{Word Study} Wicked “Rasha”


Isaiah 5:23: “Which justify the wicked for the reward and take the righteousness from the righteous from him.”
Wicked – Hebrew: rasha – A term used for merchants who use false balances
The NIV probably has the clearest rendering for Isaiah 5:23: “Who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent.”
Isaiah was a prophet to Judah during a time when God was giving Judah a period of real prosperity.   Judah’s primary enemy was suffering from internal problems and had put their hopes of conquest on hold.  Trade routes were re-opened and business was flourishing.   The rich were becoming richer, but the poor were becoming poorer because the rich were not following the laws of God.  The priesthood was corrupt and sanctioned many of the practices of the rich which were in violation of God’s law.   They would turn a blind eye in return for a piece of the action.  As a result the poor had no advocate as the rich took their lands and possessions and the Sanhedrin took the side of the rich, for a price.
The “wicked” in this verse is the word “rasha’.”  This is a word used for merchants who have false balances. The wicked here are crooked and corrupt  merchants.  The one’s justifying the “wicked” for a reward are the religious leaders.  The word “reward” is really two words in the Hebrew “ekev” which means a gift or a bribe and “shochad” which is the hoof of a horse, the word is used to express the idea of trampling down. These greedy merchants use bribes to trample down the unfortunate and the priest accepts these bribes and deny any justice to the poor who come to the Sanhedrin for help against the wicked.
But of course such things would never happen today. Not in our cultures or churches. Money would never take precedence over our moral values.
I am sure a recent news article would have nothing to do with it. A man was a member of a fundamentalist church where the preacher preached many sermons against gambling and playing the lottery.   One church member, however, disobeyed his pastor and went out and bought himself a lottery ticked.  The ticked turned out to be a grand prize winner.   This good Christian church member wanted to show his gratitude to God for his good fortune so he donated 10% of his winnings to the church.  Of course the preacher accepted the tithe, after all a Christian is required to give a 10% tithe and how could this preacher deny the man his blessing for giving back to the Lord. As the preacher said: “Why fight it, he committed his sin, let him repent in his own way.”