Prophecy Against Babylon
1 “The word that the LORD spake against Babylon and against the
land of the Chaldeans by Jeremiah the prophet.” Against; rather, concerning.
2 “Declare ye among the nations, and publish, and set up a standard;”
publish, and conceal not: say, Babylon is taken, Bel is confounded,
Merodach is broken in pieces; her idols are confounded, her images are
broken in pieces.” The prophet, with the eye of faith, sees his revelation
accomplished. Babylon (like Moab) is taken; her idols are destroyed. In his
exuberant joy, he calls on the bystanders to proclaim the good news to the
sympathetic nations, and to set up (or rather, lift up) a standard (as ch.4:6), to
call the attention of those who might not be within hearing of the proclamation.
The idols have been convicted of false pretensions; they are ashamed and
dismayed (so we should render rather than confounded and broken in pieces) at
the terrible result to their worshippers. Bel and Merodach are not different
deifies, but merely different names of one of the two principal gods of the
later Babylonian empire. Bel, it is true, was originally distinct from Merodach,
but ultimately identified with him. Merodach was the tutelary god of Babylon,
and Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been specially addicted to his worship,
though, indeed, he mentions Nebo also with hardly less honor. This is the
beginning of an inscription of this king’s, preserved at the India House: —
“Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, glorious prince, worshipper of
Marduk, adorer of the lofty one, glorifier of Nabu, the exalted, the
possessor of intelligence” (Mr. Rodwell’s translation, ‘Records of the
Past,’ 5:113). Elsewhere Nebuchadnezzar speaks of Marduk as “the god
my maker,” “the chief of the gods,” and of himself as “his (Marduk’s)
eldest son, the chosen of his heart.” Her images. It is a very peculiar word
(gillulim), specially frequent in Ezekiel, and also found in a chapter of
Leviticus with which Ezekiel has affinities (Leviticus 26:30). It evidently
involves a sore disparagement of idol worship. The etymological meaning is
“things rolled,” which may be variously interpreted as “idol
blocks”, or “doll images”.
3 “For out of the north there cometh up a nation against her,” - There was
a peculiar mystery attaching to the north in the Hebrew mind, as, in fact, the
word very for “north” in Hebrew (literally, the hidden) indicates. The burnt
offering was to be sacrificed on the north side of the altar (Leviticus 1:11), and
the four cherubim, in the vision of Ezekiel, are described as coming from the
north (Ezekiel 1:4). The horror with which Babylon was regarded was intensified,
apparently, by its northern position (ch. 1:14), and now the “hidden” north again
pours forth its swarms of warriors against Babylon herself - “which shall make
her land desolate, and none shall dwell therein: they shall remove, they shall
depart, both man and beast.” - rather, they are fled, they are gone; almost the
same clause occurs in ch. 9:10. The prediction is realized as past.
4 “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the children of
Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going
and weeping: they shall go, and seek the LORD their God.”
In those days, etc. The destruction of Babylon is immediately
followed by the deliverance of Israel. But the description of the latter
is a remarkable one. We are by no means to regard it as an idealized picture
of the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel, any more than we can suppose
the glowing promises in the second part of Isaiah to have their sole
fulfillment in that disappointing event. No; it is the characteristic of
Messianic prophecy that, with “foreshortened perspective,” the prophets
represent as equally near events which are really separated by ages. In the
Book of Isaiah, for instance, preliminary judgments are repeatedly
described in terms which, properly speaking, only apply to the great final
judgment. In fact, each great political revolution is a stage in the Divine
drama of judgment, which will reach its close in the final cataclysm. And so
too here (as well as in Isaiah 40-46.) the promise of mercy to Israel, which
began to be fulfilled in the edict of Cyrus, is represented as if the still future
conversion of the people of Israel were actually accomplished. The
description reminds us of ch. 3:18-21. Notice the penitence of the returning
exiles, and the reunion of Israel and Judah (see on ch.3:18). Going and weeping;
they shall go; rather, they shall go, weeping as they go.
5 “They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying,
Come, and let us join ourselves to the LORD in a perpetual covenant that
shall not be forgotten.” Thitherward; rather, hitherward: The prophet is
evidently writing from Jerusalem (compare ch. 51:50). Let us join ourselves.
