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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 46

Verses 1-13

Isaiah 46:1 . Bel or Baal. See on Numbers 32:38. It is understood that the name is derived from Belus; the history is involved in obscurity. The priests every night prepared him a voluptuous supper, and they and their wives entered by a private door and ate the meat. Daniel detected this imposture, as mentioned in the Apocrypha.

Nebo stoopeth. קרס korais, stoops or crouches. His worshippers used to bow to receive his oracles; now the god himself stoopeth. The verb occurs only in this place, and I doubt not but it is the primitive of the Gothic “to crouch.” The Chaldean princes were proud to bear the name of this ancestor, and to worship his image; as in Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonassar, Nabonidus. Our Saxon princes did the same, tracing their regal line as far as they could, and naming the last father as the son of Odin. This is a prediction of the fall of Babylon by the fall of their idol gods.

Isaiah 46:11 . Calling a ravenous bird from the east. This is Cyrus, whose standard, says Xenophon, was a golden eagle with extended wings. What a luminous prediction!


The Assyrians had cast the gods of Hamath and Arphad into the fire, because they could not save; now the gods of Chaldea receive the same sentence. Bel or Baal was the ancient idol of Babylon. Belus, the name of their king, gave the name, and they built a temple to his memory where the idol stood. The ancients are not agreed whether Bel among the Babylonians was the same as Ζευς , or Jupiter among the Greeks. Nebo or Nabo was the secondary idol of Babylon, and the word signifies to prophesy. However, they very much agree with the Jupiter and Mercury of the gentiles in latter times. As a proof that these idols were deified by men, the Babylonian princes were frequently called after their names, as before explained. Psalms 106:28. How keen is the satire of the prophet, when he views the carriages burdened, and the beasts groaning under the broken fragments of divinities supposed for ages past to support the universe. Happy, thrice happy is the soul which trusts in Jacob’s God, and in him alone. God is highly offended when nations liken him to idols, the work of men’s hands. To whom will ye liken me? He also takes occasion from the sure words of ancient prophecy to exalt himself above all idols, having declared the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the events not yet accomplished in the earth. Hence, prophecy fairly stated, is an incontestible evidence of divine revelation; and it covers the quibbles of infidelity with everlasting confusion.

That God must not be likened to idols, or to the greatest of princes, is obvious from his calling Cyrus his bird, or eagle, in the east. So Nebuchadnezzar also is called by Ezekiel: chap. 17. When a nation becomes putrid by crimes, providence assembles its birds of prey to devour it. Let us pray God that England may yet have salt enough of good men to preserve the body from putrefaction.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 46". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.