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Isaiah 47

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Lament For Babylon The Humiliation of Babylon Lamentation Over Babylon Judgment On Babylon Lament For Babylon
47:1-7  (1-7) 47:1-3  (1-3) 47:1-4  (1-4) 47:1-3  (1-3) 47:1-3  (1-3)
  47:4  (4)   47:4  (4) 47:4-7  (4-7)
  47:5-7  (5-7) 47:5-7  (5-7) 47:5-7  (5-7)  
47:8-11  (8-11) 47:8-9  (8-9) 47:8-9  (8-9) 47:8-9  (8-9) 47:8-15  (8-15)
  47:10-11  (10-11) 47:10-13  (10-13) 47:10-13  (10-13)  
47:12-15  (12-15) 47:12-15  (12-15)      
    47:14-15  (14-15) 47:14-15  (14-15)  

READING CYCLE THREE

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. If chapter 46 emphasized the fall of the Babylonian idols, then chapter 47 describes the fall of the empire itself (i.e., the city of Babylon) along with its occult prophets and priests.

B. Verses 1-7 have a series of imperatives directed at Babylon, depicted as a prostitute/queen.

1. come down, v. 1 - Qal imperative (BDB 432, KB 434)

2. sit in the dust, v. 1 - Qal imperative (BDB 442, KB 444)

3. sit on the ground, v. 1 - same as #2 (notice the number of times this term is used in vv. 1 [twice],5, 8 [twice])

4. take, v. 2 - Qal imperative (BDB 542, KB 534)

5. grind, v. 2 - Qal imperative (BDB 377, KB 374)

6. remove your veil, v. 2 - Piel imperative (BDB 162, KB 191)

7. strip off the skirt, v. 2 - Qal imperative (BDB 362, KB 359)

8. uncover the leg, v. 2 - Piel imperative (BDB 162, KB 191)

9. cross the river, v. 2 - Qal imperative (BDB 716, KB 778)

10. let your nakedness be uncovered, v. 3 - Niphal jussive (BDB 162, KB 191)

11. sit silently, v. 5 - same as #3,4

12. go into darkness, v. 5 - Qal imperative (BDB 97, KB 112)

C. The prophetic literary form of this chapter is a "funeral dirge." It is recognized by its unique beat/meter in Hebrew (3, 2 beat, like the poems of Lamentations). It is a funeral lament but in a sarcastic sense (Taunt Song).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 47:1-7
1"Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate.
2Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil, strip off the skirt,
Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.
3Your nakedness will be uncovered,
Your shame also will be exposed;
I will take vengeance and will not spare a man."
4Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name,
The Holy One of Israel.
5"Sit silently, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans,
For you will no longer be called
The queen of kingdoms.
6I was angry with My people,
I profaned My heritage
And gave them into your hand.
You did not show mercy to them,
On the aged you made your yoke very heavy.
7Yet you said, 'I will be a queen forever.'
These things you did not consider
Nor remember the outcome of them.

47:1 "Come down" This is one of three literary models used by the Hebrew prophets to communicate their divine messages.

1. funeral dirge

2. court scene

3. promise oracle

 

▣ "O virgin daughter of Babylon" This was a Semitic idiom of security and preciousness in family metaphors. She (the Neo-Babylonian Empire) who was so secure and protected, has now become vulnerable.

▣ "sit in the dust. . .sit on the ground without a throne" This is literally "sit" (BDB 442, cf. vv. 1[twice],5,8 [twice]). It was one of the physical signs of mourning.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES

▣ "Chaldeans" This is parallel to "Babylon," see note at 43:14.

▣ "shall no longer be called tender and delicate" These two terms (BDB 940 and 772) are used in Deut. 28:56 for luxurious, extravagant living. This is contrasted with vv. 2-3, where she is now

1. a slave

2. a prostitute

 

47:2-3 This is a series of phrases used to describe one who used to be the queen of the nations (vv. 5,7) and is now a slave.

