Isaiah 47:15
Thus shall they be to you with whom you have labored, even your merchants, from your youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save you.
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(15) Thy merchants, from thy youth . . .—The commerce of Babylon is specially prominent in all descriptions. (Comp. Herod. i. 194-196; Ezekiel 17:4.) The time was coming when those who had thronged her markets would desert her and leave her to her desolation.

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.With whom thou hast labored - The multitude of diviners, astrologers, and merchants, with whom thou hast been connected and employed. The idea is, that Babylon had been the mart where all of them had been assembled.

Even thy merchants from thy youth - Babylon was favorably situated for traffic; and was distinguished for it. Foreigners and strangers had resorted there, and it was filled with those who had come there for purposes of trade. The sense here is, that the same destruction which would come upon the diviners, would come on all who had been engaged there in traffic and merchandise. It does not mean that the individuals who were thus engaged would be destroyed, but that destruction would come upon the business; it would come in spite of all the efforts of the astrologers, and in spite of all the mercantile advantages of the place. The destruction would be as entire as if a fire should pass over stubble, and leave not a coal or a spark. What a striking description of the total ruin of the commercial advantages of Babylon!

From thy youth - From the very foundation of the city.

They shall wander every one to his own quarter - All shall leave Babylon, and it shall be utterly forsaken as a place of commerce, and all who have been engaged in mercantile transactions there shall go to other places. The phrase, 'his own quarter' (לעברו le‛eberô), means, "to his own way;" they shall be driven from Babylon, and wander to other places. They shall flee from the danger; and if they practice their arts, or engage in commerce, it shall be done in other places besides Babylon.

None shall save thee - How truly this was fulfilled need not here be stated. All its arts of astrology, its wealth, its mercantile advantages, the strength of its walls and gates, were insufficient to save it, and now it lies a wide waste - a scene of vast and doleful ruin (see the notes at Isaiah 13; 14) So certainly will all the predictions of God be accomplished; so vain are the arts and devices of man, the strength of fortifications, and the advantages for commerce, when God purposes to inflict his vengeance on a guilty nation. The skill of astrology, the advantages of science, accumulated treasures, brass gates and massive walls, and commercial advantages, the influx of foreigners, and a fertile soil, cannot save it. All these things are in the hands of God; and he can withdraw them when he pleases. Babylon once had advantages for commerce equal to most of the celebrated marts now of Europe and America. So had Palmyra, and Tyre, and Baalbec, and Petra, and Alexandria, and Antioch. Babylon was in the midst of a country as fertile by nature as most parts of the United States. She had as little prospect of losing the commerce of the world, and of ceasing to be a place of wealth and power, as Paris, or London, or Liverpool, or New York. Yet how easy was it for God, in the accomplishment of his plans, to turn away the tide of her prosperity, and reduce her to ruins.

How easy, in the arrangements of his providence, to spread desolation over all the once fertile plains of Chaldea, and to make those plains pools of water. And so with equal ease, if he pleases, and by causes as little known as were those which destroyed Babylon, can he take away the commercial advantages of any city now on earth. Tyre has lost all its commercial importance; the richly-laden caravan has ceascd to pause at Petra; Tadmor lies waste. Baalbec is known only by the far-strewed ruins, and Nineveh and Babylon are stripped of all. that ever made them great, and can rise no more. God has taken away the importance and the power of Rome, once, like Babylon, the mistress of the world, by suffering the malaria to desolate all the region in her vicinity; and so with equal truth, all that contributes to the commercial importance of New York, Philadelphia, Boston, London, or Paris, are under the control of God. By some secret causes he could make these cities a wide scene of ruins; and they may be, if they are like Babylon and Tyre and Tadmor in their character, yet like them in their doom. They should feel that the sources of their prosperity and their preservation are not in themselves, but in the favor and protection of God. Virtue, justice, and piety, will better preserve them than wealth; and without these they must be, in spite of their commercial advantages, what the once celebrated cities of antiquity now are.

15. Thus, &c.—Such shall be the fate of those astrologers who cost thee such an amount of trouble and money.

thy merchants, from thy youth—that is, with whom thou hast trafficked from thy earliest history, the foreigners sojourning in Babylon for the sake of commerce (Isa 13:14; Jer 51:6, 9; Na 3:16, 17) [Barnes]. Rather, the astrologers, with whom Babylon had so many dealings (Isa 47:12-14) [Horsley].

to his quarter—literally, "straight before him" (Eze 1:9, 12). The foreigners, whether soothsayers or merchants, shall flee home out of Babylon (Jer 50:16).

