Isaiah 3:20 Commentaries: headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets,
Isaiah 3:20
The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) The bonnets . . .—The English word is perhaps, too modern in its associations, and should be replaced by “diadems” (Exodus 39:28; Isaiah 61:10).

The ornaments of the legs.—These were chains connecting the anklets of Isaiah 3:18, and so regulating the “mincing” or “tripping” motion of the wearer.

The headbands.—Better, girdles, always the most highly ornamented part of an Eastern dress, such as were worn by brides (Jeremiah 2:32; Isaiah 49:18).

The tablets.—Literally, houses of the souli.e., of the spirit or essence of a perfume. These seem to have been of the nature of scent-bottles, or the modern vinaigrettes.

The earrings.—The noun is connected with the idea of enchantments. Better, amulets or charms, such as are worn in the East as safeguards against the evil eye.

3:16-26 The prophet reproves and warns the daughters of Zion of the sufferings coming upon them. Let them know that God notices the folly and vanity of proud women, even of their dress. The punishments threatened answered the sin. Loathsome diseases often are the just punishment of pride. It is not material to ask what sort of ornaments they wore; many of these things, if they had not been in fashion, would have been ridiculed then as now. Their fashions differed much from those of our times, but human nature is the same. Wasting time and money, to the neglect of piety, charity, and even of justice, displease the Lord. Many professors at the present day, seem to think there is no harm in worldly finery; but were it not a great evil, would the Holy Spirit have taught the prophet to expose it so fully? The Jews being overcome, Jerusalem would be levelled with the ground; which is represented under the idea of a desolate female seated upon the earth. And when the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, they struck a medal, on which was represented a woman sitting on the ground in a posture of grief. If sin be harboured within the walls, lamentation and mourning are near the gates.The bonnets - The "tiara, head-dress, or turban." The word comes from the verb "to adorn." The "turban" is almost universally worn in the East. It was worn by the priests, Exodus 39:28; by the bridegroom, Isaiah 61:10; Ezekiel 24:17; and by women. Its form is well known.

And the ornaments for the legs - The word used here is derived from a verb signifying "to walk, to go," particularly to walk in a stately and formal manner - with a measured step, הצעדות hatse‛ādôth, from צעד tsâ‛ad; and thus refers to a proud and lofty gait. The "ornament" which is here referred to is supposed to have been a short chain extending from one foot to the other, worn by the Eastern women to give them a measured and stately gait. - "Gesenius." This "chain" is supposed to have been attached by hooks or clasps to the 'tinkling ornaments' mentioned in Isaiah 3:16. Safieri mentions these ornaments, and thus describes them: 'The word denotes a small chain, with which females, when they walk, connect their feet, in order to make their steps equal.' Happily these ornaments are unknown in modern times, at least in Western countries. They are still retained in the East.

And the head-bands - This word means "girdles" of any kind, still commonly worn on the head. A picture in the book illustrates one of the usual forms of the head-band.

And the tablets - The Hebrew is, as in the margin, 'the houses of the soul.' The word translated "soul" means also the "breath;" and hence, as one of its meanings, that which is "breathed," "or which is smelled; "scent; fragrancy, odor." The word "houses" here may denote also "boxes" - as boxes of perfumes. The phrase here means, undoubtedly, "smelling boxes" or "bottles," containing perfumes or fragrant odors. The word "tablets" has no meaning here.

And the ear-rings - It is by no means certain that the original means ear-rings. The word לחשׁים lechāshı̂ym is derived from the verb לחשׁ lâchash signifying "to whisper," and then "to conjure, to charm" (see the note at Isaiah 3:3); and here probably denotes precious stones worn by the females as "amulets" or "charms." The word is often used to denote charming "serpents" - from their "hissing" and it has been supposed probable that these amulets were small images of serpents. There is no doubt that such ornaments were worn by Oriental females. 'These ornaments seem to have been amulets, often gems and precious stones, or plates of gold and silver, on which certain magic formulas were inscribed, which were worn suspended from the neck or ears by Oriental females.' - "Gesenius." The following extract will furnish an explanation of these ornaments: 'Besides ornamental rings in the nose and the ears, they (Oriental females) wore others round the legs, which made a tinkling as they went.

