Isaiah 3 – “Jerusalem in Chaos; The Haughty Daughters of Zion”

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Jerusalem’s society will deteriorate because of its many sins. God will bring disgrace to the haughty daughters of Zion and kill their husbands in a battle.

II. Photo
God will strip the women of their ornaments: “In that day, my Lord will strip off the finery of the anklets, the fillets, and the crescents, the eardrops, the bracelets, the veils, the turbans, the armlets, the sashes, the talismans, the amulets, the signet rings and the nose rings…” (vv. 18-21)

III. Important Verses
4-5: And He will make boys their rulers, And babes shall govern them. So the people shall oppress one another — Each oppressing his fellow: The young shall bully the old; And the despised [shall bully] the honored.
8-9: Ah, Jerusalem has stumbled, And Judah has fallen, Because by word and deed They insult the LORD, Defying His majestic glance. Their partiality in judgment accuses them; They avow their sins like Sodom, They do not conceal them. Woe to them! For ill Have they served themselves.
10-11: Hail the just man, for he shall fare well; He shall eat the fruit of his works. Woe to the wicked man, for he shall fare ill; As his hands have dealt, so shall it be done to him.
16-24: The LORD said: “Because the daughters of Zion Are so vain And walk with heads thrown back, With roving eyes, And with mincing gait, Making a tinkling with their feet” — My Lord will bare the pates Of the daughters of Zion, The LORD will uncover their heads. In that day, my LORD will strip off the finery of the anklets, the fillets, and the crescents; of the eardrops, the bracelets, and the veils; the turbans, the armlets, and the sashes; of the talismans and the amulets; the signet rings and the nose rings; of the festive robes, the mantles, and the shawls; the purses, the lace gowns, and the linen vests; and the kerchiefs and the capes. And then — Instead of perfume, there shall be rot; And instead of an apron, a rope; Instead of a diadem of beaten-work, A shorn head; Instead of a rich robe, A girding of sackcloth; A burn instead of beauty.

IV. Outline

1-7. Prophecy: Jerusalem in chaos
    1-3. God will remove the leaders
    4. Youngsters will lead
    5. Social chaos
    6-7. Descriptive example: people will shun leadership
8-15. Jerusalem’s sins and their consequences
    8-9. Jerusalem’s sins
    10-11. Proverbial justification for its fall
    12. Jerusalem’s wayward course
    13-15. God will prosecute its injustice
16-26. The humbling of the haughty women
    16. The ways of the haughty women
    17. God will strip them of their clothes
    18-23. God will strip them of their ornaments
    24. God will replace their beauty with disgrace
    25-26. Their husbands will die in battle

V. Comment
Chapter 3 describes the hostilities that will plague Jerusalem and the reasons for this punishment. It ends with a description of what will befall the haughty daughters of Zion. Verse 1 describes God with the appellation “Sovereign Lord of Hosts,” a name used in prophetic literature to describe God as a warrior. For example, see 1:24, “Assuredly, this is the declaration Of the Sovereign, the LORD of Hosts, The Mighty One of Israel: ‘Ah, I will get satisfaction from My foes; I will wreak vengeance on My enemies!’” Also see 10:33, “Lo! The Sovereign LORD of Hosts Will hew off the tree-crowns with an ax: The tall ones shall be felled, The lofty ones cut down,” and 19:4, “And I will place the Egyptians At the mercy of a harsh master, And a ruthless king shall rule them” — declares the Sovereign, the LORD of Hosts.”

Isaiah justifies Jerusalem’s punishment with a proverb in vv. 10-11: “Hail the just man, for he shall fare well; He shall eat the fruit of his works. Woe to the wicked man, for he shall fare ill; As his hands have dealt, so shall it be done to him.” As one might expect, this type of saying is common to the book of proverbs. For example, see 10:24, “What the wicked man plots overtakes him; What the righteous desire is granted,” and 10:30, “The righteous will never be shaken; The wicked will not inhabit the earth.” While this type of proverb appears dozens of times in the book of Proverbs (e.g. Prov 10:32; 15:29; 24:16), it is also appears in the book of Psalms (e.g. Ps 1:5-6; 11:5; 37:21; 58:11) and has the same message as the speeches of Job’s friends in the book of Job (e.g. 20:4-29; 22:12-20).

In fact, proverbs such as those found in vv. 10-11 seem to have been prevalent throughout the ancient Near East. Collins writes (pp. 488-489), “There is a well-attested genre of Wisdom instruction, especially in Egypt, that dates back to the third millennium BCE. Examples include the teachings of Amenemhet and Ptahhotep (third millenium), those of Amenemope and Ani (second millennium), and numerous others (Translations of these texts can be found in ANET, 412-24; and in M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature 1:58-80; 2:135-63.) These instructions were copied in the scribal schools, and new instructions were composed, down to Hellenistic times. They typically deal with relations with other people, both superiors and inferiors, friends and enemies. They often caution about relations with women. They are by no means opportunistic. On the contrary, they seek to inculcate moral virtues, in the belief that these ultimately lead to success.” Aside from Egypt, the Edomites seem to have been a center of Wisdom. Hence, Jeremiah 49:7 says, “Concerning Edom. Thus said the LORD of Hosts: Is there no more wisdom in Teman? Has counsel vanished from the prudent? Has their wisdom gone stale?” and Obadiah 1:8 says, “In that day — declares the LORD — I will make the wise vanish from Edom, Understanding from Esau’s mount.”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Blenkinsopp, Joseph. “Isaiah 1-39” The Anchor Bible vol. 19 (New York: Doubleday, 2000).
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Sweeney, Marvin A. “Isaiah 1-39 with an Introduction to Prophetic Literature” The Forms of Old Testament Literature vol. 16 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans, 1996).
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