What is the meaning of Isaiah 30:22 from the Hebrew?

Then you will desecrate your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you will throw them away like a menstrual cloth and say to them, "Away with you!"

How would or how have this verse been accepted as it relates to the female use of cloth in general?


Let's add some context. Here is Isaiah 13.18-23 (LEB)

Therefore Yahweh waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he will rise up to show you mercy, for Yahweh is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. For people will live in Zion; in Jerusalem, you will surely not weep. Surely he will be gracious to you; when he hears the sound of your cry, he will answer you. And the Lord will give you the bread of distress and the water of oppression, but your teachers will not hide themselves any longer. And your eyes shall see your teachers. And your ears shall hear a word from behind you, saying, “this is the way; walk in it,” when you go to your right and when you go to your left.

And you will defile the plating of your silver idols and the covering of your gold image.

You will scatter them like contaminated things;

you will say to it, “Filth!”

And he will give rain for your seed with which you sow the ground,

and grain, the produce of the ground,

and it will be rich and fertile.

On that day, your cattle will graze in broad pastures;

God is describing a process of sanctification for an idolatrous people. Paraphrasing:

  1. The Lord will give you bread of distress and waters of affliction
  2. But the teachers will speak the truth
  3. and (finally) you will listen and your eyes will be opened
  4. Then you will look at your existing idols and view them as unclean things (menstrual rags) and be disgusted by them.
  5. And then God will bless you with good rains, harvest, and cattle.

So the key is that dawath means contaminated or unclean and has the connotation of menstruation. Menstruation was a source of uncleanliness, which required both washing but also putting away the unclean thing. So when the people view their gold plated idols as menstrual rags, they will put them away, wash themselves, and thus repent of their idolatry.

It's a powerful image to open your eyes and see that some beautiful expensive thing that you formerly desired is a filthy thing you want to get rid of, and the source of this new revelation is the combination of affliction and honest teaching.


The hilarious (yet informative) answer about "menstrual justice" showed me the need to discuss why these bodily discharges are considered a source of uncleanliness in the case of semen/menstrual fluid and the general relationship between other discharges as feces/urine in relationship to idolatry.

First, what these discharges have in common is they are no longer of use to the body. We eat food, the food nourishes us, when all the nourishment is extracted the feces/urine contain those things that are no longer a source of nourishment. They are what's left over. We naturally find them repulsive. Same for discharges of semen or menstrual fluid, which are critical components for creating life but once discharged onto the clothes or bed, they are no longer a source of life.

Theologically, this refers to the idols that we viewed as a source of meaning and value to us, but are no longer a source of life for us. This transformation in the heart of the person who starts to view their idol as a discharge is being referenced here.

In the same way, we are not to go back to those discharges and touch them/eat them/handle them. That would be akin to backsliding or returning to Egypt. This is the theological source of what can be termed fecal/seminal/menstrual "injustice". See, for example the following references:

Mal 2.3 -- God is speaking to those who do not repent of their idolatry

"If you will not listen, and if you will not take it to heart to give glory to my name,” says Yahweh of hosts, “then I will send the curse on you, and I will curse your blessings; moreover I have already cursed them because you are not taking it to heart. Look! I am going to rebuke your offspring, and I will scatter peresh (feces) on your faces, the peresh (feces) of your religious feasts, and you will be carried to it. "

Ezek 4.14-15 - God makes Ezekiel eat a defiled meal in order to symbolize her backsliding

And I said, “Ah, Lord Yahweh! Look! I have not been defiling myself, and a dead body and mangled carcass I have not eaten from my childhood until now, and unclean meat has not come into my mouth!” And he said to me, “See I will give you cattle manure in the place of the feces of a human, and you may prepare your food on it.”

See also the article "keeping excrement out of God's presence"

  • In Judaism, דוה [is] the menstruous woman - a person, not waste. Please be considerate. There have been commentaries written in the Talmud regarding women who are דָוָ֔ה Davah : sefaria.org/Isaiah.30.22?with=Talmud&lang=bi Feb 10 '21 at 11:46
  • The issue is that this is a question about interpreting a passage in the book of Isaiah, which is a late bronze age to early iron age text, and not about the status of women in medieval rabbinical communities or in words that first appear only in medieval rabbinical texts that are not commentaries on Isaiah. Now if you can tie one to the other, in such a way as to illuminate the meaning of this passage in Isaiah then it would be helpful, but otherwise I don't see what one has to do with the other for purposes of exegesis of Isaiah.
    – Robert
    Feb 11 '21 at 4:20
  • " Isaiah 13.18-23" -> Isaiah 30.18-23.. דוה - command ד particularly ו not understood ה. The idol will be cast off as if a child were given a command which seemed like jibberish. The Charlie Brown "Waa waa waaa" The graphic of menstrual cloth is reminiscent of Rachel sitting on her idols, perhaps intentionally so. The word also means sick, weak, faint.
    – Bob Jones
    Jun 24 '21 at 16:57

The cultural roots of menstrual injustice for Hebrew women originates in Leviticus 15:33 - where we first see a term הַדָּוָה֙ Ha-Davah "The Menstruant" used as a title of impurity. In Isaiah 30:22, the prophet Yeshayahu alludes to laws of impurity claiming contact with idol coverings is similar to contact with a דָוָ֔ה Davah.

Isaiah / Yeshayahu 30:22 "And you will treat as unclean the silver overlay of your images and the golden plating of your idols. You will cast them away like a Davah. “Out!” you will call to them." ( וְטִמֵּאתֶ֗ם אֶת־צִפּוּי֙ פְּסִילֵ֣י כַסְפֶּ֔ךָ וְאֶת־אֲפֻדַּ֖ת מַסֵּכַ֣ת זְהָבֶ֑ךָ תִּזְרֵם֙ כְּמ֣וֹ דָוָ֔ה** צֵ֖א תֹּ֥אמַר לֽוֹ** )

[ https://www.sefaria.org/Isaiah.30.22?lang=bi ]

To fight menstrual injustice, we are told Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth in [Mark 5:24-34] allows his own garments to be touched by a דָוָ֔ה Davah (a woman being with a discharge of blood ).

The brief encounter between ישׁוּעָ Yeshua & הַדָּוָה֙ Ha-Davah in the Gospel of Mark demonstrates that natural bodily functions do not make us spiritually impure.

In Judaism, דָוָ֔ה Davah [is] the menstruous woman - a person, not waste. Please be considerate when discussing this topic. There have been commentaries written in the Talmud regarding women who are דָוָ֔ה Davah : https://www.sefaria.org/Isaiah.30.22?with=Talmud&lang=bi

  • 1
    Are you saying that the word of God is 'unjust' ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10 '21 at 5:20

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