Isaiah 47:13
You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save you from these things that shall come on you.
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(13) Let now the astrologers . . .—The three words describe two aspects of the same art—(1) the dividers of the heavens, assigning stellar influences to the signs of the Zodiac; (2) the “star-gazers,” further defined as those who make known things to come at the new moon. The Assyrian and Chaldæan observers compiled an almanack, in which the days of the month were noted as severally lucky or unlucky for the incidents of war or of home-life, as the case might be.

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.Thou art wearied - Thou hast practiced so many arts, and practiced them so long, that thou art exhausted in them. The 'counsels' here referred to, are those which the astrologers and diviners would take in examining the prognostications, and the supposed indications of future events.

Let now the astrologers - Call in now the aid of the various classes of diviners on whom thou hast relied to save thee from the impending calamity and ruin. The words rendered here 'astrologers' (שׁמים הברי hoberēy shâmayim) mean properly "the dividers of the heavens;" those who divided, or cut up the heavens for the purpose of augury, or to take a horoscope (Gesenius). What this art was is not certainly known. It is probable that it referred to their designating certain stars, or constellations, or conjunctions of the planets in certain parts of the heavens, as being fortunate and propitious, and certain others as unfortunate and unpropitious. At first, astrology was synonymous with astronomy. But in process of time, it came to denote the science which professes to discover certain connections between the position and movements of the heavenly bodies, and the events which occur on the earth.

It was supposed that the rising and setting, the conjunction and opposition of the planets, exerted a powerful influence over the fates of people; over the health of their bodies, the character of their minds, and the vicissitudes of their lives. Some regarded, it would seem, the positions of the stars as mere signs of the events which were to follow; and others, and probably by far the larger portion, supposed that those positions had a positive influence in directing and controlling the affairs of this lower world. The origin of this science is involved in great obscurity. Aristotle ascribes the invention to the Babylonians and Egyptians. Ptolemy concurs in this opinion, and Cicero traces it to the same origin. Lucian says that both these nations, as well as the Lybians, borrowed it from the Ethiopians, and that the Greeks owed their knowledge of this pretended science to the poet Orpheus. The science prevailed, it is probable, however, much more early in India; and in China it appears to be coeval with their history.

The Arabians have been distinguished for their attachment to it; and even Tycho Brahe was a zealous defender of astrology, and Kepler believed that the conjunctions of the planets were capable of producing great effects on human affairs. It is also a remarkable fact that Lord Bacon thought that the science required to be purified from errors rather than altogether rejected. Those who wish to inquire into the various systems of astrology, and the arts by which this absurd science has maintained an influence in the world, may consult the "Edin. Encyclopedia," Art. "Astrology," and the authorities enumerated there. The thing referred to in the passage before us, and which was practiced in Babylon, was, probably, that of forecasting future events, or telling what would occur by the observation of the positions of the heavenly bodies.

The star-gazers - Those who endeavor to tell what will occur by the contemplation of the relative positions of the stars.

The monthly prognosticators - Margin, 'That give knowledge concerning the months.' That is, at the commencement of the months they give knowledge of what events might be expected to occur during the month; - perhaps from the dip of the moon, or its riding high or low, etc. Something of this kind is still retained by those persons who speak of a dry or wet moon; or who expect a change of weather at the change of the moon - all of which is just as wise as were the old systems of astrology among the Chaldeans. This whole passage would have been more literally and better translated by preserving the order of the Hebrew. 'Let them stand up now and save thee, who are astrologers; who gaze upon the stars, and who make known at the new moons what things will come upon thee.'

13. wearied—(compare Isa 57:10; Eze 24:12).

astrologers—literally, those who form combinations of the heavens; who watch conjunctions and oppositions of the stars. "Casters of the configurations of the sky" [Horsley]. Gesenius explains it: the dividers of the heavens. In casting a nativity they observed four signs:—the horoscope, or sign which arose at the time one was born; the mid-heaven; the sign opposite the horoscope towards the west; and the hypogee.

monthly prognosticators—those who at each new moon profess to tell thereby what is about to happen. Join, not as English Version, "save … from those things," &c.; but, "They that at new moons make known from (by means of) them the things that shall come upon thee" [Maurer].

Thou art wearied; thou hast spent thy time and strength in going from one to another, in trying all manner of experiments, and all to no purpose.

