It was an intimidating crowd. These women had power and status. Decorated from head to toe, dazzling, bejeweled. Maybe the most disconcerting were the eyes that appeared dull and lifeless, despite the heavy makeup. They were the wives and daughters of the wealthiest businessmen and the religious leaders in Zion.
“What are you staring at?” one woman barked. My first thought was that her appearance indicated she wanted people to notice her. They preened, moving around the room in various groups, obviously in competition with one another. They talked and laughed behind their hands while pointing or staring at someone in another group. Mocking one another must have been the favorite sport. A discordant sound came from the whispers, like hissing, along with the jingle of bracelets that decorated their arms and ankles.
“You don’t belong here,” announced one of the women. She glared, chin raised and eyes narrowed. “You are not welcome here. Are you a spy…,” she said with a laugh. “From a nation that will invade us? The prophets have been prophesying the destruction of Judah for years. Or are you here to warn us too?”
The women around her laughed, derisive laughing that had no joy in it. Another spoke up indignantly, “Israel deserved to fall. They abandoned Jerusalem and God’s laws. What did they think would happen?” heads nodded around the room in agreement. A few chuckled as if they were glad their brothers had been carried into captivity. “But we have no reason to fear. We worship God in his temple here in Zion, and we follow the laws and traditions of our leaders. Our King Ahaz is a shrewd leader. He will keep us safe.”
“Yes,” another chimed in, “and he has no patience for that rabble, the dirty poor beggars who are always following us around for a handout.”
“It’s such a bore,” announced one woman with a haughty look, dripping in jewels. “King Ahaz is chasing them out of our community; we shouldn’t even have to look at them. Disgusting, with their hands out and their dirty faces.”
“Have you heard the latest prophesy from that annoying Isaiah?” asked another. Several heads turned to hear what she had to say. “He actually condemned us and said ‘The Lord will bring sores on the heads of the women of Zion; the Lord will make their scalps bald.’ Imagine the nerve of the man!”
Some of the women seemed alarmed at the words, absentmindedly patting carefully coiffured hairdos. Some sneered, commenting to one another behind their hands. One proud woman spoke loudly for all to hear, “I, for one, don’t care to hear what the prophet has to say. I am tired of his preaching and pronouncing. God would not dare let Judah fall. Why, the Messiah is to come from the House of David and the Line of Judah! We are safe and I will not hear any more of these fake prophesies. Just look around,” she said, gesturing around the room. “Do we look like we are on the verge of destruction? Of course not! We come from the most powerful families in Judah, no one is going to conquer us or carry us away to captivity. Assyria, nor any other nation, has any power over us. We could probably buy Assyria with the jewels in this room. We have no need to fear.”
With that, the women either flounced out of the room or huddled together, agreeing that they had nothing to fear, or commenting about the prophesies they too had rejected.
In 587 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon overran Judah. Zedekiah, the King of Judah, was taken captive. Babylonian invaders destroyed the Temple and the King’s palace. The sacred articles in the Temple, as well as any gold or valuables, were also carried away to Babylon. The priests and religious leaders were murdered; the rest of the population was taken into captivity in Babylon. Only a small number of the poor were left behind as laborers in the fields.
From 2 Kings 17—19; Isaiah 3—4:6. In The Women Speak, on the Home Page, you will find a Bible study from this story.