God's judgments on Babylon. (1-6) Carelessness and confidence shall not prevent the evil. (7-15)
Verses 1-6 Babylon is represented under the emblem of a female in deep distress. She was to be degraded and endure sufferings; and is represented sitting on the ground, grinding at the handmill, the lowest and most laborious service. God was righteous in his vengeance, and none should interpose. The prophet exults in the Lord of hosts, as the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel. God often permits wicked men to prevail against his people; but those who cruelly oppress them will be punished.
Verses 7-15 Let us beware of acting and speaking as Babylon did; of trusting in tyranny and oppression; of boasting as to our abilities, relying on ourselves, and ascribing success to our own prudence and wisdom; lest we partake of her plagues. Those in the height of prosperity, are apt to fancy themselves out of the reach of adversity. It is also common for sinners to think they shall be safe, because they think to be secret in wicked ways. But their security shall be their ruin. Let us draw from such passages as the foregoing, those lessons of humility and trust in God which they convey. If we believe the word of God, we may know how it will be with the righteous and the wicked to all eternity. We may learn how to escape the wrath to come, to glorify God, to have peace through life, hope in death, and everlasting happiness. Let us then stand aloof from all delusions.
Isaiah 47:1-15 . THE DESTRUCTION OF BABYLON IS REPRESENTED UNDER THE IMAGE OF A ROYAL VIRGIN BROUGHT DOWN IN A MOMENT FROM HER MAGNIFICENT THRONE TO THE EXTREME OF DEGRADATION. Job 2:13
, Lamentations 2:10
--that is, heretofore uncaptured
[HERODOTUS, 1.191]. daughter of Babylon
--Babylon and its inhabitants no throne
--The seat of empire was transferred to Shushan. Alexander intended to have made Babylon his seat of empire, but Providence defeated his design. He soon died; and Seleucia, being built near, robbed it of its inhabitants, and even of its name, which was applied to Seleucia. delicate
--alluding to the effeminate debauchery and prostitution of all classes at banquets and religious rites [CURTIUS, 5.1; HERODOTUS, 1.199; BARUCH, 6.43].
2. millstones--like the querns or hand-mills, found in this country, before the invention of water mills and windmills: a convex stone, made by the hand to turn in a concave stone, fitted to receive it, the corn being ground between them: the office of a female slave in the East; most degrading ( Job 31:10 , Matthew 24:41 ).
uncover thy locks--rather, "take off thy veil" [HORSLEY]: perhaps the removal of the plaited hair worn round the women's temples is included; it, too, is a covering ( 1 Corinthians 11:15 ); to remove it and the veil is the badge of the lowest female degradation; in the East the head is the seat of female modesty; the face of a woman is seldom, the whole head almost never, seen bare
make bare the leg--rather "lift up (literally, 'uncover'; as in lifting up the train the leg is uncovered) thy flowing train." In Mesopotamia, women of low rank, as occasion requires, wade across the rivers with stript legs, or else entirely put off their garments and swim across. "Exchange thy rich, loose, queenly robe, for the most abject condition, that of one going to and fro through rivers as a slave, to draw water," &c.
uncover . . . thigh--gather up the robe, so as to wade across.
3. not meet . . . as a man--rather, "I will not meet a man," that is, suffer man to intercede with me--give man an audience [HORSLEY]. Or, "I will not make peace with any man," before all are destroyed. Literally, "strike a league with"; a phrase arising from the custom of striking hands together in making a compact [MAURER], Proverbs 22:26 , 11:15 , Margin). Or else from striking the victims sacrificed in making treaties.
4. As for--rather supply, "Thus saith our Redeemer" [MAURER]. LOWTH supposes this verse to be the exclamation of a chorus breaking in with praises, "Our Redeemer! Jehovah of hosts," &c. ( Jeremiah 50:34 ).
5. Sit--the posture of mourning ( Ezra 9:4 , Job 2:13 , Lamentations 2:10 ).
darkness--mourning and misery ( Lamentations 3:2 , Micah 7:8 ).
lady of kingdoms--mistress of the world ( Isaiah 13:19 ).
6. reason for God's vengeance on Babylon: in executing God's will against His people, she had done so with wanton cruelty ( Isaiah 10:5 , &c.; Jeremiah 50:17 , 51:33 , Zechariah 1:15 ).
polluted my inheritance--( Isaiah 43:28 ).
the ancient--Even old age was disregarded by the Chaldeans, who treated all alike with cruelty ( Lamentations 4:16 , 5:12 ) [ROSENMULLER]. Or, "the ancient" means Israel, worn out with calamities in the latter period of its history ( Isaiah 46:4 ), as its earlier stage of history is called its "youth" ( Isaiah 54:6 , Ezekiel 16:60 ).
