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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 47

 

 

Verses 1-15

VIII.—THE EIGHTH DISCOURSE

The Fall of Babylon, the Causes of it, and the uselessness of the means to prevent it

Isaiah 47

1. THE FALL OF BABYLON AND THE CAUSES OF IT

Isaiah 47:1-7

1 Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon,

Sit on the ground:

[FN1]There is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans:

For thou shalt no more be called tender and [FN2]delicate.

2 Take the millstones, and grind meal:

Uncover thy [FN3]locks, [FN4]make bare the leg,

Uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers;

3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered,

Yea, thy shame shall be seen:

I will take vengeance,

[FN5]And I will not meet thee as a man.

4 [FN6]As for our redeemer, the Lord of hosts is his name,

The Holy One of Israel.

5 Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans:

For thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.

6 I was wroth with my people,

I [FN7]have polluted mine inheritance,

And ggiven them into thine hand:

Thou didst shew them no mercy;

Upon the [FN8]ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.

7 And thou saidst, I shall be a lady forever:

So that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart,

Neither didst remember the latter end of it.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Babylon, hitherto shining in splendor and luxury, is threatened with extreme degradation and exposure ( Isaiah 47:1-3). Israel confesses with joy that it recognizes its Redeemer in Him that does this ( Isaiah 47:4). The cause of this deep downfall is two-fold: 1) the severity against Israel that has exceeded the purpose of the Lord; 2) Babylon’s secure defiance and haughtiness ( Isaiah 47:5-7).

2. Come down——Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 47:1-4. The curt, monosyllabic imperatives רדי ושׁבי are the expression of a decided, relentless purpose. Babylon must come down, hard as it will be for it. In the dust, on the bare ground, without a throne it must sit, that hitherto was used to be high enthroned. For from an empress it has become a slave. But the slave, as the wretched and lowly generally, sits in the dust (comp. Isaiah 3:26, and the contrary description Isaiah 52:2). Hence the expressions “to lay, cast in the dust” ( Isaiah 26:5 sq.; Job 16:15; Job 30:19; Psalm 7:6), “to lie in the dust” ( Psalm 22:30; Psalm 119:25), “to raise from the dust” ( Psalm 43:7; 1 Samuel 2:8; 1 Kings 16:2); “to lick the dust before one” ( Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 72:9). In the same way it is said that the mourner does not sit on an elevated seat, but on the earth ( Job 2:13; Lamentations 2:10). The expressions tender and delicate (“abounding in voluptuousness”) are taken from Deuteronomy 28:56; Deuteronomy 28:54. Babylon is described as a city very greatly given up to luxury and voluptuousness, not only in the Bible ( Jeremiah 51:39; Daniel 5:1 sqq.; comp. Isaiah 21:5) but more still by profane writers. For instance Curtius, (V. I) says: “Nihil urbis ejus corruptius moribus, nihil ad irritandas illiciendasque immodicas voluptates instructius.” Comp. Herod. I:195, 199. Grinding grain with a hand mill was chiefly the labor of female slaves, and it was even regarded as the hardest labor ( Exodus 11:5; Matthew 24:41; Luke 17:35). Comp. Herz. R-Encycl. X. p 82 sq. צַמָּה (from unused root צָמַם, Chald. צְמַם, “operuit, velavit”) is the veil (comp. Song of Solomon 4:1; Song of Solomon 4:3; Song of Solomon 6:7). As is well-known, the women in parts of the Orient consider it a greater disgrace to let their face be seen than other parts of their bodies. שֹׁבֶל (from שָׁבַל unused=fluxit, defluxit, comp. שִׁבֹּלֶת27:12; Judges 12:6) is the flowing garment, “border, train.” When the female slave comes to a stream in the way that can be forded, she is not carried over, as are ladies. She must wade through; no regard is paid to her womanly modesty. עֶרְוָה and חֶרְפָה correspond in the parallelism; hence the latter must be taken in essentially the same sense as the former. That the ערוה is seen is a חרפה. Comp. Isaiah 3:17; Jeremiah 13:22; Jeremiah 13:26; Ezekiel 16:37; Nahum 3:5. Thus the Lord threatens the Babylonians. What He intends by these judgments He says Isaiah 47:3 b: I will take vengeance. The negative clause ולא אפגע א׳ is understood in a great variety of ways. פגע means “irruere, incidere, obviam ire, pertinere,” then also, in a friendly sense “precibus insistere, to apply to one.” It does not suit here to take the word in a hostile sense: “I will run on none” (Stier), which only makes sense by arbitrarily supplying: “out of whose way I must get.” [“The true sense is that expressed by Rosenmueller, I shall encounter no Prayer of Manasseh, i.e., no man will be able to resist me. This simple explanation is at the same time one of the most ancient, as we find it distinctly expressed by Symmachus (οὐκ ἀντιτήσεταί μοι ἅνθρωπος) and in the Vulgate (non resistet mihi homo.—J. A. Alex.]. I do not think it right to take the word in the sense of “to protect, pardon” for the reason that there ever lies in בּנע the meaning obvenire, thus the notion of “going against, getting in the way of.” I cannot see why the well-approved meaning “to apply to one with petition or intercession” ( Job 21:15; Ruth 2:22; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 27:18) may not suit our context. Jehovah, as the only true God, neither desires nor uses human help. The taking of Babylon must appear as God’s doing, not as a fact accomplished by human power. And if it be asked, what God has showed Himself stronger than the gods of Babylon, thus who is the accomplisher of the said divine doing, Israel alone has the correct reply when it cries out: Our Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts is His name (comp. Isaiah 48:2; Isaiah 54:5), the Holy One of Israel (see List). These words do not fit to what follows, and as little are they suited to be an antiphonal-like conclusion of the preceding strophe. They give the impression of a joyful welcome greeting, which meets one approaching, and who is recognized as a friend.

