Lesson 17: Chapters 45:9-47:15
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)

Most Holy and Sovereign Lord,
When we feel we are swallowed up by a disordered world, help us to remember that You are sovereign over all the heavens and the earth and everything in it. So long as we cling to You and acknowledge Your divine plan for our lives, we have no reason to feel that we have been cast adrift in a sea of chaos. We are in the world, but we are not of the world for we belong to You, and You are our Savior and Redeemer. Send Your Holy Spirit, Lord, to guide us in today's study concerning God's promise of redemption and restoration for His covenant people, Israel. His promise to them is the same promise Jesus made to all believers when He said, "And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia "to fulfil the word of Yahweh through Jeremiah "Yahweh roused the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia to issue a proclamation and to have it publicly displayed throughout his kingdom: "Cyrus king of Persia says this, Yahweh, the God of Heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build him a Temple in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him! Let him go up.'"
2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Cyrus became king of Persia in 559 BC. He conquered Babylon in March/April 539 BC, which made him the ruler of a vast empire, acquiring all the lands and peoples formerly ruled by the Babylonian Empire. He issued the Edict of Cyrus allowing the return of the different peoples exiled by the Babylonians in 539/8 BC. Cyrus was extremely generous to the people he conquered. He restored them to their homelands and actively supported them and their worship sites, while at the same time keeping a measure of control over them. His generosity was recognized and he was seen as a liberator of the people conquered by the Babylonians, including the Jews who may have enjoyed a particular advantage. As in 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra 1:2-4 where the Persian king refers to Yahweh as "the God of Heaven," in the Persian court records Yahweh is always called "the God of Heaven." Cyrus seems to have equated Yahweh with his god Ahura-Mazda.(1) After reigning for 29/30 years, Cyrus died in c. 530 BC. There are three different accounts of his death; two accounts state that he died in battle with the Scythians along the banks of the Syr Darya River in Central Asia (modern Russia).

In Isaiah 41:2-4 Yahweh promised to send a liberator to end the covenant people's exile in Babylon. He will be a mighty warrior king who will come from the East to be a "champion of justice," and he will subdue kings and their nations. In the last lesson we learned the name of the mysterious king God chose to liberate His covenant people and return them to the Promised Land (Is 44:28; 45:1). He is a man named Cyrus who is described by God as "My shepherd" and as God's "anointed one" (mashiach/messiah). Cyrus is a man who will not enter the stage of human history until the mid-6th century BC when he will forge the greatest empire the ancient Near East had ever seen up to that point in time (559-529 BC). God chose to act through King Cyrus of Persia as His agent for three reasons:

  1. God acted through Cyrus, summoning him by name and working through him despite the fact that Cyrus did not know him because he wanted Cyrus and all Gentiles to know of His power and that Yahweh is the One True God.
  2. God acted through Cyrus for the sake of His servant Israel, demonstrating God's faithfulness to Israel despite Israel's disloyalty.
  3. God acted through Cyrus to return covenant people to their homeland because Israel has a part to play in salvation history that requires their return to the Promised Land when God would call forth another Messiah to redeem Israel and all mankind.

In Isaiah 45:9-25 Isaiah emphasizes three things:

  1. He pronounces a curse judgment (a "woe") against the rebellious and defiant (45:9-13).
  2. He announces the deliverance of God's covenant people from foreigners and their idols and the conversion of the Gentile nations (45:14-19).
  3. He proclaims God's uniqueness as the Lord of the universe who calls all nations to conversion (45:20-25).

Isaiah 45:9-13 ~ A Curse Judgment Against the Defiant
9 Woe to anyone who argues with His Maker, one earthenware pot among many! Does the clay say to its potter, "What are you doing? Your work has no hands!" 10 Woe to anyone who asks a father, "Why are you begetting?" and a woman, "Why are you giving birth?" 11 Thus says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel and his Maker: I am asked for signs regarding my sons, I am given orders about the work I do. 12 It was I who made the earth and I created human beings on it, mine were the hands that spread out the heavens and I have given the orders to all their array. 13 I myself have raised him in saving justice [righteousness] and I shall make all paths level for him. He will rebuild my city and bring my exiles home without ransom or indemnity, says Yahweh Sabaoth. [...] = the Hebrew word tsedeq/sedek from the root meaning "to cause to make right." The NJB usually translates this word as "saving justice."

