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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
The last verse in Isaiah 2 introduces a new thought in the first verses in Isaiah 3, so we ought to connect these verses to get an understanding of what the prophet is saying.
22 Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed? 1 For behold, the Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water; 2 the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, 3 the captain of fifty and the honorable [nasa paniym, “exalted faces”] man, the counselor and the expert artisan [wise craftsman], and the skilled enchanter.
In other words, don’t take the opinions of men seriously when they say that no divine judgment is coming on the nation. God does not consult the opinions of men. The decision is in the hands of a sovereign God, not in the “free will” of men.
Because of this, the prophet says, God, by His own free will, has decided to bring about shortages of food and water (both physical and spiritual). He has decided to remove the great warriors, the judges, the prophets, diviners, elders, captains, nobles, attorneys, artisans, and enchanters. All of these are the backbone of society, just as bread and water are the staples of life itself.
But how will God remove them? In what way? Isaiah 3:4, 5 gives the answer,
4 And I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them. 5 And the people will be oppressed, each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; the youth will storm against the elder, and the inferior against the honorable.
God said that He would give them incompetent rulers as part of divine judgment. This shows that the rulers of nations do not rule by their own “free will” decisions, even if they think they do. God blinds their eyes and works anonymously, making them think that they are making their own decisions.
If God can put “capricious children” in positions of power, He can also put good men in those same positions of power. Yet whoever He puts in such positions will do what He tells them to do. Evil or incompetent rulers are there to judge the people; good and competent rulers are there to bless the people. In the end, we get what we deserve, either to bless us with good things or to bless us with divine judgment that causes us to repent.
With poor examples of leadership, “the people will be oppressed,” not only by their spiritually immature leaders but by their neighbors as well. Those who do not have the law written on their hearts will want to steal from their neighbors or bully them. (People tend to follow the lead of their leaders who set the moral standard for the nation.)
In the time of Isaiah, Israel and Judah were being brought into judgment for their rebellion against God and His law. So that is the context of the prophet’s message, at least in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah. The last half of the book is more encouraging, because it speaks of ultimate restoration when the Kingdom is established.
Isaiah 3:6, 7 continues,
6 When a man lays hold of his brother in his father’s house, saying, “You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler, and these ruins will be under your charge,” 7 He will protest on that day, saying, “I will not be your healer; for in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; you should not appoint me ruler of the people.”
It seems strange that someone would be qualified to rule if he has a cloak. As I see it, there are two possible ways of looking at this. The first is that the people are so mentally imbalanced that they would elect a leader for such a silly reason. Given the recent political situation, this is perhaps not as far-fetched as one might think.
However, there is a better way to look at this. In those days the poor would give up their cloak as collateral on a short-term loan. Isaiah’s prophecy may indicate that the one qualified to rule was a creditor holding another man’s cloak as collateral—probably in violation of the law. If that is the case, then Isaiah was implying that the people would elect creditors and bankers to public office.
The relevant law is found in Exodus 22:25-27,
25 If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. 26 If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, 27 for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.
The law of God forbids charging interest on money, calling it “oppression.” Jesus described it in farming terms in His parable of the talents. The one servant received one mina (of silver or gold) and did no business to increase it honestly. Instead, he buried it to avoid the risk of business, being fearful of his master’s wrath. Obviously, the man did not know his master (God) but had a false impression of him. So Luke 19:20-23 says,
20 Another came, saying, “Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief, 21 for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.” 22 He said to him, “By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?”
The man who feared his master was under the false impression that he was “an exacting man,” that is, a ruthless man, who would steal other men’s labor. In farming terms, he thought his master was accustomed to taking what was not his or reaping another man’s field. So the master judged him according to his own words: If you “knew” that I was a thief, then why did you not put my money in the bank so that I could steal it through interest?
In other words, charging interest on money is defined as theft in the sight of God. The law says that it is a way that men oppress the poor. Those who do not know the law or agree with God justify themselves when they charge interest on loans to the poor. Either they do not know the law or they cast aside the law as being irrelevant today.
I should add that the divine law allows charging interest to a “foreigner” who is outside of the country (Deut. 23:19, 20), someone who lives under a different set of moral laws and who himself would find nothing wrong with charging interest on money that he might loan to the poor. Believers are allowed to charge them interest, because that is their own standard of sin and righteousness. Modern banks are “Babylonian,” being the main masters of our modern captivity. Hence, if you collect a little interest on money that you deposit in the bank, or on corporate or municipal bonds from Babylonian entities that do not follow the laws of God, that is permissible.
