Its not about nice clothes or jewelry. There is an antecedent here. The clothes may be a symptom of the real problem. I was talking to a lady who was explaining to me why she was leaving the church I was working with at the time. She just didn’t get along with anyone at church. It had nothing to do with arrogance. She wanted me to understand that. But, you see, her husband was a heart surgeon and that put her in a different class. Well, class is not really the right word. None of the ladies at church would be able to have lunch with her at the Country Club. A round of golf was out of the question. I didn’t notice anything extravagant about the way this lady dressed, but that may have been me being unaware. But I do believe she was wearing her country club in an “I’m better than you, though I would never admit to thinking so,” way. It is not about the clothes. Not really.
In Isaiah 3:16-4:1 Yahweh addresses the proud women of Judah. In a patriarchal society, they may have thought they were exempt. I mean, after all, they are not allowed to be the rulers of the people. So, really, if you think about it, all of the issues can be firmly laid at the men’s feet. Ah, but the daughters of Zion are exalted. We are talking about a self-exaltation here. If God exalts you, well, that would be a good thing. But exalting yourself doesn’t really fly with God. So, these self-exalting women are walking about stretching their necks. Well, that doesn’t sound bad. The idea is probably that of craning their necks to see what kind of affect they are producing on their audience. They walk about with glancing eyes. This may have the idea of flirtatious ogling. They walk about with quick little steps which was intended to focus attention on themselves. They clinked as they walked, which probably refers to some kind of anklet that jangled. Again, everything about them shouted “Notice Me!”
But the Master will make them either scabby or bald. Because of parallelism it probably refers to the head being shaved. We know that the Babylonians did this and that it was all about shaming their prisoners. The Master will also take away all of their accessories. Names for jewelry shift and change and it is hard, therefore, for us to know exactly what is being described here. And that’s okay, because it is not really about the jewelry or clothing. Isaiah’s audience would have known what was meant. It was all things they treasured. We do know that some of the names involve idolatry and magic (headbands refers to some kind of sun ornament and crescent refers to the moon – both representing pagan gods – and amulets had magical inscriptions written on them). The word for “hand mirrors” can refer to polished metal or to transparent clothing. We can only guess. The goal is not to go through this list and beat women over the head for wearing nice things. That misses the point altogether. Abraham’s servant gave Rebekah expensive jewelry (Genesis 24:22, 53).
Ah, but the smell of expensive balsam perfume will be replaced with the stench of death; of rotting, festering wounds. Those fancy belts will be replaced with a rope binding them to other slaves. Fancy hair arrangements will be replaced with shameful baldness. They will take off their fine clothing and put on sackcloth. Their beauty will be marred by branding. Slaves were often branded on the forehead or the face. Those men they tried so hard to get to notice them will all fall violently by the sword. Strong soldiers will fall in battle. The gates of the proud city will cry out their grief. They could not protect the mighty men. She, most likely a personification of Jerusalem, will sit on the ground in abject grief. Not to mention that there is no longer anything to sit on. This is all about the results of an invading army and captivity.The oracle is ended in 4:1. This verse speaks into the situation of the women who have been left behind. Most of the men are dead or gone. Seven women will clamor after one man. Their only goal is to have the name of marriage. Married women were safer than single women. They are willing to give up their God-given right to a dowry (Deuteronomy 22:29) and even their right to food and clothes (Exodus 21:10). Those rights no longer matter after the chaos of war. Taking the name of the man means a change of ownership. Being owned provides protection. They are all out of options.
These women may be experiencing justice, but it is still okay to feel sorry for them. They should have treasured Yahweh more than clothes. And that is not even the antecedent. They treasured the attention of men more than God. And the more attention they received the more they exalted themselves.