Isaiah 3

The Word Made Fresh

1Now the sovereign LORD of all is taking away from Jerusalem and Judah all support and all sustenance of bread and water, 2every soldier and warrior, every judge and prophet, every seer and elder, 3every captain of fifty, every dignitary, every counselor, magician, and enchanter. 4“I will make boys their princes. Babies shall rule over them. 5The people will be oppressed,” says the LORD. “All of them will be oppressed by another, and each one by a neighbor. Youth will be insolent to their elders, and those who behave badly to the honorable.”

6Someone will seize a relative, a member of their own family group, and say to them, “You have an overcoat. You be our leader. You be in charge of this heap of ruins.”

7But the relative will cry out and answer, “I won’t be a healer; there is no bread nor overcoat in my house, and you will not make me a leader of the people!”

8This will happen because Jerusalem has stumbled; Judah has fallen. Their words and their actions are against the LORD. They continue to defy God’s glorious presence. 9You can look in their eyes and see their true nature. Their sin is displayed there like Sodom. They don’t even try to hide it.

Woe to them! They have brought evil on themselves. 10Tell those who are innocent how fortunate they are because they will be able to eat the fruit of their labors. 11Woe to the guilty! How unfortunate they are! What their hands have done to others shall be done to them.

12My people are oppressed by children, and women rule over them. O my people! Your leaders mislead you and confuse the direction of the paths you choose.

13Now the LORD has risen up to argue the case. God stands to judge the people, 14and judges as well the elders and the princes. “You are the ones who devoured the vineyard!” says the LORD. “The wealth taken from the poor is in your own houses. 15What do you mean by this? You have crushed my people! You have ground the faces of the poor in the dirt,” says the LORD God of hosts.

16The LORD has said that the daughters of Zion are arrogant and proud. They walk with their necks outstretched, looking with wanton pleasure, tiptoeing with bells on their toes. 17The LORD will touch their heads with scabs and expose their secret parts.

18When that day arrives the LORD will remove their fine anklets and headbands, and crescents; 19their pendants and bracelets and scarfs; 20their headdresses and armlets and sashes and perfume containers and charms; 21their signet and nose rings; 22their party gowns and wraps and overcoats and handbags; 23their see-through garments and linen garments of gauze, their turbans and veils.

24Instead of perfume there will be an odor. Instead of sashes, ropes. Instead of fancy hairdos, baldness; instead of robes made of rich materials, they will be wrapped in sackcloth.

25Your men shall fall by the sword. Your warriors will die in battle.” 26Her gates shall be mourned and she, ravaged, shall sit in the dirt.


1-5: Because of their unfaithfulness, the fabric of society will begin to unravel. Their elders will not be respected. There will be shortages of food and water. The implication is that this will result from their arrogance and sinfulness rather than from drought or famine; in other words, their system of supply will break down. Having no respect for God, people will no longer respect one another. The reference to “boys as princes” may indicate Uzziah (also known as Azariah) who came to the throne at age 16 (2 Kings 15:1-2) and was king when Isaiah began his career as a prophet. The conditions described in this paragraph may well be the very things Isaiah is observing as he goes about Jerusalem.

6-8: The city will become so pitiful nobody will want to take responsibility, and they will be in such a state, not because of natural disasters or enemies, but because of their faithlessness.

9-12: The judgment on the city and the nation becomes in verse 12 a lament over “my people” who are being misled and confused by their leaders.

13-15: Isaiah imagines a courtroom setting where God levels the charge against the elders and princes. They are supposed to lead and protect, but they have mismanaged affairs and hurt the people, especially the poor.

16-17: Suddenly the condemnation is levied upon the “daughters of Zion,” for their wanton promenading in the streets. They will be humiliated, says the prophet. Note that “daughters of Zion,” a term mentioned here and in 4:4, is used in an insulting way. Compare Song of Songs 3:11 for the only other occurrence of the term in the Bible.

18-26: When the day of the LORD comes, all the jewelry and finery and other things the “daughters of Zion” are using in order to arouse the desire of the men they meet in the streets will be taken away. Verse 25 puts the picture in the setting of a battle, and we note that the description of their fate is precisely what will happen to them when Nebuchadnezzar’s troops enter the city a century and a half later.


When people are primarily concerned about their own personal appearance, they inevitably live judgmental lives, looking down on others they pass in the streets. Such an attitude turns our neighbors into objects of comparison. Their problem is that the comparison has nothing to do with justice and kindness, which are the attributes God wants us to have.