1 Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind flour,
put off your veil,
strip off your robe, uncover your legs,
pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
and your disgrace shall be seen.
I will take vengeance,
and I will spare no one.
4 Our Redeemer—the Lord of hosts is his name—
is the Holy One of Israel.
5 Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
for you shall no more be called
the mistress of kingdoms.
6 I was angry with my people;
I profaned my heritage;
I gave them into your hand;
you showed them no mercy;
on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.
7 You said, “I shall be mistress forever,”
so that you did not lay these things to heart
or remember their end.
8 Now therefore hear this, you lover of pleasures,
who sit securely,
who say in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow
or know the loss of children”:
9 These two things shall come to you
in a moment, in one day;
the loss of children and widowhood
shall come upon you in full measure,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the great power of your enchantments.
10 You felt secure in your wickedness;
you said, “No one sees me”;
your wisdom and your knowledge led you astray,
and you said in your heart,
“I am, and there is no one besides me.”
11 But evil shall come upon you,
which you will not know how to charm away;
disaster shall fall upon you,
for which you will not be able to atone;
and ruin shall come upon you suddenly,
of which you know nothing.
12 Stand fast in your enchantments
and your many sorceries,
with which you have labored from your youth;
perhaps you may be able to succeed;
perhaps you may inspire terror.
13 You are wearied with your many counsels;
let them stand forth and save you,
those who divide the heavens,
who gaze at the stars,
who at the new moons make known
what shall come upon you.
14 Behold, they are like stubble;
the fire consumes them;
they cannot deliver themselves
from the power of the flame.
No coal for warming oneself is this,
no fire to sit before!
15 Such to you are those with whom you have labored,
who have done business with you from your youth;
they wander about, each in his own direction;
there is no one to save you. – Isaiah 47:1-15 ESV
Now, God turns His attention to the Babylonians, referring to them repeatedly in this passage as the “daughter of the Chaldeans.” The Chaldeans were a nomadic people group who occupied the southern portion of Babylon, now known as southern Iraq. While the two names are sometimes used interchangeably, it seems interesting that God would choose to use the term, Chaldeans, in this passage. But chapter 47 lies in the middle of a section of Isaiah in which God is reassuring the people of Judah of not only His unique status as the one true God, but as their eventual redeemer. He has promised to judge them, by allowing Babylon to defeat and deport them. But He has also pledged to rescue and restore them one day.
And their eventual return from the land of the Chaldeans bears important significance. If we go all the way back to the book of Genesis and God’s call of Abram, we discover that Abram was a Chaldean.
“Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan.” – Genesis 11:31 ESV
Abram, whom God would later rename Abraham, was not a Jew. He was a Chaldean. And just a few chapters later in the book of Genesis, God confirms the fact that Abram was from the land of the Chaldeans.
“I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” – Genesis 15:7 ESV
God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation. And even though Abram and his wife Sarah were both advanced in years and she was barren, God had told him:
“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” – Genesis 15:5 ESV
God had promised to give Abram and Sarah a child, and from that child would come many offspring, too numerous to count. And God also promised to provide Abram and his many descendants with a land of their own, the land of Canaan.
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:4-8 ESV
And here in the book of Isaiah, God is once again reaffirming His commitment to redeem and restore His people. He will once again bring them out of the land of the Chaldeans and return them to the land He had given them. Only a remnant, a relatively small portion of the Jews would return from Babylon. But just as He had done with Abram, God would make of that remnant a great nation. He would bless them in spite of them.
And God would also avenge them. That is what this chapter is all about. God addresses the Babylonians and warns them of His coming judgment agains them. Yes, He will use them as His rod of discipline against the people of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar will act as God’s chosen instrument, performing the sovereign will of God. The prophet Jeremiah recorded this stinging indictment of God against His chosen people.
“Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.” – Jeremiah 25:8-9 ESV
But while Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians would end up doing the will of God, they would take advantage of the opportunity. Because He is all-knowing, God uses the past tense, addressing the Babylonians as if these events have already taken place.
“For I was angry with my chosen people
and punished them by letting them fall into your hands.
But you, Babylon, showed them no mercy.
You oppressed even the elderly.” – Isaiah 47:6 NLT
God knew, well in advance, what the Babylonians were going to do. He didn’t need to wait until the people of Judah got to Babylon to know that their captors would abuse and oppress them. And so, God already had His plans for retribution in place, even before King Nebuchadnezzar ever sent his first troops into the land of Judah.
And God reveals the root behind Babylon’s future actions: Their pride and arrogance. Their success would go to their head. They would end up seeing themselves as unequalled in power and indestructable. As if looking into the future and reading their minds, God reveals the heart behind their haughtiness.
“I will reign forever as queen of the world!” – Isaiah 47:7 NLT
“I am the only one, and there is no other.
I will never be a widow or lose my children.” – Isaiah 47:9 ESV
“No one sees me.” – Isaiah 47:10 NLT
You can sense the aura of self-adulation and self-sufficiency that permeates these statements. And the second one carries particular significance. Listen to what they say: “I am the only one, and there is no other.” That should have an eerily familiar ring to it. Back in chapter 46, we heard God make a very similar statement.
“I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.” – Isaiah 46:9 ESV
The Babylonians, who would only be doing the will of God as the instruments of God, would wrongly assume that they were like God. They would end up seeing themselves as all-powerful, invincible, and the sovereign rulers over the world. But they were in for a rude awakening. Their false sense of security would come face to face with the one true God. He describes them as lovers of pleasure who were secure in their wickedness. They would end up living their lives as if God was oblivious to them. And because they would fail to reflect on the consequences of their actions, God would bring His judgment against them.
“So disaster will overtake you,
and you won’t be able to charm it away.
Calamity will fall upon you,
and you won’t be able to buy your way out.
A catastrophe will strike you suddenly,
one for which you are not prepared.” – Isaiah 47:11 NLT
Remember, this is all speaking of future events. God is predicting the eventual fate of the people of Babylon, long before they invaded Judah and defeated the city of Jerusalem. And this prophetic pronouncement was intended to remind the people of Judah that their God was the one and only God. There were no other gods. And the pride and arrogance of the Babylonians would stand no chance against the justice and righteous judgment of God.
The false gods of the Babylonians would prove useless in the face of God’s vengeance. Their magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers would find themselves at a loss to explain what was happening and incapable of doing anything about it. And any nations the Babylonians might turn to for help in their time of need would end up ignoring them.
This entire passage is about the sovereignty of God. It is intended to remind the people of God that He is in control. The nations of the world are nothing more than instruments in His hands. Their power comes from Him. Their 15-minutes of fame is orchestrated and controlled by Him. They had no reason to become self-confident and secure in their ways. But neither did the people of Judah. And yet, they had become comfortable and complacent in their rebellion against God. They had become fat and happy, thinking that they could get away with anything because they were God’s chosen people. But, like the Babylonians, their false sense of security would eventually be exposed.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.