Isaiah 3:24 Commentaries: Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; Instead of a belt, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; And branding instead of beauty.
Isaiah 3:24
And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(24) And it shall come to pass.—Now comes the terrible contrast of the day of destruction that is coming on all this refined luxury. Instead of the balmy perfume of the scent-bottles, there shall be the stench of squalor and pestilence; instead of the embroidered girdle (Isaiah 11:5), not a “rent,” but the rope by which they would be dragged in the march of their conquerors; instead of the plaited hair (1Peter 3:3; 1Timothy 2:9), natural or artificial, the baldness of those who were cropped as slaves were cropped (comp. 1Corinthians 11:5-6); instead of the “stomacher” (better, cloak, or mantle), the scanty tunic of the coarsest sackcloth; instead of the elaborate beauty in which they had exulted, the burning, or brand, stamped on their flesh, often in the barbarism of the East on the forehead, to mark them as the slaves of their captors.

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.And it shall come to pass - The prophet proceeds to denounce the "judgment" or "punishment" that would come upon them for their pride and vanity. In the calamities that would befall the nation, all their ornaments of pride and vainglory would be stripped off; and instead of them, they would exhibit the marks, and wear the badges of calamity and grief.

Instead of sweet smell - Hebrew בשׂם bôs'em, aromatics, perfumes, spicy fragrance; such as they used on their garments and persons. 'No one ever enters a company without being well perfumed; and in addition to various scents and oils, they are adorned with numerous garlands, made of the most odoriferous flowers.' - "Roberts." 'The persons of the Assyrian ladies are elegantly clothed and scented with the richest oils and perfumes. When a queen was to be chosen to the king of Persia, instead of Vashti, the virgins collected at Susana, the capital, underwent a purification of twelve months' duration, to wit: "six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors." The general use of such precious oil and fragrant perfumes among the ancient Roamns, particularly among the ladies of rank and fashion, may be inferred from these words of Virgil:

Arabrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem Spiravere:

AEn. i.403.

"From her head the ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance."

Paxton.

A stink - This word properly means the fetor or offensive smell which attends the decomposition of a deceased body. It means that the bodies which they so carefully adorned, and which they so assiduously endeavored to preserve in beauty by unguents and perfumes, would die and turn to corruption.

And instead of a girdle - Girdles were an indispensable part of an Oriental dress. Their garments were loose and flowing, and it became necessary to gird them up when they ran, or danced, or labored.

A rent - There has been a great variety of opinion about the meaning of this word. The most probable signification is that which is derived from a verb meaning "to go around, encompass;" and hence, that it denotes "a cord." Instead of the beautiful girdle with which they girded themselves, there shall be "a cord" - an emblem of poverty, as the poor had nothing else with which to gird up their clothes; a humiliating description of the calamities which were to come upon proud and vain females of the court.

And instead of well-set hair - Hair that was curiously braided and adorned. 'No ladies pay more attention to the dressing of the hair than these (the dancing girls of India), for as they never wear caps, they take great delight in this their natural ornament.' - "Roberts." Miss Pardoe, in 'The City of the Sultan,' says, that after taking a bath, the slaves who attended her spent an hour and a half in dressing and adorning her hair; compare 1 Peter 3:3.

Instead of a stomacher - It is not certainly known what is meant by this, but it probably means some sort of "girdle," or a platted or stiffened ornament worn on the breast. 'I once saw a dress beautifully plaited and stiffened for the front, but I do not think it common.' - "Roberts."

A girding of sackcloth - This is a coarse cloth that was commonly worn in times of affliction, as emblematic of grief; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 20:31; 1 Kings 21:27; Job 16:15; Isaiah 32:11.

And burning - The word used here does not occur elsewhere. It seems to denote "a brand, a mark burnt in, a stigma;" perhaps a sun-burned countenance, indicating exposure in the long and wearisome journey of a captivity over burning sands and beneath a scorching sun.

continued...

24. stink—arising from ulcers (Zec 14:12).

girdle—to gird up the loose Eastern garments, when the person walked.

rent—the Septuagint, better, a "rope," an emblem of poverty; the poor have nothing else to gird up their clothes with.

well-set hair—(1Pe 3:3, 4).

baldness—(Isa 3:17).

stomacher—a broad plaited girdle.

sackcloth—(2Sa 3:31).

burning—a sunburnt countenance, owing to their hoods and veils being stripped off, while they had to work as captives under a scorching sun (So 1:6).

Instead of sweet smell, those perfumes mentioned Isaiah 3:20,

there shall be stink, from their scabs, mentioned Isaiah 3:17, or from other ill usages of their enemies.

Instead of a girdle, which were fine and costly, and useful to gird their garments about them,

a rent; either the rending of their garments for grief; or torn and tattered garments, not sufficient to cover their bodies.

