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Isaiah 46


Babylon's Idols and the True God Dead Idols and the Living God The Lord Supports Israel The Lord of the World and the Idols of Babylon (45:20-46:13) The Fall of Babylon
46:1-2  (1-2) 46:1-2  (1-2) 46:1-2  (1-2) 46:1-2  (1-2) 46:1-13  (1-13)
46:3-4  (3-4) 46:3-4  (3-4) 46:3-4  (3-4) 46:3-4  (3-4)  
46:5-7  (5-7) 46:5-7  (5-7) 46:5-7  (5-7) 46:5-7  (5-7)  
46:8-11  (8-11) 46:8-11  (8-11) 46:8-11  (8-11) 46:8-11  (8-11)  
46:12-13  (12-13) 46:12-13  (12-13) 46:12-13  (12-13) 46:12-13  (12-13)  



This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Leupold, in his commentary on Isaiah, p. 147, reminded me that

1. in Isaiah 14 the kingdom of Babylon is judged

2. in Isaiah 46 the idols of Babylon are judged

3. in Isaiah 47 the nation, personified as a queen, is judged

B. Babylon, in the Bible, is a metaphor for all human society organized and functioning apart from God. It is mankind's attempt to meet his needs with his own resources. Babylon is personified as the great whore in Revelation 18.



1Bel has bowed down, Nebo stoops over;
Their images are consigned to the beasts and the cattle.
The things that you carry are burdensome,
A load for the weary beast.
2They stooped over, they have bowed down together;
They could not rescue the burden,
But have themselves gone into captivity.

46:1 "Bel" Bel (BDB128, KB 132, Akkadian for "lord") is a similar title to the Canaanite title Ba'al. This is a reference to the chief god of the Akkadian pantheon (Enlil, who was called "lord"). As Babylon came to power the chief deity's name was changed to Marduk (BDB 597, cf. Jer. 50:2).

▣ "Nebo" This was the son of Marduk (named only here in the OT) and was the god of learning and writing (BDB 612). Bel and Nebo can be seen in many of the Babylonian names of the period (Nebuchadnezzar [Dan. 1:1]; Nebushazban [Jer. 39:13]; Nebuzaradan [Jer. 39:9]; Nabopolassar [first king of Neo-Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar's father]; Nabonidus [Belshazzar's father, last king of Neo-Babylon]; Belteshazzar [Dan. 1:7]; Belshazzar [Dan. 5:1]). These were the two chief gods of the Babylonian pantheon.

▣ "bowed down. . .stoops over" There is a play on the concept "bow down" (BDB 505, KB 499). It relates to 45:23, the deities of Babylon are bowing before YHWH the Creator.

▣ "you carry. . .load. . .the burden" There is a play on the word "carry" in vv. 1-2 and 3-4. First of all the idols of Babylon must be carried on beasts of burden to try to escape the Persians or in ritual marches through the street of the large cities. God carries His children, both metaphorically in the womb and later, throughout their lives (cf. v. 4). It is the inability of the Babylon gods to hear, to act versus the care, provision, and grace acts of the God of Israel, with which they are contrasted in vv. 1-4.

46:2 "But have themselves gone into captivity" Here these Babylonian idols are personified as going into captivity with their people.

3"Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
4Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you."

46:3 "Listen" This, like v. 12, is a Qal imperative (BDB 1033, KB 1570). See note at 44:1.

▣ "the remnant" See Special Topic below.


▣ "have been carried from the womb" This primarily is a reference to God as parent and Israel as child. However, it also refers to the formation of the nation of Israel beginning with the Exodus (cf. Deut. 1:31; Isa. 63:9).

46:4 "Even to your old age" God not only created Israel but will sustain her (i.e., "carry" or "bear" them, cf. Exod. 19:4; Deut. 1:31; 32:11).

▣ "I shall be the same" This (lit. I Am He, cf. NKJV) is the concept that God does not change (cf. NJB, cf. Mal. 3:6). Even though Israel has been unfaithful to the covenant, God remains faithful. He is the God of covenant loyalty. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!

▣ "And I will bear you and I will deliver you" This is a reference to the nation of Israel, but it is individualized also to every believer (singular verbs). Notice the verbs in v. 4.

