The actions of the wicked are by nature self-destructive. Sin itself is self-hatred and is born of self-worship.
Having offered Judah/Israel the possibility of restoration in the face of judgement and self-inflicted suffering, Isaiah now speaks a further word of warning and a firm promise of discipline. This removing of Israel/Judah’s strength and supply, is to be a consequence of her sinful actions. In many ways the words of chapter 3 are simply an observation of the inevitable result of sin. However, in the midst of Israel’s journey toward destruction Hashem will raise up a Branch “Tzemakh” (Chap. 4). There are angels in the turbulence, hope in the storm, Mashiyach is on the move.
Isaiah 3 Text:
3:1 For, Hinei Now (behold), Ha-Adon the Lord, Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Tz’vaot Who goes forth in war (of hosts), takes away from Yerushalayim (Downpour of Peace [Jerusalem]) and from Yehudah (Praise [Judah]) the mashein support (rest, protector) and the masheinah staff (sustenance, support, protector), the whole mashein supply (support, rest) of lechem food (bread), and the whole mashein supply (support, rest) of mayim water,
The first words of this chapter offer the ultimate alternative to reliance on human strength (as alluded to in the final verse of Chapter 2). “Behold, now, the Lord, YHVH (God alone), Ruler of Heavens armies (Ruler over all creation)…”
We note that the present tense “takes away” is used to refer to the future. This is another indication of the perspective of Hashem, Who is outside of time and space. It is a statement of certainty, something that has already been established, though from humanity’s perspective is yet to come.
Isaiah uses couplets here that are very similar to those used in the psalms. This Hebraic technique is the equivalent to the rhyming used in English poetry, however, it has a much greater impact, in that it emphasizes the spiritual significance of physical elements.
The couplets are:
We might also add to the couplets of supply, the names of Jerusalem and Judah. Our deep peace (Jerusalem) and the praise of our lips (Judah) equate to our full bellies (food) and our refreshed mouths (water). Further still the chapter begins with the Names Adon (Lord) and HaShem (Mercy). We find security and comfort in knowing God as Adon Lord (food, our sustenance John 6:51-55), and we receive mercy (water of life John 4:14, Rev. 21:6) from HaShem the God Who is Mercy.
3:2 Gebor Mighty, and v’iysh a man from war, a judge, and prophet, and soothsayer, and elder (ancient), 3:3 Prince of fifty, and banner of faces (an exalted person), and counsellor, and wise, cunning, and discerning whisperer.
These verses continue to emphasize the folly of trusting in human strength. Just as God has removed the sustaining elements of food and water, so too He will remove the physical protection of the individual (Strong man) and the national protection of the army (Man of war).
HaShem will also remove all the commanders of men and the intelligent, wise and just rulers of Judah and Israel, as well as those who claim to be wise through witchcraft.
Based on the removal of judges (just rulers) and prophets (discerning whisperers), the Talmud says that the events of Isaiah 3 occurred 40 years prior to the destruction of the Temple.
This text is probably not speaking of the Babylonian exile because there were prophets leading Israel during her exile in Babylon (Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel). It is therefore referring to a later date.
3:4 And I will give children as princes, and pranksters to rule over them. 3:5 And oppressed shall be the people, man (person) over man (person), and a man (person) by his friend (neighbour): ha-nahar the young boy against the elder, and the disgraced against the honourable.
As a result of the collapse of authority over Israel, young people who are nothing more than degenerate pranksters will gain positions of power over the people (Eccl. 10:16). This will in turn result in general ill will between fellow Jews and open disrespect and rebellion by the young against their elders. People who should be despised for their wickedness will be applauded and those who deserve honour will be treated with contempt.