A conjectural emendation (nilveh for nilvu, a difficult reading, meaning,
perhaps, “join yourselves”). A perpetual covenant. The same phrase
occurs in ch.32:40. The addition, “that shall not be forgotten,” reminds us of
“the ark of the covenant,” which was “not to be remembered” (ch. 3:16).
6 “My people hath been lost sheep: their shepherds have caused them
to go astray, they have turned them away on the mountains: they have
gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their restingplace.”
Lost sheep. Not merely with reference to the scattering of the Captivity (as in
Isaiah 27:13, where the Authorized Version has “ready to perish”), but to the
transgressions of the Law of God, of which the Jews had been constantly guilty
(compare Psalm 119:176; Isaiah 53:6). Their shepherds… mountains. This is the
marginal correction in the Hebrew Bible; the text has, “Their shepherds have
caused them to go astray upon the seducing mountains” — a strange expression,
which is, however, defended by ch. 2:20; 3:2, 23; 17:2. Their resting place;
literally, their couching place; i.e. their pasture, Jehovah, at once their Pasture
(v. 7) and their true Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).
Lost Sheep (v. 6)
appear as the only flock, but Christ teaches us that all mankind is so
regarded by God.
Ø We are like sheep, because
o we are foolish and prone to err;
o we are weak and defenseless; and yet
o of some value in the sight of God.
Ø We are like God’s sheep, because
o we are not our own masters, we belong to God;
o He watches over us, guides, feeds, protects, and blesses us.
· SIN IS LIKE THE STRAYING OF LOST SHEEP.
Ø It is straying from God. The shepherd goes first; the way he
Chooses may be narrow, steep, rugged; it may seem to lead to
pastureless deserts or to dangerous forests; but it is the duty of
the flock simply to follow the shepherd wherever he goes. It is
our one duty to follow God in Christ. To sin is to follow the
devices and desires of our own heart instead of following His will.
Ø It is straying from our own vocation. There is a path for the sheep.
There is a path for every man — a way of life into which he is called
to walk. When he knows this, if he turn from his duty to any other
way, no matter how pleasant and profitable it may be, he is failing
in his mission, wandering from the right way.
think of the fatal work of men of great talents who have spent them in
deluding or debasing their fellowmen. What vast harm has been done
by the evil genius of great men! Intellectual leaders, philosophers, religious
teachers, poets, (playwrights, movie directors, college professors, authors,
etc. – CY – 2011) directly turn men astray when their teaching is false and
corrupt. Political leaders bring nations into great criminal wars. Court
influence is potent for evil when the court is corrupt. Nevertheless men
cannot throw off their own guilt upon their leaders. For they act with their
Ø It is to be homeless. The sheep are lost on the mountains. God
is the Home of His sheep. To be far from God is to be on the wild
mountains, open to the tempest, at the mercy of the fiercest foes.
Ø It is to be restless. The sheep “have forgotten their resting place.”
The fascination of liberty to roam over the mountains tempts the
sheep to wander from their shepherd. They soon find that this
very liberty becomes a curse, and the wandering a doom of
wretchedness. What the soul wants is rest, and it can find no
rest BUT IN GOD!
not find their way back to the fold, neither could men find their way back
to God. Christ came to SEEK as well as to SAVE. As the good Shepherd,
He gave His life for the sheep. They who have wandered furthest are not
beyond recovery by Christ. If but one sheep be still straying, He will not be
satisfied till that one is brought back. If, then, we have wandered, our
safety will be found in hearkening to the voice of the good Shepherd and
following Him back to our home in God.
7 “All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said,
We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation
of justice, even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.” We offend not; rather,
we incur no guilt. As long as Israel lived a life consecrated to Jehovah, “all
that devoured him incurred guilt” (ch. 2:3). But now that he had wandered from
Jehovah, and so forfeited His protection, His adversaries denied that they could
be brought to account. (Is not this the situation in the United States, when
after 9/11 religious leaders were attacked by the Secular Media for saying
that America was vulnerable because of her turning the back to God? See
Psalm 81:14-15; Proverbs 16:7 – CY – 2011) Habitation of justice; strictly,
pasture of righteousness. The same title is applied in ch. 31:23 to Jerusalem.
But Jerusalem’s spiritual efficacy is only derivative; rest and life flow from
JEHOVAH ALONE, who is, therefore, the true Pasture of His people.
