Isaiah 46:2
They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
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(2) They could not deliver the burden.—The deities are, for the moment, distinguished from their images. They are powerless to rescue them. So far as they have a soul or being at all, that very being is carried away captive.

46:1-4 The heathen insulted the Jews, as if their idols Bel and Nebo were too hard for Jehovah. But their worshippers cannot help them; both the idols and the idolaters are gone into captivity. Let not God's people be afraid of either. Those things from which ungodly men expect safety and happiness, will be found unable to save them from death and hell. The true God will never fail his worshippers. The history of the life of every believer is a kind of abstract of the history of Israel. Our spiritual life is upheld by his grace, as constantly as our natural life by his providence. And God will never leave them. The Author will be the Finisher of their well-being, when, by decays, they need help as much as in infancy. This promise to Israel, enfeebled and grown old as a nation, is applicable to every aged follower of Christ. When compassed about with infirmities, and perhaps those around begin to grow weary of you, yet I am He that I have promised to be, He that you would have me to be. I will bear you up; carry you on in your way, and carry you home at last. If we learn to trust in and love him, we need not be anxious about our remaining days or years; he will still provide for us and watch over us, both as the creatures of his power, and as new-created by his Spirit.They stoop - Bel, and Nebo, and all the Babylonian gods (see Isaiah 46:1).

They could not deliver the burden - The word 'burden' here, probably means the load of metal, wood, and stone, of which the idols were composed. The gods whom the Babylonians worshipped had not even power to protect the images which were made to represent them, and which had now become a heavy burden to the animals and wains which were carrying them away. They could not rescue them from the hands of the conqueror; and how unable were they, therefore, to defend those who put their trust in them. The Vulgate renders this, 'They could not deliver him that bare them.' The Septuagint, 'You are carrying them like a burden bound on the weary, faint, and hungry; who are all without strength, and unable to escape from battle; and as for them, they are carried away captives!'

But themselves - Margin, as Hebrew, 'Their soul.' The sense is, that the gods thus worshipped, so far from being able to defend those who worshipped them, had themselves become captive, and were borne to a distant land.

2. deliver—from the enemies' hands.

burden—their images laid on the beasts (Isa 46:1).

themselves—the gods, here also distinguished from their images.

They; either,

1. The idols, of whom these words are used, Isaiah 46:1. Or,

2. The Babylonians, who are sufficiently implied in that expression, their idols, Isaiah 46:1.

They bow down together; either,

1. One as well as another; or,

2. The Babylonians and their idols together, neither could help the other.

They could not deliver the burden; either,

1. The idols could not deliver themselves, who were now a burden to the beasts, and carried away by them; or,

2. The Babylonians could not deliver their idols, which he now had called burdens. And this sense seems most probable from the following clause, which clearly speaks of the same persons or things; but themselves, &c., Heb. their souls; for although the soul is here put for the person, as it commonly is, yet that title is never given to any idol or lifeless thing, but only to such creatures as have or had souls within their bodies. So the meaning of this and the foregoing verse is this, that neither the Babylonians nor their idols could either save themselves or one another, but both are bowed down and gone into captivity together. They stoop, they bow together,.... Either the beasts under their burdens, or other idols besides those mentioned; or rather the Babylonians themselves, who were obliged to submit to the conquerors:

they could not deliver the burdens; the idols could not save themselves from being laid as burdens upon the beasts, any more than they could save their worshippers: so the Targum understands this and the preceding clause of them;

"they are cut off, and cut to pieces together, they could not deliver those that carried them;''

or else the Babylonians are designed, who could not save their gods from being used in this shameful manner:

but themselves are gone into captivity, or "their souls" (m); what were as dear to them as their own souls, their idols; to whom also souls may be ascribed by way of derision, being inanimate as well as irrational; and it is not unusual for idols to be said to be carried captive; hence those words of Tertullian, "manent et simulachra caplira": or rather the Babylonians, who went into captivity themselves, and so could not save their idols: thus they who had led captive the Jews are led captive themselves; and thus it will be with mystical Babylon, Revelation 13:10.

