a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

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 verse is in broken sentences; and hence interpreters vary. But the meaning of the Prophet appears to me to be simply this, In that day they shall take up a proverb against you; that is, it will not be an ordinary calamity, but the report concerning it will go forth every where so that the Jews will become to all a common proverb. This is one thing. As to the word משל, meshil, it is taken, we know, for a weighty saying, and in the plural, weighty sayings, called by the Latins, sentences (sententias) or sayings, (dicta,) and by the Greeks, apophthegmata. αποφθεγματα, But these sayings were thus called weighty by the Hebrews, because he who elevated his style, made use especially of figurative expressions, to render his discourse nobler and more splendid. 8282     Very similar is the description of משל by Lowth in his Praelections; he describes it as that style which is sententius, figurative, and sublime — Sententiosum, figuratum, et sublime docendi genus He says also that the word means often a saying, anaxiom, a short sentence compactly formed — est quoevis sententia sive axioma scite graviterque dictum, paucis concinnatum, et ad γνωμων firmam compositum, 1 Samuel 24:14, Prael. 4. And this is evidently its meaning here, — a common saying, everywhere known. — Ed. Hence many render this word, enigmas. It accords well with the Prophet’s meaning, to suppose, that proverbial sayings would spread every where respecting the Jews, especially as calamities were usually described in a plaintive song. They shall then mourn over you with lamentable mourning. But this ought to be referred to the fact, — that the calamity would be every where known. It yet seems that this sentence is applied afterwards to the Jews themselves, and not unsuitably. But it is an indefinite mode of speaking, since the Prophet speaks not of one or two men, but of the whole people.

They shall then mourn in this manner, Wasted, we have been wasted: the portion of my people has he changed — (it is the future instead of the past) — He has then changed the portion of my people This may be applied to God as well as to the Assyrians; for God was the principal author of this calamity; he it was who changed the portion of the people: for as by his blessing he had long cherished that people, so afterwards he changed their lot. But as the Assyrians were the ministers of God’s vengeance, the expression cannot be unsuitably applied to them. The Assyrian then has taken away the portion of my people And then he says, How has he made to depart, or has taken away, or removed from me, (literally, to me,) to restore, — though שבב, shibeb, may be from the root שוב, shub, it yet means the same, — How then has he taken away from us to restore our fields he divides, that is, which he has divided; for the relative אשר, asher, is understood and there is also a change of time. Now as the discourse, as I have said, is in broken sentences, there are various interpretations. I however think that the Prophet simply means this — How as to restoring has he taken away our fields, which he hath divided? that is, How far off are we from restitution? for every hope is far removed, since the Lord himself has divided among strangers our land and possession; or since the enemies have divided it among themselves; for it is usual after victory, for every one to seize on his own portion. Whether then this be understood of the Assyrians, or rather be referred to God, the meaning of the Prophet seems clearly to be this, — that the Jews were not only expelled from their country but that every hope of return was also taken away, since the enemies had parted among themselves their inheritance, so that they who had been driven out, now in vain thought of a restitution. 8383     Most commentators agree as to the general meaning of this verse, which is clearly stated here: but their versions differ. Newcome, following the Septuagint, renders the verbs in the first and second lines in a passive sense, but Henderson gives them an active meaning, supplying “one” as the nominative case, i.e., the person, who utters the lamentation afterwards mentioned. The two last lines are the most difficult. Marckius has this version, —
   Quomodo subtraxit mihi!
Avertenti agros nostros distribuit

   That of Junius and Tremelius is essentially the same, only the verbs are put in the present tense. Newcome’s rendering is this, —

   How hath he withdrawn it form me!
To an apostate he hath divided our fields!

   To call the king of Babylon an apostate, seems incongruous, as it cannot be applied to any one but who has turned away from true religion. The most obvious and literal rendering is that given by Marckius, with the exception of the tense. I offer the following version of the whole verse, with no alteration in the text, except the supplying of a ו before אמר which is found in several MSS., —

   In that day shall be taken up concerning you a proverb,
And lament a lamentation will the oppressed,
And say will the desolate,
“We are destroyed,
The portion of my people he changes;
How he takes away from me!
To the alienator of my fields he divides

   It is a proverb, a common saying, and a lament, that would be uttered, as the Prophet foretells, at the time of the expulsion of the people from the land, when it would be taken possession of by their enemies. — Ed.
But I read this in the present time; for the Prophet introduces here the Jews as uttering this lamentation, — “It is now all over with us, and there is no remedy for this evil; for not only are we stripped of all our property and ejected from our country, but what has been taken away by our enemies cannot be restored to us, inasmuch as they have already parted our possessions among themselves, and every one occupies his own portion and his own place, as though it were his own inheritance. We have therefore to do, not only with the Assyrians in general, but also with every individual; for what every one now occupies and possesses he will defend, as his rightful and hereditary possession.”

Some conjecture from this verse, that the discourse belongs rather to the Israelites, who were banished without any hope of return; but no necessity constrains us to explain this of the Israelites; for the Prophet does not declare here what God would do, but what would be the calamity when considered in itself. We have indeed said already in many places, that the Prophets, while threatening, speak only of calamities, desolations, deaths, and destructions, but that they afterwards add promises for consolation. But their teaching is discriminative: when the Prophets intend to terrify hypocrites and perverse men, they set forth the wrath of God only, and leave no hope; but when they would inspire with hope those who are by this means humbled, they draw forth comfort to them even from the goodness of God. What is here said then may fitly and really be applied to the Jews. It follows —

VIEWNAME is study