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Isaiah 3:16--4:1

Washing Away Impurity

3:16 The Lord says,

“The women 1  of Zion are proud.

They walk with their heads high 2 

and flirt with their eyes.

They skip along 3 

and the jewelry on their ankles jingles. 4 

3:17 So 5  the sovereign master 6  will afflict the foreheads of Zion’s women 7  with skin diseases, 8 

the Lord will make the front of their heads bald.” 9 

3:18 10 At that time 11  the sovereign master will remove their beautiful ankle jewelry, 12  neck ornaments, crescent shaped ornaments, 3:19 earrings, bracelets, veils, 3:20 headdresses, ankle ornaments, sashes, sachets, 13  amulets, 3:21 rings, nose rings, 3:22 festive dresses, robes, shawls, purses, 3:23 garments, vests, head coverings, and gowns. 14 

3:24 A putrid stench will replace the smell of spices, 15 

a rope will replace a belt,

baldness will replace braided locks of hair,

a sackcloth garment will replace a fine robe,

and a prisoner’s brand will replace beauty.

3:25 Your 16  men will fall by the sword,

your strong men will die in battle. 17 

3:26 Her gates will mourn and lament;

deprived of her people, she will sit on the ground. 18 

4:1 Seven women will grab hold of

one man at that time. 19 

They will say, “We will provide 20  our own food,

we will provide 21  our own clothes;

but let us belong to you 22 

take away our shame!” 23 

1 tn Heb “daughters” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV).

2 tn Heb “with an outstretched neck.” They proudly hold their heads high so that others can see the jewelry around their necks.

3 tn Heb “walking and skipping, they walk.”

4 tn Heb “and with their feet they jingle.”

5 tn In the Hebrew text vv. 16-17 and one long sentence, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk…, the sovereign master will afflict….” In v. 17 the Lord refers to himself in the third person.

6 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in v. 18 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

7 tn Heb “the daughters of Zion.”

8 tn Or “a scab” (KJV, ASV); NIV, NCV, CEV “sores.”

9 tn The precise meaning of this line is unclear because of the presence of the rare word פֹּת (pot). Since the verb in the line means “lay bare, make naked,” some take פֹּת as a reference to the genitals (cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV, CEV). (In 1 Kgs 7:50 a noun פֹּת appears, with the apparent meaning “socket.”) J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:139, n. 2), basing his argument on alleged Akkadian evidence and the parallelism of the verse, takes פֹּת as “forehead.”

10 sn The translation assumes that the direct quotation ends with v. 17. The introductory formula “in that day” and the shift from a poetic to prosaic style indicate that a new speech unit begins in v. 18.

11 tn Or “in that day” (KJV).

12 tn Or “the beauty of [their] ankle jewelry.”

13 tn Heb “houses of breath.” HALOT 124 s.v. בַּיִת defines them as “scent-bottles”; cf. NAB, NRSV “perfume boxes.”

14 tn The precise meaning of many of the words in this list is uncertain.

sn The rhetorical purpose for such a lengthy list is to impress on the audience the guilt of these women with their proud, materialistic attitude, whose husbands and fathers have profited at the expense of the poor.

15 tn Heb “and it will be in place of spices there will be a stench.” The nouns for “spices” and “stench” are right next to each other in the MT for emphatic contrast. The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.

16 tn The pronoun is feminine singular, suggesting personified Zion, as representative of its women, is the addressee. The reference to “her gates’ in v. 26 makes this identification almost certain.

17 tn Heb “your strength in battle.” The verb in the first clause provides the verbal idea for the second clause.

18 tn Heb “she will be empty, on the ground she will sit.” Jerusalem is personified as a destitute woman who sits mourning the empty city.

19 tn Or “in that day” (ASV).

sn The seven to one ratio emphasizes the great disparity that will exist in the population due to the death of so many men in battle.

20 tn Heb “eat” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV); CEV “buy.”

21 tn Heb “wear” (so NASB, NRSV); NCV “make.”

22 tn Heb “only let your name be called over us.” The Hebrew idiom “call the name over” indicates ownership. See 2 Sam 12:28, and BDB 896 s.v. I ָקרָא Niph. 2.d.(4). The language reflects the cultural reality of ancient Israel, where women were legally the property of their husbands.

23 sn This refers to the humiliation of being unmarried and childless. The women’s words reflect the cultural standards of ancient Israel, where a woman’s primary duties were to be a wife and mother.

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