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The Humiliation of Babylon


Come down and sit in the dust,

virgin daughter Babylon!

Sit on the ground without a throne,

daughter Chaldea!

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 L ord of hosts is his name—

is the Holy One of Israel.



Sit in silence, and go into darkness,

daughter Chaldea!

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

exceedingly heavy.


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.


1. Come down, and sit in the dust. Isaiah now explains more fully what he had briefly noticed concerning the counsel of God, and the execution of it. He openly describes the destruction of Babylon; because no hope whatever of the return of the people could be entertained, so long as the Babylonian monarchy flourished. Accordingly, he has connected these two things, namely, the overthrow of that monarchy, and the deliverance of the people which followed it; for the elevated rank of that city was like a deep grave in which the Jews were buried, and, when it had been opened, the Lord brought back his people to their former life.

The use of the imperative mood, “Come down,” is more forcible than if he had expressed the same thing in plain words and simple narrative; for he addresses her authoritatively, and as if he were speaking from the judgment-seat; because he proclaims the commands of God, and therefore, with the boldness which his authority entitles him to use, he publishes what shall happen, as we know that God granted this authority to the prophets. “Behold, I have this day set thee over nations and kingdoms, to root out and pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” (Jeremiah 1:10.) There is no power that is not added to the authority of the word. In a word, he intended to place the event immediately before the eye of the Jews; for that change could scarcely be imagined, if God did not thunder from heaven.

Virgin daughter of Babylon. It was a figure of speech frequently employed by Hebrew writers, to call any nation by the title of “Daughter.” He calls her “Virgin,” not because she was modest or chaste, but because she had been brought up softly and delicately like “virgins,” and had never been forced by enemies, as we formerly said when speaking of Sidon. 222222     Commentary on Isaiah, vol. 2, p. 155. And at the present day the same thing might be said of Venice and some other towns, which have a great abundance of wealth and luxuries, and, in the estimation of men, are accounted very happy; for they have as good reason as the Babylonians had to dread such a revolution of affairs, even when they appear to be far removed from danger.

For it shall no longer be. That is, “Thou shalt no longer be caressed by men who thought that thou wast happy.”

2. Take millstones. The whole of this description tends to shew that there shall be a great change among the Babylonians, so that this city, which was formerly held in the highest honor, shall be sunk in the lowest disgrace, and subjected to outrages of every kind, and thus shall exhibit a striking display of the wrath of God. These are marks of the most degrading slavery, as the meanest slaves were formerly shut up in a mill. The condition of the captives who were reduced to it must therefore have been very miserable; for, in other cases, captives sometimes received from their conquerors mild and gentle treatment. But here he describes a very wretched condition, that believers may not doubt that they shall be permitted freely to depart, when the Babylonians, who had held them prisoners, shall themselves be imprisoned. Now, though we do not read that the nobles of the kingdom were subjected to such contemptuous treatment, it was enough for the fulfillment of this prophecy, that Cyrus, by assigning to them the operations of slaves, degraded them, and compelled them to abstain from honorable employments.

Unbind thy curled locks. On account of their excessive indulgence in magnificence of dress, he again alludes to the attire of young women, by mentioning “curled locks.” We know that girls are more eager than they ought to be about cuffing their hair, and other parts of dress. Here, on the contrary, the Prophet describes a totally different condition and attire; that is, that ignominy, and blackness, and filth shall cover from head to foot those who formerly dazzled all eyes by gaudy finery.

Uncover the limbs. “Virgins” hardly ever are accustomed to walk in public, and, at least, seldom travel on the public roads; but the Prophet says that the Babylonian virgins will be laid under the necessity of crossing the rivers, and with their limbs uncovered.

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