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3. Judgment on Jerusalem and Judah

For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water, 2The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, 3The captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator. 4And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. 5And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable. 6When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: 7In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. 8For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.

9The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not. Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves. 10Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. 11Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.

12 As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. 13The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people. 14The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses. 15What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord GOD of hosts.

16Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: 17Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. 18In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, 19The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, 20The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, 21The rings, and nose jewels, 22The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, 23The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails. 24And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. 25Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. 26And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.

9. The proof of their countenance will answer in them, or, will answer against them 5959     See p. 122. As the Prophet had to do with impudent and brazen-faced hypocrites, who impudently boasted that they were good men; so he says that their countenance testifies what kind of persons they are, and that it will not be necessary to bring witnesses from a distance, in order to prove their wickedness; for to answer means “to bear testimony,” or “to confess.” Although, therefore, they disguise their face and countenance, so that they frequently deceive others, yet God compels them to show and prove what they are; so that, in spite of themselves they carry, as it were, in their forehead a mark of their deceit and hypocrisy.

Some explain it, that their crimes are so manifest that they cannot avoid seeing, as in a mirror, the baseness which they desire to conceal But the former meaning is confirmed by what immediately follows, that they declared their sin in the same manner as the inhabitants of Sodom. By these words he intimates that they devoted themselves to iniquity in such a manner, that they boasted of their transgressions without any shame; as if it had been honorable and praiseworthy in them to trample on every distinction between right and wrong, and not to indulge in every kind of wickedness. On this account he compares them to the inhabitants of Sodom, (Genesis 18:20; 19:5,) who were so much blinded by their lusts, that they rushed, with brutish stupidity, to everything base. So, then, this is the answer of the countenance, which he mentioned a little before, that they carry about with them plain tokens of impiety, which are abundantly sufficient to prove their guilt.

Woe unto their soul! Here he declares what was formerly mentioned, that the whole cause of their calamities is to be found in themselves; for by their sins and iniquities they provoked the Lord; and consequently that they have no means of evasion, that it is useless to contrive idle pretenses, because the evil itself dwells in their bones; as if he had said, “God cannot be accused, as if he punished you unjustly. Acknowledge that it has been done by yourselves; give glory to a righteous judge and lay the whole blame on yourselves.”

10. Say, it shall be well with the righteous Before quoting the opinions of others, I shall point out the true meaning As punishments so severe commonly present to pious minds an exceedingly sharp temptation, and especially since hardly any public calamities occur which do not involve good men along with the bad; so the Prophet — at least, in my opinion — reminds them of the providence of God, which never confounds anything, but even, when there is apparent confusion, never ceases to distinguish between good and bad men.

But there are various ways in which this passage is explained; for some render it, “Say to the righteous man, because he is good, therefore he shall eat the fruit of his hands.” From that interpretation this meaning is obtained: “I wish and command the godly to be of good cheer; for with whatever severity I may punish the crimes of the nation, still it shall be well with the godly.” But a more suitable meaning is this: Say; that is, hold it to be a settled point; for in Scripture to say often means to think, and to be convinced; as David writes, I said, I will take heed to thy ways, (Psalm 39:1,) and in a thousand instances of the same kind; so that he does not bid them tell the righteous man, but he bids every man be fully convinced, that happy will be the condition of the righteous man, though he may only appear to be unhappy.

Besides, I consider טוב, (tob,) to mean a happy and prosperous condition; as in the former verse he employed the word רעה, (ragnah) with which טוב is now contrasted; and thus I do not think that רעה, (ragnah,) means wickedness, but a miserable condition. Now since it literally runs, Say to the righteous man, כי טוב: (ki tob,) that it shall be well either the particle כי, (ki,) has an affirmative sense, as in many other passages, or it appears to be superfluous, though the probability is, that it is intended for confirmation. Surely it shall be well with the righteous man; that is, let every ground of doubt be removed, and let us be fully convinced, that the condition of the righteous man will be most excellent and prosperous. It is difficult to believe this, and therefore it is added, he shall eat the fruit of his doings; that is, he shall not be defrauded of the reward of his good conduct. Others consider to say as meaning to exhort, and render the two words, כי טוב (ki tob,) that he will do well; but I reject it as a forced interpretation.