3. Sit thou silent——end of it.

Vers5–7. The Prophet, Isaiah 47:5, declares once again in general the downfall of Babylon, as in Isaiah 47:1, but makes prominent another contrast. There the contrast was between the loftiest height and the lowest humiliation; here it is between shining and darkness. Babylon shall now sit down in a still, dark place, she that before was the brilliant, far shining empress of kingdoms ( Isaiah 13:19). This repeated announcement of punishment finds its reason in Isaiah 47:6-7. The Prophet assigns a double reason. First, Babylon abused the right of discipline deputed to it. The Lord was wroth with His people, and polluted His inheritance, by permitting profane heathen nations to trample land, city and Temple, and to carry away the holy people into captivity (comp. Lamentations 2:2; Psalm 74:7, etc.). But He would only discipline His people, not destroy them; whereas Babylon sought to do the latter by every means (comp. Jeremiah 5:11; Jeremiah 5:24; Jeremiah 5:28-29; Jeremiah 5:31 sq.; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:24; Jeremiah 51:34 sqq. Jeremiah 51:56; Zechariah 1:15). For it shewed them no mercy (the expression שׂוּםרַֽחֲמִים only here). Even old age was not spared (comp. Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12). I Amos, with Delitzsch, of the opinion that by זָקֵן we are not to understand the nation as one grown old. The Prophet that wrote Isaiah 40:28 sqq, could hardly represent Israel, even in the Exile, as a worn-out old man. The second reason for the humiliation that threatens Babylon is its haughtiness. This mirrors to it the illusion of its dominion lasting forever. And by reason of this illusion (עַד=“so that,” comp. 1 Samuel 20:41; Job 8:21; Job 14:6) Babylon does not lay to heart the guilt with which it is loaded because of its treatment of Israel, therefore it does not in the least think (comp. Isaiah 46:8) on the consequences of that treatment, viz: the vengeance (comp. l.c, and Jeremiah 50, 51), it must provoke.—ישׂים על לב Isaiah 42:25; Isaiah 57:1; Isaiah 57:11. הֵשִׁיב על לב Isaiah 44:19; Isaiah 46:8. יָשִׂים לִבּוֹ Isaiah 41:22. עָלָה עד לב Isaiah 65:17.

_______________

2. THE FRUITLESSNESS OF THE MEANS EMPLOYED TO SAVE BABYLON

Isaiah 47:8-15

8 [FN9]Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures,

That dwellest carelessly,

That [FN10]sayest in thine heart,

I am, and none else beside me;

I shall not sit as a widow,

Neither shall I know the loss of children:

9 But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day,

The loss of children, and widowhood:

They shall come upon thee in their perfection

[FN11]For the multitude of thy sorceries,

And cfor the great abundance of thine enchantments.

10 [FN12]For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:

Thou hast said, None seeth me.

Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath [FN13]perverted thee;

And thou hast said in thine, heart, I am, and none else beside me.

11 [FN14]Therefore shall evil come upon thee;

[FN15]Thou shalt not know [FN16]from whence it riseth:

And mischief shall fall upon thee;

Thou shalt not be able to [FN17]put it off:

And desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.

