Isaiah reveals a society that can be aptly described as "upside down." Those who should be leading are not and those who should not are. A central factor in this is that the immature are leading. A free-wheeling, laissez faire, hedonistic, immoral, and irresponsible culture exists. Verses 5 and 12 confirm that family governance and leadership are greatly affected.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment (1997)
The character of the princes and rulers are that of inexperienced children, unqualified for government. Oppressors is literally "exactors" or "taxers of money." Believing the well will never run dry, they tax oppressively to pay for their extravagant spending and their childish endeavors.
Martin G. Collins
The Century of the Child
“Lead” is a verb, indicating the activity of the subject of the sentence. According to the Reader's Digest Encyclopedic Dictionary, its definitions are quite extensive, comprising a long paragraph. A few are “to go ahead so as to show the way”; “to guide as in giving directions”; “to conduct as with an orchestra or choral group”; “to cause to progress by or as by pulling or holding, thus to draw along as with a cart”; “to be in command of as in controlling the actions or affairs of”; “to serve as”; “to influence or determine the ideas, conduct, or actions of”; and “to induce and motivate.”
In summary, a leader is one who goes ahead or in advance of, acting as an influence on others, whether by design or incidentally as an example. Note that forcing others is not implied by the term, though it occurs in some cases in actual practice. What we can more obviously infer is that a leader is a guide who influences by example, which allows others to follow more easily. For instance, a leader will encourage people to join a team to achieve an objective.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Leadership and Covenants (Part Two)
The issue in this context concerns adults in positions of authority, but these adults never truly matured. When dishonoring parents is taken to an extreme, it produces an anarchy that will reach out to infect the community as well. "Anarchy" describes an absence of government; it defines general disorder, a time when each person does what is right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).
Those trained in the home to dishonor parents will resist authority on every front, whether civic authorities, supervisors on the job, teachers in school, or coaches of a team. Self-centeredness stands at the foundation of this action. Those so created will pay little attention to honoring community standards because they do not respect them. Thus, they will not discipline themselves to submit to them. They always think that they know what is best for them—and for everybody else too. They will follow whatever impulse drives them, regardless of how it affects others.
This rebellious liberalism first produces an irritated grumbling in others, but it can soon build into general disorder and confusion. Ultimately, if unchecked, chaos results. In due course, a whole culture's energies are expended merely to survive, effectively destroying the development of spiritual, creative, and intellectual qualities essential to an individual's and to society's well-being. This is the very path America is following.
Immaturity is a direct result of not honoring parents. People of this mindset have a hard time cooperating because their minds are filled with insecurities, they feel they are being taken advantage of, or they feel driven to compete in everything. As they age, they feel put upon, and thus become quite defensive. Because such children are not made to respect their parents' advice, they grow up not understanding what truly works, so they lack wisdom. This failure reveals itself in self-will and self-indulgence that can be taken to the point of sheer rebellion. It condemns children to learning the lessons of life through the hard, harsh experiences of personal warfare.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fifth Commandment
This sounds condemnatory to women in positions of leadership, but this is only part of the story. Earlier in the chapter, God heaps most of the blame on the heads of men. Because men, whom God created and appointed to lead their families and the nation, abdicate their roles and positions in the home and society, women and "children" (the inexperienced and unqualified) take up the slack. In acting outside the bounds of their created makeup, God shows, women and children tend to hasten a nation's fall.
Obviously, exceptions exist. Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Britain, led her nation to regain much of its lost power and prestige in the 1980s. However, her accomplishments also prove the point. Britain's "Iron Lady" succeeded because SHE GOVERNED LIKE A MAN! Christopher Caldwell, in an article titled "The Feminization of America," published in the Weekly Standard, December 23, 1996, concurs:
[T]op leadership positions in any society typically go to the more aggressive, not to the smarter. . . . Women who do make it to the top tend to lead "male" lives.
Thus, it is not a matter that women cannot lead, but that, generally, women should not lead. From the beginning, God placed men in the role of leader and provider (Genesis 3:16-19) and women as partners with their husbands and homemakers (Genesis 2:18; 3:16). Paul's instructions in Titus 2:4-5 verify that these roles did not change under the New Covenant.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
A Woman's World
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Isaiah 3:12: