The Disabled Body Politic in Isaiah 3:1, 8


Despite recent interest in disability imagery in Isaiah, few interpreters have recognized that Isa 3:1, 8 metaphorically portrays the nation of Judah as a lame person and its officials and elites as its crutch. Verse 1 announces the removal of these leaders due to their malfeasance, and v. 8 describes how Judah and Jerusalem “will stumble and fall” as a result. This metaphor is consistent with other Isaian texts that associate disability with judgment against ineffective leadership (e.g., Isa 29:10; 56:10). It differs remarkably, however, from texts that imagine the transformation of disabled bodies into able ones (e.g., Isa 32:3–4; 35:5–6). Because Isaiah likely regarded dependence on benevolent governance as an innate human characteristic, the removal of disability would be unthinkable within the metaphor in Isa 3:1, 8. Instead, the text locates disability in the interaction between bodies and their environments—an emphasis found in Isa 56:3–5 and Jer 31:8–9 as well—which resonates with newer cultural or social models of disability. By attending carefully to this metaphor, interpreters gain greater understanding of the critique of leadership in this poem and the construction of disability in the book of Isaiah and the wider prophetic corpus.