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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Isaiah 46



Verse 1

Isaiah 46:1-13. Babylon‘s idols could not save themselves, much less her. but God can and will save Israel: Cyrus is his instrument.

Bel — the same as the Phoenician Baal, that is, 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, housetops, and other high places, so as to be nearer the heavenly hosts (Saba) (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 (see on Isaiah 65:11). According to the Apocryphal book, Bel and the Dragon, Bel was cast down by Cyrus.

boweth … stoopeth — falleth prostrate (Isaiah 10:4; 1 Samuel 5:3, 1 Samuel 5:4; Psalm 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. Nebuzar-adan, Nabonassar, etc.

were upon — that is, were a burden (supplied from the following clause) upon. 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; Daniel 11:8).

carriages — in the Old English sense of the things carried, the images borne by you: the lading (Acts 21:15), “carriages,” not the vehicles, but the baggage. Or, the images which used to be carried by you formerly in your solemn processions [Maurer].

were heavy loaden — rather, are put as a load on the beasts of burden [Maurer]. Horsley translates, “They who should have been your carriers (as Jehovah is to His people, Isaiah 46:3, Isaiah 46:4) are become burdens” (see on Isaiah 46:4).

Verse 2

deliver — from the enemies‘ hands.

burden — their images laid on the beasts (Isaiah 46:1).

themselves — the gods, here also distinguished from their images.

Verse 3

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 Jehovah bears His people in safety even from the womb to old age (Isaiah 63:9; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalm 71:6, Psalm 71:18). God compares Himself to a nurse tenderly carrying a child; contrast Moses‘ language (Numbers 11:12).

Verse 4

old age — As “your” - “you” - “you,” are not in the Hebrew, the sentiment is more general than 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 — that is, the same (Psalm 102:27; John 8:24; Hebrews 13:8).

I will bear … carry — Not only do I not need to be borne and carried Myself, as the idols (Isaiah 46:1).

Verse 5

(Isaiah 40:18, Isaiah 40:25).

Verse 6

(Isaiah 40:19, Isaiah 40:20; 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
can … not … save — (Isaiah 45:20, with which contrast Isaiah 45:19).

Verse 8

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.”

transgressors — addressed to the idolaters among the Jews.

Verse 9

former — namely, proofs of the sole Godship of Jehovah, from predictions fulfilled, and interpositions of God in behalf of Israel (Isaiah 45:5).

Verse 10

(Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 41:22, Isaiah 41:23; Isaiah 44:26).

yet — not in the Hebrew. Translate, “What had not been done” [Horsley].

do all my pleasure — (Isaiah 53:10; Romans 9:19).

Verse 11

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

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.

purposed … also do it — (Isaiah 43:13).

Verse 12

stout-hearted — stubborn in resisting God (Psalm 76:5; Acts 7:51).

far from righteousness — (Isaiah 59:9; Habakkuk 2:4).

Verse 13

near — antithetical to “far” (Isaiah 46:12; Isaiah 51:5; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 61:10, Isaiah 61:11; Romans 10:6-8).

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).

Zion … my glory — rather, “I will give salvation in Zion; to Israel (I will give) my glory” [Horsley]. (Isaiah 63:11; Psalm 14:7; Luke 2:32).


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 46:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, October 31st, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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