The Book of Isaiah
James J. Barker


Lesson 42
GODíS JUDGMENT UPON BABYLON

Text: ISAIAH 46 & 47


INTRODUCTION:


1.     Isaiah chapters 46 and 47 deal with God’s judgment upon Babylon.  It should be noted that Babylon was not a world empire at this time.

2.     Furthermore, Babylon was not an enemy of Israel at this time.  

3.     Babylon was a rather small and insignificant nation at the time of these prophecies.  Assyria was the biggest nation in that part of the world at that time.

4.     Nevertheless, Babylon was the fountainhead of all idolatry, going all the way back to the Tower of Babel.  That is why the harlot church of Revelation 17 is identified as “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev. 17:5).

5.     This is the third section of Isaiah prophesying the destruction of Babylon (cf. Isaiah 13 & 14, and 21).

 

I. JUDGMENT UPON THE IDOLS OF BABYLON (46:1-13).

II. JUDGMENT UPON THE PEOPLE OF BABYLON (47:1-8).

III. JUDGMENT UPON THE SORCERIES OF BABYLON (47:9-15).

 

I. GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON THE IDOLS OF BABYLON (46:1-13).

1.     “Bel” (46:1) was the chief god of Babylon.   That is why many Babylonian names began with “Bel.”

        King Belshazzar – his name means, “Bel protect the king.”

        Daniel’s name was changed in Babylon to “Belteshazzar.”  This means, “Bel preserve his life.”

        “Bel” is really the same word as “Baal,” and is the Babylonian word for “lord.”

        There is a story called “Bel and the Dragon” in the Apocrypha.  It is an interesting story about the prophet Daniel exposing the false priests of Bel.  When King Cyrus came to understand the folly of Bel worship, he put the priests of Bel to death, and gave the idol Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.

2.     The Babylonians were polytheistic idolaters. “Nebo” (46:1) was another prominent god.  He was the son of Marduk.

3.     Isaiah prophesied that these idols of Babylon would be carted off on the back of asses and camels to the land of their conquerors.   They would be humiliated, ashamed, and disgraced – stooped down together on their way to captivity (46:1, 2).

4.     “They could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity” (46:2; cf. 45:20b; 46:7).

5.     Isaiah contrasts the dumb and helpless of idols of Babylon with the true God of Israel (46:3-5).   Verse 4 is the basis for one of the stanzas of the great old hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.”

“Even down to old age all My people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in My bosom be borne” -- John Rippon

6.     Animals carry the dumb idols of Babylon, but the God of Israel carries His people safely from birth to old age (46:3, 4).

7.     Harry Bultema wrote, “Where lies the secret of Israel’s toughness and ineradicable condition?   The mighty world dominions of Babylon, Persia, Macedonia, and Rome have come and gone; Israel not only remained standing but even increased in spite of all oppression.  The answer is: that strength lies not in Israel.  Israel is as weak as a baby; the secret of that strength lies in Jehovah who carries her and will never allow her to fall” (Commentary on Isaiah).

8.     Whether the idol is made out of a block of wood or from silver or gold, it is just as useless (46:5-8).   

9.     It has been pointed out that the prophet Ezekiel concentrates more on the filthiness and detestableness of idolatry, whereas Isaiah depicts the foolishness and absurdity of idolatry (46:6, 7).

10. Bultema wrote that the Holy Spirit “wished to make use of the satirical genius of Isaiah to exhibit idolatry in all its ludicrousness so that, if the Jews had retained a grain of self-respect, they would loathe every form of idolatry.”

11. God wants us to remember the foolishness of idolatry, and the greatness of God (46:8, 9).

12. Only the true God of Israel can declare “the end from the beginning” (46:10).  He predicted the rise of Cyrus over 100 years before he was born (44:28; 45:1). In 46:11 Cyrus is referred to as “a ravenous bird from the east (i.e., from Persia, “a far country”).”

13. As a ravenous bird, Cyrus would descend swiftly on Babylon to rob its idols and treasures (46:11; cf. 45:3). 

14. Verses 12 and 13 look beyond Israel’s deliverance from Babylon.  Isaiah is speaking here of the second coming of Christ and the restoration of Israel.

