Isaiah 46:1-2. Bel — The chief idol of the Babylonians, called by profane historians Jupiter Belus; boweth down — As the Babylonians used to bow down to him to worship him, so now he bows down, and submits himself to the victorious Persians. Nebo stoopeth — Another of their famous idols, probably a deified prophet, the word signifying to deliver oracles, or to prophesy. The names of these idols were included in the names of several of their princes, as Bel, in Belshazzar; Nebo, in Nabonassar; Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan. Their idols were upon their beasts — Were taken and broken, and the materials of them, which were gold, and silver, and brass, were carried upon beasts into Persia. Your carriages — O ye Persians, to whom he suddenly turns his speech, were heavy loaden — With these useless gods, which were so far from being able to come forward to the help of their worshippers, that they could not move themselves, but must be dragged on carriages by cattle. They bow down together — The Babylonians and their idols, neither of them being able to help the other. They could not deliver the burden — The Babylonians could not deliver their idols, which he now had called a burden; but themselves are gone into captivity — They as well as their idols.
Isaiah 46:3-4. Hearken, &c., all the remnant of the house of Israel — All that remain of the twelve tribes. He terms them a remnant, either because the ten tribes were already carried into captivity by Shalmaneser, or because he addresses that remnant of the two tribes, which he foresaw would return from Babylon; which are borne by me, &c. — Whom I have nourished and cared for from time to time, ever since you were a people, and came out of Egypt, and that as affectionately and tenderly as parents bring up their own children. Even to hoar hairs will I carry you — That kindness which I have shown you, and that care which I have taken of you, I will continue to you to the end, never forsaking you, unless you wilfully and obstinately cast me off; which the Jews did when their Messiah came. I have made you, and will carry, and deliver you — You are my workmanship, both as you are men, and as you are my peculiar people; and therefore I will preserve and deliver you. The reader will observe, that the prophet here “very ingeniously, and with great force, contrasts the power of God, and his tender goodness effectually exerted toward his people with the inability of the false gods of the heathen: he, like an indulgent father, had carried his people, in his arms, ‘as a man carrieth his son,’
Deuteronomy 1:31; he had protected them and delivered them in their distresses; whereas the idols of the heathen were forced to be carried about themselves, and removed from place to place, with a great labour and fatigue to their worshippers; nor could they answer, or deliver their votaries, when they cried unto them.” See Numbers 11:12.
Isaiah 46:5-8. To whom will you liken me, &c. — If you be tempted at any time to exchange me for an idol, do me and yourselves the right seriously to consider, whether you can find another god, who will be more able and more ready to do you good than I have been. They lavish gold &c., and he maketh it a god — Let us suppose a god made with the greatest cost and art. They bear him upon the shoulder — From that place where he is made, unto that place where they intend to set him up. From his place shall he not remove — Or, rather, he cannot remove. He cannot stir, either hand or foot, to help his people. Remember this — Consider these things which I now speak, O ye Israelites; and show yourselves men — Act like reasonable creatures, and be not so brutish as to worship your own works: be so wise and courageous as to withstand all solicitations to idolatry. Bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors — Think of this again and again, O ye who have been guilty of this foolish sin, and who, therefore, are obliged to take the better heed, lest you should relapse into it again.
Isaiah 46:9-11. Remember the former things — What I have done for you and in the world, my evident predictions of future things, justified by the event; and those other miraculous works, whereby I have abundantly proved my divinity. Declaring the end from the beginning — Foretelling from the beginning of the world, or from the beginning of your nation, those future events which should happen in succeeding ages, even to the end of the world, or to the end of your commonwealth; for such predictions we find delivered by Moses, the first founder of their state. My counsel shall stand — As I will not, so no other power can, disappoint my purposes and predictions. This is another argument urged for the divinity of the God of Israel, namely, his foreknowledge and prediction of future events, of which the prophet subjoins a particular instance in the next words. Calling a ravenous bird, or eagle, from the east — From Persia, as Isaiah 41:2. “There can be no doubt that Cyrus is here meant. Kings and princes are often compared in Scripture to eagles, Jeremiah 49:22; Ezekiel 17:3. But it has been thought that there is a peculiar propriety in this application to Cyrus, as the eagle well denotes the magnanimity, the quickness of judgment, the celerity in all his expeditions and motions, for which Cyrus was so remarkable. We are also told by Plutarch, that Cyrus had an aquiline nose; and Xenophon expressly relates, that his standard was a golden eagle; which yet continues, says he, to be the standard of the Persian kings.” — Vitringa.
Isaiah 46:12-13. Hearken unto me, ye stout-hearted — “God had addressed those kindly who had suffered themselves, through imprudence, to be seduced from the right way, and whose conversion might more reasonably be expected; but he speaks more severely to the hypocrites, the incredulous, the fierce and proud in heart, who obstinately doubted the completion of his excellent promises: ‘O you, says he, who are yourselves far from faith, truth, integrity, and all true piety, but full of deceit, hypocrisy, incredulity, and who complain that my salvation is far off, and call my fidelity in question, hearken to me, and know that my righteousness, or justification, is not far off, but near at hand, and shortly to be revealed.’” I bring near my righteousness — Though you are unrighteous, I will show myself a righteous and faithful God, making good my promise of delivering you out of Babylon after seventy years. It shall not be far off — Namely, my work of saving you from captivity. I will place salvation in Zion — I will bring my people from Babylon to Zion, and there I will save them from all their enemies; for Israel my glory — In whom I will again glory, as my people, and the illustrious monuments of my wisdom, power, truth, and goodness; whom I will make a great and glorious people, though now they are mean and contemptible, and among whom I will once more settle my glorious presence and ordinances.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 46". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany