A good intro to this post is the previous one, so I will keep it brief; for those jumping in that have not read the previous commentary: Isaiah chapters 2-5 make up a single prophecy, to a large degree containing the same message as the prophecy of the first chapter, but in much greater detail. Chapter 3 is a prophecy of the judgment that Christ would later pronounce upon Jerusalem. Many of he details of the prophecy of Isaiah 3 were precisely carried out in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (I’ve been citing eye-witness historian Josephus from his book ‘Wars of the Jews.’) Last post I commented on verses 1-11. In these following verses, Isaiah begins to reflect on where the rulers of Jerusalem went wrong – or, rather, where they would go wrong (future tense for Isaiah) in the days of Christ’s visitation: i.e. the reason for he impending judgment which Christ pronounced and has (now) taken place (begining in the late 60s A.D.).
The text, itself, will be in italics; my commentary un-italicized, and in [brackets] wherever inserted into the text. Any emphasis (bold, or underlined) by me.
11 Woe unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given him.
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.
As mentioned, the first eleven verses of the chapter speak of the judgment coming on Jerusalem (and all natural Israel by extension) after their rejecting Christ at their visitation; here (v. 12), Isaiah begins to decribe why. When Christ came, the leaders were weak and inneffective (‘children are their oppressors’), those who are ruling are not he rightful authority (‘women rule over them’). Consider, comparitively the words of Christ with regard to the Sanhedrin counsellors of His day ‘fools and blind,’ (Matt 23:19) and ‘blind leaders of the blind’ (Matt 15:14).
The final statement lends an important clarifier in the analogies being used: the prophet is not speaking of literal children, and women, rather the leaders are inept: ‘they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.’ Again, Jesus made clear statements of the religious rulers to the same effect as Isaiah: ‘Woe unto you lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.’ (Luke 11:53)
The Lord had personally established the nation and culutre of Israel, and had established the Sanhedrin (Numbers 11), yet when He came, the rulers were not in the way of God; they were blind guides. The leaders should be worthy of emulation, but Christ advised people not to follow the example of the religious rulers (Matt 23:3); Isaiah’s prediction was of the status of the rulers when Christ came, and the Lord confirms this prophecy of Isaiah to be so.
Further, the behavior of the leaders is what led the people into transgression; the Sanhedrin had pre-determinately made up their minds to have Christ killed; in their decision, they led all the people into judgment. Consider Matt 27:20 & 25, and note the progression: 20 ‘But the chief priests and elders PERSUADED THE MULTITUDE that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus.’ v. 25 ‘Then answered ALL THE PEOPLE, and said, His [Christ’s] blood be on us, and on our children.’ At the direction of their spiritual leaders, the people called down the most condemning curse in human history upon themselves, and the entire race of their offspring – the bloodguilt of the very Son of God! Just as the prophet said: ‘they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.’
13 The Lord standeth up to plead, and standeth to judge the people.
This is fulfilled in Matthew 23, when Jesus literally stood over the city of Jerusalem, and pronounced His final judgment upon it. He came to give opportunity to earthly Jerusalem to be saved, but though He stood up to plead with them, their rejection of Him incurred His judgment, rather than His blessing.
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.
These verses are the very interesting tie-in, and represent one of the chief purposes of the coming of Messiah: to judge the rulers. In the book of Malachi, this clear purpose is also stated in no uncertain terms: ‘…but who may abide he day of His coming? …for He is like a refiner’s fire, and a fuller’s soap: …and He shall purify he sons of Levi [i.e. the priests and priestly council], and purge them… …And I will come near to you to judgment, and will be a swift witness against the sorcerers: and against the adulterers… against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and that fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts.’
One of the key purposes of Christ’s FIRST coming was to judge the ‘house of Levi.’ As I mentioned in a prior post, the Levitical priesthood is obsolete, and removed under the ‘Mechizidek Priesthood’ of Jesus Christ (Heb 7:15-24), thus where the passage of Malachi speaks of His purging, and purifying ‘the sons of Levi,’ he is speaking of the new covenantal order of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus as opposed to the Old covenental order of the law of sin and death (See post: Romans 9).
Likewise, Isaiah, here is not speaking of the final judgment, but the judgment to be executed by Christ at His first coming, which included the dissanullment of the Old Covenant (as His work included the purging, and spiritual purification of the priesthood), as well as the literal physical destruction of Jerusalem and the Levitical priesthood that followed.
It must be observed that Christ came humbly, as a man to enter into judgment with His people; He did not sit on he heavenly throne of judgment (as He will do at the resurrection), rather He condescended to man’s likeness (see Phillippians 2). It is also important to note that He did not come as a civil leader, or authority, but as a spiritual one (priesthood); this is an important distinction, because under the Old Testament, Israel was a theocracy, but Christ distinguished a clear difference between civil, and spiritual authority. Once a man came to Christ to have Him arbitrate a legal matter, and Christ expressly rebuked him for temporal-mindedness, declaring that He was no civil authority (Luke 12:14-15).
Jesus came as Messiah in a form that the Jews did not expect, and He entered into judgment with the religious rulers. Those rulers took and condemned Him to death when He came to enter judgment with them, proving that their judgment had become completely corrupted, for their judgment was to murder the innocent, and acquit the guilty. This is the plain outworking of Isaiah’s prophecy of 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.‘ These things were proven when Christ entered judgment with them, for as the ruler of the vineyard, He came as one lowly and poor, and they killed Him.
15 What mean ye that ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord God of hosts.
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:
In Isaiah chapter 1, the term ‘daughters of Zion’ referred to the elect. Here he speaks not of the elect, but of those led by the corrupted priesthood.
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.
The head represents authority, and scab – of course: woundedness or disease. That semblance of spiritual authority would be fully corrupted: even as the prophecy of the book of Samuel predicted the condemnation of the house of Eli (priesthood) and the coming of a new order of priest (Messiah) (1 Sam 2:27-36), so also the head of earthly Israel the priesthood was wounded unto death (Amos 9:1). Interesting historical point: according to Josephus, when Jerusalem was under siege by the Romans, there were priests leading the people to continue to resist under promise that Messiah would finally come and rescue them – but they had already missed His coming, and he fact that their plight was according to His judgment.
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,
19 The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers,
20 The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
21 The rings, and nose jewels,
22 The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins,
23 The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the vails.
These discriptions are of living in wanton wealth, and vanity. This is an interesting considertation in the light of Herodian Israel. Prior to the events of the New Testament, a priestly order (the Maccabees) had taken governmental rule of Israel prior to the events that led to Herod the Great’s election to King of Israel by the Roman senate. Herod was essentially the embodiment of the cultural marriage of Judaism with Roman culture. Herod built ampitheater’s, collosai (collossuses? whatever.), named cities and regions after Roman aristocrats (it was Herod who named areas in Caanan ‘Ceasaria’ for example); Herod also built the temple which was standing during the New Testament – which temple was literally considered one of the greatest and most lavish architextural wonders in the world. Under the Herodian reign the aristocrats and preists of Israel lived lavishly like the Romans.
There was so much gold in Jerusalem at the time of the siege that many ate large quantities of coinage and surrendered to Rome in hopes to start life over with the copious ammounts of gold they had swallowed. When the Romans discovered this, they would kill those attempting to surrender to plunder the gold from their innards. The famine in the city was so horrible that the gold was worthless inside the city.
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.
25 Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.
26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.
Again, these promises all fulfilled in the final destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.