Isaiah 3:1-15 A Commentary

Isaiah decries injustice by the elite against the poor. As a fit punishment, social order will be upset, leaving the people in leaderless chaos.

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3:5 The people shall oppress one another. Kimchi  (R. David Kimchi; also known as the Radak, a 12th century French commentator) elaborates and says that the people will scorn and fight each other; there will be no mutual respect.

3:6 Thou hast a mantle. Rashi bases his comment on the Talmud (Sabbath 119b) in which knowledge of the law is compared to a garment, and therefore he says the verse means, "You have learning, so become our ruler." Kimchi says it means, "You look respectable; be our ruler." Ibn Ezra says, "We do not want anything from you; keep your clothes, just rule us."

 Let this ruin be under thy hand.    The Hebrew word here means literally "let this stumbling…" Rashi says, "The people say to the man whom they have picked up on the street to be their ruler: 'Guide us in those commandments which we do not understand and which we stumble over."' Kimchi says, "Be our ruler because we are all stumbling and quarreling with each other." Ibn Ezra says that this stumbling simply means, "Rule thou over Jerusalem," because the same verb is used of Jerusalem in Verse 8 (see below), "for Jerusalem stumbles." In our translation the words are, "Jerusalem is ruined," but the Hebrew reads, "Jerusalem has stumbled."

Text: 3:7-9  Chaos and Moral Degradation

 7. In that day shall he swear, saying:

'I will not be a healer;

For in my house is neither bread nor a mantle;

Ye shall not make me ruler of a people.' 

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.

9. The show 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 wrought evil unto themselves.

Commentary on 3:7-9

3:7 In my house is neither bread nor a mantle. Kimchi says that this is the proof of poverty, that, even in the house of the respectable, there is a lack of decent clothing.

3:8 Provoke the eyes of His glory. Ibn Ezra: They provoke God publicly.

3:9 The show of their countenance. The Hebrew literally is "the recognition of their countenance." Therefore Rashi says that the meaning of the verse is connected with Deuteronomy 16: 19, which in our translation says, "Thou shalt not respect persons," but in Hebrew is "Thou shalt not recognize faces in judgment." Therefore Rashi says the prophet means that their perversion of justice, their recognizing of faces, testifies against them. Kimchi connects this phrase with "They declare their sin" in the next line and says that the verse means, "Their face betrays their sin and their mouth openly declares it." (So, too, Ibn Ezra, Malbim, and Krauss.)

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Dr. Solomon B. Freehof

Dr. Solomon Bennett Freehof (1892-1990) was a prominent Reform rabbi, posek, and scholar. Rabbi Freehof served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the World Union for Progressive Judaism. Beginning in 1955, he led the CCAR's work on Jewish law through its responsa committee.