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Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,

who write oppressive statutes,


to turn aside the needy from justice

and to rob the poor of my people of their right,

that widows may be your spoil,

and that you may make the orphans your prey!


What will you do on the day of punishment,

in the calamity that will come from far away?

To whom will you flee for help,

and where will you leave your wealth,


so as not to crouch among the prisoners

or fall among the slain?

For all this his anger has not turned away;

his hand is stretched out still.


Arrogant Assyria Also Judged


Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger—

the club in their hands is my fury!


Against a godless nation I send him,

and against the people of my wrath I command him,

to take spoil and seize plunder,

and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.


But this is not what he intends,

nor does he have this in mind;

but it is in his heart to destroy,

and to cut off nations not a few.


For he says:

“Are not my commanders all kings?


Is not Calno like Carchemish?

Is not Hamath like Arpad?

Is not Samaria like Damascus?


As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols

whose images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria,


shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols

what I have done to Samaria and her images?”


12 When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the arrogant boasting of the king of Assyria and his haughty pride. 13For he says:

“By the strength of my hand I have done it,

and by my wisdom, for I have understanding;

I have removed the boundaries of peoples,

and have plundered their treasures;

like a bull I have brought down those who sat on thrones.


My hand has found, like a nest,

the wealth of the peoples;

and as one gathers eggs that have been forsaken,

so I have gathered all the earth;

and there was none that moved a wing,

or opened its mouth, or chirped.”



Shall the ax vaunt itself over the one who wields it,

or the saw magnify itself against the one who handles it?

As if a rod should raise the one who lifts it up,

or as if a staff should lift the one who is not wood!


Therefore the Sovereign, the L ord of hosts,

will send wasting sickness among his stout warriors,

and under his glory a burning will be kindled,

like the burning of fire.


The light of Israel will become a fire,

and his Holy One a flame;

and it will burn and devour

his thorns and briers in one day.


The glory of his forest and his fruitful land

the L ord will destroy, both soul and body,

and it will be as when an invalid wastes away.


The remnant of the trees of his forest will be so few

that a child can write them down.


The Repentant Remnant of Israel

20 On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the L ord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22For though your people Israel were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return. Destruction is decreed, overflowing with righteousness. 23For the Lord G od of hosts will make a full end, as decreed, in all the earth.

24 Therefore thus says the Lord G od of hosts: O my people, who live in Zion, do not be afraid of the Assyrians when they beat you with a rod and lift up their staff against you as the Egyptians did. 25For in a very little while my indignation will come to an end, and my anger will be directed to their destruction. 26The L ord of hosts will wield a whip against them, as when he struck Midian at the rock of Oreb; his staff will be over the sea, and he will lift it as he did in Egypt. 27On that day his burden will be removed from your shoulder, and his yoke will be destroyed from your neck.


He has gone up from Rimmon,


he has come to Aiath;

he has passed through Migron,

at Michmash he stores his baggage;


they have crossed over the pass,

at Geba they lodge for the night;

Ramah trembles,

Gibeah of Saul has fled.


Cry aloud, O daughter Gallim!

Listen, O Laishah!

Answer her, O Anathoth!


Madmenah is in flight,

the inhabitants of Gebim flee for safety.


This very day he will halt at Nob,

he will shake his fist

at the mount of daughter Zion,

the hill of Jerusalem.



Look, the Sovereign, the L ord of hosts,

will lop the boughs with terrifying power;

the tallest trees will be cut down,

and the lofty will be brought low.


He will hack down the thickets of the forest with an ax,

and Lebanon with its majestic trees will fall.

1. Woe to them that decree. He now attacks the people more closely, as he did in the first and second chapters, to make them feel that they are justly afflicted; for men never acknowledge that they are justly punished till they have been manifestly convicted and constrained. Though they were sufficiently convicted by former proofs, still he found it necessary to come to particulars, that by means of them their hypocrisy might be exposed; for men are so brazen-faced as to think that any excuse shields them, and openly to accuse God. When they had become so shameless, it was impossible for him to rebuke them too sharply, or to carry his accusations beyond proper limits, so as to shut their mouths, whether they would or not.

עמל (gnamal) and און (aven) are often joined together in Scripture, as in Psalm 7:14 און signifies vanity and iniquity, but the latter meaning agrees better with this passage. עמל, (gnamal,) on the other hand, denotes vexation, and often the very cause of the vexation, that is, the oppression inflicted by the stronger on the weaker, when they abuse their authority and power. Having formerly shown that the wickedness originated from the governors themselves, (Isaiah 1:10,23,) he places them in the first rank, that they may undergo the punishment of the crimes which they had occasioned. This ought to be carefully observed, for they who are elevated to the highest rank imagine that they are exempted from the ordinary lot of other men, and that they are not bound to give account to God; and therefore he threatens that they will have this privilege, that they will be the first that are punished.

Some think that two classes are here described, and draw a distinction between חקקים, (chokekim,) those who decree, and מכתבים, (mechattebim,) those who write 155155     The prescribers. — Stock. “Not the scribes, who write vexatious decrees, but the judges, who cause them to be written.” — Rosenmuller. But I do not approve of this, for he attacks generally, and without distinction, princes and magistrates, who oppressed the people by unjust and tyrannical decrees, in such a manner that they approached to absolute robbery; and therefore he includes every class of magistrates and governors.

2. To keep back. 156156     To turn aside. — Eng. Ver. Others render it, to cause them to turn aside; but the true meaning is, to keep back the poor from judgment, or make them lose their cause. This is the iniquity and oppression which he had mentioned in the former verse, that the poor are deprived of their rights, and are robbed for the sake of the rich, and go away mocked from the judgment-seat, while everything is laid open to plunder. He chiefly mentions the poor, because for the most part they are destitute of help and assistance. While magistrates and judges ought to have assisted them more than others, they allow themselves greater liberty, and indulge more contemptuously in oppressing them. Those who have wealth, or friends, or favor, are less liable to be oppressed; for they have arms in their hands to defend, and even to revenge themselves. But the Lord says that he takes peculiar care of the poor, (Exodus 22:23; Deuteronomy 15:9, 24:15,) though they are commonly despised; and that he takes such care of them that he does not allow oppression inflicted on them to pass unpunished; for it is not without good ground that he calls himself the protector and defender of such persons. (Psalm 68:5.) From this consideration, therefore, the poor and weak ought to derive consolation, and more calmly to endure distresses and afflictions, because they learn that God takes care of them, and will not permit any injustice done to them to pass unpunished. The powerful and wealthy are at the same time warned not to take it as an incentive to sin that they have not been punished; for though no avenger be now seen, still the Lord will avenge, and will undertake the cause of those whom they imagined to be destitute of all assistance.

3. And what will you do? Here the Prophet severely threatens princes, who were careless and indolent amidst their distresses, as men intoxicated by prosperity are wont to despise haughtily every danger. He therefore warns them that, though God delay, still he has fixed a time for judgment, and already it is close at hand. In consequence of having vanquished the neighboring nations in war, and fortified themselves by an alliance with a very powerful nation, they had no longer any fear; and therefore he expressly declares that their calamity will come from afar

In the day of visitation. By visitation is here meant judgment, for God visits us in two ways, that is, in mercy and in judgment. In both ways he reveals himself and his power to us, both when, in compassion on us, he rescues us from dangers, and when he punishes those who are ungodly and who despise the word. Both kinds of visitation have the same object in view, for we do not see the Lord but in his works; and we think that he is absent unless he give us a token of his presence. This visitation, therefore, the Scripture accommodates to our capacity; for when we are pressed down by afflictions, and when the ungodly freely give themselves up to wickedness, we suppose that God is at a great distance, and takes no interest in our affairs.

Accordingly, visitation must here be understood to mean the judgment by which God, in opposition to the waywardness and insolence of the ungodly, will bring them back like deserters. But if the judgments of God be so dreadful in this life, how dreadful will he be when he shall come at last to judge the world! All the instances of punishment that now produce fear or terror, are nothing more than preparations for that final vengeance with which he will thunder against the reprobate, and many things which he appears to pass by, he purposely reserves and delays till that last day. And if the ungodly are not able to bear these chastisements, how much less will they be capable of enduring his glorious and inconceivable majesty, when he shall ascend that awful tribunal, before which the angels themselves tremble!