12 Stand now with thine enchantments,

and with the multitude of thy sorceries,

Wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth;

[FN18]If so be thou shalt be able to profit,

gIf so be thou mayest [FN19]prevail.

13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels.

Let now the [FN20]astrologers, the stargazers,

[FN21] [FN22]The monthly prognosticators,

Stand up, and save thee

From these things that shall come upon thee.

14 Behold, they shall be as stubble;

The fire [FN23]shall burn them;

They shall not deliver [FN24]themselves from the power of the flame:

lThere shall not be a coal to warm at.

Nor fire to sit before it.

15 Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured,

Even thy merchants, from thy youth:

They shall wander every one to his quarter;

None shall save thee.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

See List for the recurrence of the words: Isaiah 47:8. אֶפֶמ–עֲדִינָה–וְעַתָּה, which occurs forty-three times in the Old Testament. Especially the turn of expression ואפם עור or אפם בלעדי is encountered relatively so often in these chapters ( Isaiah 45:6; Isaiah 45:14; Isaiah 46:9; Isaiah 47:8; Isaiah 47:10), that it may be regarded as a peculiarity of them. Only 2 Samuel 9:3 does the expression again occur. Hence we are justified in regarding it as an Isaianic expression, and thus a proof of our passage being genuine Isaianic. Isaiah 47:9. חֲבָרִים –כֶּשֶׁף–רֶגַע. Isaiah 47:11. הוָֹה. Isaiah 47:12. הָבַר. Isaiah 47:15. לעברו.

Isaiah 47:9. עֲדִינָה from עָדַן, only Nehemiah 9:25, an adjective corresponding to the substantive ישׁב לבטח–.עֵדֶן occurs only here in Isaiah; but comp. Isaiah 14:30. The expression is in the Pentateuch: Leviticus 25:18-19; Leviticus 26:5; comp. Judges 18:7. It is more common in the later prophets: Jeremiah 32:37; Jeremiah 49:31; Ezekiel 28:26; Ezekiel 34:25, etc. Especially Zephaniah 2:15 is to be noted, where the expression עירעליזה is borrowed from Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 32:13, and the remainder of the verse from our passage. Even זֹאת הָעִיר in Zeph. shows that what follows is a citation, עליזה is undoubtedly taken from the undisputed Isaianic passages Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 32:13; for beside Zephaniah 2:15; Zephaniah 3:11, the expression occurs only in Isaiah.—The ־ִי in אפסי is very difficult to explain. Most expositors take it as י compaginis (thus=אֶפֶם עוֹד). But this י is superfluous, and at the same time incorrect where there is no genitive relation. Hahn takes it as a feminine י, as in ־ֵכִי,קִטְלִי,אַתְּי; but the Hebrew knows no distinction of gender in the first person. De Dieu and Coccejus take the clause as a question; Vitringa and Nolde regard אַפְסִי as representing a doubled אפם (el non est praeter me alia). But the question is not self-evident and must be indicated, and the absence of אֶפֶם or אֵין is unexampled. It is best, with Delitzsch, to take אפסי in the sense of אֵינִי: (אֵינֶנִּיego utique non sum amplius; therefore; I am not, as it were, found again in another sample. The sense would then be the same as אפם כמוני Isaiah 46:9.

Isaiah 47:9. כֶּשֶׁף, from כָּשַׁף, of uncertain meaning, Piel, “to bewitch, conjure,” ( Exodus 7:11; Exodus 22:17; Deuteronomy 18:10, etc.), occurs only in the plural, and in Isaiah only here and Isaiah 47:12 (comp. Micah 5:11; Nahum 3:4; 2 Kings 9:22). Also חֲבָרִים from חָבַרligare, fascinare, to bind,” especially to bind by enchantment, thus “to exorcise ”( Deuteronomy 18:11; Psalm 58:6) occurs only here and Isaiah 47:12.—עָצְמַת מְאֹד is explained1) from the verbal construction, and2) from the qualitative meaning of עָצְמָה ( Isaiah 40:29).

Isaiah 47:10. רֹאָנִי stands in pause for רֹאַנִי and this for רֹאֵנִי ( 1 Chronicles 12:17).

