âloth , from râ'al , to hang loose): these were more expensive than the ordinary veils worn by girls, which were called tza'iph .

“Diadems” ( pe'erim ) are only mentioned in other parts of the Scriptures as being worn by men (e.g., by priests, bride-grooms, or persons of high rank). “Stepping-chains:” tze'âdoth , from tze'âdah , a step; hence the chain worn to shorten and give elegance to the step. “Girdles:” kisshurim , from kâshar ( Cingere ), dress girdles, such as were worn by brides upon their wedding-day (compare Jeremiah 2:32 with Isaiah 49:18); the word is erroneously rendered hair-pins ( kalmasmezayyah ) in the Targum. “Smelling-bottles:” botte hannephesh , holders of scent ( nephesh , the breath of an aroma). “Amulets:” lechashim (from lâchash , to work by incantations), gems or metal plates with an inscription upon them, which were worn as a protection as well as an ornament. “Finger-rings:” tabbâ'oth , from tâba , to impress or seal, signet-rings worn upon the finger, corresponding to the C hothâm worn by men upon the breast suspended by a cord. “Nose-rings” ( nizmê hâaph ) were fastened in the central division of the nose, and hung down over the mouth: they have been ornaments in common use in the East from the time of the patriarchs (Genesis 24:22) down to the present day. “Gala-dresses” ( m achalâtsoth ) are dresses not usually worn, but taken off when at home. “Sleeve-frocks” ( m a'atâphâh ): the second tunic, worn above the ordinary one, the Roman stola . “Wrappers” ( m itpâchoth , from tâphach , expandere ), broad cloths wrapped round the body, such as Ruth wore when she crept in to Boaz in her best attire (Ruth 3:15). “Pockets” ( Charitim ) were for holding money (2 Kings 5:23), which was generally carried by men in the girdle, or in a purse ( Cis ). “Hand-mirrors” ( gilyonim ): the Septuagint renders this διαφανῆ λακωνικὰ , sc. ἱμάτια , Lacedaemonian gauze or transparent dresses, which showed the nakedness rather than concealed it (from gâlâh , retegere ); but the better rendering is mirrors with handles, polished metal plates (from gâlâh , polire ), as gillâyon is used elsewhere to signify a smooth table. “Sindu-cloths” ( sedinim ), veils or coverings of the finest linen, viz., of Sindu or Hindu cloth ( σινδόνες ) - Sindu , the land of Indus, being the earlier name of India.

(Note: The Mishna ( Kelim xxiv 13) mentions three different sedinin : night dresses, curtains, and embroidery. The sindon is frequently referred to as a covering wrapped round the person; and in b . Menachoth 41 a , it is stated that the sindom is the summer dress, the sarbal (cloak) the winter dress, which may help to explain Mark 14:51-52.)

“Turbans” ( tseniphoth , from tsânaph , Convolvere ), the head-dress composed of twisted cloths of different colours. “Gauze mantles” ( redidim , from râdad , extendere , tenuem facere ), delicate veil-like mantles thrown over the rest of the clothes. Stockings and handkerchiefs are not mentioned: the former were first introduced into Hither Asia from Media long after Isaiah's time, and a Jerusalem lady no more thought of suing the latter than a Grecian or Roman lady did. Even the veil ( burko ) now commonly worn, which conceals the whole of the face with the exception of the eyes, did not form part of the attire of an Israelitish woman in the olden time.

(Note: Rashi, however, makes a different statement ( Sabbath 65 a ), viz., that “Israelitish women in Arabia go out with veils which conceal the face, and those in Media with their mantles fastened about the mouth.”)

The prophet enumerates twenty-one different ornaments: three sevens of a very bad kind, especially for the husbands of these state-dolls. There is no particular order observed in the enumeration, either from head to foot, or from the inner to the outer clothing; but they are arranged as much ad libitum as the dress itself.

Verse 24

When Jehovah took away all this glory, with which the women of Jerusalem were adorned, they would be turned into wretched-looking prisoners, disfigured by ill-treatment and dirt. - “And instead of balmy scent there will be mouldiness, and instead of the sash a rope, and instead of artistic ringlets a baldness, and instead of the dress-cloak a frock of sackcloth, branding instead of beauty.” Mouldiness , or mother ( mak , as in Isaiah 5:24, the dust of things that have moulded away), with which they would be covered, and which they would be obliged to breathe, would take the place of the bosem , i.e., the scent of the balsam shrub ( bâsâm ), and of sweet-scented pomade in general; and nipâh that of the beautifully embroidered girdle (Proverbs 31:24). The meaning of this word is neither “a wound,” as the Targums and Talmud render it, nor “rags,” as given by Knobel, ed. 1 (from nâkaph , percutere , perforare ), but the rope thrown over them as prisoners (from kâphâh = kâvâh , Contorquere : lxx, Vulg., Syr.).

