- People Removed from Israel
- Stay and Staff, Stay of Bread, and Stay of Water
- Possible Fulfillment Before Captivity
- Double Fulfillment in Today?
- Defiant and Proud
- What You Do Comes Back to You
- Pleading for His People
- Crimes of the People
- Daughters of Zion
- Stretched Neck and Wanton Eyes
- Mincing Walk
- Tinkling Feet
- Scabs in the Head
- Wealth Taken
- References and Footnotes
- Other Pages to View
Isaiah 3 is full of information, and I advise you to pray over it before accepting any particular interpretation. From my research, I've seen that many students of the Bible believe this passage has already been fulfilled, while others believe the judgment spoken of here is to come during the end times. I briefly discuss these positions, but I think it best for the Holy Spirit to convict you personally about which time period this chapter refers to.
People Removed from Israel
We often idolize certain positions or lifestyles above others, but the truth is, all professions are needed to make the society function. In the New Testament, we are reminded that we all have a place in the Body of Christ. A similar analogy could be applied to a nation. Each profession has its position in society and is necessary to keep the society stable. Imagine if suddenly there were no teachers, or doctors, or even janitors. How we function on a daily basis would change drastically, and not for the better.
As part of judgement, God vows to take the following people (and objects) from Judah:
- Stay and staff
- Stay of bread
- Stay of water
- Mighty men
- Wise men
- Honorable men
Can you imagine a nation without these people?
Stay and Staff, Stay of Bread, and Stay of Water
The stay and staff represent the necessary things in life. We are told that man doesn't live by bread along, but by every word that proceeds from God (Matthew 4:4) and that Jesus is the Living Water (John 7:37-38). Bread and water are often used to represent the whole of our needs, both spiritually and physically. By saying that these would be taken away, God is opening the door for famine, spiritual decline, health related ailments, etc.
With all of these people removed from the nation, desperation would kick in. Isaiah 3:4-6 tells us that the people would be ruled by children and would appoint people to positions based on substandard expectations. Things that normally would have seemed trivial—like having clothing—would suddenly be a sign of prosperity and competency.
Possible Fulfillment Before Captivity
Many of Israel's kings were young when they began their rule. The first child to be crowned king is Jehoash, who becomes king at the age of 7, and saves the people of the harsh reign of his grandmother Athaliah (2 Kings 11-12). This occurred before Isaiah was a prophet, but was indeed an emergency situation.
A more relevant time a child is said to have been crowned king is right before the Babylon captivity. Jehoiachin is said to be 8 years old when he takes the throne in 2 Chronicles 36:9, though 2 Kings 24:8 says he was 18. Scholars believe the difference was either a copyist error, or that one passage refers to his appointment to co-regency with his father and the other refers to his solo reign.
Some people believe the turmoil that ensued leading up to the captivity, including the reign of the young Jehoiachin, fulfills this prophecy from Isaiah. 2 Kings 24:14 covers the fulfillment of at least part of this prophecy, with Babylon taking the skilled men into captivity.
Double Fulfillment in Today?
When I read this passage as a child it sounded dismal; when I read it in 2018, it sounds relevant. We just went through a month or so in which every day someone in power lost their job due to allegations of sexual assault. Our president behaves like a five year old child. False prophets are popular and swindling people for money (they are also getting in trouble for sexual assault). The average age of CEOs seems to be going down, and in the tech industry, most of the founders are less than 35 years (remember Timothy is called a youth in 1 Timothy 4:12 and was probably in his 30s!).
I've never been more guilty of saying my cat or a child would be a better leader than many of the people in charge than in these past few years—and most people agree with me.
Those who study the prophecy aren't surprised to see this chapter being fulfilled in modern times. Isaiah 3 uses the phrase "in that day" several times; this phrase is generally used to refer to the end times. In addition, Isaiah 3 is squeezed between two other chapters that seem to speak to end times prophecy. Isaiah 2 even parallels verses from Revelation. When we read the Bible, we have to remember that the chapter divisions are not necessarily the start of a new subject. In fact, other than to reference text for others, chapter and verse numbers are pretty much worthless. Chapters were added in the 13th century and verses were added in the 16th century; neither are present in the original text.