This custom has also descended to the present times, for Rauwolf met with a number of Arabian women on the Euphrates, whose ankles and wrists were adorned with rings, sometimes a good many together, which, moving up and down as they walked, made a great noise. Chardin attests the existence of the same custom in Persia, in Arabia, and in very hot countries, where they commonly go without stockings, but ascribes the tinkling sound to little bells fastened to those rings. In the East Indies, golden bells adorned the feet and ankles of the ladies from the earliest times; they placed them in the flowing tresses of their hair; they suspended them round their necks, and to the golden rings which they wore on their fingers, to announce their superior rank, and extort the homage which they had a right to expect from the lower orders; and from the banks of the Indus, it is probable the custom was introduced into the other countries of Asia. The Arabian females in Palestine and Syria delight in the same ornaments, and, according to the statements of Dr. Clarke, seem to claim the honor of leading the fashion.' - 'Their bodies are covered with a long blue tunic; upon their heads they wear two handkerchiefs, one as a hood, and the other bound over it, as a fillet across the temples.

Just above the right nostril, they place a small button, sometimes studded with pearl, a piece of glass, or any other glittering substance; this is fastened by a plug, thrust through the cartilage of the nose. Sometimes they have the cartilaginous separation between the nostrils bored for a ring, as large as those ordinarily used in Europe for hanging curtains; and this pendant in the upperlip covers the mouth; so that, in order to eat, it is necessary to raise it. Their faces, hands, and arms are tatooed, and covered with hideous scars; their eyelashes and eyes being always painted, or rather dirtied, with some dingy black or blue powder. Their lips are dyed of a deep and dusky blue, as if they had been eating blackberries. Their teeth are jet black; their nails and fingers brick red; their wrists, as well as their ankles, are laden with large metal cinctures, studded with sharp pyramidical knobs and bits of glass. Very ponderous rings are also placed in their ears.' - "Paxton."

20. bonnets—turbans.

ornaments of the legs—the short stepping-chains from one foot to another, to give a measured gait; attached to the "tinkling ornaments" (Isa 3:16).

headbands—literally, "girdles."

tablets—rather, "houses of the breath," that is, smelling boxes [Vulgate].

earrings—rather, amulets suspended from the neck or ears, with magic formulæ inscribed; the root means to "whisper" or "conjure."

The bonnets: these were ornaments to cover the head, common both to men, as Exodus 39:28, and to women, as here.

The tablets, Heb. the houses of the soul, or of life, or of breath; whereby he seems to mean boxes of excellent perfumes, which are of great efficacy to revive our drooping spirits, and to that end are oft applied to such as are ready to faint away. The bonnets,.... This word is used sometimes for the tire of the heads of men, Ezekiel 24:17 and even for the bonnets of the priests, Exodus 39:28. The Targum renders the word "crowns"; the Jewish women wore golden crowns on their heads, in the form of the city of Jerusalem, with which they might not go out on a sabbath day (b):

and the ornaments of the legs; and so the Targum,

"the chains or bracelets of the feet;''

with which Jarchi and Kimchi agree; but the word is used for a bracelet on the arm in 2 Samuel 1:10 and Aben Ezra so interprets it here:

and the headbands: the, word is rendered "attire" in Jeremiah 2:32 according to Jarchi, they were short binders with which the hair was bound up, and some of them were wrought with gold; but with Aben Ezra they were binders about the neck or throat:

and the tablets; in the Hebrew text, "the houses of the soul" (c); and were, as Aben Ezra, Jarchi, and Kimchi think, ornaments which women hung between their breasts on the heart, or over against it; they seem rather to be smelling bottles, as the Vulgate Latin version renders the words, which they carried in their bosoms to refresh the spirits, and fetch back the soul or breath when fainting and almost gone; the Targum renders it "earrings", by which we render the following:

and the earrings; so Jarchi and Kimchi, who suggest they are so called because the ear is the place where whispering and muttering is used, which this word has the signification of; but, according to Aben Ezra, they were writings written in gold, and silver, by way of enchantment or charm; and the Arabic version renders the word, "boxes of amulets" or "charms"; the word signifies enchantments, see Psalm 58:5.

(b) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (c) "domos animae", i.e. "olfactoriola", Cocceius; so V. L.