This description of a degenerate nation should sound very familiar to our modern ears. Is our own generation not the perfect example of all these things? In our entitled rebelliousness we have turned our back on the wise and honourable (Lev. 19:32) in favour of lude pranks and youthful vanity. Perhaps the Rav Shaul (Paul) had the words of Isaiah in mind when he wrote the following warning to Timothy:
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. 2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4 Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses (Exodus 7:11-12. Targum Yonatan), so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. 9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their's also was.” – 2 Timothy 3:1-9 (KJV)
3:6 When a man takes hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, “You have clothing, go forth and become our ruler, and let this stumbling block (ruin, heap) be under your hand:” 3:7 lifting up a banner on that day, he will speak, saying, “No bandaging up; for in my house there is no lechem food (bread) nor clothing: don’t appoint me chief of a people.
One of our community leaders recently described a picture of her father, taken with his uncles just after the blitz in London post WW2. She recalled her father saying in reference to the photo, “We weren’t poor, we had shoes”. From our affluent modern perspective this may seem pathetic, but this was the stark reality of the time. Poverty was being measured using a different scale.
This is what the prophet is alluding to in verses 6 and 7. The time of Israel’s punishment will reveal a type of poverty and lawlessness that cannot be weighed using the scales of prosperity and abundance. A man who is wearing a simple coat will be considered to be as if he were wearing the robe of a prince. Thus, his own brother will plead with him to lead the people, based only on the perception that the coat indicates some form of wealth. In turn the one being asked will proclaim publically, “I don’t have food or any means to provide for you, nor am I capable of leading you into prosperity and healing”.
In a prosperous country people jostle for position and seek power and authority in order to control wealth, but in a destitute country not even the poorest individual will agree to rule. To attempt to rule the impoverished and angry is to sentence one’s self to certain death.
It is interesting to note however, that even in this terrible state the people of Israel would hold on to certain foundational aspects of their faith. The fact that the person in these verses is asking a brother to rule indicates a sense of understanding of the Torah. As destitute and desperate as Israel would become, she would always despise the idea of an illegitimate ruler. This is made clear by our history. The illegitimate princes and priests of the first century CE (AD) are a prime example. The Jews of the time despised illegitimate rulers who claimed to have authority over Israel but were not ethnically Jewish.
“You will indeed set over yourselves a king, whom Adonai your God chooses. One from among your brothers will be appointed as king over you—you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.” – Devarim/Deuteronomy 17:15 (TLV)
Jerusalem is referred to here as “a stumbling block, ruin, and heap”. The one being asked to rule is being offered a “heap” of trouble. This is a heart-breaking description of the holy city, whose suffering has pierced the heart of God. The suffering He allows for the sake of our redemption is felt most strongly by God Himself. He is a father who suffers alongside His children even in their disciplining, not because He is guilty but because He is merciful and loving. It is one of the most beautiful and mysterious aspects of the Gospel: that an utterly innocent One would suffer for the sake of the guilty.
3:8 Because staggering is Yerushalayim (Downpour of Peace [Jerusalem]), and Yehudah (Praise [Judah]) is fallen: because their l’shonam tongue, language, speech and their practices are against Hashem (YHVH: Mercy), to rebel before the eyes of His glory. 3:9 The appearance (knowledge [nakar]) of their faces (countenance) testifies against them; and they declare their sin like S’dom (Burning), they don’t hide it. Oiy (Woe), a warning to l’nafsham their soul! for they have repaid themselves with ra’ah evil.
The staggering of Jerusalem is self-induced. The tragedy of Israel’s rejection of God at this time is that it is a rejection of His love, mercy and protection. Her suffering, like the eternal suffering which will one day find those who reject God perpetually, is of her own choosing.
By her own mouth (Language, tongue, speech and the gate for consuming), both in what she has spoken and what she has consumed, Israel/Judah/Jerusalem has rejected the love of her God. Like a wife who has everything but chooses to pursue another man in spite of the suffering she will bring upon both herself and her family, Jerusalem/Judah/Israel had taken her eyes off the face (before the eyes) of HaShem (Glory).