Hence, Isaiah prophesies how the people will elect their own oppressors, which is a form of insanity but which is as common today as in Isaiah’s time. We are in a Babylonian captivity because we, like ancient Israel and Judah, have rejected the law of God. Rejecting the law of God is the equivalent to electing our own oppressors and paying them enormous sums of money to keep the rest of the people poor.
Such oppressors “have a cloak” because they refuse to give it back before sunset. They will not return it until the loans have been fully paid. Thus, they become wealthy, and their brethren elect them to be the rulers. In this way God judges us by putting us under the laws of foreign gods that we thought were superior to God’s laws.
Isaiah 3:8, 9 says,
8 For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence [ayin, “eye”]. 9 The expression of their faces [paniym] bears witness against them, and they display their sin like Sodom. They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves.
First we see that this prophecy was directed specifically against Jerusalem and Judah. No doubt this revelation came during the early part of Isaiah’s ministry during the reign of Uzziah or Ahaz, who were wicked kings (2 Chron. 26:16; 28:1-4).
Judah had rebelled “against His glorious presence,” or in the eyes (sight) of God. Their sin was not only legal but on display for all to see, for when sin is legalized, the sinners invariably demand the right to do it openly and even make it illegal to disagree with them.
Isaiah 3:10, 11 gives comfort to the righteous ones who live in a sinful nation, while warning the wicked at the same time.
10 Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, for they will eat the fruit of their actions. 11 Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him.
God has a way of protecting the righteous ones even during their captivity. The entire nation must go into captivity, both righteous and wicked, but the righteous have put their faith in God, who cares for them in the midst of captivity. Captivity is meant to judge the wicked, not the righteous, even though all pay the price for national rebellion.
This is comforting to those of us who, like Isaiah, agree with the law of God, knowing that it is an expression of His divine nature. His nature is the standard by which God measures all things. He thus rewards those who are being transformed into His image by beholding Him and taking on His mind and nature.
Isaiah 3:12 says,
12 O My people! Their oppressors are children, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray and confuse the direction of your paths.
This refers back to Isaiah 3:4, “I will make mere lads their princes, and capricious children will rule over them.” Nothing there is said about women ruling, but here the prophet adds this. Just as the “children” do not really refer to underage minors but to those adults who act as capricious as children often do, so also the “women” are not queens but men who are effeminate, that is, homosexual. This goes back to verse 9, where they “display their sin like Sodom.”
On another level, we may view this in terms of soul and spirit as well. In 1 Cor. 2:13-15 Paul shows that we should all be ruled by our spirit, rather than by our soul. He personifies these as “a psuchikos man” (soulish man) and “he who is spiritual.” Whether we are male or female, we all have soul (female) and spirit (masculine) within us.
The soul is adamic and is the carrier of death and corruption. It is not qualified to rule, and when it does, it inevitably falls short of the glory of God. The “spiritual man” is the perfectly sinless New Creation Man that has been begotten by the Father. The divine order is for the soul to submit to the spirit so that the spirit may truly rule over us.
Insofar as our relationship with God is concerned, Paul says, there is “neither male nor female” (Gal. 3:28), for the dividing wall separating men from women and gentiles has been torn down in Christ (Eph. 2:14-16).
Isaiah 3:13-15 says,
13 The Lord arises to contend and stands to judge the people. 14 The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people; “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses. 15 What do you mean by crushing My people and grinding the face of the poor?” declares the Lord God of hosts.
This judgment is the result of the misrule discussed in the previous nine verses. “Capricious children” have not learned to respect the property of others, and so they devour the vineyard and plunder the poor. They see other people’s property as their own to do with as they please. This, of course, is the basis of modern Socialism.
America’s founding fathers constructed a constitution that protected property rights from seizure—including government seizure. When one’s property (the fruit of one’s labor) is stolen, or is subject to seizure through excessive taxes or court action, God condemns them, saying, “the plunder of the poor is in your houses.”
Socialists justify their theft by claiming that they are taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Yet nearly all the Socialist rulers manage to become very wealthy in the process. Taxes are imposed upon the workers, mostly the middle class, while the wealthy put their money into trusts and foundations to avoid such taxes. Raising taxes on the wealthy only causes the wealthy people to defend their wealth through the use of foundations and trusts.
The result is that the rich become richer, while the poor become poorer.
By such means, injustice is institutionalized in the name of assisting the poor. The Kingdom of God has a better system that is based on the foundation of “You shall not steal” and “You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.”
Isaiah 3:14 is the first place where Isaiah introduces the idea of “the vineyard.” This metaphor for the Kingdom of God will be defined shortly in Isaiah 5.