Bel bows down, Nebo stoops, their idols were on the beasts, and on the cattle: your carriages were heavy laden…
1. This is an incident in the fall of Babylon. Cyrus has broken in, and the mighty city lies open to the Persian army, exasperated by long waiting at her gates. The blood of her nobles has flowed freely over the marble floors of her palaces; most of her defenders are slain. Women and children are cowering in the inmost recesses of their homes, or filling the streets with screams of terror and appeals for help, as they fly from the brutal soldiery. The final and most sanguinary conflicts have taken place within the precincts of the idol temples; but all is still now. The priests have fallen around the altars which they served; their blood mingling with that of their victims, and their splendid vestments are become their winding sheets. And now, down the marble staircases, trodden in happier days by the feet of myriads of votaries, 1o, the soldiers are carrying the helpless idols. The stern monotheism of Persia would have no pity for the many gods of Babylon; there are no idol-shrines in the land of the sun-worshippers where they could find a niche: but they are borne away as trophies of the completeness of the victory. There is Bel, whose name suggested that of the capital itself. How ignominiously it is handed down from its pedestal! And Nebo follows. The hideous images, lavishly inset with jewels and richly caparisoned, are borne down the stately steps, their bearers laughing and jeering as they come. The gods get little respect from their rude hands, which are only eager to despoil them of a jewel. And now, at the foot of the stairs, they are loaded up on the backs of elephants, or pitched into the ox-waggons. In more prosperous days they were carried with excessive pomp through the streets of Babylon, wherever there was plague or sickness. Then the air had been full of the clang of cymbals and trumpets, and the streets thronged with worshipping crowds; but all that is altered. "The things that ye carried about are made a load, a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity" (Isaiah 46:12, R V). So much for the gods of Babylon being borne off into captivity.
2. Close on this graphic picture of the discomfiture of the gods of Babylon, we are invited to consider a description of Jehovah, in which the opposite to each of these items stands out in clear relief. He speaks to the house of Jacob, and to all the remnant of the house of Israel, as children whom He had borne from the birth, and carried from earliest childhood. Their God needed not to be borne, He bore; needed no carriage, since His everlasting arms made cradle and carriage both. Such am He had been, He would be. He would not change. He would carry them, even to hoar hairs. He had made and He would bear; yea, He would carry and deliver.
3. This contrast is a perpetual one. Some people carry their religion; other people are carried by it. Some are burdened by the prescribed creeds, ritual, observances, exactions, to which they believe themselves to be committed. Others have neither thought nor care for these things. They have yielded themselves to God, and are persuaded that He will bear them and carry them, as a man doth bear his son, in all the way that they go, until they come to the place of which God has spoken to them (Deuteronomy 1:31; Isaiah 63:9).
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.