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Seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying,

“We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes;

just let us be called by your name;

take away our disgrace.”


The Future Glory of the Survivors in Zion

2 On that day the branch of the L ord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and glory of the survivors of Israel. 3Whoever is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem, 4once the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning. 5Then the L ord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed over all the glory there will be a canopy. 6It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat, and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.


1. In that day shall seven women take hold of one man He pursues the same subject, and unquestionably this discourse is immediately connected with what goes before. This verse certainly ought not to have been separated from the preceding. By this circumstance he describes more fully the nature of that desolation and calamity which he had formerly threatened against the Jews; for hypocrites; unless the threatening be conceived in strong terms, either disregard or palliate warnings, so that God’s severity never produces its proper effect upon them. From the effect, therefore, he describes the appalling nature of the approaching calamity, that they may not indulge the hope of making an easy escape. As if he had said, “Do not imagine that it will be of moderate extent, lessening your numbers in a small degree; for utter destruction awaits you, so that hardly one man will be found for seven women.”

The phrase take hold of conveys the same meaning. It is, no doubt, inconsistent with the modesty of the sex that a woman should, of her own accord, offer herself to a man. But the Prophet says, that not only will they do this, but that seven women will, as it were, lay hands on a man, and keep hold of him; so small will be the number of men. The greatness of the calamity is likewise denoted by what immediately follows: we will eat our own bread, and wear our own apparel; for as it is a duty which belongs to a husband to support his wife and family, the women ask a husband for themselves on unreasonable conditions, when they release him from all concern about supplying them with food. Very great must, therefore, be the scarcity of men, when a great number of women, laying aside modesty, are not only constrained to solicit one man, but do not even shrink from the agreement to procure their own victuals, and request nothing more from a husband than to receive them within the bond of marriage.

Let thy name be called on us. It may be rendered, Let us be called by thy name; for when a woman passes into the family of her husband, she is called by his name, and loses her own, because the husband is her head. (1 Corinthians 11:3.) Hence the vail is a token of subjection, and Abimelech said to Sarah,

Thy husband Abraham shall be a covering to thy head. (Genesis 20:16.)

But if she remain unmarried, she is concealed under the name of her family. That this is the true meaning of that mode of expression is sufficiently evident from what Jacob says when blessing his grandchildren,

Let my name, and the name of my fathers,
Abraham and Isaac, be called on them; (Genesis 48:16;)

that is, “Let them be reckoned as our descendants, and let them be partakers of the covenant, and never excluded from it, as were Esau and Ishmael.” In the same manner also do heathen writers speak; as, in Lucan, Marcia, wishing to return to Cato, says: “Grant me only the bare name of marriage; let permission be given that it may be inscribed on my tomb, Marcia the wife of Cato.” 7070     Da tantum nomen inane Connubii: liceat tumulo scripsisse, Catonis Marcia. Luc. Phars. 2:342.

And take away our reproach. Their reason for saying so is, that women are sometimes treated with disdain, when they do not obtain husbands, not only because they appear to be despised as unworthy, but because among the ancient people offspring was reckoned an important blessing, and therefore the Prophet says that they will be desirous to wipe away this reproach, and will employ every argument for that purpose. Lastly, he declares that the calamity will be so great, that almost all the men will be carried off.

2. In that day shall the branch of the Lord be for beauty and glory. 7171     In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious. — Eng. Ver. The marginal reading is, beauty and glory. — Ed. This consolation is seasonably added; for the announcement of a dreadful calamity might have alarmed the godly, and led them to doubt as to the stability of God’s covenant being maintained amidst the destruction of the people. For there is a wide difference between the two statements, that the people will be like the sand of the sea, (Genesis 22:17; Isaiah 10:22,) and yet that they would be cut down by such a frightful massacre, that in the remnant there would be found no dignity, no magnificence, and hardly any name. Isaiah, therefore, according to the custom generally followed by himself and by the prophets, provides against this alarm, and, by adding a consolation, assuages their excessive terror, that believers may still rest assured that the Church will be safe, and may strengthen their hearts by good hope. As he spoke of the restoration of the Church in the second chapter, so he now promises that a new Church will arise, as a bud or shoot springs up in a field which was formerly uncultivated.

This passage is usually expounded as referring to Christ; and the opinion, plausible in itself, derives additional probability from the words of the prophet Zechariah:

Behold the man whose name shall be The Branch.
(Zechariah 6:12.)

It is still further strengthened by the consideration, that the Prophet does not barely name this Branch, but mentions it with a title expressive of respect, as if he had intended to honor the Divinity of Christ. When he afterwards adds the fruits of the earth, they consider this as referring to his human nature. But after a careful examination of the whole, I do not hesitate to regard the Branch of God and the fruit of the earth as denoting an unusual and abundant supply of grace, which will relieve the hungry; for he speaks as if the earth, barren and exhausted after the desolation, would hold out no promise of future produce, in order that the sudden fertility might render the kindness of God the more desirable; as if the parched and barren fields would yield unexpected herbage.

This metaphor is frequently employed in Scripture, that the gifts of God spring up in the world.

Truth shall spring out of the earth, and
righteousness shall look down from heaven. (Psalm 85:11.)

In like manner the Prophet afterwards says:

Let the earth open and bring forth salvation. (Isaiah 45:8.)

These words unquestionably denote a rich supply both of spiritual and of earthly blessings. That such is the meaning of the passage now under consideration is evident from the context; for Isaiah immediately afterwards adds, that it will be for honor and lustre to the delivered of Israel, 7272     Excellent and comely [Heb. beauty and glory] for them that are escaped of Israel, [Heb. for the escaping of Israel.] — Eng. Ver. that is, to the number left, whom the Lord will rescue from destruction.

