Isaiah 47:2 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

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Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.

Misinterpretation: The UPC often uses this Scripture to try to prove that it is wrong for men to wear shorts or for women to wear skirts above the knee.

Facts: If this Scripture is teaching that men cannot wear shorts then it is also teaching that women cannot remove their veils. Let’s take a closer look at the Scripture to see what I mean.

To understand this Scripture we must look at what the phrase "uncover thy locks" means. "Uncover thy locks" means "remove the veil." Here is how several mainstream English translations render Is. 47:2 (I have included Young’s Literal Translation, since many UPC pastors use this translation for study):

Isa 47:2 YLT (Young’s Literal Translation)
Take millstones, and grind flour, Remove thy veil, draw up the skirt, Uncover the leg, pass over the floods.

Isa 47:2 NASB
Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.

Isa 47:2 ESV
Take the millstones and grind flour, put off your veil, strip off your robe, uncover your legs, pass through the rivers.

Isa 47:2 GNB
Turn the millstone! Grind the flour! Off with your veil! Strip off your fine clothes! Lift up your skirts to cross the streams!

Isa 47:2 JPS (Jewish Translation of the Old Testament)
Take the millstones, and grind meal; remove thy veil, strip off the train, uncover the leg, pass through the rivers.

I included these five mainstream English translations because I want to show that the common rendering of the verse is "remove your veil," and that it is not a translation that I came up with on my own. My point is this: If this verse proves that it is immodest for a person to wear shorts or skirts above the knee then it also proves that it is immodest for women to remove their veils.

11 thoughts on “Isaiah 47:2 (Misinterpreted Scriptures)

  1. Glenn Frazier

    Just a thought, I have done a lot of studying in God’s Word and if you want to get technical about it men didn’t wear pants or breeches and women didn’t wear pants or breeches. They all wore robes and the ladies were made out of finer linens and colors while the mans robes only went down to their knees not their ankles. And furthurmore if it is wrong for a woman to wear pants then it is also wrong for her to wear a T-Shirt since it was made and designed exclusively for a man during War times.

  2. will

    Romans chapter 14

    2Ti 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
    In our studies we must remember that all scripture is given by God and so if a scripture is hard for you to understand just use the rest of scripture to properly interpret the scripture in question.
    Exo 28:42 And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:
    This would be one of those more easily to read scriptures.
    Some will interpret Exo 28:42 to be like some sort of underwear that only covered the genital area however this does not comply with other scriptures. Such as Gen 2:25 Adam and Eve were still naked even after they sowed fig leaves together. And thus God had to properly cloth them. In the presence of God Adam and Eve still knew they were naked. So my question for any one that does not have a conscience which has been seared is: what can you wear in the presence of God? and not feel naked? What you would not wear to Church don’t wear in public! Also something to consider is that we must respect all convection according to the New Testament Romans chapter 14. So I don’t know why we are putting others on blast with this comment in public!!! Even if the shorts were not an issue attitude and respect of other men and women of God is a much more spiritually concerning issue.

  3. shepherdess

    It would behoove you all to get a copy of hebrew scriptures. The word in YashaYahu 47:2 states veil, not lock. The hebrew word here is the word meaning covering or shawl, not “hair” as is the verse in 1 co. 11. People argue that shaul was speaking about hair being a covering, when in fact he was showing the correlation between the spiritual and the natural, it is by nature that a woman should have long hair, it is spiritual that upon her head should be a covering. The greek word used there means a covering coming down upon, not one that grows out the head. He is letting them know that women are cover because their esteem is their husbands, but also because of the Messengers. He goes on to say that it is not to be argued about because it is their custom not to argue over things that has always been. Remember he was speaking to gentile converts here who were used to adhering to the way of the pagan priestess who were bald or uncovered. I recommend also a lexicon and a scripture dictionary. Shalum!

    1. Josh (Site Admin) Post author

      Shephredess,

      I appreciate the comments. It’s worth noting that the church in Corinth was composed of both Jews and Gentiles, and that the customs regarding hair coverings in worship were mixed. With some pagan religions the men wore them, with others the women wore them. Sometimes they weren’t worn at all, sometimes they were always worn. There’s also some debate over how the Jews of that era regarding head coverings. I’ve read some commentaries that say Jewish men always wore head coverings in worship and others saying that the custom hadn’t been fully established yet.

