INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH 3
In this chapter the Jews are threatened with various calamities, on account of their sins, which would issue in their entire ruin and destruction. They are threatened with a famine, Isaiah 3:1 with a removal of useful men in church and state, and in common life, Isaiah 3:2 with ignorant and effeminate governors; the consequences of which would be oppression and insolence, Isaiah 3:4 yea, that such would be their state and condition, that men, though naturally ambitious of honour, would refuse to have the government of them, Isaiah 3:6 the reasons of these calamities, and of this ruin and fall of them, are their evil words and actions against the Lord, which were highly provoking to him; and their impudence in sinning like Sodom, which was to their own harm, Isaiah 3:8 yet, in the midst of all this, it is the will of God that the righteous should be told it shall be well with them, with the reason of it; when it shall be ill with the wicked, as a just recompence of reward, Isaiah 3:10 the errors and mistakes of the people are attributed to their childish and effeminate governors, Isaiah 3:12 wherefore the Lord determines to plead their cause, and contend with their elders and rulers, because they had spoiled and devoured the poor, Isaiah 3:13 and particularly the women are threatened, for their pride and luxury, to have their ornaments taken from them, which are particularly mentioned, Isaiah 3:16 and the chapter is concluded with a prophecy, that their mighty men should perish by the sword in war, and the city should be desolate, Isaiah 3:25.
For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts,.... These titles of Jehovah, expressive of power and authority, are used to show that he is able to execute what he threatens to do; and the word "behold" is prefixed, to excite attention to what is about to be said:
doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judea; the present tense is used for the future, because of the certainty of what would be done to the Jews, both in city and country; for as in the preceding chapter Isaiah 2:1 it is foretold what shall befall the antichristian party among the nations of the world, this is a prophecy of the destruction of the Jews by the Romans; at which time there would be a dreadful famine, signified by the taking away
the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water; bread and water being the stay and staff of man's life, which support and maintain it; and, in case of disobedience, a famine was threatened this people very early, and in much such terms as here, Leviticus 26:26 and as there was a very sore famine at the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah 52:6 so there was a very dreadful one when the city was besieged by the Romans, as related by Josephus, and predicted by Christ, Matthew 24:7.
The mighty man, and man of war,.... The meaning is either that these should die in war, as thousands of them did; or that men fit to be generals of armies should be removed by death before this time, so that they should have none to go out with their armies, and meet the enemy:
the judge and the prophet; there should be none to sit upon the bench, and administer justice to the people in civil affairs, and to determine causes relating to life and death; and none to instruct them in religious matters, and deliver the mind and will of God to them; and before this time the Jews were under the Roman jurisdiction, and had a Roman governor over them, and had not power to judge in capital cases, in matters of life and death, as they suggest, John 18:31 and they say
and the prudent and the ancient: with whom are wisdom, and who are fit to give advice and counsel in matters of difficulty; but these would be removed by famine or sword. The first of these words is used sometimes in an ill sense, for a diviner or soothsayer, Deuteronomy 18:10. The Jewish writers
The captain of fifty,.... A semi-centurion, such an one as in 2 Kings 1:9. So far should there be from being captains of thousands, and of hundreds, that there should not be one of fifty:
and the honourable man; by birth, breeding, and behaviour, through riches and greatness; and one of power and authority among the people, and in their favour and esteem:
and the counsellor; one able to give advice in matters of moment and difficulty, and in controversy between man and man; it suggests that nothing should be done with advice and counsel, with wisdom and discretion, but all tumult and sedition, as the history of these times shows: the Jews
cunning artificer: in any kind of metal, old, silver, brass, and iron, and in any sort of wood, and in any kind of manual and mechanical business; which would now be laid aside, shops shuts up, and all trade and business neglected and discouraged, occasioned partly by the siege without, and chiefly by their internal divisions and robberies, and by their zealots and cutthroats, which swarmed among them. The Septuagint render it, "the wise architect", or "masterbuilder"; the same word is used by the apostle in 1 Corinthians 3:10,
and the eloquent orator; who has the tongue of the learned, and can speak a word in season to the distressed; or who is able to plead at the bar the cause of the injured and oppressed, the widow and the fatherless. Aben Ezra interprets it of one that is skilful in enchanting serpents; that charms wisely, as in Psalm 58:5 it may be rendered, "one that understands enchantment"
And I will give children to be their princes,.... Either in age, or in understanding, who are really so, or act like such; and in either sense, when this is the case, it is an unhappiness to a nation, Ecclesiastes 10:16,
and babes shall rule over them; which is the same as before. The Targum is,
"the weak shall rule over them;'
such who are weak in their intellectuals, or are of mean pusillanimous spirits, "effeminate", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; and so as "children" are opposed to the "ancient", that should be taken away, these are opposed to "men of might" and courage, who would now be wanting: or "men of illusions", as in the margin; such as were subtle as foxes, and should deceive them, and impose upon them, and were audacious and impudent, and would mock at them, and despise them. So Jarchi and Abarbinel; and according to this sense of the word the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it, "mockers shall rule over them".