Isaiah 47:12. בְּ, with which עָמַד is here conjoined, is that of accompaniment: in the midst of her witchcrafts, etc., therefore, according to our idiom with her witchcraft, etc., shall Babylon stand up (comp. Isaiah 7:24; Isaiah 24:9; Isaiah 30:29, etc.).—בַּֽאֲשֶׁר stands here oddly instead of the normal אֲשֵׁר יָגַעְתָּ בָם. This is one of the rare instances in which the adverbial אֲשֶׁר appears in transition to an actual pronoun ( Genesis 31:32; Gesen, § 123, 2; Comm. in loc.).—יָגַע with בְּ as in Isaiah 43:22-24; Isaiah 62:8.

Isaiah 47:13. עֲצָתַיִךְ is an abnormal formation, the plural suffix being attached to the nom. singular. Analogous examples occur Psalm 9:15; Ezekiel 35:11; Ezra 9:15. If it is not an error of writing, the abnormal suffix form is to be explained by the plural meaning of the collective in connection with the ת of the connecting form, as also other feminine endings in ת that are not plurals (as וֹת in בְּנוֹת,אָחוֹת infin, –ִית,וּת in שְׁבית,זְנוּת etc.), occur with plural suffixes.—הְֹבְרֵי שָׁמַים, so K’ri; K’thibh reads הָבַר–.אֲשֶׁר הָֽבְרוּ=הָֽבְרוּ. ἅπ. λεγ.., means, according to the dialects, “to divide, distribute.” Still this meaning is not quite assured. Hence Knobel would take the word, according to the Arab. chabara, in the sense of “gnari, those acquainted with the heavens;” but Hahn, following Hitz. on Daniel 2:26, would read הֵבֵרוּ (בָּרַר “to investigate,” Ecclesiastes 3:18; Ecclesiastes 9:1).

Isaiah 47:14. To take לַחְמָם for לַֽחֲמָם (“for warming”) seems to me forced. Moreover, what follows would then be tautology. I side with those who explain גַּחֶלֶת לַחְמָם according to Isaiah 44:19 : the coals of their bread, i.e., the glow of the coals, on which they bake their bread.—אֲשֶׁר accusative of nearer definition.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. Therefore hear——beside Me.

Isaiah 47:8-10. The whole section Isaiah 47:8-15 is mainly intended to show how ill-founded is that confidence of Babylon expressed in Isaiah 47:7, “I shall be a lady forever.” First, the Prophet makes Babylon repeat the assertion in an amplified form ( Isaiah 47:8). With the contrastive “now however (comp. Isaiah 43:1; Isaiah 44:1) hear this” he introduces an address to Babylon, whom he here designates as a delicious one, as in Isaiah 47:1 he calls it “delicate and voluptuous.” Then he calls it “the one dwelling in security” because it knows no superior power, and thus no possibility of molestation (see Text. and Gram.). I, and none else; by this Babylon affirms that it is solitary of its kind, its like will no more be found. This is justly regarded as blasphemous pride. For the expression employed here recalls Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 45:18; Isaiah 45:22; Isaiah 46:9, where God, who alone has the right to do it, affirms His incomparableness. Babylon affirms that it shall be neither a widow nor childless. Most expositors understand by widowhood the ἀβασίλεια. But Knobel and Delitzsch justly object, that in ancient times kings were by no means regarded as the husbands of their cities or nations. Hence the widowhood is rather the being forsaken of the nations with which it had hitherto had active commerce (according to the Biblical view πορνεία23:16 sq.; Revelation 18:9), thus sad loneliness, exclusion from intercourse with the world ( Lamentations 1:1). Hahn understands the widowhood to mean, forsaken of God, or the gods (comp. Isaiah 54:4 sqq.). But one must guard against transferring theocratic representations to heathen relations. It is agreed by all that being childless means depopulation (comp. Isaiah 54:1 sqq.). Yet these strokes, so undreaded, will still come; and that not slowly, by degrees, but suddenly and in one day ( Isaiah 9:13; Isaiah 10:17; Isaiah 66:8), i.e., not in intervening periods one after another, but all at once. כְּתֻּמָּם, “according to the measure of its completion,” i.e., completely and totally (comp. לְחֻמָּהּ, 1 Kings 22:34) they are come upon thee (perf. prophet.) spite of thine arts of sorcery and the great abundance of thine enchantments. Almost all expositors agree that בְּ signifies, with a certain irony, the useless presence, the unsuccessful connection and application, and thus corresponds to our “spite of, for all your.” Comp. Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:11; Isaiah 9:16; Isaiah 9:20; Isaiah 10:4; Numbers 14:11; Deuteronomy 1:32; Psalm 78:32. There lies in this the characteristic ingredient of this strophe: spite of all the means resorted to Babylon must fall.