The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
20. The tiaras (Exodus 39:28; Ezekiel 24:17; Isaiah 61:3; Isaiah 61:10 [R.V.]) and the foot-chains (see on Isaiah 3:16; others, “bracelets,” as in 2 Samuel 1:10, a slightly different word), and the girdles and the scent-bottles, and the amulets.Verse 20. - The bonnets; rather, the headgear. It is quite uncertain what this was, since we have no representations of Hebrew women. Egyptian women commonly wore a mere fillet with pendant ends. The Hebrew word here employed is used in Exodus of the head-dress of the priests (Exodus 39:28). The ornaments of the legs. These are explained as chains connecting the two anklets together. The head-bands, and the tablets, and the ear-rings; rather, the girdles, and the scent-bottles, and the amulets. Scent-bottles and jars for holding sweet-smelling unguents are among the most frequent toilette articles recovered from Egyptian tombs and Assyrian palaces. Amulets have been worn in the East from very ancient times, and are still trusted in as much as ever. They frequently take the form of ornaments. "Jehovah will proceed to judgment with the elders of His people, and its princes. And ye, ye have eaten up the vineyard; prey of the suffering is in your houses. What mean ye that ye crush my people, and grind the face of the suffering? Thus saith the Lord Jehovah of hosts." The words of God Himself commence with "and ye" (v'attem). The sentence to which this (et vos equals at vos) is the antithesis is wanting, just as in Psalm 2:6, where the words of God commence with "and I" (va'ani, et ego equals ast ego). the tacit clause may easily be supplied, viz., I have set you over my vineyard, but he have consumed the vineyard. The only question is, whether the sentence is to be regarded as suppressed by Jehovah Himself, or by the prophet. Most certainly by Jehovah Himself. The majesty with which He appeared before the rulers of His people as, even without words, a practical and undeniable proof that their majesty was only a shadow of His, and their office His trust. But their office consisted in the fact that Jehovah had committed His people to their care. The vineyard of Jehovah was His people - a self-evident figure, which the prophet dresses up in the form of a parable in chapter 5. Jehovah had appointed them as gardeners and keepers of this vineyard, but they themselves have become the very beasts that they ought to have warded off. בּער is applied to the beasts which completely devour the blades of a corn-field or the grapes of a vineyard (Exodus 22:4). This change was perfectly obvious. The possessions stolen from their unhappy countrymen, which were still in their houses, were the tangible proof of their plundering of the vineyard. "The suffering:" ani (depressus, the crushed) is introduced as explanatory of haccerem, the prey, because depression and misery were the ordinary fate of the congregation which God called His vineyard. It was ecclesia pressa, but woe to the oppressors! In the question "what mean ye?" (mallâcem) the madness and wickedness of their deeds are implied. מה and לכם are fused into one word here, as if it were a prefix (as in Exodus 4:2; Ezekiel 8:6; Malachi 1:13; vid., Ges. 20, 2). The Keri helps to make it clear by resolving the chethibh. The word mallâcem ought, strictly speaking, to be followed by chi: "What is there to you that ye crush my people?" as in Isaiah 22:1, Isaiah 22:16; but the words rush forwards (as in Jonah 1:6), because they are an explosion of wrath. For this reason the expressions relating to the behaviour of the rulers are the strongest that can possibly be employed. דּכּא (crush) is also to be met with in Proverbs 22:22; but "grind the face" (tâchan p'ne) is a strong metaphor without a parallel. The former signifies "to pound," the latter "to grind," as the millstone grinds the corn. They grind the faces of those who are already bowed down, thrusting them back with such unmerciful severity, that they stand as it were annihilated, and their faces become as white as flour, or as the Germans would say, cheese-white, chalk-white, as pale as death, from oppression and despair. Thus the language supplied to a certain extent appropriate figures, with which to describe the conduct of the rulers of Israel; but it contained no words that could exhaust the immeasurable wickedness of their conduct: hence the magnitude of their sin is set before them in the form of a question, "What is to you?" i.e., What indescribable wickedness is this which you are committing? The prophet hears this said by Jehovah, the majestic Judge, whom he here describes as Adonai Elohim Zebaoth (according to the Masoretic pointing). This triplex name of God, which we find in the prophetic books, viz., frequently in Amos and also in Jeremiah 2:19, occurs for the first time in the Elohistic Psalm, Psalm 69:7. This scene of judgment is indeed depicted throughout in the colours of the Psalms, and more especially recals the (Elohistic) Psalm of Asaph (Psalm 82:1-8).
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