Isaiah 3:17 – Foreheads or Secret Parts ?




Christians differ over the translation of Isaiah 3:17. There are two different translations of this verse:

Therefore, the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts [ Isaiah 3:17, KJV]

Therefore, the Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald. [Isaiah 3:17, NIV]


In response to my earlier article on Isaiah 3:17, a brother mailed me the next comment made by a Christian:

On a different matter, you continue to argue that Isaiah 3:17 talks about women being raped because they were haughty. You claim that “most” modern versions translate the passage as “secret parts.” I have eighteen English translations of the Old Testament, and only nine of them translate the passage as secret parts.

The other half use some variation of “laying the head bare.” You claim that the word “scalp” isn’t in the text, but I must point out that [ and here’s the key] neither is “secret parts”!

The passage simply refers to something being laid bare. Some translators conclude that the passage is saying that the women’s bodies will be laid bare, while others translate the verse as saying that the women’s heads will be laid bare. [ claim made by Christian Missionary] 

 Response 

________________________


Which translation is honest? What is being laid bare here? The actual Hebrew of the x-rated passage reads:

vayhwh pothen yaareh [ Isaiah 3:17]


The Biblical God will expose the “pot” of the daughters of Zion. What is the meaning of the Hebrew word “pot” here?  “Pot” = cunt, hen-3rd person female suffix. The word “pot” is the shortened and more vulgar version of the word which is usually used: “potah” [ vagina]. 

The Bantam-Megiddo Hebrew / English dictionary confirms that “potah” means vagina. Also, other Hebrew dictionaries support that the word “pot” in this verse refers to the female pudenda or vagina, see for example:

poth – from an unused root meaning to open; a hole, i.e. hinge or the female pudenda — hinge, secret participle [ Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, Entry 6596]

pot – the external sex organ of the female, the female nakedness [ Even-Shoshan exhaustive Hebrew Dictionary]


As one can see the word “poth” [ hole, opening, female pudenda] doesn’t refer to the forehead or scalp, unless one views the forehead as an “opening” or “hole”. The word “poth” clearly refers to the vagina here.

Further the word “yeareh” [ which is used in Isaiah 3:17] is the future tense verb from the root ayin-reysh-heh which means “to expose, make bare, naked“.

It is the root which forms “arum” [ naked] and “ervah” [ nakedness, nudity]. In Strong’s Hebrew dictionary “yeareh” is defined as:

a primitive root; to be [ causatively, make] bare; hence, to empty, pour out, demolish: –leave destitute, discover, empty, make naked, pour [ out], rase, spread self, uncover.  [ Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, Entry 6168]


The word the “yeareh” is also used in the next verse: 

Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, that dwellest in the land of Uz; the cup also shall pass through unto thee: thou shalt be drunken, and shalt make thyself naked [ “yeareh“] [ Lamentations 4:2]


In Isaiah 3:17 the word “yeareh” [ to uncover, make naked] is used in connection with the word “poth” , this fact also supports the rendering of the word “poth  in this passage as the “female pudenda”. Johnny Miles [ Adjunct Instructor Texas Christian University] confirms this in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament:

I propose reading “pot” as a connotation for the female genitalia given its close proximity toyeareh” [ “lay bare”, “expose”, “denude”], a derivative of which is “ervah” [ “pudenda”, “nakedness” ].

Such a connotation restores the sexual violence within this text in order to re-read its misogynist inscription. The premeditated humiliation for the “daughters of Zion” becomes explicitly graphic with the exposure of their genitalia by YHWH 1



There is more good news. A recent study of some “Semitic ancient snake spells” in an Egyptian pyramid, helped Richard Steiner, a professor of Semitic languages and literature at New York’s Yeshiva University, to solve the long-standing dispute over the meaning of the word “pot” in Isaiah 3:17. National Geographic reports: 

the newly deciphered spells provide the first glimpse of the ancestor language to Phoenician and Hebrew. “This is a discovery of utmost importance,” Bar-Asher said. “Almost all the words found [in these texts] are also found in the Bible.”

 “It’s not as different from biblical Hebrew as some people might have expected,” Yeshiva University’s Steiner added. “A lot of the characteristics of Hebrew that we know from the Bible are already present in these texts.”

