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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 47

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 3294. B.C. 710.

The prophet had intimated the destruction of the Babylonish empire in a few words at the beginning of the last chapter; and he here foretels it more plainly, and denounces it as a just judgment upon the Babylonians for their cruelty toward God’s people, Isaiah 47:1-6 . Their pride and carnal security, Isaiah 47:7-9 . Their confidence in themselves and contempt of God, Isaiah 47:10 . Their magic arts, their enchantments and sorceries, which should be so far from affording them any help or support, that they should hasten their ruin, Isaiah 47:11-15 .

Verses 1-2

Isaiah 47:1-2. Come down From thy throne; and sit in the dust As a mourner for thy approaching calamities; O virgin daughter of Babylon Thou that art tender and delicate like a virgin. Sit on the ground In a condition the most abject and degraded. There is no throne Namely, for thee. Imperial power is taken from thee, and translated to the Persians. Thou shalt no more be called tender Thou shalt be reduced to the greatest hardships and miseries. Take the millstones Thou shalt be subjected to the basest kind of slavery, which grinding at the mill was esteemed; for that work was most generally performed by slaves. The reader will observe, “they used hand-mills: water-mills were not invented till a little before the time of Augustus Cesar: wind-mills long after. It was not only the work of slaves to grind corn, but the hardest work; and often inflicted upon them as a severe punishment. And in the East it was the work of female slaves, Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29; (in the version of the LXX.;) Matthew 24:41. And it is the same to this day. ‘Women alone,’ says Shaw, p. 297, ‘are employed to grind their corn.’ ‘They are the female slaves,’ says Sir. J. Chardin, ‘that are generally employed in the East at those hand-mills: it is extremely laborious, and esteemed the lowest employment in the house.’” Bishop Lowth. Uncover thy locks Take off the ornaments wherewith such women as were of good quality used to cover and dress their heads. These are predictions of what they should be forced to do or suffer. Make bare the leg, &c. Gird up thy garments close and short about thee, that thou mayest be fit for travelling on foot, and for passing over those rivers through which thou wilt be constrained to wade in the way to the land of thy captivity.

Verse 3

Isaiah 47:3 . Thy nakedness shall be uncovered Either for want of raiment to cover it, or rather, by thine enemies in the way of scorn and contumely. I will take vengeance Upon thee, for thy many and great injuries done to my people. I will not meet thee as a man But like an Almighty God, whose power thou canst not resist. I will not treat thee with moderation and gentleness, as those men who have not quite put off humanity use to do, but like a lion, to tear thee to pieces: see Hosea 5:14; and Hosea 13:7-8. Thou shalt feel the most dreadful effects of my anger, and I will show no humanity or pity toward thee. The original expression, לא אפגע אדם , is peculiar, and is literally, I will not meet a man, which may be an inverted sentence put for, a man shall not meet me, that is, no man shall prevent or hinder the effects of my wrath. Bishop Lowth renders it, “Neither will I suffer a man to intercede with me.”

Verse 4

Isaiah 47:4. As for our Redeemer, &c. The words, as for, not being in the Hebrew text, Bishop Lowth translates this verse, “Our Avenger, Jehovah God of hosts, the Holy One of Israel, is his name.” And he observes, “Here a chorus breaks in upon the midst of the subject, with a change of construction as well as sentiment, from the longer to the shorter kind of verse; after which, the former subject and style are resumed.” The passage seems to be inserted in the midst of this prophecy against Babylon, as Jacob inserts a like passage in the midst of his blessings and prophecies concerning his sons, Genesis 49:18. It gives the reason why the judgment, here denounced, should be certainly inflicted, because he who had undertaken it was the Lord of hosts, and therefore able to effect it; and the Holy One, and the Redeemer of Israel, whom the Babylonians had cruelly oppressed, whose quarrel God would avenge upon them, and whom he had determined and promised to deliver out of their hands. If the words be considered as a pathetical exclamation, or acclamation of God’s people, they thereby ascribe to God, as their God and Redeemer, this wonderful work of breaking the staff of their oppressors: and they make their boast of, and celebrate him for, this glorious deliverance.

