That they may do evil with both hands - That is, earnestly, greedily, to the uttermost of their power. The Vulgate translates: Malum manuum suarum dicunt bonum; "The evil of their hands they call good."
The prince asketh - A bribe, to forward claims in his court.
The judge asketh for a reward - That he may decide the cause in favor of him who gives most money, whether the cause be good or evil. This was notoriously the case in our own country before the giving of Magna Charta; and hence that provision, Nulli vendemus justitiam aut rectum: "We will not sell justice to any man." And this was not the only country in which justice and judgment were put to sale.
The great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire - Such consider themselves above law, and they make no secret of their unjust determinations. And so they wrap it up - they all conjoin in doing evil in their several offices, and oppressing the poor; so our translators have interpreted the original ויעבתוה vayeabtuha, which the versions translate variously. Newcome has, "And they do abominably."
That they may do evil with both hands earnestly - (Literally, upon evil both hands to do well,) that is, “both their hands are upon evil to do it well,” or “earnestly”, as our translation gives the meaning; only the Hebrew expresses more, that evil is their good, and their good or excellence is in evil. Bad men gain a dreadful skill and wisdom in evil, as Satan has; and cleverness in evil is their delight. Jerome: “They call the evil of their hands good.” “The prince asketh, and the judge asketh (or, it may more readily be supplied, judgeth, doth that which is his office,) against right “for a reward”, (which was strictly forbidden,) “and the great man he uttereth his mischievos desire” (Deuteronomy 16:19. See above Micah 3:11), (or the “desire of his soul”.) Even the shew of good is laid aside; whatever the heart conceives and covets, it utters; - mischief to others and in the end to itself.
The mischief comes forth from the soul, and returns upon it. “The elders and nobles in the city” 1 Kings 21:8, 1 Kings 21:11, as well as Ahab, took part, (as one instance,) in the murder of Naboth. The great man, however, here, is rather the source of the evil, which he induces others to effect; so that as many as there were great, so many sources were there of oppression. All, prince, judges, the great, unite in the ill, and this not once only, but they are ever doing it and “so they wrap it up”, (literally, twist, intertwine it.) Things are twisted, either to strengthen, or to pervert or intricate them. It might mean, they “strengthen” it, that which their soul covets against; the poor, or they “pervert” it, the cause of the poor.
“They which lead thee,” the prophet continued, “cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths.” Verse 12. During the reign of Ahaz this was literally true; for of him it is written: “He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made also molten images for Baalim. Moreover he burnt incense in the valley of the son of Hinnom;” “yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel.” 2 Chronicles 28:2, 3; 2 Kings 16:3. PK 324.1
This was indeed a time of great peril for the chosen nation. Only a few short years, and the ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel were to be scattered among the nations of heathendom. And in the kingdom of Judah also the outlook was dark. The forces for good were rapidly diminishing, the forces for evil multiplying. The prophet Micah, viewing the situation, was constrained to exclaim: “The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men.” “The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge.” Micah 7:2, 4. “Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant,” declared Isaiah, “we should have been as Sodom, and ... Gomorrah.” Isaiah 1:9. PK 324.2
In every age, for the sake of those who have remained true, as well as because of His infinite love for the erring, God has borne long with the rebellious, and has urged them to forsake their course of evil and return to Him. “Precept upon precept; line upon line, ... here a little, and there a little,” through men of His appointment, He has taught transgressors the way of righteousness. Isaiah 28:10. PK 324.3Read in context »