In the Hebrew, “Jehovah” is placed emphatically at the end of the verse.
The hope of their fathers (compare Psalm 22:4). To forsake Jehovah was an
act of treason to the former generations.
8 “Remove out of the midst of Babylon, and go forth out of the land
of the Chaldeans, and be as the he goats before the flocks.” The prophet
returns to the fate of Babylon. He exhorts the captive Israelites to flee in time,
before the hostile army reaches the city (compare Isaiah 48:20). Be as the he
goats before the flocks; rather, as the rams, whose example is followed
unhesitatingly by the flock. The “flocks” in this case are the strangers in
Babylon (v. 16).
9 “For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly
of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in
array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as
of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.” I will raise; literally,
I will stir up (or, awaken); compare ch. 6:22; Isaiah 13:17. An assembly of
great nations. So in a parallel prophecy, “the kingdoms of nations gathered
together” (Isaiah 13:4). Callias in Ebers’ learned story, ‘The Egyptian Princess,’
speaks of “an empire so casually heaped together, and consisting of
seventy populations of different tongues and customs, as that of Persia.”
From thence; i.e. from the headquarters of the array of nations. As of a
mighty expert man; rather, as of an expert warrior (or, mighty man). The
marginal rendering of the Authorized Version represents a various reading
of the Hebrew found in three old editions, and presupposed in the Targum
and Vulgate, “one making childless,” i.e. “a destroyer.” The received
reading, however, is self-evidently right. None shall return in vain. It
seems doubtful whether this refers to the arrow or to the mighty man. The
arrow may be said to “return [or, ‘turn’] in vain” when it misses its aim or
strikes the mark without piercing it (compare II Samuel 1:22, where, however,
it is the sword which is thus spoken of); the mighty man when he retires from the
field defeated. This wider use of the phrase is sanctioned by Isaiah 55:11.
10 “And Chaldea shall be a spoil: all that spoil her shall be satisfied,
saith the LORD.’
Babylon’s Desolation and Israel’s Glorification (vs. 11-20)
11 “Because ye were glad, because ye rejoiced, O ye destroyers of mine
heritage, because ye are grown fat as the heifer at grass, and bellow
as bulls;” Because ye were glad, etc.; rather, Truly ye may be glad;
truly ye may rejoice, ye spoilers of mine heritage; truly ye may leap as a
heifer at grass, and neigh as steeds; yet your mother, etc. Your triumph
shall be of short duration; disgrace follows closely upon its heels. “Your
mother” is a term for the nation regarded as a whole (compare Isaiah 51:1;
Hosea 2:2; 4:5). “At grass” is the reading adopted by the Septuagint and
Vulgate; the pointed text has (the vowels alone are different), “(a heifer) that
thresheth,” i.e. allowed to eat its fill of corn, agreeably to the direction in
Deuteronomy 25:4. It is not clear why the Authorized Version deserted the
12 “Your mother shall be sore confounded; she that bare you shall be
ashamed: behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness, a dry
land, and a desert.” Behold, the hindermost of the nations shall be a wilderness;
rather, Behold, the hindermost of the nations! a wilderness, etc. The subject
understood in the first part is obviously the people, in the second the land, of
13 “Because of the wrath of the LORD it shall not be inhabited, but it
shall be wholly desolate: every one that goeth by Babylon shall be
astonished, and hiss at all her plagues.” All but the first clause of this
verse is taken from Jeremiah 19:8; 49:17.
14 “Put yourselves in array against Babylon round about: all ye that bend
the bow, shoot at her, spare no arrows: for she hath sinned against the
LORD.” Put yourselves in array, etc. The Authorized Version, guided, perhaps,
by considerations of rhythm, has misplaced the first stop, which ought to be after
“bow.” The Medes are referred to in a parallel prophecy as great archers
15 “Shout against her round about: she hath given her hand: her foundations
are fallen, her walls are thrown down: for it is the vengeance of the LORD:
take vengeance upon her; as she hath done, do unto her.” Shout against her;
i.e. raise the battle cry (compare Joshua 6:16; Isaiah 42:13). She hath given her
hand. This action is generally mentioned as a pledge of friendship or a
ratification of a promise (II Kings 10:15; Ezekiel 17:18; Ezra 10:19); but the
notion of surrender or submission would naturally follow (so in I Chronicles
29:24; II Chronicles 30:8). Her foundations. The word is difficult, but a
comparison with the Syriac suggests the rendering, her walls. “Foundations”
is obviously wrong.
