Isaiah 3:16-4:1 – The Haughty Daughters of Zion
SummaryGod's judgment will be leveled not only against the male leaders of Judah, but also the women whose wealth is flaunted in the face of the poor.
God is an equal opportunity judge. The male leaders--warriors and soldiers, judges and prophets, diviners and elders, captains and dignitaries, counselors and magicians--have been judged in 3:1-5, and now it is the turn of the women. In all cases, the issue is the same--the wealthy have devoured the vineyard (that is, the nation) and stolen even from the poor (3:14). The Bible and the prophets have no vendetta against abundance itself. Micah is glad to announce a day when everyone will sit under their own vines and fig trees (Micah 4:4), and Jesus announces that he comes so that all may have life abundantly (John 10:10). The Bible's concern is that prosperity be made available for all, not merely for some. Prosperity is one thing, "grinding the face of the poor" is another (Isaiah 3:15).
Now, it appears that the unequal distribution of wealth made possible by the growth of the monarchy (see "The Eighth-Century Prophets" in Introductory Issues) is flaunted by the women who can afford the showy clothes and jewelry so sarcastically described in Isaiah's poetry. The poetry itself is wonderful, if not the situation it describes. One can see the outstretched necks, the wanton glances, and hear the anklets tinkling on the mincing feet. Again, it is important to read this not as a condemnation of women or of beauty, but of haughtiness (just as male haughtiness was denounced in 2:12-22)--that is, of flaunting wealth in the faces of those who have nothing.
Under the sharp judgment of the text, we can learn much about the dress of royal and wealthy women in the eighth century: anklets, headbands, crescents, pendants, scarfs, headdresses, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, signet and nose rings, festal robes, mantles, cloaks, handbags, gauze, linen, turbans, veils--it all sounds remarkably modern, and only slightly cross-cultural. Such things have their own beauty, but trust in them will bring only destruction.