9 Rise up, you women who are at ease, hear my voice;
you complacent daughters, give ear to my speech.
10 In little more than a year
you will shudder, you complacent women;
for the grape harvest fails,
the fruit harvest will not come.
11 Tremble, you women who are at ease,
shudder, you complacent ones;
strip, and make yourselves bare,
and tie sackcloth around your waist.
12 Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields,
for the fruitful vine,
13 for the soil of my people
growing up in thorns and briers,
yes, for all the joyous houses
in the exultant city.
14 For the palace is forsaken,
the populous city deserted;
the hill and the watchtower
will become dens forever,
a joy of wild donkeys,
a pasture of flocks;
15 until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.
16 Then justice will dwell in the wilderness,
and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
17 And the effect of righteousness will be peace,
and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.
18 My people will abide in a peaceful habitation,
in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.
19 And it will hail when the forest falls down,
and the city will be utterly laid low.
20 Happy are you who sow beside all waters,
who let the feet of the ox and the donkey range free. – Isaiah 32:9-20 ESV
Isaiah has announced the coming of a righteous king and has called the people of Judah to “Return to the one against whom you have so blatantly rebelled!” (Isaiah 31:5 NET). He has delivered God’s stinging indictment against the leaders of the nation, labeling them as “stubborn children…who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit” (Isaiah 30:1 ESV). Now, the prophet directs his message to the women of Judah. This is intended to reveal that Judah’s problem is pervasive, and not relegated to a particular class or gender of people. Even the women of Judah are guilty of rebellion against God. So, Isaiah calls them out.
You complacent women,
get up and listen to me!
You carefree daughters,
pay attention to what I say! – Isaiah 32:1 NET
He uses two words to describe these women. The first is sha’anan, which portrays them as being a bit haughty and aloof, living with a false sense of ease and confidence. The second word he uses is batach, and it paints them as having a false sense of security. To put it in more modern terms, Isaiah is saying they are “fat and happy.” Which is somewhat similar to the words the prophet Amos used when he called out the women of the northern kingdom of Israel.
Listen to me, you fat cows
living in Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor
and crush the needy,
and who are always calling to your husbands,
“Bring us another drink!” – Amos 4:1 NLT
Isaiah attempts to light a fire under these carefree and complacent women, pleading with them to listen to what he has to say. Time is running out. Judgment is coming. In fact, Isaiah warns that “In a short time—just a little more than a year—you careless ones will suddenly begin to care” (Isaiah 32:10 NLT). God will get their attention. Their false sense of security will be suddenly shattered. Their smug demeanor will be replaced with fear.
Tremble, you women of ease;
throw off your complacency.
Strip off your pretty clothes,
and put on burlap to show your grief.
Beat your breasts in sorrow for your bountiful farms
and your fruitful grapevines. – Isaiah 32:11 NLT
Isaiah calls on these women to repent. He warns them to change their attitude now before the judgment of God falls on them. They need to replace their false sense of security with a fear of God. They need to remove their fine clothing and put on the garments of mourning, as a sign of their sorrow for having offended a holy God. They need to repent over their misplaced trust, as illustrated by their over-confidence in their bountiful farms and fruitful grapevines. These women, like everyone else in the nation, had come to believe that they were somehow invincible and their material prosperity was a sign of God’s favor.
Yet, Isaiah lets them know that everything in which they have trusted will suddenly be taken from them. He depicts a dramatic reversal of fortunes for these women and the nation.
For your land will be overgrown with thorns and briers.
Your joyful homes and happy towns will be gone.
The palace and the city will be deserted,
and busy towns will be empty.
Wild donkeys will frolic and flocks will graze
in the empty forts and watchtowers… – Isaiah 32:13-14 NLT
Their material world was going to be rocked. Nothing will be left untouched. Houses, towns, palaces, and pastures, will all bear the brunt of God’s righteous wrath. Because these things represent the source of their security. Their material possessions had become substitutes for God. They found peace in the shelter of their houses, not the arms of God. They felt safe because of the fortifications of their cities, not because of their God. They relied on the fruitfulness of their fields and orchards for sustenance, rather than God. In short, they worshiped the gifts rather than the Giver.
But God was about to change all that. In the relatively short-term, God would bring destruction upon the nation of Judah. In 701 BC, Sennacherib besieged the city of Jerusalem, creating extremely difficult conditions within its walls. Even before the siege began, the emissary for the king had warned the people in the city:
“Do you think my master sent this message only to you and your master? He wants all the people to hear it, for when we put this city under siege, they will suffer along with you. They will be so hungry and thirsty that they will eat their own dung and drink their own urine.” – 2 Kings 18:27 NLT
As we have seen, God eventually spared the city of Jerusalem, miraculously defeating the Assyrian army. In the middle of the night, an angel of the Lord killed 185,000 of the enemy’s troops, forcing Sennacherib to call off the siege and return to Assyria. But 115 years later, the destruction of Jerusalem would finally come. In 586 BC, after another lengthy and devastating siege, the Babylonians, under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar, breached the walls the city and completely destroyed it.
At this point, as Isaiah addresses the women of Judah, all of these events had not yet happened. They lie somewhere in the future; as yet unfulfilled, but unavoidable. Because they did happen. God’s judgment did come. Homes were destroyed, palaces demolished, the temple burned and razed, and the people taken captive. And Isaiah warns that the desolation of Judah would continue until another, as yet unfulfilled event took place. He describes the desolation of Jerusalem continuing “until at last the Spirit is poured out on us from heaven” (Isaiah 32:15 NLT).
With the coming of this future day, another incredible reversal of fortunes will take place. Isaiah describes the wilderness becoming a fertile field yielding bountiful crops. And the most abundant fruit to be found will be justice and righteousness. It will be a time marked by peace. And in place of the cocky confidence of the women of Judah, will be a quiet and confidence that comes from God.
And this righteousness will bring peace. Yes, it will bring quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in safety, quietly at home. They will be at rest. – Isaiah 32:17-18 NLT
Rather than trusting in material things and finding their hope and security in the gifts, the people of Judah will turn to the Giver of all good things. And He will bless them.
the Lord will greatly bless his people.
Wherever they plant seed, bountiful crops will spring up.
Their cattle and donkeys will graze freely. – Isaiah 32:20 NLT
This day has not yet come. This prophecy has not yet been fulfilled. But it will be. Just as the Assyrians besieged the city and the Babylonians destroyed it, the day will come when the Lord pours out His blessings upon Jerusalem and the people of Israel.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” – Jeremiah 29:11 NLT
And that plan includes the future restoration of His people. He will pour out His Spirit upon them and they will become all that He has intended for them to be all along.
And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. – Ezekiel 36:26-27 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.