16 “Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle
in the time of harvest: for fear of the oppressing sword they shall
turn every one to his people, and they shall flee every one to his
own land.” Cut off the sower, etc. “Babylon” here probably means
Babylonia, for it is clear from v. 12 that the curse belongs to the country
as well as the city of Babylon; indeed, “Babylon” in v. 13 seems to be
used in the wider sense. Others think of the open spaces within the walls of
Babylon, in which it is said that crops were raised to provision the city in
case of a siege (see Rawlinson, ‘Ancient Monarchies,’ 2:518); but this is
less natural. They shall turn, etc. The subject is, not the husbandmen, but
the strangers in Babylonia; compare the parallel passage, Isaiah 13:14, on
which this passage is based. AEsehylus (‘Pers.,’ 53) speaks of the
Pa>mmiktov o]clov in Babylon. Whether brought by force from their
homes, like the Jews, or voluntary residents for the sake of commerce, all
should hurry from the doomed city.
17 “Israel is a scattered sheep; the lions have driven him away: first the
king of Assyria hath devoured him; and last this Nebuchadrezzar
king of Babylon hath broken his bones.” Israel is a scattered sheep, etc.
Here a pause in the discourse occurs. The prophet returns to the present condition
of Israel, who is likened to a sheep scared away from its fold by lions. The ruin
wrought by the lions is described first as “devouring” and then as “breaking
the bones” of Israel — in either case it is complete destruction, but the
completeness is more emphasized by the second figure. In fact, when the
“ten tribes” were carried captive, the elements of the theocracy still remained in
the southern kingdom.
18 “Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold,
I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of
Assyria. 19 And I will bring Israel again to his habitation, and he shall feed on
Carmel and Bashan, and his soul shall be satisfied upon mount Ephraim and
Gilead.” The flock restored. His habitation is an unfortunate rendering, which
obscures the beautiful figure; read, his pasture (as in v. 7). The places mentioned
were all famous for their rich pasturage (compare ch. 22:6; Isaiah 33:9; Micah 7:14
especially; Ezekiel 34:13-14; Song of Solomon 4:1).
20 “In those days, and in that time, saith the LORD, the iniquity of
Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of
Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I
reserve.” In those days, etc. An evangelical promise, reminding us of
ch. 31:34 and 33:8, and of the combination of spiritual with temporal
blessings in the latter part of Isaiah.
Perfect Forgiveness (v. 20)
completely, as Christ thoroughly cured all the sick persons whom He
healed in any way. There is no middle course here. Either the forgiveness
is total or it is not accorded at all.
Ø This is more than the remission of penalties. Some consequences of
sin must still remain, though these are no longer indications of God’s
anger, but converted into merciful chastisements. But the essence of
forgiveness lies deeper than any manipulation of external experience.
It is inward, in the relation of God to the soul.
Ø This spiritual forgiveness consists in the removal of all estrangement
between God and the sinner. It is perfect reconciliation with no
shadow cast upon it by old offences, Many men profess to forgive
and yet bear a grudge, or say they will forgive but cannot forget,
or forgive partially but retain a certain suspicion and coolness.
God’s forgiveness goes further. He is said to remove our sin
from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12); to
“cast it into the sea” (Micah 7;19); to “remember it no more”
(Hebrews 10:16j-18). He treats His guilty but penitent child as
if the sin had never been committed. No record of guilt is
preserved, none can be found, even if an enemy search for it.
The prodigal is not made a hired servant; he is welcomed with joy.
The Christian is not grudgingly received into the outer courts of
God’s house; he is called to the presence of his Father and blessed
with full privileges of SONSHIP! If he is justified he is also
glorified. Hence we may learn:
o that, after genuine repentance and faith, a man need not
remain in a state of fear and sadness; he may rejoice with
confidence. His sin is not to be found; then he need think
no more of it. If God has forgotten it he also may forget it.
The typical Christian is not a weeping Magdalene, but a
happy, hopeful servant of Christ. We may also learn:
o to extend more charity and confidence to other men in their
penitence. If God has forgiven them, who are we that we
should treat them with contempt or anger?
