by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
“For, behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem and from Judah the stay and the staff, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water.” (Isaiah 3:1)
Isaiah lived and wrote during a time of spiritual poverty in the nations of Judah and Israel, as well as national decline. He foresaw and foretold in graphic detail the coming captivities of both nations, but was particularly concerned with the state and future of his homeland, Judah, and his hometown, Jerusalem.
The first several chapters of his book consist of a strong denunciation of the practices of the people of Judah. The nation was literally disintegrating due to rampant sin. In preparation for the coming national and ultimate judgments, Isaiah warned against personal pride and reliance on human resources. “The loftiness of man shall be . . . made low: and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day” (2:17).
In our text, the words “stay” and “staff” are the masculine and feminine forms of the same word, both derived from the word meaning “support,” translated “stay of bread.” Thus, Isaiah uses this idiom and the next several verses to teach that God will remove any semblance of support for this sinful people, whether mighty man, soldier, judge, prophet, seer, elder, captain, artist, orator, or mature ruler (3:2-4), for the purpose of humbling them, “the people shall be oppressed, . . . every one by his neighbour” (v. 5), and demonstrating that the Lord, Jehovah Himself, could be their only real stay or staff. “In that day shall the branch of the LORD be beautiful and glorious” (4:2).
The word “stay” is elsewhere translated “lean,” “rely,” or “rest.” “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). JDM