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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 16–26
Verses 16–26

The prophet’s business was to show all sorts of people what they had contributed to the national guilt and what share they must expect in the national judgments that were coming. Here he reproves and warns the daughters of Zion, tells the ladies of their faults; and Moses, in the law, having denounced God’s wrath against the tender and delicate woman (the prophets being a comment upon the law, Deut. 28:56), he here tells them how they shall smart by the calamities that are coming upon them. Observe,

I. The sin charged upon the daughters of Zion, Isa. 3:16. The prophet expressly vouches God’s authority for what he said, lest it should be thought it was unbecoming in him to take notice of such things, and should be resented by the ladies: The Lord saith it. “Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, let them know that God takes notice of, and is much displeased with, the folly and vanity of proud women, and his law takes cognizance even of their dress.” Two things that here stand indicted for—haughtiness and wantonness, directly contrary to that modesty, shamefacedness, and sobriety, with which women ought to adorn themselves, 1 Tim. 2:9. They discovered the disposition of their mind by their gait and gesture, and the lightness of their carriage. They are haughty, for they walk with stretched-forth necks, that they may seem tall, or, as thinking nobody good enough to speak to them or to receive a look or a smile from them. Their eyes are wanton, deceiving (so the word is); with their amorous glances they draw men into their snares. They affect a formal starched way of going, that people may look at them, and admire them, and know they have been at the dancing-school, and have learned the minuet-step. They go mincing, or nicely tripping, not willing to set so much as the sole of their foot to the ground, for tenderness and delicacy. They make a tinkling with their feet, having, as some think, chains, or little bells, upon their shoes, that made a noise: they go as if they were fettered (so some read it), like a horse tramelled, that he may learn to pace. Thus Agag came delicately, 1 Sam. 15:32. Such a nice affected mien is not only a force upon that which is natural, and ridiculous before men, men of sense; but as it is an evidence of a vain mind, it is offensive to God. And two things aggravated it here: 1. That these were the daughters of Zion, the holy mountain, who should have behaved with the gravity that becomes women professing godliness. 2. That it should seem, by the connexion, they were the wives and daughters of the princes who spoiled and oppressed the poor (Isa. 3:14, 15) that they might maintain the pride and luxury of their families.

II. The punishments threatened for this sin; and they answer the sin as face answers to face in a glass, Isa. 3:17, 18. 1. They walked with stretched-forth necks, but God will smite with a scab the crown of their head, which shall lower their crests, and make them ashamed to show their heads, being obliged by it to cut off their hair. Note, Loathsome diseases are often sent as the just punishment of pride, and are sometimes the immediate effect of lewdness, the flesh and the body being consumed by it. 2. They cared not what they laid out in furnishing themselves with great variety of fine clothes; but God will reduce them to such poverty and distress that they shall not have clothes sufficient to cover their nakedness, but their uncomeliness shall be exposed through their rags. 3. They were extremely fond and proud of their ornaments; but God will strip them of those ornaments, when their houses shall be plundered, their treasures rifled, and they themselves led into captivity. The prophet here specifies many of the ornaments which they used as particularly as if he had been the keeper of their wardrobe or had attended them in their dressing-room. It is not at all material to enquire what sort of ornaments these respectively were and whether the translations rightly express the original words; perhaps 100 years hence the names of some of the ornaments that are now in use in our own land will be as little understood as some of those here mentioned now are. Fashions alter, and so do the names of them; and yet the mention of them is not in vain, but is designed to expose the folly of the daughters of Zion; for, (1.) Many of these things, we may suppose, were very odd and ridiculous, and, if they had not been in fashion, would have been hooted at. They were fitter to be toys for children to play with than ornaments for grown people to go to Mount Zion in. (2.) Those things that were decent and convenient, as the linen, the hoods, and the veils, needed not be provided in such abundance and variety. It is necessary to have apparel and proper that all should have it according to their rank; but what occasion was there for so many changeable suits of apparel (Isa. 3:22), that they might not be seen two days together in the same suit? “They must have (as the homily against excess of apparel speaks) one gown for the day, another for the night—one long, another short—one for the working day, another for the holy-day—one of this colour, another of that colour—one of cloth, another of silk or damask—one dress afore dinner, another after—one of the Spanish fashion, another Turkey—and never content with sufficient.” All this, as it is an evidence of pride and vain curiosity, so must needs spend a great deal in gratifying a base lust that ought to be laid out in works of piety and charity; and it is well if poor tenants be not racked, or poor creditors defrauded to support it. (3.) The enumeration of these things intimates what care they were in about them, how much their hearts were upon them, what an exact account they kept of them, how nice and critical they were about them, how insatiable their desire was of them, and how much of their comfort was bound up in them. A maid could forget none of these ornaments, though they were ever so many (Jer. 2:32), but they would report them as readily, and talk of them with as much pleasure, as if they had been things of the greatest moment. The prophet did not speak of these things as in themselves sinful (they might lawfully be had and used), but as things which they were proud of and should therefore be deprived of.

III. They were very nice and curious about their clothes; but God would make those bodies of theirs, which were at such expense to beautify and make easy, a reproach and burden to them (Isa. 3:24): Instead of sweet smell (those tablets, or boxes, of perfume, houses of the soul or breath, as they are called, Isa. 3:20; margin) there shall be stink, garments grown filthy with being long worn, or from some loathsome disease or plasters for the cure of it. Instead of a rich embroidered girdle used to make the clothes sit tight, there shall be a rent, a rending of the clothes for grief, or old rotten clothes rent into rags. Instead of well-set hair, curiously plaited and powdered, there shall be baldness, the hair being plucked off or shaven, as was usual in times of great affliction (Isa. 15:2; Jer. 16:6), or in great servitude, Ezek. 29:18. Instead of a stomacher, or a scarf or sash, there shall be a girding of sackcloth, in token of deep humiliation; and burning instead of beauty. Those that had a good complexion, and were proud of it, when they are carried into captivity shall be tanned and sun-burnt; and it is observed that the best faces are soonest injured by the weather. From all this let us learn, 1. Not to be nice and curious about our apparel, not to affect that which is gay and costly, nor to be proud of it. 2. Not to be secure in the enjoyment of any of the delights of sense, because we know not how soon we may be stripped of them, nor what straits we may be reduced to.

IV. They designed by these ornaments to charm the gentlemen, and win their affections (Prov. 7:16, 17), but there shall be none to be charmed by them (Isa. 3:25): Thy men shall fall by the sword, and the mighty in the war, The fire shall consume them, and then the maidens shall not be given in marriage; as it is, Ps. 78:63. When the sword comes with commission the mighty commonly fall first by it, because they are most forward to venture. And, when Zion’s guards are cut off, no marvel that Zion’s gates lament and mourn (Isa. 3:26), the enemies having made themselves masters of them; and the city itself, being desolate, being emptied or swept, shall sit upon the ground like a disconsolate widow. If sin be harboured with in the walls, lamentation and mourning are near the gates.