Isaiah 3

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

3:1.  “For, behold, the Lord, the Lord of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.”


“hosts” means armies, and as a title of God it emphasizes His omnipotence.


As has been noted already Jerusalem, meaning dual peace shall be taught: lay (set) ye double peace, represents the peace which God desires all men to possess; and the association of teaching with that peace is the reminder that we who enjoy it are responsible to teach others how they too may possess it: we must present them with the Gospel, which believed, brings with it “the peace of God which passeth all understanding,” Philippians 4:7.


Judah means he shall be praised, and its association here with Jerusalem reminds us that peace and praise are spiritual Siamese twins: they go together.  God was going to put an end to the hollow charade which rebellious Judah called worship.  Since she didn’t hunger and thirst after righteousness He would ensure that she would suffer literal hunger and thirst.  Since however, bread is a symbol of the written Word as spiritual food; and water the symbol of that same Word in its power to refresh and cleanse the obedient believer, only the spiritually blind will fail to see in Judah’s chastening the foreshadowing of that under which a professing, but apostate church languishes today.


Christendom’s appalling ignorance of the spiritual riches lying beneath the literal language of Scripture, is abundant testimony to the measure in which she has grieved and quenched the Holy Spirit.


The reference to stay and staff reminds us that to the obedient believer the written Word is not only a stay, i.e., a support which aids his walk; it is also a staff, which in addition to aiding his walk is also a weapon against his foes.  Christendom is equally ignorant of this aspect of Scripture, for it is almost totally unaware of the fact that we are besieged by a host of infernal foes seeking our destruction, see Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”


3:2.  “The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient,”


Taken away also would be the hero (courageous man), and the warrior (soldier), the honest judge, the prophet, the prudent, i.e., the one possessed of special insight given by God; and the ancient, i.e., wise elder.  This was fulfilled in 597 BC by Nebuchadnezzar.


As all of these were to be taken from rebel Judah, so for the most part have their spiritual counterparts been taken away from apostate Christendom.  The spiritual strong man is a very rare individual today.


3:3.  “The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator.”


Since five, or any multiple of it, is the number of responsibility, the captain of fifty represents the spiritually dependable man.  Such a one is difficult to find today, even among professing Christians.


“honorable” in the present context means worthy of honor because of his good character rather than because of his wealth, position, etc.  Sadly, all too often it is his wealth or position rather than sterling character that brings a man honor in today’s society.


counsellor” means one who is capable of giving wise advice.  Such men are hard to find today even in the professing church.


cunning artificer” in the present context means to be wise or skillful in creating things of beauty and/or usefulness.  This man’s spiritual counterpart is an equally rare individual.


Relative to the “eloquent orator,” he is all too common in today’s society, but regrettably has little or nothing of value to say when it comes to preaching the Gospel, or expounding Scripture.


3:4.  “And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.”


The remarks of The Liberty Bible Commentary are as clear and succinct as any I’ve seen: they refer to Archer’s comments as follows, ”... this was actually fulfilled when Manasseh came to the throne at the age of twelve to begin his long and wicked reign.  It was certainly also true politically in the instability and childish behavior of Judah’s last three kings (Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah).”


It is scarcely necessary to mention that not infrequently political leaders of our own times, though not literal children, have displayed similar incompetence, and been guilty of analogous folly.


3:5.  “And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbor: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honorable.”


This state of things marked conditions during the time mentioned in the preceding verse, but there can be little question that they foreshadow what will be in the impending Great Tribulation, and that are even now manifesting themselves in society.


3:6.  “When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under they hand:”


While these conditions exist in some backward countries even today, they do not yet apply worldwide; but only wilful myopia will obscure the fact that they are present everywhere in embryo.

The picture is of a world tottering on the brink of chaos: of our world about to undergo the terrible judgments of the impending Great Tribulation.


3:7.  “In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people.”


“In that day” can scarcely refer to anything other than the Great Tribulation; and the man’s refusal to be a healer, simply means that the anarchy and privation of those three-and-a-half years will be of such extent as to be beyond remedy or control.  The world will be reduced to ruin as described in Revelation 16.


3:8.  “For Jerusalem is ruined, and Judah is fallen: because their tongue and their doings are against the Lord, to provoke the eyes of his glory.”


The language here is prophetic perfect, the fulfillment being so certain as to be spoken of as already accomplished, though it was still approximately one hundred and fifty years in the future.


Their words and deeds were against the Lord, “to provoke the eyes of his glory,” i.e., they rebelled with shameless arrogance, in contemptuous defiance of His authority, as does also today’s evil world.


The brazenly-provoked Divine retribution of that day was delayed for a hundred and fifty years, but relative to this present age all the signs point to the imminence of the long-foretold terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation.


3:9.  “The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not.  Woe unto their soul! for they have rewarded evil unto themselves.”


The first clause is also translated their very look bears witness against them: their insolent airs witness against them: their insolence condemns them.  They made no attempt to hide their sin, but like the Sodomites, they practiced it openly and shamelessly. The very same can be said of today’s society; and as it was then so is it still: these defiant rebels are heaping up for themselves a terrible judgment: eternal torment in the terrible lake of fire.


3:10.  “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.”


In dramatic contrast with the awful fate of the unrepentant rebels is the blessed and glorious eternal future of the righteous, i.e., those who confess themselves sinners, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  It will be well with them.  They will enjoy eternally the reward of their righteousness, that reward being in proportion to their faithfulness, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself being the unerring Judge of the value of their obedience to Him during their lives here on earth.