Question: In verse 9 to what does Isaiah compare God and the people?
Answer: God is the supreme Creator "He is compared to a potter who creates earthenware pots and to the parents of children. The Israelites are just one kind of "pot" among many peoples that God has created, and it is presumptuous of them to question God's motives or His plans. The pot does not question the potter, nor do newborn children talk back to their parents.

Isaiah used the same potter and clay imagery in Isaiah 29:16; also see the same imagery again in Jeremiah 18:1-12; J19:1-11, and again by St. Paul in Romans 9:20-21.

11 Thus says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel and his Maker: I am asked for signs regarding my sons, I am given orders about the work I do. 12 It was I who made the earth and I created human beings on it, mine were the hands that spread out the heavens and I have given the orders to all their array.
As is Isaiah's custom, he uses three appellatives to make God's authority unmistakable: He is "Yahweh", He is the "Holy One of Israel", and He is Israel's Maker/Creator." It is Yahweh who took a disenfranchised slave population and turned it into the covenant nation of Israel. Isaiah reminds both the Israelites and all peoples of the earth that Yahweh is the Creator God and no one has the authority to question God's freedom of action concerning the role of His divinely appointed agents "the "sons" who God has chosen to aid Him in shaping the destiny of human history. God appears to equating Cyrus as a "son" in the same way the Davidic kings are His sons by adoption (2 Sam 7:14).

13 I myself have raised him in saving justice [righteousness] and I shall make all paths level for him. He will rebuild my city and bring my exiles home without ransom or indemnity, says Yahweh Sabaoth.
Verse 13 is the concluding argument supported by the previous statements.
Question: Who is the "him" and "he" in verse 13 and what will he do?
Answer: Cyrus is the man God has "raised in righteousness", and he is:

  1. God's agent of liberation.
  2. He will return the exiled covenant people to Jerusalem.
  3. He will rebuild the city.
  4. He will do this without collecting a ransom or any sort of financial burden for the people.
  5. He will do all this through God's direct intervention.

The point is the Israelites should not question God's radical divine plan to use a Gentile to bring about their salvation, and God utters a curse judgment against those who do question Him or His motives.

Question: In the past God had used pagan kings to bring about His divine plan, but those kings and the kingdoms were later punished for going too far and in committing crimes against humanity. Why will Cyrus be speared God's divine judgment after he has served his purpose in God's divine plan for returning the covenant people to their homeland? See 41:1-3; 44:28; 45:1-4, and 13.
Answer: Not only did Cyrus allow himself to be guided by Yahweh to fulfill all that God intended of him, but unlike the other pagan kings he was a righteous and honorable man.

Isaiah 45:14-19 ~ Deliverance and Conversion
14 Thus says Yahweh: The produce of Egypt, the commerce of Cush and the men of Seba, tall of stature, will come over to you and belong to you. They will follow you, walking in chains, they will bow before you, they will pray to you, "With you alone is God, and there is no other! Their gods do not exist." 15 Truly, you are a God who conceals himself, God of Israel, Savior! 16 They are shamed and humbled, every one of them, humiliated they go, the makers of idols. 17 Israel will be saved by Yahweh, saved everlastingly. You will never be ashamed or humiliated forever and ever. 18 For thus says Yahweh, the Creator of the heavens "he is God, who shaped the earth and made it, who set it firm; he did not create it to be chaos, he formed it to be lived in: 19 I am Yahweh, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in some dark corner of the underworld. I did not say, "Offspring of Jacob, search for me in chaos!" I am Yahweh: I proclaim saving justice [righteousness], I say what is true.

Isaiah presents a vision of universal conversion and salvation in a future gathering of the nations around Jerusalem when they submit themselves to being servants of the covenant and to worship the God of Israel. Cush is Nubia and Seba refers to the nomads of the Arabian Desert. This same prophecy was introduced in Isaiah 2:2-4; it is repeated verbatim in Micah 4:1-3, and in variations in Jeremiah 12:15-16; 16:19-21 and Zephaniah 3:9-10. This concept of the nations of the world coming to salvation is one of the key themes of the Book of Consolation that began in Isaiah 42:1-4, 6; 45:14-16, 20-25 and which will be revisited in Isaiah 49:6; 55:3-5; in chapter 60; and in the conclusion of the Book of Isaiah in 66:18-24. The post exile prophet Zechariah will also write about the future conversion of the Gentiles in Zechariah 2:15; 8:20-23; 14:9 and 16.

