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 thy name, to take away our reproach.
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(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.


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.

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). Isaiah 4:1When war shall thus unsparingly have swept away the men of Zion, a most unnatural effect will ensue, namely, that women will go in search of husbands, and not men in search of wives. "And seven women lay hold of one man in that day, saying, We will eat our won bread, and wear our own clothes; only let thy name be named upon us, take away our reproach." The division of the chapters is a wrong one here, as this v. is the closing v. of the prophecy against the women, and the closing portion of the whole address does not begin till Isaiah 4:2. The present pride of the daughters of Zion, every one of whom now thought herself the greatest as the wife of such and such a man, and for whom many men were now the suitors, would end in this unnatural self-humiliation, that seven of them would offer themselves to the same man, the first man who presented himself, and even renounce the ordinary legal claim upon their husband for clothing and food (Exodus 21:10). It would be quite sufficient for them to be allowed to bear his name ("let thy name be named upon us:" the name is put upon the thing named, as giving it its distinctness and character), if he would only take away their reproach (namely, the reproach of being unmarried, Isaiah 54:4, as in Genesis 30:23, of being childless) by letting them be called his wives. The number seven (seven women to one man) may be explained on the ground that there is a bad seven as well as a holy one (e.g., Matthew 12:45).

In Isaiah 4:1 the threat denounced against the women of Jerusalem is brought to a close. It is the side-piece to the threat denounced against the national rulers. And these two scenes of judgment were only parts of the general judgment about to fall upon Jerusalem and Judah, as a state or national community. And this again was merely a portion, viz., the central group of the picture of a far more comprehensive judgment, which was about to fall upon everything lofty and exalted on the earth. Jerusalem, therefore, stands here as the centre and focus of the great judgment-day. It was in Jerusalem that the ungodly glory which was ripe for judgment was concentrated; and it was in Jerusalem also that the light of the true and final glory would concentrate itself. To this promise, with which the address returns to its starting-point, the prophet now passes on without any further introduction. In fact it needed no introduction, for the judgment in itself was the medium of salvation. When Jerusalem was judged, it would be sifted; and by being sifted, it would be rescued, pardoned, glorified. The prophet proceeds in this sense to speak of what would happen in that day, and describes the one great day of God at the end of time (not a day of four-and-twenty hours any more than the seven days of creation were), according to its general character, as opening with judgment, but issuing in salvation.

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