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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 47

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XLVII.

God's judgment upon Babylon and Chaldea, for their unmercifulness, pride, and audaciousness, shall be irresistible.

Before Christ 712.

THE first part of the 4th section contains an apostrophe to Babylon, as the seat of a great empire; and herein first are foretold the abolition of that empire, and the degradation of its citizens to the lowest servitude, Isaiah 47:1 to middle of Isaiah 47:3 and the efficient cause hereof, namely, God, who shews himself, (latter end of Isaiah 47:3.) and is shewn by the church, here introduced as speaking, Isaiah 47:4. Secondly, we have the extreme and durable calamity of Babylon; Isaiah 47:5 and the impulsive causes of this calamity: First, their cruelty to the people of God, Isaiah 47:6 and secondly, their pride and presumption, Isaiah 47:7 thirdly, the same argument is continued: where, first, the third impulsive cause is premised, namely, their luxury, voluptuousness, security, arrogance, and carnal confidence in the stability of their state: Isaiah 47:8. Secondly, the calamity itself, widowhood, solitude, and that suddenly, and at once, notwithstanding the contrary prediction of their diviners, Isaiah 47:9. Fourthly, again, in the same manner, first, the fourth impulsive clause is premised, the oppression of the nations, and the carnal wisdom and confidence joined thereto, Isaiah 47:10 secondly, the calamity; namely, the destruction and sudden desolation determined by Jehovah, Isaiah 47:11. In the second part, Babylon is first commanded, by the strongest sarcasm, to bring forth, in this time of her calamity, her magicians, diviners, astrologers, that she may seek help or comfort from those in whom she trusted and gloried, Isaiah 47:12-13 secondly, the vanity, impotence, and unhappy end of all those who exercise these arts, or seek protection in them, are set forth, Isaiah 47:14-15.


Verses 1-3

Isaiah 47:1-3. Come down, and sit in the dust, &c.— The prophet here commands Babylon to assume the habit and forms of the most abject state, most opposite to that state of honour and glory in which she had long flourished. She is addressed as a virgin, according to the usual modes of speaking, when cities or states are personified; though some say that she is called the virgin daughter of Babylon, because, according to Herodotus, she had never been conquered before. Take the mill-stones, and grind meal, that is, "Thou shalt be reduced from thy lofty seat, as mistress of kingdoms, to the lowest situation of a slave; thy captives shall be forced to grind at the mill, the lowest and most abject degree of drudgery." The subsequent images are taken from a woman, who, from a state of elegance, is reduced to the lowest state of slavery, and exposed to the greatest indignities which could be offered to that sex. Instead of there is no throne, Isaiah 47:1 we may read unthroned.


Verse 3

Isaiah 47:3-4. I will take vengeance These are the words of the God of Israel, whose province it is to take vengeance. The phrase, I will not meet thee as a man, is differently understood. Some suppose, that it signifies, "I will shew thee neither mercy nor pity." Vitringa renders it, "Though I have not a man ready, or before me, who may execute the vengeance which I have determined; for which reason I will raise up Cyrus, whom nobody thinks of, that it may appear to all the world that this is my work, and not the work of man." And he thinks that this interpretation is confirmed by what the church adds in the 4th verse, that their Redeemer was Jehovah; that it was He, and He alone, who could have procured this wonderful deliverance for them.


Verse 5

Isaiah 47:5. Sit thou silent, &c.— See ch. Isaiah 13:19, Isaiah 14:4. Bishop Newton observes, that after this destruction Babylon never recovered its ancient splendor: From an imperial it became a tributary city; from being governed by its own kings, and governing strangers, it came itself to be governed by strangers; and, the seat of empire being transferred to Shushan, it decayed by degrees, till it was at last reduced to utter desolation. Dissert. vol. 1: p. 293.


Verse 6

Isaiah 47:6. I was wroth with my people The metaphor in this verse 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 executed his commands, in such a manner as to punish them immoderately and severely. The cruelty of the Babylonians is expressed by the strongest term, namely, their oppression of the ancient, the old and feeble, whose venerable grey hairs should be their sufficient protection.


Verse 7-8

Isaiah 47:7-8. I shall be a lady for ever If we consider that the city of Babylon had no less than a hundred gates made of solid brass; that its walls were 350 feet in height, and 87 in thickness; and that six chariots could go abreast upon them; that it was defended by the river Euphrates, and that it was 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. So she vainly gloried in the verses before us; but the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah plainly and particularly foretold the destruction of this city. They lived towards the declension of the kingdom of Judah; and as they predicted the captivity of the Jews, so they likewise foretold the fall of their enemies; and they speak with such assurance of the event, that they describe a thing future, as if it were already passed. See Bishop Newton as before. We may read these verses, And thou saidst, &c.—Thou hast never once laid these things to heart: neither hast thou remembered the latter end of it: Isaiah 47:8. Therefore hear now this, thou voluptuary one, that sittest careless down, that sayest in thine heart, I, and none else [who but I?].


