Isaiah 47 – Babylon Brought Low
A. The humiliation of Babylon.
1. (1-3) Babylon, represented as a woman, is humbled.
“Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.
Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil,
Take off the skirt,
Uncover the thigh,
Pass through the rivers.
Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
Yes, your shame will be seen;
I will take vengeance,
And I will not arbitrate with a man.”
a. Come down and sit in the dust: Isaiah pictures proud Babylon as a humiliated woman, who shall no more be called tender and delicate. She is stripped of her fine clothing and is forced to march in a forced relocation (pass through the rivers).
i. Bultema calls this “The bold image of a rich, frivolous and sensual young woman who, as a prisoner, is doomed to the despicable state of a slave and in every respect is treated like a Near-Eastern slave woman.”
b. I will take vengeance, and I will not arbitrate with a man: The humiliation God will impose on Babylon is exactly the humiliation she put upon Judah and Jerusalem. When God humbles Babylon, He is taking vengeance and cannot be talked out of His judgment.
2. (4) The LORD of hosts is glorified.
As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name,
The Holy One of Israel.
a. As for our Redeemer: Seemingly, Isaiah cannot help himself – when he sees how God will take vengeance on this enemy of God’s people, he praises God and boasts in his redeemer.
b. Our Redeemer: This translates the great Hebrew word gaal or goel, the kinsman-redeemer.
i. Bultema on the Hebrew word for Redeemer: “A gaal had to be a close relative. Christ is this too, for according to His humanity He came forth from the Jews. A gaal had to be able to deliver. The Holy One of Israel does not lack this ability. Sometimes a gaal had to exercise bloody vengeance. Christ will work bloody vengeance upon Babylon for its oppression of His people. Frequently a gaal had to pay a ransom to free a prisoner. The Lord Jesus paid with His blood on Golgotha to ransom His people. On the basis of these considerations, to which could be added many more, it is evident that the name Gaal is very fitting for the Savior.”
3. (5-7) Why God will humble Babylon.
“Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
For you shall no longer be called
The Lady of Kingdoms.
I was angry with My people;
I have profaned My inheritance,
And given them into your hand.
You showed them no mercy;
On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.
And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’
So that you did not take these things to heart,
Nor remember the latter end of them.
a. I was angry with My people: Babylon thought that she conquered Judah and Jerusalem through her own power. But Babylon didn’t see that she really conquered them because God was angry with His people, and therefore used Babylon as an instrument of His work. God says, “You didn’t know that I had given them into your hand.”
b. You showed them no mercy: As an instrument in God’s hand, Babylon was too enthusiastic in their attack on God’s people. Even though God allowed it and used it, they still should have shown mercy to God’s people. We are always safe when we take the path of mercy.
c. And you said, “I shall be a lady forever”: Babylon was blind, Babylon was cruel, and now Babylon is shown to be proud and presumptuous. For all these reasons, God promised to humble Babylon.
i. Bultema applies the sense of Isaiah 47:5-11 to the corrupt Church: “In her self-satisfaction and frivolous self-deception she says, I shall be a lady. She claims royal riches, power and honor for herself for ever. A queen feels she must reign, and that was also the Church’s goal quite early. Soon it placed a cross on its steeple instead of on its shoulders. With all its veneration of the cross, it hated the cross in a spiritual sense and reached for the crown of the world.” (Bultema)
B. The rebuke of Babylon.
1. (8-9) Why sudden humiliation comes to Babylon.
“Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures,
Who dwell securely,
Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Nor shall I know the loss of children’;
But these two things shall come to you
In a moment, in one day:
The loss of children, and widowhood.
They shall come upon you in their fullness
Because of the multitude of your sorceries,
For the great abundance of your enchantments.
a. Hear this now, you who are given to pleasures, who dwell securely: In the midst of her pride and arrogance (I am, and there is no one else besides me; I shall not sit as a widow), God brought another charge against Babylon. Judgment would also come because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments. Babylon was famous as a founding place and breeding ground for occult arts and practices.
2. (10-11) Babylon is rebuked for her pride and arrogance.
“For you have trusted in your wickedness;
You have said, ‘No one sees me’;
Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you;
And you have said in your heart,
‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’
Therefore evil shall come upon you;
You shall not know from where it arises.
And trouble shall fall upon you;
You will not be able to put it off.
And desolation shall come upon you suddenly,
Which you shall not know.
a. You have trusted in your wickedness: This is a searching insight into the heart of the proud sinner. They trust in their continuing wickedness to cover the tracks of their previous sin. They are clever, but their wisdom in wickedness has warped them (Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you).
b. Therefore evil shall come upon you: And it did for Babylon, which was suddenly conquered in one night when they believed all was safe and secure (as recorded in Daniel 5).
i. The rebuke of Babylon’s pride is a simple fulfillment of a principle repeated three times in the Scripture: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34, James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).
3. (12-15) A challenge to the stargazers and sorcerers of Babylon.
Stand now with your enchantments
And the multitude of your sorceries,
In which you have labored from your youth—
Perhaps you will be able to profit,
Perhaps you will prevail.
You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels;
Let now the astrologers, the stargazers,
And the monthly prognosticators
Stand up and save you
From what shall come upon you.
Behold, they shall be as stubble,
The fire shall burn them;
They shall not deliver themselves
From the power of the flame;
It shall not be a coal to be warmed by,
Nor a fire to sit before!
Thus shall they be to you
With whom you have labored,
Your merchants from your youth;
They shall wander each one to his quarter.
No one shall save you.
a. Stand now with your enchantments and the multitude of your sorceries: God challenged the sorcerers of Babylon to save the people from His judgment. After all, if they had real spiritual power, they should be able to. But their weakness in the face of the LORD’s judgment would be exposed.
i. “For the Babylonians, sorcery also included a mood of complacency (v. 10), because the people relied on their magicians to predict the coming of the enemy and to defeat him. In Babylonia the intellectual and the magical were intertwined, the wise man being instructed in all the arts of the supernatural.” (Grogan)
b. Behold, they shall be as stubble, the fire shall burn them: Not only could the sorcerers of Babylon not deliver others from God’s judgment, but they also couldn’t even deliver themselves. The fire of judgment that would come upon them would be severe; it would not be a coal to be warmed by, nor a fire to sit before.
i. “False religion may seem to offer the warmth of ‘helpfulness’, but it is not a fire to sit by, rather a fire which will burn up, a furnace of destruction.” (Motyer)
ii. How many greatly underestimate the blazing strength of God’s judgment! We see the same tragic thinking among those who say, “I won’t mind going to hell. I’ll party there with all my friends!” Some have even said that they will ski on the lake of fire! They think the fires of judgment will somehow be useful or comforting, but they are making a deadly mistake. Can there be a more dangerous sin?
c. No one shall save you: What a sobering final sentence. This is true for all who will not find their salvation in the LORD; if you will not look to Him and be saved, then certainly no one shall save you.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org