raising ordinary men’s social value in ancient Jerusalem

About 2750 years ago in Jerusalem, a public policy analyst reportedly delivered to the elite male governmental rulers a message understood to be from God:

“What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” says the Lord GOD of hosts.  The LORD said: “Because the daughters of Jerusalem are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet; the Lord will smite with scabs the heads of the daughters of Jerusalem, and the LORD will make them naked with their genitals exposed. In that day the Lord will take away the finery of the anklets, the headbands, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the scarfs; the headdresses, the armlets, the sashes, the perfume boxes, and the amulets; the signet rings and nose rings; the festal robes, the mantles, the cloaks, and the handbags; the garments of gauze, the linen garments, the turbans, and the veils.  Instead of perfume there will be stench; and instead of a sash, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a girding of sackcloth; instead of beauty, shame.  Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty male warriors die in battle.  And Jerusalem’s gates shall lament and mourn; ravaged, Jerusalem shall be knocked to the ground.  And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, ‘We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our disgrace.'”[1]

In prosperous times, some mighty men apparently provided some women in Jerusalem with fine jewelry and rich clothing.  When six out of seven men had been killed fighting for Jerusalem, ordinary men’s mate value rose significantly.[2] Men were no longer required to provide even basic goods to a wife.  Providing the social status of a wife (a new name) and being an instrument for producing children (“take away our disgrace”) was sufficient for a woman to want a man.

A societal catastrophe isn’t a good way to raise the value of ordinary men.

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[1] Isaiah 3:15-4:1. The English is my translation, which is similar to the copyrighted New Revised Standard version.  The Hebrew and many English translations freely available at BlueLetterBible have informed my translation.  In the spirit of biblical charity, I freely offer my translation to all as part of the public domain.  Apart from the long list of luxuries, the text has the line parallelism characteristic of biblical poetry.  That shift between poetry and prose contributes to the meaning.  But because the narrow column for quoted text on this blog breaks the line structure and obscures the lineation, I’ve organized the whole passage in prose style.

[2] Isaiah’s call to prophesy is reported in the Book of Isaiah to have been the year that King Uzziah died, which was probably 742 BGC. Jerusalem was relatively prosperous under Uzziah and Judah’s next king, Jotham. But under the subsequent king, Ahaz, the northern kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Aram (Damascus) besieged Jerusalem. The second part of the quoted text may indicate conditions during such a siege.

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