The calamities about to come upon the land. (1-9) The wickedness of the people. (10-15) The distress of the proud, luxurious women of Zion. (16-26)
Verses 1-9 God was about to deprive Judah of every stay and support. The city and the land were to be made desolate, because their words and works had been rebellious against the Lord; even at his holy temple. If men do not stay themselves upon God, he will soon remove all other supports, and then they must sink. Christ is the Bread of life and the Water of life; if he be our Stay, we shall find that is a good part not to be taken away, Joh. 6:27 . Here note, 1. That the condition of sinners is exceedingly woful. 2. It is the soul that is damaged by sin. 3. Whatever evil befals sinners, be sure that they bring it on themselves.
Verses 10-15 The rule was certain; however there might be national prosperity or trouble, it would be well with the righteous and ill with the wicked. Blessed be God, there is abundant encouragement to the righteous to trust in him, and for sinners to repent and return to him. It was time for the Lord to show his might. He will call men to a strict account for all the wealth and power intrusted to and abused by them. If it is sinful to disregard the necessities of the poor, how odious and wicked a part do they act, who bring men into poverty, and then oppress them!
Verses 16-26 The prophet reproves and warns the daughters of Zion of the sufferings coming upon them. Let them know that God notices the folly and vanity of proud women, even of their dress. The punishments threatened answered the sin. Loathsome diseases often are the just punishment of pride. It is not material to ask what sort of ornaments they wore; many of these things, if they had not been in fashion, would have been ridiculed then as now. Their fashions differed much from those of our times, but human nature is the same. Wasting time and money, to the neglect of piety, charity, and even of justice, displease the Lord. Many professors at the present day, seem to think there is no harm in worldly finery; but were it not a great evil, would the Holy Spirit have taught the prophet to expose it so fully? The Jews being overcome, Jerusalem would be levelled with the ground; which is represented under the idea of a desolate female seated upon the earth. And when the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, they struck a medal, on which was represented a woman sitting on the ground in a posture of grief. If sin be harboured within the walls, lamentation and mourning are near the gates.
Isaiah 3:1-26 .
1. For--continuation of Isaiah 2:22 .
Lord of hosts--therefore able to do as He says.
doth--present for future, so certain is the accomplishment.
stay . . . staff--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 afterwards by Titus ( Jeremiah 37:21 , 38:9 ).
2. Fulfilled ( 2 Kings 24:14 ).
prudent--the Hebrew 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 ), from which passage the Jews interpret it a king; "without" whom Israel long has been ( Hosea 3:4 ).
ancient--old and experienced ( 1 Kings 12:6-8 ).
3. captain of fifty--not only captains of thousands, and centurions of a hundred, but even semi-centurions of fifty, shall fail.
honourable--literally, "of dignified aspect."
cunning--skilful. The mechanic's business will come to a standstill in the siege and subsequent desolation of the state; artisans are no mean "stay" among a nation's safeguards.
eloquent orator--rather, as Vulgate, "skilled in whispering," that is, incantation ( Psalms 58:5 ). See Isaiah 8:19 , below; and on
4. children--in ability for governing; antithesis to the "ancient" (see Isaiah 3:12 , Ecclesiastes 10:16 ).
babes--in warlike might; antithesis to "the mighty" and "man of war."
5. The anarchy resulting under such imbecile rulers ( Isaiah 3:4 ); unjust exactions mutually; the forms of respect violated ( Leviticus 19:32 ).
base--low-born. Compare the marks of "the last days" ( 2 Timothy 3:2 ).
6. 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 ).
ruin--Let our ruined affairs be committed to thee to retrieve.
7. swear--literally, "lift up," namely, his hand; the gesture used in solemn attestation. Or, his voice, that is, answer; so Vulgate.
healer--of the body politic, incurably diseased ( Isaiah 1:6 ).
neither . . . 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.
8. Reason given by the prophet, why all shrink from the government.
eyes of his glory--to provoke His "glorious" Majesty before His "eyes" (compare Isaiah 49:5 , Habakkuk 1:13 ). The Syriac and LOWTH, by a slight change of the Hebrew, translate, "the cloud of His glory," the Shekinah.
9. show--The Hebrew means, "that which may be known by their countenances" [GESENIUS and WEISS]. But MAURER translates, "Their respect for person"; so Syriac and Chaldee. But the parallel word "declare" favors 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 color.
witness--literally, "corresponds" to them; their look answers to their inner character ( Hosea 5:5 ).
declare--( Jude 1:13 ). "Foaming out their own shame"; so far from making it a secret, "glorying" in it ( Philippians 3:19 ).
unto themselves--Compare "in themselves" ( Proverbs 1:31 , 8:36 , Jeremiah 2:19 , Romans 1:27 ).
