Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil,.... That call evil actions good, and good actions evil; that excuse the one, and reproach the other; or that call evil men good, and good men evil; to which the Targum agrees. Some understand this of false prophets rejecting the true worship of God, and recommending false worship; others of wicked judges, pronouncing the causes of bad men good, and of good men evil; others of sensualists, that speak in praise of drunkenness, gluttony, and all carnal pleasures, and fleshly lusts, and treat with contempt fear, worship, and service of God. It may very well be applied to the Scribes and Pharisees in Christ's time, who preferred the evil traditions of their elders, both to the law of God, that is holy, just, and good, and to the Gospel, the good word of God, preached by John the Baptist, Christ and his apostles, and to the ordinances of the Gospel dispensation:
that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter; for calling good evil, and evil good, is all one as putting these things one for another; there being as great a difference between good and evil, as between light and darkness, sweet and bitter; and it suggests, as if the perversion of these things was not merely through ignorance and mistake, but purposely and wilfully against light and knowledge; so the Jews acted when they preferred the darkness of their rites and ceremonies, and human traditions, before the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ; which showed they loved darkness rather than light, John 3:19 and chose that which would be bitter to them in the end, than the sweet doctrines of the grace of God; the bitter root of error, rather than the words of Christ's mouth, which are sweeter than the honey, or the honeycomb. The Targum is,
"woe to them that say to the wicked who prosper in this world, ye are good; and say to the meek, ye are wicked: when light cometh to the righteous, shall it not be dark with the wicked? and sweet shall be the words of the law to them that do them; but bitterness (some read "rebellion") shall come to the wicked; and they shall know, that in the end sin is bitter to them that commit it.''
Abarbinel interprets this of the ten tribes preferring the worship at Dan and Bethel, before that at Jerusalem.