Isaiah 47:1 Commentaries: "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.
Isaiah 47:1
Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for you shall no more be called tender and delicate.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
XLVII.

(1) Come down . . .The virgin daughter of Babylon, i.e., Babylon itself, personified as till now unconquered, is called to leave her throne and sit in the dust as a menial slave. The epithets “tender” (better, perhaps, wanton) and “delicate” point to the luxury which had been identified with Babylon, and which was now to cease.

Isaiah 47:1-2. Come down — From thy throne; and sit in the dust — As a mourner for thy approaching calamities; O virgin daughter of Babylon — Thou that art tender and delicate like a virgin. Sit on the ground — In a condition the most abject and degraded. There is no throne — Namely, for thee. Imperial power is taken from thee, and translated to the Persians. Thou shalt no more be called tender — Thou shalt be reduced to the greatest hardships and miseries. Take the millstones — Thou shalt be subjected to the basest kind of slavery, which grinding at the mill was esteemed; for that work was most generally performed by slaves. The reader will observe, “they used hand-mills: water-mills were not invented till a little before the time of Augustus Cesar: wind-mills long after. It was not only the work of slaves to grind corn, but the hardest work; and often inflicted upon them as a severe punishment. And in the East it was the work of female slaves, Exodus 11:5; Exodus 12:29; (in the version of the LXX.;) Matthew 24:41. And it is the same to this day. ‘Women alone,’ says Shaw, p. 297, ‘are employed to grind their corn.’ ‘They are the female slaves,’ says Sir. J. Chardin, ‘that are generally employed in the East at those hand-mills: it is extremely laborious, and esteemed the lowest employment in the house.’” — Bishop Lowth. Uncover thy locks — Take off the ornaments wherewith such women as were of good quality used to cover and dress their heads. These are predictions of what they should be forced to do or suffer. Make bare the leg, &c. — Gird up thy garments close and short about thee, that thou mayest be fit for travelling on foot, and for passing over those rivers through which thou wilt be constrained to wade in the way to the land of thy captivity. 47:1-6 Babylon is represented under the emblem of a female in deep distress. She was to be degraded and endure sufferings; and is represented sitting on the ground, grinding at the handmill, the lowest and most laborious service. God was righteous in his vengeance, and none should interpose. The prophet exults in the Lord of hosts, as the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel. God often permits wicked men to prevail against his people; but those who cruelly oppress them will be punished.Come down - Descend from the throne; or from the seat of magnificence and power. The design of this verse has already been stated in the analysis. It is to foretell that Babylon would be humbled, and that she would be reduced from her magnificence and pride to a condition of abject wretchedness. She is therefore represented as a proud female accustomed to luxury and ease, suddenly brought to the lowest condition, and compelled to perform the most menial services.

And sit in the dust - To sit on the ground, and to cast dust on the head, is a condition often referred to in the Scriptures as expressive of humiliation and of mourning Joshua 8:6; Job 2:12; Job 10:9; Psalm 22:15; Lamentations 3:29. In this manner also, on the medals which were struck by Titus and Vespasian to commemorate the capture of Jerusalem, Jerusalem is represented under the image of a female sitting on the ground under a palm-tree, with the inscription Judaea capta (see the notes at Isaiah 3:26). The design here is, to represent Babylon as reduced to the lowest condition, and as having great occasion of grief.

O virgin daughter of Babylon - It is common in the Scriptures to speak of cities under the image of a virgin, a daughter, or a beautiful woman (see the notes at Isaiah 1:8; Isaiah 37:22; compare Lamentations 1:15; Jeremiah 31:21; Jeremiah 46:11). Kimchi supposes that the term 'virgin' is here given to Babylon, because it had remained to that time uncaptured by any foreign power; but the main purpose is doubtless to refer to Babylon as a beautiful and splendid city, and as being distinguished for delicacy, and the prevalence of what was regarded as ornamental. Gesenius supposes that the words 'virgin daughter of Babylon,' denote not Babylon itself, but Chaldea, and that the whole land or nation is personified. But the common interpretation, and one evidently more in accordance with the Scripture usage, is to refer it to the city itself.

There is no throne - Thou shalt be reduced from the throne; or the throne shall be taken away. That is, Babylon shall be no longer the seat of empire, or the capital of kingdoms. How truly this was fulfilled, needs not to be told to those who are familiar with the history of Babylon. Its power was broken when Cyrus conquered it; its walls were reduced by Darius; Seleucia rose in its stead, and took away its trade and a large portion of its inhabitants, until it was completely destroyed, so that it became for a long time a question where it had formerly stood (see the notes at Isaiah 13; Isaiah 16:1-14)

Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate - A place to which luxuries flow, amid where they abound. The allusion is to a female that bad been delicately and tenderly brought up, and that would be reduced to the lowest condition of servitude, and even of disgrace. It is possible that there may be an allusion here to the effeminacy and the consequent corruption of morals which prevailed in Babylon, and which made it a place sought with greediness by those who wished to spend their time in licentious pleasures. The corruption of Babylon, consequent on its wealth and magnificence, was almost proverbial, and was unsurpassed by any city of ancient times. The following extract from Curtius (v. 1), which it would not be proper to translate, will give some idea of the prevailing state of morals:

'Nihil urbis ejus corruptius moribus, nihil ad irritandas illiciendasque immodicas voluptates instructius. Liberos conjugesque cum hospitibus stupro coire, modo pretium flagitii detur, parentes maritique patituntur. Babylonii maxime in vinum, et quae ebrietatem sequuntur effusi sunt. Foeminarum conviva ineuntium, in principio modestus est habitus, dein summa quaeque amicula exuunt paulatimque pudorem profanant; ad ultimum (horror auribusest) ima corporum velamenta projiciunt. Nee meretricum hoc dedecus est, sed matronarum virginumque apud quas comitas habetur vulgati corporis vilitas.'

See also the description of a loathsome, disgusting, and abominable custom which prevailed nowhere else, even in the corrupt nations of antiquity, except Babylon, in Herod. i. 199. I cannot transcribe this passage. The description is too loathsome, and would do little good. Its substance is expressed in a single sentence, πασᾶν γυναῖκα ἐπιχωρίην...μιχθὴναι ἀνδρὶ ξείνῳ pasan gunaika epichōriēn...michthēnai andri cheinō. It adds to the abomination of this custom that it was connected with the rites of religion, and was a part of the worship of the gods! Strabo, speaking of this custom (iii. 348), says, Ἔθος κατά τι λόγιον ξένῳ μίγνυσθαι Ethos kata ti logion chenō mignusthai. See also Baruch 6:43, where the same custom is alluded to. For an extended description of the wealth and commerce of Babylon, see an article in the Amer. Bib. Rep. vol. vii. pp. 364-390.

CHAPTER 47

Isa 47:1-15. The Destruction of Babylon Is Represented under the Image of a Royal Virgin Brought Down in a Moment from Her Magnificent Throne to the Extreme of Degradation.

1. in the dust—(See on [824]Isa 3:26; Job 2:13; La 2:10).

virgin—that is, heretofore uncaptured [Herodotus, 1.191].

daughter of Babylon—Babylon and its inhabitants (see on [825]Isa 1:8; [826]Isa 37:22).

no throne—The seat of empire was transferred to Shushan. Alexander intended to have made Babylon his seat of empire, but Providence defeated his design. He soon died; and Seleucia, being built near, robbed it of its inhabitants, and even of its name, which was applied to Seleucia.

delicate—alluding to the effeminate debauchery and prostitution of all classes at banquets and religious rites [Curtius, 5.1; Herodotus, 1.199; Baruch, 6.43].God’s judgments upon Babylon and Chaldea; for their cruelty towards God’s people, Isaiah 47:1-6; their pride and other sins, Isaiah 47:7-10. Their enchantments shall not deliver them, Isaiah 47:11-15.

Come down from thy throne, as it follows, and sit in the dust; either necessarily, because thou shalt have no higher seat; or voluntarily, as mourners do, bewailing thine approaching calamities. O virgin daughter of Babylon; so called, either,

1. Because she had not yet been humbled and conquered; or rather,

2. Because she was tender and delicate, as the next clause informeth us. There is no throne, to wit, for thee. The empire is taken away from thee, and translated to the Persians.

Thou shalt no more be called; either be reputed so, or rather be so; for to be called is frequently put for to be, as hath been divers times noted. Thou shalt be reduced to great hardships and miseries.

Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon,.... The kingdom of Babylon is meant, as the Targum paraphrases it; or the Babylonish monarchy, called a virgin, because it had never been subdued and conquered from the first setting of it up, until it was by Cyrus; so Herodotus (c) says, this was the first time that Babylon was taken; and also because of the beauty and glory of it: but now it is called to come down from its height and excellency, and its dominion over other kingdoms, and sit in a mournful posture, and as in subjection to other princes and states, Jerom observes, that some interpret this of the city of Rome, which is mystical Babylon, and whose ruin may be hinted at under the type of literal Babylon. And though the church of Rome boasts of her purity and chastity, of her being espoused to Christ as a chaste virgin, she is no other than the great whore, the mother of harlots; and though she has reigned over the kings of the earth, the time is coming when she must come down from her throne and dignity, and sit and be rolled in the dust:

there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: that is, for her; there was a throne, but it was for Cyrus and Darius, kings of Persia, who should now possess it, when the king of Babylon should be obliged to come down from it. So the seat and throne which the dragon gave to the beast shall be taken from it, and be no more, Revelation 13:2,

for thou shall no more be called tender and delicate; or be treated in a tender and delicate manner; or live deliciously, and upon dainties, as royal personages do, Revelation 18:7.

(c) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 191.

Come down, and sit in the dust, O {a} virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no {b} throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.

(a) Which has lived in wealth and wantonness and has not yet been overcome by any enemies.

(b) Your government will be taken from you.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1. virgin daughter of Babylon] i.e. “virgin daughter, Babylon”; see on Isaiah 1:8, cf. Isaiah 37:22. The parallel phrase daughter of the Chaldœans is somewhat different. It describes Babylon as the city of (possessed by) the Chaldæans, the reigning dynasty. It might no doubt be a personification of the land of Chaldæa, like “daughter of Egypt” in Jeremiah 46:11; but this is less probable.

sit on the ground] A sign not of mourning, as in Isaiah 3:26, but of abject humiliation.

there is no throne] Render: without a throne, as R.V.

thou shalt no more be called] Lit. “thou shalt no more (be one whom) they call”; the peculiar construction being partly due to the Hebrew aversion to the use of the passive.

tender and delicate] See Deuteronomy 28:56, “the tender and delicate woman which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground.”

