Isaiah 3
Isaiah 3 Kingcomments Bible Studies


This chapter continues the description of the abuses among the people, which started in the previous chapter. In the light of God it has become clear how insignificant man is (Isa 2:22), despite his pride and arrogancy. But the people of God do not know this yet. In order to let them know, the LORD is now taking away all their resources. Through this judgment, which always “begins with the household of God” (1Pet 4:17), Zion is humiliated.

As general as the knocking down of human pride in the previous chapter is, as precise and profound will be the judgment on Zion. The judgment will be on the city and the people, while the focus of this will be on the leaders and the distinguished women.

The LORD shows how the judgments take place. The judgments are described here in a way that is only understood if we have an eye for them. Then we discover that He takes things away, both materially and spiritually, with a purpose. He wants to force His people, as it were, to ask for Him again. The LORD takes them into the remote and desolate wilderness without aids to speak to their hearts (Hos 2:14).

The LORD Removes Supply and Support

The words “for behold” with which Isa 3:1 begins connect directly to the above. They are the introduction to the judgments that will strike Jerusalem and Judah because of the abuses described in the previous chapter. These judgments are carried out by “the Lord, the LORD of hosts” (for the meaning of these names see the explanation at Isaiah 1:24). These names of God combine the exaltedness, absolute authority and omnipotence of God as sovereign Ruler and Judge and imply a strongly threatening judgment.

The removal of “supply and support” means that the LORD will deprive the people – that is, Jerusalem and Judah – who place their trust in man and not in the LORD, of any form of support, both naturally and spiritually. Anything they believe to be giving them support will be removed, so that nothing remains to rely on. The natural support for their bodies “of bread and … of water” will disappear, so that their strength will perish. There will also be a lack of spiritual support, for fighting strength, competent guidance, counsel and craftsmanship will be removed (Isa 3:2-3).

The LORD removes everything on which the people place any trust, whether it comes from a good or an evil (the “diviner”) source. He can take away support through death. He can also do so because the enemy leaves nothing edible and captures the leaders and deports them to his own country. The people will become powerless because of lack of food and they will become adrift because of lack of guidance (2Kgs 24:14).

Extreme confusion is the result, a confusion that is increased by a reversal of values and standards. The LORD “will make mere lads their princes” (Isa 3:4). He will make His people prey to the “capriciousness” of the immature, unsensible youth, who believe they have the wisdom (Ecc 10:16a; 1Kgs 12:8-11). The only twelve-year-old King Manasseh is an example of this (2Chr 33:1-11).

The incompetent leadership and arbitrariness of a child as a king create anarchy and confusion. Each member of the people will seek his own right (Isa 3:5). Each will oppress the other in order to get what he thinks he is entitled to. The commandment to love one’s neighbor has completely turned into the opposite, selfishness. The result is the oppression of each other and the trampling of each other’s rights.

Those for whom respect is due because of their age and life experience, “the elder”, will be violently driven from their place by inexperienced “youth” (cf. 1Pet 5:5a; Lev 19:32). The “inferior”, the man who performs nothing and contributes nothing to the welfare of the community, but merely damages it, does not hesitate to attack “the honorable”, the man who seeks and commits himself to the good of the community. Age and position, to which a certain respect belongs, no longer make any impression.

The same leveling we see today in society and among God’s people. Children have a say and call the shots. They approach and treat the elderly with disrespect. As a result, society is disrupted. Faith sees in this the hand of God Who surrenders man to himself because man does not want Him.

Well, maybe the family bond still gives some hope (Isa 3:6). People will seek support from a family member who has a semblance of prestige, which is seen in wearing a “cloak”. Someone who has a conspicuous appearance will be accosted by those who are desperately looking for a person who can bring some order to the “ruin”. They beg him to take charge over the mess.

However, the hope on a family member of stature for an outcome is in vain (Isa 3:7). Also family members cannot or do not want to help each other. Nobody wants to take the responsibility to be the “healer” of the sick society. Everyone hides behind the lack of food and leadership abilities and makes that clear. He may be wearing a cloak, but he does not have one in his home. His own interest forbids him from even attempting to deal with the chaos. He refuses to function as a leader. It indicates that society has collapsed and is completely distraught.

