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Bel bows down, Nebo stoops,

their idols are on beasts and cattle;

these things you carry are loaded

as burdens on weary animals.


They stoop, they bow down together;

they cannot save the burden,

but themselves go into captivity.



Listen to me, O house of Jacob,

all the remnant of the house of Israel,

who have been borne by me from your birth,

carried from the womb;


even to your old age I am he,

even when you turn gray I will carry you.

I have made, and I will bear;

I will carry and will save.



To whom will you liken me and make me equal,

and compare me, as though we were alike?


Those who lavish gold from the purse,

and weigh out silver in the scales—

they hire a goldsmith, who makes it into a god;

then they fall down and worship!


They lift it to their shoulders, they carry it,

they set it in its place, and it stands there;

it cannot move from its place.

If one cries out to it, it does not answer

or save anyone from trouble.



Remember this and consider,

recall it to mind, you transgressors,


remember the former things of old;

for I am God, and there is no other;

I am God, and there is no one like me,


declaring the end from the beginning

and from ancient times things not yet done,

saying, “My purpose shall stand,

and I will fulfill my intention,”


calling a bird of prey from the east,

the man for my purpose from a far country.

I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass;

I have planned, and I will do it.



Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,

you who are far from deliverance:


I bring near my deliverance, it is not far off,

and my salvation will not tarry;

I will put salvation in Zion,

for Israel my glory.


1. Bel hath bowed down. Isaiah continues the same subject; for we need not trouble ourselves about the division of chapters, which have not always been accurately divided; but we ought to examine the statements themselves, which agree with each other in the manner which I have pointed out. Yet if any prefer to view this as the commencement of a new discourse, because immediately afterwards he prophesies concerning the destruction of Babylon, I shall not greatly quarrel with him.

Nebo is cast down. “Bel” and “Nebo” were idols which were worshipped by the Babylonians, and probably were their chief patrons; as idolaters always have some particular gods, under whose protection, above all others, they consider themselves to be placed. It may be conjectured that this “Nebo” was a sort of inferior god that was added to the chief god “Bel,” as Mercury was to Jupiter. Under their names he includes also the rest of the idols, and declares that all the superstitions and false worship of the Gentiles shall be overthrown, when God shall lay low and triumph over their worshippers; because it shall then be manifest that he is the righteous avenger of his Church.

Their idols shall be on the beasts. The Babylonians having haughtily boasted of the protection of false gods, the Prophet rebukes that vain confidence, because the God of Israel will not only bring utter ruin on that wicked nation, but also will cast down and treat disdainfully their gods. The reason why he says that they shall be burdens of “beasts” is, that they shall be laid on waggons and removed from one place to another, and shall even be huddled together without any respect, as the waggoners think proper. This is what is meant by “being cast down,” for the robbers shall collect into a large heap those gods which formerly occupied an elevated station.

There can be no doubt, indeed, that this was fulfilled when the Persians and Medes took Babylon by storm; for when the monarchy was removed, these idols were taken away as a part of the booty. But Isaiah, though he predicted this, looked farther, that is, to the coming of Christ, who was to overtum and destroy all false worship; for, when his kingdom has been established, all idols immediately fall to the ground, and it is impossible that false religion and superstition can exist along with the knowledge of him. By his brightness he dispels all darkness, so as to leave no room for false gods or superstitions; for, as Paul says,

“What hath Christ to do with Belial? What hath light to do with darkness?”
(2 Corinthians 6:14,15.)

At the same time it ought to be observed, that the Prophet had his eye on the time when the Jews were held in captivity; for they saw the Babylonians offer incense to idols, and ascribe to them supreme power, as if the government of affairs depended on them; while the God of the Jews was treated with scorn, as if he could not defend his people, or as if he cared nothing about them. For this reason he shews that there will be so great a revolution, that the gods of the Babylonians, which were elevated so high, shall be laid low, and God, who appeared to he low, shall rise up and avenge his people.

2. They could not withdraw themselves from the burden. He ridicules the vanity of such gods as these, which have neither strength nor motion, and cannot defend or support themselves, and, in a word, who need the aid of beasts of burden to carry them. There is, therefore, an implied contrast between idols and the true God, who has no need of anything whatever. I interpret these words as applied to beasts, but the Prophet heightens the disgrace by saying that they were a heavy burden to the beasts themselves which would willingly have cast them off, and consequently that the false gods, besides being of no use to their worshippers, also wearied out the beasts.

And their soul hath gone into captivity. This is a Hebrew mode of expression, by which he ridicules those gods which have neither “soul” nor understanding. He speaks ironically, therefore, against useless and dumb idols, when he says that they shall be carried into captivity along with their soul. But we must see if these things cannot be retorted on the true God, whose ark, by which he gave testimony of his presence, was taken by the Philistines; for in this way it appeared as if the Lord were a captive. (1 Samuel 4:11.) This objection may be easily answered; for, although the Lord intended that the ark should be a testimony of his presence, yet he forbade the Jews to fix their whole and exclusive attention upon it, but commanded them to raise their eyes to heaven, and there to seek and adore God. He wished to be always worshipped in a spiritual manner, (John 4:24,) and the ark was not adored instead of God, but was a symbol, by which the people were led upwards, as by the hand, to God. The Gentiles, on the other hand, fixed their attention on their idols, and attributed to them divine power.

It might even have been said that the Philistines were at length punished for their wickedness, and acknowledged that they had to deal with the true God. (1 Samuel 5:6.) But that would not have been a sufficient answer, because the Lord sometimes permitted his ark to be treated with derision, as is evident from other passages of the history. The true solution therefore is, that the Lord, though he holds intercourse with us by symbols and sacraments, yet wishes to be sought in heaven. To this must be added, that he had openly declared, by memorable predictions, that he was not dragged as a captive by conquerors, but that of his own accord he exposed his sanctuary to the sport of enemies, in order to punish the sins of his people. Nor could the Jews, when the Temple had been thrown down and bumt, and when the holy vessels were carried to Babylon, doubt that the same God whom they had worshipped was the author of this punishment, since he had so frequently threatened by his prophets what then happened.

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