Isaiah 3

1Look, the sovereign Lord who commands armies
Heb “the master, the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts].” On the title “the Lord who commands armies,” see the note at 1:9.

is about to remove from Jerusalem and Judah
every source of security, including
Heb “support and support.” The masculine and feminine forms of the noun are placed side-by-side to emphasize completeness. See GKC 394 #122.v.

all the food and water,
Heb “all the support of food, and all the support of water.”

2 the mighty men and warriors,
judges and prophets,
omen readers and leaders,
Heb “elder” (so ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); NCV “older leaders.”

3 captains of groups of fifty,
the respected citizens,
Heb “the ones lifted up with respect to the face.” For another example of the Hebrew idiom, see 2 Kgs 5:1.

advisers and those skilled in magical arts,
Heb “and the wise with respect to magic.” On the meaning of חֲרָשִׁים (kharashim, “magic”), see HALOT 358 s.v. III חרשׁ. Some understand here a homonym, meaning “craftsmen.” In this case, one could translate, “skilled craftsmen” (cf. NIV, NASB).

and those who know incantations.
4 The Lord says,
The words “the Lord says” are supplied in the translation for clarification. The prophet speaks in vv. 1–3 (note the third person reference to the Lord in v. 1), but here the Lord himself announces that he will intervene in judgment. It is unclear where the Lord’s words end and the prophet’s pick up again. The prophet is apparently speaking again by v. 8, where the Lord is referred to in the third person. Since vv. 4–7 comprise a thematic unity, the quotation probably extends through v. 7.
“I will make youths their officials;
malicious young men
תַעֲלוּלִים (taalulim) is often understood as an abstract plural meaning “wantonness, cruelty” (cf. NLT). In this case the chief characteristic of these leaders is substituted for the leaders themselves. However, several translations make the parallelism tighter by emending the form to עוֹלְלִים (’olelim, “children”; cf. ESV, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV). This emendation is unnecessary for at least two reasons. The word in the MT highlights the cruelty or malice of the “leaders” who are left behind in the wake of God’s judgment. The immediate context makes clear the fact that they are mere youths. The coming judgment will sweep away the leaders, leaving a vacuum which will be filled by incompetent, inexperienced youths.
will rule over them.
5 The people will treat each other harshly;
men will oppose each other;
neighbors will fight.
Heb “man against man, and a man against his neighbor.”

Youths will proudly defy the elderly
and riffraff will challenge those who were once respected.
Heb “and those lightly esteemed those who are respected.” The verb רָהַב (rahav) does double duty in the parallelism.

6 Indeed, a man will grab his brother
right in his father’s house
Heb “[in] the house of his father” (so ASV); NIV “at his father’s home.”
and say,
The words “and say” are supplied for stylistic reasons.

‘You own a coat –
you be our leader!
This heap of ruins will be under your control.’
Heb “your hand”; NASB “under your charge.”
The man’s motives are selfish. He tells his brother to assume leadership because he thinks he has some wealth to give away.

7 At that time
Or “in that day” (KJV).
the brother will shout,
Heb “he will lift up [his voice].”

‘I am no doctor,
Heb “wrapper [of wounds]”; KJV, ASV, NRSV “healer.”

I have no food or coat in my house;
don’t make me a leader of the people!’”
8 Jerusalem certainly stumbles,
Judah falls,
for their words and their actions offend the Lord;
Heb “for their tongue and their deeds [are] to the Lord.”

they rebel against his royal authority.
Heb “to rebel [against] the eyes of his majesty.” The word כָּבוֹד (kavod) frequently refers to the Lord’s royal splendor that is an outward manifestation of his authority as king.

9 The look on their faces
This refers to their proud, arrogant demeanor.
testifies to their guilt;
Heb “answers against them”; NRSV “bears witness against them.”

like the people of Sodom they openly boast of their sin.
Heb “their sin, like Sodom, they declare, they do not conceal [it].”

Too bad for them!
Heb “woe to their soul.”

For they bring disaster on themselves.
10 Tell the innocent
Or “the righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, TEV); NLT “those who are godly.”
it will go well with them,
Heb “that it is good.”

for they will be rewarded for what they have done.
Heb “for the fruit of their deeds they will eat.”

11 Too bad for the wicked sinners!
For they will get exactly what they deserve.
Heb “for the work of his hands will be done to him.”

12 Oppressors treat my
This may refer to the prophet or to the Lord.
people cruelly;
creditors rule over them.
The Hebrew text appears to read literally, “My people, his oppressors, he deals severely, and women rule over them.” The correct text and precise meaning of the verse are debated. The translation above assumes (1) an emendation of נֹגְשָׂיו (nogesayv, “his oppressors”) to נֹגְשִׂים (nogeshim, “oppressors”) by moving the mem (ם) on the following form to the end of the word and dropping the vav (ו) as virtually dittographic; (2) an emendation of מְעוֹלֵל (meolel, a singular participle that does not agree with the preceding plural subject) to עֹלְלוּ (’olelu), a third plural Poel perfect from עָלַל (’alal, “deal severely”; note that the following form begins with a vav [ו]; the text may be haplographic or misdivided); and (3) an emendation (with support from the LXX) of נָשִׁים (nashim, “women”) to נֹשִׁים (noshim, “creditors”; a participle from נָשַׁא, nasa’). Another option is to emend מְעוֹלֵל to עוֹלְלִים (’olelim, “children”) and read, “My people’s oppressors are children; women rule over them.” In this case the point is the same as in v. 4; the leadership void left by the judgment will be filled by those incompetent to lead the community – children and women. (The text reflects the ancient Israelite patriarchal mindset.)