10. 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 Isaiah 1:20 ).
fruit of doings--( Proverbs 1:31 ) in a good sense ( Galatians 6:8 , Revelation 22:14 ). Not salvation by works, but by fruit-bearing faith ( Isaiah 45:24 , Jeremiah 23:6 ). GESENIUS and WEISS translate, Declare as to the righteous that, &c. MAURER, "Say that the righteous is blessed."
11. ill--antithesis to "well" ( Isaiah 3:10 ); emphatic ellipsis of the words italicized. "Ill!"
hands--his conduct; "hands" being the instrument of acts ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 Ecclesiastes 8:13 ).
12. (See Isaiah 3:4 ).
oppressors--literally "exactors," that is, 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.
lead--Hebrew, "call thee blessed"; namely, the false prophets, who flatter the people with promises of safety in sin; as the political "rulers" are meant in the first clause.
way of thy paths--( Jeremiah 6:16 ). The right way set forth in the law. "Destroy"--Hebrew, "Swallow up," that is, cause so utterly to disappear that not a vestige of it is left.
13. standeth up--no longer sitting in silence.
plead--indignant against a wicked people ( Isaiah 66:16 , Ezekiel 20:35 ).
14. ancients--Hence they are spoken of as "taken away" ( Isaiah 3:1 Isaiah 3:2 ).
vineyard--the Jewish theocracy ( Isaiah 5:1-7 , Psalms 80:9-13 ).
eaten up--"burnt"; namely, by "oppressive exactions" ( Isaiah 3:12 ). Type of the crowning guilt of the husbandmen in the days of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 21:34-41 ).
spoil . . . houses--( Matthew 23:14 ).
15. What right have ye to beat, &c. ( Psalms 94:5 , Micah 3:2 Micah 3:3 ).
grind--by exactions, so as to leave them nothing.
faces--persons; with the additional idea of it being openly and palpably done. "Presence," equivalent to "face" (Hebrew).
16. Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, &c.--Luxury had become great in Uzziah's prosperous reign ( 2 Chronicles 26:5 ).
stretched forth--proudly elevated ( Psalms 75:5 ).
wanton--rather, "making the eyes to glance about," namely, wantonly ( Proverbs 6:13 ) [MAURER]. But LOWTH, "falsely setting off the eyes with paint." Women's eyelids in the East are often colored with stibium, or Jeremiah 4:30 , Margin).
mincing--tripping with short steps.
tinkling--with their ankle rings 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 ).
17. smite with a scab--literally "make bald," namely, by disease.
discover--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 ; compare with Isaiah 20:4 ).
18. bravery--the finery.
tinkling--(See Isaiah 3:16 ).
cauls--network for the head. Or else, from an Arabic root, "little suns," answering to the "tires" or neck ornaments, "like the moon" ( Judges 8:21 ). The chumarah or crescent is also worn in front of the headdress in West Asia.
19. chains--rather, pendants, hanging about the neck, and dropping on the breast.
mufflers--veils covering the face, with apertures for the eyes, close above and loosely flowing below. The word radically means "tremulous," referring to the changing effect of the spangles on the veil.
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," that is, smelling boxes [Vulgate].
earrings--rather, amulets suspended from the neck or ears, with magic formulæ inscribed; the root means to "whisper" or "conjure."
21. nose jewels--The cartilage between the nostrils was bored to receive them; they usually hung from the left nostril.
22. Here begin entire articles of apparel. Those before were single ornaments.
changeable--from a root, "to put off"; not worn commonly; put on and off on special occasions. So, dress clothes ( Zechariah 3:4 ).
mantles--fuller tunics with sleeves, worn over the common one, reaching down to the feet.
wimples--that is, mufflers, or hoods. In Ruth 3:15 , "veils"; perhaps here, a broad cloak, or shawl, thrown over the head and body.
crisping pins--rather, money bags ( 2 Kings 5:23 ).
23. glasses--mirrors of polished metal ( Exodus 38:8 ). But the Septuagint, a transparent, gauze-like, garment.
hoods--miters, or diadems ( 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 ).
24. stink--arising from ulcers ( Zechariah 14:12 ).
girdle--to gird up the loose Eastern garments, when the person walked.
rent--the Septuagint, better, a "rope," an emblem of poverty; the poor have nothing else to gird up their clothes with.
well-set hair--( 1 Peter 3:3 1 Peter 3:4 ).
baldness--( Isaiah 3:17 ).
stomacher--a broad plaited girdle.
sackcloth--( 2 Samuel 3:31 ).
burning--a sunburnt countenance, owing to their hoods and veils being stripped off, while they had to work as captives under a scorching sun ( Solomon 1:6 ).
25. Thy men--of Jerusalem.
26. gates--The place of concourse personified is represented mourning for the loss of those multitudes which once frequented it.
desolate . . . sit upon . . . 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, Judæa capta ( Job 2:13 , Lamentations 2:10 , where, as here primarily, the destruction by Nebuchadnezzar is alluded to).