Isaiah 1:21-31 Contrasts

Isaiah 1:21-31 How tragic that the once faithful city has become a prostitute! She was once a center of justice, fairness resided in her, but now only murderers. Your silver has become scum, your beer is diluted with water. Your officials are rebels, they associate with thieves. All of them love bribery, and look for payoffs. They do not take up the cause of the orphan, or defend the rights of the widow.

Therefore, the sovereign Lord who commands armies, the powerful ruler of Israel, says this: “Ah, I will seek vengeance against my adversaries, I will take revenge against my enemies. I will attack you; I will purify your metal with flux.  I will remove all your slag. I will re-establish honest judges as in former times, wise advisers as in earlier days. Then you will be called, ‘The Just City, Faithful Town.’”

Zion will be freed by justice, and her returnees by righteousness. Rebellious sinners will be shattered, those who abandon the Lord will perish. Indeed, they will be ashamed of the sacred trees you find so desirable; you will be embarrassed because of the sacred orchards where you choose to worship. For you will be like a tree whose leaves wither, like an orchard that is unwatered. The powerful will be like a thread of yarn, their deeds like a spark; both will burn together, and no one will put out the fire.

In Isaiah 1:21-31, the focus of the passage is on the city of Jerusalem. The verses can be divided into three parts. The first part deals with the corruption of the leadership of the city. The second part is the Lord informing the city that he will destroy His enemies. The last section discusses the inhabitants of Jerusalem. There are two groups of people, the righteous and sinners.

Contrasts dominate the following verses.

v. 21: Jerusalem is figuratively called a harlot. This is a reference to the idolatry. Idolatry is often equated with harlotry is Scripture by God.  In the past, the city was “filled” with justice and fairness.  Jerusalem was once faithful but wonders at this time from the Word of God. In contrast, now the city is full of murderers.

v. 22: The contrast continues with silver. The silver was once pure. Now the silver is like dross, full of impurities. These are the little floaties that come to the top of melted metal. Their drink, beer or wine, is diluted. The contrast continues with their alcohol. This has to be disturbing to the people of Jerusalem. They pride themselves on their drinking prowess.

v. 23: In this verse the leaders of the city are discussed. The leaders have turned away from God and choose thieves as friends. In the Hebrew the idea is that the leaders pursue payoffs or gifts. As a culture, they do not take care of orphans or widows. This is in direct opposition to God’s Word. God sets the example of how orphans and widows should be treated in Deutoronomy 10:17-18. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who is unbiased and takes no bribe, who justly treats the orphan and widow…

Psalm 82:3 Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.

The same care for widows is noted in the New Testament as well. 1 Timothy 5:3: Honor widows who are widows indeed; See 1 Timothy 5 for greater detail and context of treatment and expectations toward widows in the church age.

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