Defiant and Proud
The shew of their countenance doth witness against them;
One of the pitfalls that seems to trip us up the most often is that of pride. In Isaiah 3:9, God speaks to this problem, comparing the situation in Israel to the infamous Sodom. Sodom and Gomorrah are only famous for their destruction and sinful behavior. That's definitely not who you want to be likened to.
It's important to realize that the problem isn't just that there is sin, but that the sin is boastful and proud. Often, when we talk about sin today we speak of it as something that is inevitable and adopt a careless attitude that puts in danger of the mindset that was in Sodom and developing in Israel according to this verse. There is a major difference in committing sin by accident or in a moment of weakness, then repenting (e.g., David committed adultery then had a man killed, but genuinely repented) and being proud of the sins you have committed.
To be proud of your sins is the very opposite of repenting. This behavior is dangerous because it's an open act of rebellion against God. Not only have we done something He commanded us not to do, but we're out bragging about it and proud to have gone against Him. This is the same thing the devil did, has done, and is doing... Again, not someone you want to be likened to, right?
What You Do Comes Back to You
God promises that those who do wicked will receive wicked and those who do good will receive good. Deep in our hearts, we know this. Other religions and even atheists generally subscribe to this belief (though many use the word karma, which originates in Hinduism and Buddhism).
This promise from God is important for a couple reasons. It shows us that God is about justice; ultimately, we all believe that good people should be rewarded and bad people should be punished. God is confirming that to be the order of judgement. While this stands as condemnation for those doing evil, it also serves as hope for those doing good. Often when we do good, it goes unnoticed and we feel as though the crooks are getting away with everything. God's promise reminds us that in the end, justice will prevail.
Isaiah 3:13-15 discusses judgment day specifically.
Pleading for His People
Punishment isn't fun. I remember when I was a child, being on punishment sucked. Having a friend on punishment was almost as bad, because if your friend couldn't play with you, you couldn't play either! When you're a kid, these moments seem cruel and unnecessary, but as we grow older, we realize that our parents and teachers were teaching us valuable lessons. Punishment was actually an action of love; my parents loved me enough to correct my behavior.
Of course, the punishment that comes from the final judgment will be permanent and thus if we perish in it, we won't have a chance to correct our behavior. Smaller, everyday judgments from God are meant to correct our behavior before it's too late. If you're not convinced, Isaiah 3:13 and Micah 6:2 say it all. God is pleading with us to come back to us. Pleading gives off the connotation of strong desire and desperation. More importantly, it tells us that wherever we stand at judgement is our choice, not His.
Crimes of the People
Within these verses, God accuses his people of eating the vineyard and stealing from the poor. On the surface it seems that He is accusing the people of being greedy, but I believe there is much more to it that mere greed. In Matthew 21:33-40, Jesus gives us a similarly worded parable. In the parable, a man has left a group of men to watch and take care of his vineyard. After time has passed, he sends servants to reap some of the fruit but the men watching over the vineyard kill and injure the servants. The man sends yet more servants, only for the men to do the same thing. As a final measure, he sends his own son. However, the men are so determined to steal the vineyard for themselves that they kill the son as well. The parable is obviously a reference to God sending prophets over time, culminating with His Son Jesus. Isaiah 5:7 tells us that the vineyard is Israel.
The crime isn't just about greed; it's about turning your back on the Creator. The keepers of the vineyard in the parable were greedy, sure, but the decision to go against the owner of the vineyard (a parallel to sin), led them to behave even more heinously. To get what they wanted, or to coverup their indiscretions, they resorted to murder and violence. The same happens to each of us when we step away from God. The moment we choose to turn our back on Him, we have stolen from the vineyard (since the vineyard is His people). When we do so, the evidence is found within us, just as Isaiah warns. As such, I think the crime being described in Isaiah 3 is less about greed and more about disobedience.
