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Isaiah 1:23-24

Context

1:23 Your officials are rebels, 1 

they associate with 2  thieves.

All of them love bribery,

and look for 3  payoffs. 4 

They do not take up the cause of the orphan, 5 

or defend the rights of the widow. 6 

1:24 Therefore, the sovereign Lord who commands armies, 7 

the powerful ruler of Israel, 8  says this:

“Ah, I will seek vengeance 9  against my adversaries,

I will take revenge against my enemies. 10 

1 tn Or “stubborn”; CEV “have rejected me.”

2 tn Heb “and companions of” (so KJV, NASB); CEV “friends of crooks.”

3 tn Heb “pursue”; NIV “chase after gifts.”

4 sn Isaiah may have chosen the word for gifts (שַׁלְמוֹנִים, shalmonim; a hapax legomena here), as a sarcastic pun on what these rulers should have been doing. Instead of attending to peace and wholeness (שָׁלוֹם, shalom), they sought after payoffs (שַׁלְמוֹנִים).

5 sn See the note at v. 17.

6 sn The rich oppressors referred to in Isaiah and the other eighth century prophets were not rich capitalists in the modern sense of the word. They were members of the royal military and judicial bureaucracies in Israel and Judah. As these bureaucracies grew, they acquired more and more land and gradually commandeered the economy and legal system. At various administrative levels bribery and graft become commonplace. The common people outside the urban administrative centers were vulnerable to exploitation in such a system, especially those, like widows and orphans, who had lost their family provider through death. Through confiscatory taxation, conscription, excessive interest rates, and other oppressive governmental measures and policies, they were gradually disenfranchised and lost their landed property, and with it, their rights as citizens. The socio-economic equilibrium envisioned in the law of Moses was radically disturbed.

7 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 v. 9.

8 tn Heb “the powerful [one] of Israel.”

9 tn Heb “console myself” (i.e., by getting revenge); NRSV “pour out my wrath on.”

10 sn The Lord here identifies with the oppressed and comes as their defender and vindicator.



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