II. HOW IT IS OBTAINED.
1. Often after chastisement. The promise to Judah and Israel is forgiveness
after the sufferings of the Captivity. This is not invariably the case; for
(1) chastisement may fail in its work upon the soul, and then the
forgiveness will not follow; or
(2) God may bring the sinner to penitence by milder means. But it is the
design of chastisement to lead us to the blessedness of reconciliation.
2. After repentance. The people are first depicted as “going, weeping as
they go.” Forgiveness is offered to the worst man who repents, but not to
the mildest offender who remains impenitent.
3. Through the mercy of God. This forgiveness is part of the blessedness of
the restoration which God promises to effect for his children. It is not
earned by future good conduct nor by any sacrifice or penance. We now
know that it is not cheap. The price is no less than the life of the Son of
God. But to us it is a free gift of God’s love.
The Punishment of Babylon, Corresponding to Her Crimes (vs. 21-28)
21 “Go up against the land of Merathaim, even against it, and against the
inhabitants of Pekod: waste and utterly destroy after them, saith the LORD,
and do according to all that I have commanded thee.” The land of Merathaim;
i.e. of double rebellion. Probably enough an actual geographical name may lie at
the root of this singular expression; but we are not able at present to say what it
was. The prophet has, at any rate, modified it in such a way as to convey a
definite meaning, symbolic of the character of Babylon (compare v. 31). What
was this meaning? According to Gesenius, there is an allusion to the two great
blows inflicted on Israel and Judah by Assyria and Babylon respectively;
but as these two powers were but the instruments of a higher Hand, this
explanation would seem to be inconsistent with the prophetic teaching.
Others take the two rebellions to be the spiritual ones of idolatry and pride; and
there is no obvious objection to this. But the dual may be simply intended to
express intensity; compare ch. 17:18, “Destroy them with double destruction”
(see note). The inhabitants of Pekod; i.e. of punishment. But here too a
geographical name very probably lies underneath. The Taylor cylinder inscription
of Sennacherib mentions a Pukudu (= Pekod), together with Havrann (Hauran)
and Nabatu (Nabathaeans); but this was the name of a tribe. In Ezekiel 23:23
we read, “The Babylonians, and all the Chaldeans, Pekod, and Shoa, and
Koa,” etc.; and in ‘Records of the Past,’ 11:92, we find a town Pikudu
mentioned, lying to the south of Babylon, which may, perhaps, have given
its name to a district, and to this district the prophet not improbably
alludes. It is conjectured that the event which corresponds to the prophecy is
the decisive battle which virtually terminated the Babylonian empire. According
to the newly discovered Cyrus inscription, this battle was fought near a place
called Rutu, which appears to have been situated in the neighborhood of Pukudu
(‘Records,’ l.c.). About the symbolic meaning there can be no doubt: Pekod is a
worthy pendant to Merathaim. Sin and punishment are so closely connected in
the prophetic mind that one word sometimes covers both notions. It is doubtful,
for instance, whether the better rendering of Isaiah 5:18 is “draw sin as with a
cart rope” or“draw punishment.”
22 “A sound of battle is in the land, and of great destruction.”
23 “How is the hammer of the whole earth” - So in Isaiah 14:5-6), “Jehovah
hath broken the staff of the wicked, the rod of the rulers; which smote peoples
in passion with an unceasing stroke.” In the next chapter a similar title is
conferred upon Israel, with the right to retaliate upon Babylon all the evil
which Babylon had done to Zion (ch. 51:20-24) - “cut asunder and broken!
how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!”
24 “I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon, and
thou wast not aware: thou art found, and also caught, because thou hast
striven against the LORD.” I have laid a snare for thee. It was very natural,
as long as Cyrus’s own account of the capture of Babylon was unknown, to refer
for a fulfillment to the stratagem which, as Herodotus relates, that king employed,
viz. diverting the waters of the Euphrates into an already existing reservoir, and
entering the city unexpectedly by the river channel (Herod., 1:191). But the
cylinder inscription, translated by Sir H. Rawlinson in 1880, shows that Babylon
opened its gates of its own accord, on hearing the defeat and capture of Nabonidus.
