Q: In Isaiah 40:2, God tells the prophet: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated. Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.” Why is Jerusalem called a woman?
A: The Bible often uses personification, a figure of speech by which God or inanimate objects are described as having human characteristics. Feminine references to Jerusalem (also called “Daughter Zion”) occur in Isaiah 1:8, 10:11, 37:22, 51:18, 52:2 and 66:7-12—as well as in Lamentations, Ezekiel, Zephaniah and Zechariah.
The city of Babylon is referred to as a woman in Isaiah 21:9 and 47:1 and in Zechariah 2:7. In Revelation 14:8, 17:5 and 18:2-24, “Babylon” signifies Rome.
The Bible contains both left-brain (sequential and analytical) and right-brain (evocative and poetic)language. Individual readers may resonate with one type more than with the other, but God’s revelation uses both types, which we need to understand and respect.