Daughters of Zion
The chapter closes out by discussing the daughters of Zion, which spills into chapter 4. The term "daughter" can actually mean many things when we look at its Biblical context. In the New Testament, it is obvious that the Body of Christ, also called the Bride of Christ, is represented by a woman. Similarly, when God specifies towns or nations in the Bible, they are referred to as women. Zion is where the Temple was built and is considered the city of God. Logically, daughters of Zion would refer to the cities that sprang from Zion, or the people living in Zion (Jerusalem).
The people of Israel are identified by four traits: haughtiness, stretched forth necks with wanton eyes, mincing walks, and tinkling with their feet. Although many of these traits lend to women with ease, I think they can be applied to men as well.
The word haughty doesn't even sound like it could be good. According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, haughty means to be blatantly and disdainfully proud. Merriam Webster also defines haughty as looking down upon those deemed inferior. For the daughters of Zion to be described as haughty, it means they put themselves on a pedestal, looking down on those not like them. Does that sound anything like the modern church? Have we become like the Pharisees, lifting ourselves above non-believers, or those struggling with particular sins? It's something to think about...
Stretched Neck and Wanton Eyes
The next set of descriptions continues the image of prideful and vain people.
Although there are cultures that use neck rings to stretch the neck, I think this is figurative rather than literal. When you think of humble and shy people, you think of people who keep their head down and try not stand out. However, when you think of people who are obnoxiously proud and vain, you think of them standing tall with their head held high. When God says the daughters of Zion have a stretched neck, I think He is alluding to this prideful stance. They have no shame and are holding their heads high despite their sinful nature.
Wanton is outdated word roughly equating to how we use the word brazen today. There are several definitions of wanton, none of which I would want used to describe me. Many rely on the concept of being unchecked or over the top. This could be in reference to cruelty, or malicious behavior, or sexual immorality. My gut leads me to believe God described their eyes as wanton because they were both cruel and sexually immoral.
The fact that they are haughty tells us they look down on certain people; when we look down on people we adopt cruel tendencies. Once you have decided someone is inferior, you excuse inferior treatment. This is why people were ok with the treatment of slaves in America and why people are ok with many of Donald Trump's ludicrous statements. It stands to reason that if the daughters of Zion were haughty, they were wanton in the sense of being merciless and humane.
However, I see a spiritual side to describing the daughters of Zion as wanton in the sense of being sexually immoral. Sure, people struggle with sexual immorality literally, but throughout the Bible sexual immorality (specifically adultery) is used to describe idolatry. Words like harlot and whore (as in the whore of Babylon) are used to describe nations that have turned away from God and are now "in bed with" false gods. Israel was known for its struggle with idolatry and prophecy tells us that in the end, most people will commit idolatry by worshiping the beast. Thus, it stands to reason that this could be the meaning of this description as well.
If you're like me, you were confused with you read "mincing" as a description of how they walked. I've only used the word "mincing" to mean dicing vegetables, so I had to look up what was meant. Mincing, when it comes to dicing vegetables, refers to the short and quick cuts made with the knife. Similarly, mincing as a description of walking, refers to short, quick steps. It basically means a flirtatious walk.
When my cat runs through the house, I know because she wears a collar with a little bell on it and the bell jingles as she moves. This effect is mimicked in humans through brackets, anklets, and even the type of heel worn on your shoes. If you grew up in the 90's and ever succumbed to the trend of bangle bracelets or charm bracelets, you know the tinkling sound they make as you move your arm. The same can be said of anklets. In fact, for certain styles of dance, there are specific pieces of jewelry worn around the ankles to make this sound as the feet move.
I don't think God is condemning these dances or wearing anklets specifically, so much as the mentality that the daughters of Zion possess. Remember, we have to keep this in context with the other traits listed. So far, we know that the daughters of Zion are proud and seductive. The adornment of jewelry around their feet is not likely for the purpose of celebration and fun, but for show and seduction. I discussed the issue of jewelry in more detail in a previous post.
