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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the Bible

Isaiah 3

Isaiah 3:0


God Will Remove the LeadersJudgment on Judah and JerusalemAnarchy in JerusalemChaos in JerusalemAnarchy in Jerusalem
Isaiah 3:1-12Isaiah 3:1-9Isaiah 3:1-15Isaiah 3:1-5Isaiah 3:1-15
(6-7)(6-8)Isaiah 3:6
Isaiah 3:7
(8-9)Isaiah 3:8-9
Isaiah 3:10-12Isaiah 3:10-11
Isaiah 3:12a
Isaiah 3:12b
God Will JudgeOppression and Luxury CondemnedThe LORD Judges His People
Isaiah 3:13-15Isaiah 3:13-1Isaiah 3:13-15
Judah's Women DenouncedThe Humiliation of Jerusalem's WomenA Warning to the Women of JerusalemThe Women of Jerusalem
Isaiah 3:16-26Isaiah 3:16-1Isaiah 3:16-17Isaiah 3:16-17
(18-23)Isaiah 3:18-23Isaiah 3:18-23
(24-26)(24-26)(Isaiah 3:24-1)Isaiah 3:24Isaiah 3:24(24)
Misery in Jerusalem
Isaiah 3:25-1Isaiah 3:25-1
(Isaiah 4:1)(25)

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compareyour subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-12

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 3:1-12 1For behold, the Lord GOD of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah Both supply and support, the whole supply of bread And the whole supply of water; 2The mighty man and the warrior, The judge and the prophet, The diviner and the elder, 3The captain of fifty and the honorable man, The counselor and the expert artisan, And the skillful enchanter. 4And I will make mere lads their princes, And capricious children will rule over them, 5And the people will be oppressed, Each one by another, and each one by his neighbor; The youth will storm against the elder And the inferior against the honorable. 6When a man lays hold of his brother in his father's house, saying, “You have a cloak, you shall be our ruler, And these ruins will be under your charge,” 7He will protest on that day, saying, “I will not be your healer, For in my house there is neither bread nor cloak; You should not appoint me ruler of the people.” 8For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen, Because their speech and their actions are against the LORD, To rebel against His glorious presence. 9The expression of their faces bears witness against them, And they display their sin like Sodom; They do not even conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. 10Say to the righteous that it will go well with them, For they will eat the fruit of their actions. 11Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, For what he deserves will be done to him. 12O My people! Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who guide you lead you astray And confuse the direction of your paths.”

Isaiah 3:1 Chapter three continues the prophet's prediction of YHWH's judgment on Jerusalem and Judah.

“Lord GOD of hosts” This title for Israel's Deity is used several times early in Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 1:24; Isaiah 3:1; Isaiah 10:16, Isaiah 10:33; Isaiah 19:4). See full note at Isaiah 1:24 and Special Topic: Names for Deity.

“is going to remove” This VERB (BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil PARTICIPLE) in the Hiphil stem means “remove” or “take away.”

1. YHWH to remove Israel's sickness, Exodus 23:25; Deuteronomy 7:15

2. Israel to remove the accursed things (i.e., Achan's sin), Joshua 7:13

3. Israel to put away foreign gods, Judges 10:16

4. Saul removes mediums and spiritists, 1 Samuel 28:3

5. individuals did not put away God's laws, 2 Samuel 22:23; Psalms 18:23

But notice here it is God who removes all of Judah's support, strength, and idolatrous leadership.

1. supply (lit. “staff,” BDB 1044) of bread, Isaiah 3:1

2. supply (lit. “staff”) of water, Isaiah 3:1

3. mighty men, Isaiah 3:2

4. warriors, Isaiah 3:2

5. judge, Isaiah 3:2

6. prophet, Isaiah 3:2, cf. Isaiah 9:14-15; Isaiah 28:7; Isaiah 29:10

7. diviner, Isaiah 3:2

8. elder, Isaiah 3:2, cf. Isaiah 9:14-16

9. captain of fifty, Isaiah 3:3

10. honorable man, Isaiah 3:3

11. counselor, Isaiah 3:3

12. expert artisan, Isaiah 3:3, cf. Isaiah 40:20 (idol maker)

13. skillful enchanter, Isaiah 3:3

Remember, judgment was YHWH, the loving parent, disciplining His children so that they might be strong, stable, happy, and a light to the nations. His personal attention to Judah was a sign of His love and concern. He loved them enough not to leave them in their sin!


