Isaiah 4:1
And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by your name, to take away our reproach.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IV.

(1) And in that day seven women . . .—The chapter division wrongly separates this verse from the foregoing. It comes as the climax of the chastisement of the daughters of Zion, as the companion picture to Isaiah 3:6. As men sought eagerly, yet in vain, a protector, so women should seek for a husband. Those who had been wooed and courted, and had been proudly fastidious, should supplicate in eager rivalry (the seven women to one man implies a land depopulated by war, and so making polygamy natural) for the protection of marriage, and that not on the usual conditions of having food and clothing found for them (Exodus 21:10), but as working for their own livelihood.

To take away our reproach.—Better, as an imperative, take thou away. The reproach is that of being childless. From the Jewish standpoint that was not only the great sorrow, but the great shame, of womanhood, implying, as men thought, a sin of which it was the chastisement (Genesis 30:23; 1Samuel 1:6; Luke 1:25).

Isaiah 4:1. In that day — Of which he has hitherto been speaking, chap. 2. and 3., and still continues to speak; in that calamitous time; seven women shall take hold on one man — “The war and captivity shall make such a prodigious scarcity in the male sex, that seven women shall be glad to apply to a single man for protection, preservation, and marriage: and shall importune him, though contrary to the natural modesty of their sex, to consent to take away their reproach — For not barrenness only, but a single state also was reckoned opprobrious among the Jews.” “And in spite of the natural suggestions of jealousy, they will each be content with a share only of the rights of marriage in common with several others; and that on hard conditions, renouncing the legal demands of the wife on the husband, (see Exodus 21:10,) and begging only the name and credit of wedlock, to be freed from the reproach of celibacy.” See Vitringa and Bishop Lowth.4:1 This first verse belongs to the third chapter. When the troubles should come upon the land, as the unmarried state was deemed reproachful among the Jews, these women would act contrary to common usage, and seek husbands for themselves.In that day - The time of calamity referred to in the close of the previous chapter. This is a continuation of that prophecy, and there was no reason why these six verses should have been made a separate chapter. That the passage refers to the Messiah, is apparent from what has been stated in the note at the commencement of the prophecy Isaiah 2:1-4, and from the expressions which occur in the chapter itself; see the notes at Isaiah 4:2, Isaiah 4:5-6.

Seven women - The number "seven" is used often to denote a "large" though "indefinite" number; Leviticus 26:28; Proverbs 24:16; Zechariah 3:9. It means that so great should be the calamity, so many "men" would fall in battle, that many women would, contrary to their natural modesty, become suitors to a single man, to obtain him as a husband and protector.

Shall take hold - Shall apply to. The expression, 'shall take hold,' denotes the "earnestness" of their application.

We will eat our own bread ... - We do not ask this in order to be maintained. We will forego that which the law Exodus 21:10 enjoins as the duty of the husband in case he has more than one wife.

Only let us be called by thy name - Let us be regarded as "thy wives." The wife then, as now, assumed the name of the husband. A remarkably similar expression occurs in Lucan (B. ii. 342). Marcia there presents a similar request to Cato:

Da tantum nomen inane

Connubii; liceat tumulo scripsisse, Catonis Marcia.

'Indulge me only with the empty title of wife.

Let there only be inscribed on my tomb, "Marcia, wife of Cato."'

To take away my reproach - The reproach of being unmarried; compare Genesis 30:23; 1 Samuel 1:6.

CHAPTER 4

Isa 4:1-6.

that day—the calamitous period described in previous chapter.

seven—indefinite number among the Jews. So many men would be slain, that there would be very many more women than men; for example, seven women, contrary to their natural bashfulness, would sue to (equivalent to "take hold of," Isa 3:6) one man to marry them.

eat … own bread—foregoing the privileges, which the law (Ex 21:10) gives to wives, when a man has more than one.

reproach—of being unwedded and childless; especially felt among the Jews, who were looking for "the seed of the woman," Jesus Christ, described in Isa 4:2; Isa 54:1, 4; Lu 1:25.In the extremity of evils, Christ’s glorious kingdom should appear to those who are left alive, Isaiah 4:1,2. They shall be holy, Isaiah 4:3; purged, Isaiah 4:4. A glory and defence upon them, Isaiah 4:5. A sanctuary from evils, Isaiah 4:6.

In that day, of which he hath hitherto been speaking, Isaiah 2 Isa 3, and still continueth to speak. In that calamitous time.

Seven; many. A certain number for an uncertain. Shall take hold; shall sue to him, and even lay hands upon him, contrary to their custom, and their natural modesty.

Of one man; because few men shall survive that dreadful stroke. They who before were not contented with their own husbands, are now glad of a seventh part of a husband.

We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; we will ease thee of that charge, which otherwise would fall upon thee by God’s law, Exodus 21:10.

Let us be called by thy name; own us for thy wives.

Reproach: virginity was esteemed a reproach, especially among that people, because it was a token of contempt from men, and of the curse of God; children, the usual fruit of marriage, being both an honour to their parents before men, and a great blessing of God, especially to that people, from some of whose loins the Messiah was to spring.

And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man,.... Not in the days of Ahaz, when Pekah, son of Remaliah, slew in Judah a hundred and twenty thousand men in one day, 2 Chronicles 28:6 as Kimchi thinks; for though there was then such a destruction of men, yet at the same time two hundred thousand women, with sons and daughters, were carried captive by the Israelites, 2 Chronicles 28:8 but in the days of Vespasian and Titus, and in the time of their wars with the Jews; in which were made such slaughters of men, that there were not enough left for every woman to have a husband; and therefore "seven", or a great many, sue to one man to marry them, contrary to their natural bashfulness. It is a tradition of the Jews, mentioned both by Jarchi and Kimchi, that Nebuchadnezzar ordered his army, that none of them should marry another man's wife; wherefore every woman sought to get a husband; but the time of this prophecy does not agree with it:

saying, we will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; which used to be provided for wives by their husbands, and that according to law, Exodus 21:10 but rather than be without a husband, they promise, in order to engage him to marry them, to provide food and raiment for themselves, by their own labour. The Arabic version adds,

"neither in anything will we be troublesome:''

only let us be called by thy name; let us be married to thee, let us become thy wives; for upon marriage the woman was called by her husband's name:

to take away our reproach: of being unmarried, and having no offspring: or it may be rendered in the imperative, "take away our reproach" (l); so the Targum, Septuagint, and Oriental versions. The words may be accommodated in a spiritual sense to some professors of religion, who lay hold on Christ in a professional way, but spend their money for that which is not bread, and live upon their own duties and services, and not on Christ, and wear their own rags of righteousness, and not his robe; only they desire to be called by the name of Christians, to take away the reproach of being reckoned Pagans or infidels.

(l) "aufer probrum nostrum", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; "aufer ignominiam nostram", Cocceius.

And in that day {a} seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only {b} let us be called by thy name, to take away our {c} reproach.

(a) When God will executes this vengeance there will not be one man found to be the head to many women, and they contrary to womanly shamefacedness will seek men, and offer themselves under any condition.

(b) He our husband and let us be called your wives.

(c) For so they thought it to be without a head and husband.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Isaiah 4:1. “A companion picture to Isaiah 3:6 … the male population are in search of a ruler; the women in search of a husband” (Weir, quoted by Cheyne). The verse, therefore, represents an episode in that scene of anarchy which has been the main burden of this prophecy.

let us be called …] let thy name be named over us. The wife bore the husband’s name, but only, it would seem, in such designations as “Sarai, Abram’s wife,” Genesis 16:1, &c.

to take away …] take thou away our reproach (R.V.). The disgrace of being unmarried is meant (Jdg 11:37 f.).

Grotius cites a touching parallel from Lucan (Pharsal. II. 342):—

da tantum nomen inane

Connubii: liceat tumulo scripsisse, Catonis Marcia.Verse 1. - Seven women shall take hold of one man. This verse has been well called a "companion picture to Isaiah 3:6, 7." As there, in the evil time of God's judgment, the despairing men are represented as" taking hold" of a respectable man to make him their judge, so now the despairing women "take hold" of such a man and request him to allow them all to be regarded as his wives. There has been such a destruction - men are become so scarce - that no otherwise can women escape the shame and reproach of being unwedded and childless. Our own bread will we eat. They do not ask him to support them; they are able and willing to support themselves. To take away; rather, take thou away - the imperative mood, not the infinitive. Our reproach. Children were regarded as such a blessing in the ancient times that to be childless was a misfortune and a subject of reproach. Hagar "despised" the barren Sarai (Genesis 16:4). Her "adversary provoked Hannah sore, because the Lord had shut up her womb" (1 Samuel 1:6). Compare the lament of Antigone, who views it as a disgrace that she descends to the tomb unwed (Soph., 'Antig.,' 11. 813-816). Among the Jews childlessness was a special reproach, because it took away all possibility of the woman being in the line of the Messiah's descent (comp. Isaiah 54:1-4). The prophet then proceeds to describe still further how the Lord would take away the whole of their toilet as plunder. "On that day the Lord will put away the show of the ankle-clasps, and of the head-bands, and of the crescents; the ear-rings, and the arm-chains, and the light veils; the diadems, and the stepping-chains, and the girdles, and the smelling-bottles, and the amulets; the finger-rings, and the nose-rings; the gala-dresses, and the sleeve-frocks, and the wrappers, and the pockets; the hand-mirrors, and the Sindu-cloths, and the turbans, and the gauze mantles." The fullest explanation of all these articles of female attire is to be found in N. W. Schrder's work, entitled Commentarius de vestitu mulierum Hebraearum ad Jes. Isaiah 3:16-24, Ludg. Batav 1745 (a quarto volume), and in that of Ant. Theod. Hartmann, consisting of three octavo volumes, and entitled Die Hebrerin am Putztische und als Braut (The Jewess at the Toilet-table, and as Bride, 1809-10); to which we may also add, Saalschtz, Archaeologie, chapter iii., where he treats of the dresses of men and women. It was not usually Isaiah's custom to enter into such minute particulars. Of all the prophets, Ezekiel was the one most addicted to this, as we may see, for example, from Ezekiel 16. And even in other prophecies against the women we find nothing of the kind again (Isaiah 32:9.; Amos 4:1.). But in this instance, the enumeration of the female ornaments is connected with that of the state props in Isaiah 3:1-3, and that of the lofty and exalted in Isaiah 2:13-16, so as to form a trilogy, and has its own special explanation in that boundless love of ornament which had become prevalent in the time of Uzziah-Jotham. It was the prophet's intention to produce a ludicrous, but yet serious impression, as to the immeasurable luxury which really existed; and in the prophetic address, his design throughout is to bring out the glaring contrast between the titanic, massive, worldly glory, in all its varied forms, and that true, spiritual, and majestically simple glory, whose reality is manifested from within outwards. In fact, the theme of the whole address is the way of universal judgment leading on from the false glory to the true. The general idea of tiphereth (show: rendered "bravery" in Eng. ver.) which stands at the head and includes the whole, points to the contrast presented by a totally different tiphereth which follows in Isaiah 4:2. In explaining each particular word, we must be content with what is most necessary, and comparatively the most certain. "Ankle-clasps" (acâsim): these were rings of gold, silver, or ivory, worn round the ankles; hence the denom. verb (icces) in Isaiah 3:16, to make a tinkling sound with these rings. "Head-bands," or "frontlets" (shebisim, from shâbas equals shâbatz: plectere), were plaited bands of gold or silver thread worn below the hair-net, and reaching from one ear to the other. There is some force, however, in the explanation which has been very commonly adopted since the time of Schrder, namely, that they were sun-like balls ( equals shemisim), which were worn as ornaments round the neck, from the Arabic ‛sumeisa (‛subeisa), a little sun. The "crescents" (saharonim) were little pendants of this kind, fastened round the neck and hanging down upon the breast (in Judges 8:21 we meet with them as ornaments hung round the camels' necks). Such ornaments are still worn by Arabian girls, who generally have several different kinds of them; the hilâl, or new moon, being a symbol of increasing good fortune, and as such the most approved charm against the evil eye. "Ear-rings" (netiphoth, ear-drops): we meet with these in Judges 8:26, as an ornament worn by Midianitish kings. Hence the Arabic munattafe, a woman adorned with ear-rings. "Arm-chains:" sheroth, from shâra, to twist. According to the Targum, these were chains worn upon the arm, or spangles upon the wrist, answering to the spangles upon the ankles. "Fluttering veils" (re'âloth, from râ'al, to hang loose): these were more expensive than the ordinary veils worn by girls, which were called tza'iph.