There is no occasion to look for any further fulfillment of the prophecy than the
surprise which must ever come upon the bystander when he sees a mighty empire
suddenly pass into the hands of its enemies. The tenses in this verse are not
very happily rendered. It would be better to translate, I laid a snare for
thee, and thou wast taken, O Babylon, unawares; thou wast found, etc.,
because thou hadst striven against the Lord.
25 “The LORD hath opened His armory, and hath brought forth the
weapons of His indignation: for this is the work of the Lord GOD
of hosts in the land of the Chaldeans.” Hath opened His armory. A truly
grand figure. The north country (the “hidden” part of the earth, as it was called
in Hebrew) is regarded by the prophet as a storehouse of young and
“inexhaustible” nations, from which Jehovah CAN AT ANY TIME “bring
forth weapons of His indignation.” The latter phrase, occurs again in the parallel
prophecy (Isaiah 13:5), where it is evidently applied to the army of Medo-Persian
invaders. For this is the work, etc.; rather, For the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, hath
26 “Come against her from the utmost border, open her storehouses:
cast her up as heaps, and destroy her utterly: let nothing of her be left.”
From the utmost border; rather, all together; it is an idiom expressing universality.
Those who are spoken of are regarded as a totality, “from the utmost end” of
which its members come. Cast her up as heaps; rather, Cast it up as sheaves; i.e.
ransack the repositories of Babylon’s wealth, and heap it up like corn; last
of all, destroy her (rather, it) utterly. The verb is a very emphatic one. Its
primary meaning is “to cut off, or shut off.” Hence kherem, a devoted
thing, is applied in the Law to that which is “tabooed,” as it were, cut off
from any but sacred uses. In Leviticus 27:21 it is used of a field wholly
appropriated to the sanctuary, and in I Samuel 15:21 and I Kings 20:42 to
living beings doomed to destruction. Destruction is generally a part of the
meaning; but it is not merely destruction, but an act of homage to the
27 “Slay all her bullocks; let them go down to the slaughter: woe unto them!
for their day is come, the time of their visitation.” In this verse we are told
that the kherem, i.e. the Divine ban, falls upon the entire male population, as in
the holy wars of Joshua (Joshua 6:21; 11:11, 20). All her bullocks. As in ch.51:40
and Isaiah 34:6, the doomed people is likened to sacrificial victims (compare
ch. 46:10). The same fact is described without figure in ch.48:15. Go down to the
slaughter; i.e. be forced down to the slaughtering trough.
28 “The voice of them that flee and escape out of the land of Babylon,
to declare in Zion the vengeance of the LORD our God, the vengeance of
His temple.” The voice of them that flee, etc.; rather, Hark! those that
flee, etc. A confused murmur indicates the approach of the fugitives with
their great tidings. The vengeance of His temple; i.e. the punishment due
to Babylon for burning the temple; compare the next verse, also v. 15, “The
vengeance of the Lord,” and Jeremiah 51:11.
The Completeness of Babylon’s Destruction (vs. 29-40)
29 “Call together the archers against Babylon: all ye that bend the bow,
camp against it round about; let none thereof escape: recompense her
according to her work; according to all that she hath done, do unto her:
for she hath been proud against the LORD, against the Holy One of Israel.”
Call together the archers, etc. A dramatic way of indicating that the siege is
about to begin.
30 “Therefore shall her young men fall in the streets, and all her men of
war shall be cut off in that day, saith the LORD.” With the exception of
“her” in the second clause, a repetition of ch.49:26.
31 “Behold, I am against thee, O thou most proud, saith the Lord GOD
of hosts: for thy day is come, the time that I will visit thee.” O thou most
proud; rather, O Pride! Just as in v. 21 Babylon is called Merathaim, and as
Egypt is, in Hebrew poetry, called Rahab, i.e. “boisterousness” or “arrogance”
(Isaiah 30:7; 51:9; Job 26:12; Psalm 87:4; 89:10).
32 “And the most proud shall stumble and fall, and none shall raise him up:
and I will kindle a fire in his cities, and it shall devour all round about him.”
The most proud; rather, Pride. Raise him up. For the sake of uniformity, “her”
would be better; for it is Babylon who is spoken of. There is an inconsistency in
the use of the persons in the original. Elsewhere in this description Babylon is
feminine; here it is masculine, to agree with “Pride.”