Babylon is celebrated as the home of astronomy, astrology and magic (comp. Ideler, Sternkunde der Chald. in den Abhandl. d. Berl. Akad. d. Wissensch., 1814, 1815, Berlin, 1818; Gesen. im Komm. zu Jes. Beilage II.). Just these secret sciences and arts were relied upon as important means of protection against misfortunes of all kinds. Isaiah 47:10 may not be translated: “and thou reliest on thy wickedness,” as is done by most exegetes. For if by wickedness be understood tyranny and craft, that will not comport with: none seeth me. In fact this latter expresses just the ground of confidence. The same objection holds against our understanding by “wickedness” the false wisdom. But if רָעָה be understood to mean godlessness itself, i.e., the belief that there is no God, all-wise, all-holy, and all-mighty, then again it could not be said: thou reliest on thy godlessness; just as little as it may be said: the pious man relies on his faith. As one must say: the pious man is confident in or by his faith, Song of Solomon, too, the Prophet’s meaning here must be: and thou wast secure in thy godlessness, thou saidst, There is none that sees me. Of course, there is here the underlying assumption, that the idols are no proper gods, all-wise, just and almighty avengers of the wicked. For the Prophet seems not to think at all of Babylon’s idols being present. According to his view, they do not disturb the wicked. But Babylon was secure in all its wickedness and godlessness because it believed it dared say: no one is present that sees me. By this can only be meant a seeing higher than that of idols. I construe בָּטַח absolutely: securum esse, which is undoubtedly its meaning ( Judges 18:7; Judges 18:10; Judges 18:27; Jeremiah 12:5; Job 40:23; Proverbs 11:15). Therefore, we learn from these words that Babylon trusted, not only in outward things, as intimated in Isaiah 47:8, but that its proud confidence had also the inward ground, that it believed it might hold the conviction of there being no all-seeing God. So partly Hahn. The words: “there is none that seeth me,” express the result of a reflection on things religious. There were also in Babylon theologians and philosophers whose wisdom and knowledge amounted to that אין ראנו, whence the Prophet says to Babylon: thy wisdom and thy knowledge it hath perverted thee. Hence, when here a second time the words “I and none else ”are ascribed to Babylon, it is to intimate that it so speaks, not only with reference to men, but even with reference to divinity. Babylon deifies itself, by exalting itself, not only above all men, but also above the gods.

2. Therefore shall evil——come upon thee.

Isaiah 47:11-13. Babylon’s overthrow is described as something that could neither be foreseen nor prevented. שַׁחְרָה rhymes with כַּפְרָהּ, and hence is likely the same grammatical form, viz, inf. Piel. The meaning “dawn,” though at first sight the most likely, does not commend itself, because the dawn of a misfortune cannot be the first moment of its appearance, for that would be a contradiction; nor can it be the first moment of its disappearance, for the end of a thing cannot be its dawn. Hahn’s proposed rendering: “unblacken,” is far-fetched. The rendering proposed, first by J. D. Michaelis, and accepted by most, best suits the context. This identifies שָׁחַר with the Arabic Sachara, incantavit, and gives the translation: and evil will come upon thee which thou wilt not know how to exorcise. Thus Isaiah 47:11 says in three clauses that Babylon will have no means of warding off the misfortune. The first declares the inadequacy of magic, the second of idol-sacrifices, the third exposes the disgrace of astrology, which will not even be able to know of the evil in advance.