Reason for Judgment

The prophet reminds his readers of the spiritual and moral causes of this anarchy in Jerusalem and Judah (Isa 3:8). This situation is the result of their brutal and blatant rebellion against the LORD expressed in “their speech and their actions”. There is not only discontent, grumbling, but an outright rebellion. It is a general principle that whoever rises up in word and deed against the LORD stumbles and falls. Challenging and brutal they rebel against the glorious presence of the LORD (cf. Jude 1:9-10). It is this glory that made the nations flee in the previous section (Isa 2:19).

And yet they know His glory, for He has revealed Himself for many centuries as the holy and merciful God. Although they know His glory, they prefer sin. Instead of making His glory the subject of their conversation, they speak openly about their sins without any shame (Isa 3:9; cf. Hos 5:5; Hos 7:10; Rom 1:32). Freely rendered, Isa 3:9a reads: ‘The expression of their faces speaks volumes.’ They have “a harlot’s forehead” and refuse “to be ashamed” (Jer 3:3), “they did not even know how to blush” (Jer 6:15).

They “never cease from sin” (2Pet 2:14). That is why Isaiah pronounces the “woe to them”. He who is characterized by such shamelessness “hurts himself”. Such a person brings the judgment on himself, he works his own demise.

We also see it today in the world around us and in professing Christianity. Homosexuality, the practice of Sodom, is no longer considered a sin, but is seen as a normal expression of life. Even in what were once strongholds of orthodoxy, homosexual couples are told: ‘We respect your faithfulness in the relationship. There is room for you in the church.’ Once again they show their resemblance to Sodom and thus call judgment on themselves (Gen 18:20).

In fact, this is the measure of the sin of the world. Not only do they commit these sins, but they also give hearty approval to those who practice them (Rom 1:32). The latter is also evidenced by their rejection and oppression of people who to them are dissenters. See for this the practice of our, Western world, anti-discrimination laws.

The Righteous and the Wicked

In the midst of all this wickedness, there is a word for “the righteous”, which is he who fears God and shows it in his life (Isa 3:10; cf. Isa 1:19). No matter how difficult it may be for him in this situation, he may know that his life will produce fruit which he himself will be allowed to enjoy. For him, this is an encouraging knowledge in the face of the fate “of the wicked” (cf. Isa 1:20). It will go badly with the latter because he has lived badly (Isa 3:11). The judgment as the wages of sin is deserved by himself. He has asked for it because of his sins and he will receive it.

These two ways and where they end, we find many times in the book of Proverbs. It is the law: “Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal 6:7b). This applies to every human being of every age, including us now.

The Leaders Are Seducers

A further degeneration of the condition of the people can be seen in the section that starts here and continues to Isaiah 4:1.

The people get the leaders they deserve. There are two kinds of leaders: “children” and “women” (Isa 3:12; cf. 1Kgs 15:13; 2Kgs 11:1; 13). In Isa 3:12-15 the leaders are described as children, who are incapable to rule (cf. 1Tim 3:2; 6). In the section from Isaiah 3:16 to Isaiah 4:1 they are described as women, who are unauthorized to rule (cf. 1Tim 2:12).

In both cases they are leaders who do not have a place of authority, but who assume it. If they take that place, they turn out to be tyrants. It may also be that the man rules formally, but the woman is in control, as we see with Ahab and Jezebel (1Kgs 21:7).

Children are generally guided by their lusts and passions, without any sense of compassion. Children can be very tender, but also extremely hard. They are capable of mistreating and oppressing those in their power. Women are generally guided by their feelings. They too can be very tender, but also very cruel. In their desire to assert themselves, they go over corpses. In both cases the ability to deliver the people from the state of confusion lacks.

What kind of leaders are leading in professing Christianity? Many leaders are leading God’s people away from Christ. They think they are qualified, but they are seducers. When women take (or get!) the lead, only deception can follow. They can only lead the people of God in the wrong direction. They lack a clear direction because they occupy a place not given to them by God.

By addressing them as “My people” the LORD wants to reach their hearts, so that they may see how they are and return to Him. He reminds them that these leaders are deceiving them. Instead of leading the people on the right way, they lead them astray by taking them on a wrong way.

