How often do you find yourself trying to impress people? How do you try to impress them? Does it work?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at the Daughters of Zion, a group of women who focused their attention on fashion while neglecting their faith. It’s part of a two-week series on Women Gone Astray.
So who were the Daughters of Zion? It’s a term used throughout the Bible, mostly in the Old Testament, but occasionally in the New Testament as well. Zion is not a person, but rather a place. Zion is the dwelling place of the Lord.
Daughter of Zion is usually used to describe the inhabitants of Jerusalem. Daughters of Zion, however, refers to specific women. In today’s passage in Isaiah 3:16-26 Isaiah is speaking directly to wealthy Jewish women who had gone astray.
Isaiah 3 opens by giving judgement on the men of Judah and Jerusalem. He warns the Israelites of what is to come in the days ahead because of their wickedness. He specifically addresses the wealthy and those in positions of leadership because they’re the ones who were living in luxury while oppressing the poor. They had become an aristocratic society that was leading to the moral decline of their culture.
I find verses 6 and 7 particularly interesting, how they were going to choose their leaders, but that discussion will have to wait another day.
Today we concentrate on what Isaiah had to say on the Daughters of Zion. After fifteen verses of condemnation for the men, verse 16 opens with, “Moreover the Lord says:” After rebuking the men for their role in the destruction that was to come, Isaiah turns his attention to the women to let them know that they’re responsible as well.
Verse 16 describes the women’s behavior, specifically the way they walked. “Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, And walk with outstretched necks And wanton eyes, Walking and mincing as they go, Making a jingling with their feet,”
Verse 17 prophesies what will happen to them because of their arrogance. “Therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, And the LORD will uncover their secret parts.”
Isaiah goes on the give an exhaustive list of all the jewelry and accessories that the Lord will take away from the women. The list includes anklets, scarves, necklaces, bracelets, headdresses, headbands, perfume boxes, charms, rings, nose rings, purses, mirrors, and robes.
He closes the chapter with a list of replacements. Instead of the sweet smell of their perfumes, there will be a stench. Instead of their pretty sashes, rope. Baldness will take over their beautiful styled hair. Rich robes replaced with sackcloth. Branding instead of beauty.
And as if that’s not enough, their men will die in battle.
Verse 25 concludes with, “Her gates shall lament and mourn, And she being desolate shall sit on the ground.”
A Closer Look
Why does Isaiah start by talking about the way they walk? Well, let’s look at how they’re walking.
Outstretched necks. We would describe that as walking with your nose in the air, a way of saying that you’re looking down on others because you’re better than they are.
Wanton eyes. That means ogling or flirting. We can assume from the rest of the passage that these are married women. So why are they flirting with other men?
Walking and mincing as they go. The NIV version translates that as, “strutting along with swaying hips”. In other words, flirting.
So how does God respond to their flirtatious and proud behavior? Translated literally, verse 17 says the women will get leprosy or other sickness that causes their hair to fall out. That would be a pretty scary warning, especially for vain women who are consumed with their outward beauty.
While many of the items listed in verses 18 through 23 are familiar to us, many more are obscure items that we’re not sure exactly what they were used for. Bible scholars point out that many of these articles came from foreign cultures. How would a man even know what half of these things were? The general consensus is that his wife, who was a prophetess, probably provided him with this list of items worn by these women.
Isaiah reminds these women that all these things they have are fleeting and will soon be replaced.
In a mere ten verses Isaiah takes us from these women at their height of their popularity, feeling like they’re living the dream, to them tumbling down to the depths of humiliation.
From walking with outstretched necks and a jingle to their steps to mourning destitute on the bare ground. What a fall!
While this was written about women centuries ago, the same message can be preached today. Are we not living in a society much like the one Isaiah describes? We as Christian women could be called Daughters of Zion. Are we guilty of the same transgressions as these women?
Perhaps you don’t mince and strut as you walk, and you probably don’t jingle, but do you have pride in your heart? Are there people you look down on, those you consider inferior?
How much time do you spend on your outward appearance? How much time do you spend on your spiritual appearance?
Verse 17 talks about God stripping away their beautiful hair and uncovering their secret parts. What if God stripped away your carefully combed hair, your makeup and manicured nails, your jewelry and fashionable clothes? What would be left?
Every day you’re being watched. People are observing what you do, what you say, and what you wear. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to dress nice. That’s not what this passage is talking about. No, it’s when we lose sight of what’s important and we put too much focus on our external appearance that we get into trouble.
The problem with beauty is that it’s fleeting. If you’re basing your worth on your appearance, you’re going to be disappointed. You’ll always be looking around worrying because someone else is more beautiful than you, someone has better hair, better body, better wardrobe. You’ll always be worrying that you’re losing your looks and that your best days are behind you.
If you lift your eyes upward and turn your attention to the Lord, He’ll take your attention off of yourself and onto others. He’ll open your eyes so that you can see past the surface and see others the way He sees them. You’ll begin to see that beautiful woman is actually grieving or depressed. You’ll feel compassion for her instead of competing with her. You’ll find beauty in those who are poor and destitute. You’ll quit caring what the world says about you and worry more about what the Lord says about you.
It’s not easy to disregard the world’s influences on us. However hard we try to separate, we still get caught up in the world. But may this passage in Isaiah remind us to be grounded in the Lord instead of the world.
Lord God, what a humbling and sad passage this Daughters of Zion message is. Please use it to help us turn away from all that we’re doing that is like these women. Give us the courage and strength to free ourselves from the world’s entrapments. Forgive us for choosing fashion over faith. Forgive us for our feelings of entitlement and pride. Strip away all that is keeping us from being the women You would have us to be. Open our eyes to spiritual truths rather than worldly lies. Thank You for loving us enough to do whatever it takes to get us where we need to be. We love You. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. Next week we’ll continue in our Women Gone Astray series, looking at the Wicked Hebrew Women found in Jeremiah and the Women Who Wept for Tammuz in the book of Ezekiel.
Backstory – Isaiah 3:1-15
Her Story – Isaiah 3:16-26
Bible Study Review
- Who were the Daughters of Zion?
- How did the women walk?
- What did Isaiah say would happen to their hair?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did Isaiah specifically address the women?
- Why did Isaiah mention the items of clothing they wore?
- Do you think his words had any impact on them?
- Do you ever worry more about outward appearance than spiritual appearance?
- Are you guilty of pride?
- What does this passage say to you?
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