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I'm interested in peoples understanding and interpretation of Isaiah 4:1

In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own bread and provide our own clothes. Just let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”

This verse seems to flow on Isaiah 3 which talks of a great judgement being handed out on Israel. A literal interpretation would potentially be that through this judgement process many men have been killed and as a result numerous women lay claim to the few men remaining as their Husband. I understand and accept that literal interpretation as making sense and being applicable to this verse.

In reading scripture however often Prophetic messages work at 2 levels. With there being an obvious literal message which makes sense - but it serving as a parable which uses prophetic symbols and imagery to describe something more. When Jesus tells his disciples to beware the yeast of the pharisees - hes clearly not talking about physical bread :)

This verse likewise seems to use several key and well known biblical symbols:

Bread - Like I just mentioned. One of the most frequently used symbols: eg Moses in the desert, Jesus - the bread of life etc

The woman/wife - Also used in Revelation, Book of Hosea, The story of Abraham/Sara etc

Clothing - Often used as a symbol of someones righteousness or sin (Zecharaiah 3, Revelation 7, Exodus 19:10

I'm interested if there are any symbolic / parable interpretations and explanations for this verse ? What does it potentially refer to ? Who are the 7 women ? Is there a specific future event theologians have usually linked Isaiah 4 with or any well known symbolic interpretations of this verse ?

EG: Could the 7 women potentially be the 7 Churches of Revelation for example - the one man is Christ ?

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  • It is a literary metaphor.
    – Dottard
    Nov 10, 2021 at 21:38
  • Yes perfect thankyou. That's a more succinct way to put it. :) Can you explain the metaphor ?
    – Marshall
    Nov 11, 2021 at 4:04

2 Answers 2

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Isaiah 4:

1 In that day seven women will take hold of one man and say, “We will eat our own bread and provide our own clothes. Just let us be called by your name. Take away our disgrace!”

Barnes:

Seven women - The number "seven" is used often to denote a "large" though "indefinite" number; Leviticus 26:28; Proverbs 24:16; Zechariah 3:9. It means that so great should be the calamity, so many "men" would fall in battle, that many women would, contrary to their natural modesty, become suitors to a single man, to obtain him as a husband and protector.

On the other hand, Revelation 1:

4a John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia

The seven churches are Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamon, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Revelation 2-3).

The number 7 in Isaiah 4:1 is likely to be a metaphor. The number 7 in Revelation 1:4a is literal.

Could the 7 women potentially be the 7 Churches of Revelation?

Probably not.

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Who are the seven women of Isaiah 4:1?

The "seven women" are not specific, literal women. The topic "Woman" from the Insight on the Scriptures provides the explanation:

After warning Israel of the calamities that would come upon her for unfaithfulness, Jehovah said, through Isaiah the prophet: “And seven women will actually grab hold of one man in that day, saying: ‘We shall eat our own bread and wear our own mantles; only may we be called by your name to take away our reproach.’” (Isa 4:1) In the preceding two verses (Isa 3:25, 26), God had pointed out that Israel’s men would fall by war. So he was telling Israel of the inroads such conditions would make on the manpower of the nation, creating such a shortage that several women would attach themselves to one man. They would be glad to take his name and have some male attentions, even if they had to share him with other women. They would accept polygamy or concubinage to have some little part in a man’s life. Thereby some of the reproach of widowhood or of the unmarried state, and childlessness, would be removed.

So the "women" are not literal but more a sign-of-the-times metaphor that Isaiah is using.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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