 

II. GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON THE PEOPLE OF BABYLON

1.     Babylon is pictured in Isaiah 47:1 as a queen who has been dethroned.  Now she is humiliated and told to “sit on the ground” because “there is no throne” (47:1).

2.     The nation of Babylon is personified poetically as a “virgin daughter” (47:1), signifying her helplessness.

3.     Babylon’s wealth and luxury led to immorality and debauchery.  But it would all come to an abrupt end – “for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” (47:1, 8, 9).

4.     The proud queen would have to “take the millstones, and grind meal” (47:2).  “Uncover thy locks” means she would be degraded because in that culture modest women kept their hair covered.

5.     “Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh…” (47:2) means she would be exposing her body publicly.  Though this is (regrettably) commonplace today, it was considered shocking, shameful, and degrading in Bible times.  “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen” (47:3).

6.     Isaiah 47:4 reminds us of Revelation 19.  The Lord Jesus Christ (“our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel”) will judge Babylon, and God’s people will shout for joy.

7.      God used Babylon to chastise Israel.  However, Babylon went too far and showed them no mercy (47:5-8).

 

III. GOD’S JUDGMENT UPON THE SORCERIES OF BABYLON

1.     Revelation 18:7, 8 says, “For she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.  Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her” (cf. 47:9—11).

2.     Babylon is the fountainhead of all idolatry and occultism.  God judged ancient Babylon (47:12-15), and some day soon He will judge mystery Babylon (Rev. 18:23, 24).

3.     In fact, Isaiah 47 prefigures the fall of mystery Babylon, vividly pictured in Revelation 17 & 18.

4.     There is a growing interest in astrology and occultism (Harry Potter, rock music, etc.) today (Isa. 47:13), and this will increase right up through the coming tribulation, when Revelation 13 tells us men will worship the antichrist and they will worship the devil.

5.     HA Ironside was riding on a streetcar one day when a Gypsy woman sat down next to him, and grabbing his hand, said: “Gentleman – gentleman – you cross my palm with silver – 25 cents – I tell you past, present, future.  I am the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter.  I born with a veil on.  I can tell all mysteries.”

6.     Harry Ironside grabbed her hand and said, “Well, it isn’t really necessary – because I’ve had that all told already.”

7.     “But oh!” she said, “I am an expert – I know very exact – past, present, future.”

8.     “Yes, but I got it from an expert – I have it here in a little book.”  And with that he pulled out his NT and turned to Ephesians 2.

9.     Past: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (2:2).

10. Present: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ…by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (2:4, 5, 8).

11. By now the gypsy woman was trying to run away.  She said, “What is that, a Bible?  I got the wrong man.  I got the wrong man.  Let go.”  And, “I’ve got enough.  Good-bye.”

12. But Ironside would not let her leave just yet.  He said, “No.  I won’t let go.  I did not ask you to come down here and take hold of me. I haven’t given you it all yet.  Now here’s my future: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (2:7).

13. “Yes, gentleman – I’ve got enough,” she said as she broke away, running down the streetcar saying, “I got the wrong man – I got the wrong man.”

 

CONCLUSION:

1.     I saw an interesting little article in yesterday’s newspaper:

“A senior Vatican cardinal told a gathering of the world’s top prelates yesterday that the RCC had to examine what it is doing wrong in the battle for souls who are leaving the church to join Pentecostal and other evangelical groups.   Cardinal Walter Kasper, who heads the Vatican’s office for relations with other Christians, told a meeting of more than 100 cardinals that the church must undergo a ‘self-critical pastoral examination of conscience’ to confront the ‘exponential’ rise of Pentecostal movements. ‘We shouldn't begin by asking ourselves what is wrong with the Pentecostals, but what our own pastoral shortcomings are,’...” (NY Post, 11-24-07).

2.     Interestingly, the headline in the POST reads: “Vatican Big’s Soul Search.”  But the original AP headline reads: “Cardinals discuss Pentecostal threats.”

3.     The article explains that more than 100 cardinals met to discuss the problem that evangelical Christianity (particularly Pentecostalism) was growing by leaps and bounds in RC areas in Africa and Latin America.

4.     “Kasper said the rise of independent, often ‘aggressive’ evangelical movements in places such as Africa had complicated the church’s ecumenical task and made it more confused.”

5.     The word “Babylon” means “confusion.”

         



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