Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 46

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.

Bel - The same as the Phoenician Baal - i:e., lord, the chief god of Babylon; to it was dedicated the celebrated tower of Babylon, in the center of one of the two parts into which the city was divided, the palace being in the center of the other. Identical with the Sun, worshipped on turrets, house-tops, and other high places, so as to be nearer the heavenly hosts ( tsaaba (H6635)) (Jeremiah 19:13; Jeremiah 32:29; Zephaniah 1:5). Gesenius identifies Bel with the planet Jupiter, which, with the planet Venus (under the name Astarte or Astaroth), was worshipped in the East as the god of fortune, the most propitious star to be born under (note, Isaiah 65:11). According to the Apocryphal Book, Bel and the Dragon, Bel was cast down by Cyrus. The mound 'Babil' still remains, identical with the old temple of Bel or Belus, an oblong mass of unbaked bricks, rising above the plain 140 feet, 200 yards long by 140 broad. Berosus states that Nebuchadnezzar rebuilt it; this is confirmed by the fact that all the inscribed bricks found bear Nebuchadnezzar's name. It formed the tower of the temple surmounted by a chapel, but the main shrine, altars, and residences of the priests were below. The Kasr remains, which are south of Babil-mound, are probably the old palace coeval with Babylon; in it are found bricks inscribed with the names of kings earlier than Nebuchadnezzar. The sense of Bel or Baal is lord, not so much the ruler, as the owner and master.

Boweth down, Nebo stoopeth - falleth prostrate (Isaiah 10:4; 1 Samuel 5:3-4; Psalms 20:8).

Nebo - the planet Mercury or Hermes, in astrology. The scribe of heaven, answering to the Egyptian Anubis. The extensive worship of it is shown by the many proper names compounded of it: Nebuchadnezzar, Neb-uzaradan, Nab-onassar, etc.

Were upon the beasts - i:e., were a burden (supplied from the following clause) upon them. It was customary to transport the gods of the vanquished to the land of the conquerors, who thought thereby the more effectually to keep down the subject people (1 Samuel 5:1, etc.; Jeremiah 48:7; Jeremiah 49:3; margin, Daniel 11:8).

Your carriages. Pagninus (with the Hebrew commentators) translates, 'the beasts which carry upon are loaden with the burden to weariness.' Otherwise, in the Old English sense, the things carried, the lading (Acts 21:15, "carriages"), not the vehicles, but the baggage; 'the images which used to be carried by you' formerly in your solemn processions (Maurer).

Were heavy loaden - or, 'are put as a load on the beasts of burden' (Maurer). So Chaldaic, 'The burdens of their idols are heavy to those that carry them.' Horsley translates, 'They (the idols) who should have been your carriers (as Yahweh is to His people, Isaiah 46:3-4) are become burdens' (see note, Isaiah 46:4).

Verse 2

They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.

They could not deliver - from the enemies' hands.

Burden - their images laid on the beasts (Isaiah 46:1). The gods who were supposed to dwell in the images, were not able to deliver them from the Persian spoilers.

But themselves are gone into captivity - the gods, here also distinguished from their images.

Verse 3

Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:

In contrast to what precedes: Babylon's idols, so far from bearing its people safely, are themselves borne off, a burden to the laden beast; but Yahweh bears His people in safety even from the womb to old age (Isaiah 63:9; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalms 71:6; Psalms 71:18). God compares Himself to a nurse, tenderly carrying a child; contrast Moses' language, Numbers 11:12.

Verse 4

And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.

(Even) to (your) old age - as your ... you ... you, are not in the Hebrew, the sentiment is more general than the English version, though of course it includes the Jews from the infancy to the more advanced age of their history (Isaiah 47:6).

I am he - i:e., the Same (Psalms 102:27; John 8:24; Hebrews 13:8).

I have made, and I will bear ... carry ... deliver. Not only do I not need to be borne and carried myself, as the idols (Isaiah 46:1), but I will bear, carry, and deliver my people.

Verse 5

To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?

To whom will ye liken me - (Isaiah 40:18; Isaiah 40:25.)

Verse 6

They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.

They lavish gold out of the bag ... and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god - (Isaiah 40:19-20; Isaiah 41:7.) They lavish gold out of their purses, and spare no expense for their idol. Their profuseness shames the niggardliness of professors who worship God with what cost them nothing. Sin is always a costly service.

Verse 7

They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.

(One) shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save - (Isaiah 45:20, with which contrast Isa. 46:19 .)

Verse 8

Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.

Show yourselves men - renounce the childishness of idolatry, as shown in what precedes (1 Corinthians 14:20; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 4:14). In order to be manly, we must be godly: for man was made "in the image of God," and only rises to his true dignity when joined to God; virtue is derived from the Latin, vir, 'a man.'

Bring ... to mind - rather, lay it to heart.

O ye transgressors - addressed to the idolaters among the Jews.

Verse 9

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,

Remember the former things of old - namely, the proofs of the sole Godship of Yahweh, from predictions fulfilled, and interpositions of God in behalf of Israel.

Verse 10

Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

Declaring the end from the beginning - (Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 41:22-23; Isaiah 44:26.)

And from ancient times (the things) that are not (yet) - not in the Hebrew. Translate, 'what had not been done' (Horsley).

Do all my pleasure - (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 9:19.)

Verse 11

Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.

A ravenous bird from the east - Cyrus: so called on account of the rapidity of his marches from the distant regions of Persia to pounce on his prey, (see notes, Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:25; Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3). The standard of Cyrus, too, was a golden eagle on a spear (see the pagan historian, Xenophon, 7, where almost the same word is used, aetos, as here, `ayit).

The man that executeth my counsel - (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:13.) Babylon represents, mystically, the apostate faction: the destruction of its idols symbolizes the future general extirpation of all idolatry and unbelief.

I have purposed (it), I will also do it - (Isaiah 43:13.)

Verse 12

Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:

Stout-hearted - stubborn in resisting God (Psalms 76:5; Acts 7:51).

That (are) far from righteousness - (Isaiah 59:9; Habakkuk 2:4.)

Verse 13

I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.

Bring near - antithetical to "far" (Isaiah 46:12; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 61:10-11; Romans 10:6-8).

My righteousness - answering to "salvation" in the parallel clause; therefore it means here, my righteous deliverance; righteous because proving the truth of God's promises, and so contrived as to not compromise, but vindicate, His righteousness (Isaiah 42:21; Romans 3:26).

I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory - rather, 'I will give salvation in Zion; to Israel (I will give) my glory' (Horsley, with 'Queen Elizabeth's Bible'). (Isaiah 62:11; Psalms 14:7; Luke 2:32.)

Remarks: What a glorious contrast to every other object of man's trust doth Yahweh present! Man's idols need to be "borne;" Yahweh bears His people "from the womb" to hoary age. He 'carries' them as a nurse would an infant; His "everlasting arms are underneath" them, so as to "deliver" them from every danger. The zeal and lavish liberality of the votaries of superstition in respect to their objects of worship, ought to put to shame the professors of a pure faith, who yet will make no large sacrifices for the Lord. Earthly vanities at best are childish, and heavenly aims are the only ones worthy of men. Let us 'show ourselves men' by 'remembering' God in all our ways. Let us "remember" His "former" doings "of old," as a pledge that 'His counsel shall stand,' and that what He hath "spoken," He 'will also bring to pass.'

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 46". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/isaiah-46.html. 1871-8.
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