And the people shall be oppressed, everyone by another, and everyone by his neighbour,.... There being no governors, or such as were unfit for government, no decorum was kept and observed, but a mere anarchy; and so everyone did as he pleased, as when there was no king in Israel; and everyone rushed into the house of his neighbour, and plundered his goods; this was the case of Jerusalem, at the time of the siege, it abounding with robbers and spoilers:
the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient; show no respect to them, nor honour them, as the law requires in Leviticus 19:32 but behave insolently towards them; and so the Jews say
and the base against the honourable; persons of a mean birth and extract would rise up against and insult such as were men of families and fortune, of noble birth and of high degree.
When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father,.... One of the same country, kindred, and family; for only one of their brethren, and not a stranger, might rule over them, Deuteronomy 17:15 this taking hold of him may design not so much a literal taking hold of his person, his hand or garment, much less using any forcible measures with him; though indeed the Jews would have took Christ by force, who was one of their brethren, and would have made him a temporal king, which he refused, as this man did here spoken of, John 6:15 but rather an importunate desire and entreaty, urging him, as follows,
saying, thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler; that is, he had good and rich clothing, fit for a ruler or civil magistrate to appear in, which everyone had not, and some scarce any in those troublesome times:
and let this ruin be under thy hand; that is, let thy care, concern, and business, be to raise up the almost ruined state of the city and nation; and let thy hand be under it, to support and maintain it. The Targum is,
"and this power shall be under thy hand;'
thou shalt have power and government over the nation, and the honour and greatness which belong unto it, and all shall be subject unto thee. The Septuagint renders it, "let my meat be under thee", or "from thee", as the Arabic version.
In that day shall he swear,.... Or "lift up", that is, his hand
I will not be a healer, or "a binder"; that is, of wounds, of political wounds, made in the nation, and which were incurable. See Isaiah 1:6 for the meaning is, that he neither was fit to be, nor could he be, a healer of the distempered state of the nation, it was so desperately bad. The Targum is,
"I am not fit to be a head or governor;'
and so Kimchi explains it of a governor, who, he says, is so called, because he binds and imprisons those that transgress his commands; and to this sense Jarchi and Abarbinel:
for in my house is neither bread nor clothing; not a sufficiency of either to support such grandeur and dignity; not enough to keep a proper table, and a suitable equipage:
make me not a ruler of the people; this shows that the state of the nation must be very bad indeed, that men, who are naturally ambitious of power and honour, should refuse government when offered to them.
For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen, This is a reason given why the government of them is refused; they were fallen into such a ruinous condition, that there was no probability of recovering them. And the reason of this their fall and ruin is,
because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord; against the Lord Jesus Christ, whom they reproached and vilified as an impostor, a blasphemer, and a seditious person; and whom they spit upon, buffeted, scourged, and crucified:
to provoke the eyes of his glory; whose glory, as seen by some in the days of his humiliation, was as the glory of the only begotten of the Father; and, upon his ascension, he was crowned with glory and honour: and as his eyes saw, as well as his ears heard, all their blasphemy and wickedness; so they refusing to have him to reign over them, he was provoked to come in his kingdom with power, and cause his wrath to fall upon them to the uttermost, in the destruction of their country, city, and temple.