NASB“Both supply and support” NKJV“the stock and store” NRSV“support and staff” TEV“everything and everyone that the people depend on” NJB“of resources and provisions” LXX“the mighty man and the mighty woman” PESHITTA“stay and staff” REB“every prop and stay”

The MT has MASCULINE and FEMININE forms which BDB 1044 defines as “support and staff” (cf. 2 Samuel 22:19). In Leviticus 26:26 it is “the staff of bread.”

Isaiah 3:3

NASB“skillful enchanter” NKJV, NRSV, REB“expert enchanter” TEV“everyone who uses magic to control events” NJB“soothsayer” LXX“intelligent hearer” PESHITTA“expert counselor”

The NOUN (BDB 538) means “whispering” or “charming.” It originally referred to snake charming (cf. Psalms 58:5; Ecclesiastes 10:11; Jeremiah 8:17). It came to denote soft speaking (cf. Isaiah 26:16; 2 Samuel 12:19; Psalms 41:7).

The same term is used in Isaiah 3:20 for amulets worn by Judean women. It refers to magical practices and charms, forbidden to Israel and Judah.

Isaiah 3:4 Judah's elder leadership will be removed (by YHWH Himself) even to the highest levels. Ineffective and senseless young people will lead (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:16).

NASB“children” NKJV, NRSV“babes” NJB“lads” LXX, PESHITTA“mockers”

The difference is between the MT עלולים (BDB 760, “wantonness,” cf. Deuteronomy 22:14, Deuteronomy 22:17; Psalms 141:4) and an emendation to עוללים (BDB 760, “children,” cf. Psalms 8:3). Both seem to fit the context.

Isaiah 3:5-6 The oppression and abuse are described.

1. oppressed by one another

2. oppressed by neighbors

3. generational tensions

4. societal tensions

5. family tensions

Isaiah 3:7-12 The person the family chooses to lead will not accept the position because of the current crisis (Judah is wounded [Isaiah 1:6], only God can heal [Isaiah 30:26]) and the family's (i.e., Judah) rebellion against YHWH.

1. their speech is against YHWH, Isaiah 3:8

2. their actions are against YHWH, Isaiah 3:8

3. they rebel against His glorious presence, Isaiah 3:8

4. their partiality shows on their faces, Isaiah 3:9

5. their sin is displayed like Sodom's, Isaiah 3:9

6. they have brought evil on themselves, Isaiah 3:9

7. they reap what they sow, Isaiah 3:10-11

a. the righteous

b. the wicked

8. they are oppressed by youthful leaders (cf. Isaiah 3:4), Isaiah 3:12

9. they are ruled over by women, Isaiah 3:12

10. their leaders lead them astray, Isaiah 3:12

11. their paths (i.e., plans and goals) are confused, Isaiah 3:12

These consequences of rebellion are a reflection of Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

JPSOA puts Isaiah 3:10 and 11 in a parenthesis.

Isaiah 3:8

NASB, NRSV“His glorious presence” NKJV“the eyes of His glory” TEV“God himself” NJB“his glorious gaze” LXX“their glory” PESHITTA“the majesty of his glory” REB“his glory”

The MT is followed closely by NKJV. The “eyes” represented God's personal presence.

The term “glory” (kabod, BDB 458) is common, but has a wide semantic flield.


Isaiah 3:9 “The expression of their faces bears witness against them” The Aramaic Targums have “their partiality in judgment (legal abuses and bribery) accuse them.” This may be a play on the eyes of the Lord mentioned in Isaiah 3:8 versus the look of sinful Judeans in Isaiah 3:9.

“They display their sin like Sodom” Again, as in Isaiah 1:10, Isaiah compares the sins of Judean society to the sins of Sodom (cf. Genesis 19:0). These Judean leaders (and their families) were flaunting publicly their pride, wealth, and exploitation of the weak and powerless of society.