Verses 5-6

Isaiah 47:5-6. Sit thou silent Through grief and shame, and as mourners used to do, Job 2:13. Cease thy vaunting and insolent speeches. And get thee into darkness Thou shalt go into an obscure, disconsolate, and calamitous condition. Thou shalt no more be the lady of kingdoms The chief and glory of all kingdoms; the most large, potent, and glorious empire of the world, as thou hast been. I was wroth with my people “The metaphor in this verse,” says Vitringa, “is taken from a father, who, being angry with his children, delivers them up to chastisement; but his anger soon subsiding, and his affection reviving, he turns his indignation against those who had so executed his commands, as to punish immoderately and severely.” I have polluted mine inheritance I cast them away as an unclean thing; I stained their glory; I removed them from the place of my presence and worship; I banished them into a polluted land, among unclean persons, by whom they were many ways defiled. And given them into thy hand To punish them. Thou didst show them no mercy Thou hast exceeded the bounds of thy commission, and, instead of that compassion which humanity teaches men to show to such as are in misery, thou didst exercise toward them the greatest cruelty. Upon the ancient The old and feeble, whose venerable gray hairs should have been their sufficient protection; hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke Not considering that, besides the calamity of being made captives, they were afflicted with the miseries of old age, and therefore required both thy pity and reverence. It is justly observed here by Bishop Lowth, that “God, in the course of his providence, makes use of great conquerors and tyrants, as his instruments, to execute his judgments in the earth: he employs one wicked nation to scourge another. The inflicter of the punishment may, perhaps, be as culpable as the sufferer, and may add to his guilt by indulging his cruelty in executing God’s justice. When he has fulfilled the work to which divine vengeance has ordained him, he will become himself the object of it: see Isaiah 10:5-12. God charges the Babylonians, though employed by himself to chastise his people, with cruelty in regard to them. They exceeded the bounds of justice and humanity in oppressing and destroying them; and though they were really executing the righteous decree of God, yet, as far as it regarded themselves, they were only indulging their own ambition and violence.”

Verses 7-8

Isaiah 47:7-8. Thou sayest, I shall be a lady for ever I shall always be the chief city and mistress of the world, and shall never know any change of condition in this respect. If we consider that the city of Babylon had no less than one hundred gates made of solid brass; that its walls were two hundred feet high, and fifty broad, according to the lowest account given of them by historians, and, according to some, three hundred and fifty feet in height, and eighty-seven in thickness, so that six chariots could go abreast upon them; that it was defended by the river Euphrates, and supplied with provisions for many years; it might well be deemed impregnable: and “such a city as this might, with less vanity than any other, boast that she should continue for ever, if any thing human could continue for ever.” Bishop Newton. Thou didst not lay these things to thy heart Thy cruel usage of my people, and the heavy judgments which thou hadst reason to expect for them. Neither didst thou remember the latter end Thou wast so puffed up with pride, and so infatuated with ease and pleasure, that thou didst not consider the instability of all worldly power and greatness, and what might and was likely to befall thee afterward. Therefore hear, thou that dwellest carelessly And layest nothing to heart; that sayest, I am, and none else beside me I am independent, self-sufficient, and unchangeable, and there is none, no people, state, or kingdom, that is not either subject, or far inferior to me in power and glory. I shall not sit as a widow In solitude and sorrow: I shall not lose that wealth and dignity to which I am wedded. The kingdom shall never want a monarch to espouse and protect it, and be a husband to the state. Neither shall I know the loss of children The diminution of the number of my people. I shall never want either a king or people to defend me from all dangers.

