Isaiah 47:11
Therefore shall evil come on you; you shall not know from where it rises: and mischief shall fall on you; you shall not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come on you suddenly, which you shall not know.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(11) Thou shalt not be able to put it off . . .—The words have been variously rendered: (1) of which thou shalt know no dawn, i.e., after the night of calamity; and (2) which thou shalt not be able to charm away. Stress is laid on the destruction being at once unforeseen and irretrievable.

47:7-15 Let us beware of acting and speaking as Babylon did; of trusting in tyranny and oppression; of boasting as to our abilities, relying on ourselves, and ascribing success to our own prudence and wisdom; lest we partake of her plagues. Those in the height of prosperity, are apt to fancy themselves out of the reach of adversity. It is also common for sinners to think they shall be safe, because they think to be secret in wicked ways. But their security shall be their ruin. Let us draw from such passages as the foregoing, those lessons of humility and trust in God which they convey. If we believe the word of God, we may know how it will be with the righteous and the wicked to all eternity. We may learn how to escape the wrath to come, to glorify God, to have peace through life, hope in death, and everlasting happiness. Let us then stand aloof from all delusions.Therefore shall evil come upon thee - In consequence of thy pride and self-confidence; of the prevalence of corruption, licentiousness, and sin; of the prevalence of the arts of magic and of divination abounding there; and of the cruel and unfeeling oppression of the people of God; for all these crimes ruin shall come certainly and suddenly upon thee.

Thou shalt not know from whence it cometh - Margin, 'The morning thereof.' The margin expresses the true sense of the phrase. The word used here (שׁחר shachar) means "the aurora," the dawn, the morning (see the notes at Isaiah 14:12). Lowth has strangely rendered it, 'Evil shall come upon thee, which thou shalt not know how to deprecate.' But the word properly means the dawning of the morning, the aurora; and the sense is, that calamity should befall them whose rising or dawning they did not see, or anticipate. It would come unexpectedly and suddenly, like the first rays of the morning. It would spring up as if from no antecedent cause which would seem to lead to it, as the light comes suddenly out of the darkness.

And mischief - Destruction; ruin.

Thou shalt not be able to put it off - Margin, 'Expiate.' This is the sense of the Hebrew (see the notes at Isaiah 43:3). The meaning is, that they could not then avert these calamities by any sacrifices, deprecations, or prayers. Ruin would suddenly and certainly come; and they had nothing which they could offer to God as an expiation by which it could then be prevented. We need not say how strikingly descriptive this is of the destruction of Babylon. Her ruin came silently and suddenly upon her, as the first rays of morning light steal upon the world, and in such a way that she could not meet it, or turn it away.

11. from whence it riseth—Hebrew, "the dawn thereof," that is, its first rising. Evil shall come on thee without the least previous intimation [Rosenmuller]. But dawn is not applied to "evil," but to prosperity shining out after misery (Isa 21:12). Translate, "Thou shall not see any dawn" (of alleviation) [Maurer].

put … off—rather, as Margin, "remove by expiation"; it shall be never ending.

not know—unawares: which thou dost not apprehend. Proving the fallacy of thy divinations and astrology (Job 9:5; Ps 35:8).

Therefore shall evil come upon thee; or rather, when it shall come: Heb. the morning of it, the day or time of its approach. And they are justly upbraided and derided for this ignorance, because the astrologers, the star-gazers, and the monthly prognosticators, mentioned here, Isaiah 17:13, pretended punctually to foretell the particular time of all future events. And this explication agrees with the history, Babylon being surprised by Cyrus when they were in deep security, as is manifest, both from Scripture, Jeremiah 51:31 Da 5, and from other histories.

Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly; or, when thou shalt not know it. Thou shalt not apprehend thy danger till it be too late. Therefore shall evil come upon thee,.... The evil of punishment, a great calamity; so Nebuchadnezzar foretold, as Abydenus relates (o), that a calamity, should come upon the Babylonians; a day of evil, because of the above sins Babylon was guilty of:

thou shall not know from whence it riseth; from what quarter it will come, little dreaming of Cyrus, with whom the Chaldeans had had no quarrel. So mystical Babylon will not know from whence her ruin will come; little thinking that the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication with her, and have given their kingdoms to her, will hate her, and burn her flesh with fire: or, "thou shall not know the morning of it" (p): that is, on what day, or at what time, it will be. Babylon was taken when it was not thought of, as appears from the book of Daniel, and profane history. Aristotle (q) reports, that it was said, that the third day after Babylon was taken, one part of the city did not know that it was taken. Or the sense is, this day of evil and calamity should be such a dark and gloomy day, there should be no light in it, it should be as the night, and therefore its morning or light should not be known, so Aben Ezra: "and mischief shall fall upon thee"; contrived for others; the pit dug for others she should fall into herself: though the phrase seems to denote the mischief coming from above, by the hand of heaven, and suddenly and irresistibly; which should fall with weight and vengeance upon her, to the crushing and utter destruction of her:

thou shalt not be able to put it off; or, "to expiate it" (r); and atone for it, either by prayers and entreaties, which God will not regard, Isaiah 47:3 or by gifts, or by ransom price, by gold and silver, which the Medes and Persians were no lovers of, Isaiah 13:17,

and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know; that is, before hand; neither the persons from whom nor the time when it shall come; notwithstanding their astrologers, diviners, and monthly prognosticators, pretended to tell what would come to pass every day; but not being able by their art to give the least hint of Babylon's destruction, as to either time or means, the Chaldeans were in great security, quite ignorant of their ruin at hand, and which therefore came suddenly and unawares upon them; as will the destruction of mystical Babylon.

