It has been a while since I posted any notes on Isaiah and so I’ll begin by repeating the last summary I gave (on chapters 1 and 2) and add some details on 3:1-7 in order to help set the background for todays text.
In chapter 1 we saw God issue an indictment against his people for covenant infidelity. This infidelity was a rebellion against God (1:2-3). This rebellion manifested itself in two ways. 1) It manifested itself in hypocritical worship (1:10-15) and idolatry (1:29-31); and 2), it also manifested itself in sins against other men (1:15-16, 21-23). In other words, the people were disregarding the two greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:37-40)
In chapter 2, the prophet took a brief look into the future and saw a time when God would once again be worshipped and served rightly (2:2-5). This was then followed by an announcement of judgement against the people for their idolatry, which is an affront to the “greatest and first commandment” (2:6-22). Now, in the section we are about to begin examining (3:1-4:1) we will see an announcement of God’s judgement against the people for violating the second command, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Chapter 3:1-7 deals with the threat that God will take away the (real and imagined) things that make for a stable society. These things included food, water, military strength, and good rulers.
Notice: Due to a problem with a computer driver I cannot link to certain web sites without problems. This means I can no longer provide links in the text to the RSVCE. Instead, I am now linking to the Douay-Rheims Bible. If I can find a good, up-to-date translation online which is convienient to use I will do so.
Also, unless otherwise noted, the translation of Isaiah is mine. The user is encouraged to read whatever version he is comfortable with rather than my translation.
Vs 8 For Jerusalem has stumbled, and judah has fallen, because their tongue and their deeds are against the Lord, provoking the eyes of his glory.
Vs 9 The very look on their faces gives witness against them as Sodom-like they vaunt their sin, hiding it not. Woe to them! They have done evil to themselves.
Vs 10The righteous shall be happy, it will be good for them, they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Vs 11 Woe upon the wicked man! All goes evil with him, for with the deeds of his hands he will be repaid.
Vs 12 My people–a suckling baby shall be their despot and women shall rule over them. O my people, your guides guide you astray, they eat up the way you should go. (literally, “the way of your paths).
Vs 13 The Lord rises up to accuse, He stands to judge his people.
Vs 14 The Lord enters into judgement with the elders of his people, and with the princes: “You, you have eaten up the vineyard; booty plundered from the poor is in your houses.
Vs 15 What is this you do? You press down my people, the faces of the poor you grind as they look to you,” says the Lord, the God of hosts.
Vs 8: For Jerusalem/Judah has stumbled/fallen.
The word “for” that opens the section we are looking at serves as a conjunctive to the previous section (3:1-7). Recall that that section began with the prophet saying that God would take away “the stay and the staff from Judah and Jerusalem.” The removal of the stay and the staff of political and social stability are what is causing the city and nation to stumble and fall.
Vs 8 cont: Because their tongue/deeds ar against the Lord, Provoking the eyes of his glory.
“Because” gives the reason for the events being described. It is the peoples sins in both word and deed that have brought this upon them. In the bible the word tongue is often used in reference to malicious speech or blasphemy. Perhaps the prophet has in mind the hypocritical prayers of the people (1:15), or perhaps thier refusal to”take up the widows plea” (1:17, 23). The deeds may refer to the Idolatry mentioned in 1:29-31, or to what is said in 3:14-15.
For more on the sins of the tongue see James 3 and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The things they have done are described as provoking the eyes of his glory. To be before the eyes or the face of someone is a biblical way of describing presence, thus 1:12 reads literally: “When you come before my face, who asks these things of you.” As we saw in our notes on this verse this refers to coming into the lord’s presence in the temple. It was in the temple that the glory of the Lord, the visible manifestation of his presence dwelled. provoking the eyes of his glory is probably to be unerstood along these lines. Inspite of their sins in word and deed the people still go to the temple and offer hypocritical worship in his presence rather than repenting and once again acting righteous.
Vs 9 The very look on their faces witness against them as Sodom-like they vaunt their sins, hiding it not.
Some scholars see an allusion to Exodus 34:29: “As Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the commandments in his hands, he did not know that the skin of his face had become radiant while he conversed with the Lord.” This frightened Aaron and the people (due to their previous false worship of the golden calf, Exodus 32), and so Moses had to wear a veil every time he returned to the people after being in the presence of the Lord (see Exodus 34:27-35). The exact opposite is intended here. The people shamelessly appear before the Lord with their sins written on their faces.
Vs 9 cont. Woe to them! they have done evil to themselves.
“Woe“ is a cry of grief in the face of punishment, adversity, or death. The prophet’s cry is motivated by the fact that the people have brought “woe” upon themselves.
Vs 10 The righteous shall be happy, it will be good with them, they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
Notice that this statement is sandwiched between two cries of “woe” (vss 9 and 11). Unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, whose situation was hopeless in spite of God’s mercy (Gen 18:16-32), some righteous individuals can be found among God’s people. Or, the text may be seen as implying that some of the sinners will repent and return to the Lord. This second possibility is the one I think most likely on the basis of what was said in 1:18-20,
Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be red as cimson, they may become white as wool. if you are willing and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken (NAB Translation)
This idea reflects the covenant theology of the Book of Deuteronomy which, as we saw in our earlier studies, plays a large role in the theology of Isaiah (see Dt 28:38-48).