7. so that--Through thy vain expectation of being a queen for ever, thou didst advance to such a pitch of insolence as not to believe "these things" (namely, as to thy overthrow, Isaiah 47:1-5 ) possible.
end of it--namely, of thy insolence, implied in her words, "I shall be a lady for ever."
there so many incentives to licentiousness. I am . . . none . . . beside me
--( Isaiah 47:10
). Language of arrogance in man's mouth; fitting for God alone ( Isaiah 45:6
). See Isaiah 5:8
, latter part. widow . . . loss of children
--A state, represented as a female, when it has fallen is called a widow,
because its king
is no more; and childless,
because it has no inhabitants; they having been carried off as captives ( Isaiah 23:4
, Isaiah 54:1 Isaiah 54:4 Isaiah 54:5
, Revelation 18:7 Revelation 18:8
9. in a moment--It should not decay slowly, but be suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed; in a single night it was taken by Cyrus. The prophecy was again literally fulfilled when Babylon revolted against Darius; and, in order to hold out to the last, each man chose one woman of his family, and strangled the rest, to save provisions. Darius impaled three thousand of the revolters.
in . . . perfection--that is, "in full measure."
for . . . for--rather, "notwithstanding the . . . notwithstanding"; "in spite of" [LOWTH]. So "for" ( Numbers 14:11 ). Babylon was famous for "expiations or sacrifices, and other incantations, whereby they tried to avert evil and obtain good" [DIODORUS SICULUS].
10. wickedness--as in Isaiah 13:11 , the cruelty with which Babylon treated its subject states.
None seeth me--( Psalms 10:11 , 94:7 ). "There is none to exact punishment from me." Sinners are not safe, though seeming secret.
Thy wisdom--astrological and political ( Isaiah 19:11 , &c., as to Egypt).
perverted--turns thee aside from the right and safe path.
11. from whence it riseth--Hebrew, "the dawn thereof," that is, its first rising. Evil shall come on thee without the least previous intimation [ROSENMULLER]. But dawn is not applied to "evil," but to prosperity shining out after misery ( Isaiah 21:12 ). Translate, "Thou shall not see any dawn" (of alleviation) [MAURER].
put . . . off--rather, as Margin, "remove by expiation"; it shall be never ending.
not know--unawares: which thou dost not apprehend. Proving the fallacy of thy divinations and astrology ( Job 9:5 , Psalms 35:8 ).
12. Stand--forth: a scornful challenge to Babylon's magicians to show whether they can defend their city.
laboured--The devil's service is a laborious yet fruitless one ( Isaiah 55:2 ).
13. wearied--(compare Isaiah 57:10 , Ezekiel 24:12 ).
astrologers--literally, those who form combinations of the heavens; who watch conjunctions and oppositions of the stars. "Casters of the configurations of the sky" [HORSLEY]. GESENIUS explains it: the dividers of the heavens. In casting a nativity they observed four signs:--the horoscope, or sign which arose at the time one was born; the mid-heaven; the sign opposite the horoscope towards the west; and the hypogee.
monthly prognosticators--those who at each new moon profess to tell thereby what is about to happen. Join, not as English Version, "save . . . from those things," &c.; but, "They that at new moons make known from (by means of) them the things that shall come upon thee" [MAURER].
14. ( Isaiah 29:6 , 30:30 ).
not . . . a coal--Like stubble, they shall burn to a dead ash, without leaving a live coal or cinder (compare Isaiah 30:14 ), so utterly shall they be destroyed.
15. Thus, &c.--Such shall be the fate of those astrologers who cost thee such an amount of trouble and money.
thy merchants, from thy youth--that is, with whom thou hast trafficked from thy earliest history, the foreigners sojourning in Babylon for the sake of commerce ( Isaiah 13:14 , Jeremiah 51:6 Jeremiah 51:9 , Nahum 3:16 Nahum 3:17 ) [BARNES]. Rather, the astrologers, with whom Babylon had so many dealings ( Isaiah 47:12-14 ) [HORSLEY].
to his quarter--literally, "straight before him" ( Ezekiel 1:9 Ezekiel 1:12 ). The foreigners, whether soothsayers or merchants, shall flee home out of Babylon ( Jeremiah 50:16 ).