Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.
Isa 46:1-13. Babylon's Idols Could Not Save Themselves, Much Less Her. But God Can and Will Save Israel: Cyrus Is His Instrument.
1. Bel—the same as the Ph�nician Baal, that is, lord, the chief god of Babylon; to it was dedicated the celebrated tower of Babylon, in the center of one of the two parts into which the city was divided, the palace being in the center of the other. Identical with the sun, worshipped on turrets, housetops, and other high places, so as to be nearer the heavenly hosts (Saba) (Jer 19:13; 32:29; Zep 1:5). Gesenius identifies Bel with the planet Jupiter, which, with the planet Venus (under the name Astarte or Astaroth), was worshipped in the East as the god of fortune, the most propitious star to be born under (see on Isa 65:11). According to the Apocryphal book, Bel and the Dragon, Bel was cast down by Cyrus.
boweth … stoopeth—falleth prostrate (Isa 10:4; 1Sa 5:3, 4; Ps 20:8).
Nebo—the planet Mercury or Hermes, in astrology. The scribe of heaven, answering to the Egyptian Anubis. The extensive worship of it is shown by the many proper names compounded of it: Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuzar-adan, Nabonassar, &c.
were upon—that is, were a burden (supplied from the following clause) upon. It was customary to transport the gods of the vanquished to the land of the conquerors, who thought thereby the more effectually to keep down the subject people (1Sa 5:1, &c.; Jer 48:7; 49:3; Da 11:8).
carriages—in the Old English sense of the things carried, the images borne by you: the lading (Ac 21:15), "carriages," not the vehicles, but the baggage. Or, the images which used to be carried by you formerly in your solemn processions [Maurer].
were heavy loaden—rather, are put as a load on the beasts of burden [Maurer]. Horsley translates, "They who should have been your carriers (as Jehovah is to His people, Isa 46:3, 4) are become burdens" (see on Isa 46:4).
They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
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.
Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:
3. in contrast to what precedes: Babylon's idols, so far from bearing its people safely are themselves borne off, a burden to the laden beast; but Jehovah bears His people in safety even from the womb to old age (Isa 63:9; De 32:11; Ps 71:6, 18). God compares Himself to a nurse tenderly carrying a child; contrast Moses' language (Nu 11:12).
And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
4. old age—As "your"—"you"—"you," are not in the Hebrew, the sentiment is more general than English Version, though of course it includes the Jews from the infancy to the more advanced age of their history (Isa 47:6).
I am he—that is, the same (Ps 102:27; Joh 8:24; Heb 13:8).
I will bear … carry—Not only do I not need to be borne and carried Myself, as the idols (Isa 46:1).
To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
5. (Isa 40:18, 25).
They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.
6. (Isa 40:19, 20; 41:7.) They lavish gold out of their purses and spare no expense for their idol. Their profuseness shames the niggardliness of professors who worship God with what cost them nothing. Sin is always a costly service.
They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
7. cry … can … not … save—(Isa 45:20, with which contrast Isa 45:19).
Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
8. show yourselves men—Renounce the childishness of idolatry as shown in what precedes (1Co 14:20; 16:13; Eph 4:14). In order to be manly we must be godly; for man was made "in the image of God," and only rises to his true dignity when joined to God; virtue is derived from the Latin vir, "a man."
bring … to mind—rather, "lay it to heart."
transgressors—addressed to the idolaters among the Jews.
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
9. former—namely, proofs of the sole Godship of Jehovah, from predictions fulfilled, and interpositions of God in behalf of Israel (Isa 45:5).
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
10. (Isa 45:21; 41:22, 23; 44:26).
yet—not in the Hebrew. Translate, "What had not been done" [Horsley].
do all my pleasure—(Isa 53:10; Ro 9:19).
Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
11. ravenous bird—Cyrus so called on account of the rapidity of his marches from the distant regions of Persia to pounce on his prey (see on Isa 41:2; Isa 41:25; Jer 49:22; Eze 17:3). The standard of Cyrus, too, was a golden eagle on a spear (see the heathen historian, Xenophon, 7, where almost the same word is used, aetos, as here, ayit).
executeth my counsel—(Isa 44:28; 45:13). Babylon represents, mystically, the apostate faction: the destruction of its idols symbolizes the future general extirpation of all idolatry and unbelief.
purposed … also do it—(Isa 43:13).
Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
12. stout-hearted—stubborn in resisting God (Ps 76:5; Ac 7:51).
far from righteousness—(Isa 59:9; Hab 2:4).
I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.
13. near—antithetical to "far" (Isa 46:12; Isa 51:5; 56:1; 61:10, 11; Ro 10:6-8).
righteousness—answering to "salvation" in the parallel clause; therefore it means here, "my righteous deliverance"; righteous, because proving the truth of God's promises, and so contrived as to not compromise, but vindicate, His righteousness (Isa 42:21; Ro 3:26).
Zion … my glory—rather, "I will give salvation in Zion; to Israel (I will give) my glory" [Horsley]. (Isa 63:11; Ps 14:7; Lu 2:32).