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According to the NAB:

My people---a babe in arms will be their tyrant, and women will rule over them! O My people, your leaders mislead; they destroy the paths you should follow. (Isaiah 3:12)

QUESTION: What is meant by a babe in arms will be their tyrant?

Thank you.

2 Answers 2

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If we break it down the phrase becomes earier to understand:

First, lets look at the context.

The prophet Isaiah is addressing the people of Judah. He then precedes to warn them about the consequences of their disobedience and moral decay.

Now let's break down the phrase.

  1. “a babe in arms” refers to an infant or a very young child.
  2. “Tyrant” implies oppressive rule or control.

Therefore, we can get an idea for the overall message. It's that the leadership will be weak, inexperienced, and ineffective.

The bottom line is that the verse is suggesting that the lack of capable leaders will lead to chaos and misrule.

When those unfit for leadership hold power, the results can be disastrous.

The final image that is portrayed is the image of a helpless infant ruling. This emphasizes the dire state of affairs.

It shows the vulnerability and instability of the nation.

In summary: Isaiah’s words convey a warning about the consequences of poor leadership. When inexperienced or unqualified leaders are in charge, the results can be detrimental.

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Here is my attempt to translate Isa 3:12 -

My People: their oppressors/tyrants [are] children and women rule over them

My People: their leaders cause [them] to err and the road of your paths destroy

Thus, the prophet makes two significant statement about the leadership/government of Israel at the time, namely king Ahaz:

  1. their leadership/government is weak; so weal weak that it appears that they are lead by children and women (a great insult at the time)
  2. their leadership/government is corrupt; so corrupt that it leads the people to both make errors and to destroy infrastructure

The Cambridge commentary suggests this:

children are their oppressors, &c. Rather, his tyrant (plural of majesty) is a child and women role over him (i.e. the people): the queen-mother and women of the harem attain an undue and dangerous influence under such a régime.

Ellicott is more complete:

(12) Children are their oppressors . . .The influence of the queen-mother or of the seraglio was dominant in his counsels. Cowardly (Isaiah 7:2), idolatrous, delighting in foreign worships and foreign forms of art (2 Kings 16:10), such was the king who then sat on the throne of Judah. And the evil worked downwards from the throne. Those who should have been the leaders of the people were quick only to mislead. Princes, priests, judges were all drifting with the current of debasement.

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