In Isaiah 47, God quickly and assertively removes all honor from the large and prosperous city of Babylon. This chapter is known as a funeral song for Babylon with four stanzas: 1-4, 5-7, 8-11 and 12-15.
God is calling the consequence of Babylonian sin due. He invites them to come off their throne and sit in the dust. The moniker “virgin daughter” is sarcastic because Babylon had given itself up to all manner of false gods and corrupt practices. Their esteemed place in the world as a prosperous and successful nation is passing away. Because of their sin, their true fate is to sit in the dust, naked and working, with their shame exposed for all to see. Removing the veil, taking off the skirt and uncovering the thigh are to be in preparation for menial labor, something that the nation as a whole was unaccustomed to. The nakedness implies exposure to all of Babylon’s true state, which was one of depravity.
The interlude in verse four introduces Christ, the Redeemer, the Lord of Hosts, the Holy One of Israel. This is not Cyrus. Christ is mentioned here as contrast. Babylon is humiliated, but Israel would be ultimately redeemed.
For a time, God allowed Babylon to enslave and abuse Israel because He was so unhappy with Israel’s rebellion: “I was angry with My people; I have profaned My inheritance, And given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy; On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.” Isaiah 47:6
Among other things, God is angry at Babylon for how they treated Israel and He wants to punish them. Babylon believes that it will remain established as a strong empire, but this is untrue. God will punish and destroy it.
Let us investigate some of Babylon’s faults as described by God:
– Love for pleasure
– Live in safety and security without homage to God
– Believe that theirs is the best and only existence
– Arrogance in believing they are above the tragedies of life
– Trust in wickedness
– Believe that no one knows of their wickedness
– Trust too much in earthly wisdom and knowledge
– Believe that they are the only people that matter
Because of these self-consumed and self-reliant beliefs, God will punish Babylon: “But these two things shall come to you In a moment, in one day: The loss of children, and widowhood. They shall come upon you in their fullness Because of the multitude of your sorceries, For the great abundance of your enchantments.” Isaiah 47:9
Also, in another notable verse, Babylon’s punishment will come upon it as a surprise: “Therefore evil shall come upon you; You shall not know from where it arises. And trouble shall fall upon you; You will not be able to put it off. And desolation shall come upon you suddenly, Which you shall not know.” Isaiah 47:11. Although it is doubtful that Babylon heard and believed these warnings, it is a very fearful thing to have the knowledge of upcoming tragedy, but to not know when or where it will strike.
God knows where they will turn when these times of trouble come. They will go to the sources in their sinning culture that they believe hold the power to save: astrologers, stargazers, and monthly prognosticators. This group of people claimed to be able to divine the future through astrology. Similar to today, many people sought meaning in places where there is none, such as the placement and movement of stars in the sky. The ironic point to this idea is always that God’s creation is looking for meaning in God’s creation rather than looking for meaning in the Word and commandments of God Himself.
Does this mean it is a sin to read your horoscope? Yes, if you place the words of the horoscope above the Word of God. We must build and protect the belief that only God’s Word holds true wisdom and meaning; all else is just the supposition of unreliable man.
When Babylon seeks guidance from astrologers and the like, God has a plan for these so-called saviors: they will be weak and they will burn. They will not be able to save themselves and the fire will be exceedingly hot and deadly.
The final verse tells us that even the merchants that grew wealthy by trading with Babylon will not save them; indeed, when God’s wrath is turned on them because of their sin, nothing will be able to save them. God does not make deals with man.
The primary thing we can take away from this chapter is that to live in open disobedience and defiance of God is to eventually earn His wrath. It is good for us to remember the sins in this chapter that God attributes to Babylon lest we find ourselves thinking the same way they did. So from time to time we should ask ourselves:
Do I love pleasure too much?
Do I trust in wicked sources?
Do I think I am above others?
Asking ourselves these questions will help us to keep the right perspective of life. We need to keep our minds on the right things and we need to ensure that we are seeking righteousness. If we are not saved and protective of our faith, there will be consequences for us just as there was for Babylon.
Take encouragement from the words of Christ: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched— where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.’ And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire— where ‘Their worm does not die And the fire is not quenched.’” Mark 9:43-48
It is easy to see the comparison in punishment of Babylon’s in Isaiah 47 and the sinner’s in Mark 9.