Isaiah 4

Seven women will grab hold of
one man at that time.
Or “in that day” (ASV).
The seven to one ratio emphasizes the great disparity that will exist in the population due to the death of so many men in battle.

They will say, “We will provide
Heb “eat” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV); CEV “buy.”
our own food,
we will provide
Heb “wear” (so NASB, NRSV); NCV “make.”
our own clothes;
but let us belong to you
Heb “only let your name be called over us.” The Hebrew idiom “call the name over” indicates ownership. See 2 Sam 12:28, and BDB 896 s.v. I ָקרָא Niph. 2.d.(4). The language reflects the cultural reality of ancient Israel, where women were legally the property of their husbands.

take away our shame!”
This refers to the humiliation of being unmarried and childless. The women’s words reflect the cultural standards of ancient Israel, where a woman’s primary duties were to be a wife and mother.

The Branch of the Lord

At that time
Or “in that day” (KJV).

the crops given by the Lord will bring admiration and honor;
Heb “and the vegetation of the Lord will become beauty and honor.” Many English versions understand the phrase צֶמַח יְהוָה (tsemakh yehvah) as a messianic reference and render it, “the Branch of the Lord” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV, NLT, and others). Though צֶמַח (tsemakh) is used by later prophets of a royal descendant (Jer 23; 5; 33:15; Zech 3:8; 6:12), those passages contain clear contextual indicators that a human ruler is in view and that the word is being used in a metaphorical way of offspring. However, in Isa 4:2 there are no such contextual indicators. To the contrary, in the parallel structure of the verse צֶמַח יְהוָה corresponds to “produce of the land,” a phrase that refers elsewhere exclusively to literal agricultural produce (see Num 13:20, 26; Deut 1:25). In the majority of its uses צֶמַח refers to literal crops or vegetation (in Ps 65:10 the Lord is the source of this vegetation). A reference to the Lord restoring crops would make excellent sense in Isa 4 and the prophets frequently included this theme in their visions of the future age (see Isa 30:23–24; 32:20; Jer 31:12; Ezek 34:26–29; and Amos 9:13–14).

the produce of the land will be a source of pride and delight
to those who remain in Israel.
Heb “and the fruit of the land will become pride and beauty for the remnant of Israel.”

Those remaining in Zion,
The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on “in the future” in 2:2.
those left in Jerusalem,
will be called “holy,”
Or “set apart,” cf. CEV “special.”

all in Jerusalem who are destined to live.
Heb “all who are written down for life in Jerusalem.” A city register is envisioned; everyone whose name appears on the roll will be spared. This group comprises the remnant of the city referred to earlier in the verse.

At that time
Heb “when” (so KJV, NAB, NASB); CEV “after”; NRSV “once.”
the sovereign master
The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonai).
will wash the excrement
The word refers elsewhere to vomit (Isa 28:8) and fecal material (Isa 36:12). Many English versions render this somewhat euphemistically as “filth” (e.g., NAB, NIV, NRSV). Ironically in God’s sight the beautiful jewelry described earlier is nothing but vomit and feces, for it symbolizes the moral decay of the city’s residents (cf. NLT “moral filth”).
from Zion’s women,
he will rinse the bloodstains from Jerusalem’s midst,
See 1:21 for a related concept.

as he comes to judge
and to bring devastation.
Heb “by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.” The precise meaning of the second half of the verse is uncertain. רוּחַ (ruakh) can be understood as “wind” in which case the passage pictures the Lord using a destructive wind as an instrument of judgment. However, this would create a mixed metaphor, for the first half of the verse uses the imagery of washing and rinsing to depict judgment. Perhaps the image would be that of a windstorm accompanied by heavy rain. רוּחַ can also mean “spirit,” in which case the verse may be referring to the Lord’s Spirit or, more likely, to a disposition that the Lord brings to the task of judgment. It is also uncertain if בָּעַר (baar) here means “burning” or “sweeping away, devastating.”

Then the Lord will create
over all of Mount Zion
Heb “over all the place, Mount Zion.” Cf. NLT “Jerusalem”; CEV “the whole city.”

and over its convocations
a cloud and smoke by day
and a bright flame of fire by night;
Heb “a cloud by day, and smoke, and brightness of fire, a flame by night.” Though the accents in the Hebrew text suggest otherwise, it might be preferable to take “smoke” with what follows, since one would expect smoke to accompany fire.
The imagery of the cloud by day and fire by night recalls the days of Moses, when a cloud and fire were tangible reminders that the Lord was guiding and protecting his people (Exod 13:21–22; 14:19, 24). In the future age envisioned in Isa 4, the Lord’s protective presence will be a reality.

indeed a canopy will accompany the Lord’s glorious presence.
Heb “indeed (or “for”) over all the glory, a canopy.” This may allude to Exod 40:34–35, where a cloud overshadows the meeting tent as it is filled with God’s glory.

By day it will be a shelter to provide shade from the heat,
as well as safety and protection from the heavy downpour.
Heb “a shelter it will be for shade by day from heat, and for a place of refuge and for a hiding place from cloudburst and rain.” Since both of the last nouns of this verse can mean rain, they can either refer to the rain storm and the rain as distinct items or together refer to a heavy downpour. Regardless, they do not represent unrelated phenomena.

A Love Song Gone Sour

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