The warning of verse 9 is made to the corporate soul (nafsham) of the people. The text is clear, it is the people who have purchased evil for themselves. God is not so much punishing them as He is simply allowing them to choose their own fate. Without freewill love cannot exist. God’s love for His people, indeed for all humanity, is so great that He risks rejection and willingly offers redemption through the spilling of His own blood. And if the blood of bulls, as temporary as it was, is able to temporarily cover sin in some small way, how much more is the blood, the very essence of God Himself able to cover sin eternally for those who will receive His blood covering through Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) our King.
3:10 You, say to the righteous, that good: certainly fruit they shall eat of their practices. 3:11 Oiy (Woe), a warning to the wicked! Evil will be repaid to him whose hands fashion it.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a person sows that shall he also reap.” –Galatians 6:7
In the midst of this self-inflicted depravity and suffering, the righteous will reap fruit from their own right actions, which are seeded in them through the love of God.
Good deeds have both immediate and future benefit. Their immediate benefit can be seen in the right actions themselves and the future benefit is the fruit of those right actions which permeate the lives and actions of others, ultimately leading to eternal glory.
Note that the righteous act individually and bear fruit that ministers corporately.
On the other hand, the wicked individual receives the torment that comes from his actions. Thus the wicked fashion their own torment. The actions of the wicked are by nature self-destructive. Sin itself is self-hatred and is born of self-worship. To truly love one’s self is to soberly assess ones condition before God. Self-empowerment and self-love are not the same thing. We are only truly able to love ourselves when we accept God’s love for us. Our value is in Him, in the same way that our very existence is in Him. Thus our empowerment comes from Him. This is the opposite of self-empowerment. It is the realization that we are powerless to save ourselves.
3:12 Ami My people, oppressed severely by youngsters, and women rule over them. Bo ami O my people, you’re lead by misleaders in ways of error and on paths that engulf you. 3:13 Stand to contend Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) stand to judge amiym peoples.
This verse seems to be a contemporary observation. The prophet, speaking the Word of God, aches as he says “My people”. There is an intrinsic connection between God, the prophet and the people. Thus the pain of the people’s suffering is felt by the One Whom they have rejected.
The children and pranksters of verse 3 are the oppressors in verse 12.
The allusion here to women ruling over the people must be understood in context. At this period in history to have a situation where a nation was being ruled by women meant that the men of that nation had either perished or were too weak and fearful to participate in leadership.
The phrase, “Stand to contend Hashem” is a calling on God to intervene. Judgement puts an end to sin. Thus, “Stand to judge peoples”.
3:14 Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will enter into judgement with the ancient ones of His people, and the princes of His: for you have burned and consumed the vineyard; the plunder of the poor is in your houses.
The judgement of Hashem begins with those who claim hereditary authority, the sons of Israel’s leading forbears, her princes, both elected and hereditary. The charge is the destruction of God’s chosen people and their God given inheritance (the vineyard). The vineyard is used throughout Scripture to allude to both the people and land of Israel. This vineyard belongs to God and is to be cared for by Israel’s earthly shepherds (Rulers, priests). Yeshua used this same metaphor/allegory in the mashal (parable) of the vineyard owner (Matt. 21:33:46).
Not only have Israel’s princes and rulers failed to safe guard her, they have gone further, taking what little the poor had from them and accumulating it in their own homes.
3:15 “Your king, what does he hope to achieve by beating my people to pieces, and grinding the faces of the weak, afflicted and poor?” Declares Adon the Lord Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) Tz’vaot Who goes forth in war (of hosts).
The “grinding” of the faces of the poor employs the metaphor of wheat or barley being ground in a stone press. This is an allusion not only to the crushing of the poor but also to the consumption of them. Just as the grain is ground into fine flour and formed into bread to be eaten, so too the poor are being crushed and consumed in order to feed the lust of the rulers. Thus it is the Lord of Hosts Who is named. He goes out to make war against the unjust oppression of the poor.
