View Full Version : Female Leadership, Isaiah 3

01-08-2014, 10:59 AM
I tend to fall into the group of people who believe that the Bible doesn't condemn female leadership. But then I came across something in Isaiah that has me confused on the matter.

Isaiah 3v12: 'Youths oppress my people, women rule over them. My people, your guides lead you astray; they turn you from the path.'

This is within a section talking about how the people of Jerusalem have fallen away and are living in sin, so it seems to be implying that female leadership is a bad thing.

Have any of you come across this passage in discussion of female leadership? How do you understand this passage in relation to your beliefs on the issue?

01-08-2014, 11:35 AM
Subbing for now. I have some thoughts on this but need to come back later to make them comprehensible.

01-08-2014, 12:39 PM
I've seen an argument that suggested the translation from Hebrew is wrong, that the more correct meaning would be 'extortioners' in place of women. I'm not sure about that, I'd need to look in to it more to trust it.

The other way to read it, I think, is how damaged Israel has become. Other verses is Isaiah speak of loss of food and water, babes as princes and men dying by the sword and 'the mighty' falling in war. Women in leadership would be inexperienced. My view, is that Isaiah speaks more about the breakdown of a society, a nation that has disobeyed God rather than any particular pointers on female leadership.

This is a bit rushed...on my way out to work, sorry I have no time to add more.

01-08-2014, 01:13 PM
I have some thoughts, too. Will come back when I'm able to spend more time on this.
Just wanted to point out, though, that Israel had PLENTY of bad male leadership, too ;)

01-10-2014, 06:14 PM
Luke 22:25 - 26 "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that, Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one that rules like the one who serves."

Matthew 20:25 "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slaves –just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and give his life as a ransom for many.”

I think Jesus had a lot to say about the Pharisees and male leaders of the time as well.

Genesis 3: "I will greatly increase your pain in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you". Genesis 3, I believe marks the affects of the fall and its negative affect on both the ground, and how humans relate to one another, changing what was already existing - equality.

Like Virginia said, you will find plenty of good and bad leaders in the Bible, male or female. I think that verse you quoted to be used as a reason that women can't be in a position of leadership is a pretty desperate one, with respect.

I don't think Jesus elevated the social standing of one group (men), while holding down another group (women). Rather, I believe he tells all of us to aspire – just as he did – to the social standing of children (Matt. 18:4) and servants (Luke 22:26-27) and slaves. I think the Bible discourages all believers from "lording it over" anyone, and by no means does it just apply to one group of people. This is, I believe, part of the good news of the new covenant.

Hope this post helps, but I do have people far more eloquent than I on the subject, should you wish to explore the subject further. Let me know if you want to be put in touch with anyone - I wish you well in exploring the subject :)

01-10-2014, 08:04 PM
Also, hopefully this article might be helpful in answering your questions on the concept of people "ruling over/having authority over" and its biblical basis (or lack of):


01-15-2014, 12:00 PM
I emailed a feminist Christian blog I read about my confusion on this verse, here's their reply:

'Isaiah 3:12 is not a derogatory put down of women but uses the inability, ignorance, and helplessness of that generation of women as a fitting metaphor for the characteristics of the rulers that were mining Israel and Judah. The same principle refers to the use of children as a metaphor. http://www.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=isa&chapter=003

3:12 A babe is their master and women rule over them. The same word here is used for "babe" as in Verse 4, and the commentators translate it as either a symbol of weak rulers or of mockers and cynics. Kimchi adds that, because of their sexuality (it has been a common misconception, from ancient times up to the present day, that women are more sexually enticing, and more sexually motivated, than men are), the men will fall under the domination of women. Krauss calls attention to the fact that the word for "women" (nashim) can also be read as "creditors," and that all the ancient translations indicate that one of the misfortunes that will come to them is that they will be always in the hands of their creditors. http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Prophets/Latter_Prophets/Isaiah/Isaiah_3_A_Commentary.shtml?p=3

http://biblehub.com/isaiah/3-12.htm There are numerous commentaries here - the first two pages seemed to be the most helpful.

One of my favorite verses in Isaiah is 40:9 and I like Adam Clarke's commentary on the section:
Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
O Zion, that bringest good tidings "O daughter, that bringest glad tidings to Zion" - That the true construction of the sentence is this, which makes Zion the receiver, not the publisher, of the glad tidings, which latter has been the most prevailing interpretation, will, I think, very clearly appear, if we rightly consider the image itself, and the custom and common practice from which it is taken. I have added the word daughter to express the feminine gender of the Hebrew participle, which I know not how to do otherwise in our language; and this is absolutely necessary in order to ascertain the image. For the office of announcing and celebrating such glad tidings as are here spoken of, belongs peculiarly to the women. On occasion of any great public success, a signal victory, or any other joyful event, it was usual for the women to gather together, and with music, dances, and songs, to publish and celebrate the happy news. Thus after the passage of the Red Sea, Miriam, and all the women, with timbrels in their hands, formed a chorus, and joined the men in their triumphant song, dancing, and throwing in alternately the refrain or burden of the song: -
"Sing ye to Jehovah, for he is greatly exalted;
The horse and his rider hath he cast into the sea."

Hope that is helpful. So it seems that it would be very out of context to use 3:12 to make a case against women in leadership. The passage is a general indictment of Israel rather than of any specific group.'

01-15-2014, 05:33 PM
Glad you found some helpful exegesis :)

Context, and understanding its history behind a whole passage is very important, and it's best to not create doctrines from lone verses, although it is all too common.

Hope my general comments were of some help too. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with an egalitarian point of view.