Isaiah 47




The song divides itself into four strophes, or stanzas — the first one of four

verses (vs. 1-4); the second of three (vs. 5-7); the third of four (vs. 8-11); and

the fourth also of four (vs. 12-15). The speaker is either Jehovah (see v. 3, ad fin.)

or “a chorus of celestial beings” (Cheyne), bent on expressing their sympathy

with Israel.


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v. 1 – Hitherto the “virgin daughter” had sat, as it were, on a throne,

          ruling the nations.  Now she must sit on the ground – there was

          no throne left for her.


Babylon had been called the “golden city” (ch. 14:4) – she was given to

revelry and feasting, to mirth and drunkenness, to a shameless

debauchery (Herod. i. 199; Baruch vi. 43).  Now her population would

have to perform the hard duties laid upon them by foreign masters.


v. 2 –   They will have to do the hard work commonly allotted to female

            slaves – they would have to wade through streams, and in doing

            so would expose parts of their persons which delicacy required

            to be concealed.


v. 4 –As for our Redeemer” - Mr. Cheyne suspects, with some

reason, that this is “the marginal note of a sympathetic scribe, which has

made its way by accident into the text.” It is certainly quite unlike anything

else in the song, which would artistically be improved by its removal. If,

however, it be retained, we must regard it as a parenthetic ejaculation of

the Jewish Church on hearing the first strophe of the song — the Church

contrasting itself with Babylon, which has no one to stand up for it,

whereas it has as “Redeemer the Lord of hosts, the Holy One of Israel.”


v. 5 – “Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness-  The second

strophe begins, like the first, with a double imperative. The fallen people is

recommended to hide its shame in silence and darkness, as disgraced

persons do who shrink from being seen by their fellows.


v. 6 - I was wroth with my people” -  (comp. 2 Kings 24:3, 4;

2 Chronicles 36:13-17) – “I have polluted… and given” - rather, I polluted

and gave - The reference is to the conquest of Judaea by Nebuchadnezzar.

“Thou didst show them no mercy” -  We have very little historical

knowledge of the general treatment of the Jewish exiles during the

Captivity. A certain small number — Daniel and the Three Children —

were advanced to positions of importance (Daniel 1:19; 2:48, 49; 3:30),

and, on the whole, well treated. On the other hand, Jehoiachin

underwent an imprisonment of thirty-seven years’ duration (2 Kings 25:27).

Mr. Cheyne says that “the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel do not

suggest that the [bulk of the] exiles were great sufferers.” This is, no

doubt, true; and we may, perhaps, regard Isaiah’s words in this place as

sufficiently made good by the “cruelties which disfigured the first days of

the Babylonian triumph” (Lamentations 4:16; 5:12; 2 Chronicles 36:17).

Still, there may well have been a large amount of suffering among

the rank-and-file of the captives, of which no historic record has come

down to us. Psalm 138 reveals some of the bitter feelings of the exiles.



v. 7 – “And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever” – THE IDEA OF


            OF HUMAN NATURE


Hence we regard it as certain that the sun will rise on the morrow. We expect

things to “continue in one stay,” and “to-morrow to be as to-day,” if not even

more abundant.” Babylon was not much more arrogant than other nations

when she assumed that silo would be “a lady for ever.” And she had more

excuse than almost any other nation. Her capital was one of the most

ancient cities, if not the most ancient city in the world (Genesis 10:10;

11:1-9). Though not unconquered, she had yet for two millennia or more

maintained a prominent position among the chief peoples of the earth, and

had finally risen to a prouder eminence than any that she had previously

occupied. Still, she ought to have remembered that “all things come to an end,”

and to have so comported herself in the time of her prosperity as not to have

provoked God to anger -  So that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart


So what about us today?  Do we learn from the mistakes of others or do we

blindly follow Satan to the loss of our own soul?”  Is the prevalent attitude

“Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year,

and buy and sell, and get gain:  Whereas ye know not what shall be on the

morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a

little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will,

we shall live, and do this or that.  But now ye rejoice in your boastings:  all such




I remember in the late 1950’s and early 60’s when the Strategic Air

Command used to fly mock bombing runs over an area from northern

Alabama up through where I lived in Pulaski County, KY and points

northeastsupposingly, this terrain was much like that of the inhabited

Soviet UnionI remember the trails of fuel vapor that they left and I

was aware of these verses in James then – much more today in 2009 do

they teach me that my life is short – in fact the theme of this web site is:

THE TIME IS SHORT (not just your life span but the Second Coming

of the Lord Jesus Christ seems to be just around the corner) Babylon

should have known and understood – so should we but “vain man would

be wise, though man be born like a wild ass’s colt” – Job 11:12 – CY :2009)


v. 8 -    proud neglect – “thou art given to pleasures, that dwelleth

            carelessly” - Herodotus says that, when Cyrus invested the city, the

            inhabitants“made light of his siege” (1:190), and occupied themselves

            in dancing and revelry” (1:191). The Nabonidus Tablet seems to show

            that very slight and insufficient preparations for defence were made.!