1. she grinds meal, v. 2

2. she removes her veil, v. 2

3. she had to prepare her clothes for hard labor, v. 2

4. she had to cross the rivers herself and not be carried (possibly into exile), v. 2

5. her nakedness was uncovered, v. 3

a. as a punishment for sin (cf. 20:4)

b. simply the lot of slaves who were poorly clad and sexually vulnerable

 

47:3

NASB"and will not spare a man"
NKJV"I will not arbitrate with a man"
NRSV"I will spare no one"
TEV"no one will stop me"
NJB"no one stands in My way"
JPSOA"let no man intercede"
REB"show clemency to none"

This is somewhat ambiguous but the term (BDB 803) had an etymological relationship to prayerful intercession (cf. 53:12; 59:16; Jer. 36:25). It seems to mean that no one could intercede for Babylon or that no human was powerful enough in prayer to stop YHWH's predetermined plan for her judgment.

47:4 This is an exclamation from the author which interjects itself into the flow of poetry. Three of the beautiful titles for God are seen here as the prophet praises God for Who He is. The titles are

1. Redeemer - an emphasis on God as Savior; He is the One who buys people back from slavery

2. Lord of hosts - a Persian title which focuses on one of two areas

a. the angelic council, Isa. 24:21-22

b. the astral deities of Babylon, Isa. 40:26

3. the Holy One of Israel - the title for God who will bring this to pass on behalf of His people

 

47:5 "Sit silently, and go into darkness" This major world power has now become a peasant. This verse tells her to seek obscurity and be silent (two imperatives).

▣ "The queen of kingdoms" This is an idiom of Neo-Babylon's view of itself and its power (cf. v. 7). The queen has become a sex slave (cf. vv. 2-3,8a). What she did to exiles will now happen to her (i.e., divinely caused role reversal).

It is just possible that this idiom relates to Nabonidus leading Neo-Babylon away from Marduk to the worship of the moon goddess called "the Queen of heaven." She was called Sin (Akkadian) or Nanna (Summerian).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MOON WORSHIP

47:6 "I was angry with My people" This explains why the Jews were taken into exile. In the ancient world the deity of the nation protected them. The fact that both Israel and Judah were taken captive was seen by the world as the gods of the Fertile Crescent being more powerful than the God of Israel, but this was not the case. God was using the powers of the Fertile Crescent to judge His people for their sin (cf. 42:24).

▣ "You did not show mercy on them" Although God gave His people to Assyria and Babylon in order to punish them, they went too far and now they will be judged for their lack of mercy.

47:7 "These things you did not consider

Nor remember the outcome of them"

The two verbs are Qal perfects, which denote a settled attitude.

1. did not consider, lit. "did not lay these things to heart"

2. did not remember their end

Notice how v. 8 continues the thought.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 47:8-11
8"Now, then, hear this, you sensual one,
Who dwells securely,
Who says in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one besides me.
I will not sit as a widow,
Nor know loss of children.'
 9But these two things will come on you suddenly in one day:
Loss of children and widowhood.
They will come on you in full measure
In spite of your many sorceries,
In spite of the great power of your spells.
10You felt secure in your wickedness and said,
'No one sees me,'
Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you;
For you have said in your heart,
'I am, and there is no one besides me.'
11But evil will come on you
Which you will not know how to charm away;
And disaster will fall on you
For which you cannot atone;
And destruction about which you do not know
Will come on you suddenly."

47:8-9 "Who dwells securely. . .but these two things shall come upon you suddenly" It seems from Daniel 5 and from Herodotus that the people of Babylon laughed at the approaching Persian army. However, the Persian army rechanneled the waters of the Euphrates River, went under the walls of this magnificent city, and in one day the city fell (cf. Daniel 5). The people of Babylon saw the Persians as liberators because Belshazzar and his father, Nabonidus, had begun to worship a strange moon goddess called Sin (Nanna, see Special Topic at 47:5) and Cyrus allowed them to return to their traditional deities-Bel, Marduk, and Nebo.