33 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The children of Israel and the
children of Judah were oppressed together: and all that took them
captives held them fast; they refused to let them go.” At the end of v. 32
a pause occurs in the discourse. Then the prophet takes up the theme again
with renewed emphasis. Were oppressed; rather, are oppressed. Because the
oppression of Israel and Judah still continues, whereas Israel has by this time
been amply punished (“received double,” Isaiah 40:2) for her transgressions,
Jehovah will Himself interpose. He is, in fact, Israel’s Goel (“Redeemer”), i.e.
charged, like the next of kin, with the duty of recovering thy rights and avenging
thy wrongs (compare Isaiah 41:14; 47:4). On the Goel, see Leviticus 25:25;
34 “Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is His name: He shall
throughly plead their cause, that He may give rest to the land, and disquiet
the inhabitants of Babylon.” That He may give rest to the land; rather, to the
earth. Babylon was one of the great world empires. It was the wont of the
Chaldeans, as Habakkuk puts it (Habakkuk 1:6), “to walk through the breadth
of the earth, to possess dwelling places that were not theirs.” Observe the striking
contrast — “rest” to the world which has been too long deprived of it, and
“disquiet” to those who have hitherto spread it far and wide (compare
The Strong Redeemer (v. 34)
“Their Redeemer is strong.”
Ø This is true of Israel’s Redeemer. See the power ranged against
them. Physical, in the might of Babylon and the many hostile
nations. Spiritual, in the justice of the sentence under which they
were suffering. Moral, in the enfeebling effects of their
disobedience, causing despondency, despair, timidity, giving
power to evil habits, and making very difficult the
acquirement of such as were good. But:
Ø It is true of our Redeemer. The powers by which humanity is
held in captivity are more terrible and unconquerable than were
those by which Israel was held. These powers are commonly
classified under the threefold division — a trinity of hell —
of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Consider the power:
o Of the world, in enslaving the soul of man. The
seductiveness of its smile, the terror of its frown, the
overpowering force of its rewards, (As Satan tempted
Christ, so has he tempted every man with these words,
“All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall
Down and worship me.” Matthew 4:9 – CY – 2011)
the awfulness of its punishments. And yet all this might
is against God and against the soul.
o Of the flesh. Yes; it does beat against the spirit, it warreth
against the soul (I Peter 2:11). If it once have gained
dominion, is that dominion ever entirely destroyed while
this life lasts? And in some, yea, many, its dominion is
allowed as something that cannot be broken. A moral
despair comes over many in regard to it, and they cease
to contend against a tyranny which they affirm they are
powerless to escape from.
o Of the devil. He is no mere imagination, or myth, or
invention of a credulous and superstitious age, but a
living reality, against whom our Saviour, who knew his
strength and terror as none other did — for He had
just come away from His encounter with him — bade
us in our daily prayer say, “Deliver us from the evil one.”
(Matthew 6:13) Who but he is it that is ever plying us
with unhallowed thought and suggestion, causing the will
and opportunity to sin so fatally to combine? But who of
us is or can be ignorant of his devices? (II Corinthians 2:11)
And when the force of all these terrible foes is augmented,
as it is by the force of habit, of example, of inherited
tendency, of enfeebled power of resistance the result of
past defeats, — oh, what need, indeed, is there that our
Redeemer should be strong! But:
them in part, and their more complete redemption is yet to come. In
regard to humanity at large, he is strong likewise. See in proof of this:
Ø His mighty power when here on earth. All those signs and
wonders, those glorious miracles, were designed to confirm
our faith in our Redeemer as One “mighty to save.” Hence
diseases fled, devils were cast out, nature obeyed, Death gave
up her dead, at His word. All these things were, as John calls
Ø His might displayed in His Church. “I will build my Church,”
He said (Matthew 16;18); and in spite of the feebleness in
numbers, in influence, in intellectual or social power, in
adaptation of methods, in selection of men; in spite of all
the force that numbers, wealth, power, rank, cruelty, hate,
could bring to bear; — still His word was accomplished and
is YET BEING ACCOMPLISHED! Must we not confess,
in view of facts like these, that “our Redeemer is strong?”
Ø His power over the individual soul. How He gives strength
against the terror of a violated law, the might of an indwelling
sin, the crushing power of earthly sorrow, the king of terrors,
death itself! “Conversion is the standing miracle of the Church” –
the transformations of character, condition, and conduct, which
are perpetually being wrought by the power of Christ. All these
compel the glad confession that Christ is “mighty to save.”
