"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, the mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator." (Isaiah 3:1-3)
The word stay means support, and a staff carries the same meaning. Through the future invasions of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the Lord threatened disobedient Israel with the elimination of life's basic needs - food and water. According to Lamentations 2:12, Jeremiah witnessed the groans of hungry children after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC. "They say to their mothers, Where is corn and wine? when they swooned as the wounded in the streets of the city, when their soul was poured out into their mothers' bosom."
The Lord also promised to remove Jerusalem's citizens. After the deportation under the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, Jerusalem's occupants would be few in number. Sorcery characterizes three of the eleven people groups mentioned. The Hebrew participle behind the word prudent means one who divines. This is not a positive thing. A diviner is someone who utilizes sorcery in an attempt to see the future. The word behind artificer appears only here, and it means either magical or mechanical art. It may refer to someone who skillfully uses magic or to someone who is proficient in the art of manufacturing idols. Eloquent orator literally means discerning whisperer. In Jeremiah 8:17, the same word behind orator is translated charmed in reference to poisonous snakes which the Israelites were attempting to manipulate through sorcery. These discerning whisperers were snake-charmers. In their rebellion, the citizens of Jerusalem had degraded to the point of adopting Egypt's heathen religious practices.
"And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. And the people shall be oppressed, every one by another, and every one by his neighbour: the child shall behave himself proudly against the ancient, and the base against the honourable." (Isaiah 3:4-5)
Children are capricious and inexperienced. Immaturity and the absence of life-wisdom prevents them from making desirable leaders. Because Jerusalem's citizens were proud people who preferred the powers of hell over the pure doctrine of Scripture, God promised to remove their rebellious leadership and to replace them with foolish children. After all, why should not they have child-leadership when they had behaved like rebellious children who refused to be corrected by the prophets?
Part of Israel's punishment would be the absence of respect for the elderly. God's displeasure would be evident through the presence of disrespectful people who cared nothing for giving deference to the gray head as was commanded in Leviticus 19:32. "Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD."
As the world becomes more hateful toward God, this disrespect among young people becomes more evident. Parents are no longer parents; they are now the slaves of the children. Sadly, this same attitude is seen in many homes which profess to be Christian. When the children within a group of people have no healthy fear of their elders, sin rests at the door.
"When a man shall take hold of his brother of the house of his father, saying, Thou hast clothing, be thou our ruler, and let this ruin be under thy hand: In that day shall he swear, saying, I will not be an healer; for in my house is neither bread nor clothing: make me not a ruler of the people. 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." (Isaiah 3:6-8)
Isaiah warned of an approaching day in which the qualifications for leadership would consist of nothing greater than the presence of food and apparel. The future situation of Jerusalem would be so bad that the people would be looking for someone who had the basic necessities of life in order to make him a ruler. If Israel would not repent of her unholy direction, God would bring her to a place where she would be deprived of any legitimate leadership. She refused the greatest Leader of all; therefore, she would have none.
Though the wicked often prosper for a time, a tongue that speaks against the things of God will eventually be put to silence. This principle is valid in the life of a believer. The Christian who speaks against the things of God or refuses to follow Christ in holiness will be brought to a place of great distress.