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Isaiah 3

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A Coming Leadership Crisis

3:1 Look, the sovereign Lord who commands armies 1 

is about to remove from Jerusalem 2  and Judah

every source of security, including 3 

all the food and water, 4 

3:2 the mighty men and warriors,

judges and prophets,

omen readers and leaders, 5 

3:3 captains of groups of fifty,

the respected citizens, 6 

advisers and those skilled in magical arts, 7 

and those who know incantations.

3:4 The Lord says, 8  “I will make youths their officials;

malicious young men 9  will rule over them.

3:5 The people will treat each other harshly;

men will oppose each other;

neighbors will fight. 10 

Youths will proudly defy the elderly

and riffraff will challenge those who were once respected. 11 

3:6 Indeed, a man will grab his brother

right in his father’s house 12  and say, 13 

‘You own a coat –

you be our leader!

This heap of ruins will be under your control.’ 14 

3:7 At that time 15  the brother will shout, 16 

‘I am no doctor, 17 

I have no food or coat in my house;

don’t make me a leader of the people!’”

3:8 Jerusalem certainly stumbles,

Judah falls,

for their words and their actions offend the Lord; 18 

they rebel against his royal authority. 19 

3:9 The look on their faces 20  testifies to their guilt; 21 

like the people of Sodom they openly boast of their sin. 22 

Too bad for them! 23 

For they bring disaster on themselves.

3:10 Tell the innocent 24  it will go well with them, 25 

for they will be rewarded for what they have done. 26 

3:11 Too bad for the wicked sinners!

For they will get exactly what they deserve. 27 

3:12 Oppressors treat my 28  people cruelly;

creditors rule over them. 29 

My people’s leaders mislead them;

they give you confusing directions. 30 

3:13 The Lord takes his position to judge;

he stands up to pass sentence on his people. 31 

3:14 The Lord comes to pronounce judgment

on the leaders of his people and their officials.

He says, 32  “It is you 33  who have ruined 34  the vineyard! 35 

You have stashed in your houses what you have stolen from the poor. 36 

3:15 Why do you crush my people

and grind the faces of the poor?” 37 

The sovereign Lord who commands armies 38  has spoken.

Washing Away Impurity

3:16 The Lord says,

“The women 39  of Zion are proud.

They walk with their heads high 40 

and flirt with their eyes.

They skip along 41 

and the jewelry on their ankles jingles. 42 

3:17 So 43  the sovereign master 44  will afflict the foreheads of Zion’s women 45  with skin diseases, 46 

the Lord will make the front of their heads bald.” 47 

3:18 48 At that time 49  the sovereign master will remove their beautiful ankle jewelry, 50  neck ornaments, crescent shaped ornaments, 3:19 earrings, bracelets, veils, 3:20 headdresses, ankle ornaments, sashes, sachets, 51  amulets, 3:21 rings, nose rings, 3:22 festive dresses, robes, shawls, purses, 3:23 garments, vests, head coverings, and gowns. 52 

3:24 A putrid stench will replace the smell of spices, 53 

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.

3:25 Your 54  men will fall by the sword,

your strong men will die in battle. 55 

3:26 Her gates will mourn and lament;

deprived of her people, she will sit on the ground. 56 

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1 tn 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.

2 map For location see Map5 B1; Map6 F3; Map7 E2; Map8 F2; Map10 B3; JP1 F4; JP2 F4; JP3 F4; JP4 F4.

3 tn 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.

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

5 tn Heb “elder” (so ASV, NAB, NIV, NRSV); NCV “older leaders.”

6 tn Heb “the ones lifted up with respect to the face.” For another example of the Hebrew idiom, see 2 Kgs 5:1.

7 tn 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).

8 tn 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.

9 tn 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 (’olÿlim, “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.

10 tn Heb “man against man, and a man against his neighbor.”

11 tn Heb “and those lightly esteemed those who are respected.” The verb רָהַב (rahav) does double duty in the parallelism.

12 tn Heb “[in] the house of his father” (so ASV); NIV “at his father’s home.”

13 tn The words “and say” are supplied for stylistic reasons.

14 tn Heb “your hand”; NASB “under your charge.”

sn The man’s motives are selfish. He tells his brother to assume leadership because he thinks he has some wealth to give away.

15 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).

16 tn Heb “he will lift up [his voice].”

17 tn Heb “wrapper [of wounds]”; KJV, ASV, NRSV “healer.”

18 tn Heb “for their tongue and their deeds [are] to the Lord.”

19 tn 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.

20 sn This refers to their proud, arrogant demeanor.

21 tn Heb “answers against them”; NRSV “bears witness against them.”

22 tn Heb “their sin, like Sodom, they declare, they do not conceal [it].”

23 tn Heb “woe to their soul.”

24 tn Or “the righteous” (KJV, NASB, NIV, TEV); NLT “those who are godly.”

25 tn Heb “that it is good.”

26 tn Heb “for the fruit of their deeds they will eat.”

27 tn Heb “for the work of his hands will be done to him.”

28 sn This may refer to the prophet or to the Lord.

29 tc 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 (nogÿsayv, “his oppressors”) to נֹגְשִׂים (nogÿshim, “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 (mÿolel, a singular participle that does not agree with the preceding plural subject) to עֹלְלוּ (’olÿlu), 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 (’olÿlim, “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.)

30 tn 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).

31 tc 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).

32 tn The words “he says” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons.

33 tn The pronominal element is masculine plural; the leaders are addressed.

34 tn 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).

35 sn The vineyard is a metaphor for the nation here. See 5:1-7.

36 tn Heb “the plunder of the poor [is] in your houses” (so NASB).

37 sn 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.

38 tn 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.

sn 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.”

39 tn Heb “daughters” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV).

40 tn Heb “with an outstretched neck.” They proudly hold their heads high so that others can see the jewelry around their necks.

41 tn Heb “walking and skipping, they walk.”

42 tn Heb “and with their feet they jingle.”

43 tn 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.

44 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in v. 18 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

45 tn Heb “the daughters of Zion.”

46 tn Or “a scab” (KJV, ASV); NIV, NCV, CEV “sores.”

47 tn 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.”

48 sn 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.

49 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).

50 tn Or “the beauty of [their] ankle jewelry.”

51 tn Heb “houses of breath.” HALOT 124 s.v. בַּיִת defines them as “scent-bottles”; cf. NAB, NRSV “perfume boxes.”

52 tn The precise meaning of many of the words in this list is uncertain.

sn 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.

53 tn 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.

54 tn 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.

55 tn Heb “your strength in battle.” The verb in the first clause provides the verbal idea for the second clause.

56 tn 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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