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them,.... The word translated "shew" is only used in this place. Some derive it from נכר, "to know", in the conjugations Piel and Hiphil; and render it, "the knowledge of their countenance"
"the knowledge of their countenance in judgment doth testify against them;'
as they appear there, so it may be judged of them; their guilt flies in their face, and fills them with shame and confusion; and so the Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "the shame of their face"; but others derive it from הכר, which has the signification of hardness in the Arabic language, and as it is thought by some to have in Job 19:3 and render it, "the hardness of their countenance"; so R. Joseph Kimchi, and others
and they declare their sin as Sodom, and
hide it not; commit it openly, without fear or shame; glory in it, and boast of it, as the Jews did in their crucifixion of Christ, and their evil treatment of him:
woe to their soul, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves; they have brought upon themselves, soul and body, the just recompence of reward; they have been the cause of their own ruin, and have wronged their own souls.
Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him,.... The Lord always has some righteous ones, in the worst of times, whom he can and does distinguish, single out, and take care of; and it is his will that they should be comforted by his prophets and ministers, who seem to be the persons to whom these words are directed, lest they should be distressed with what is said unto, and what they see is coming upon, the world, or upon a nation in general: and it will be, and is well with such, when calamities are on a nation, in a time of famine, war, or pestilence, under any affliction whatever at death, and at judgment, and to all eternity; the Lord has the highest regard for them; Christ's righteousness, by which they are denominated righteous, secures them from wrath, and entitles them to glory; they are blessed now, and will be happy hereafter. So the Targum,
"say ye to the righteous, ye are blessed,'
pronounce them such as they are: some render it, "say to the righteous, that he do good"
for they shall eat the fruit of their doings: both of what Christ has done for them, as their Head and representative, by whose righteousness they are justified; and of what they have done themselves, under the influence of his Spirit and grace; which being done from a principle of grace, are rewarded with a reward of grace, and not of debt; such enjoy a peace of conscience now, which is the work and effect of righteousness, and shall receive the reward of the inheritance, which is not of the law, but by promise, and of faith, and so by grace.
Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him,.... In time, and to eternity, in times of public calamity, and under all afflictions, and adverse dispensations of Providence; he has no God to go to; all that befalls him is in wrath; at death he is driven away in his wickedness; at judgment he will be bid to depart as cursed, and his portion will be in the lake of fire, with devils and damned spirits for ever. Some
"woe to the ungodly, whose works are evil:'
the Jews, as they distinguish between a good man and a righteous man, so between a wicked man and an evil man; there are, say they
for the reward of his hands shall be given him; in righteous judgment, in strict justice, as a just recompense of reward; nor shall he have reason to complain of unrighteousness in God.
As for my people, children are their oppressors,.... Or rulers; for נוגש, in the Ethiopic language, signifies a king: or "exactors", as in Isaiah 60:17 princes are so called, because they exact tribute of their subjects, and sometimes in a tyrannical and oppressive manner, and so get the name of oppressors. The sense is the same with Isaiah 3:4. The words may be rendered, "as for my people, everyone of their governors, is a child"
and women rule over them, or "over him"
O my people, they which lead thee: as the former may design their political governors, this their ecclesiastic rulers, who were to direct and lead them in the paths of religion and truth. Some render the words, "who praise thee", as the Targum; "or bless you", or "call you blessed", as the Septuagint and Arabic versions, though guilty of the most flagitious crimes:
cause thee to err, or wander from the way of God's commandments,
and destroy the way of the paths, by turning them out of the right way; by enjoining them the traditions of the elders; by taking away the key of knowledge from them, and not suffering them to go into the kingdom of heaven, or attend the ministry of the Gospel and ordinances; as did the Scribes and Pharisees, who were blind leaders of the blind.