Vs 10 cont. they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.
This also suggests deuteronomistic theology. Fruit and deeds are often associated in the bible (see Jer 17:5-10 and Luke 3:7-9). Just as a tree produces fruit so too does a man produce acts or deeds. The deeds of the righteous are like fruit that the righteous shall enjoy.
Vs 11 Woe upon the wicked man! All goes evil with him, for with the deeds of his hand he will be repaid.
The Hebrew text says literally that “with the recompense of his hand will he be repaid.” This is simply another way of saying “For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out for you” (Luke 6:38).
Vs 12 My people–a suckling babe shall be their despot and women shall rule over them.
The suckling babe is often taken as a reference to King Ahaz whose reign as king began when he was twenty years of age. His reign was marked by despotism and foolishness.
Ahaz seems at once to have struck out an independent course wholly opposed to the religious traditions of his nation. his first steps in this direction were the causing to be made and circulating of molten images of Baal, and the revival in the valley of Hinnom (i.e. Gehenna), south of the city, of the abominations of the worship of Moloch (2 Chron 28:2-3). He is declared to have made his own son “pass through the fire” (2 Kings 16:3); the chronicler puts it even more stronly:
he “burnt his children in the fire” (2 Chron 28:3). Other acts of idolatry were to follow. (From the Article “Ahaz” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Public domain text
More will be said on Ahaz when we come to chapter 7.
Women ruling over them may be a reference to the queen-mother Athaliah (see 2 Kings 11:1-16) who had ruled over Judah in the days of Elijah. She was the daughter of another queen, the infamous Jezebel, who exerted great influence over her husband Ahab in the kingdom of Israel (i.e. the Northern Kingdom). The disasters these two women brought upon the respective kingdoms would have been well known to the people of Isaiah’s day. My own opinion is that the reference to women prepares for 3:16-4:1. Just as they will have to put up with males unwise as babies, They will have to put up with shallow women.
Vs 12 cont. O my people, your guides guide you astray, they eat up the way you should go.
The leaders of the people, including judge and prophet had gone astray (see 1:10, 23), and in turn were leading the people astray. How can the people Eat the fruits of righteousness if the way of righteousness is being consumed? (see vs 10)
Vs 13 The Lord rises up to accuse, He stands to judge his people.
Once again brings up the idea of the rib (pronounced reeb), the covenant lawsuit first mentioned in our notes on 1:1-9. The Lord, being God and not man, acts as both Prosecuting attorney and judge. The fact that the Lord rises up also calls to mind the Lord’s exaltation on the day he will act against idols and idolatry:
…the Lord alone will be exalted on that day. For the Lord of hosts will have his day against all that is proud and arrogant, …human pride will be abased, the arrogance of men brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day. The idols will perish forever. Men will go into caves in the rocks and hole in the earth, from the terror of the Lord and the splendor of his majesty, when he arises to overawe the earth. (2:9-22 NAB trans. See our comments)
Vs 14 The Lord enters into judgment with elders/princes.
Because they have had a major hand in leading the people astray (1:23; 3:12) when it was their duty to lead them rightly, they will be judged first.
Vs 14 cont. You have eaten up the vineyard; booty plundered from the poor is in your houses.
In several of the prophets we find this sort of thing condemned. Those in positions of authority and leadership were using their influence to take advantage of the poor; and all this for the aquiring of wealth. Eating the vineyard may be a reference to king Ahab who, under the influence of his wife Jezebel, aquired the vineyard of Naboth (1 Kings 21) by a gross miscarriage of justice. Justice for the poor and destitute and disenfranchised is a major concern of God, and should be a major concern of his people. (see Exodus 23:6-9; Deut 24:17-22). In chapter 5 Judah is called a vineyard which God will destroy.
Vs 15 What is this you do? You press down my people, the faces of the poor you grind as they look to you.
The poor looked to the leaders for justice but found only deceit and oppression. This verse reminds me of some passages from Amos, and earlier eighth century prophet who preached to the northern kingdom of Israel:
Thus says the Lord: For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke it (i.e. punishment); because they have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of sandals. They seek the very dust that settles on a poor man’s head, the way of the humble they turn aside (2:6-7). (note: so greedy are they to aquire the land of the poor that they are said to desire the very dust of that land that has settled on the poor man’s head.)
Woe to those who turn judgement into wormwood and throw justice to the ground!… They despise the one who rebukes at the gate (i.e. a just judge), the one who speaks truth is an abomination to them…I know the number of your trangressions, the strength (perversity) of your sins: enemies of the righteous, you take bribes and turn the needy away from the gate (i.e. the city gate where public judgements were rendered).
Vs 15 cont. The faces of the poor you grind as they look to you.
Note the irony between this statement and verse 8 and the comments given their. The leaders provoke the eyes of his (God’s) glory by coming into his presence and vaunting their sins while at the same time seeking things from God. But when the poor come before them looking for help they grind them down. They refuse to help the poor and needy yet still expect God to help them! (See Amos 2:7; 5:11)File under Bible.
Posted by Dim Bulb