It is in Jerusalem that the New Covenant will take hold after Jesus' Resurrection and the great miracle on the Jewish feast of Pentecost fifty days later when God the Holy Spirit fills and indwells the New Covenant people of God praying in the Upper Room in Jerusalem. The Gospel of salvation will then spread out to the nations of the earth who will recognize Yahweh as the One God of entire earth, and in rejecting the pagan gods. Jerusalem will be the "mother church" of the New Covenant people of God.

15 Truly, you are a God who conceals himself, God of Israel, Savior!
This verse offers a theological lesson. God no longer visually presents Himself as He did in the Glory Cloud or in the Theophany at Sinai, or in the bread from heaven, or in the miracles like the Red Sea crossing in the exodus out of Egypt, or the parting of the Jordan River at the beginning of the conquest of Canaan. He now conceals Himself behind His instruments like Cyrus. But, in spite of this, He still remains His people's Savior (verses 15 and 17) whose sovereignty and omnipotence is continually manifested to His people.

19 I am Yahweh, and there is no other. I have not spoken in secret, in some dark corner of the underworld. I did not say, "Offspring of Jacob, search for me in chaos!" I am Yahweh: I proclaim saving justice [righteousness], I say what is true.
God has always spoken openly to His people through His prophets and has fulfilled everything He has spoken through them. In revealing His Divine Name that goes back to His covenant with Adam and Eve (Eve is the first human to speak God's Divine Name in Scripture in Genesis 4:1), God both says who He is and establishes an intimacy with His human creation by giving them the name by which He is to be called. In Exodus 3:15b God tells Moses, "This my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come." It is a false piety for His chosen people to refuse to use His Divine Name. "His name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men" (CCC 206).

Question: How does God continue to manifest Himself to His people? Does He manifest Himself in reason and order or in chaos?
Answer: He manifests Himself through the prophets, in the fulfillment of predictive prophecies, and also in His creative and redemptive works that are part of a divine plan and not the chaos of a disordered world (verses 18-19).

Isaiah 45:20-25 ~ The Lord of the Universe calls the Nations to Acknowledge Him as their God
20 Assemble, come, all of you gather round, survivors of the nations. They have no knowledge, those who parade their wooden idols and pray to a god that cannot save. 21 Speak up, present your case, let them put their heads together! Who foretold this in the past, who revealed it long ago? Was it not I, Yahweh? There is no other god except me, no saving God, no Savior except me! 22 Turn to me and you will be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By my own self I swear it; what comes from my mouth is saving justice [righteousness], it is an irrevocable word: All shall bend the knee to me, by me every tongue shall swear, 24 saying, "In Yahweh alone are saving justice [righteousness] and strength," until all those who used to rage at him come to him in shame. 25 In Yahweh the whole race of Israel finds justice and glory.

God reminds the nations through His prophet that their idols cannot save them. Only He, Yahweh the righteous Savior, controls past, present and the unknown future. He calls all the peoples from the ends of the earth to come to Him and be saved, for there is none other who can save them.

Question: The call to salvation to the "ends of the earth" will be repeated in the New Testament. What does Jesus tell His disciples in Act 1:8 before His Ascension into Heaven?
Answer: He commands them to go out and baptize, beginning in Jerusalem and then Judea, Samaria and "to the ends of the earth."

Isaiah's prophecy of a future universal call to salvation anticipates St. Simeon's prophecy of the gift of universal salvation to the Holy Family in Luke 2:29-32 and Jesus' command to His Apostles and disciples to reach all nations with the Gospel of salvation (Mt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).

Question: Isaiah was God's agent in the Old Testament to announce His salvation. How does the Lord advance His kingdom and the Gospel message of salvation today?
Answer: He does it today as He has done in each generation since His Resurrection "through believers who take up His call to discipleship through baptism and confirmation and advance His Kingdom of the Church by calling others to join the covenant family of the Church on the journey to eternal salvation.

22 Turn to me and you will be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other. 23 By my own self I swear it; what comes from my mouth is saving justice [righteousness], it is an irrevocable word: All shall bend the knee to me, by me every tongue shall swear, 24 saying, "In Yahweh alone are saving justice [righteousness] and strength," until all those who used to rage at him come to him in shame.
To the Israelites, His "chosen people," God revealed himself as the only One. They professed this belief in the Shema, the Old Covenant profession of faith, with a three times repetition of the Divine Name which began, Hear, O Israel: Yahweh, our God is one Yahweh; and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your might (Dt 6:4-5). But through the prophets, God called not only Israel but all nations to turn to Him, the one and only God: 22 Turn to me and you will be saved, all you ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other... All shall bend the knee to me, by me every tongue shall swear, 24 saying, "In Yahweh alone are saving justice [righteousness] and strength ..." (see CCC 201).

Jesus himself affirms this core belief when He said, teaching about the commandments, "This is the first: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength'" (Mk 12:29-30 NAB). At the same time Jesus taught His disciples that He is "the Lord" and "the Savior" about whom Isaiah spoke (Mk 12:35-37). In citation 202 the Catechism teaches: "To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as "Lord and giver of Life" introduce any division onto the One God: We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal, infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty, and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance, or natural entirely simple'" (quoting Lateran Council IV: DS 800).

"All those who used to rage" refers to the Gentile nations who used to worship idols but who will repent one day and turn to Yahweh. Once again Isaiah uses the language of the courtroom. In verse 23 God swears by His own self "because there is nothing greater by which He can swear "that He has spoken through His prophet in truth and righteousness. His word is irrevocable "it cannot be recalled, withdrawn, or annulled " and what He speaks comes about. The message of His salvation will reach the Gentile nations, and they will come to Him in submission, swearing their obedience to His commands and recognizing Him as the One True God. St. Paul will refer to this verse in Romans 14:11 and again Philippians 2:10-11 when writing about the fulfillment of God's promise of universal salvation in Christ Jesus:

Chapters 46:1-47:15 ~ Condemnation of Babylon

In this section Isaiah presents God's condemnation of the Babylonian's idols and all false gods (46:1-13), and also Yahweh's lament for the fate of the Babylonian people and their empire (47:1-15).

The focus of Isaiah 46:1-13 is God versus the Babylonian false gods. Isaiah presents this section in four parts:

  1. The false idols of Babylon are humiliated (46:1-2).
  2. God gives His assurance to Israel (46:3-4).
  3. The futility of all idols everywhere is repeated (46:5-7).
  4. The account of Yahweh's uniqueness is repeated (46:8-13).

Isaiah 46:1-2 ~ The Humiliation of False Idols
1 Bel is crouching, Nebo cowering, their idols are being put on animals, on beasts of burden, the loads you have been carrying are a burden to a weary beast. 2 They are cowering and crouching together, no one can save this burden, they themselves have gone into captivity.

The festival of Akitu, the Babylonian new year festival, took place just before the spring equinox and lasted for eleven days. All the major idols of the Babylonian pantheon were brought to the capital city of Babylon to participate in grand processions. Bel or Marduk, sometimes called Bel-Marduk, was the head of the pantheon and was associated with the sky/rain, vegetation and magic. Nebo (Nabu) was Bel's son, the god of wisdom and writing. During the festival, the images of the deities, including Bel-Marduk and Nebo, were carried on carts drawn by oxen through the streets of Babylon in a procession with the king "holding the hand" of Bel-Marduk, signifying his loyalty, submission and partnership with the god.

Question: How do verses 1-2 show the prophet's familiarity with the religious practices of the Babylonian Akitu festival?
Answer: While he only names Bel and Nebo, he does name the two chief gods of the Babylonian pantheon and alludes to the procession on the festival of the new year as the idols are drawn on carts through the city.

But Isaiah's description is not of powerful idols but of false gods who are bowed down and powerless. They have become a burden to their people and cannot save them from God's agent, Cyrus of Persia.

