Isaiah 47:6
I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.
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(6) I was wroth with my people . . .—The sin of Babylon was that she had gone beyond her commission as the chastiser of Israel, casting off all reverence for age, and making even the old men do the hard tasks of bond-slaves (Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12). (Comp. Zechariah 1:15.)

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.I was worth with my people - In this verse and the following, a reason is assigned why God would deal so severely with her. One of the reasons was, that in executing the punishment which he had designed on the Jewish people, she had done it with pride, ambition, and severity; so that though God intended they should be punished, yet the feelings of Babylon in doing it, were such also as to deserve his decided rebuke and wrath.

I have polluted mine inheritance - Jerusalem and the land of Judea see the notes at Isaiah 43:28). He had stripped it of its glory; caused the temple and city to be destroyed; and spread desolation over the land. Though it had been done by the Chaldeans, yet it had been in accordance with his purpose, and under his direction Deuteronomy 4:20; Psalm 28:9.

Thou didst show them no mercy - Though God had given up his people to be punished for their sins, yet this did not justify the spirit with which the Chaldeans had done it, or make proper the cruelty which they had evinced toward them. It is true that some of the Jewish captives, as, e. g., Daniel, were honored and favored in Babylon. It is not improbable that the circumstances of many of them were comparatively easy while there, and that they acquired possessions and formed attachments there which made them unwilling to leave that land when Cyrus permitted them to return to their own country. But it is also true, that Nebuchadnezzar showed them no compassion when he destroyed the temple and city, that the mass of them were treated with great indignity and cruelty in Babylon. See Psalm 137:1-3, where they pathetically and beautifully record their sufferings:

By the rivers of Babylon there we sat down,

Yea, we wept when we remembered Zion.

For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song;

And they that wasted us rcquired of us mirth.

Saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

Thus also Jeremiah Jer 1:17 describes the cruelty of their conquerors: 'Israel is a scattered sheep - the lions have driven him away; this Nebuchadnezzar hath broken his bones' (see also 2 Kings 25:5, 2 Kings 25:6, 2 Kings 25:27; Jeremiah 51:34; Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:11-14).

Upon the ancient - That is, upon the old man. The idea is, that they had oppressed, and reduced to hard servitude, those who were venerable by years, and by experience. To treat the aged with veneration is everywhere in the Scriptures regarded as an important and sacred duty Leviticus 19:32; Job 32:4-6; and to disregard age, and pour contempt on hoary hairs, is everywhere spoken of as a crime of an aggravated nature (compare 2 Kings 2:23-25; Proverbs 30:17). That the Chaldeans had thus disregarded age and rank, is a frequent subject of complaint among the sacred writers:

They respected not the persons of the priests,

They favored not the elders.

6. reason for God's vengeance on Babylon: in executing God's will against His people, she had done so with wanton cruelty (Isa 10:5, &c.; Jer 50:17; 51:33; Zec 1:15).

polluted my inheritance—(Isa 43:28).

the ancient—Even old age was disregarded by the Chaldeans, who treated all alike with cruelty (La 4:16; 5:12) [Rosenmuller]. Or, "the ancient" means Israel, worn out with calamities in the latter period of its history (Isa 46:4), as its earlier stage of history is called its "youth" (Isa 54:6; Eze 16:60).

I have polluted mine inheritance; I cast them away as an unclean thing; I stained their glory; I removed them from the Holy Land, and from the place of my presence and worship, which alone made them a holy and peculiar people; I banished them into a polluted land, amongst uncircumcised and unclean persons, by whom they were many ways defiled; I rejected them from being my people, and so were in my sight no better than the rest of the heathen nations.

Given them into thine hand, to punish them, and deal with them as thou sawest fit.

Thou didst show them no mercy; thou hast exceeded the bounds of thy commission, and instead of that compassion which humanity teacheth men to show to such as are in misery, thou didst add to their afflictions.

Upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid the yoke; who besides their common calamity were afflicted with the miseries of old age, and therefore did require both pity and reverence.

I was wroth with my people,.... The people of Israel, for their sins and transgressions, particularly their idolatries. Here begin the reasons and causes of the destruction of Babylon, and the first mentioned is their cruelty to the people of God; for though he was angry with them himself, yet he resented their being ill used by them:

I have polluted mine inheritance; the Jews, who, as they were his people, were his portion and inheritance, as he was theirs: these he is said to pollute, by suffering the Heathen to enter into the land, and defile their city and sanctuary, and carry them captive into an unclean and idolatrous country:

and given them into thine hand; to correct and chastise, but in measure, not to kill and destroy:

whereas thou didst show them no mercy; used them very cruelly, and exceeded the commission given:

upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke; whose age should have commanded reverence and respect, and whose weakness and infirmities called for compassion; but nothing of this kind was shown; they were not spared because of age, but had insupportable burdens laid upon them; and if not they, then much less young men; see Lamentations 5:12.

I was angry with my people, I have polluted my inheritance, and given them into thy hand: thou didst show them no {h} mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.

(h) They abused God's judgments, thinking that he punished the Israelites, because he would completely cast them off, and therefore instead of pitying their misery, you increased it.

6. Jehovah speaks, charging Babylon with pitiless inhumanity towards His people when they were delivered to her for chastisement (for the thought cf. Zechariah 1:15).

I was wroth with my people] Cf. Isaiah 54:9, Isaiah 57:16 f., Isaiah 64:5; Isaiah 64:9.

I have polluted (R.V. I profaned) mine inheritance] Cf. Isaiah 43:28. “Profane” is the opposite of “holy;” as “holy to Jehovah” Israel was inviolable (Jeremiah 2:3), but when this relation ceased she passed under the power of the heathen.

upon the ancient] Better, as R.V.: upon the aged. Although the word is sing., there can be no doubt that it is used literally of the old men on whom the hardships of captivity fell most heavily (cf. Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12). The idea that Israel as a nation is meant is not to be entertained (see on ch. Isaiah 46:4). We have little knowledge of the circumstances of the Israelites in exile, but there is nothing improbable in the supposition that some of them were put to forced labour, and that cases of exceptional barbarity may have occurred.

Verse 6. - I was wroth with my people (comp. 2 Kings 24:3, 4; 2 Chronicles 36:13-17). I have polluted... and given; rather, I polluted and gave. The reference is to the conquest of Judaea by Nebuchadnezzar. Thou didst show them no mercy. We have very little historical knowledge of the general treatment of the Jewish exiles during the Captivity. A certain small number - Daniel and the Three Children - were advanced to positions of importance (Daniel 1:19; Daniel 2:48, 49; Daniel 3:30), and, on the whole, well treated. On the other hand, Jehoiachin underwent an imprisonment of thirty-seven years' duration (2 Kings 25:27). Mr. Cheyne says that "the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel do not suggest that the [bulk of the] exiles were great sufferers." This is, no doubt, true; and we may, perhaps, regard Isaiah's words in this place as sufficiently made good by the "cruelties which disfigured the first days of the Babylonian triumph" (Lamentations 4:16; Lamentations 5:12; 2 Chronicles 36:17). Still, there may well have been a large amount of suffering among the rank-and-file of the captives, of which no historic record has come down to us. Psalm 138. reveals some of the bitter feelings of the exiles. Upon the ancient; rather, upon the aged. The author of Chronicles notes that Nebuchadnezzar, on taking Jerusalem, "had no compassion on young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age" (l.s.c.). There is no reason for giving the words of the present passage an allegorical meaning. Isaiah 47:6In 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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