Isaiah 47:12
Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.
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(12) If so be thou shalt be able . . .—The words come with a subtle tone of irony. Persevere in thy enchantments . . . perchance thou wilt be able to profit, perchance thou wilt strike terror.

Isaiah 47:12-15. Stand now with thine enchantments — Persist in these practices. Wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth — From the beginning of thy kingdom. For the Chaldeans in all ages were famous, or rather infamous, for the study and practice of these arts. Thou art wearied in thy counsels — Thou hast spent thy time and strength in going from one to another, in trying all manner of experiments, and all to no purpose. Let now the astrologers, &c., stand up — To succour thee, or to inquire for thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble — They shall have no more power to withstand the calamities coming upon them than stubble has to resist the violence of the fire. They shall not deliver themselves from the flame — And much less thee. There shall not be a coal to warm at, &c. — They shall be totally consumed, and all the comfort which thou didst expect from them shall utterly vanish. Thus shall they be unto thee — Such comfortless and helpless creatures, namely, thy sorcerers, astrologers, &c.; with whom thou hast laboured — Upon whom thou hast spent thy time, pains, and money; even thy merchants — Or negotiators, as Bishop Lowth translates סחרין, with whom thou hast had so much intercourse, and so many dealings. They shall wander every one to his quarter — Or, as some interpret the meaning, “They shall wander by whatsoever ways they can to the extreme boundaries of thy empire, to save themselves from the general calamity.” None shall save thee — From thy impending ruin, but all shall leave thee to perish without help, and without hope. Observe, reader, they, and only they, are safe and happy, who, by faith and prayer, deal with one that will always be a present help in time of trouble to those that flee to him for refuge, and trust in him.

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.Stand now with thy enchantments - (See the notes at Isaiah 47:9). This is evidently sarcastic and ironical. It is a call on those who practiced the arts of magic to stand forth, and to show whether they were able to defend the city, and to save the nation.

Wherein thou hast labored - Or in practicing which thou hast been diligently employed.

From thy youth - From the very commencement of thy national existence. Babylon was always distinguished for these arts. Now was a time when their value was to be put to the test, and when it was to be seen whether they were able to save the nation.

If so be - Or perhaps or possibly, they may be able to profit thee - the language of irony. Perhaps by the aid of these arts you may be able to repel your foes.

12. Stand—forth: a scornful challenge to Babylon's magicians to show whether they can defend their city.

laboured—The devil's service is a laborious yet fruitless one (Isa 55:2).

Stand: this word notes either,

1. Continuance. Persist or go on in these practices. Or,

2. Their gesture. For those that inquired of their gods by any of these superstitious practices used to stand; this being a posture, both of reverence, and waiting for an answer. But this is not a command or concession, but a sacred irony or scoff at the folly of these men, who having so oft been disappointed by these impostures, yet were as forward to use them and trust to them as if they had never deceived them.

From thy youth; from the beginning of thy commonwealth or kingdom. For the Chaldeans in all ages were famous, or rather infamous, for the study and practice of these arts.

Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries,.... An ironic expression, deriding those evil arts, bidding defiance to them, calling upon the masters of them to do their utmost by them:

wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; from the infancy of their state; as soon as their monarchy was founded, or they became a people, they were given to these practices, and were famous for them; and in which, no doubt, many among them were brought up from their youth; and to gain the knowledge of which they were at great labour and expense; and yet it was all in vain, and to no purpose:

if so be thou shall be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail; if skill in these things can be of any advantage to keep off the impending calamity, and fortify against the powerful enemy that will quickly surprise thee; try if by thine art thou canst foresee the danger, and prevent it.

Stand now with thy enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, in which thou hast {l} laboured from thy youth; if thou shalt be able to profit, if thou mayest prevail.

(l) He derides their vain confidence, who put their trust in anything but in God, condemning also such vain sciences, which serve no use, but to delude the people, and to bring them from depending only on God.

12. Stand now with &c.] Either Stand by thy spells, persist in them, stake everything upon them, as Leviticus 13:5; Jeremiah 48:11, Ezekiel 13:5 (these parallels, however, are not quite convincing); or (as in Isaiah 47:13) Stand forth with thy spells.

wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth] Or: with which thou hast wearied thyself, &c.; see on ch. Isaiah 43:22. Duhm omits these words entirely, for the sake of the rhythm, but they excite no suspicion on any other ground.

if so be &c.]  perchance thou wilt be able to profit!—

  perchance thou wilt inspire terror! (Cf. R.V.)

keen and bitter irony.

Verse 12. - Stand now. The fourth and concluding strophe now begins; it opens, like the third, with a single imperative. It has, as Mr. Cheyne observes, "a strongly ironical tinge, reminding us of Elijah's language to the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18:27." The irony is, however, confined to the first half (vers. 12, 13); giving place in vers. 14 and 15 to a scathing sentence of judgment and ruin. Enchantments... sorceries; rather, spells, enchantments (see the comment on ver. 9). If so be, etc.; rather, perchance thou wilt be able to profit; perchance thou wilt cause terror. The prophet gives a pretended encouragement to Israel's adversaries. "If Babylon uses all the resources of her magical art, perhaps she may succeed - who knows? Perhaps she may strike terror into the hearts of her assailants." Isaiah 47:12ἀλμενιχακά in Plut., read Porph., viz., in the letter of Porphyrios to the Egyptian Anebo in Euseb. praep. iii. 4, init.: τάς τε εἰς τοὺς δεκανοὺς τομὰς καὶ τοὺς ὡροσκόποὺς καὶ τοὺς λεγομένους κραταιοὺς ἡγεμόνας, ὧν καὶ ὀνόματα ἐν τοῖς ἀλμενιχιακοῖς φέρεται; compare Jamblichos, de Mysteriis, viii. 4: τά τε ἑν τοῖς σαλμεσχινιακοῖς μέρος τι βραχύτατον περιέχει τῶν ̔Ερμαικῶν διατάξεων. This reading σαλμεσχινιακοῖς has been adopted by Parthey after two codices and the text in Salmasius, de annis clim. 605. But ἀλμενιχιακοῖς is favoured by the form Almanach (Hebr. אלמנק, see Steinschneider, Catal. Codd. Lugduno-Batav. p. 370), in which the word was afterwards adopted as the name of an astrological handbook or year-book. In Arabic the word appears to me to be equivalent to 'l-mnâch, the encampment (of the stars); but to all appearance it was originally an Egyptian word, and possibly the Coptic monk (old Egyptian mench), a form or thing formed, is hidden beneath it.