11. Woe unto the wicked! It shall be ill with him. He brings forward this clause as a contrast to the former one; from which it may be easily inferred what was the design of the Prophet, namely, to comfort the godly, and to terrify the wicked by the judgment of God. For when an uncommonly severe calamity occurs, which attacks all without discrimination, we doubt whether it be by the providence of God, or, on the contrary, by blind chance, that the world is governed. On this account godly men fear and dread that the same destruction which overtakes the wicked will ruin them also. Others think that it is of no importance whether a man be good or bad, when they see both classes visited by pestilence, war, famine and other calamities. And hence arises the wicked thought, that there is no difference between the rewards of the good and of the bad; and in the midst of these gloomy thoughts carnal appetites lead many to despair.

Accordingly, the Prophet shows that the judgment of God is right, that men may continue to fear God, and may be aware that those who, in the expectation of escape of punishment, provoke God, will not pass unpunished. He likewise exhorts them to ascribe to God the praise of justice; as if he had said, “Think not that blind chance rules in the world, or that God punishes with blind violence, and without any regard to justice, but hold it as a principle fully settled in your minds, that it shall be well with the righteous man; for God will repay him what he hath promised, and will not disappoint him of his hope. On the other hand, believe that the condition of the wicked man will be most wretched, for he brings on himself the evil which must at length fall on his head.”

By these words the Prophet, at the same time, charges the people with stupidity in not perceiving the judgment of God; for they suffered the punishments of their crimes, and yet hardened themselves under them, as if they had been altogether devoid of feeling. Now there cannot befall us anything worse than that we should be hardened against chastisements, and not perceive that God chastiseth us. When we labor under such stupidity, our case is almost hopeless.

12. The oppressors of any people are children 6060     As for my people, children are their oppressors. — Eng. Ver Here also is reproved the madness and sottishness of the people, because they shut their eyes at noon-day. There is nothing which men are more reluctant to allow than to have a yoke laid on them; nor do they willingly submit to be governed by nobles. Feeble and cowardly, therefore, must be the minds of those who obey delicate and effeminate men, and permit themselves to be oppressed by them; nor can it be doubted that God has struck with a spirit of cowardice those who offer their shoulders, like asses, to bear burdens. The power of a tyrant must indeed be endured, even by men of courage; but the reproach which Isaiah brings against the Jews is, that while they obstinately shake off the yoke of God, they are ready to yield abject submission to men, and to perform any services, however shameful or degrading.

For the Jews could not complain that they were compelled by violence, when of their own accord they obeyed those whose authority they would gladly have declined. Hence it is evident that they were struck by the hand of God, and were shaken with terror, so that they had no strength either of body or of mind.

This is also the vengeance which God had formerly threatened by Moses; for the general doctrine of Moses, as we have already said, is continually alluded to by the prophets. 6161     Our author appears to have particularly in his eye, Leviticus 26:36, And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. — Ed. or how was it possible that men who had the power of resistance should of their own accord undergo a slavery from which they would willingly have escaped, had not God deprived them of understanding and forethought that he might in this manner take vengeance on their crimes? Whenever, therefore, anything of this kind shall befall us; let us not imagine that it came by chance. On the contrary, whenever it shall happen that we are governed by men who are of no estimation, and which are more insignificant than children, let us acknowledge the wrath of the Lord, if we do not choose that the Prophet shall charge us with the grossest stupidity.

They who govern thee 6262     They which lead thee. — (Eng. Ver.) The marginal reading is, they which call thee blessed. — Ed. He continues to teach the same doctrine, that when God lets loose the reins against the wicked, so as to disturb everything, he shows that he is highly offended at the Jews; for if they had enjoyed his favor, there was reason to hope that his government would be most holy and blessed. At the same time it is probable that the common herd of men were so foolishly devoted to their rulers, that they revered as oracles both their injunctions and their conduct; and hence arose all the corruption that everywhere prevailed. Since, therefore, the contagion was spreading farther without being perceived by the people, Isaiah cries aloud that they ought to guard against the governors themselves, who corrupt and destroy the people.

Others explain it, they who bless thee; but as the participle which he employs may be taken from ישר, (yashar,) which signifies to rule, I shall rather adopt that interpretation, for it is more agreeable to the context. 6363     The reading of the Septuagint is, οἱ μακαρίζοντες ὑμᾶς, they who bless you. Undoubtedly מאשרים comes from אשר, and not from ישר, which in the corresponding participle gives מישרים. From the Kal of אשר, to go, the Pihel, taking a Hiphil meaning, denotes to cause to go, or to lead. Not improbably our Author meant that the one verb borrows one of its meanings from the other; but this would need proof. — Ed I do acknowledge that the false prophets flattered the people, but I see no reason why their flatteries should be mentioned here. But it applies very well to the rulers and heads, that they were the cause of the destruction; for as princes are raised to their office for the sake of the public safety, so no plague is more destructive than when they are bad men, and rule according to their own caprice. He says, therefore, that they who rule are the causes of the evils, and that they corrupt everything, since it was their duty to correct other men, and to point out the way by their own example.

13. Jehovah standeth up to plead So long as wickedness rages without control, and the Lord sends no relief from on high, we think that he is idle and has forgotten his duty. More especially, when the nobles themselves are spared, he appears to grant them liberty to commit sin, as if they were most sacred persons that must not be touched. Accordingly, after having complained of the princes, he adds that the Lord will do what his authority demands, and will not permit such flagrant crimes to pass unpunished. For there is hardly any conduct more offensive, or more fitted to disturb our minds, than when the worst examples of every sort are publicly exhibited by magistrates, while no man utters a syllable against them, but almost all give their approbation. We then ask, Where is God, whose glory, a great part of which, consisting in authority, is taken away, ought to have been illustriously displayed by men of that rank? Isaiah meets this difficulty by saying, “Though the nation is wicked, yet because the princes themselves are very greatly corrupted, and even pollute the whole nation by their vices, God sits as judge in heaven, and will at length call them to account, and assign to every one his reward.” Although he does not exempt the multitude from guilt, yet that the sources of the evils may be known, he particularly attacks the rulers, and threatens them with the punishment which they deserved.

14. The Lord will enter into judgement with the ancients of his people. Formerly he had erected for God a throne from which he might plead. Now he says that he will enter into judgment. How? with the ancients. There might have been a slight allusion to lawful assemblies, in which older men sit as God’s deputies; but I assent to the opinion more commonly entertained, that God contends against the ancients of his people. This passage, therefore, corresponds to the saying of David,

God will stand in the assembly of the gods (Psalm 82:1; 6464     Like some other quotations of our Author, this is made from memory, and is not quite accurate. — Ed. )

that is, though it may now be thought that princes do everything with impunity, and though there be no one to restrain their caprice and their lawless passions, yet one day they will feel that God is above them, and will render an account to him of all their actions

These reproofs, undoubtedly, the judges of that time were very unwilling to hear. They have no wish, and do not think that it is right, that any one should treat them with such sharpness and severity; for they wish that everything should be at their disposal, that their will should be held as a law, and that they should be allowed to do whatever they choose; that all men ought to flatter and applaud them, and to approve of their very worst actions. They think that no man is a judge of their actions, and do not yield subjection to God himself. Since, therefore, they are so unbridled that they neither endure any advices nor any threatening the Prophet summons them to the judgment seat of God.

And with their princes They are honorably described, by way of acknowledgment, as the chosen princes of the people. This also deserves attention; for they thought that, on account of their rank, they enjoyed a kind of privilege which set them free from the restraints of law, and that though heathen kings and princes might give an account of their actions, they, on the contrary, were sacred persons. They thought, therefore, that they were beyond the reach of all reproof, and ought not to be addressed, like heathen men, by threats and terrors. On this account Isaiah expressly declares, that the Lord will not only call to account every kind of princes, but especially the proud hypocrites to whose care he had committed his people.

And you have destroyed the vineyard 6565     Ye have consumed my vineyard. — Lowth Ye have eaten bare my vineyard. — Stock ̔Υμεῖς δὲ τί ἐνεπυρίσατε τὸν ἀμπελῶνά μου; And why did you burn up my vineyard? — Sept. “בער (bagnar,) in its usual acceptation of burning, does not agree with the sense of a passage, which represents people making a profit of what they consume. Understand it, therefore, of clearing away the productions of the soil, as cattle do when they eat down the grass.” — Rosenmuller The metaphor of a vine is very common, where a nation, and especially the nation of Israel, is the subject. (Psalm 80:8; Jeremiah 2:21.) And by this word the Prophet now shows their crime to be double, because they paid no more regard to the people whom God had loved with extraordinary affection that if they had ruled over a heathen nation. The pronoun you is likewise emphatic; for he addresses the vine-dressers themselves, who, instead of devoting themselves, as they ought to have done, to the cultivation of the vine, devoured it like wild beasts. Accordingly, he represents this to be a great aggravation of their cruelty; for how treacherous was it to destroy what they ought to have preserved and protected? By this comparison the Lord shows how great care he takes of his own people, and how warmly he loves them; not only because the Church is called his vine and inheritance, but by declaring that he will not endure the treachery and wickedness of those who have ruled over it tyrannically.

The spoil of the poor is in your houses. He adds one circumstance, by which the other parts of their life might be known, that they had in their houses the prey and spoil of the poor. Now the palace of princes ought to resemble a sanctuary: for they occupy the dwelling place of God, which ought to be sacred to all. It is, therefore, the grossest sacrilege to turn a sanctuary into a den of thieves. He represents still more strongly their criminality by adding of the poor; for it is the most wicked of all acts of cruelty to plunder a poor and needy man, who cannot defend himself, and who ought rather to have been protected.

15. What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces? He mentions also other particulars, from which it is evident that they ruled in a haughty, cruel and oppressive manner. It was not necessary that the Prophet should describe minutely everything deserving reproof in the princes; for from these few circumstances it is evident with what injustice and cruelty and tyranny they ruled. But to whom shall the poor betake themselves but to the magistrate, who ought to be the father of his country and the protector of the wretched? On this account he employs a vehement interrogation, What? as if he had said, “What effrontery is this! What cruelty and barbarity, to abuse the mean condition of the poor, so as to have no compassion on them!” By two comparisons he describes their cruel oppression mingled with pride.

Saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts. That the reproof may have all the weight that it ought to have, he brings forward God as speaking; for there is an implied contrast that these things should not be viewed as coming from the mouth of men, but that the accusation proceeds from God himself, and that he pursues those who are guilty of such injustice, and will at length take vengeance on them. Because those who have been exalted to any kind of honor conduct themselves so haughtily as to disdain every direction and advice, he therefore meets their pride by bringing forward the majesty of God, that they may not venture to despise his earnest and severe threatenings. Yet let us remember that this passage ought not to be understood as if the Prophet were speaking only about the mercy of God; for after having threatened vengeance indiscriminately on all, he particularly mentions those who are their heads, in order to show that no man can escape the arm of God: and here he employs what is called the argument from the greater to the less.” How would the Lord spare the lowest of the people, when he punishes even the princes themselves, because they have destroyed the vineyard?”

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