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(1) Come down . . .—The virgin daughter of Babylon, i.e., Babylon itself, personified as till now unconquered, is called to leave her throne and sit in the dust as a menial slave. The epithets “tender” (better, perhaps, wanton) and “delicate” point to the luxury which had been identified with Babylon, and which was now to cease.
(2) Take the millstones.—Always the most servile form of female labour (Exodus 11:5; Job 31:10; Matthew 24:41).
Uncover thy locks.—The picture of suffering is heightened by the fact that the female slave has to wade unveiled, and bare-legged, all sense of shame outraged, to the scene of her labours. The picture is, of course, to be taken symbolically, not literally.
(3) I will not meet thee as a man.—The words in italics show that the phrase is difficult. Omitting them we get I shall not meet a man, i.e., there will be none to oppose me, or I will not spare a man.
(4) As for our redeemer . . .—The verse comes in somewhat abruptly, but may be viewed (unless we suppose it to have been originally a marginal addition, which has found its way into the text) as Israel’s song of praise, as it looks on the overthrow of Babylon. As such it finds a parallel in the overthrow of the mystical Babylon in Revelation 18:20.
Sit thou silent.—Another contrast between the stir of the rejoicing city and the stillness of its later desolation. “The lady” (we might almost say, the empress) “of kingdoms” was reduced to the loneliness of widowhood.
(6) I was wroth with my people . . .—The sin of Babylon was that she had gone beyond her commission as the chastiser of Israel, casting off all reverence for age, and making even the old men do the hard tasks of bond-slaves (Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12). (Comp. Zechariah 1:15.)
(7) Thou saidst . . .—The boastful confidence of Babylon in her own perpetuity blinded her, as it had long blinded other nations, to “these things,” scil, the Divine law that pride and cruelty bring their own Nemesis.
(8) I am, and none else beside me . . .—The boasts of Babylon are purposely embodied by the prophet in praises that recall Jehovah’s assertion of His own eternity. She practically deified herself. So a like boast is put into the mouth of Nineveh in Zephaniah 2:15, and was repeated almost verbally by the poets of Rome: Terrarum dea gentiumque Roma, cui par est nihil, et nihil secundum (Martial).
(9) In their perfection.—Better, in their completeness. She should taste the full bitterness of widowhood and bereavement.
For the multitude of thy sorceries.—Better, in spite of . . .
(10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness . . .—Babylon, like other nations that have followed in her steps, took for its law that Might was Right, practically denied the existence of a Ruler who saw and judged, and boasted of its wisdom. The context implies that the special form of wisdom spoken of was that of astrology and magic.
(11) Thou shalt not be able to put it off . . .—The words have been variously rendered: (1) of which thou shalt know no dawn, i.e., after the night of calamity; and (2) which thou shalt not be able to charm away. Stress is laid on the destruction being at once unforeseen and irretrievable.
(12) If so be thou shalt be able . . .—The words come with a subtle tone of irony. Persevere in thy enchantments . . . perchance thou wilt be able to profit, perchance thou wilt strike terror.
(13) Let now the astrologers . . .—The three words describe two aspects of the same art—(1) the dividers of the heavens, assigning stellar influences to the signs of the Zodiac; (2) the “star-gazers,” further defined as those who make known things to come at the new moon. The Assyrian and Chaldæan observers compiled an almanack, in which the days of the month were noted as severally lucky or unlucky for the incidents of war or of home-life, as the case might be.
(14) There shall not be a coal to warm at.—Better, it shall not be . . . The destroying flame shall be altogether other than the fire on the hearth, at which a man can sit and warm himself.
(15) Thy merchants, from thy youth . . .—The commerce of Babylon is specially prominent in all descriptions. (Comp. Herod. i. 194-196; Ezekiel 17:4.) The time was coming when those who had thronged her markets would desert her and leave her to her desolation.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 47". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
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