The LORD cannot endure the attitude of the leaders. He arises and prepares Himself for a lawsuit against them (Isa 3:13). He is indignant about their attitude and actions and takes the attitude of Judge toward “the nations”, that is the tribes of Israel, the whole of Israel. [The Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – translates “the peoples” with “His people”].

After the LORD has prepared Himself for the trial, He actually enters into judgment with the leaders, “the elders and princes of His people” (Isa 3:14). He particularly blames them for behaving like wild beasts in the vineyard, which they should have guarded against wild beasts. They have devoured the vineyard, so that He does not get any fruit from it, that is to say, no joy, of which the wine speaks. His joy is an undisturbed fellowship with them. The leaders have made that impossible. They have plundered, trampled and abused God’s people and filled their own houses with the plunder.

The exclamation “what do you mean …?” expresses the amazement of the LORD (Isa 3:15; cf. Psa 94:5), as if He cannot understand that the leaders behave so ruthlessly toward their peers (cf. Mt 18:21-35). He Himself has dealt with them with so much mercy. Why then this way of acting? He exacerbates the accusation by talking about those they mistreat as “My people”. What is done to His people hits Him in the heart. At the same time He presents Himself, as in Isa 3:1, as “the Lord GOD of hosts”. They have to do with Him.

Judgment on the Proud Women

To put their sins clearly before the eyes of His people, the LORD describes the show-offs of the women. That is why the LORD says “moreover” (Isa 3:16). He continues His subject. The vanity of the leaders is illustrated and made visible in their wives, “the daughters of Zion”. Inner depravity always reveals itself. Thus, the pride of the heart becomes visible in one’s walk of life.

The cause of the depraved actions of His people can be seen in the desires of these “daughters of Zion” for the lifestyle of the world. Women have an enormous influence on the development of their children, whom they have with them throughout the day. That is why they are part of the cause of the dramatic deviation of the LORD. If these women had some sense of what suits God, the situation would not be completely hopeless.

However, these women are of a completely different kind. The arrogant pride of the leaders of Judah is equally present in these women, “the daughters of Zion”. They “are proud” and look down upon others with contempt. “They walk with heads held high” means that they stretch the neck backwards to look taller, which shows their proudness. “Seductive eyes” refers to their way of looking. Their innocent-seeming gaze is an a decidedly sensual one, a gaze to arouse sexual desire. This is how they walk around, “with mincing steps”, tinkling with “the bangles on their feet” while walking.

They walk, look and decorate themselves in a way that gives them the certainty that everyone has to look at them. With the greatest complacency they want to draw all attention to themselves. God particularly blames them for that. He is not indifferent to how and why a woman dresses and decorates as she does. Also in the New Testament there are clear indications about this (1Pet 3:3-4; 1Tim 2:9-10). Christians women would do well to pay attention to this, if at least they are women making a claim to godliness.

It is also clear that women who behave like these daughters of Zion, women who are as concerned with themselves and their appearance as they are, are not good housekeepers (cf. 1Tim 5:14). If they only pay attention to themselves and do their best to attract the attention of those around them, they will spend little time raising their children. A society in which women assume positions that are not theirs and therein are even stimulated by the government, will become an ungovernable society with an abundance of problem youth.

The literal behavior of the daughters of Zion is a reflection of the spiritual state of the people as a whole. The LORD describes the behavior of the women in pictorial language and mocks their conceit (Isa 3:17). A terrible retribution must take place. Their frivolity will turn into scabies reminiscent of leprosy (Lev 13:30-37; Lev 14:54). The scab will cover their scalps by the judgment of the LORD.

Possibly we can think of Jerusalem on Mount Zion, where Zion is “the scalp” and Jerusalem is the glory that will be affected by the scabies. A scalp that is affected by the scab must be shaved. Thus, Jerusalem, the city of glory, will be destroyed and its inhabitants will be taken away. Instead of the admiration of the surroundings they are after, disgust will fill all those who perceive them.

Making bare “the secret parts” (Darby Translation) means that the city will be razed to the ground, exposing the foundations. The shame and defamation of it will be seen by everyone.

“In that day” (Isa 3:18) of utter shame and defamation “the Lord”, Adonai, the sovereign Commander and Master, will “take away the beauty” of all their jewelry. Everything she flaunts will be taken away from her, so that she stands naked.

Next, Isaiah lists in the section of Isa 3:18b-23 an abundance of toiletries, ornaments, and garments. Isaiah is very detailed here. He does this to show the enormous contrast between the unbridled boast of false, worldly glory and the spiritual, exalted simplicity of the inner, real glory that is pleasing to God. After all, Isaiah is about showing the way that leads via the judgment on the false glory to the true glory, that of the Messiah and His kingdom.

It is not possible for us to say something about every decoration. Nevertheless, some remarks can be made that shed some light on this section. It is remarkable that Isaiah mentions a total of twenty-one decorations. The number twenty-one is three times seven, which symbolically indicates the fullness (three) and the perfection (seven) of the frivolity of the decorations of the women. In their appearance, these fashion dolls are a reflection of the disgusting softness of their husbands.

The description of the decoration begins with the “anklets”, also mentioned in Isa 3:16, and the “headbands” (Isa 3:18), i.e. the decoration of the feet and the head. This is a reminder of God’s judgment on His people that He pronounced at the beginning of this book: “From the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it” (Isa 1:6a). The people do not want to see this sick state, but want to cover it with all kinds of decorations all over the body, from head to toe, in order to make them attractive instead of repulsive.

Furthermore, the enumeration is not from bottom to top or vice versa, nor from outside to inside. There is no particular order in it. The enumeration is arbitrary and thus corresponds to the capricious behavior of the women.

The “crescent ornaments” (Isa 3:18) are jewels in the shape of the moon, possibly a reference to the moon as an object of worship. They are captured from the Midianites in the days of Gideon (Jdg 8:26). They are worn around the neck and are also worn by camels (Jdg 8:21). The “veils” (Isa 3:19) correspond to today’s ‘nikab’, a kind of burka, but as a separate garment.

“The ankle chains” (Isa 3:20) cause them to make small and graceful passes. “The sashes” are the ornamental sashes the bride wears on the day of her wedding. “The amulets” show their superstition because they are worn to protect them from the incantations of sorcerers. “The cloaks” (Isa 3:22) are wide shawls, just as Ruth wears one when she goes to Boaz in her most beautiful clothes (Rth 3:15).

The description of some of the garments mentioned shows a mixture of elements that are also found in the priest’s garments with elements that belong to idolatry. Thus, “the headbands” (Isa 3:20) and “the undergarments” (Isa 3:23) are also mentioned as priest’s garments (Exo 39:28; Exo 29:5; 8). Garments speak in Scripture of the behavior we exhibit. Their garments makes the women of Jerusalem look like a decorated Christmas tree. They dress like this to draw the attention and affection of the people around them. It does not occur to them to please the LORD in their behavior.

The LORD will work a total reversal (Isa 3:24). He will take away from the women everything with which they wallpaper themselves as garbage. How miserable they will look and feel then! A woman who came to repentance and did not put her make-up on her face anymore, said that in the beginning she felt ‘naked’. This is how it will be with these women.

In flowery, powerful language the LORD proposes how He will change everything they mean to be attractive to others into something that will repel others. She will look miserable because of mistreatment and will be too dirty to deal with. For example, the smell of perfume will be replaced by “putrefaction”, for example from festering wounds. The “belt” with which they flaunt will change into a “rope” with which they will be dragged into captivity.

Their “well-set hair” will be shaved off. For a woman, “a plucked-out scalp” or baldness, means great defamation. Bald shaving happens to captured women (Deu 21:12). Their “beauty” will be marred by “branding” put on their bodies with a branding iron. It is the indelible mark that they are in slavery (cf. Neh 9:36).

Their “men” to whom they do not listen, but over whom they rule and of whom they make use of (Amos 4:1b), will fall by the sword (Isa 3:25). Their “mighty ones”, whom they think will protect them, will be killed in battle. The “gates” (Isa 3:26), the places of jurisdiction and guarding, will no longer provide safety and protection. The enemy will take possession of them. This will happen about 150 years later, when Judah is besieged and conquered by Babylon and taken away into exile. As a result, the city will “sit on the ground”, a paragon of great mourning and utter disaster (Job 2:13).

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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