Stand up, and save thee to succour thee, or to inquire for thee. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels,.... Taken of astrologers, diviners, and soothsayers; who were never able to give any satisfactory answers to questions put to them, or to give good advice in cases of emergency; as appears from Nebuchadnezzar's consultation with them about his dream; and Belshazzar's about the handwriting upon the wall, which was the very night that the city was taken, Daniel 2:2,

let now the astrologers; or, "viewers of the heavens" (s); not that look upon them, and consider them as the work of God's hands, in order to glorify him; but that examine the face of the skies, and the position of the heavenly bodies, their conjunctions with, and aspects on each other, in order to foretell what shall be below: or, "the dividers of the heavens" (t), as it may be rendered, from the use of the word in the Arabic language; who divide the heavens into so many parts, or houses; who, as Kimchi (u), from the same use of the word, fix and determine things according to the stars; and who next are called "the stargazers"; that look at them, and, according to their position, conjunction, aspect, and influence, judge what will come to pass among men. So Cicero observes (w), that the Chaldeans, by long observation of the stars, were thought to have formed a science, whereby they could foretell what should happen to everyone, and what fate he was born to:

the monthly prognosticators; or "that make known months", or "for the months" (x); what shall be in every month; what weather it will be, and what things shall happen; such as our almanac makers. Let these now all meet together,

and stand up and save thee from those things that shall come upon thee; which they were never able to do; for if they could not foretell these things by their art, it could not be thought they could give any directions how to escape them, or put upon any methods that would secure from them.

(s) "speculantes coelos", Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version; "contemplatores coelorum", Vitringa. (t) "resecuit, amputavit", Golius, Castel. (u) Sepher Shorash. rad. (w) De Divinatione, l. 1. c. 1.((x) "cognoscere faciunt menses", Pagninus; "facientes", Montanus; "qui notas faciunt in menses", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; i.e. "praedictiones suas notificantes in menses", Cocceius; "indicantes novilunia", Vitringa.

Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
13. let now the astrologers &c.] Render: let them stand forth (Isaiah 47:12) now and save thee,—they that have divided the heavens, they that gaze on the stars, that announce month by month something of what shall befall thee.

astrologers is an apt equivalent of “they that divided the heavens” (i.e. into the constellations of the Zodiac, for astrological purposes). This at least seems the most probable meaning, although the verb for “divide” does not occur elsewhere in Hebrew (in Arab. it means to “divide into great pieces”), and the Ancient Versions render otherwise [LXX. οἱ ἀστρολόγοι τοῦ οὐρανοῦ]. So monthly prognosticators is a felicitous condensation of the thought of the last clause, although the E.V. (following some Jewish authorities) has mistaken the syntactical construction. The special reference here is to the preparation of monthly almanacs (based on astrological calculations) in which coming disasters were foretold, lucky and unlucky days pointed out, &c. A specimen of these almanacs is translated by Sayce in Trans. of the Society of Bibl. Archæology, III. 229 ff.

13–15. The last strophe dwells on the futility of all the resources that the “daughter of Babel” can call to her aid.Verse 13. - Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Mr. Cheyne's rendering is more intelligible, "Thou hast wearied thyself with the multitude of thy consultations." Those at the head of affairs had consulted the diviners of all classes, till they were utterly weary of so doing (compare the "consultations" of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar with such persons, Daniel 2:2-11; Daniel 5:7, 8). Yet let one further effort be made. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up. These are scarcely three classes of persons, but rather the same class under three designations: "astrologers" (literally, "dividers of the heavens"); "star-gazers," or observers of the stars; and "monthly prognosticators," or almanack-makers. The astronomy of the Babylonians consisted primarily in "dividing the heavens" into "houses," or constellations, and thus mapping them out in such a way that the infinite multiplicity, which at first baffles the beholder, might be grasped, reduced to order, and brought within the sphere of distinct cognizance. This work was an eminently useful one, and maintains its place in astronomy to the present day ('Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2, p. 573). After the heavens were mapped out, and the courses of the sun and moon through the "houses" laid down, "star-gazers" directed their attention mainly to sun, moon, and planets, noting eclipses, occultations, conjunctions, and the like. All this was legitimate science; but, finally, the greater part of the astronomers launched into astrology, and undertook to prognosticate events from the changing phenomena of the heavens. Almanacks were put forth, in which predictions were made, either specially for a particular year, or generally for all time, based upon astronomical considerations; and on these great dependence was placed. (For a specimen of such an almanack, see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 1. pp. 158-161.) 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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