Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Isaiah 3:24

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Instead of sweet smell "perfume" - A principal part of the delicacy of the Asiatic ladies consists in the use of baths, and of the richest oils and perfumes; an attention to which is in some degree necessary in those hot countries. Frequent mention is made of the rich ointments of the spouse in the Song of Solomon, Song of Solomon 4:10, Song of Solomon 4:11; : -

"How beautiful are thy breasts, my sister, my spouse!

How much more excellent than wine;

And the odour of thine ointments than all perfumes!

Thy lips drop as the honey-comb, my spouse!

Honey and milk are under thy tongue:

And the odor of thy garments is as the odour of Lebanon."

The preparation for Esther's being introduced to King Ahasuerus was a course of bathing and perfuming for a whole year; "six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours;" Esther 2:12; (note). A diseased and loathsome habit of body, instead of a beautiful skin, softened and made agreeable with all that art could devise, and all that nature, so prodigal in those countries of the richest perfumes, could supply, must have been a punishment the most severe and the most mortifying to the delicacy of these haughty daughters of Sion.

Burning instead of beauty "A sunburnt skin" - Gaspar Sanctius thinks the words תחת כי ki thachath an interpolation, because the Vulgate has omitted them. The clause יפי תחת כי ki thachath yophi seems to me rather to be imperfect at the end. Not to mention that כי ki, taken as a noun for adustio, burning, is without example, and very improbable. The passage ends abruptly, and seems to want a fuller conclusion.

In agreement with which opinion, of the defect of the Hebrew text in this place, the Septuagint, according to MSS. Pachom. and 1 D. ii., and Marchal., which are of the best authority, express it with the same evident marks of imperfection at the end of the sentence; thus: ταυτα σοι αντι καλλωπισμου The two latter add δου . This chasm in the text, from the loss probably of three or four words, seems therefore to be of long standing.

Taking כי ki in its usual sense, as a particle, and supplying לך lech from the σοι of the Septuagint, it might possibly have been originally somewhat in this form: -

מראה רעת לך תהיה יפי תחת כי marah







"Yea, instead of beauty thou shalt have an illfavoured countenance."

יפי תחת כי ki thachath yophi (q. יחת yachath ), "for beauty shall be destroyed." Syr. חתת chathath or נחת nachath .-Dr. Durell.

"May it not be כהי cohey, 'wrinkles instead of beauty?' as from יפה yaphah is formed יפי yephi, yophi ; from מרה marah, מרי meri, etc.; so from כהה cahah, to be wrinkled, כהי cohey ." - Dr. Jubb. The כי ki is wanting in one MS., and has been omitted by several of the ancients.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

And it shall come to pass - The prophet proceeds to denounce the “judgment” or “punishment” that would come upon them for their pride and vanity. In the calamities that would befall the nation, all their ornaments of pride and vainglory would be stripped off; and instead of them, they would exhibit the marks, and wear the badges of calamity and grief.

Instead of sweet smell - Hebrew בשׂם bôs'em aromatics, perfumes, spicy fragrance; such as they used on their garments and persons. ‹No one ever enters a company without being well perfumed; and in addition to various scents and oils, they are adorned with numerous garlands, made of the most odoriferous flowers.‘ - “Roberts.” ‹The persons of the Assyrian ladies are elegantly clothed and scented with the richest oils and perfumes. When a queen was to be chosen to the king of Persia, instead of Vashti, the virgins collected at Susana, the capital, underwent a purification of twelve months‘ duration, to wit: “six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odors.” The general use of such precious oil and fragrant perfumes among the ancient Roamns, particularly among the ladies of rank and fashion, may be inferred from these words of Virgil:

Arabrosiaeque comae divinum vertice odorem Spiravere:

AEni. 403.

“From her head the ambrosial locks breathed divine fragrance.”


A stink - This word properly means the fetor or offensive smell which attends the decomposition of a deceased body. It means that the bodies which they so carefully adorned, and which they so assiduously endeavored to preserve in beauty by unguents and perfumes, would die and turn to corruption.

