ISAIAH CHAPTER 46
BABYLON’S IDOLS VERSUS GOD
As we have seen, Babylon would be used by God to judge Judah, but she in turn would be destroyed by God. Her gods, mere idols, would not be able to save her from defeat, and Babylon would fall in spite of her sorceries and wisdom (chapter 47).
Isaiah 46:1,2 NAS:
1 Bel 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.
2 They stooped over, they have bowed down together; They could not rescue the burden, But have themselves gone into captivity.
The Babylonian gods would not be able to save Babylon from being conquered. Bel, the chief god of Babylon, was another name for Marduk (Jeremiah 50:2), god of the sun. Nebo, the son of Marduk, was the god of learning, writing, and astronomy. Large images of those gods, carried about on Babylon’s New Year’s Day festival, were heavy and burdensome. So those idols could not help relieve the Babylonians’ burden. In striking contrast, verses 3 and 4 show us that the God of Israel sustains and carries His people.
Isaiah 46:3,4 NAS:
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;
4 Even 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.
God’s admonition to His people to listen to Him is frequent in Isaiah’s prophecies.[fn] Besides caring for and carrying His people, God also sustains them throughout their lives. From the time of conception in verse 3 to old age in verse 4, the Lord watches over His own and rescues them from trouble. God compares Himself to a nurse tenderly carrying a child as we see in Numbers 11:12.
Isaiah 46:5-7 NAS:
5 “To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike?
6 “Those 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.
7 “They 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.
Gods of gold and silver (Isaiah 40:19) cannot be compared (Isaiah 40:18, 25) to the true God because such gods are incapable of action. Pagans hired craftsmen to make heavy gods out of precious metals and then had to carry them to their resting places, from which they could not move. This is one of several times Isaiah belittled idols.[fn]
No matter how costly, graven images are helpless to deliver in a time of real crisis. But the Lord God is abundantly able to save, for he is unlike any deity known in man-made religions. Unlike the false gods, the true God can answer peoples’ prayers and save them.
Isaiah 46:8-11 NAS:
8 “Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
9 “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring 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’;
11 Calling 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.
All nonbelievers and skeptics are called to face the irrefutable objective evidence of divine prophecy and fulfillment. As Jehovah God had predicted the fall of Jerusalem, the seventy years’ exile, and the return to the homeland, it would all come to pass, fulfilling the prediction to perfection, and demonstrating that the Scripture speaks the truth of the one true and omnipotent God.
The rebellious people of Babylon were to remember that God is the only God; He is unique. Proofs of God’s uniqueness include His knowledge and control of the future (Isaiah 45:21) and His ability to bring Cyrus from the east (41:2) like a quick bird of prey to accomplish His plans. Cyrus was referred to as a bird of prey because of the rapidity of his marches from the distant regions of Persia to pounce on his prey (see Isaiah 41:2, 25). The standard of Cyrus was a golden eagle on a spear. The emphasis here is on God’s righteous deliverance of his unjustly victimized and oppressed people. This leads to an announcement of the righteousness of salvation according to which God keeps his covenant promises of deliverance for the seed of Abraham.[fn]
Isaiah 46:12,13 NAS:
12 “Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, Who are far from righteousness.
13 “I 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.
The stubborn-minded and those far from righteousness were the Babylonians ( Isaiah 45:8), who would be defeated by the Persian Empire. God would bring against the unrighteous Babylonians His righteousness, that is, Cyrus, who would carry out God’s righteous will. This would result in salvation for Zion, deliverance from exile for Jerusalem, which would mean Israel would again display God’s splendor or glory (Isaiah 44:23).[fn]
Many people think the Old Testament is out of date and should be ignored. Nothing could be further from the truth. There was only one God then and there is only one God now. God was the only one who could provide deliverance, salvation and eternal life then, and He is the only one who can provide deliverance, salvation, and eternal life now. Our nation’s future hangs on this kind of faith.
[fn] Isaiah 44:1; 46:3, 12; 47:8; 48:1, 12, 14, 16; 51:4; 52:8; 55:2 .
[fn] cf. 40:18-20; 41:7; 44:9-20; 45:16, 20; 46:1-2..
[fn] Pfeiffer, C. F. 1962. The Wycliffe Bible commentary : Old Testament . Moody Press: Chicago
[fn] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. 1983-c1985. The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures . Victor Books: Wheaton, IL