3:16 Moreover Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) says, “Because the daughters of Tzyion (Parched land) are exalted (in their own eyes, haughty), and walk with necks offered up and lusting (ogling) eyes, walking and skipping as they go, and shaking bangles with their feet:
Now judgement is levelled against the rich women of the land, many of whom are related to the rulers. Great attention is paid to the idolatrous actions of the leading women of Israel. From 3:16 through to 4:1 their haughty idolatry is observed, and its inevitable outcome revealed.
The euphemisms used to describe the women of Israel are uncomfortably close to how one might describe the women of western nations today. They are “exalted (in their own eyes)”, arrogantly self-assured, with “necks offered up”, meaning that they are offering the skin of their necks up as an invitation to foreplay, not to their husbands but to men in general. In turn they “lust” after sexual partners, “skipping as they go” playfully encouraging sexual contact, “shaking bangles” in order to draw attention to their legs as a path to their genitals. In short, the women of Jerusalem, Judah and Israel are being described as promiscuous and generally sexual immoral.
3:17 Therefore Adoni My Lord will cause a scab to form on the crown of the head of the daughters of Tzyion (Parched land), and Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) will uncover their secret parts.
The scab on the crown of the head correlates to the “exalted haughtiness” (v.16). The exposing of the private parts correlates to the allure of “shaking bangles” (v.16). The uncovering of their private parts alludes to a time when Israel’s enemies will use her women for sport.
3:18 In that day ha-hu He Adoni my Lord will remove the beauty of their anklets, and their head bands, and their crescent moon pendants,
It is noteworthy that while each of the items listed here may in some way represent the worship of false gods, it is the crescent moon pendants that are most distinct. The moon was worshipped as a feminine deity in the ancient East (The crescent or birthing moon being a common symbol, still used today in some cultures to identify female bathrooms) and is linked to the sixth century political-religious invention of Islam. The crescent moon was a symbol of one of a pantheon of gods of the ancient East but is now used to represent Allah (The false deity of Islam). In essence, Allah is a feminine deity from a pantheon of deities and in no way qualifies as the One God of all things (despite the claims of Islam).
These crescent pendants symbolizing a false god were to be removed from Israel. It is ironic that today the very Mountain of the Lord which Isaiah has previously alluded to, is desecrated by a place of worship which gives honour to the false moon god Allah. The mosque of the Temple mount is truly an abomination causing desolation.
3:19 The necklaces, and the bracelets, and the veils, 3:20 The head coverings, and the ornaments of the legs, and the sashes, and the houses (household shrines), ha-nefesh of the soul and incantations,
Head coverings and veils were associated with prostitution (Gen. 38:14-15). The sexual immorality of Israel’s women is now linked to the explicit idolatry being practiced. Both household shrines to false gods and ancestor worship (soul incantations) are mentioned.
3:21 The signet rings, and nose rings, 3:22 The robes of state, and the tunics, and the cloaks, and the money pockets, 3:23 The mirrors, and the fine linen, and the head dress, and the veils.
All of these items being used by the daughters of Zion to honour false gods and encourage sexual promiscuity among Israel’s men are items that Hashem had given Israel as the gifts of a groom to a bride or as a husband to a wife (Ezekiel 16:10-18). But in rebellion the women of Israel had defiled the gifts of Israel’s faithful Husband Hashem.
3:24 And it has come to pass, that instead of spiced perfume, decay; it has come to pass that instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-groomed hair, baldness; and instead of a robe a wrapping in sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty.
As a result of her physical and spiritual prostitution and promiscuity Israel was now experiencing sickness, decay, poverty and mourning. Physically people were dying of sexually transmitted diseases and other ailments. Thus they were mourning the loss of many. Spiritually speaking the gods Israel had turned to were unable to help, being nothing more than blocks of wood and sculptures of stone, dead gods for dying people. Added to this were the demonic forces that were bringing sickness and death, demons that had been invoked by the daughters of Zion in their attempts to commune with the dead.
The phrase “Branding instead of beauty” is an allusion to captivity and slavery. Israel had been delivered from slavery by God, now she was pursuing slavery in rebellion toward God.
