Reading through the Bible together
Here we are given a picture of a sinful people making light of God’s warnings by making them appear unimportant. They place their trust in their high privileges (vv.2-3) and their power (v.13). They are wholly addicted to their pleasures (vv. 4-6). The prophet is emphasizing God’s warnings by setting forth the severity of those judgments that will be coming upon them (v.7). God abhors their continued wickedness and has no choice except to abandon them to their enemies (vv. 8-11), and bring desolation and judgments upon them for their lack of interest in following God’s ways (vv. 12-14).
Woe to those in Israel who are “at ease,” that is, in a state of self-indulgence and false security which Judah displayed and then reaped the consequences. Trusting in the defenses of Zion with its strong fortifications and thick walls, it was considered almost impregnable. Being a royal city where the thrones of the House of David were set, and especially where the Temple was, the dwellers of Zion, who depended on fortifications rather than on the protection of God, thought that God's sanctuary would shelter them from His judgments (v.1).
Israel, chosen and commissioned by God to proclaim His name to the world, and giving guidance to people, the leaders were required to be models of justice and righteousness. The destruction of the prosperous cities of Calneh, Hamath and Gath was an illustration of the fate of unrepentant Samaria (v.2). With the presumption that an account of their wicked living is not required, the upper class continued to indulge themselves in all manner of sensual pleasures and delights. They were slaves to their appetites and instead of being examples of self-denial, they thought their dignities would justify them in their sensuality. They were extravagant in their furniture. Nothing would serve them but beds of ivory to sleep on, or seats of ivory to sit on while they eat, when sackcloth and ashes would have been better suited for them. They were lazy, and indulged themselves in the love of ease. They stretched themselves upon their couches, when they should have stirred themselves up to do their business and help others. They were willingly slothful, and took a pride in doing nothing; they flourished in what is superficial when many of their poor brethren were wanting for bare necessaries (vv. 4-6).
Verses 7-11 foretell the punishment of the nation for the crimes mentioned. Rejected by God, Israel would go into captivity and utter ruin. They would be taken as captives and all their pleasures will be removed.
It is bad enough to waste honestly earned money on luxury and pretentious buildings, but Israel had secured their luxury and splendor by dishonesty, particularly through injustice to the poor.
The closing verses (12-14) reveal the folly of those who think that in their own strength they can defy God’s judgment and resist the enemy sent to chastise them. Justice was turned by them into the deadliest injustice, and all would suffer the fearful results. Therefore, any attempt made to escape the impending judgment would be useless.
Deepati Vara Prasad, Ph.D.
Watchman Publishing House, India