Isaiah 46:3-4 ~ God gives His Assurance to the Remnant of Israel
3 Listen to me, House of Jacob, all who remain of the House of Israel, whom I have carried since the womb, whom I have supported since you were conceived. 4 Until your old age I shall be the same, until your hair is grey I shall carry you. As I have done, so I shall support you, I myself shall carry and shall save you.

Notice the contrast Isaiah is making: the beasts pull carts that carried the false idols of Babylon, but it is Yahweh who "carried" Israel "each man and woman "since they were conceived in the womb of their mothers. God has preserved this remnant ""those who remain" "of the House of Israel. He will continue to be with them until they are old and grey. It is He who will protect and save them and no other.

Isaiah 46:5-7 ~ The Futility of All Idols is Repeated
5 With whom can you equate me, to whom can you liken me, making equals of us? 6 They lavish gold from their purses and weigh out silver on the scales. They engage a goldsmith to make a god, then bow low and actually adore! 7 They lift it on their shoulders and carry it, and put it down where it is meant to stand, so that it never moves from the spot. You may cry out to it in distress, it never replies, it never saves anyone in trouble.

The contrast between the conquered gods of Babylon and the God of Israel who will be victorious in redeeming His people leads Isaiah to resume his theme of the futility of all lifeless idols compared with God's incomparable power and majesty.

Isaiah 46:8-13 ~ Yahweh's Uniqueness is Repeated
8 Remember this and stand firm; rebels, look into your hearts. 9 Remember the things that happened long ago, for I am God, and there is no other, God, and there is none like me. 10 From the beginning I revealed the future, in advance, what has not yet occurred. I say: My purpose will come about, I shall do whatever I please; 11 I call a bird of prey from the east, my man predestined, from a distant land. What I have said, I shall do, what I have planned, I shall perform. 12 Listen to me, you hard-hearted people far removed from saving justice [righteousness]: 13 I am bringing my justice nearer, it is not far away, my salvation will not delay. I shall place my salvation in Zion and my glory in Israel.

The "rebels" are the Judeans who have apostatized from the covenant and who stand in opposition of God's divine plan.

Question: In 46:10-11 Isaiah announces what three demonstrations of God's sovereignty over human history and His supremacy over all false gods?

  1. He announces what will happen in the end from the beginning in foretelling the future, and God challenges the false gods to prove they can do the same.
  2. He establishes the reasons He plans as He does, and then He makes those plans come about.
  3. He called Cyrus "a bird of prey" who is intent on his mission and predestined to accomplish God's divine plan for Judah and her people.

Chapter 47: Yahweh's Lament for Babylon

Isaiah described the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus by giving an account of the humiliation of Babylon's deities. If a nation's gods fail and are destroyed, it is symbolic of the failure and destruction of that nation. Isaiah announced Babylon's judgment and downfall in chapters 13-14, and now he speaks again of Babylon's judgment; but this time the judgment against Babylon is more personal because God speaks directly to the Babylonians and accuses them of standing in the way of His divine plan (verse 3). This judgment can be divided into three parts:

  1. God will expose the shame of Babylon (47:1-3).
  2. Babylon will face divine judgment because of her failure to show mercy to others and her opposition to God's divine plan (47:4-7).
  3. Babylon's overconfidence will result in disaster and despair (47:8-15).

Question: When did Jesus lament over the sins of a city and her coming judgment? See Mt 23:37-39? What was that city's sin?
Answer: Jesus lamented the coming destruction of Jerusalem; it was a divine judgment for the rejection the Messiah and standing in opposition of God's divine plan for the New Covenant Church and God's elect who He says will experience Jewish persecution.

In 47:3-6 Babylon is personified as a sinful woman. This is God's judgment on the "whore of Babylon":

  1. For her wantonness (verse 3)
  2. For her merciless cruelty (verse 6)
  3. For her arrogant pride (verses 7-8)
  4. For her sorcery (verse 9)

Isaiah 47:1-3 ~ The Shame of Babylon Exposed
1 Step down! Sit in the dust, virgin daughter of Babylon. Sit on the ground, no throne, daughter of the Chaldaeans, for never again will you be called tender and delicate. 2 Take the grinding mill, crush up the meal. Remove your veil, tie up your skirt, bare your legs, cross the rivers. 3 Let your nakedness be displayed and your shame exposed. I am going to take vengeance and no one will stand in my way.

To personify a town or country as a woman is common in the Bible. For some examples in the Old Testament see:

Question: What commands are given to Babylon in verse 1?
Answer: The commands to "step down," and to "sit" on the dust and the ground without a throne.

To step down from the throne is to give up her royal power and authority. To sit in the dust is a demonstration of her humiliation and disgrace as well as her mourning. For the second command a similar expression describes Nineveh's king in the Book of Jonah (Jon 3:6) and Job during his affliction (Job 2:8).

The term "virgin daughter of Babylon" may seem surprising considering the spiritual impurity of Babylon in her many sins (47:12-13), but it probably refers to the fact that the neo-Babylonian Empire (after the defeat of the Assyrians), prior to the Persian invasion, had been untouched by defilement of a foreign invader.

Sit on the ground, no throne, daughter of the Chaldaeans, for never again will you be called tender and delicate. The Chaldeans were an ethic group that achieved domination over the region and therefore came to be known as the Babylonians. Abraham was originally from the region of the Chaldean city of Ur (Gen 11:28, 31; 15:7 and Neh 9:7).(1) The terms "Babylonian" and "Chaldean" are considered to be basically interchangeable in this period.

In verses 1-2 Isaiah uses images of conquest and captivity to describe Babylon's coming fate at the hands of God's agent, Cyrus. Instead of living as a royal princess, Babylon would receive the same shameful treatment they inflicted on the citizens of Judah and others:

Question: According to verse 3 who would be responsible for bring this shame upon Babylon?
Answer: Yahweh alone.

What Yahweh is bringing to Babylon will be justice for her past acts of cruelty on other peoples. In Hebrew the word translated "vengeance" in verse 3 means "balancing the scales."

Isaiah 47:4-7 ~ Babylon will Face Divine Judgment because of the Failure to show Mercy
4 Our redeemer, Yahweh Sabaoth is his name, the Holy One of Israel, says: 5 Sit in silence, bury yourself in darkness, daughter of the Chaldaeans, for never again will you be called the mistress of kingdoms. 6 Being angry with my people, I rejected my heritage, surrendering them into your clutches [hands]. You showed them no mercy, you made your yoke very heavy on the aged. 7 You thought, "I shall be a queen forever." You did not reflect on these matters or think about the future.

Sitting in silence and darkness was completely contrary to the normal habitation of Babylon, "queen of kingdoms" who considered her rightful place to be foremost among the empires of the earth. However, on the day that God threw her off her throne (47:1), this would be her lot.

Question: What does Isaiah reveal as the real reason for Judah's exile into Babylon in verse 6a?
Answer: It wasn't because of Babylon's power but because of God's judgment against Judah's sins.

Question: What is the reason God is now going to subject Babylon to judgment? See verse 6b-7.
Answer: Babylon failed to show mercy to their conquered peoples, especially the elderly. Babylon may have been God's instrument of divine judgment, but Babylon has gone beyond what was necessary in the conquest by being cruel and heartless to the captives and for being arrogant enough to think that God would hold them accountable for their actions.

Isaiah 47:8-15 ~ Babylon's Overconfidence will Result in Disaster and Despair
8 Now listen to this, voluptuous woman, lolling at ease and thinking to yourself, "I am the only one who matters. I shall never be widowed, never know bereavement." 9 Yet both these things will befall you, suddenly, in one day. Bereavement and widowhood will suddenly befall you in spite of all your witchcraft and the potency of your spells. 10 Confident in your wickedness, you thought, "No one can see me." Your wishes and your knowledge were what deluded you, as you thought to yourself, "I am the only one who matters." 11 Hence, disaster will befall you which you will not know how to charm away, calamity overtake you which you will not be able to avert, ruination will suddenly befall you, such as you have never known. 12 Keep to your spells then and all your sorceries, at which you have worked so hard since you were young. Perhaps you will succeed, perhaps you will strike terror! 13 You have had many tiring consultations: let the astrologers come forward now and save you, the star-gazers who announce month by month what will happen to you next. 14 Look, they are like wisps of straw, the fire will burn them up. They will not save their lives from the power of the flame. No embers these, for keeping warm, no fire to sit beside! 15 Such will your wizards prove to be for you, for whom you have worked so hard since you were young; each wandering his own way, none of them can save you.