Verse 9

Isaiah 47:9. These two things shall come to thee This prophesy was twice fulfilled; having been accomplished the very night that Babylon was taken, when the Persian slew the king himself, and a great number of the Babylonians: and it was fulfilled a second time, when 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 provisions. By means of this shocking expedient they sustained the siege and all the efforts of Darius for twenty months, and the city was at last taken by stratagem. As soon as Darius had made himself master of the place, he ordered 3000 of the principal men to be crucified, and thus this prophesy was signally fulfilled, both by the hands of the Babylonians themselves, and by the cruelties exercised upon them by the conquerors. Bishop Newton. We may render the latter part of the verse, They shall come upon thee in their perfection, notwithstanding the multitude of thy sorceries, and the force of thy enchantments.


Verse 13

Isaiah 47:13. Thou art wearied, &c.— Thou art nauseated with the multitude of thy devices.


Verse 14

Isaiah 47:14. Behold, they shall be as stubble The judgment to be inflicted upon the professors and encouragers of the vain arts above mentioned is here elegantly and metaphorically described. The prophet says, that all those mentioned in the 13th verse, like stubble, should be set on fire by the divine wrath, and so wholly consumed, that nothing of them should remain which could be serviceable for any purpose whatever; for, as from wood and other fuel, when burned, there remain embers, before which a person may warm himself, and glowing ashes before which one may sit, to drive away the cold; these, on the contrary, should be consumed like stubble, so as to be wholly destroyed, and to leave nothing for any use or service. See Vitringa.


Verse 15

Isaiah 47:15. Thus shall they be unto thee, &c.— Thus shall they serve thee, upon whom thou hast spent thy pains; thy negociators, with whom thou hast dealt from thy youth. See Bishop Lowth's translation. See also Isaiah 47:12. They shall wander every one to his quarter, means, "They shall wander, by whatever ways they can, to the extreme boundaries of thy empire, to save themselves from the general calamity."

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Babylon had long sat as a queen, and seen her captives prostrate at her feet, a virgin kingdom, whom no conqueror had yet subdued; but now her doom is read: into the dust she must fall low; no more her monarchs grace the throne, seized by the Persian king; no more rioting in luxury and delicacies, her miserable inhabitants are reduced to the lowest drudgery, to grind at the mill, or driven in herds as captives before their lordly masters, stripped naked without compassion or humanity; for the vengeance is from God; and he, as Israel's Redeemer, now returns the cruelty they had shown his people. The noise which once resounded in the streets of Babylon is silenced: and in darkness, whither they retired, or in their prison-houses, in vain they lamented the loss of their kingdom, which should be no more restored: Note; (1.) They who abuse their power, and walk in pride, God delights to abase. (2.) It is well to be inured to hardship; those who are most delicately brought up, will feel every reverse of station with deeper anguish. (3.) When God visits in vengeance, the sinner may expect judgment without mercy.

2nd, All God's dealings are according to the strictest equity; if Babylon suffer, her sins have given abundant provocation. We have,

1. The black catalogue of her crimes.

[1.] Cruelty to God's people, God was wroth with his people, and meant to visit their iniquities with the scourge, and therefore gave them into the hands of the Chaldeans; but they unmercifully chastised them with scorpions, paying no regard to age or station; but on the ancients, whose hoary locks, or honours, should have pleaded for compassion, making their yoke heavy. Note; They who cruelly oppress God's people, however they may triumph for a moment, will find a day of awful reckoning at hand.

[2.] Pride and security. Because her monarchy seemed established, she promised herself that her throne should be coeval with the days of time; and neither regarding her sins nor warned by the threatnings denounced against her, sat secure in her own sufficiency, and despised her enemies. Note; They who are most self-confident and secure, are nearest the precipice of ruin.

[3.] Love of ease and pleasure: Given up to the indulgence of sensual appetite, and confident that every day should return fraught with mirth and jollity, and no sorrow interrupt the jocund hours.

[4.] Detestable sorceries, and magical arts, in which from their youth they were trained up, and wherein they placed their chief dependance: and all these are sins, which are remarked as found in Babylon mystical, and will be the causes of her destruction, Revelation 7:17 to Revelation 18:4.

2. The doom of Babylon is read. She trusted in her wisdom, policy, wealth, and wickedness; but deceived herself, as sinners usually do: her boasts can issue only in her confusion. Vain is her confidence; in one day the evils from which she thought herself so secured, shall overtake her, her king and nobles be slain, her people captives. So sudden and terrible the destruction, she could neither foresee nor avert it. Fruitless would be every attempt of her astrologers and diviners; wearied with disappointment, despair should seize her, when all the counsels of her magicians failed, and ruin approached. Her wise men, so far from delivering their country, should be unable to save themselves, utterly consumed by the Divine Judgment, as fuel reduced to dust by the flames. Her merchants, either those astrologers who had enriched themselves by their pretensions to science, or rather those who traded to Babylon, shall flee to secure themselves, every one to his quarter, or passage, glad to desert the devoted city, and eager to save themselves in their own land, from the impending danger. See Revelation 18:15. Note; (1.) Sinners are strangely apt to promise themselves secrecy and impunity, and this hardens their hearts against the Divine admonitions. (2.) The dangers, of which the proud and secure were least apprehensive, often suddenly surprise them; and too late, to their astonishment, they discover the ruin which they cannot escape. (3.) The greatest monarch sits on a tottering throne, when wickedness loosens the pillars of it. (4.) Wisdom and wealth are no defence against the judgments of God. (5.) They who are the instruments of deceiving others, shall themselves feel the heaviest strokes of vengeance.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 47:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-47.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, May 28th, 2020
the Seventh Week after Easter
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