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Social Evils Denounced


Alas for those who devise wickedness

and evil deeds on their beds!

When the morning dawns, they perform it,

because it is in their power.


They covet fields, and seize them;

houses, and take them away;

they oppress householder and house,

people and their inheritance.


Therefore thus says the L ord:

Now, I am devising against this family an evil

from which you cannot remove your necks;

and you shall not walk haughtily,

for it will be an evil time.


On that day they shall take up a taunt song against you,

and wail with bitter lamentation,

and say, “We are utterly ruined;

the L ord alters the inheritance of my people;

how he removes it from me!

Among our captors he parcels out our fields.”


Therefore you will have no one to cast the line by lot

in the assembly of the L ord.



“Do not preach”—thus they preach—

“one should not preach of such things;

disgrace will not overtake us.”


Should this be said, O house of Jacob?

Is the L ord’s patience exhausted?

Are these his doings?

Do not my words do good

to one who walks uprightly?


But you rise up against my people as an enemy;

you strip the robe from the peaceful,

from those who pass by trustingly

with no thought of war.


The women of my people you drive out

from their pleasant houses;

from their young children you take away

my glory forever.


Arise and go;

for this is no place to rest,

because of uncleanness that destroys

with a grievous destruction.


If someone were to go about uttering empty falsehoods,

saying, “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink,”

such a one would be the preacher for this people!


A Promise for the Remnant of Israel


I will surely gather all of you, O Jacob,

I will gather the survivors of Israel;

I will set them together

like sheep in a fold,

like a flock in its pasture;

it will resound with people.


The one who breaks out will go up before them;

they will break through and pass the gate,

going out by it.

Their king will pass on before them,

the L ord at their head.


The Prophet does not here speak only against the Israelites, as some think, who have incorrectly confined this part of his teaching to the ten tribes; but he, on the contrary, (in discharging his office, addresses also the Jews. He refers not here to idolatry, as in the last chapter; but inveighs against sins condemned in the second table. As then the Jews had not only polluted the worship of God, but also gave loose reins to many iniquities, so that they dealt wrongfully with their neighbors, and there was among them no attention to justice and equity, so the prophet inveighs here as we shall see, against avarice, robberies, and cruelty: and his discourse is full of vehemence; for there was no doubt such licentiousness then prevailing among the people, that there was need of severe and sharp reproofs. It is at the same time easy to perceive that his discourse is mainly directed against the chief men, who exercised authority, and turned it to wrong purposes.

Woe, he says, to those who meditate on iniquity, and devise 7878     Literally, work; but פעל means to work not only with the hands, but also with the mind; and hence, to contrive, to devise, to machinate. Henderson has “fabricate,” while Newcome, less suitably, retains the word, “work.” Marckius justly observes, that the working here is not external but internal, the framing, the setting in order, the preparation of evil in the mind. The Prophet points out here that source from which outward evils proceed. What numberless schemes, both good and evil, are concocted and arranged by men on their beds! “They set their wits on work to invent ways of accomplishing their desire. They devise iniquity with a great deal of cursed art and policy; they plot how to do it effectually, and yet so as not to expose themselves. This is called working evil; they are working it in their heads.” — Henry. evil on their beds, that, when the morning shines, they may execute it Here the Prophet describes to the life the character and manners of those who were given to gain, and were intent only on raising themselves. He says, that in their beds they were meditating on iniquity, and devising wickedness. Doubtless the time of night has been given to men entirely for rest; but they ought also to use this kindness of God for the purpose of restraining themselves from what is wicked: for he who refreshes his strength by nightly rest, ought to think within himself, that it is an unbecoming thing and even monstrous, that he should in the meantime devise frauds, and guiles, and iniquities. For why does the Lord intend that we should rest, except that all evil things should rest also? Hence the Prophet shows here, by implication, that those who are intent on devising frauds, while they ought to rest, subvert as it were the course of nature; for they have no regard for that rest, which has been granted to men for this end, — that they may not trouble and annoy one another.

He afterwards shows how great was their desire to do mischief, When it shines in the morning, he says, they execute it He might have said only, They do in the daytime what they contrive in the night: but he says, In the morning; as though he had said, that they were so heated by avarice, that they rested not a moment; as soon as it shone, they were immediately ready to perpetrate the frauds they had thought of in the night. We now then apprehend the import of the Prophet’s meaning.

He now subjoins, For according to their power is their hand As אל, al, means God, an old interpreter has given this rendering, Against God is their hand: but this does not suit the passage. Others have explained it thus, For strength is in their hand: and almost all those well-skilled in Hebrew agree in this explanation. Those who had power, they think, are here pointed out by the Prophet, — that as they had strength, they dared to do whatever they pleased. But the Hebrew phrase is not translated by them; and I greatly wonder that they have mistaken in a thing so clear: for it is not, There is power in their hand; but their hand is to power. The same mode of speaking is found in Proverbs 3, and there also many interpreters are wrong; for Solomon there forbids us to withhold from our neighbor his right, When thine hand, he says, is for power; some say, When there is power to help the miserable. But Solomon means no such thing; for he on the contrary means this, When thine hand is ready to execute any evil, abstain. So also the Lord says in Deuteronomy 28,

“When the enemy shall take away thy spoils,
thy hand will not be for power;”

that is, “Thou wilt not dare to move a finger to restrain thy enemies; when they will plunder thee and rob thee of thy substance, thou wilt stand in dread, for thy hand will be as though it were dead.” I come now to the present passage, Their hand is for power: 7979     The original is, כי יש-לאל ידם Marckius after having referred to Calvin’s version, says, that he prefers that of Junius and Tremelius which is as follows: “Quum est in potestate manus ipsoram — When it is in the power of their hand,” כי is taken as an adverb of time. The phrase is found in four other places, — Genesis 31:29; Deuteronomy 28:32; Nehemiah 5:5; and Proverbs 3:27. So that to render אל here “God,” as it is done by the Septuagint, Theodoret, and Jerome, and some others, must be wrong. כי is rendered “because” both by Newcome and Henderson, but not so suitably as to the sense. — Ed. the Prophet means, that they dared to try what they could, and that therefore their hand was always ready; whenever there was hope of lucre or gains the hand was immediately prepared. How so? Because they were restrained neither by the fear of God nor by any regard for justice; but their hand was for power, that is, what they could, they dared to do. We now then see what the Prophet means as far as I can judge. He afterwards adds —

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