1–4. The first strophe consists of a tristich (Isaiah 47:1) followed (on Duhm’s reconstruction) by two distichs. The leading thought is the degradation of Babylon from her position of ease and luxury.Verses 1-15. - A SONG OF TRIUMPH OVER THE FALL OF BABYLON. The song divides itself into four strophes, or stanzas - the first one of four verses (vers. 1-4); the second of three (vers. 5-7); the third of four (Vers. 8-11); and the fourth also of four (vers. 12-15). The speaker is either Jehovah (see ver. 3, ad fin.) or "a chorus of celestial beings" (Cheyne), bent on expressing their sympathy with Israel Verse 1. - Come down, and sit in the dust; i.e. "descend to the lowest depth of humiliation" (comp. Isaiah 3:26 and Job 2:8). O virgin daughter of Babylon. The "virgin daughter of Babylon" is the Babylonian people as distinct from the city (comp. Isaiah 23:12). "Virgin" does not mean "unconquered;" for Babylon had been taken by the Assyrians some half-dozen times ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2, pp. 58, 130, 149, 157, 164, 175, etc.). Sit on the ground: there is no throne; rather, sit on the ground throneless, or without a throne. Hitherto the "virgin daughter" had sat, as it were, on a throne, ruling the nations. Now she must sit on the ground - there was no throne left for her. It is the fact that Babylon was never, after her capture by Cyrus, the capital. of a kingdom. Under the Achsemenian kings she was the residence of the court for a part of the year; but Susa was the capital. Under Alexander she was designated for his capital; but he died before his designs could be carried out. Under the Seleucidae she rapidly dwindled in consequence, until she became a ruin. Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate; or, delicate and luxurious (Cheyne). Babylon had hitherto been one of the chief seats of Oriental luxury. She was "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency" (Isaiah 13:19), "the golden city" (Isaiah 14:4). She was given to revelry and feasting, to mirth and drunkenness, to a shameless licensed debauchery (Herod., 1. 199; Baruch 6:43). All this would now be changed. Her population would have to perform the hard duties laid upon them by foreign masters. The second admonition is addressed to those who would imitate the heathen. "Remember this, and become firm, take it to heart, ye rebellious ones! Remember the beginning from the olden time, that I am God, and none else: Deity, and absolutely none like me: proclaiming the issue from the beginning, and from ancient times what has not yet taken place, saying, My counsel shall stand, and all my good pleasure I carry out: calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a distant land: not only have I spoken, I also bring it; I have purposed it, I also execute it." The object to which "this" points back is the nothingness of idols and idolatry. The persons addressed are the פושׁעים (those apostatizing), but, as התאשׁשׁוּ shows, whether it mean ἀνδιρίζεσθε or κραταιοῦσθε (1 Corinthians 16:13), such as have not yet actually carried out their rebellion or apostasy, but waver between Jehovahism and heathenism, and are inclined to the latter. התאשׁשׁו is hardly a denom. hithpalel of אישׁ in the sense of "man yourselves," since אישׁ, whether it signifies a husband or a social being, or like אנושׁ, a frail or mortal being, is at any rate equivalent to אנשׁ, and therefore never shows the modification u. אשׁשׁ (אשׁה) signifies to be firm, strong, compact; in the piel (rabb.), to be well-grounded; nithpael, to be fortified, established; here hithpoel, "show yourselves firm" (Targ., Jer.: fundamini ne rursum subitus idololatriae vos turbo subvertat). That they may strengthen themselves in faith and fidelity, they are referred to the history of their nation; ראשׁנות are not prophecies given at an earlier time - a meaning which the priora only acquire in such a connection as Isaiah 43:9 - but former occurrences. They are to pass before their minds the earlier history, and indeed "from the olden time." "Remember:" zikhrū is connected with the accusative of the object of remembrance, and כּי points to its result. An earnest and thoughtful study of history would show them that Jehovah alone was El, the absolutely Mighty One, and 'Elōhı̄m, the Being who united in Himself all divine majesty by which reverence was evoked. The participles in Isaiah 46:10, Isaiah 46:11 are attached to the "I" of כּמוני. It is Jehovah, the Incomparable, who has now, as at other times from the very commencement of the new turn in history, predicted the issue of which it would lead, and miqqedem, i.e., long before, predicted things that have not yet occurred, and which therefore lit outside the sphere of human combination - another passage like Isaiah 41:26; Isaiah 45:21, etc., in which what is predicted in these prophecies lays claim to the character of a prediction of long standing, and not of one merely uttered a few years before. The ראשׁית, in which the ראשׁנות are already in progress (Isaiah 42:9), is to be regarded as the prophet's ideal present; for Jehovah not only foretells before the appearance of Cyrus what is to be expected of him, but declares that His determination must be realized, that He will bring to pass everything upon which His will is set, and summons the man upon the stage of history as the instrument of its accomplishment, so that He knew Cyrus before he himself had either consciousness or being (Isaiah 45:4-5). The east is Persis (Isaiah 41:2); and the distant land, the northern part of Media (as in Isaiah 13:5). Cyrus is called an eagle, or, strictly speaking, a bird of prey (‛ayit),

(Note: The resemblance to ἀετός (αἰετός) is merely accidental. This name for the eagle is traceable, like avid, to a root vâ, to move with the swiftness of the wind. This was shown by Passow, compare Kuhn's Zeitschrift, i. 29, where we also find at 10, 126 another but less probable derivation from a root i, to go (compare eva, a course).)

just as in Jeremiah 49:22 and Ezekiel 17:3 Nebuchadnezzar is called a nesher. According to Cyrop. vii. 1, 4, the campaign of Cyrus was ἀετὸς χρυσοῦς ἐπὶ δόρατος μακροῦ ἀνατεταμένος. Instead of עצתו אישׁ, the keri reads more clearly, though quite unnecessarily, (עצתי אישׁ (see e.g., Isaiah 44:26). The correlate אף (Isaiah 46:11), which is only attached to the second verb the second time, affirms that Jehovah does not only the one, but the other also. His word is made by Him into a deed, His idea into a reality. יצר is a word used particularly by Isaiah, to denote the ideal preformation of the future in the mind of God (cf., Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26). The feminine suffixes refer in a neuter sense to the theme of the prophecy - the overthrow of idolatrous Babel, upon which Cyrus comes down like an eagle, in the strength of Jehovah. So far we have the nota bene for those who are inclined to apostasy. They are to lay to heart the nothingness of the heathen gods, and, on the other hand, the self-manifestation of Jehovah from the olden time, that is to say, of the One God who is now foretelling and carrying out the destruction of the imperial city through the eagle from the east.

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