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Isaiah 3

Chapter 3

v. 4: The time reference here is not clear to me, but I am assuming that the calamities refer to the Babylonian Captivity since Isaiah’s message is for Judah and Jerusalem, and the Babylonian Captivity best matches verses, such as v. 8, which essentially say that Jerusalem will be destroyed.[1] There have been times before Isaiah’s prophetic career when Jerusalem was plundered or could be said to have “stumbled” and “fallen” (see 2nd Chronicles 12:9 and 25:23-24) but the calamity here referred to is in the future.

I notice that the tense shifts a few times in this prophecy.  For instance, compare this verse (v.4) where the children will be ruling the people, with v. 12 where they are ruling the people.  Also, compare v. 8 where Jerusalem has stumbled with v. 26 where it will be ravaged.  I suspect that such tense shifts were a poetic convention.[2] The context of the prophecy is that these bad things (i.e., the rule of children and Jerusalem’s destruction) will happen in the future, so I believe that verses using the perfect or present tense should be understood to refer to the future.[3]

v. 16: I believe this lengthy focus on the pride and vanity of Jerusalem’s women is linked to the fact that Jerusalem itself is described in feminine terms (v. 26) so that the sins of Jerusalem as well as its fate (see notes on v. 26) are synonymous with those of the women described in vs. 16-24.

v. 26: This seems like it could be a rape metaphor; Jerusalem is a woman, and her gates, the ways inside her, lament and mourn while she herself is desolate (“ravaged” according to the NRSV).


[1] The Oxford Commentary suggests that the calamity here refers to the Assyrian invasion under Sennacharib, but given the fact that Jerusalem was so obviously and miraculously saved from Sennacharib’s invasion, I do not understand how this prophecy could refer to Sennacharib.

 

[2] See also notes on 22:8 and 43:3.

[3] I am assuming that there is some tense shift in the Hebrew that would prompt the translation’s tense shift.

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10 Responses to “Isaiah 3”

  1. […] See also notes on 3:4 and […]

  2. […] See also notes on 3:4 and […]

  3. […] 9: I wonder why the women are singled out here?  Compare this passage with Isaiah 3:16 (and see note there).  The Oxford commentary says women are mentioned because the Jews would have associated the act […]

  4. […] 9: I wonder why the women are singled out here?  Compare this passage with Isaiah 3:16 (and see note there).  The Oxford commentary says women are mentioned because the Jews would have associated the act […]

  5. […] See also notes on 3:4 and […]

  6. […] See also notes on 3:4 and […]

  7. […] Barnes notes that many unbelievers cite Isaiah’s use of the past tense here as proof that these events happened before Isaiah wrote, and thus that they could not apply to Christ, but this is a very weak argument.  See notes on48:3, 22:8, and 3:4. […]

  8. […] Barnes notes that many unbelievers cite Isaiah’s use of the past tense here as proof that these events happened before Isaiah wrote, and thus that they could not apply to Christ, but this is a very weak argument.  See notes on48:3, 22:8, and 3:4. […]

  9. […] seem very fluid, so perhaps I should not make so much of the sequence in time.  (See notes on 3:4 and 22:8.)  Also, it is possible that these curses are general and do not refer specifically to the […]

  10. […] seem very fluid, so perhaps I should not make so much of the sequence in time.  (See notes on 3:4 and 22:8.)  Also, it is possible that these curses are general and do not refer specifically to the […]

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