The Lord standeth up to plead,.... His own cause, or the cause of his son against the Jews that rejected him, and the Scribes and Pharisees that led them to an ill opinion of him:
and standeth to judge the people. Both expressions show indignation and resentment; he rises up out of his place, and stands up in defence of his cause, and avenges himself on a wicked and ungrateful people: it seems to have reference to the judgments of God on the people of the Jews, the tribes of Israel.
The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof,.... Both civil and ecclesiastical; the princes, chief priests, and elders of the people, who set themselves and took counsel together against the Lord and his Christ; would not suffer the people to be gathered to him; sought his life, and at last took it away.
For ye have eaten up the vineyard, or burnt it
"ye have oppressed my people;'
these are the husbandmen our Lord speaks of, that beat the servants that were sent for the fruits of the vineyard, and at last killed the heir, Matthew 21:34.
The spoil of the poor is in your houses; the Pharisees devoured widows' houses, and filled their own, with the spoil of them, Matthew 23:14.
What mean ye, that ye beat my people to pieces,.... Reduce them to the utmost poverty; so the Targum,
"wherefore do ye impoverish my people?'
as they did by exacting tithes of all that they possessed; by requiring large sums for their long prayers; and by various traditions they enjoined them to observe:
and grind the faces of the poor? either by smiting them on the cheek, as Christ, who became poor for our sakes, was smitten by them; or by bringing them into such low circumstances, by their exorbitant demands, that they had not sufficiency of food to eat; by which means their faces became pale, thin, and meagre:
saith the Lord God of Hosts: who saw all their actions, and was able to plead his people's cause, and take vengeance on their oppressors.
Moreover the Lord saith, because the daughters of Zion are haughty,.... The wives or daughters of the rulers, princes, or elders; these were "high", affected to look high and tall, and therefore stretched out their necks, and walked on tiptoes; or "were lifted up" with pride, which is the root and source of all the vanity expressed in their gesture and ornaments.
And walk with stretched forth necks or "throats"; looking high, and above others, and upon them with contempt and disdain; this is a sign of pride; see Psalm 75:5,
and wanton eyes; either winking with their eyes to others to follow them to their houses, as Kimchi interprets it; so Jarchi thinks it is expressive of their looks, as we, of wanton looks; and the Septuagint render it, "with winking of eyes"; so the Syriac and Arabic versions, or painting their eyes; so the Targum,
"they walk with their eyes painted,'
as Jezebel painted her face, 2 Kings 9:30 סיקרא, in the Talmudic language, is used
Walking and mincing as they go: jumping and dancing as children in the streets; or using the like gesture as those who beat upon a drum; or walking in even paces, in a soft and delicate manner; all which senses Kimchi
And making a tinkling with their feet; having a sort of bells hanging on them, as Kimchi thinks, which made a noise as they went. Of the word here used, and the sense of it; see Gill on Isaiah 3:18. The Targum renders it, "provoking with their feet"; either the lust of men; or the anger of the Lord, as the Syriac version; the Septuagint and Arabic versions, "playing with the feet".
Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion,.... This is opposed to the lifting up of their heads in that haughty manner they did, and to the binding, and plaiting, and curling of their hair, which now will fall off, through the scab or leprosy upon them, or must be obliged to be shaven off.
And the Lord will discover their secret parts; the Vulgate Latin renders it, "their hair", which is their glory, 1 Corinthians 11:6. The Targum is, "and the Lord shall take away their glory". The Syriac and Arabic versions render it "their sex", that which distinguishes their sex; of which Aben Ezra and Kimchi interpret it; than which nothing could be more distressing and intolerable, being worse than baldness of the head, and yet common with captives; and the Septuagint render it "their habit": the meaning is, they shall be stripped of their fine apparel, and be clothed in rags, so that their nakedness shall be seen. An enumeration of the several particulars follows.
