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1. A Rebellious Nation

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. 2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.

5Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. 7Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.

10Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

16Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.

21How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 23Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them. 24Therefore saith the Lord, the Lord of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:

25And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellors as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city. 27Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

28And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the Lord shall be consumed. 29For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 30For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 31And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.

23. Thy princes are rebellious There is here an elegant allusion or play on words. 2828     Our author illustrates it by the alliteration of primi pravi. “The word סוררים (sorerim) is here equivalent,” says Jarchi, “to סרים, (sarim,) that is, persons departing from the right path.” “In this word סוררים, (sorerim,)” says his annotator Breithaupt, which our Commentator here explains by סרים, (sarim,) departers, “there is an allusion to the word שרים, (princes,) which we here find in the sacred text.” — Ed He does not speak of princes in such a manner as if the common people were holy and needed no reproof, but he points out the source of the evil; for as no disease is more injurious than that which spreads from the head into the whole body, so no evil is more destructive in a commonwealth than a wicked and depraved prince, who conveys his corruptions into the whole body both by his example and by the liberty which he allows. Hence, too, comes the proverb, ὁποῖα ἡ δέσποινα, τοῖαι καὶ αἱ θεραπαινίδες, like mistress, like maids. The meaning, therefore, is as if the Prophet had said that there was no one vice more than another that reigned among the people, but that an unbounded commission of crimes prevailed among the nobles themselves, and that in this manner the whole body was stained with pollution. Something which gives additional force to the statement is implied in the word princes; for it is deeply to be lamented when an evil arises from that very quarter in which the remedy for it ought to be expected. He next mentions a particular instance.

Companions of thieves By these words he means that they are so far from restraining theft and false dealing, that, on the contrary, they draw gain from them; and he justly calls those persons companions of thieves, who, by receiving part of the booty, grant permission to commit theft. And, indeed, when a judge is corrupted by a bribe, it is impossible but that crimes shall abound and pass unpunished, with the perpetrators of which we must consider him to be in collusion.

Every one loveth a gift He next points out the reason why princes have made themselves companions of thieves, and have bound themselves by a wicked conspiracy to lend countenance to crimes. It is avarice. When judges are devoted to the love of money, justice is utterly destroyed; for if the acceptance of persons be a corruption of judgment, so that no room is left for justice, every man who is under the dominion of covetousness will assuredly regard the person rather than the cause. The consequence is, that he will not be able to perceive what is just and right, but, as one expresses it, will make laws and unmake them.

This reminds us how great a virtue it is in a magistrate to disregard money; for unless he keep his mind, his hands, and his eyes under restraint, he will never be able to judge justly. It is absurd to say, as some men do, that they keep their heart pure and uncorrupted, even though they receive bribes. What the Lord saith must be true, that a gift blindeth the eyes of the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8.) No man is so upright, no man is so clearsighted and sagacious, that his mind shall resist the enchantment, and his eyes the blinding influence, of gifts. Such judges, therefore, he justly declares to be companions of thieves; for, hurried along by a blind desire of money, they overturn all law both of God and man, and leave no room for justice or modesty.

We must likewise observe that the Prophet, in order to convince hypocrites, brings forward their actions which were open and universally known; for otherwise they would not submit. And yet there can be no doubt that there were at that time many who objected, when he thus called them thieves, as even in the present day most men impudently and obstinately exclaim that they are not thieves on account of receiving the rewards and gifts which are offered to them, because their do not prevent them from passing a just judgment. But these replies being frivolous, the Prophet, after having exposed their wicked actions, satisfies himself with the reproof which he has given, and argues with them no longer. And, indeed, nature declares that it is impossible to give just judgment, when judges are so eager for gain and regard; because they cannot but absolutely expose to sale their honesty and reputation.

They judge not the fatherless As the Lord specially recommends to us the fatherless and widows, because they have been deprived of the protection of men, so we need not wonder if he is displeased when they are abandoned by the judges, who ought to have been their guardians and defenders; for since they have neither foresight, nor industry nor strength if no one comes forward to render assistance they must be exposed without redress to every kind of violence and injustice. Now, when no regard is paid to them, it follows that the sway is held, not by justice, but by covetousness and plunder.

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