            (In the United States during the Vietnam War there were those

            who were exponents of “MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR” (CY – 2009)



One of the signs that THE TIME IS SHORT  is taken from II Timothy 3:1-4 -

“This know also, that in the last days……men shall be….lovers of

pleasures more than lovers of God”


vs. 9-11 – “Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath PERVERTED THEE

            Horoscopes and astrology, which, when once entered upon, seduces

            the mind from all genuine and fruitful study of the celestial

            phenomena, and leads it into a labyrinth of ABSURDITIES!


Isaiah warned not to seek unto “wizards that peep, and mutter” but

that a people should seek unto the Living God!  - ch. 8:19


vs. 13-14 - stubble - incapable of resistance


A sarcastic tone - the conflagration will be something

more than a fire to warm yourself by - it will be

awful and widespread devastation.




                                    ADDITIONAL NOTES


According to Isaiah, the downfall of Babylon was produced by four principal

causes; and the lesson to be learnt from her fall is avoidance of four vices. The

fall of Babylon warns states:


  • Against Luxury
  • Against Cruelty
  • Against Pride
  • Against Foolish Superstition


I. AGAINST LUXURY. Babylon was “given to pleasure” (v. 8), was

tender and delicate” (v. 1), or “delicate and luxurious.” It is generally

allowed that luxury saps the vigor of states, destroying the severer virtues

of courage, manliness, and endurance, and at the same time producing a

degeneracy of the physical nature, a loss of muscle, of tone, of fiber. It is,

no doubt, difficult to draw the line, and to say what exactly constitutes

luxury; but certain practices, common in most modern as well as in many

ancient states, may be distinctly regarded as “luxurious.” THE WORST AND

MOST FATAL OF THESE IS UNCHASITY. If the manhood of a nation

indulges generally, or widely, in licentiousness, if purity in man is a rare thing,

we may be sure that the national character and the national strength are

being undermined. The vice of unchastity gnaws at the roots of a nation’s

vigor, and brings a premature decay.  States should take such measures against

it as they take against a pestilence. They should strive to keep it out. Having

once admitted it, they should seek to stamp it out. If they cannot do this, if

the vice is too deeply ingrained to be got rid of, then they must look out


vice, likewise to be carefully guarded against, is intemperance. This, too,

affects  both body and soul, inflames and so exhausts the one, degrades and

enfeebles the other. Of less account, but still coming under the head of luxury,

and therefore to be avoided, are gluttony, sloth, effeminacy, over-refinement.

Of such it may be said, “Hoc nigrum est; hoc tu, Romane, caveto.”


II. AGAINST CRUELTY.  Babylon “showed no mercy” (v. 6); “upon

the aged, very heavily she laid her yoke” (v. 6). Cruelty has less direct

tendency to weaken a nation than luxury; but still it weakens in certain

ways. It alienates the subject races towards whom it is shown. It

exasperates foreign enemies, and causes a people to be hated even by those

who have not themselves suffered at their hands. But its deleterious effect

is probably, in the main, due to God’s hatred of it. God abominates

oppressors (Isaiah 1:21-24; 3:12; 5:23, etc.), and takes care to punish



III. AGAINST PRIDE. Babylon thought that she was “a lady for ever”

(v. 7). She “said in her heart, I am, and none else beside me” (vs. 8-10).

She had such an overweening opinion of herself that she dwelt

carelessly(v. 8), despised her enemies, made slight preparation against

them. Her pride, therefore, like her luxury, by its natural working,

seriously diminished her strength for resistance, making her negligent

and improvident. But it was also among the causes which especially called

down God’s judgment. “Pride,” as we are told, goeth before destruction”

(Proverbs 16:18), and nothing seems so to provoke the Divine

vengeance. “By that sin fell the angels.” God “brings down the high looks

of the proud.” “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the

haughtiness of man shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be

exalted in that day”  - ch. 2:11


IV. AGAINST FOOLISH SUPERSTITION. There is a deisidaimoni>a

which is praiseworthy, rather than blamable, as was that of the Athenians

(Acts 18:22, Revised Version). Babylon is not rebuked because she

really venerated her gods, poor shadows of Divinity as they were. She is

blamed because she superseded, or overlaid the worship of her gods with

various meaner superstitions. Bereavement and widowhood came upon her

for the multitude of her sorceries, and for the great abundance of her

enchantments” (v. 9). It is addiction to magic which is especially “her

wickedness(v. 10), in which she has “trusted;” and it is this wickedness,

together with the other three vices already spoken of, that has caused the

sentence of destruction to go forth against her. Modern states may well

take the warning to heart. When religion is discredited, superstitions

speedily usurp her place. Such superstitions certainly cannot “save” those

who trust in them (v. 13); but it is not so certain that they may not destroy.