3:25 Your men will fall by the sword, and your strength in battle. 3:26 And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being empty, will sit on the land.
Israel’s men and her armies were doomed to destruction. She would be left without military might. Thus her people will sit hopeless on the ground in a position of mourners (Job 2:13), a place of utter defeat, unwilling and unable to muster the strength to fight back against her oppressors.
These words would be tragically fulfilled on multiple occasions, most memorably during the Babylonian invasion of 586 BCE/BC and then in the final captivity of Rome. Jerusalem was to be levelled to the ground by the Romans in 70 CE/AD and following her destruction the Roman Emperor Titus had a commemorative medal made depicting the daughter of Zion sitting on the ground under a palm tree in mourning (3:36). This is a picture of the deepest disappearing of humanity. The gates “lamenting and mourning” symbolize the ceasing of trade and the cessation of the celebration of the regalim (Going up festivals). The people of Israel will no longer benefit from the riches of other nations, nor will they be able to go up to worship God at the Mountain of the Lord.
Isaiah 4 Text:
4:1 And being resolute seven women will take hold of one man in that day, and to him say, “We will eat our own bread, and supply our own clothing: only let us be called by your name, to take away our shameful condition.
Both the number of women and their actions are rich with symbolic meaning. The plain meaning denotes that there will be so few men in Israel that women seeking to have familial and tribal connections with the view to securing tribal land as an inheritance, will be willing to act as concubines, even supporting themselves, something that is by law the Husband’s responsibility (Exodus 21:10): all for the purpose of being able to raise their children under a family name and hide the fact that they have been promiscuous, or in other cases have been widowed and are without a community to protect and nurture them.
The remez (hint, allegory) reads “Seven (fullness) women”, meaning the entire nation of women, will seek redemption from one man. Israel’s mothers (representing the entire remnant of Israel) will unite together with a contrite spirit of supplication and call on one man for their salvation, saying, “Please take away our reproach”.
Who will this one man be? The prophet answers this question in the following verse.
4:2 In the day ha-hu (the) He shall appear, tzemakh branch Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) to be beautiful and li’kavod to be glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and splendid for the delivered of Yisrael (Israel: Overcome in Elohim).
“At that time shall the Messiah of the Lord be for joy and glory;'' –Targum
“In the day” refers to the day of the Lord (The final day), yet future. In that specific day (period of time) “Ha-hu” literally “The Him” will appear, “Tzemakh” the branch of Hashem (Mercy). This branch (The Messiah [Zechariah 3:8]) will appear in glory “li’kavod and all the fruit of the earth, both people and produce (All who receive the Messiah and welcome His return), will be subject to the kingdom of Israel (The delivered remnant) and to her King Messiah (The Branch).
“The Branch” is the rod of the stem of Yishai (Jesse), a descendant of David (Jesse’s son) [Isaiah 4:2, 11:1]. He was to save Judah as a divinely appointed King-Messiah. Jeremiah refers to him as “The Branch of Righteousness”, He is a physical manifestation of divinity Whom Jeremiah calls, “HaShem Tzidkeinu” (YHVH our Righteousness) [Jeremiah 23:5-6. While Zechariah quotes HaShem, Who calls the Branch, “My servant the Branch” (Zechariah 3:8). Therefore, this Branch is both a human being and a servant of HaShem and God with us HaShem our Righteousness.
Although Israel went through a number of kings during the days of Isaiah, and was ruled by numerous others following the days of Isaiah, not one came close to fulfilling the role of the Branch, the Messianic King and redeemer of Judah. It is because of the lack of credible candidates that early Jewish commentators always interpreted “The Branch” as the coming Messiah King of Israel. In fact, one of the many rabbinic names for the Messiah is Tzemakh “Branch”. Even the modern rabbinical prayers of the Hebrew siddur (prayer book) are full of references to the Messiah, Who is often called “Tzemakh David” (Branch of David).
