Isaiah 4: Judgment of Israel

Isaiah 4 opens with 7 women fighting over a man. Despite this sounding like something out of a reality TV show, it has spiritual meaning in addition to a literal fulfillment. Isaiah 4 also gives us some hope, referencing the good that will come to those left after the judgment.

Introduction

Isaiah 4 is much shorter than the previous chapters, but that doesn't mean it contains less meaning! Isaiah 4 has two main points, both of which have a literal and spiritual interpretation. These are my favorite types of passages in the Bible! Not only does it testify to the power of the Holy Spirit—who else can accurately cram double and triple meanings in all the time (we aren't talking about a couple songs with double entendres, we're talking about practically every chapter of the Bible!)?—it also gives me a reason to go back and reread passages I've read multiple times before, because I know I've missed something.

Daughters of Zion

Isaiah 4:1 picks up where Isaiah 3 left off with the fate of the daughters of Zion. With the death of the men in war, as described in Isaiah 3:25-26, there are fewer men than women. This causes desperation among the women, who declare that they well accept anything as long as they have a husband.

Literal Interpretation

The literal interpretation is that women in the time of this prophecy are unable to find husbands. The 7 women described are able to provide food and clothing for themselves, but still desire to have a husband. It seems that although they are independent, there is still some form of reproach associated with being unmarried. We can see this in today's society; even though it is expected that a woman is able to provide for herself, there is still stigma around being an unmarried woman after a certain age.

When discussing this verse in church, someone threw out a statistic that right now there are 3 women for every man. I haven't found any evidence for this, in fact, according to the CIA, while there are slightly less men than women in general, among teens and young adults (15-54) there is roughly a 1:1 ratio of men to women.[1]

If you've been to a church, however, you would seriously question this statistic. The problem with statistics is that they often leave out important information. Small details can really change the ratio; for instance, if you narrow the statistics down to race, black people have the highest imbalance with only .9 men per woman.[2] Even with this type of granularity, we're missing crucial information about these men that would determine whether they are marriage material. When we look at the ratio of men to women, we have to remember that some of these men are gay, others are incarcerated, and even more are non-believers. How would this ratio change if we took in to account some of these factors?

Let's take the average rate between teens and young adults, since these are the ages at which you expect people to find spouses. The ratio for people 15-24 is 1.05 men per woman, and for people 25-54, 1 man per woman. That gives us an average of about 1.025 men per woman in this age range.[1] However, it is estimated that only 70.6% of U.S. citizens profess Christianity. So as a Christian woman, seeking a Christian mate, this brings our ratio is closer to .74 men per woman (of course there are also fewer Christian women but we can't assume that these women will have a preference in the religion of their spouse, or that Christian men will be adamant that their wife is Christian).

Similarly, men have higher incarceration rates than women. Black and Latino men have even higher incarceration rates than white men.[4] This isn't to say that incarcerated men are unworthy of love, in fact some of them might even be wrongly incarcerated. However, unless you're volunteering at a prison, you aren't going to meet these men and you can't really date them, so we're going to scratch them off the list as well. It is estimated that on average 1.35% of men are incarcerated[5] (remember, this can be as high as 11.4% in black men, however[4]). Since Christianity and incarceration are not mutually exclusive (though we would hope Christians make up a smaller number of prisoners), we're going to assume this ratio holds to our Christian men. Now our ratio has dropped to .73 men per woman.

This isn't nearly as drastic as 7 women per man as described in this verse, but it's definitely something we can feel. It is very possible that we will see a literal fulfillment of this verse.

Spiritual Interpretation

The amount of symbolism in this verse lends perfectly to a spiritual interpretation. There are 7 women, just as there are 7 churches in Revelation. In prophecy the church is depicted as a woman, specifically as the Bride of Christ. Furthermore, bread is symbolic of the word of God (Matthew 4:4 and John 6:33). In sports, we use clothing to tell which team we're playing for. Similarly, God gives us a robe of righteousness (re: clothing), when we chose to follow Him (Isaiah 61:10 and Revelation 6:11).

Using these symbols, we can infer that there are different churches who wish to claim the name of Jesus, but are providing their own doctrines and standards of righteousness because they aren't actually of God. This is a spiritual warning about false doctrine.

Internal Reference to Genesis?

Taking it a step further, we can relate this all the way back to Adam and Eve. Eve brought Adam her own fruit (the fruit from the tree of knowledge), which caused them to sin. After this sin, they created their own clothes which were not good enough and had to be replaced by God (Genesis 3). The outcome of Eve's actions was disastrous, which could also be the message behind this passage.

Triumph for God

Isaiah tells us "in that day" (which is generally seen to mean the end of time, but definitely refers to the time of this prophecy's fulfillment), we will see the triumph of God. The branch of the Lord and the fruit of the earth mentioned in the chapter could be a literal reference, implying that nature is back to a state such as that of the garden of Eden. It could also reference God's people. John 15 talks about the true vine, which bears good fruit. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus warns us that we will know a person by their fruit (actions), and in John 15, we see God pruning vines that do not produce good fruit. After judgment, the only people who will be living are those who are of God. Thus, only the fruits of the Spirit will be seen on earth. This would also explain why the earth is excellent and beautiful after the judgment.

Purging Sin

Isaiah goes on to tell us what will happen after God has purged sin from Jerusalem. The fact that this is done by the spirit of judgment and burning leads me to believe Isaiah is referencing the end times. The words written here are matter of fact, and powerful.
When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion,
and shall have purged the blood of Jerusalem from the midst thereof
by the spirit of judgment, and by the spirit of burning.Isaiah 4:4 KJV

When I read these words it reminds me of the cost of sin. Notice that the filth is washed away, but the blood is purged. When judgment comes, there will be two types of people: those who claim the blood of Jesus and those who do not. Both groups are filthy with sin, but those of us who surrendered to Jesus are washed clean. The cost of our renewal is the blood He shed on the cross—His life, which He gave for us. Those who are purged are judged by their own deeds since they did not surrender to Jesus and remain filthy in their sin. These are the people who are cast into the lake of fire.
12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.Revelation 20:12-15 KJV

God's Presence on Earth

In the beginning of time, God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. The introduction of sin into the world has separated us from Him, but His desire is to end this separation. Isaiah 4:5-6 give us a glimpse of a world with His presence re-established. Just as it was during the Exodus, God says He will appear as a cloud of smoke by day and fire by night. Note that He specifically says this sign of His presence isn't just on a single dwelling but on every dwelling.

In addition to being in our presence, He will also provide shade and refuge. Once the judgment is complete and evil has been purged from the world, there will be no reason to worry.

References

  1. "The World Factbook". Central Intelligence Agency; visited February 2018
  2. "Male-Female Ratio by Race Alone or in Combination and Hispanic or Latino Origin for the United States: 2000". United States Census Bureau. September 10, 2001
  3. "Religious Landscape". Pew Research Center; visited February 2018
  4. Tyjen Tsai and Paola Scommegna. "U.S. Has World's Highest Incarceration Rate". Population Reference Bureau. 2012

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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