"Diadems" (pe'erim) are only mentioned in other parts of the Scriptures as being worn by men (e.g., by priests, bride-grooms, or persons of high rank). "Stepping-chains:" tze'âdoth, from tze'âdah, a step; hence the chain worn to shorten and give elegance to the step. "Girdles:" kisshurim, from kâshar (Cingere), dress girdles, such as were worn by brides upon their wedding-day (compare Jeremiah 2:32 with Isaiah 49:18); the word is erroneously rendered hair-pins (kalmasmezayyah) in the Targum. "Smelling-bottles:" botte hannephesh, holders of scent (nephesh, the breath of an aroma). "Amulets:" lechashim (from lâchash, to work by incantations), gems or metal plates with an inscription upon them, which were worn as a protection as well as an ornament. "Finger-rings:" tabbâ'oth, from tâba, to impress or seal, signet-rings worn upon the finger, corresponding to the Chothâm worn by men upon the breast suspended by a cord. "Nose-rings" (nizmê hâaph) were fastened in the central division of the nose, and hung down over the mouth: they have been ornaments in common use in the East from the time of the patriarchs (Genesis 24:22) down to the present day. "Gala-dresses" (machalâtsoth) are dresses not usually worn, but taken off when at home. "Sleeve-frocks" (ma'atâphâh): the second tunic, worn above the ordinary one, the Roman stola. "Wrappers" (mitpâchoth, from tâphach, expandere), broad cloths wrapped round the body, such as Ruth wore when she crept in to Boaz in her best attire (Ruth 3:15). "Pockets" (Charitim) were for holding money (2 Kings 5:23), which was generally carried by men in the girdle, or in a purse (Cis). "Hand-mirrors" (gilyonim): the Septuagint renders this διαφανῆ λακωνικὰ, sc. ἱμάτια, Lacedaemonian gauze or transparent dresses, which showed the nakedness rather than concealed it (from gâlâh, retegere); but the better rendering is mirrors with handles, polished metal plates (from gâlâh, polire), as gillâyon is used elsewhere to signify a smooth table. "Sindu-cloths" (sedinim), veils or coverings of the finest linen, viz., of Sindu or Hindu cloth (σινδόνες) - Sindu, the land of Indus, being the earlier name of India.

(Note: The Mishna (Kelim xxiv 13) mentions three different sedinin: night dresses, curtains, and embroidery. The sindon is frequently referred to as a covering wrapped round the person; and in b. Menachoth 41a, it is stated that the sindom is the summer dress, the sarbal (cloak) the winter dress, which may help to explain Mark 14:51-52.)

"Turbans" (tseniphoth, from tsânaph, Convolvere), the head-dress composed of twisted cloths of different colours. "Gauze mantles" (redidim, from râdad, extendere, tenuem facere), delicate veil-like mantles thrown over the rest of the clothes. Stockings and handkerchiefs are not mentioned: the former were first introduced into Hither Asia from Media long after Isaiah's time, and a Jerusalem lady no more thought of suing the latter than a Grecian or Roman lady did. Even the veil (burko) now commonly worn, which conceals the whole of the face with the exception of the eyes, did not form part of the attire of an Israelitish woman in the olden time.

(Note: Rashi, however, makes a different statement (Sabbath 65a), viz., that "Israelitish women in Arabia go out with veils which conceal the face, and those in Media with their mantles fastened about the mouth.")

The prophet enumerates twenty-one different ornaments: three sevens of a very bad kind, especially for the husbands of these state-dolls. There is no particular order observed in the enumeration, either from head to foot, or from the inner to the outer clothing; but they are arranged as much ad libitum as the dress itself.

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