(m) "et animae eorum", V. L. Munster, Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius.

{c} They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but {d} themselves have gone into captivity.

(c) The beasts that carried the idols fell down under their burden.

(d) He derides the idols, who had neither soul nor sense.

2. they could not deliver] i.e. cause to escape.

themselves are gone into captivity] The distinction allowed between the gods and their images is an ironical concession to heathen modes of thought. The fact that the gods are unable to save their own images means that they have vanished. The recently discovered inscriptions have shewn, however, that the idols of Babylon had nothing to fear from Cyrus.Verse 2. - They stoop, they bow down together; i.e. all the Babylonian gods would suffer equally - not one would be able to protect himself. They could not deliver the burden. A distinction is here made between the god and the idol, which have hitherto been identified. The god was, in each case, unable to deliver, or save from capture, the heavy "burden" of gold, or silver, or bronze (i.e. his own image) which was carried off on the back of the "weary beast." On the contrary, the gods themselves - the "souls" of the images, immanent in them - were carried off with the images into captivity. The salvation of Israel, foretold and realized by Jehovah, becomes at the same time the salvation of the heathen world. "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye escaped of the heathen! Irrational are they who burden themselves with the wood of their idol, and pray to a god that bringeth no salvation. Make known, and cause to draw near; yea, let them take counsel together: Who has made such things known from the olden time, proclaimed it long ago? have not I, Jehovah? and there is no Deity beside me; a God just, and bringing salvation: there is not without me!" The fulness of the Gentiles, which enters into the kingdom of God, is a remnant of the whole mass of the heathen: for salvation comes through judgment; and it is in the midst of great calamities that the work of that heathen mission is accomplished, which is represented in these prophecies on the one hand as the mission of Cyrus, and on the other hand as the mission of Jehovah and His servant. Hence this summons to listen to the self-assertion of the God of revelation, is addressed to the escaped of the heathen, who are not therefore the converted, but those who are susceptible of salvation, and therefore spared. By "the heathen" (haggōyı̄m) Knobel understands the allies and auxiliaries of the Babylonians, whom Cyrus put to flight (according to the Cyropaedia) before his Lydian campaign. But this is only an example of that exaggerated desire to turn everything into history, which not only prevented his seeing the poetry of the form, but obscured the fact that prophecy is both human and divine. For the future was foreshortened to the telescopic glance of the prophet, so that he could not see it in all its length and breadth. He saw in one mass what history afterwards unrolled; and then behind the present he could just see as it were the summit of the end, although a long eventful way still lay between the two. Accordingly, our prophet here takes his stand not at the close of any particular victory of Cyrus, but at the close of all his victories; and, in his view, these terminate the whole series of catastrophes, which are outlived by a remnant of the heathen, who are converted to Jehovah, and thus complete the final glory of the restored people of God. Throughout the whole of these prophecies we see immediately behind the historical foreground this eschatological background lifting up its head. The heathen who have been preserved will assemble together; and from the fact that Jehovah proves Himself the sole foreteller of the events that are now unfolding themselves, they will be brought to the conviction that He is the only God. The hithpael hithnaggēsh does not occur anywhere else. On the absolute ידע לא, see at Isaiah 44:9 (cf., Isaiah 1:3). To the verb haggı̄shū we must supply, as in Isaiah 41:22, according to the same expression in Isaiah 45:21, עצּמתיכם (your proofs). "This" refers to the fall of Babylon and redemption of Israel - salvation breaking through judgment. On mē'âz, from the olden time, compare Isaiah 44:8. God is "a just God and a Saviour," as a being who acts most stringently according to the demands of His holiness, and wherever His wrath is not wickedly provoked, sets in motion His loving will, which is ever concerned to secure the salvation of men.
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