Isaiah 47:12Then follows the concluding strophe, which, like the first, announces to the imperial city in a triumphantly sarcastic tone its inevitable fate; whereas the intermediate strophes refer rather to the sins by which this fate has been brought upon it. "Come near, then, with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy witchcrafts, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth: perhaps thou canst profit, perhaps thou wilt inspire terror. Thou art wearied through the multitude of thy consultations; let the dissectors of the heavens come near, then, and save thee, the star-gazers, they who with every new moon bring things to light that will come upon thee. Behold, they have become like stubble: fire has consumed them: there is not a red-hot coal to warm themselves, a hearth-fire to sit before. So is it with thy people, for whom thou hast laboured: thy partners in trade from thy youth, they wander away every one in his own direction; no one who brings salvation to thee." Hitzig and others adopt the simple rendering, "Persevere, then, with thine enchantments." It is indeed true, that in Leviticus 13:5 בּ עמד signifies "to remain standing by anything," i.e., to persevere with it, just as in Ezekiel 13:5 it signifies to keep one's standing in anything; in 2 Kings 23:3, to enter upon anything; and in Ecclesiastes 8:3, to engage in anything; but there is no reason for taking it here in any other sense than in Isaiah 47:13. Babylon is to draw near with all the processes of the black art, wherein בּאשׁר, according to our western mode of expression, equivalent to בּהם אשׁר, Ges. 123, 2*) it had been addicted to abundance of routine from its youth upwards (יגעאתּ with an auxiliary pathach for יגעתּ); possibly it may be of some use, possibly it will terrify, i.e., make itself so terrible to the approaching calamity, as to cause it to keep off. The prophet now sees in spirit how Babylon draws near, and how it also harasses itself to no purpose; he therefore follows up the עמדי־נא, addressed in pleno to Babylon, with a second challenge commencing with יעמדוּ־נא. Their astrologers are to draw near, and try that power over the future to which they lay claim, by bringing it to bear at once upon the approaching destruction for the benefit of Babylon. עצתיך is a singular form connected with a feminine plural suffix, such as we find in Psalm 9:15; Ezekiel 35:11; Ezra 9:15, connected with a masculine plural suffix. Assuming the correctness of the vowel-pointing, the singular appears in such cases as these to have a collective meaning, like the Arabic pl. fractus; for there is no ground to suppose that the Aramaean plural form ‛ētsâth is used here in the place of the Hebrew. Instead of שׁמים הברו (which would be equivalent to הברו אשׁרא, the keri reads שׁמים הברי, cutters up of the heavens, i.e., planners or dissectors of them, from hâb, dissecare, resecare (compare the rabbinical habhârâh, a syllable, i.e., segmentum vocabuli, and possibly also the talmudic 'ēbhârı̄m, limbs of a body). The correction proposed by Knobel, viz., chōbherē, from châbhār, to know, or be versed in, is unnecessary. Châzâh b' signifies here, as it generally does, to look with pleasure or with interest at anything; hence Luther has rendered it correctly, die Sternkucker (Eng. ver. star-gazers). They are described still further as those who make known with every new moon (lechŏdâshı̄m, like labbeqârı̄m, every morning, Isaiah 33:2, etc.), things which, etc. מאשׁר is used in a partitive sense: out of the great mass of events they select the most important, and prepare a calendar or almanack (ἀλμενιχιακά in Plutarch) for the state every month. But these very wise men cannot save themselves, to say nothing of others, out of the power of that flame, which is no comforting coal-fire to warm one's self by, no hearth-fire (Isaiah 44:16) to sit in front of, but a devouring, eternal, i.e., peremptory flame (Isaiah 33:14). The rendering adopted by Grotius, Vitringa, Lowth, Gesenius, and others, "non supererit pruna ad calendum," is a false one, if only because it is not in harmony with the figure. "Thus shall they be unto thee," he continues in Isaiah 47:15, i.e., such things shall be endured to thy disgrace by those about whom thou hast wearied thyself (אשׁר equals בּהם אשׁר). The learned orders of the Chaldeans had their own quarter, and enjoyed all the distinction and privileges of a priestly caste. What follows cannot possibly be understood as relating to these masters of astrology and witchcraft, as Ewald supposes; for, according to the expression שׁחרהּ in Isaiah 47:11, they would be called שׁחריך. Moreover, if they became a prey of the flames, and therefore were unable to flee, we should have to assume that they were burned while taking flight (Umbreit). סחריך are those who carried on commercial intercourse with the great "trading city" (Ezekiel 17:4), as Berossos says, "In Babylon there was a great multitude of men of other nations who had settled in Chaldea, and they lived in disorder, like the wild beasts;" compare Aeschylus, Pers. 52-3, Βαβυλὼν δ ̓ ἡ πολύχρυσος πάμμικτον ὄχλον πέμπει. All of these are scattered in the wildest flight, אל־עברו אישׁ, every one on his own side, viz., in the direction of his own home, and do not trouble themselves about Babylon.

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