Thus, such comfortless and helpless creatures, shall they be; either,

1. Thy merchants, as it follows, with whom thou hast trafficked. Or,

2. Thy sorcerers, astrologers, &c., with whom they are said to have laboured, both here and Isaiah 47:12, who also may possibly be called their merchants, because they traded so much with them, and because of their deceitful practices; for which Ephraim is called a merchant, Hosea 12:7. And so the following clause may be rendered, who have been

thy merchants from thy youth. Or the last clause may be understood of merchants, properly so called, who came from several countries to trade with Babylon, as is noted in Scripture, and by other authors; and the verse may be thus rendered; Thus (vain and unprofitable) shall they (thy sorcerers, &c.) with whom thou hast laboured be unto thee: (so here is only a transposition of words, than which nothing is more usual in Scripture. Then follows another matter in the next clause:) also

thy merchants, or they with whom thou hast traded from thy youth, shall wander every one to his own quarter. None shall save thee; they shall all leave thee, and flee away with all possible speed to their several countries and habitations. Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured,.... In training them up in those arts, and in consulting with them in cases of difficulty; in which they were of no service, and now in time of danger as useless as stubble, or a blaze of straw:

even thy merchants from thy youth; either the above astrologers and diviners, who had been with them from the beginning of their state; and who had made merchandise of them, and were become rich as merchants by telling fortunes, and predicting things to come by the stars; which sense our version leads to by supplying the word "even"; or rather merchants in a literal sense, which Babylon abounded with from the first building of it; it being the metropolis of the empire, and the mart of nations: these, upon the destruction of the city,

shall wander everyone to his quarter, or "passage" (y); to the country from whence they came, and to the passage in that part of the city which led unto it; or to the passage over the river Euphrates, which ran through the city; or to the next port, from whence they might have a passage by shipping to their own land: it denotes the fright and fugitive state in which merchants, from other countries, should be in, when this calamity should come upon Babylon; that they should leave their effects, flee for their lives, and wander about till they got a passage over to their native place, and be of no service to the Chaldeans, as follows:

none shall save thee: neither astrologers nor merchants; so the merchants of mystical Babylon will get without the city, and stand afar off, and lament her sad case, but will not be able to help her, Revelation 18:15.

(y) "ad vel in transitum suum", Tigurine version.

Thus shall they be to thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his {n} quarter; none shall save thee.

(n) They will flee everyone to that place, which he thought by his speculations to be most sure: but that will deceive them.

15. with whom thou hast laboured] See on Isaiah 47:12.

thy merchants] Cf. Nahum 3:16 f., and see on ch. Isaiah 13:14. The abrupt introduction of merchants here is somewhat perplexing, especially after the adverb “so”; but the word never means anything else in Hebrew; and the context requires that some new persons should be understood, since the astrologers have perished in the fire, while these make their escape. It may however be used in a wide sense, of nations that trafficked with Babylon.

every one to his quarter] Rather: each straight before him; cf. Ezekiel 1:9 (the cherubim went “everyone straight forward.”).Verse 15. - Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured. The foreigners who have participated in the toils and labours of Babylon shall share in her punishment. The flame of judgment shall not spare even them. Even thy merchants. Babylonian commerce is the subject of an important chapter in Heeren's 'Asiatic Nations' (vol. 2, pp. 190-260), and is discussed also in the present writer's 'Egypt and Babylon' (ch. 8, pp. 127-144). It was carried on both by land and sea, and was very extensive, including both a large import and a large export trade. Her merchants were, in part natives, in part foreigners. It is the latter who are here specially intended. Seeing the gradual closing in upon Babylon of the Persian armies, and anticipating the worst, they fly in haste from the doomed city, each one making for his own country, and having no thought of interposing to save the people which have so long encouraged and protected them. Probably the greater number of these foreign merchants were either Phoenicians or Arabians. They shall wander every one to his quarter. Not his own quarter of the town, but his own quarter of the earth; i.e. his own country (comp. Isaiah 13:14, "They shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.").