The Isaiah 47:12-13 explain what is said in Isaiah 47:11. For the words: “thou shalt not know how to exorcise it” are evidently elucidated by Isaiah 47:12 : try now the שַׁחֵר (exorcism) by חברים (enchantments) and כשפים (charms); may-be something will come of it! At the same time it seems to me that the כַּבֵּר is elucidated in Isaiah 47:12. For conjuring demons, as in general all sorts of sorcery were often joined with the offer of sacrifices, sometimes of pleasure, sometimes atrocious. “The relation of all idolatry with sorcery lies in this that in the names of the gods the name of God is abused for egoistic, sinful ends, with the application of self-elected, senseless and mercenary forms of religion,” says Lange in the article on witchcraft in Herz. R. Enc. XVIII. p395. The second half of Isaiah 47:11 is elucidated by Isaiah 47:13. We will need to take עמדי נא ווג׳ Isaiah 47:12 in the same sense as יעמדו־נא Isaiah 47:13. The latter can hardly be taken in the sense of “to remain standing.” Hence we must also take עמד Isaiah 47:12 in the sense of “to stand forth, come on, stand up” (comp. Gesen. Thes. p1038), in which sense it is undeniably often used: 1 Samuel 17:51; 1 Kings 20:38; Habakkuk 3:11; Ezekiel 22:30. From thy youth, thus from its first beginning Babylon had been busied with astrology, divination and magic. (Comp. Duncker, Gesch. d. Alterth. I. p124, 127 sq.). The Prophet ironically concludes his challenge to try what help they can find in their secret arts with a double “perhaps, if so be:perhaps thou mayest be able to profit (positive), perhaps thou wilt terrify, viz. the enemy (negative). Isaiah 47:13 relates to knowing future evil in advance, with reference to which the Prophet says Isaiah 47:11 b it shall not be. This Isaiah, of course, strange. For Babylon, from the earliest antiquity, practised divination, and especially astrological divination. The challenge of Isaiah 47:12 was attended with ill-success. Babylon worried itself in vain with its sorceries and enchantments. Thou art wearied by the multitude of thy counsels (see Text. and Gram.) i.e., by thy methodically arranged attempts (viz. in the sphere of enchantment); so the Prophet calls mockingly to the totality of the Babylonians. Therefore let some one help thee (ויושׁיעך Isaiah 47:13), he continues. Let the astrologers appear now. This exposition results necessarily from the antithesis of נלאית and הֹבְרֵי שָׁמַיִם .ויושׁיעך are those that divide the heavens, i.e., who mark off the heavens into fields (the Song of Solomon -called “houses”) for the purpose of their observations (see Text. and Gram.). In any case astrologers, “masters of the course of heaven” are meant. They are also called חזים בכוכבים. I doubt very much whether חזה with בְּ has here the meaning “to contemplate, look with pleasure.” חָזָה is used of prophetic seeing generally ( Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1; Amos 1:1; Micah 1:1), and חֹזֶה is “a seer.” Therefore חֹזִים בכ׳ may very well mean: those that look (viz. at the future) in the stars, or by means of the stars. In the words מודיעים וגו׳ the Prophet seems to intimate an arrangement whereby the astrologers monthly (לחדשִׁים comp. Isaiah 27:3; Isaiah 33:2) made communication to the people out of that which they had read in the stars (hence מאשׁר יבאו). We have here perhaps the first trace of the calendar of later times (παραπήγματα, ἀλμενιχιακά).

3. Behold they shall be——shall save thee, Isaiah 47:14-15. In these verses is announced the final destiny of all those in whom Babylon trusted, and also its own destiny. The, wise masters of Babylon are compared to stubble. Fire consumes them. Not precisely actual fire is meant. He only compares generally the power that overthrows Babylon to a fire that devours stubble. They will not be able to save even themselves, much less others. For the fire will be no moderate glow like that used for baking bread, or for a genial hearth-fire, before which one sits to get warm (see Text. and Gram.). Such are they become (continues Isaiah 47:15), respecting whom thou hast taken pains. This is said in reference to Isaiah 47:12. The home resources of power and deliverance so carefully cultivated in Babylon are meant. But the allies from abroad also, its business friends, the numerous admirers and worshippers, that of old (מנעריך to be referred to סחריך) came to Babylon to carry on trade and delight themselves, wander (involuntary departure from the way, being dispersed) off each to his vis-a-vis (לעברו only here; עֵבֶר is what lies directly before one), i.e. straight out. The word, therefore, does not mean: each to his home; but, as dispersed, they wander each his way in front of him (comp. 1 Samuel 14:1; 1 Samuel 14:4; 1 Samuel 14:40; Ezekiel 1:9; Ezekiel 1:12; Ezekiel 10:22, etc.). That one may help Babylon is not to be thought of.—Therefore in the section Isaiah 47:8-15 it is proved in every direction that all props for Babylon give way, that all means of deliverance in which it hoped are refused.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 47:1 sqq. “Fortune is round and unstable in the world, and all transitory things must have an end, and they that go about them pass away with them ( Sirach 14:19). For if the great Assyro-Babylonian empire could not last, but from a virgin and lady was made a serving maid, what must happen to other worldly things that can by no means be compared with it?” Cramer.—[“Let those that have power use it with temper and moderation, considering that the spoke which is uppermost will be under.” M. Henry.]

2. On Isaiah 47:6 sq. The minister of righteousness may himself become a transgressor if he does not execute the punishment according to the will of righteousness, but abuses his power of punishment for the gratification of his own love of violence. Thus there arises a chain-like connection of right and wrong that passes through all human history, till God, the only just One, solves all the discords of worldly judgments in the harmony of the world’s judgment.