In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet,.... With which they made a tinkling as they went, Isaiah 3:16 it being about the shoe, and made a noise; or seeing the word used signifies "stocks", and is so rendered Proverbs 7:22, it may design some sort of attire about the feet, as golden chains, as the Talmudists say
and their cauls: the attire of the head, of network: the word is used in the Misnah
And their round tires like the moon; these were not tires for the head, as our version suggests; much less were they clasps, buckles, or strings for the shoes, in the form of a half moon; such as were the "lunuloe" which the Roman senators had on their feet, to distinguish them from the common people; and were used by Evander and the Arcadians, to show that they sprung from the moon; which custom the noblemen of Rome followed; and some say
The chains,.... According to Kimchi and R. Levi ben Gersom on Judges 8:26 these were drop bottles, or vessels of gold, in which were put stacte or balsam; and the former says here, they were such in which balsam was put, and women hung about their necks; though, he observes, some interpret them of chains, which were made of small stones of bdellium; hence pure bdellium is called in the Arabic tongue אלנטף; and so Jarchi renders the word "chains"; and they are called by this name, because they hang about the neck, and drop upon the breast, and are in the form of precious stones, bored and strung:
and the bracelets; hand bracelets, according to the Targum; such as Abraham's servant gave to Rebekah, Genesis 24:22,
and the mufflers; these were veils which covered the whole face, excepting the eyes, the same that we call masks: it is said
The bonnets,.... This word is used sometimes for the tire of the heads of men, Ezekiel 24:17 and even for the bonnets of the priests, Exodus 39:28. The Targum renders the word "crowns"; the Jewish women wore golden crowns on their heads, in the form of the city of Jerusalem, with which they might not go out on a sabbath day
and the ornaments of the legs; and so the Targum,
"the chains or bracelets of the feet;'
with which Jarchi and Kimchi agree; but the word is used for a bracelet on the arm in 2 Samuel 1:10 and Aben Ezra so interprets it here:
and the headbands: the, word is rendered "attire" in Jeremiah 2:32 according to Jarchi, they were short binders with which the hair was bound up, and some of them were wrought with gold; but with Aben Ezra they were binders about the neck or throat:
and the tablets; in the Hebrew text, "the houses of the soul"
and the earrings; so Jarchi and Kimchi, who suggest they are so called because the ear is the place where whispering and muttering is used, which this word has the signification of; but, according to Aben Ezra, they were writings written in gold, and silver, by way of enchantment or charm; and the Arabic version renders the word, "boxes of amulets" or "charms"; the word signifies enchantments, see Psalm 58:5.
The rings,.... On their finger, as Aben Ezra observes:
and nose jewels; the same with the jewels on the forehead or nose, Ezekiel 16:12 not that they hung upon the nose, but were fastened upon the forehead, and hung down to the nose, see Genesis 24:22; an allusion to this is in Proverbs 11:22 though Austin says it was a custom of the women of Mauritania to put jewels in their nose; and which is still kept in Persia, Arabia, and other countries, as travellers affirm.
The changeable suits of apparel,.... To put on and off upon occasion; Kimchi says they were beautiful garments, and so they stand opposed to filthy ones, Zechariah 3:3.
and the mantles: or "cloaks", as the Targum; Jarchi translates the word by "bedclothes", or coverings for the bed, such as tapestry, rugs, quilts, &c. which were worked with purple; hence the Septuagint makes use of words to express it by of such a signification:
and the wimples; according to Jarchi, these were "towels" or linen cloths, with which they wiped their hands; but, according to Kimchi, they were "veils" with which women covered themselves; and so the word is rendered in 3:15 and elsewhere
and the crisping pins: with which they used to part their hair, and curl their locks, and keep them so: according to Kimchi, they were "purses"; and such made of silk, and wrought with gold and silver, may very well be reckoned among the ornaments of women; and the word is rendered "bags" in 2 Kings 5:23 some think needle cases are meant; the word by which the Targum explains it seems to design "hooks" or "clasps", with which women clasped their garments, that they might be kept close about them.
The glasses,.... Looking glasses, by which they dressed themselves, see Exodus 38:8 and so Kimchi explains the word; but elsewhere
and the fine linen; of which several of their garments and ornaments were made, and particularly their veils, with which they veiled themselves, as Jarchi observes:
and the hoods; the word is used for a diadem and mitre, Isaiah 62:3 the Targum renders it "crowns"; and such the Jewish women wore; see Gill on Isaiah 3:20 and particularly newly married women
and the veils; so the word is rendered in Song of Solomon 5:7 with which women covered their heads, either through modesty, or as a token of subjection to their husbands, see Genesis 24:65 but, according to the Targum and Kimchi, these were thin garments which women wore in summertime; Jarchi says they are the same which the French call "fermelan", and are of gold, which they put about the cloak the woman is covered with; perhaps they were a sort of umbrellas, to keep off the heat of the sun.
And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be a stink,.... Instead of "spice", or in the place where they put spices, carried musk, or had their smelling bottles, of precious and aromatic ointment, balsam, and myrrh, and such like things
and instead of a girdle a rent; such as is made in times of mourning and distress, or by the enemy. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, a "rope"; instead of fine curious girdles, wrought with gold and silver, they should have nothing but a rope about their loins. The Targum is,
"in the place where they bind the girdles, shall be marks of smiting;'
stripes, cuts, see Isaiah 10:34 as either by blows from the enemy, by whom they should be taken, or by the hand of God, being smitten with sores and ulcers, so that they should not be able to bear girdles upon them; or "holes", in their clothes or skin:
and instead of well set hair baldness; instead of plaited hair, and curled locks, kept in order, there would be scabs, ulcers, leprosy, or such diseases as would cause the hair to fall off, and leave a baldness. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "instead of the golden ornament of the head, thou shall have baldness for thy works"; and the Syriac version, "instead of gems, incisions":
and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; the word for a "stomacher" is only used in this place; according to Kimchi, it signifies a very broad girdle; but Aben Ezra says it was a thin garment embroidered, which was put over all the rest of the clothes; perhaps something like a "mantelet". The Septuagint version renders it, "instead of the garment worked with purple"; and so the Syriac version, "instead of their hyacinths, or purples"; and the Arabic version, "instead of thy silken garment thou shall be girt with sackcloth"; which was usually done in times of distress and mourning:
and burning instead of beauty; either through the scorching beams of the sun, being stripped of their hoods and veils; or rather this is to be understood of carbuncles, and such like hot burning ulcers in their faces, which once were beautiful, and they prided themselves in; though the Hebrew word כי seems rather to be a preposition than a noun; so Jarchi, whose note is,
"for this is fit to be unto them instead of beauty, with which they have prided themselves,'
or have lifted up themselves; and so in his gloss upon the Talmud
"for all these things shall come unto thee instead of thy beauty;'
and this clause may be read in connection with the following, "because of beauty", or "instead of beauty, thy men shall fall", &c. and so the Targum,
"this vengeance shall be taken on them, because they have committed fornication in their beauty; thy beautiful men shall be killed by the sword.'
The Syriac version is, "because their beauty shall be corrupted", and those versions which seem to have left out this clause, yet retain something of it in the beginning of the next verse Isaiah 3:25. The Vulgate Latin version is, "thy most beautiful men also shall fall by the sword". The Septuagint and Arabic versions begin it thus, "and thy beautiful son, whom thou lovest, shall fall by the sword".
Thy men shall fall by the sword,.... Of the Romans; which would be a punishment to the women for their pride and luxury, being deprived thereby of their husbands:
and thy mighty in the war; of Vespasian and Titus, and which the Jews
And her gates shall lament and mourn,.... These being utterly destroyed; or there being none to pass through them, meaning the gates of the city of Jerusalem:
and she being desolate; clear of inhabitants, quite emptied, and exhausted of men; being laid even with the ground, and her children within her, Luke 19:44.
shall sit upon the ground; being levelled with it, and not one stone cast upon another; alluding to the posture of mourners, Job 2:13. Our countryman, Mr. Gregory
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://pro.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany