a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above


For now the Sovereign, the L ord of hosts,

is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah

support and staff—

all support of bread,

and all support of water—


warrior and soldier,

judge and prophet,

diviner and elder,


captain of fifty

and dignitary,

counselor and skillful magician

and expert enchanter.


And I will make boys their princes,

and babes shall rule over them.


The people will be oppressed,

everyone by another

and everyone by a neighbor;

the youth will be insolent to the elder,

and the base to the honorable.



Someone will even seize a relative,

a member of the clan, saying,

“You have a cloak;

you shall be our leader,

and this heap of ruins

shall be under your rule.”


But the other will cry out on that day, saying,

“I will not be a healer;

in my house there is neither bread nor cloak;

you shall not make me

leader of the people.”


For Jerusalem has stumbled

and Judah has fallen,

because their speech and their deeds are against the L ord,

defying his glorious presence.



The look on their faces bears witness against them;

they proclaim their sin like Sodom,

they do not hide it.

Woe to them!

For they have brought evil on themselves.


Tell the innocent how fortunate they are,

for they shall eat the fruit of their labors.


Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are,

for what their hands have done shall be done to them.


My people—children are their oppressors,

and women rule over them.

O my people, your leaders mislead you,

and confuse the course of your paths.



The L ord rises to argue his case;

he stands to judge the peoples.


The L ord enters into judgment

with the elders and princes of his people:

It is you who have devoured the vineyard;

the spoil of the poor is in your houses.


What do you mean by crushing my people,

by grinding the face of the poor? says the Lord G od of hosts.



The L ord said:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty

and walk with outstretched necks,

glancing wantonly with their eyes,

mincing along as they go,

tinkling with their feet;


the Lord will afflict with scabs

the heads of the daughters of Zion,

and the L ord will lay bare their secret parts.


18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; 19the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarfs; 20the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; 21the signet rings and nose rings; 22the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; 23the garments of gauze, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.


Instead of perfume there will be a stench;

and instead of a sash, a rope;

and instead of well-set hair, baldness;

and instead of a rich robe, a binding of sackcloth;

instead of beauty, shame.


Your men shall fall by the sword

and your warriors in battle.


And her gates shall lament and mourn;

ravaged, she shall sit upon the ground.

1. For, behold. We stated, a little before, that this is the same subject which the Prophet began to treat towards the close of the former chapter; for he warns the Jews that their wealth, however great it may be, will be of no avail to prevent the wrath of God, which, when it has once been kindled, will burn up all their defenses. Hence it follows that they are chargeable with excessive madness, when, in order to drive away their alarm, they heap up their forces, strength, and warlike accoutrements, consultations, armor, abundant supply of provisions, and other resources.

The demonstrative particle הנה, (hinneth,) “behold,” is employed not only to denote certainty, but to express the shortness of time, as if Isaiah caused wicked men to be eye-witnesses of the event; for it frequently happens that they who do not venture openly to ridicule the judgments of God pass them by, as if they did not at all relate to them, or were still at a great distance. “What is that to us?” say they; “Or, if they shall ever happen, why should we be miserable before the time? Will it not be time enough to think of those calamities when they actually befall us?” Since, therefore, wicked men, in order to set at naught the judgments of God, dig for themselves lurking-places of this description, on this account the Prophet presses them more closely and earnestly, that they may not imagine that the hand of God is distant, or vainly expect that it will be relaxed.

The Lord Jehovah of hosts will take away from Jerusalem. This is also the reason why he calls God the Lord and Jehovah of Hosts, that the majesty of God may terrify their drowsy and sluggish minds; for God has no need of titles, but our ignorance and stupidity must be aroused by perceiving his glory. First, the Prophet threatens that the Jews will have the whole produce of the harvest taken from them, so that they will perish through famine. Immediately afterwards he speaks in the same manner about military guards, and all that relates to the good order of the state. Hence we may infer that the Jews boasted of the prosperity which they at that time enjoyed, so as to entertain a foolish belief that they were protected against every danger. But Isaiah threatens that not only the whole country, but Jerusalem herself, which was the invincible fortress of the nation, will be exposed to God’s chastisements; as if he had said, “The wrath of God will not only fall on every part of the body, but will pierce the very heart.”

The power and the strength. 4949     “Heb, ‘the support masculine and the support feminine,’ that is, every kind of support, whether great or small, strong or weak. Al kenitz, wal kanitzan; the wild beast, male and female: proverbially applied both to fishing and hunting; that is, I seized the prey, great or little, good or bad. From hence, as Schultens observes, is explained Isaiah 3:1, literally, the male and female stay; that is, the strong and weak, the great and small.” Chappelow, quoted by Lowth. As to the words ומשענה משען, (mashgnen umashgnenah) which differ only in this respect, that one is in the masculine, and the other in the feminine genders, I have no doubt that the Prophet intended by this change to express more fully the certainty that supports of every kind would be broken; and therefore I have translated them the power and the strength 5050     Calvin has imitated the Hebrew phrase by the rendering vigorem et vim; employing two words, of which one is in the masculine and the other in the feminine gender, and both begin with the same letter, while each of them denotes strength. Our English version has imitated the alliteration by stay and the staffEd. I do not agree with those interpreters who view it as referring to the persons of men, for it more appropriately denotes all supports, whatever may be their nature.

Still it is doubtful whether the Prophet limits it to food, or extends it to all other kinds of support, which he mentions immediately afterwards. But it is natural to suppose that by משען ומשענה, (mashgnen umashgnenah) is included generally everything that is necessary to sustain the order of the city or of the people; and next that, for the sake of explanation, he enumerates some particulars. The first clause therefore means, “God will take away every help and assistance by which you think that you are upheld, so that nothing whatever may be left to support you.”

Next, he adds, what will be their want and nakedness; and he begins, as we have said, with food and nourishment, which hold the first rank in sustaining the life of men. Now there are two ways in which God takes away the strength of bread and water; either when he deprives us of victuals, or when he takes from them the power of nourishing us; for unless God impart to our food a hidden power, the greatest abundance of it that we may possess will do us no good. (Leviticus 26:26.) Hence in another passage God is said to break the staff of bread (Ezekiel 4:16,) when the bakers deliver the bread by weight, and yet it does not yield satisfaction. And this comparison ought to be carefully observed, in order to inform us that, even though the belly be will filled, we shall always be hungry, there being nothing but the secret blessing of God that can feed or support us.

Though the hunger which the Prophet threatens in this passage may be understood to mean that the fields will be unproductive, or, that God will take away from the Jews every kind of food, yet, since the Prophets are generally accustomed to borrow their forms of expression from the law, this interpretation will apply very well. For he might simply have said, “I will take away the bread and wine;” but he expresses something more secret when he speaks of the support of bread and water; as if he had said that, though the people be not reduced to famine, yet God will make them, even while they are rioting in gluttony, to pine with hunger; for when the blessing of God is withdrawn, all its usefulness will vanish away. We may sum it up in this manner, that the people will have no food to strengthen them; either because they will not have bread and water, or, if they have, will derive no advantage from them.

2. The strong man, and the man of war He mentions other ends which contribute to the safety and good order either of nations or of cities. Of these he threatens that the Jews will be wholly deprived, so that they will neither have wisdom or bravery at battle, nor military forces abroad. He is not careful to attend to order, but is satisfied with giving a short abridgement, and mixes one subject with another. He begins with men of war, into whose hands was committed the defense of the country. God sometimes takes them away by death, and sometimes by making them soft and effeminate. The latter is more frequent, so that posterity degenerates from the bravery of ancestors, and those who were formerly courageous become, in process of time, cowardly and unfit for war. But we see also that the former sometimes happens, in consequence of which the boldest men suddenly lose heart.

The judge and the prophet. We know that, in the Hebrew language, the word judge stands for every kind of governors; and it is certain that by prophets are meant every kind of teachers. Accordingly, he threatens that the civil government will be set aside, and that instruction will be at an end, and that thus the Jews will be destroyed; and, indeed magistrates and teachers hold the same place in the commonwealth that the two eyes do in the human body.

Aged diviners and old men 5151     And the prudent and the ancient. — Eng. Ver I consider the same rank as before to be denoted by old men, who are more fit for governing, because age brings along with it prudence, wisdom, and gravity. As to the word diviner, though it is used in a bad sense in Scripture, yet here it appears to be used in a good sense, when Isaiah enumerates those things which contribute to preserve the good order of a city and of a kingdoms. The term might, therefore, be applied to a soothsayer, who divines or penetrates into dark matters, not by omens or superstitious arts, but by extraordinary acuteness and skill. But as God forbade them to consult magicians, soothsayers, and diviners, (Deuteronomy 18:20,) and as Balaam himself declares that there is no divination against Israel, (Numbers 23:23,) I do not quarrel with those who would prefer to use the word diviner as denoting magical divinations; nor will there be any absurdity in enumerating among the punishments of the nation, that it would be deprived also of those aids which were sinful and criminal; for along with the altar and sacrifices Hosea mentions teraphim. 5252     “The Prophet,” says Calvin, “seems to speak here of idols, for he afterwards adds teraphim; and teraphim were no doubt images, (Genesis 31:19, 30) which the superstitious used while worshipping their fictitious gods, as we read in many places. The King of Babylon is said to have consulted the teraphim; and it is said that Rachel stole the teraphim, and shortly after Laban calls the teraphim his gods.” Com. on the Twelve Minor Prophets, vol 1, p. 130. (Hosea 3:4.)

The captain of fifty. He employs this term agreeably to the custom which then prevailed; for as the Romans had centurions, or captains of hundreds, so the Jews had captains, or rulers of fifties, which the Greeks call πεντηκοντάρχους, but as that custom did not exist among the Latins, so the name was unknown among them. By persons of venerable aspect 5353     The honourable man. — Eng. Ver he means those whose reputation for bravery gave then influence among the people.

The senator. 5454     The counsellor. — Eng. Ver. The word יועף (yognetz,) for which I have put senator, may be applied to men in private life who are eminent for prudence; but as it is strictly applicable to counsellors, who discharge a public office, I resolved not to depart from the common opinion.

The sinful artificer. Because the mechanical arts are not less advantageous for upholding the prosperity of a nation, and for the support of animal life, Isaiah likewise mentions that, through the want of them, the destruction of the Jews is at hand.

And the eloquent. 5555     In a marginal reading of the text our author renders this phrase by skilled in mysterious discourse. “The powerful in persuasion.” — Lowth. “The expert dealer in charms.” — Bishop Stock. “לחש is to whisper or mutter certain words, by which jugglers pretended to charm noxious creatures, and to deprive them of their power of hurting.” — Parkhurst. he word which is placed last in the enumeration has been variously explained by commentators. Literally it means, “skilled in muttering, or in a subdued tone of speech. “Now since the heathen oracles give out their replies by whisperings or in mutterings, some think that the word denotes enchantments. A better exposition is given by those who interpret לחש (lahash) to mean secret designs; but as a style which is both mysterious and weighty may be not inappropriately denoted by this word, I had no hesitation in rendering it by the word eloquent. Yet if it be thought preferable to view it as denoting wise and cautious men, who, though not qualified for public speaking, give private advices of what may profitably be done, I have no objection.

We must attend to this comprehensive description of a well-regulated state. For Isaiah has placed first corn and other things necessary for bodily support; secondly, military forces; thirdly, skill in governing a nation and the various parts of civil government; fourthly, the prophetical office; and fifthly, the mechanical arts. With these ornaments does God adorn the nations which he intends to render safe and sound; and, on the other hand, he takes them from those nations which he intends utterly to destroy. Let us, therefore, know that everything which we find to be profitable for the support of life flows from the undeserved goodness of God. Hence also there follows another instruction, namely, that we ought to beware lest, by our ingratitude, we deprive ourselves of those excellent gifts of God.

VIEWNAME is study