And instead of a girdle - Girdles were an indispensable part of an Oriental dress. Their garments were loose and flowing, and it became necessary to gird them up when they ran, or danced, or labored.

A rent - There has been a great variety of opinion about the meaning of this word. The most probable signification is that which is derived from a verb meaning “to go around, encompass;” and hence, that it denotes “a cord.” Instead of the beautiful girdle with which they girded themselves, there shall be “a cord” - an emblem of poverty, as the poor had nothing else with which to gird up their clothes; a humiliating description of the calamities which were to come upon proud and vain females of the court.

And instead of well-set hair - Hair that was curiously braided and adorned. ‹No ladies pay more attention to the dressing of the hair than these (the dancing girls of India), for as they never wear caps, they take great delight in this their natural ornament.‘ - “Roberts.” Miss Pardoe, in ‹The City of the Sultan,‘ says, that after taking a bath, the slaves who attended her spent an hour and a half in dressing and adorning her hair; compare 1 Peter 3:3.

Instead of a stomacher - It is not certainly known what is meant by this, but it probably means some sort of “girdle,” or a platted or stiffened ornament worn on the breast. ‹I once saw a dress beautifully plaited and stiffened for the front, but I do not think it common.‘ - “Roberts.”

A girding of sackcloth - This is a coarse cloth that was commonly worn in times of affliction, as emblematic of grief; 2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 20:31; 1 Kings 21:27; Job 16:15; Isaiah 32:11.

And burning - The word used here does not occur elsewhere. It seems to denote “a brand, a mark burnt in, a stigma;” perhaps a sun-burned countenance, indicating exposure in the long and wearisome journey of a captivity over burning sands and beneath a scorching sun.

Instead of beauty - Instead of a fair and delicate complexion, cherished and nourished with care. Some of the articles of dress shown in the book exhibit several varieties of the costume of an Oriental female. To what “particular” time the prophet refers in this chapter is not known, perhaps, however, to the captivity at Babylon. To whatever he refers, it is one of the most striking reproofs of vanity and pride, especially the pride of female ornament, any where to be found. And although he had “particular” reference to the Jewish females, yet there is no impropriety in regarding it as applicable to all such ornaments wherever they may be found. They indicate the same state of the heart, and they must meet substantially the same rebuke from God. The body, however delicately pampered and adorned, must become the prey of corruption. ‹The worm shall feed sweetly on it, and the earth-worm shall be its covering;‘ compare Isaiah 14:2; Job 24:20. The single thought that the body must die - that it must lie and moulder in the grave - should check the love of frivolous adorning, and turn the mind to a far more important matter - the salvation of the soul, which cannot die; to ‹the ornament of a weak and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price;‘ 1 Peter 3:4.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
The prophet reproves and warns the daughters of Zion of the sufferings coming upon them. Let them know that God notices the folly and vanity of proud women, even of their dress. The punishments threatened answered the sin. Loathsome diseases often are the just punishment of pride. It is not material to ask what sort of ornaments they wore; many of these things, if they had not been in fashion, would have been ridiculed then as now. Their fashions differed much from those of our times, but human nature is the same. Wasting time and money, to the neglect of piety, charity, and even of justice, displease the Lord. Many professors at the present day, seem to think there is no harm in worldly finery; but were it not a great evil, would the Holy Spirit have taught the prophet to expose it so fully? The Jews being overcome, Jerusalem would be levelled with the ground; which is represented under the idea of a desolate female seated upon the earth. And when the Romans had destroyed Jerusalem, they struck a medal, on which was represented a woman sitting on the ground in a posture of grief. If sin be harboured within the walls, lamentation and mourning are near the gates.
Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 270

The prophecy of Isaiah 3 was presented before me as applying to these last days, and the reproofs are given to the daughters of Zion who have thought only of appearance and display. Read verse 25: “Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war.” I was shown that this scripture will be strictly fulfilled. Young men and women professing to be Christians, yet having no Christian experience, and having borne no burdens and felt no individual responsibility, are to be proved. They will be brought low in the dust and will long for an experience in the things of God, which they have failed to obtain. 1T 270.1

War lifts his helmet to his brow;
O God, protect Thy people now.
1T 270.2


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