A third strophe of this proclamation of punishment is opened here with ועתה, on the ground of the conduct censured. "And now hear this, thou voluptuous one, she who sitteth so securely, who sayeth in her heart, I am it, and none else: I shall not sit a widow, nor experience bereavement of children. And these two will come upon thee suddenly in one day: bereavement of children and widowhood; they come upon thee in fullest measure, in spite of the multitude of thy sorceries, in spite of the great abundance of thy witchcrafts. Thou trustedst in thy wickedness, saidst, No one seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, they led thee astray; so that thou saidst in thy heart, I am it, and none else. And misfortune cometh upon thee, which thou dost not understand how to charm away: and destruction will fall upon thee, which thou canst not atone for; there will come suddenly upon thee ruin which thou suspectest not." In the surnames given to Babylon here, a new reason is assigned for the judgment - namely, extravagance, security, and self-exaltation. עדין is an intensive from of עדן (lxx τρυφερά). The i of אפסי is regarded by Hahn as the same as we meet with in אתּי equals אתּ; but this is impossible here with the first person. Rosenmller, Ewald, Gesenius, and others, take it as chirek compaginis, and equivalent to עוד אין, which would only occur in this particular formula. Hitzig supposes it to be the suffix of the word, which is meant as a preposition in the sense of et praeter me ultra (nemo); but this nemo would be omitted, which is improbable. The more probable explanation is, that אפס signifies absolute non-existence, and when used as an adverb, "exclusively, nothing but," e.g., קצהוּ אפס, nothing, the utmost extremity thereof, i.e., only the utmost extremity of it (Numbers 23:13; cf., Numbers 22:35). But it is mostly used with a verbal force, like אין (אין), (utique) non est (see Isaiah 45:14); hence אפסי, like איני, (utique) non sum. The form in which the presumption of Babylon expresses itself, viz., "I (am it), and I am absolutely nothing further," sounds like self-deification, by the side of similar self-assertion on the part of Jehovah (Isaiah 45:5-6; Isaiah 14:21, Isaiah 14:22 and Isaiah 46:9). Nineveh speaks in just the same way in Zephaniah 2:15; compare Martial: "Terrarum Dea gentiumque Roma cui par est nihil et nihil secundum." Babylon also says still further (like the Babylon of the last days in Revelation 18:7): "I shall not sit as a widow (viz., mourning thus in solitude, Lamentations 1:1; Lamentations 3:28; and secluded from the world, Genesis 38:11), nor experience the loss of children" (orbitatem). She would become a widow, if she should lose the different nations, and "the kings of the earth who committed fornication with her" (Revelation 18:9); for her relation to her own king cannot possibly be thought of, inasmuch as the relation in which a nation stands to its temporal king is never thought of as marriage, like that of Jehovah to Israel. She would also be a mother bereaved of her children, if war and captivity robbed her of her population. But both of these would happen to her suddenly in one day, so that she would succumb to the weight of the double sorrow. Both of them would come upon her kethummâm (secundum integritatem eorum), i.e., so that she would come to learn what the loss of men and the loss of children signified in all its extent and in all its depth, and that in spite of (בּ, with, equivalent to "notwithstanding," as in Isaiah 5:25; not "through equals on account of," since this tone is adopted for the first time in Isaiah 47:10) the multitude of its incantations, and the very great mass (‛ŏtsmâh, an inf. noun, as in Isaiah 30:19; Isaiah 55:2, used here, not as in Isaiah 40:29, in an intensive sense, but, like ‛âtsūm, as a parallel word to rabh in a numerical sense) of its witchcrafts (chebher, binding by means of incantations, κατάδεσμος). Babylonia was the birth-place of astrology, from which sprang the twelve-fold division of the day, the horoscope and sun-dial (Herod. ii. 109); but it was also the home of magic, which pretended to bind the course of events, and even the power of the gods, and to direct them in whatever way it pleased (Diodorus, ii. 29). Thus had Babylon trusted in her wickedness (Isaiah 13:11), viz., in the tyranny and cunning by which she hoped to ensure perpetual duration, with the notion that she was exalted above the reach of any earthly calamity.

She thought, "None seeth me" (non est videns me), thus suppressing the voice of conscience, and practically denying the omnipotence and omnipresence of God. ראני (with a verbal suffix, videns me, whereas ראי saere in Genesis 16:3 signifies videns mei equals meus), also written ראני, is a pausal form in half pause for ראני (Isaiah 29:15). Tzere passes in pause both into pathach (e.g., Isaiah 42:22), and also, apart from such hithpael forms as Isaiah 41:16, into kametz, as in קימנוּ (Job 22:20, which see). By the "wisdom and knowledge" of Babylon, which had turned her aside from the right way, we are to understand her policy, strategy, and more especially her magical arts, i.e., the mysteries of the Chaldeans, their ἐπιχώριοι φιλόσοφοι (Strabo, xxi. 1, 6). On hōvâh (used here and in Ezekiel 7:26, written havvâh elsewhere), according to its primary meaning, "yawning," χαῖνον, then a yawning depth, χάσμα, utter destruction, see at Job 37:6. שׁאה signifies primarily a desert, or desolate place, here destruction; and hence the derivative meaning, waste noise, a dull groan. The perfect consec. of the first clause precedes its predicate רעה in the radical form בא (Ges., 147, a). With the parallelism of כּפּרהּ, it is not probable that שׁחרהּ, which rhymes with it, is a substantive, in the sense of "from which thou wilt experience no morning dawn" (i.e., after the night of calamity), as Umbreit supposes. The suffix also causes some difficulty (hence the Vulgate rendering, ortum ejus, sc. mali); and instead of תדעי, we should expect תראי. In any case, shachrâh is a verb, and Hitzig renders it, "which thou wilt not know how to unblacken;" but this privative use of shichēr as a word of colour would be without example. It would be better to translate it, "which thou wilt not know how to spy out" (as in Isaiah 26:9), but better still, "which thou wilt not know how to conjure away" (shichēr equals Arab. sḥḥr, as it were incantitare, and here incantando averruncare). The last relative clause affirms what shachrâh would state, if understood according to Isaiah 26:9 : destruction which thou wilt not know, i.e., which will come suddenly and unexpectedly.

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