Matthew Poole's Commentary
Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.God’s judgments upon Babylon and Chaldea; for their cruelty towards God’s people, Isaiah 47:1-6; their pride and other sins, Isaiah 47:7-10. Their enchantments shall not deliver them, Isaiah 47:11-15.
Come down from thy throne, as it follows, and sit in the dust; either necessarily, because thou shalt have no higher seat; or voluntarily, as mourners do, bewailing thine approaching calamities. O virgin daughter of Babylon; so called, either,
1. Because she had not yet been humbled and conquered; or rather,
2. Because she was tender and delicate, as the next clause informeth us. There is no throne, to wit, for thee. The empire is taken away from thee, and translated to the Persians.
Thou shalt no more be called; either be reputed so, or rather be so; for to be called is frequently put for to be, as hath been divers times noted. Thou shalt be reduced to great hardships and miseries.
Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.Take the millstones; betake thyself to the millstones; as we commonly say, Take thy bed, or, Betake thyself to thy bed. The meaning is, Thou shalt be brought down to the basest kind of slavery, which grinding at the mill was esteemed; of which see on Exodus 11:5 Judges 16:21 Job 31:10 Lamentations 5:13. For this work was not performed by horses, as now it is, but by the labour of slaves and captives.
Grind meal; grind bread corn into meal for thy master’s use. Such metonymical expressions we find Isaiah 28:28 Hosea 8:7, and elsewhere. Uncover thy locks; or, thine hair. Take off the ornaments wherewith such women as were free and of good quality used to cover and dress their heads. This and the following passages, though delivered in the form of a command, are only predictions of what they should be forced to do or suffer, as appears from the next verse.
Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh; gird up thy garments close and short about thee, that thou mayst be fit for service, and for travelling on foot, and, as it follows, for passing over those rivers, through which thou wilt be constrained to wade, in the way to the land of thy captivity.
Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.Thy nakedness shall be uncovered; either,
1. For want of raiment to cover it; or rather,
2. By thine enemies in way of scorn and contumely, by comparing this place with Ezekiel 16:37 23:29.
Thy shame shall be seen upon thee for thy many and great injuries done to my people.
I will take vengeance, as a man meets his enemy in the field, to contend with thee.
I will not meet thee as a man, with moderation and gentleness, as those men who have not quite put off humanity use to do; but like a lion tearing thee to pieces, to which God in such case compareth himself, as Hosea 5:14 13:7,8: compare Hosea 11:4.
As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.According to this version, the prophet inserteth this passage in the midst of this prophecy against Babylon, as Jacob inserteth a like passage in the midst of his blessings and prophecies concerning his children, Genesis 49:18. And this may be here interposed, either,
1. As the reason why the judgment here denounced should be certainly inflicted, because he who had undertaken it was the
Lord of hosts, and therefore able to effect it, and
the Holy One, and the Redeemer of Israel, whom the Babylonians had cruelly oppressed, whose quarrel God would avenge upon them, and whom he had determined and promised to deliver out of their hands. Or,
2. As a pathetical exclamation or acclamation of God’s people for this wonderful work of breaking the staff of their oppressors, which they here ascribe to God, as he is their God and Redeemer, whom they here make their boast of, and whom they celebrate for this glorious deliverance. But because these words, as for, are not in the Hebrew text, and therefore another word may be as conveniently supplied, this verse may be, and is by some learned interpreters, otherwise rendered, and joined with the foregoing words thus, I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man, saith our Redeemer, whose name is the Lord of Hosts, the Holy One of Israel. For the word saith or saying is frequently understood, and therefore supplied by translators, as 1 Kings 20:34 Psalm 27:8 105:15, and in this very prophecy, as Isaiah 5:9 45:14, and elsewhere.
Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.Sit thou silent, through grief and shame, and as mourners use to do, Job 2:13. Cease thy vaunting and insolent speeches; thou canst say nothing for thine own justification.