3. On Isaiah 47:9 sqq. Sorcery is devil-service. For he that uses any sort of enchantment seeks to attain some object by means of supernatural powers that are not the powers of God. For we, too, by God’s power may do miracles and signs, as the holy men of God of the Old and New Testament show. But the power of God puts itself at the disposal of the office borne in God’s name and by His commission, or of believing prayer ( Matthew 17:20). But whoever would do miracles by hocus pocus of any kind, lets it be understood that he would make powers of the invisible world subservient to him, that are not the powers of God. But in the invisible world there are beside God’s powers only the powers of the devil. That is the great peril of witchcraft. For the devil never works for nothing. He exacts the soul for it.

4. On Isaiah 47:10. The omnipresence and omniscience of God are quite extraordinarily onerous to the natural man. He can never enjoy his life for it. If he lives along, as he pleases, genioindulgens, there still comes to him ever and anon the secret voice that whispers: God sees it. Hence, to-day, as the Babylonians did, he employs all his knowledge and wisdom to make himself white, so that he may say: אֵין רֹאֵנִי, no one sees me. He would rather let the laws of nature grind him to pieces, than acknowledge a personal God that sees and judges all things. This endeavor to get the personal God out of the world, that has its source equally in fear and hatred, has not, however, its roots in human nature as such. For then it must be found in all men. It is rather the hatred and fear of the devil that reflect themselves in those men who, according to John 8:41-48, have the devil for their father.

[“Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness, as Doeg, Psalm 3:7. Many have so debauched their own consciences, and have got to such a pitch of daring wickedness, that they stick at nothing; and this they trust to carry them through those difficulties which embarrass men who make conscience of what they say and do. They doubt not but they shall be too hard for all their enemies, because they dare lie, and kill, and foreswear themselves, and do anything for their interest. Thus they trust in their wickedness to secure them, which is the only thing that will ruin them.” M. Henry.]

5. [On Isaiah 47:13. “I confess I see not how the judicial astrology which some now pretend to, by rules of which they undertake to prophesy concerning things to come, can be distinguished from that of the Chaldeans, nor therefore how it can escape the censure and contempt which this text lays that under. Yet I fear that there are some who study their almanacs, and regard them and their prognostications more than their Bibles and the prophecies there.” M. Henry.]

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 47:1-7. The mighty in this world should guard well against two H’s: 1) against Hardness toward the weak ( Isaiah 47:6), for He avenges them ( Isaiah 47:3); 2) against Haughtiness, for He humbles it ( Isaiah 47:1-5; Isaiah 47:7).

2. On Isaiah 47:12 sqq. Warning against superstition.—1) The essence of superstition: it is brother to unbelief (the unbeliever and superstitious) because it has lost what is truly transcendent, and hence, by reason of the ineffaceable drawing of men to what is super-terrestrial, falls into the hands of that which is false; the believer, on the other hand, is never superstitious, because as a child of God he knows that he is under the protection of the true, highest, super-terrestrial power2. The effects of superstition: a. it fosters coarse and refined idolatry; b. it robs men of the right comfort and the right help.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - without a throne.

FN#2 - voluptuous.

FN#3 - veil.

FN#4 - lift up thy train.

FN#5 - And appeal to no man about it.

FN#6 - omit As for.

FN#7 - polluted—gave.

FN#8 - aged.

FN#9 - And now hear this, thou delicious.

FN#10 - says in her heart.

FN#11 - Spite of.

FN#12 - And thou wast secure in.

FN#13 - Or, caused thee to turn away.

FN#14 - but evil comes.

FN#15 - Which they shall not know how to exorcise.

FN#16 - Heb. the morning thereof.

FN#17 - Heb. expiate.

FN#18 - Perhaps.

FN#19 - terrify.

FN#20 - Heb. viewers of the heavens.

FN#21 - Heb. that give knowledge concerning the months.

FN#22 - Who every month give report from them what shall come on thee.

FN#23 - has burned.

FN#24 - Heb. their souls.