47:8 "I am, and there is no one beside me" This is an obvious challenge to YHWH (cf. v. 10). Which One delivered His people? Which One is the true, unique God"

47:9 "Loss of children" Note Isa. 13:16,18. What she did to others will happen to her!

▣ "many sorceries. . .the great power of your spells" The emphasis on Babylon's occultic practices, made so specific here in v. 9, is continued in vv. 11-13. These practices are condemned in Deut. 18:9ff. For all her magical arts Babylon could not protect herself, which shows the corruptness and ineffectiveness of occult practices (i.e., the weakness of her gods).

47:10 "secure in your wickedness" The Dead Sea Scrolls change "wickedness" by changing a "d" to an "r," which makes it mean "knowledge." Either of these words fits the context.

▣ "No one sees me" This implies that they knew what they were doing was wicked and were trying to hide themselves (cf. Isa. 29:15).

47:11 "charm" This means "to bribe." Their magical charms could not bribe YHWH (cf. v. 3c).

▣ "atone" This is the Hebrew word "to cover" and is used of the OT concept of atonement as being a blood covering on the mercy seat (cf. Leviticus 16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 47:12-15
12"Stand fast now in your spells
And in your many sorceries
With which you have labored from your youth;
Perhaps you will be able to profit,
Perhaps you may cause trembling.
13You are wearied with your many counsels;
Let now the astrologers,
Those who prophesy by the stars,
Those who predict by the new moons,
Stand up and save you from what will come upon you.
14Behold, they have become like stubble,
Fire burns them;
They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame;
There will be no coal to warm by
  Nor a fire to sit before!
15So have those become to you with whom you have labored,
Who have trafficked with you from your youth;
Each has wandered in his own way;
There is none to save you."

47:12 "Perhaps you may cause trembling" Leupold adds the word "me" to show the possibility that God is telling them to see if their spells threaten Him or cause Him to tremble. This seems to be the meaning of the passage. It may, however, refer to the Persian army (NJB).

47:13 Not only are Babylon's deities helpless and humiliated (cf. vv. 1-3,5), but also her prophets and counselors/sorcerers (cf. v. 14).

NASB, NKJV,
LXX"counsels"
NRSV, NJB "consultations"
TEV "advise"

This is the same Hebrew word (BDB 420) that is translated "purpose" in 46:10,11. This may be a contrast between YHWH's plans/purposes that will come to pass and the faulty, weak, ineffective plans/purposes of the Babylonian religious elite!

No one "counseled" YHWH (cf. 40:13). He always fulfills His plans (cf. 44:26; 46:10,11).

NASB, NKJV,
TEV, NJB,
LXX"astrologers"
NRSV "those who study the heavens"
JPSOA "scanners of heavens"
Peshitta "Chaldeans
Emphasized
Bible "the dividers of the heavens"

The MT has the Qal perfect of BDB 211, KB 237 (ketiv), which seems to mean "to divide" from an Arabic root. The Masoretic scholars suggested that the Qal participle of the same root be read (qere). If this is accurate then it is parallel with "those who gaze at the stars" (i.e., astrologers).

 47:14 "There will be no coal to warm by,

Nor a fire to sit before"

Fire is used here as a judgment on the occultic practices of Babylon. Fire did have domestic purposes for cooking food and keeping warm, but this fire will be a fire of judgment.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the play between Isa. 45:23 and 46:1-2?

2. What is the word play between Isa. 46:1-2 and 46:3-4?

3. List the number of ways that monotheism is emphasized in Isaiah 46 and 47.

4. What does 46:8 have in common with Isa. 46:12?

5. How does one reconcile God's control over history and human freedom?

6. Why is Isa. 46:12-13 important to our concept of justification by faith?

7. List the number of ways that Babylon has fallen from luxury to slavery.

8. List the types of occult practices found in Isa. 47:9-13.

 

Related Topics: Bible Study Methods