Sodom was arrogant (Ezekiel 16:50) and YHWH destroyed them, so too, now Judah (Isaiah 3:16) and they also will be destroyed (Isaiah 3:16-26, the subject moves from prideful women to prideful Jerusalem).

“brought evil on themselves” They reap what they sow (cf. Isaiah 3:10-11). This is a spiritual principle. God is ethical/moral and so is His creation. Humans break themselves on God's standards. We reap what we sow. This is true for believers (but does not affect salvation) and unbelievers (cf. Job 34:11; Psalms 28:4; Psalms 62:12; Proverbs 24:12; Ecclesiastes 12:14; Jeremiah 17:10; Jeremiah 32:19; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 25:31-46; Romans 2:6; Romans 14:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-10; 2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; Revelation 2:23; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 22:12).

Isaiah 3:12

NASB, NKJV, NRSV“Their oppressors are children, And women rule over them” TEV“moneylenders oppress my people and their creditors cheat them” NJB“the oppressors pillage them, and extortioners rule over them” LXX“exacters strip you, and extortioners rule over you” PESHITTA“The princes shall pluck my people out, and women shall rule over them” REB“Moneylenders strip my people bare, And usurers lord it over them” JPSOA“My people's rulers are babes, It is governed by women”

The MT has “my people, their oppressors, children and women rule over them.” Obviously TEV, NJB, and REB follow the LXX (change “women,” נשים, BDB 61 to “creditors”

1. BDB 673 I, cf. Isaiah 24:2, ACTIVE PARTICIPLE PLURAL of נשא, cf. Isaiah 24:2 or

2. BDB 674 I, ACTIVE PARTICIPLE PLURAL of נשה, cf. Exodus 22:25).

These phrases could be

1. literal

a. child king

b. controlled by

(1) a strong “Queen mother”

(2) the child king's wives

(3) the women at court

2. figurative of weak and inexperienced leadership

NASB, NRSV“confuse” NKJV“destroy” NJB“efface” LXX“pervert” PESHITTA“disturbed” REB“to ruin”

The VERB (BDB 118, KB 134, Piel PERFECT) means “engulf” or “swallow up” (cf. Exodus 15:12; Numbers 16:30, Numbers 16:32, Numbers 16:34; Numbers 26:10; Deuteronomy 11:6). In the Piel stem it also denotes “shallowing,” but is also used as a metaphor for destruction or something being confounded (cf. Isaiah 9:16; Isaiah 19:3; Isaiah 28:7).

Scholars are still discussing the possibility of one, two, or three Hebrew roots/cognates using these same three letters (בלע).

Verses 13-15

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 3:13-15 13The Lord arises to contend, And stands to judge the people. 14The Lord enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, “It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. 15What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?” Declares the Lord God of hosts.

Isaiah 3:13-15 YHWH enters into a dispute (i.e., court scene, cf. Isaiah 1:2) with His people's leaders (elders and princes). They have destroyed His community (i.e., “vineyard,” Isaiah 3:14). They have taken advantage of the poor, helpless, and powerless of society.

They used the legal system inappropriately (cf. Isaiah 3:9) to their advantage, and must now stand before YHWH's judgment.

The prophets hold Israel/Judah accountable to the requirements of the Mosaic covenant, obedience had consequences and disobedience had consequences!

Isaiah 3:13

NASB, NKJV, TEV, NJB, LXX, Peshitta, REB“people” NRSV“peoples”

The SINGULAR comes from the LXX followed by the Peshitta. The MT has the PLURAL. In this context the SINGULAR fits best because the prophet is addressing Judea (i.e., Isaiah 3:14). In other contexts in Isaiah “the nations,” “the peoples,” is used. Context, context, context! The MT is not inerrant! Context must be the final guide!