Verse 9

Isaiah 47:9. These two things shall come to thee The very two things that thou didst set at defiance; loss of children and widowhood Both thy princes and thy people shall be cut off, so that thou shalt be no more a government, and no more a nation. They shall come in their perfection In the highest degree: thy king and kingdom shall be utterly and irretrievably destroyed. This prophecy was twice fulfilled; “having been accomplished the very night that Babylon was taken, when the Persians slew the king himself and a great number of the Babylonians: it was fulfilled a second time, when that city was besieged by Darius. Being determined to hold out to the last extremity, they took all their women, and each man choosing one of them, whom he liked best, out of his own family, they strangled all the rest, that unnecessary mouths might not consume their provision. By means of this shocking expedient they sustained a siege and all the efforts of Darius for twenty months, and the city was at last taken by stratagem. As soon as Darius made himself master of the place, he ordered three thousand of the principal men to be crucified; and thus this prophecy was signally fulfilled, both by the hands of the Babylonians themselves, and by the cruelties exercised upon them by their conquerors.” Bishop Newton. For the multitude of thy sorceries For thy superstitious and magical practices, which were very frequent in Babylon, as we see below, (Isaiah 47:12-13,) and as has been observed before. Hebrew, in the multitude, &c., or, as Dr. Waterland renders it, “Notwithstanding the multitude of thy sorceries, and the force of thy enchantments;” notwithstanding all thy diabolical artifices, whereby thou thinkest to foresee all dangers, and to secure thyself from them.

Verses 10-11

Isaiah 47:10-11. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness Thou hast thought that thy cunning and policy would still preserve thee; and hast said, None seeth me My counsels are so deeply and craftily laid, and my designs so secretly carried on, that none can discover them or prevent their execution. And thou hast supposed that God himself either did not regard thee, or would not call thee to an account for thy wicked conduct. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge Thy skill in the arts of human policy, or thy pretended foreknowledge of future events by astrology; hath perverted thee Hath misled thee into the way of transgression and perdition; and thou hast said, I am, &c. This is repeated from Isaiah 47:8, to signify their intolerable arrogance and self-confidence. Therefore shall evil come upon thee Which thou shalt neither have time nor means to provide against or to prepare for; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth Or, rather, when it shall come; Hebrew, שׁחרה , the morning of it, the day, or time, of its approach. With all thy skill in astrology and fortune-telling, thou shalt neither be able to foresee the evil that is coming upon thee, nor to prevent it. This interpretation agrees with the history, Babylon being surprised by Cyrus when they were in a state of the greatest security, as is manifest both from the Scriptures and from other authentic records: see Jeremiah 51:31; Daniel 5:0. And desolation shall come upon thee suddenly As a thief in the night; which thou shalt not know Or, when thou shalt not know. Thou shalt not apprehend thy danger till it be too late. Fair warning was indeed given them, by this and other prophets of the Lord, of this desolation; but they slighted that notice, and would give no credit to it; and therefore justly was it so ordered, that they should have no other warning of it, but that partly through their own security, and partly through the swiftness and subtlety of the enemy, when it came it should be a perfect surprise to them.

Verses 12-15

Isaiah 47:12-15. Stand now with thine enchantments Persist in these practices. Wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth From the beginning of thy kingdom. For the Chaldeans in all ages were famous, or rather infamous, for the study and practice of these arts. Thou art wearied in thy counsels Thou hast spent thy time and strength in going from one to another, in trying all manner of experiments, and all to no purpose. Let now the astrologers, &c., stand up To succour thee, or to inquire for thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble They shall have no more power to withstand the calamities coming upon them than stubble has to resist the violence of the fire. They shall not deliver themselves from the flame And much less thee. There shall not be a coal to warm at, &c. They shall be totally consumed, and all the comfort which thou didst expect from them shall utterly vanish. Thus shall they be unto thee Such comfortless and helpless creatures, namely, thy sorcerers, astrologers, &c.; with whom thou hast laboured Upon whom thou hast spent thy time, pains, and money; even thy merchants Or negotiators, as Bishop Lowth translates סחרין , with whom thou hast had so much intercourse, and so many dealings. They shall wander every one to his quarter Or, as some interpret the meaning, “They shall wander by whatsoever ways they can to the extreme boundaries of thy empire, to save themselves from the general calamity.” None shall save thee From thy impending ruin, but all shall leave thee to perish without help, and without hope. Observe, reader, they, and only they, are safe and happy, who, by faith and prayer, deal with one that will always be a present help in time of trouble to those that flee to him for refuge, and trust in him.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 47". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/isaiah-47.html. 1857.
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