Isaiah 5:23

ESV who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
NIV who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.
NASB Who declare the wicked innocent for a bribe, And take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!
CSB who acquit the guilty for a bribe and deprive the innocent of justice.
NLT They take bribes to let the wicked go free, and they punish the innocent.
KJV Which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!

What does Isaiah 5:23 mean?

In the previous verse, Isaiah called "woe" on those men who are seen as expert drinks and drink mixers. This praise goes as far as to call them heroes in their "craft" (Isaiah 5:22). The fact that such men were praised by their peers in any way shows just how far into excess and drunkenness the culture of Jerusalem had fallen. This is not a condemnation of all alcohol, but of a lifestyle which prioritizes drunkenness and pleasure.

This verse adds that those same avid party goers are also guilty of accepting bribes and taking away the ability for justice in the legal system. This speaks to the idea of corruption: where inside connections and payoffs can change a verdict. One can imagine a judge or prosecutor saying, "We can make these charges go away over a few drinks. How much can you pay?"

When court cases are routinely decided by who can pay off judges and juries, poor people have little hope of ever getting a fair trial. The guilty can literally get away with murder if they are rich enough. The Lord hates such injustice, especially among His own people (Proverbs 16:8; 22:8).
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: