“sold yourselves.” The Hebrew verb makar (#04376 מָכַר) is masculine plural and in the niphal aspect, and thus can either mean “to be sold” or “to sell oneself” (cp. Lev. 25:47). Although most English versions have “were sold,” and most commentaries say that God sold His people to the enemy, the fact that God could not protect Israel was their own doing. God loves Israel and would never sell them to an enemy unless He was somehow forced to, and He was. The truth is that Israel, through their defiance and disobedience to God, forfeited His care and protection and “sold themselves” into the hand of the enemy. Because Israel sold themselves, God was forced to let them go into the hands of the enemy. There are times when the text does say that God “sold” Israel (Isa. 50:1), but the deeper understanding, set forth here in Isaiah 52:3, is that Israel always first sold themselves by abandoning God.
Versions such as Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible and commentaries such as the Commentary on Isaiah by Harry Bultema translate the verb as a reflexive, that Israel “sold themselves.” Also, the verb “sell” is plural in the Hebrew text, but for God to be the seller we would expect the verb to be singular. Thus, the grammar in the verse also supports that it was the people, “you,” which is plural in the Hebrew text, who sold themselves.
It should be both a comfort and an exhortation for believers to know that the people of Israel sold themselves to the enemy and that God would never do that on His own, as if He were somehow fickle or vindictive. Believers have the comfort of knowing God will always be with them, but have the exhortation of knowing that if we abandon God, then we limit His protection over us. The believer’s best blessing and protection is by obeying God.
“without money you will be redeemed.” God knew that Israel’s, indeed, the whole world’s, redemption would not be by a payment of money but by a payment of innocent blood, and furthermore, on the basis of that payment the Messiah could conquer the earth and reign over it in righteousness. [For more on Jesus Christ’s coming kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].