As I mentioned in that post, I think the deciding factor in jewelry is intent. The daughters of Zion are not modest their heart—we've already been told that they are haughty and have wanton eyes—therefore it is unlikely that they are modest appearance. They wear these trinkets to prove they are better than others, to show off their wealth, and to attract attention. These are the things we sound be concerned with when evaluating our own behavior. Am I showing off? Am I trying to attract attention? Am I trying to alienate someone? If the answer to any of these is yes, we're following in the footsteps of the daughters of Zion.
Scabs in the Head
I'm not sure of the exact fulfillment of Isaiah 3:17, but the mentioning of scabs in the crown of the head definitely struck a cord with me. Hair is very important to us. Aging men are constantly seeking ways to remedy male pattern baldness, and women spend hours perfecting their hair. In 2014, the United States spent $11.6 billion in hair products. It is alleged by many that black women make up the majority of these sales. Due to societal pressures and expectations, black women have been using relaxers, which contain the harmful chemical known as lye, to mimic the Eurocentric hair styles that society has deemed beautiful. I speak from experience when I say relaxers cause scabs in the head. Stylists put the chemical in using gloves, so it's no surprise that if it touches the scalp bad things will happen.
As I said, I don't know exactly what God had in mind when He spoke this prophecy to Isaiah, but I think this experience gives us a deeper understanding. When we spend all of our money and effort altering our appearance for vanity's sake, as the daughters of Zion are said to do, it will backfire and we will suffer consequences.
The next few verses cover things that would be taken from them. It is interesting to note that all of the things taken from them are signs of material wealth—objects such as jewelry, clothing, and bonnets. This solidifies that the issue God has is not with the objects themselves but how the daughters of Zion view the objects. Nothing God is taking from them is life threatening. If you were to lose all of your wealth tomorrow, but maintain your health and your relationships, how would you feel? The fact that this causes such anguish among the daughters of Zion is very telling.
Because the people turn away from God, He doesn't go to battle with them. Without God's protection, they fall in war. The death of men in war likely affected the decline of valuable members of society spoken of earlier in the chapter.
References and Footnotes
- "Are CEOs Getting Younger". Owl Guru; February 2018
- Walter Frick. "How Old Are Silicon Valley’s Top Founders? Here’s the Data". Harvard Business Review. April 3, 2014
- "How "Young" Was Timothy". Albatrus.org; visited February 2018
- "(1 Tim. 4:12) How old was Timothy?". Evidence Unseen; February 2018
- "Isaiah 3:1 Commentary. Bible Hub; February 2018
- Julia Glum. "White House Aides Treat Trump Like a Child, Never Saying 'No' and Inventing Distractions". Newsweek. October 10, 2017
- David A. Graham. "The Infantilization of the President". The Atlantic. October 11, 2017
- "What age was Jehoiachin when he began his reign?". GotQuestions.org; February 2018
- Wayne Croley. "Isaiah 3: Fulfilled During The End Times?". Prophecy Proof Insights; visited February 2018
- Andy Rau. "Where Do Verse and Chapter Numbers in the Bible Come From?". Bible Gateway. December 20, 2016
- Don Stewart. "Why Is the Bible Divided into Chapters and Verses?". Blue Letter Bible; visited February 2018
- "Karma. Merriam Webster; visited February 2018
- "Daughter". Bible Study Tools; visited February 2018
- "Daughters of Zion". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions; visited February 2018
- "What does the Bible mean when it refers to a “Daughter of Zion”?". GotQuestions.org; visited February 2018
- "Haughty". Merriam Webster; visited February 2018
- "Wanton". Merriam Webster; visited February 2018
- “Micing". Bible Study Tools; visited February 2018
- Ree Hughes. ““. PSALMS to God. June 18, 2016Earrings, Piercings, and Christians
- Caitlin Stewart. "The Beauty Market: New Forecasts and Trends". Market Research. January 19, 2016
- Antonia Opiah. "The Changing Business of Black Hair, a Potentially $500b Industry". Huffington Post. March 25, 2104
Other Pages to View