In verse 7 Isaiah expressed Babylon's foolish overconfidence with her thought: "I shall be a queen forever."
Question: This failure to see that one day she would be held accountable for her sins is followed by what other foolish thoughts in 47:8 and 10? List all three foolish thoughts.

  1. "I shall be a queen forever."
  2. "I am the only one who matters. I shall never be widowed, never know bereavement."
  3. "No one can see me."

In verse 8 Babylon was so arrogant and so confident that she believed nothing disastrous, like being defeated in war that left many widows and much sorrow, would ever happen to her. But Isaiah's answer to her in verse 9 is: 9 Yet both these things will befall you, suddenly, in one day. Bereavement and widowhood will suddenly befall you in spite of all your witchcraft and the potency of your spells. He compared Babylon to a woman who became a widow and lost everything precious to her in a single day.

The boast "I am the only one who matters" in verse 10 can also be translated " I am, and there is none besides me" "this statement is very like what Yahweh asserted about Himself in 42:8; 45:14, 22; 46:9! Babylon is apparently trying to rival Yahweh and she will be punished for her arrogance and pride.

The prophecy of disaster coming in a single day (verse 9) is exactly what happened in 539 BC when Cyrus and his Persian army marched unopposed into the city of Babylon while her king and her citizens were celebrating what may have been the new year feast of Akitu, as recorded in the Book of Daniel chapter 5 and by ancient historians like Herodotus.

Verses 9, 12 and 13 suggest that the Babylonians placed their confidence in the occult. These forms of foretelling or attempting to manipulate future events are forbidden in the Law of the Sinai Covenant. The punishment for participating in such activities was death (Ex 22:17/18; Lev 20:6, 27; Dt 18:9-12). God even mocks them by inviting them to try to use their spells, sorceries, and attempts to read the stars to save themselves. Not only will those who participate in the occult not be able to save Babylon, they will not be able to save themselves.

There is no atonement in the punishment and suffering that God has ordained for Babylon because there is no repentance. Babylon has persecuted God's chosen people, especially the most vulnerable, and has stubbornly stood in opposition to God's divine plan to return His people to their homeland; Babylon is now beyond redemption. "Babylon" will become a symbolic title for any city and its people that stand in opposition to God and persecute His elect. St. Peter will refer to the city of Rome as "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5:13 during a period of intense persecution of Christians prior to his martyrdom in 67AD. And in the Book of Revelation, "Babylon" becomes a symbolic name for the city of Jerusalem that persecuted the Church and rejected the Messiah in St. John's prophecies of Jerusalem's judgment shortly prior to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman army in 70 AD ( Rev 14:8; 16:19; 17:5; 18:2, 10, 21).

Question for reflection or group discussion:
Give a summary of God's condemnation of Babylon in Isaiah chapter 47. Of what sins were the people and their nation guilty and how do their sins and guilt compare to us and the collective sins of the people of our nation today?

1. Ahura Mazda is the highest spirit of worship in Zoroastrianism. Cyrus, the first of the Achaemenid rulers, was an early follower of Zoroastrianism. The worship of Ahura Mazda first appeared in Persia c. 550 BC and under Cyrus it quickly became the religion of the Achaemenid rulers. The literal meaning of the word "ahura" is "mighty" or "lord" and "mazda" means "wisdom. Zoroastrianism revolves around three basic tenets: good thoughts, good words, and good deeds. There were no representations of Ahura Mazda in this period and the name of Ahura Mazda was worshiped and invoked alone. Therefore, Cyrus probably equated Yahweh with his god since the practice of basic tenants and worship of the Persian god was somewhat similar to the practice of worshipping Yahweh.
2. Chaldaea was a Semitic nation that gained dominance over southeastern Mesopotamia between the late 10th and early 9th century BC and maintained dominance until the mid-6th century BC when the Chaldean tribes were absorbed into the other ethnic populations of Babylonia. In the 6th century BC, the 11th dynasty of the Kings of Babylon is known to historians as the Chaldean Dynasty. However, the last rulers, Nabonidus and his son Belshazzar, were not Chaldean but were of Assyrian origin.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2016 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:

Isaiah 45:19 (CCC 206); 45:22-24 (CCC 201)