FAITH. For faith in Him brings to bear the power of:
Ø The unseen.
Ø The new life. And so these marvels are wrought.
“Mighty Redeemer, set me free
From my old state of sin.”
No human aid avails against so terrible a foe; therefore in vs. 35-38, Jehovah
calls upon His Sword (see on ch. 47:6) to avenge the cause of His people.
35 “A sword is upon the Chaldeans, saith the LORD, and upon the
inhabitants of Babylon, and upon her princes, and upon her wise
men.” A sword is, etc., should rather be, Sword upon the Chaldeans, it
is an exclamation equivalent to “Let the Sword come upon the Chaldeans”
— that sword which never “returns empty.” The wise men are, partly the
astronomers and astrologers at the various observatories in Babylonia,
whose duty it was to send in monthly reports of the appearances in the sky,
which were regarded as having an occult political significance (compare
Isaiah 47:13). In the next verse they are called liars, or praters. In Isaiah 44:25
this word stands parallel to “diviners.”
36 “A sword is upon the liars; and they shall dote: a sword is upon her
mighty men; and they shall be dismayed.” Possibly “liars” may be a wider term
than “wise men,” and includes an inferior grade of pretenders to “wisdom.”
37 “A sword is upon their horses, and upon their chariots, and upon all
the mingled people that are in the midst of her; and they shall become as
women: a sword is upon her treasures; and they shall be robbed.”
The mingled people; rather, the foreign peoples. Even if in ch. 25:20 the Hebrew
‘erebh is an ethnographical term reminding us of the Assyrian Urbi used of
Bedouin tribes, it is clear that no such explanation will suit here (see Ibid).
38 “A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is
the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.”
A drought. The Maasoretic critics, in their prosaic realism, were unable to see
how a “sword” could be “upon the waters;” hence they altered khereb into
khoreb. But the sword is a symbol of the Divine vengeance, and may
be interpreted differently according to the exigencies of the context. Render,
Sword upon the waters. They are mad upon their idols; rather, through Terrors
they befool themselves. “Terrors” is a synonym for the gods of the heathen, which
inspired a feeling of awe rather than affection, unlike Jehovah as He revealed
Himself through the authors of the psalms and prophecies.
39 “Therefore the wild beasts of the desert with the wild beasts of the
islands shall dwell there, and the owls shall dwell therein: and it
shall be no more inhabited for ever; neither shall it be dwelt in
from generation to generation.” Parallel passages: Isaiah 34:14; 13:20-22.
The wild beasts of the desert; rather, wild cats. Wild beasts of the islands;
rather, jackals. Owls; rather, ostriches.
40 “As God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbor cities
thereof, saith the LORD; so shall no man abide there, neither shall
any son of man dwell therein.” A verbal copy of ch.49:18.
41 “Behold, a people shall come from the north, and a great nation, and
many kings shall be raised up from the coasts of the earth.” - ch.51:4. —
The instruments of the judgment. 42 “They shall hold the bow and the lance:
they are cruel, and will not shew mercy: their voice shall roar like the sea,
and they shall ride upon horses, every one put in array, like a man to the
battle, against thee, O daughter of Babylon. 43 The king of Babylon hath
heard the report of them, and his hands waxed feeble: anguish took hold of
him, and pangs as of a woman in travail.” The section is partly a cento from
other prophecies. Thus vs. 41-43 are a repetition of ch. 6:22-24, except that what
is there said of Jerusalem is here applied to Babylon.
44 “Behold, he shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan unto the
habitation of the strong: but I will make them suddenly run away from her:
and who is a chosen man, that I may appoint over her? for who is like me?
and who will appoint me the time? and who is that shepherd that will stand
before me? 45 Therefore hear ye the counsel of the LORD, that He hath
taken against Babylon; and His purposes, that He hath purposed against
the land of the Chaldeans: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out:
surely He shall make their habitation desolate with them. 46 At the noise of
the taking of Babylon the earth is moved, and the cry is heard among the
nations.” Verses 44-46 is a repetition of ch. 49:19-21, the reference, however,
being in the latter passage to Edom. In v. 46 At the noise of the taking of Babylon
would be more literally rendered, At the cry, Babylon is taken.
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