Burning, by the heat of the sun, to which they are now commonly exposed, from which they used formerly to guard themselves with great care. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be a stink,.... Instead of "spice", or in the place where they put spices, carried musk, or had their smelling bottles, of precious and aromatic ointment, balsam, and myrrh, and such like things (g), namely, in their bosoms, there should be a "stink" or putrefaction, arising from ulcers and diseases of the body, Zechariah 14:12 the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, render it "dust"; or this may refer to the anointing of their hair with ointment of myrrh and other things, which gave an agreeable scent; but instead of this there would be a scab, giving an ill scent, Isaiah 3:17.

and instead of a girdle a rent; such as is made in times of mourning and distress, or by the enemy. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, a "rope"; instead of fine curious girdles, wrought with gold and silver, they should have nothing but a rope about their loins. The Targum is,

"in the place where they bind the girdles, shall be marks of smiting;''

stripes, cuts, see Isaiah 10:34 as either by blows from the enemy, by whom they should be taken, or by the hand of God, being smitten with sores and ulcers, so that they should not be able to bear girdles upon them; or "holes", in their clothes or skin:

and instead of well set hair baldness; instead of plaited hair, and curled locks, kept in order, there would be scabs, ulcers, leprosy, or such diseases as would cause the hair to fall off, and leave a baldness. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "instead of the golden ornament of the head, thou shall have baldness for thy works"; and the Syriac version, "instead of gems, incisions":

and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; the word for a "stomacher" is only used in this place; according to Kimchi, it signifies a very broad girdle; but Aben Ezra says it was a thin garment embroidered, which was put over all the rest of the clothes; perhaps something like a "mantelet". The Septuagint version renders it, "instead of the garment worked with purple"; and so the Syriac version, "instead of their hyacinths, or purples"; and the Arabic version, "instead of thy silken garment thou shall be girt with sackcloth"; which was usually done in times of distress and mourning:

and burning instead of beauty; either through the scorching beams of the sun, being stripped of their hoods and veils; or rather this is to be understood of carbuncles, and such like hot burning ulcers in their faces, which once were beautiful, and they prided themselves in; though the Hebrew word seems rather to be a preposition than a noun; so Jarchi, whose note is,

"for this is fit to be unto them instead of beauty, with which they have prided themselves,''

or have lifted up themselves; and so in his gloss upon the Talmud (h), where this clause, with the context, is cited and paraphrased,

"for all these things shall come unto thee instead of thy beauty;''

and this clause may be read in connection with the following, "because of beauty", or "instead of beauty, thy men shall fall", &c. and so the Targum,

"this vengeance shall be taken on them, because they have committed fornication in their beauty; thy beautiful men shall be killed by the sword.''

The Syriac version is, "because their beauty shall be corrupted", and those versions which seem to have left out this clause, yet retain something of it in the beginning of the next verse Isaiah 3:25. The Vulgate Latin version is, "thy most beautiful men also shall fall by the sword". The Septuagint and Arabic versions begin it thus, "and thy beautiful son, whom thou lovest, shall fall by the sword".

(g) Misn. Sabbat, c. 6. sect. 3.((h) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 62. 2.

And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
24. A description of the degradation of the high-born women of Jerusalem, reduced to beggary and slavery. The verse would appear to connect better with Isaiah 3:17 than with 18–23.

instead of … stink] R.V. instead of sweet spices (lit. “balsam”) there shall be rottenness. a rent] Render with R.V. a rope.

well set hair] artificial curls (Cheyne), lit. “turner’s work.”

baldness] the result of disease, Isaiah 3:17, or, possibly, a sign of mourning.

a stomacher] an obscure word; perhaps mantle.

branding instead of beauty; branding the symbol of slavery.Verse 24. - Instead of sweet smell; literally, spice (comp. Exodus 35:28; 1 Kings 10:10, etc.). Stink; rather, rottenness, as translated in Isaiah 5:24 (compare the cognate verb in Leviticus 26:39). Instead of a girdle a rent. So Lowth and Kay; but most moderns prefer the meaning given by the Septuagint and Vulgate, "instead of a girdle, a rope." The word used occurs only in this place. Instead of well-set hair baldness (compare above, ver. 17). By "well-set hair" seems to be meant "hair arranged with such exactness and order as to look like a work of art." The exact arrangement of the hair is very remarkable, both in the Egyptian and the Assyrian sculptures. Instead of such elaborate attempts to improve their looks, the daughters of Jerusalem would soon pluck their hair out by the roots, or shave it off, in mourning. A girding of sackcloth (comp. Genesis 37:34; 2 Samuel 3:31, etc.; and for the adoption of the custom by women, see 2 Samuel 21:10; Joel 1:8). Burning instead of beauty. This meaning is now generally acknowledged, the sense of "burning" being borne out by the cognate verb used in Proverbs 6:28; Isaiah 43:2, and the cognate noun used in Exodus 21:25. The" burning" intended is probably branding by a barbarous enemy (see Herod., 7:233; 'Hist. Tamerlau.,' p. 320). 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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