Dress up in your vigor, Zion!
Dress up in your garments of glory, Jerusalem,
City of holiness…
Shake off the dust,
Arise and sit [on your throne], Jerusalem!
Loosen your neck irons,
Captive daughter of Zion! (Yeshayahu, 52:1, 52)
The Redemption to Yerushalayim is foretold by the image of a woman who, after freeing herself from the chains of captivity, arrays herself in her royal robes and rises again like a queen on her throne. “Daughter of Zion,” the queen, evokes the image of youth, vitality and, above all, loving devotion to Zion.
Zion is the hill upon which had stood the Holy Temple. Later, both the concept of Zion and holiness from the heart of Yerushalayim embraced the entire city, henceforth to be known as “City of Zion” (Ir Tziyon) and “City of Holiness” (Ir HaKodesh). As history marched on and Yerushalayim became part yearning, part dream for the people of Israel, both designations referred to the entire Land of Israel, to be forever enshrined in the annals of history as the “Land of Zion” (Eretz Tziyon) and the Holy Land (Eretz HaKodesh).
Throughout centuries of Exile, the traditional allusion in Hebrew liturgy to the Land of Israel as the “Land of Zion” and the “Holy Land,” has had a special poignancy, evocative of Israel’s glorious history within the context of the people’s and the city’s unique relationship to its Creator. No image other than “Daughter of Zion” could express that loving relationship and strike a cord of response with similar range of emotions, combining a passionate love of the land and of family, both symbolized by woman.
In an earlier prophecy, Yeshayahu compares Yerushalayim to a young bride awaiting her bridegroom in joyous anticipation:
“Lift up your eyes about you and see,
All shall gather and come to you,
As I live, says the Lord.
All of them like an ornament shall you wear.
Like a young bride shall you decorate yourself” (Yeshayahu, 49:18)
The Navi Micha, a young contemporary of Yeshayahu, in his message of consolation to the inhabitants of Yehuda, yearning for a reunification with the Northern Kingdom of
Israel and for the return of its exiles, chooses to address them as “Daughter of Zion” and “Daughter of Yerushalayim”:
“And you, Tower of Eder,
Hill of the Daughter of Zion,
To you shall the earlier kingdom return,
To the Daughter of Yerushalayim (Micha 4:8)
In a later prophecy, Micha chooses another poignant feminine image to compare the inhabitants of Yehuda and Yerushalayim. It is the image of a woman trembling in the pangs of labor who soon thereafter delights in the birth of her child (Micha 4:9-14).
Almost a century later the Navi Zephania once again uses the familiar, dearly beloved metaphor:
“Delight, Daughter of Zion,
Cry out in joy…
Daughter of Yerushalayim!” (Zephania 3:14)
Ranging from the depiction of a queen rising from captivity, clothed in glory on her throne, and from the imagery of an innocent, loving bride rejoicing over the approach of her bridegroom, to the portrayal of a woman trembling in childbirth, woman as paradigm is a consistent and commanding element of classical prophecy. Employed as a powerful moral and didactic device in the transmission of divine messages on both ends of the prophetic spectrum, the various manifestations of the metaphor have exercised an inestimable impact.