My people’s leaders mislead them;
they give you confusing directions.
Heb “and the way of your paths they confuse.” The verb בָּלַע (bala’, “confuse”; HALOT 135 s.v. I בלע) is a homonym of the more common בָּלַע (“swallow”; see HALOT 134 s.v. בלע).

13 The Lord takes his position to judge;
he stands up to pass sentence on his people.
The Hebrew text has “nations,” but the preceding and following contexts make it clear that the Lord is judging his covenant people. עָמִים (’amim) should be changed (with support from the LXX) to עמו. The final mem (ם) on the form in the Hebrew is either dittographic or enclitic. When the mem was added or read as a plural ending, the vav (ו) was then misread as a yod (י).

14 The Lord comes to pronounce judgment
on the leaders of his people and their officials.
He says,
The words “he says” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.
“It is you
The pronominal element is masculine plural; the leaders are addressed.
who have ruined
The verb בָּעַר (baar, “graze, ruin”; HALOT 146 s.v. II בער) is a homonym of the more common בָּעַר (baar, “burn”; see HALOT 145 s.v. I בער).
the vineyard!
The vineyard is a metaphor for the nation here. See 5:1–7.

You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor.
Heb “the plunder of the poor [is] in your houses” (so NASB).

15 Why do you crush my people
and grind the faces of the poor?”
The rhetorical question expresses the Lord’s outrage at what the leaders have done to the poor. He finds it almost unbelievable that they would have the audacity to treat his people in this manner.

The sovereign Lord who commands armies
Heb “the master, the Lord who commands armies [traditionally, the Lord of hosts].” On the title “the Lord who commands armies,” see the note at 1:9.
The use of this title, which also appears in v. 1, forms an inclusio around vv. 1–15. The speech begins and ends with a reference to “the master, the Lord who commands armies.”
has spoken.

Washing Away Impurity

16 The Lord says,
“The women
Heb “daughters” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV).
of Zion are proud.
They walk with their heads high
Heb “with an outstretched neck.” They proudly hold their heads high so that others can see the jewelry around their necks.

and flirt with their eyes.
They skip along
Heb “walking and skipping, they walk.”

and the jewelry on their ankles jingles.
Heb “and with their feet they jingle.”

17 So
In the Hebrew text vv. 16–17 and one long sentence, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk…, the sovereign master will afflict….” In v. 17 the Lord refers to himself in the third person.
the sovereign master
The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in v. 18 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).
will afflict the foreheads of Zion’s women
Heb “the daughters of Zion.”
with skin diseases,
Or “a scab” (KJV, ASV); NIV, NCV, CEV “sores.”

the Lord will make the front of their heads bald.”
The precise meaning of this line is unclear because of the presence of the rare word פֹּת (pot). Since the verb in the line means “lay bare, make naked,” some take פֹּת as a reference to the genitals (cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV, CEV). (In 1 Kgs 7:50 a noun פֹּת appears, with the apparent meaning “socket.”) J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:139, n. 2), basing his argument on alleged Akkadian evidence and the parallelism of the verse, takes פֹּת as “forehead.”

The translation assumes that the direct quotation ends with v. 17. The introductory formula “in that day” and the shift from a poetic to prosaic style indicate that a new speech unit begins in v. 18.
At that time
Or “in that day” (KJV).
the sovereign master will remove their beautiful ankle jewelry,
Or “the beauty of [their] ankle jewelry.”
neck ornaments, crescent shaped ornaments,
19earrings, bracelets, veils, 20headdresses, ankle ornaments, sashes, sachets,
Heb “houses of breath.” HALOT 124 s.v. בַּיִת defines them as “scent-bottles”; cf. NAB, NRSV “perfume boxes.”
21rings, nose rings, 22festive dresses, robes, shawls, purses, 23garments, vests, head coverings, and gowns.
The precise meaning of many of the words in this list is uncertain.
The rhetorical purpose for such a lengthy list is to impress on the audience the guilt of these women with their proud, materialistic attitude, whose husbands and fathers have profited at the expense of the poor.

24 A putrid stench will replace the smell of spices,
Heb “and it will be in place of spices there will be a stench.” The nouns for “spices” and “stench” are right next to each other in the MT for emphatic contrast. The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

a rope will replace a belt,
baldness will replace braided locks of hair,
a sackcloth garment will replace a fine robe,
and a prisoner’s brand will replace beauty.
25 Your
The pronoun is feminine singular, suggesting personified Zion, as representative of its women, is the addressee. The reference to “her gates’ in v. 26 makes this identification almost certain.
men will fall by the sword,
your strong men will die in battle.
Heb “your strength in battle.” The verb in the first clause provides the verbal idea for the second clause.

26 Her gates will mourn and lament;
deprived of her people, she will sit on the ground.
Heb “she will be empty, on the ground she will sit.” Jerusalem is personified as a destitute woman who sits mourning the empty city.

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