Is there a traditional Jewish or standard agreed upon understanding of what it means for a marriage in the context of Isaiah 4 to take away reproach?

For seven women will take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach!” (Is. 4:1)

I realise there is a gap between our culture and the time when this text was written, and I am not sure what specifically this is saying. Given that the woman appear to have an independent source of food and clothing, the motivation is obviously not out of poverty.

(If it turns out that this question might be too subjective, please let me know and I can clarify it. While opinions are nice, I am ultimately after how this passage would have been traditionally understood)


1 Answer 1


The Hebrew for "our reproach" is "חֶרְפָּתֵנוּ" (a contraction of "חֶרְפָּה שֶׁלָנוּ"), which is more accurately translated as "our disgrace" or "our degradation."1 A number of classic commentators (including Rashi and Radak, ad loc.) cite a midrash that says Nevuchadnetzar allowed his soldiers to rape any unmarried women. The many Jewish war widows thus begged the remaining men to marry them to protect them from the decree.

Aside from the midrash's specific explanation, Rashi implies that those war widows were more prone to being mistreated or taken advantage of than married women, and Radak comments on their humiliation in remaining unmarried.2

1 This is the standard translation, and it is further confirmed in this instance by the Aramaic translation of Targum Yonasan on this verse as "חסודנא".

2 Similar to the Radak, see the comment in Ruth Rabba (2:15) that a woman only finds repose in the home of her husband.

  • 3
    Interesting. This might be connected to the midrashim on Dina "marrying" Shimon in order to relieve her disgrace, or the possuk of Rachel naming Yosef. Jul 28, 2015 at 12:08
  • @IsaacKotlicky Interesting approach on Dina. I'll try to keep that in mind.
    – HaLeiVi
    Jul 28, 2015 at 12:59
  • @IsaacKotlicky I understand the connection about the midrashim on Dina, but what is the connection to "the possuk of Rachel naming Yosef"?
    – ninamag
    Jan 26, 2023 at 23:52
  • @ninamag The same terminology is used in B'reishis 30:23, where Rachel expresses her relief and gratitude at the birth of Yosef. Rashi (ad loc.) cites the Yalkut that Rachel was worried that, as a result of her barrenness as Ya'akov's wife, she would ultimately have to marry Esav instead. In a sense, she was not firmly set in Ya'akov's household until she bore Yosef.
    – Fred
    Jan 27, 2023 at 2:23

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