1. God had created Israel (Qal perfect, BDB 793, KB 889)

2. God will continue to provide and protect

a. bear you - Qal imperfect, BDB 687, KB 741 (twice)

b. carry you - Qal imperfect, BDB 669, KB 724 (twice)

c. deliver you - Qal imperfect, BDB 572, KB 589


5"To whom would you liken Me
And make Me equal and compare Me,
That we would be alike?
6Those who lavish gold from the purse
And weigh silver on the scale
Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god;
They bow down, indeed they worship it.
7They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it;
They set it in its place and it stands there.
It does not move from its place.

Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer;
It cannot deliver him from his distress."

46:5 "To whom would you liken Me" This is the emphasis that no one can be compared with YHWH (cf. 43:11; 44:6,8; 45:6). This is a comparison between YHWH and the idols of the nations (cf. Isa. 40:18-20; 44:9-20).

Notice the parallelism.

1. to whom would you liken Me - Piel imperfect (BDB 197, KB 225)

2. and make Me equal - Hiphil imperfect (BDB 1000, KB 1436)

3. and compare Me - Hiphil imperfect (BDB 605, KB 647)

4. that we should be alike - Qal imperfect (BDB 197, KB 225)

YHWH is unique! He is the ever-living, only-living, one true God (see Special Topic: Monotheism at 40:14). Also note the theological concept of Trinity at the Special Topic at 40:13.

46:6-7 These two verses are the contrast between the one true God of v. 5 and the idols of the nations.

1. people give money to make images and then bow down and worship them (v. 6)

2. they then move them here and there but they cannot move themselves; the idols cannot deliver (v. 7)


8"Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
9Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, 'My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';
11Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it."

46:8 "Remember" This verse and the first line of v. 9 contain a series of imperatives.

1. remember, v. 8 - Qal imperative (BDB 269, KB 269)

2. be assured, v. 8 - Hithpoel imperative (BDB 84, KB 100)

3. recall, v. 8 - Hiphil imperative (BDB 996, KB 1427)

4. remember, v. 9 - same as #1

Number 2 is a rare form. The Aramaic Targums translate it as "take courage," possibly from a related Arabic root (cf. Leupold, p. 145).

▣ "you transgressors" This shows that some in Israel still had doubts about the way God was performing His task of redemption (cf. 45:9-11, the book of Habakkuk). This same group is referred to in v. 12 as "the stubborn minded" of the Jewish people.

46:9 "the former things long past" This could refer to

1. YHWH's ancient covenant with Abraham (cf. 43:18; 65:17; Jer. 16:14; 23:7)

2. YHWH's acts of birthing (i.e., the Exodus) them

3. Israel's ancient promise to be loyal and abide by the covenant (cf. Deut. 32:7)

4. YHWH's proof of His existence by predicting the future (cf. vv. 10,11; 42:9)


▣ "For I am God" See note at v. 5.

46:10-11 Again, God is using the example of predictive prophecy to show that He is in control of history. The emphasis on His purposes, mentioned so often in vv. 10-11, shows that history is not random but has a divine purpose (i.e., teleological; cf. Isa. 14:24,26; 25:1). This assurance of YHWH fulfilling His Divine Plan is also seen in 14:24; 25:1; 40:8; 55:11 (see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed., pp. 371-390).

The phrase in 10a is theologically parallel to 41:4; 44:6; 48:12. YHWH is the "present one" from the "very" beginning to the "very" end (i.e., the first and last)!

12"Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
Who are far from righteousness.
13I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
And My salvation will not delay.
And I will grant salvation in Zion,
And My glory for Israel."

46:12-13 This is a very important passage and shows that God will have mercy even on unbelieving Israel. This shows that the Jewish people did not deserve God's love and mercy. Many of them were still stubborn and stiff-necked (cf. 48:4), but God brought salvation to them because of Who He is and not because of who they are (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38). This is the New Covenant model (cf. Jer. 31:31-34).


LXX, Peshitta"righteousness"
NJB"saving justice. . . justice"

The Hebrew word used twice is "righteousness" (BDB 842). BDB says it is used of the salvation of God (#6a), Isa. 45:8; 46:13; 51:6.

The Hebrew term "salvation" (BDB 448) is parallel in v. 13b.

This is literally

1. My counsel (BDB 420) will stand - BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperfect

2. All My purpose (BDB 481 construct 343), I will accomplish - BDB 793 I, KB 889, Qal imperfect


▣ "Who are far from" This description of God's covenant people is contrasted with the nearness ("it is not far off," v. 13b) of YHWH's deliverance

1. through Cyrus II (temporal)

2. through the Messiah (eschatological)


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