And when the desolation shall come from afar. When he says from afar, it is proper to observe that we must not allow the prosperity which we now enjoy to bereave us of our senses; for they who carelessly sleep amidst their vices, and by this wicked indifference call in question the power of God, will quickly feel that in a moment, whenever he pleases, he can shake heaven and earth from east to west.

To whom will you flee? He declares that it is in vain for them to rely on their resources, for, in opposition to the hand of God, they will be fruitless and of no avail whatever. At the same time he likewise shows that this will be a most righteous reward; for when they are cruel towards others, they will justly be made to feel that they have now no help either from God or from men.

They will have judgment without mercy who have showed no mercy. (James 2:13.)

This applies especially to the judges, who ought to have been a protection to the whole people; for they have been appointed for the purpose of defending the poor and wretched. But if they shall neglect and betray, and even plunder them, it is right that they should be made to feel, by their own destitute condition, how greatly this cruelty offends God.

Where will you deposit your glory? This is understood by commentators to mean that they will be thrown down from their high rank. They suppose it to be an ironical and contemptuous question put by the Prophet, “What will become of that illustrious rank of which the nobles cruelly and foolishly vaunt, whenever God spares them for a little?” But as this was a forced rendering, I rather think that Isaiah asks, “Where will they find a safe hiding-place in which they may deposit their glory?” Thus I consider the meaning to be, to leave, 157157     Where will ye leave your glory? — Eng. Ver. And where will ye deposit your things of value? — Stock. for the sake of being preserved; and the two clauses correspond to each other, To whom will you flee? and, “Where will you find a refuge for your glory in order to preserve it?” But perhaps a preference will be given to a different view, which I have noted in the margin; 158158     This clause is rendered in Calvin’s version, Where will you deposit your glory? and, in the margin, Where will you secure your glory? — Ed. for the verb עזב (gnazab) signifies also to strengthen. Again, if God thus devotes to destruction princes who are thrown down from an elevated position, what will become of the lowest? No one, therefore, has any reason to flatter himself; for we shall all be like stubble when the wrath of the Lord has been kindled against us. (Psalm 83:13.)

4. If they shall not fall down. As the meaning of the particle בלתי (bilti) is ambiguous, various interpretations of it have been given by commentators. Some take it in an exclusive sense, as in many other passages of Scripture; as if he had said, Only he shall fall down among the bound and slain; that is, because all will be condemned and given up either to captivity or to death. Others render it, Without me they shall fall. If this rendering be preferred, the Prophet shows that the cause of their destruction is, that they have revolted from God; and unquestionably the cause of all our distresses is, to forsake the fountain of life and of salvation, and of all blessings. In this manner he sharply reproves the madness of the ungodly, who vaunt of having been forsaken by God, as if nothing were more desirable or pleasant than to withdraw to the greatest distance from him; and thus it will be an ironical reproof, that their calamity will arise from no other source than from the absence of God, in whom, without any good ground, they had rejoiced.

Others consider it to be an elliptical expression, that they will have no hiding-place but by throwing themselves down under the captives and the slain. It might also be a form of an oath, If they shall not; 159159     For this form of an oath, See page 173, n. 1.— Ed. and the meaning would be highly appropriate, that God swears in wrath that he will spare none of them, but will abandon some to captivity, and will deliver up others to be put to death. In a word, this declaration shows what are the consequences that await all those who, after having been warned by the word of God, do not repent. From what immediately follows, we learn that a dreadful and alarming destruction is threatened; for he repeats what he had already said frequently, that the wrath of the Lord is not yet apparent, that he will find out more frightful punishments for avenging himself. This teaches us that nothing is more truly desirable than to be moved by a sincere feeling of repentance, and to acknowledge our fault, that we may obtain pardon from the Lord.

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