Verses 16-26

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Isaiah 3:16-26 16Moreover, the LORD said, “Because the daughters of Zion are proud And walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, And go along with mincing steps And tinkle the bangles on their feet, 17Therefore the LORD will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, And the LORD will make their foreheads bare.” 18In that day the LORD will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, 19dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, 20headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, 21finger rings, nose rings, 22festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, 23hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils. 24Now it will come about that instead of sweet perfume there will be putrefaction; Instead of a belt, a rope; Instead of well-set hair, a plucked-out scalp; Instead of fine clothes, a donning of sackcloth; And branding instead of beauty. 25Your men will fall by the sword And your mighty ones in battle. 26And her gates will lament and mourn, And deserted she will sit on the ground.

Isaiah 3:16-26 YHWH condemns the wives and daughters of the wealthy, elite leadership.

1. prideful walk (“head high” or “outstretched neck”)

2. seductive (i.e., painted eyes)

3. flirtatious steps (i.e., quick, small steps, like a child)

4. attractive, musical ankle jewelry

YHWH will (typical biblical reversal)

1. afflict the scalp with scabs (only here, BDB 705, KB 764)

2. strip away their jewelry

3. strip away their festive clothes

4. take away their cosmetics and perfumes

5. kill their husbands and lovers

The Jewish Study Bible, using the JPSOA translation and footnotes, mentions that many of the items in Isaiah 3:18-24 are uncertain. They may refer to specific items of beauty or idolatrous symbols. They were worn by men and women.

Isaiah 3:16

NASB, NJB“tinkle the bangles” NKJV, PESHITTA“making a jingling” NRSV“tinkling” TEV“bracelets on their ankles jingle”

The VERB (BDB 747, KB 824, Piel IMPERFECT) denotes the sound made by ankle bracelets as a person walks (i.e., to draw attention). The root is found only here and Proverbs 7:22.

Isaiah 3:17

NASB, NJB, REB“make their foreheads bare” NKJV“uncover their secret parts” NRSV, PESHITTA“lay bear their secret parts” TEV“shave their heads and leave them bald” LXX“expose their form”

The MT uses a rare word (BDB 834) meaning

1. sockets (for a door), 1 Kings 7:50

2. secret parts (feminine reproductive organs), Isaiah 3:17 (?)

There is an Akkadian root (KB 983) which means “forehead,” which is also an option. These proud, well-dressed, wealthy exploiters will be humbled!

Isaiah 3:18 “headbands” The IVP Biblical Background Commentary says these refer to “sun ornaments.” So as the “crescent ornaments” reflect moon worship these represent sun worship.

“crescent ornaments” This (BDB 962) was a symbol of moon worship.

1. on the military camels, Judges 8:21

2. on Midianite kings, Judges 8:26

3. on wealthy Judean women, Isaiah 3:18

Another example of their open idolatry!


Isaiah 3:20 “perfume boxes” The term (BDB 108) translated “boxes” is literally “houses.” The Tyndale OT Commentaries, J. Alec Motyer thinks it may refer to a “high collar” (p. 58). There is so much that we moderns do not know about the details of ANE cultures that often our interpretations are educated guesses based on cognates and context. None of these details are crucial to an understanding of the larger concept and theological issues. The vast majority are interesting, but not important to understanding the central truth of the strophe or paragraph. Do not focus on the minutia.

Isaiah 3:24 “Instead of a belt, a rope” This seems to refer to prisoners being tied together and marched into exile by Assyria.

NASB, NKJV“And branding instead of beauty” NRSV, TEV“instead of beauty, shame” NJB, REB“brand marks instead of beauty” PESHITTA“for their beauty shall be destroyed” LXX -----omitted-----

The MT has “branding instead of beauty.” The term “branding” is from BDB 464 (burn, scorch, brand). The word “shame” in NRSV and TEV is not in the MT, but is found in the Isaiah scroll from the DSS (1QIsa.).

Isaiah 3:26 Jerusalem (“her,” FEMININE, Isaiah 3:25, Isaiah 3:26) is personified as weeping over the losses. Zion's festival clothing is restored in Isaiah 61:3, also note Zechariah 3:4 (only Isaiah 3:22 and Zechariah 3:4 share the same rare term for festival clothing).

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Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Isaiah 3". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.