Reflection 4, "The Crisis of Leadership and the Collapse of Society" (14 mins), covers Isaiah 3:1-4:1.
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The Crisis of Leadership & the Collapse of Society
vs. 1-2—Removal of food and water (siege conditions, leading to the full of the north, with its capital city Samaria, in 722 BC, and the predation of Judah and the near-fall of its capital, Jerusalem in 701 BC). Furthermore,. there will be a removal of all figures of influence / guidance, legitimate or not (soldiers, national figures, counselors, elders, civil servants, supporting agencies [e.g. builders]—as well as spiritists, fortune tellers, enchanters).
Thus there is a lack of direction and a crisis of leadership.
vs.4-7—Those who would naturally lead (the older men) will not lead. Youths will rule. In a climate of immaturity and foolishness, people will oppress one another—no longer simply the oppression of the poor by the rich, but widespread greed, selfishness, and lack of respect. "The youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable." No one will want to lead, so low is the level of morale—and the hopelessness of the situation.
vs.8-12—It’s their own fault; they can’t blame it on anyone else… The wicked are reaping what they've sown. Women lead—these words are not misogyny, but an indication that the normal social order has been inverted. (The OT features many female prophets, monarchs, judges, and sages.) Immaturity and weakness will become the norm.
vs. 13-15—"What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” The Lord takes all injustice most seriously! The leaders have led the way in oppression, treating the Lord's vineyard (his people) as a source for their own enrichment. Soon they will get a taste of their own medicine. Yet it's not only the leading men who are guilty.
vs.16-24—The haughty (and affluent) women too shall be punished. 21 items of jewelry and clothing! The point isn't that jewelry, nice clothes, or cosmetics are sinful (see Isa 52:1; 61:10), but that the women will lose all the markers of their comfortable standard of living. See the parallel in Amos 4:1-2. They will trade a nice belt for a rope—by which they will be led into exile.
vs.25-4:1—“Your” (v.25) is 3rd person singular feminine. Isaiah has moved from the children to their mother, Zion. Jerusalem will be like the forlorn widow of Lamentations 1:1. The women will suffer the consequences even more acutely than the men. In nearly every wars, the women and the children suffer the most. Emptiness. The widows are desperate enough to be willing to forego marital rights (Exod 21:10)—if only they can come under the protection of a man. Nearly all women in the ancient world required a protector—husband, older male relative. The world was not kind to women on their own. Two superimposed images: harlotry and widowhood
In these verses we have read of an acute crisis of leadership, accompanying a collapse of society (collapse of morals, honor, dignity...). The spectre of war: the fall of the North is about to take place. Judah will fall later—she has another century before she loses it all.
Next refelction: "Purified by Fire"