Matthew Poole's 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.The ruin of Babylon and her idols, Isaiah 46:1,2. God’s love and faithfulness to the Jews, Isaiah 46:3,4. Idols not to be compared with God, Isaiah 46:5-8, for power, knowledge, and sure salvation, Isaiah 46:9-13.
Bel; the chief idol of the Babylonians, Jeremiah 50:2 51:44, called by profane historians Jupiter Belus.
Boweth down; as the Babylonians used to bow down to him to worship him, so now he boweth down and submits himself to the victorious Persians.
Nebo; another of the famous idols, which used to deliver oracles, as his name signifies.
Their idols were upon the beasts; were taken and broken, and the materials of them, which were gold, and silver, and brass, as both Scripture and other authors witness, were carried upon beasts into Persia.
Your carriages, O ye Persians; to whom he suddenly turneth his speech, as is usual;
were heavy laden; they lie upon the backs of your cattle like dull, and unprofitable, and heavy burdens to the beasts, as they had been to men before.
They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.They; either,
1. The idols, of whom these words are used, Isaiah 46:1. Or,
2. The Babylonians, who are sufficiently implied in that expression, their idols, Isaiah 46:1.
They bow down together; either,
1. One as well as another; or,
2. The Babylonians and their idols together, neither could help the other.
They could not deliver the burden; either,
1. The idols could not deliver themselves, who were now a burden to the beasts, and carried away by them; or,
2. The Babylonians could not deliver their idols, which he now had called burdens. And this sense seems most probable from the following clause, which clearly speaks of the same persons or things; but themselves, &c., Heb. their souls; for although the soul is here put for the person, as it commonly is, yet that title is never given to any idol or lifeless thing, but only to such creatures as have or had souls within their bodies. So the meaning of this and the foregoing verse is this, that neither the Babylonians nor their idols could either save themselves or one another, but both are bowed down and gone into captivity together.
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:All the remnant of the house of Israel; fitly so called, with respect either,
1. To all the tribes of Israel, ten of which were now lost and gone; or,
2. To the state of the Jews at their return from Babylon, there being only a remnant of the two tribes which did return.
Which are carried from the womb; whom I have nourished and cared for from time to time, ever since you were a people, and carne out of Egypt, and that as affectionately and tenderly as parents bring up their own children.
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.And that care and kindness which I have had for you from the beginning, I will continue to you to the end; never forsaking you, unless you wilfully and obstinately cast me off, as the Jews did when their Messiah came. You are my workmanship, both as you are men, and as you are my peculiar people; and therefore I will preserve and deliver you.
To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?If you are tempted or inclined at any time to exchange me for an idol, do me and yourselves this right, seriously to consider, whether you can find another God who will be more able and more ready to do you good than I have been; which if you can do, I am content you should prefer him before me; but if not, as will appear by what I am now saying, Isaiah 46:6,7, then it is best for you to adhere to your ancient God and Friend.
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.Maketh it a god; let us suppose, a god made with the greatest cost and art.
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.They carry him; either,
1. In pomp upon solemn occasions; or,
2. From that place where he is made, unto that place where they intend to set him up, as it is expressed in the following words.
Shall he not remove; or rather, he cannot remove. He can stir neither hand nor foot to help his people.
Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.Remember this, consider these things which I now speak, O ye Israelites,
and show yourselves men; act like reasonable creatures, and be not so brutish as to worship your own works; be so wise and courageous as to withstand all solicitation to idolatry.
Bring it again to mind; think of this again and again.
O ye transgressors; you who have been guilty of this foolish sin; and therefore are obliged to take the better heed that you do not relapse into it again.
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,Remember the former things of old; what I have done for you, and in the world, my evident predictions of future things justified by the event, and those other miraculous works whereby I have abundantly proved my Divinity.
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:Declaring the end from the beginning; foretelling from the beginning of the world, or from the beginning of your nation, those future events which should happen in succeeding ages, even to the end of the world, or to the end of your commonwealth; for such predictions we find delivered by Moses, the first founder of their commonwealth.
My counsel shall stand; as I will not, so no other power can, disappoint my purposes and predictions.
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.Calling a ravenous bird; Cyrus, called a bird for his swiftness and great expedition, and ravenous for his fierceness and victoriousness over his enemies.
From the east; from Persia, as Isaiah 41:2.
That executeth my counsel, concerning the deliverance of my people, and the destruction of their cruel oppressors, the Babylonians.
From a far country; from Persia, which was far from Babylon, but much farther from Judea.
Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:Ye stout-hearted; or, ye whose hearts are proud, or hard, or stubborn. He speaks either,
1. To the Babylonians, You who are stout against God, and say or think that neither God nor any man can deliver my people out of your hands: or rather,
2. To the house of Jacob, expressed Isaiah 46:3, where he bespeaks them in the same words here used, hearken to me; and to whom alone he directeth his speech in this whole chapter; for though he speaketh of the Babylonians, yet he doth not speak to them; and to whom the prophet, for the most part, turneth his speech in all his prophecies, unless where there is something in the text or context which determineth it to some other person or people. And this very crime of stoutness or hardness of heart is most justly and most frequently charged upon the Jews by their own prophets every where, because of their gross contempt of and incorrigibleness under all God’s words and works. And the prophet speaks this either to the Jews of his generation, or rather to that generation which was carried captive to Babylon, whose stout-heartedness is particularly noted and reproved, Zechariah 7:11,12. Compare Malachi 3:1,3-15.
That are far from righteousness; that are not only void of, but enemies to righteousness and true holiness; that give up yourselves to wickedness, that despise my counsels, and promises, and threatenings.
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.I bring near my righteousness: though you are most unrighteous persons, and have given me just cause to make you to know my breach of promise, as I threatened in the like case, Numbers 14:34; yet I will show myself to be a righteous and faithful God, making good my promise of delivering you out of Babylon after seventy years; and though you think the time long, and are apt to distrust the thing itself, yet it shall come, and that speedily, I will bring it near, or cause it to approach or come unto you, and, as it follows, it shall not tarry beyond the appointed time. It shall not be far off; my work of saving you from the Babylonish captivity.
I will place salvation in Zion; I will bring my people from Babylon to Zion, and there I will save them from all their enemies.
For Israel my glory; in whom I will once again glory as my people, and the illustrious monuments of my glorious wisdom, and power, and truth, and goodness; whom I will make a great and glorious people, though now they are mean and contemptible, and in whom I will once more settle my glorious presence and ordinances.