      Corinth was a port city that attracted a tremendous range of cultures, religions, and gods. Because of that it’s not surprising that there was a division over head coverings. Paul’s commands to them were not based in any particular cultural view, though. He was not defending the culture of the Jews or of the Gentiles. The commands that he gave were not based in the Old Testament law either. Instead, he was laying down a new custom, one that he says all of the churches adhered to. It’s also important to note that he was not saying to not argue over things that have always been, because things had not always been that way. He was telling them that the custom he was instructing them in was taught by all of the early churches, and that they should not be contentious about it.

      My complete opinion on the subject, flawed or accurate, can be found here: http://www.whyileft.org/what-does-the-bible-say-about/what-does-the-bible-say-about-hair/

      In Christ,
      – Josh S.

  4. wendell

    I think when people begin to love the Lord with all their heart,soul,mind and strength and love their neighbor as their self, then all these other things fall into line; includling dress. GOD BLESS

  5. Mel

    What didn’t you people understand…..the author states correctly that the scripture applied to isreal….not to us my believers. This is a prime example that we have Christians who are biblically illiterate and imposing legalistic requirements in the name of scripture. We must be skilled at interpreting and understanding scripture before we look to hold people and even ourselves accountable to it

  6. jerry simmons

    I’m in the UPC. I don’t wear knee length shorts but I really don’t think there is scripture against it. The only scripture I recall in my studies on this was regarding the modesty of the priesthood. They wore knee length shorts under their robes to cover their body for modesty purposes. The robes themselves went to the ankles. No matter what position the priest found themselves, their body was covered at least to the knee. The tradition of a minimum of to the knee length modesty I believe is derived from this scripture. Some standards of the upc are based on openly known tradition of the founding leaders, but the standard of pants and skirts having a minimum length of just below the knee seems scripturally accurate. Wouldn’t it make good sense if we know God is displeased with inmodest dress to establish a guideline for the church if issues arise in the church. Paul did this many times in the epistles.

  7. Melodi

    In 1 corinthians 11, we are told that a womans long hair is given to her for a covering, the use of a veil here is nullified by a womans long hair. It is a shame for a woman to pray uncovered, her hair being her covering, and here the city was being shamed by uncovering her locks, so these two passages, in the old and new testament agree, as all the bible does. There are many scriptures on modesty, but none of them seem to be specific. The UPC sometimes goes off of this verse and sometimes off of the “tradition of modesty” however in both cases, in this verse and in a traditional sense, modesty meant to cover the whole leg, not just the thigh. I was raised in the church all my life, and bucked against it until about a year ago, when i finally grew up. At 17 I committed my entire life to God to do what he would with me. In doing this, I also have asked God to convict me of anything I might be doing wrong, and it was very odd, because I began to feel more and more uncomfortable in the clothes I was wearing, cap sleeves began to feel skimmpy and knee length a bit short. I know that I cannot base my walk with God, or my convictions on feeling, and everything is written in Gods word. Yes it does say to be modest, but I wasnt sure exactly what that meant. But I read this scripture and it spoke to me, it was one of those times when you read the bible, and something that you have read a million times seems to jump out at you like it never did. I since have made a commitment to wear loose skirts that cover my entire leg. No the bible never says showing your leg is an abomination or a sin, and it only uses showing your leg as a shame to a lady here, but I believe it pleases God when we, in our weak, often missunderstanding human way, try to please him in our lifestyle. I am not condeming anyone who shows their leg, or their thigh, or anything, but I know in myself that this is right. Traditionally, and from this, biblically, this is right, and this is what I am going to do because of my commitment to Jesus, and because I want him to know, that I would give up anything, and I would go to any lengths to praise him, and love him, and worship him. Even to floor length.

  8. Jade

    This scripture doesn’t take a genius to read! I think people try to overanalyze too much! It means exactly what it says! U don’t see a man walking around in dresses, therefore dresses identify with women! It has nothing to do with shorts, but men identify with pants! It leaves no gender confussion!

  9. Pingback: What does the Bible say about men wearing shorts? | whyileft.org

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