“Seven Women Shall Take Hold of One Man” (Isaiah 4:1)

I was reminded recently of Isaiah 4:1, which has often been used as prooftext for polygamy. It reads:

“And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

The key here is identifying “that day.” Is is a future day, perhaps part of “the last days?”

It’s also important to remember the there are no chapter breaks in the Hebrew Bible. Those are man made and while they do a pretty good job most of the time, they are arbitrary. This is a good example. Isaiah 4:1 actually belongs to the end of chapter 3, which is a pronouncement of judgment on Jerusalem and Judah.

We read in the first three verses of chapter 3:

For behold, the Lord GOD of Hosts is about to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support: the whole supply of food and water, the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the soothsayer and the elder, the commander of fifty and the dignitary, the counselor, the cunning magician, and the clever enchanter.”

Chapter 3 addresses Jerusalem’s current wickedness, not the distant future.

So, what happens when we put 4:1 back in its rightful place at the end of chapter 3?

“…therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion [Jerusalem], and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, The chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, The bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, The rings, and nose jewels, The changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, The glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty. Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground. And in that day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying, We will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel: only let us be called by thy name, to take away our reproach.”

That day” refers to the day the Lord was “about to remove from Jerusalem supply and support” when “thy men shall fall by the sword.” He’s referring to his day, not “the last days.”

Because of Jerusalem’s wickedness the men would be wiped out and the women would be left husbandless and childless (“our reproach”), which was a source of shame in that day. It’s nothing to do with polygamy as we think of it. And even if it were, look at why it happened. I don’t think that’s anyone’s idea of a good time.

Side note on Isaiah: there is a tendency among some LDS people to view all of Isaiah as a metaphor for or prophecies of still-future events, but I don’t believe that’s what Jesus says at Bountiful. Rather, Jesus cites Isaiah 54 (3 Nephi 22) specifically and then encourages the Nephi to study “these things” referring to Isaiah 54.

Context, as always, is king.

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