World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
The Humiliation of Babylon
Come down and sit in the dust,
virgin daughter Babylon!
Sit on the ground without a throne,
For you shall no more be called
tender and delicate.
Take the millstones and grind meal,
remove your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
pass through the rivers.
Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your shame shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
and I will spare no one.
Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.
Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
For you shall no more be called
the mistress of kingdoms.
I was angry with my people,
I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand,
you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke
You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”
so that you did not lay these things to heart
or remember their end.
Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children”—
both these things shall come upon you
in a moment, in one day:
the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the great power of your enchantments.
You felt secure in your wickedness;
you said, “No one sees me.”
Your wisdom and your knowledge
led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
But evil shall come upon you,
which you cannot charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
which you will not be able to ward off;
and ruin shall come on you suddenly,
of which you know nothing.
Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed,
perhaps you may inspire terror.
You are wearied with your many consultations;
let those who study the heavens
stand up and save you,
those who gaze at the stars,
and at each new moon predict
what shall befall you.
See, they are like stubble,
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
no fire to sit before!
Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
who have trafficked with you from your youth;
they all wander about in their own paths;
there is no one to save you.
Isa 47:1-15. The Destruction of Babylon Is Represented under the Image of a Royal Virgin Brought Down in a Moment from Her Magnificent Throne to the Extreme of Degradation.
virgin—that is, heretofore uncaptured [Herodotus, 1.191].
no throne—The seat of empire was transferred to Shushan. Alexander intended to have made Babylon his seat of empire, but Providence defeated his design. He soon died; and Seleucia, being built near, robbed it of its inhabitants, and even of its name, which was applied to Seleucia.
delicate—alluding to the effeminate debauchery and prostitution of all classes at banquets and religious rites [Curtius, 5.1; Herodotus, 1.199; Baruch, 6.43].
2. millstones—like the querns or hand-mills, found in this country, before the invention of water mills and windmills: a convex stone, made by the hand to turn in a concave stone, fitted to receive it, the corn being ground between them: the office of a female slave in the East; most degrading (Job 31:10; Mt 24:41).
uncover thy locks—rather, "take off thy veil" [Horsley]: perhaps the removal of the plaited hair worn round the women's temples is included; it, too, is a covering (1Co 11:15); to remove it and the veil is the badge of the lowest female degradation; in the East the head is the seat of female modesty; the face of a woman is seldom, the whole head almost never, seen bare (see on Isa 22:8).
make bare the leg—rather "lift up (literally, 'uncover'; as in lifting up the train the leg is uncovered) thy flowing train." In Mesopotamia, women of low rank, as occasion requires, wade across the rivers with stript legs, or else entirely put off their garments and swim across. "Exchange thy rich, loose, queenly robe, for the most abject condition, that of one going to and fro through rivers as a slave, to draw water," &c.
uncover … thigh—gather up the robe, so as to wade across.
3. not meet … as a man—rather, "I will not meet a man," that is, suffer man to intercede with me—give man an audience [Horsley]. Or, "I will not make peace with any man," before all are destroyed. Literally, "strike a league with"; a phrase arising from the custom of striking hands together in making a compact [Maurer], (see on Pr 17:18; Pr 22:26; 11:15, Margin). Or else from striking the victims sacrificed in making treaties.
4. As for—rather supply, "Thus saith our Redeemer" [Maurer]. Lowth supposes this verse to be the exclamation of a chorus breaking in with praises, "Our Redeemer! Jehovah of hosts," &c. (Jer 50:34).
lady of kingdoms—mistress of the world (Isa 13:19).
polluted my inheritance—(Isa 43:28).
the ancient—Even old age was disregarded by the Chaldeans, who treated all alike with cruelty (La 4:16; 5:12) [Rosenmuller]. Or, "the ancient" means Israel, worn out with calamities in the latter period of its history (Isa 46:4), as its earlier stage of history is called its "youth" (Isa 54:6; Eze 16:60).
7. so that—Through thy vain expectation of being a queen for ever, thou didst advance to such a pitch of insolence as not to believe "these things" (namely, as to thy overthrow, Isa 47:1-5) possible.
end of it—namely, of thy insolence, implied in her words, "I shall be a lady for ever."
8. given to pleasures—(See on Isa 47:1). In no city were there so many incentives to licentiousness.
widow … loss of children—A state, represented as a female, when it has fallen is called a widow, because its king is no more; and childless, because it has no inhabitants; they having been carried off as captives (Isa 23:4; 54:1, 4, 5; Re 18:7, 8).
9. in a moment—It should not decay slowly, but be suddenly and unexpectedly destroyed; in a single night it was taken by Cyrus. The prophecy was again literally fulfilled when Babylon revolted against Darius; and, in order to hold out to the last, each man chose one woman of his family, and strangled the rest, to save provisions. Darius impaled three thousand of the revolters.
in … perfection—that is, "in full measure."
for … for—rather, "notwithstanding the … notwithstanding"; "in spite of" [Lowth]. So "for" (Nu 14:11). Babylon was famous for "expiations or sacrifices, and other incantations, whereby they tried to avert evil and obtain good" [Diodorus Siculus].
10. wickedness—as in Isa 13:11, the cruelty with which Babylon treated its subject states.
Thy wisdom—astrological and political (Isa 19:11, &c., as to Egypt).
perverted—turns thee aside from the right and safe path.
11. from whence it riseth—Hebrew, "the dawn thereof," that is, its first rising. Evil shall come on thee without the least previous intimation [Rosenmuller]. But dawn is not applied to "evil," but to prosperity shining out after misery (Isa 21:12). Translate, "Thou shall not see any dawn" (of alleviation) [Maurer].
put … off—rather, as Margin, "remove by expiation"; it shall be never ending.
12. Stand—forth: a scornful challenge to Babylon's magicians to show whether they can defend their city.
laboured—The devil's service is a laborious yet fruitless one (Isa 55:2).
astrologers—literally, those who form combinations of the heavens; who watch conjunctions and oppositions of the stars. "Casters of the configurations of the sky" [Horsley]. Gesenius explains it: the dividers of the heavens. In casting a nativity they observed four signs:—the horoscope, or sign which arose at the time one was born; the mid-heaven; the sign opposite the horoscope towards the west; and the hypogee.
monthly prognosticators—those who at each new moon profess to tell thereby what is about to happen. Join, not as English Version, "save … from those things," &c.; but, "They that at new moons make known from (by means of) them the things that shall come upon thee" [Maurer].
not … a coal—Like stubble, they shall burn to a dead ash, without leaving a live coal or cinder (compare Isa 30:14), so utterly shall they be destroyed.
15. Thus, &c.—Such shall be the fate of those astrologers who cost thee such an amount of trouble and money.
thy merchants, from thy youth—that is, with whom thou hast trafficked from thy earliest history, the foreigners sojourning in Babylon for the sake of commerce (Isa 13:14; Jer 51:6, 9; Na 3:16, 17) [Barnes]. Rather, the astrologers, with whom Babylon had so many dealings (Isa 47:12-14) [Horsley].