Some read, “In that day He shall appear, the branch Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) to be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth excellent and splendid for the delivered of Yisrael.” and therefore, interpret the fruit as being the second of the dual aspects of the Messiah’s person. He being both God with us “Tzemakh HaShem” and the fruit of the womb (earth), a human being.
4:3 And it has come to pass, those remaining in Tzyion (Parched place), and that remain in Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace), shall be called kadosh holy (Set apart), all ha-katuv the written lchayim to life (living) in Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace):
“Everyone who is written unto life eternal” –Targum (ref. Acts 13:48)
“In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness Unto The Lord; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar.” –Zechariah 14:20
Still speaking of the future the prophet says, “And it has come to pass”. Meaning that Hashem already sees these things complete outside of time and space.
It is therefore certain, that those who are the remnant of ethnic Israel who remain in the downpour of God’s peace (The Prince of Peace Yeshua), shall be called Holy, set apart. All those who have been written in Life (eternal) in the downpour of God’s peace (Yeshua our Prince). “Written” refers to being written in the book of life (chayim).
4:4 When you rachatz wash Adoni my Lord the excrement from the daughters of Tzyion (Parched land), and have cleansed the bloods of Yerushalayim (Downpour of peace) from the inside out by the ruach spirit (wind) of judgment, and by the ruach spirit (wind) of burning.
“But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,” –Hebrews 12:22
“By the word of judgment, and by the word of consummation or perfection;'' -Targum
This will all come about following the cleansing of Israel’s sin (Through the blood of the Lamb of God Yeshua). As a result of this rachatz cleansing (washing of the inner person), the Ruach (Spirit) of judgement and fire will birth the return of ethnic Israel to the mountain of the Lord. This is a description of the outpouring of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit), Who was given at Shavuot to the remnant of Jews gathered from throughout the known world (Acts 2). This refining and empowering of the Holy Spirit continues to the present day.
4:5 And bara creating from nothing Hashem (YHVH: Mercy) upon the entire foundation of Har Mount Tziyon (Parched place), and upon her sacred gatherings, a cloud and smoke by day, and bright fire flaming by night: for upon all, the kavod glory chuppah a canopy.
“And creating from nothing” bara, just as He did in the beginning, Hashem (Mercy) will establish an eternal foundation on Mount Zion and presence Himself there, just as He did when He dwelt with Israel in the desert, in cloud and smoke by day and bright fire by night (Exodus 14:19, 19:9), and as He did when the priests came out from the Holy place (1 Kings 8:10). He will erect a chuppah (Wedding canopy) and those of the remnant who come under it will be His bride and become His wife for all eternity.
“For I, says HaShem (YHVH), will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” –Zechariah 2:5
“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of HaShem (YHVH) is risen upon thee.” –Isaiah 60:1
Hosea, Isaiah’s contemporary, describes the restored relationship between God and Israel in similar terms:
“And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the Lord.” –Hosea 2:19-20
These same words are prayed daily by observant Jewish men as they bind their middle fingers while donning teffilin shel yad (Prayer boxes of the arm/hand).
4:6 V’sukkah And a sukkah (Sheltering structure) will appear for shade in the daytime, a shelter from the heat, and for a place of refuge from storm and from rain.
“And they took their journey from Sukkot, and encamped in Etam, in the edge of the wilderness.” –Exodus 13:20
Hashem’s wedding chuppah will shield the remnant of Israel and the commonwealth of those who have joined her from the nations at and proceeding from the first resurrection for the duration of the Messianic reign and subsequently for all eternity. Following the chuppah (Wedding canopy) of HaShem’s glory, there will come a sukkah, a shelter, and then Hashem and the Branch (Messiah) will dwell with all the beloved of the earth for all eternity.
What will we be shielded from? From the sins of the past temporary world, and from the place of eternal punishment. Where will we dwell? We will dwell on the new earth, in the New Jerusalem, where God and the Lamb will be the Temple and will faithfully rule over all of transformed humanity (Rev. 21:22).
© Yaakov Brown 2017
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.