The language of the newly deciphered spells is so similar to biblical Hebrew, in fact, that Steiner was able to solve a long-standing dispute over the meaning of the word ‘pot‘. Isaiah 3:17 reads, in regard to the daughters of Zion, “the Lord will uncover their pot.”

By the Middle Ages there was already a dispute among biblical scholars over whether the word referred to the females’ genitalia or to a part of their heads, Steiner said in his lecture. But the use of this rare word in one of the Canaanite spells appears to settle the question.

From this text it is now clear the Hebrew term used by Isaiah refers to the female genitalia,” Bar-Asher, of the Hebrew University, said. These texts also “provide the first direct evidence for the pronunciation of Egyptian in this early period,” 2

Finally, we would like to point out that the x-rated passage in it’s original Hebrew says nothing about making someone’s head or scalp bald. In Hebrew there is an actual root which means “to make/become bald” [ kuf-reysh-het], and this is NOT used.

The meaning of this verse is pretty clear. The daughters of Zion will get their “female genitalia” uncovered by the Biblical Lord. This fact becomes more clear when one reads Isaiah 3:18-24 in which the poet describes how these women will be stripped off from their clothes [ the mantles, the fine linen, the changeable suits of apparel etc.].

The daughters of Zion are clearly stripped of naked in these verses. They were shamed by the Biblical Lord. One may ask: “why did the Biblical Lord uncover the female genetalia of of these women?” Isaiah 3:16 answers this question:

Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking, and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet:

Therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts [ Isaiah 3:16-17]



Notice how the Biblical Lord condems the Daugters of Zion for their self pride and “seductiveness”, the Daugters of Zion were out for some male attention [ “by making a tinkling with their feet” ].  Johnny Miles [ Adjunct Instructor Texas Christian University] confirms this fact in the Journal for the Study of The Old Testament:

By belaboring the graphic depiction of the demeanor, gait, and apparel of these women, the Isaianic poet derives some enjoyment at mocking their vanity. He describes them as walking about town with outstretched necks and casting seductive glances.

Wildberger remarks that ‘the women glance flirtatiously.to see if those who meet them have noticed and been taken with their beauty’…In fact, this poetic imagery insinuates the ‘daughters of Zion’ as playing the harlot 3



In other words because the “Daughters of Zion” were haughty, sexy, beautiful and seductive [ they were out for male attention] , the Biblical Lord decides to give to them some “male attention” by uncovering their “secret parts” [ female genitalia ]. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch write in their classic commentary on the Old Testament:


and Jehovah would uncover their nakedness, by giving them up to violation and abuse at the hand of coarse and barbarous foes – the greatest possible disgrace in the eyes of a woman, who covers herself as carefully as she can in the presence of any stranger.  4


The satire [ Isaiah 3:16-17] is 100 % antifeminist. Women are described as harlots and punished with rape for their obsession with beauty and seductive behavior! The Biblical Lord obvious supports the disgusting view that: “women who act and dress seductive need [ or deserve] to be punished with rape”. 

In another passage we also read that the Biblical Lord himself will send armies to rape the women of Jerusalem [ see Zecharia 14:1-2]. It seems that the Biblical Lord has a dislike for women.

Credit: Written by Kevin Abdullah Karim 

References and Notes:

[1]

Johnny Miles, “Re-reading the Power of Satire: Isaiah’s ‘Daughters of Zion’, Pope’s ‘Belinda’, and the Rhetoric of Rape”, JSOT, Vol. 31, No. 2, p. 201-202 [ 2006 Sage Publications]


[2]

National Geographic News [ February 5, 2007] :  “Ancient Semitic Snake Spells Deciphered in Egyptian Pyramid” by Mati Milstein, online source

 

[3]

Johnny Miles, “Re-reading the Power of Satire: Isaiah’s ‘Daughters of Zion’, Pope’s ‘Belinda’, and the Rhetoric of Rape”, JSOT, Vol. 31, No. 2, p. 199-200 [ 2006 Sage Publications]

[4]

Commentary on the Old Testament by C. F. Keil & F. Delitzsch, Vol. VII, Isaiah [ William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids Michigan 1980 ], p. 143-144