(Note: Credner ( Joel , p. 147) renders the word “tatters,” from nâkaph , to rub in pieces; but the word has no such meaning, whereas the meaning vulnus , lit., percussio , is admissible (see at Job 19:26), but does not suit the antithesis. Luzzatto connects it with n'kaph , to bind (from which the makkeph derives its name), and understands it as referring to the dressing applied to wounds, to lint into which the girdle was torn. The most plausible derivation is from kâphâh , which is really employed in post-biblical usage to signify not only to congeal and wrinkle, but also to thicken ( Sabbath 21 a , l'hakpoth : “Make the wick thicker, that it may burn the brighter”). It is probably radically akin to the Arabic nukbe (explained in Lamachzari as equivalent to the Persian mijân - bend , a girdle), which is apparently used to denote the coarse girdle worn by peasants or by Arab women of the wandering tribes, resembling a rope of goat's hair, as distinguished from the artistic and costly girdle worn by women of the upper classes in the towns.)

Baldness takes the place of artistic ringlets ( מקשׁה מעשׂה , not מעשׂה , so that it is in apposition: cf., Isaiah 30:20; Ges. §113; Ewald, §287, b ). The reference is not to golden ornaments for the head, as the Sept. rendering gives it, although m iksheh is used elsewhere to signify embossed or carved work in metal or wood; but here we are evidently to understand by the “artificial twists” either curls made with the curling-tongs, or the hair plaited and twisted up in knots, which they would be obliged to cut off in accordance with the mourning customs (Isaiah 15:2; Isaiah 22:12), or which would fall off in consequence of grief. A frock of sackcloth ( m achagoreth sak ), i.e., a smock of coarse haircloth worn next to the skin, such as Layard found depicted upon a bas-relief at Kouyunjik, would take the place of the pethigil , i.e., the dress-cloak (either from pâthag , to be wide or full, with the substantive termination ı̄l , or else composed of pethi , breadth, and gil , festive rejoicing); and branding the place of beauty . Branding ( C i = C evi , from C âvâh , καἰειν ), the mark burnt upon the forehead by their conquerors: C i is a substantive,

(Note: It is so understood in b. Sabbath 62 b , with an allusion to the proverb, “The end of beauty is burning” (viz., inflammation). In Arabia, the application of the C ey with a red-hot iron ( m ikwâh ) plays a very important part in the medical treatment of both man and beast. You meet with many men who have been burned not only on their legs and arms, but in their faces as well, and, as a rule, the finest horses are disfigured by the C ey . - Wetzstein.)

not a particle, as the Targum and others render it, and as the m akkeph might make it appear. There is something very effective in the inverted order of the words in the last clause of the five. In this five-fold reverse would shame and mourning take the place of proud, voluptuous rejoicing.

Verse 25

The prophet now passes over to a direct address to Jerusalem itself, since the “daughters of Zion” and the daughter of Zion in her present degenerate condition. The daughter of Zion loses her sons, and consequently the daughters of Zion their husbands. - “Thy men will fall by the sword, and thy might in war.” The plural m ethim (the singular of which only occurs in the form m ethu , with the connecting vowel as a component part of the proper names) is used as a prose word in the Pentateuch; but in the later literature it is a poetic archaism. “Thy might” is used interchangeably with “thy men,” the possessors of the might being really intended, like robur and robora in Latin (compare Jeremiah 49:35).

Verse 26

What the prophet here foretells to the daughter of Zion he sees in Isaiah 3:26 fulfilled upon her: “Then will her gates lament and mourn, and desolate is she, sits down upon the ground.” The gates, where the husbands of the daughters of Zion, who have now fallen in war, sued at one time to gather together in such numbers, are turned into a state of desolation, in which they may, as it were, be heard complaining, and seen to mourn (Isaiah 14:31; Jeremiah 14:2; Lamentations 1:4); and the daughter of Zion herself is utterly vacated, thoroughly emptied, completely deprived of all her former population; and in this state of the most mournful widowhood or orphanage, brought down from her lofty seat (Isaiah 47:1) and princely glory (Jeremiah 13:18), she sits down upon the ground, just as Judaea is represented as doing upon Roman medals that were struck after the destruction of Jerusalem, where she is introduced as a woman thoroughly broken down, and sitting under a palm-tree in an attitude of despair, with a warrior standing in front of her, the inscription upon the medal being Judaea capta , or devicta . The Septuagint rendering is quite in accordance with the sense, viz., καὶ καταλειφθἠση μ όνη καὶ εἰς την̀ γῆν ἐδαφισθήση (cf., Luke 19:44), except that תּשׁב is not the second person, but the third, and נקּתה the third pers. pret. niph . for נקּתה - a pausal form which is frequently met with in connection with the smaller distinctive accents, such as silluk and athnach (here it occurs with tiphchah , as, for example, in Amos 3:8). The clause “sits down upon the ground” is appended ἀσυνδἔτως - a frequent construction in cases where one of two verbs defines the other in a manner which is generally expressed adverbially (vid., 1 Chronicles 13:2, and the inverted order of the words in Jeremiah 4:5; cf., Isaiah 12:6): Zion sits upon the earth in a state of utter depopulation.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 3:4". 1854-1889.

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