Get thee into darkness; thou shalt go into an obscure, disconsolate, and calamitous condition.
Thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms; the chief and glory of all kingdoms, as Isaiah 13:19, the most large, and potent, and glorious empire of the world, as thou hast been.
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.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.
And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.These things; thy cruel usages of my people, and the heavy judgments which thou hadst reason to expect for them. The latter end of it; of that lady or of Babylon, and her glory and empire, or of thyself; here being a sudden change of the person, of which I have noted many examples in this prophet. The sense is, Thou wast besotted with the sense of thy present felicity, and didst not consider, as thy duty and common discretion obliged thee, what might and was likely to befall thee afterward; thou didst neither expect a change nor prepare for it.
Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:I am; I am independent, and self-sufficient, and unchangeable, as that phrase implies, which therefore is appropriated to God, Isaiah 41:4 43:10, and elsewhere. The prophet doth not here use the very phrase which the Babylonians used, but expresseth their sense in a Scripture phrase.
None else beside me; which is not either subject to me, or far inferior to me in power and glory; so that in comparison of me it may be said not to be, because it disappears like stars at the presence of the sun.
I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children; I shall never want either a king or people to defend me from all dangers.
But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.In their perfection; in the highest degree. Thy king and kingdom shall be utterly and eternally destroyed.
For the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments; for thy superstitious and magical practices, which were very frequent there, as we see Isaiah 47:12,13, and as was observed before. Or, as it is in the Hebrew, in the multitude of thy sorceries, &c.; in the midst of and notwithstanding all thy diabolical artifices, whereby thou thinkest to foresee any dangers, and to secure thyself from them.
For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.Thou hast trusted in thy wickedness; confidently expecting to preserve thyself by these and other wicked arts and policies. Thou hast said,
None seeth me; my counsels are so deeply and cunningly laid, that God himself can neither discover nor prevent the execution of them.
Thy wisdom and thy knowledge in state policy, and the arts mentioned above and below,
hath perverted thee; hath misled thee into the way of transgression and perdition.
Thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; which was said Isaiah 47:8, and is here repeated, to note their intolerable arrogancy and self-confidence.
Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.Therefore shall evil come upon thee; or rather, when it shall come: Heb. the morning of it, the day or time of its approach. And they are justly upbraided and derided for this ignorance, because the astrologers, the star-gazers, and the monthly prognosticators, mentioned here, Isaiah 17:13, pretended punctually to foretell the particular time of all future events. And this explication agrees with the history, Babylon being surprised by Cyrus when they were in deep security, as is manifest, both from Scripture, Jeremiah 51:31 Da 5, and from other histories.
Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly; or, when thou shalt not know it. Thou shalt not apprehend thy danger till it be too late.
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.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.
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.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.
Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.They shall not deliver themselves, and much less thee,
from the power of the flame; they shall be totally consumed, and all the comfort which thou didst expect from them shall utterly vanish.
Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.Thus, such comfortless and helpless creatures, shall they be; either,
1. Thy merchants, as it follows, with whom thou hast trafficked. Or,
2. Thy sorcerers, astrologers, &c., with whom they are said to have laboured, both here and Isaiah 47:12, who also may possibly be called their merchants, because they traded so much with them, and because of their deceitful practices; for which Ephraim is called a merchant, Hosea 12:7. And so the following clause may be rendered, who have been
thy merchants from thy youth. Or the last clause may be understood of merchants, properly so called, who came from several countries to trade with Babylon, as is noted in Scripture, and by other authors; and the verse may be thus rendered; Thus (vain and unprofitable) shall they (thy sorcerers, &c.) with whom thou hast laboured be unto thee: (so here is only a transposition of words, than which nothing is more usual in Scripture. Then follows another matter in the next clause:) also
thy merchants, or they with whom thou hast traded from thy youth, shall wander every one to his own quarter. None shall save thee; they shall all leave thee, and flee away with all possible speed to their several countries and habitations.