Verses 1-22

HOMILETICAL HINTS

1. On Isaiah 48:1-2. “We, for our part, are also quite fallen into Jewish security. For we take great comfort from this, that we know, that we have God’s word simple and pure, and the same is indeed highly to be praised and valued. But it is not enough for one to have the word. One ought and must live according to it, then will God make account of us. But where one lives without the fear of God and in sin, and hears the word without amendment, there God will punish all the harder, as Christ shows in the parable of the servant that knew his Lord’s will and did it not. Therefore one should let go such fleshly confidence, and labor to live in the fear of God, and hold faithfully to His word. Then if we fall into distress and pray for deliverance, it will surely be granted to us. But those who brag about God as do the Jews, and yet fear Him not, nor will live according to His word, will boast in vain. God will single them out and punish them as He did the Jews. For these two things must go together: trusting God, and fearing God. Neither can be right without the other. If thou fearest not God, thou becomest proud and presumptuous as the Jews. But if thou believest not, and only fearest, thou wilt become anxious and fall into despair. Therefore the Psalm says: “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that hope in His mercy,” Psalm 147:10. Veit Dietrich.

2. [On Isaiah 48:3-8. The doctrine of providence supported by prophecy. 1) The method stated Isaiah 48:3; Isaiah 48:6; Isaiah 7:2) The reasons for God’s taking this method with them. a. He knew how obstinate they would be ( Isaiah 48:4). b. How deceitful they would be. c. That they would be giving His glory to idols ( Isaiah 48:5). After M. Henry.].

3. On Isaiah 47:9-11. The divine discipline of children1) Its course of procedure: a. God is patient ( Isaiah 47:9); b. God punishes severely ( Isaiah 47:10). 2) Its aims: a. God is patient a. for the sake of His honor (in order to reveal Himself as the “good”); β. for our sakes ( Isaiah 47:9 b that we may not be exterminated); b. God is severe a. for the sake of His honor (that He may not be blasphemed, Isaiah 47:11); β. for our sakes (that we may be purified and confirmed in the furnace of affliction).

4. On Isaiah 48:17-19. “That is our most blessed knowledge that we know God through His self-witness, and who, as one veiled, speaks from the prophets as the One Eternal Prophet; as the reflected splendor of the invisible Divinity that became flesh and blood in Jesus, and is now as our Brother constantly with us. Yea, blessed and forever safe is he that pays heed to God’s testimony of the very gracious condescension of God to us! God makes such heedful ones forever at peace in Himself, whose peace becomes overflowing and overwhelming as a river, because God in it imparts to us pardon and justification. Our righteousness in God is as waves of the sea, that continually swell up in great abundance, for God’s grace that works in us and accomplishes our righteousness Isaiah, in fact, infinite. Dost thou lack peace and righteousness, then believe assuredly that the only reason is that thou hast despised the word of thy God. Yea, whoever stablishes himself in God by believing acceptance of His word, he is forever established, and also has eternal bloom. He belongs to the innumerable family of God, that moves on through all times. How can he ever want for posterity?” J. Diedrich.

5. On Isaiah 48:20. “So God is wont to do: when the enemies of the churches pull hardest on the rope, it must break. We should mark this well, and comfort ourselves by it. For else we will become faint-hearted and despond, when matters go so ill.” Veit Dietrich.

6. On Isaiah 48:20-22. Israel’s Egyptian and Babylonian captivity is a type of the church in the world, and of individual believing souls in the body of this death. But we are to a certain degree ourselves to blame for the pressure of this captivity. There is even very much that holds us back to the flesh-pots of Egypt. We are often wanting in proper love for the one thing needful, in proper faith, in courage, in fidelity, in diligence in good works. Yet the Lord has deprived the devil of his power. The enemy is even really conquered already; “ein Woertlein kann ihn faellen.” Hence the Christian must be exhorted to depart from Babylon courageously and intrepidly. This the Prophet does in our text. We see in it a warning call to depart out of Babylon. 1) The possibility of going out is a. objectively presented by redemption “that is by Jesus Christ; but b. depends subjectively on our love to God and our faith2) The return home is difficult, indeed, as it was with Israel. It is through deserts of distress and danger. But God will not forsake His own. The spiritual rock ( 1 Corinthians 10:4) follows along with them3) At home, with the Lord, in communion with Him, they find peace, whereas the wicked nowhere and never shall find peace, not even in all the power, splendor and glory of this world.

7. [On Isaiah 48:22. “The wicked, as a matter of sober truth and verity, have no permanent and substantial peace and joy. (1) In the act of wickedness; (2) in the business or the pleasures of life; (3) no peace of conscience; (4) on a death-bed; (5) there is often not only no peace, but the actual reverse, apprehension; despair: (6) beyond the grave, a sinner Can have no peace at the judgment bar of God; he Can have no peace in hell.” Abbreviated from Barnes.]

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 47:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-47.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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