In Scripture, eating is always symbolic of satisfaction, so that their eating “the fruit of their doings” declares the eternal contentment that will be enjoyed by every believer.


3:11.  “Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.”


This may also be translated: what he has done shall be done unto him; he will reap the reward that he has earned; what he has done will be his own undoing.


The Lord Jesus Christ has borne the punishment for every man’s sins, but only those who trust Him as Savior benefit by His death, the Father imputing Christ’s death to every believer; but leaving every unbeliever to suffer the eternal consequences of his own sins.  Every unbeliever will exist for ever in the torment of the lake of fire, God being able to do what transcends human thought: apportion degrees of suffering in the midst of that unquenchable fire.


3:12.  “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them.  O My people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.”


Taylor has rendered this verse, “O My people!  Can’t you see what fools your rulers are?  Weak as women!  Foolish as little children playing king ... True leaders?  No, misleaders!  Leading you down the garden path to destruction.”


This was never truer than today, for as noted above, some of Judah’s kings were mere children, and some of today’s rulers have as little wisdom as children when it comes to governing according to Scriptural principles.  Consider for example, the legalizing of same-sex marriage, which God declares to be a capital offence, Leviticus 20:13; and the Supreme Court fiat forbidding the teaching of creation in our schools, thus leaving the theory - and it is only a theory - of evolution as the only alternative, and one of the most puerile ever advanced, for it begins with a single cell, the origin of which the evolutionist cannot explain, and continues to assert that that cell then evolved into a higher form, and this in spite of the fact, that without exception, regression governs everything in nature.


The evolutionist is also unable to explain why nothing can reproduce itself outside its kind; and where man has crossed different kinds the offspring is always sterile, e.g., mules.

The grim fact is that in spite of its motto “In God We Trust,” America is doing everything in its power to deny His existence, because His inherent holiness condemns man’s sinfulness, His warning being of the need of a new spiritual birth to save men from hell, and fit them for heaven, see John 3:3,7.


3:13.  “The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.”


The twice-repeated “standeth” emphasizes the importance of the matter, and “to plead” means to contend, argue His case, to arraign; and “to judge the people” means in this case to give  judgment against them.  That earthly arraignment of guilty Judah foreshadows the final terrible judgment of unbelievers at the great white throne, their punishment being to be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


3:14.  “The Lord will enter into judgment with the ancients of his people, and the princes thereof: for ye have eaten up the vineyard; the spoil of the poor is in your houses.”


The ancients here are the elders; and the princes are the officers responsible for carrying out the various duties of government.  Both had acted as tyrants: their eating up the vineyard meaning that the elders had perverted judgment so as to give a semblance of legality to their illegal seizure of property; and the spoil of the poor in their houses means that neither they nor the officers had any compunction about defrauding even the poor to enrich themselves.


The same corruption pervades government today from the highest national level down to the smallest local village council.


3:15.  “What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.”


In the present context, to beat the people to pieces means to crush, bruise, grind them down under oppressive laws and unjust taxation, a tyranny exercised against rich and poor alike.  In all too many parts of today’s world the same despotism reigns with an iron fist.


3:16.  “Moreover the Lord saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:”


The moral malaise was pervasive, for in their dress and general demeanor even the women displayed arrogant wantonness; and only those whose own moral values are questionable will deny that exactly the same conditions prevail in today’s society.


“mincing” is defined as “walking with short, affectedly dainty steps,” and the tinkling came from their ankle ornaments.


3:17.  “Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts.”


God was going to change their pride into shame, by causing loathsome scabs to cover their heads, and by stripping them naked.  This did happen in the Assyrian and Babylon captivities, and in the sack of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 AD, but the absolute fulfillment awaits the now imminent Great Tribulation, for it is to be remembered that all past judgments have been also precursors of those that will ravage the earth in that awful era.


3:18.  “In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon.”


“bravery” here means beauty, finery, luxury, ornaments; tinkling ornaments, their ankle bands; cauls, their tiaras, headbands, new-work caps, sun-shaped ornaments, and others in the shape of crescent moons.  These sun and moon shaped ornaments may indicate, that like their idolatrous neighbors, they too worshiped the sun and moon.


3:19.  “The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,”


Chains here were their earrings, lockets, pendants, etc.; bracelets, their arm bands; and mufflers, their veils and scarfs.


3:20.  “The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,”


Bonnet is the general name for varied forms of headdress; and tablets were perfume boxes, scent-bottles, lockets.


3:21.  “The rings, and nose jewels,”


3:22.  “The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,”


Mantles were top tunics, cloaks, wraps, gowns; wimples were shawls, cloaks, stoles, wide skirts; while crisping pins were satchels, purses, handbags, flounced skirts.


3:23.  “The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.”


The glasses were mirrors of polished bronze; the hoods, high head-dresses, turbans; and vails included cloaks, wraps, mantles, kerchiefs, etc.


Nothing has changed since that distant day, for exactly the same vanities fascinate women today, both primitive and modern, and by no means excluding professing Christians, in spite of the injunction given them in 1 Timothy 2:9, “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array.  But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.”


3:24.  “And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.”


In the present context “rent” means rope or cord, and is synonymous with captivity and slavery.  A stomacher was a broad plaited girdle.


Burning here refers to branding, i.e., their being branded as the slaves of their conquerors.


3:25.  “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.”


3:26.  “And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.”


These verses need no comment.  The calamities occurred at the hands of Judah’s Assyrian and Babylonian captors, and again at the hands of the Romans under Titus in 70 AD; these being but foreshadowings of the still more terrible catastrophes that will leave the whole world a desolate ruin in the now imminent Great Tribulation.

[Isaiah 4]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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