The word פליטת (pheletath) is commonly translated escape, but here, as in many other passages, it is a collective noun, denoting those who have escaped. He declares that the elect will enjoy that happy fertility which he had promised, and therefore (verse 3) that those who shall be left will be holy. The meaning of the Prophet is, that the glory of God will be illustriously displayed when a new Church shall arise; as if he would create a people for himself out of nothing, and to enrich it with every kind of blessings.

They who limit it to the person of Christ expose themselves to the ridicule of the Jews, as if it were in consequence of scarcity that they tortured passages of Scripture for their own convenience. But there are other passages of Scripture from which it may be more clearly proved that Christ is true God and true man, so that there is no need of ingenious glosses. Yet I acknowledge that the Prophet speaks here about the kingdom of Christ, on which the restoration of the Church is founded. But it ought to be observed, that the consolation is not addressed indiscriminately to all, but only to the remnant, which has been marvellously rescued from the jaws of death.

Besides, as it might be deemed a cold consolation if he had only said that a small number would be saved, he discourses about the magnificent glory and dazzling brightness, to lead believers to hope that this diminution will do no harm; because the excellence of the Church does not consist in multitude but in purity when God bestows splendid and glorious communications of the Spirit of God on his elect. Hence we ought to draw a very useful doctrine, that though believers be exceedingly few, when they are like brands plucked out of the fire, (Zechariah 3:2,) yet that God will glorify himself amongst them, and will display in the midst of them a proof of his unspeakable greatness not less illustrious than amidst a large number.

3. And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion. He follows out the same statement, that when the pollution of the people shall have been washed away, what remains will be pure and holy. The explanation given by some, that they who shall be found written in the book of life will be called holy, appears to me to be too limited. These two clauses ought rather to be read separately, that all who shall be left in Zion will be holy, and that they who shall be left in Jerusalem will be written in the book of life. And this repetition is very frequent and customary among the Hebrews, when the prophets set forth under various titles the same gift of God. Thus, when it is said,

There shall be salvation in Jerusalem,
and forgiveness of sins in Zion, (Joel 2:32,)

both must be viewed as referring to the same subject; but the grace of God is more fully extolled when the cause of salvation is declared to consist in a free pardon. 7373     There is a mistake here. In the verse quoted the prophet Joel does not speak of the forgiveness of sins; but our Author probably had his eye on the concluding clause, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call, as resembling a part of this verse, and he that shall be left in Jerusalem, and on this ground adduced it as a parallel passage, but was not successful in pointing out where the parallelism lies. — Ed.

In this passage the argument is of the same kind; for he says that, when the filth shall have been washed away, the Church will be clean, and that all who shall have a place in her will truly be the elect of God. Now, it is certain that this does not apply universally to the external Church, into which many have been admitted under the designation of believers who have nothing that corresponds to their profession, and who even exceed the small number of good people, as the chaff exceeds the wheat in the barn. And although the captivity in Babylon had been employed by God, as a sieve, to remove a large portion of chaff, yet we know that the Church was still very far from being as pure as she ought to have been. But as at that time there was displayed, in some measure, a resemblance of that purity which will be truly and perfectly manifested after that

the lambs shall have been separated from the kids,
(Matthew 25:32,)

when Isaiah speaks of those beginnings, he includes, as his custom is, a period extending to the end, when God will bring to perfection that which he then began.

It is the same thing which we see every day going forward; for although chastisements and punishments do not entirely remove all spots from the Church, yet when spots have been washed out, she recovers a part of her purity. Thus she suffers no loss by the strokes inflicted on her; because, while she is diminished, she is at the same time comforted by casting out many hypocrites; just as it is only by casting out the offensive or corrupt matter that a diseased body can be restored to health.

Hence we obtain a most useful consolation; for we are wont always to desire a multitude, and to estimate by it the prosperity of the Church. On the contrary, we should rather desire to be few in number, and that in all of us the glory of God may shine brightly. But because our own glory leads us in another direction, the consequence is, that we regard more a great number of men than the excellence of a few.

We ought also to learn what is the true glory of a Church; for she is truly prosperous when the saints have a place in her; though they be few and despised in the world, yet they render her condition prosperous and desirable. But as it will never happen in the world that the saints alone will hold a place in the Church, we ought patiently to endure a mixture, and, in the meantime, we ought to reckon it a most valuable blessing when she makes a near approach to the cleanness which ought to be found in her.

And they shall all be written among the living [or, to life] in Jerusalem. We have already said that by those who are written in the book of life are meant the elect of God; as if he had said that the profane multitude, which have only a name on the earth, will be cut off. The Prophet alludes to a mode of expression which often occurs in the Scriptures, as when Moses desires that he should be blotted out of the book of life, (Exodus 32:32,) rather than that the whole nation should be destroyed. Christ also says to the Apostles,

Rejoice because your names are written in heaven,
(Luke 10:20;)

and Ezekiel says, They shall not be written in the catalogue of my people. 7474     He appears to refer to Ezekiel 13:9, where his version is, And they shall not be written in the writing, that is, in the catalogue, of my people. — Ed. Now, although God has no other book than his eternal counsel, in which he has predestinated us to salvation by adopting us for his children, yet this comparison is exceedingly suitable to our weakness, because in no other way could our mind conceive that God’s flock is known to him, so that none of the elect can ever be deprived of eternal life. Since, therefore, God has the names of his people in some manner written down, the decree of adoption, by which their eternal blessedness is secured, is called the book of life. The reprobate, though for a time they appear to be on a level with the sons of God, are excluded from this catalogue, as we see that they are cut off when he collects and separates his own people. This matter will not be fully completed before the last day; but as the children of God, by continually persevering, when the reprobate fall off, have their election made sure, it is no small consolation amidst their afflictions, when the temptations by which they are assailed do not cause them to fall from their steadfastness.

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