Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Isaiah 3:16-26

Judah’s Women Denounced

16 Moreover, the Lord said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud
And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes,
And go along with mincing steps
And tinkle the bangles on their feet,
17 Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs,
And the Lord will make their foreheads bare.”
18 In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19 dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, 20 headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21 finger rings, nose rings, 22 festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, 23 hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils.
24 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.
25 Your men will fall by the sword
And your mighty ones in battle.
26 And her gates will lament and mourn,
And deserted she will sit on the ground.

Compared with the last passage we looked at here on these pages, this is a much longer segment of Scripture. But, as I'm sure you've discovered by reading through these verses, this was a passage to be taken in its entirety rather than broken part way. Isaiah's picture of the women of Judah cannot be captured in just one image. I'm thinking you are conjuring up images for yourself! (As you can see, I opted for featuring a closet that might contain such an extensive wardrobe and accompaniments rather than to "hang up" one of today's women of Judah.)

God doesn't mince words, even as He mentions the women's "mincing steps." (vs 16) The detail in the description from Isaiah is fantastic. The outcome for these women, however, is not, dare I say, pretty. Punishment will come in the form of a disease of some type, something to leave their scalps covered in scabs and their foreheads bare. (Though the King James Version reads, "the Lord will discover their secret parts," leading us to believe a far worse fate would be theirs.)

My favorite commentary from Matthew Henry offers up the possibility that these women could be the wives and daughters of the aforementioned "princes" of this chapter, "that they might maintain the pride and luxury of their families." They would certainly be the ones who could afford such a closet. But, the principle of taking dress too seriously could be applied to all women--even today.

Was the problem with having an abundance of these items or having these items at all? Verse 16 focuses on the issues in mentioning 'proud' and 'seductive eyes.' "Vestis virum reddit is one of my take-away sentences from Latin I--"Clothes make the man." Surely, the thought was that clothes make the woman, too, but that was just the beginning. She needed the attitude, the posturing, the "wanton eyes" (in the Hebrew, "to ogle, blink coquettishly," Strong's), the tinkling of her bangles to attract attention and complete the image of who she was.

"The enumeration of these things intimates what care they were in about them, how much their hearts were upon them, what an exact account they kept of them, how nice and critical they were about them, how insatiable their desire was of them, and how much of their comfort was bound up in them.... The prophet did not speak of these things as in themselves sinful (they might lawfully be had and used), but as things which they were proud of and should therefore be deprived of."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Can you even keep track of fashion trends today? Look at the King James Version's take on verse 22: "The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins...." Nowadays, we have the double-decker, elevatored closets housing enough shoes to shoe a small country. Mantles and wimples and crisping pins--oh my! And what is the fashionable length of jeans--with or without holes, bleach, fringe, embroidery, belts.... "A chasing after the wind," as Ecclesiastes might have captured.

The biggest problem of all goes beyond what the women thought of themselves, or what they wanted others to think about them. My study Bible sums it up: "When women cultivate beauty for beauty's sake, they thereby reflect the moral decay of the nations and detract from the glory of God." When the storehouse is full, do we thank God or do we build another storehouse for the extra we accumulate? If we're beautiful, do we thank God for who He created us to be ("...the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God," I Peter 3:4), or do we head back to the mall to make sure our beauty stays intact.

"'And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?' So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.' And He said to His disciples, 'For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.'"
--Luke 12: 19-22

Verse 18 says, "In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of.... Again, back to the King James', we read, "...the Lord will take away the bravery of.... (italics mine). That word in the Hebrew also means glory, honor or majesty. [Strong's] "All glory, laud and honor to Thee, Redeemer King...." "To Thee all majesty ascribe, and crown Him Lord of all...." When we take away or cheapen that which belongs solely to God--that which tries to be captured in an ornament, bauble, fabric, style, attitude, etc.--He will respond. 

"Give unto the Lord, O ye mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness."
--Psalm 29: 1 and 2 (italics mine)

The chapter concludes with the effect that the choices of the daughters of Zion will have in joining the sinful nation of Judah as a whole. Not only will they trade their beautiful garments for sackcloth, but their men will be destroyed and their city left fallen.

"The roads of Zion are in mourning
Because no one comes to the appointed feasts.
All her gates are desolate;
Her priests are groaning,
Her virgins are afflicted,
And she herself is bitter."
--Lamentations 1:4

"If sin be harboured with in the walls, lamentation and mourning are near the gates."
--Matthew Henry

There is hope in this word. "A Remnant Prepared." ....'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 4:1-3

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).