(o) Ib. c. 41. p. 456. (p) "non scis auroram ejus", Montanus, Vatablus, Cocceius; "cujus non cognoscis auroram", Vitringa. That is, as Ben Melech explains it, thou shalt not know the time of its coming; for it shall come suddenly, as a thing comes in a morning, which a man is not aware of till he sees it. (q) Politic. l. 3. c. 3.((r) "non potens placare eam", Montanus; "expiare", Tigurine version, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Cocceius, Vitringa.

Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
11. evil] is the same word as “wickedness” in Isaiah 47:10; the play on the two meanings of the word is intentional.

from whence it riseth] The literal rendering is given in R.V. “the dawning thereof.” But the metaphor is unnatural (of calamity), and the parallelism of the next line shews that an inf. must be read. A similar Arabic verb means “to charm”; accordingly most commentators now translate which thou shalt not know (how) to charm away (see R.V. marg.). Some, however, prefer a slight alteration of the text, reading “to buy off” (שׁחדהּ for שׁחרחּ; cf. the parallelism in Proverbs 6:35).

to put off] is literally to expiate, i.e. avert by an offering. “They try to avert evil and procure good, either by purifications, sacrifices, or enchantments.” (Diodorus Siculus, quoted by Lenormant, l.c. p. 12.)

which thou shalt not know] The parallelism with the other two lines of the tristich suggests that an inf. should be supplied at the end: which thou shalt not know how to … (so Duhm).Verse 11. - Therefore shall evil come upon thee. Connect this with the first clause of ver. 10, "Thou hast trusted in thine own evil (moral), therefore shall evil (physical) fall upon thee." The same word, ra'ah, is used in both places. Thou shalt not know from whence it riseth. So the Vulgate, Vitringa, Gesenius, and Dr. Kay. But the bulk of modern commentators (Hitzig, Ewald, Delitzsch, Nagelsbach, Weir, Cheyne) render, "Thou wilt not know how to charm it away." Both meanings are possible, and are almost equally good; but the parallelism of the clauses is in favour of the latter rendering. Shakhrah should correspond in construction, as in sound, with kapp'rah. To put it off; literally, to expiate; i.e. to get rid of it by means of expiatory rites. Which thou shalt not know; or, of which thou shalt not be aware. (On the carelessness and want of foresight displayed by the Babylonians, see the comment on ver. 8.) In the second strophe the penal sentence of Jehovah is continued. "Sit silent, and creep into the darkness, O Chaldeans-daughter! for men no longer call thee lady of kingdoms. I was wroth with my people; I polluted mine inheritance, and gave them into thy hand: thou hast shown them no mercy; upon old men thou laidst thy yoke very heavily. And thou saidst, I shall be lady for ever; so that thou didst not take these things to heart: thou didst not consider the latter end thereof." Babylon shall sit down in silent, brooding sorrow, and take herself away into darkness, just as those who have fallen into disgrace shrink from the eyes of men. She is looked upon as an empress (Isaiah 13:9; the king of Babylon called himself the king of kings, Ezekiel 26:7), who has been reduced to the condition of a slave, and durst not show herself for shame. This would happen to her, because at the time when Jehovah made use of her as His instrument for punishing His people, she went beyond the bounds of her authority, showing ho pity, and ill-treating even defenceless old men. According to Loppe, Gesenius, and Hitzig, Israel is here called zâqēn, as a decayed nation awakening sympathy; but according to the Scripture, the people of God is always young, and never decays; on the contrary, its ziqnâh, i.e., the latest period of its history (Isaiah 46:4), is to be like its youth. The words are to be understood literally, like Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12 : even upon old men, Babylon had placed the heavy yoke of prisoners and slaves. But in spite of this inhumanity, it flattered itself that it would last for ever. Hitzig adopts the reading עד גּברת, and renders it, "To all future times shall I continue, mistress to all eternity." This may possibly be correct, but it is by no means necessary, inasmuch as it can be shown from 1 Samuel 20:41, and Job 14:6, that (ד is used as equivalent to אשׁר עד, in the sense of "till the time that;" and gebhereth, as the feminine of gâbhēr equals gebher, may be the absolute quite as well as the construct. The meaning therefore is, that the confidence of Babylon in the eternal continuance of its power was such, that "these things," i.e., such punishments as those which were now about to fall upon it according to the prophecy, had never come into its mind; such, indeed, that it had not called to remembrance as even possible "the latter end of it," i.e., the inevitably evil termination of its tyranny and presumption.
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