Isa 46:1-13. Babylon's Idols Could Not Save Themselves, Much Less Her. But God Can and Will Save Israel: Cyrus Is His Instrument.
1. Bel -- the same as the Phoenician Baal, that is, lord, the chief god of Babylon; to it was dedicated the celebrated tower of Babylon, in the center of one of the two parts into which the city was divided, the palace being in the center of the other. Identical with the sun, worshipped on turrets, housetops, and other high places, so as to be nearer the heavenly hosts (Saba) (Jer 19:13; 32:29; Zep 1:5). Gesenius identifies Bel with the planet Jupiter, which, with the planet Venus (under the name Astarte or Astaroth), was worshipped in the East as the god of fortune, the most propitious star to be born under (see on Isa 65:11). According to the Apocryphal book, Bel and the Dragon, Bel was cast down by Cyrus.
boweth ... stoopeth -- falleth prostrate (Isa 10:4; 1Sa 5:3, 4; Ps 20:8).
Nebo -- the planet Mercury or Hermes, in astrology. The scribe of heaven, answering to the Egyptian Anubis. The extensive worship of it is shown by the many proper names compounded of it: Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuzar-adan, Nabonassar, &c.
were upon -- that is, were a burden (supplied from the following clause) upon. It was customary to transport the gods of the vanquished to the land of the conquerors, who thought thereby the more effectually to keep down the subject people (1Sa 5:1, &c.; Jer 48:7; 49:3; Da 11:8).
carriages -- in the Old English sense of the things carried, the images borne by you: the lading (Ac 21:15), |carriages,| not the vehicles, but the baggage. Or, the images which used to be carried by you formerly in your solemn processions [Maurer].
were heavy loaden -- rather, are put as a load on the beasts of burden [Maurer]. Horsley translates, |They who should have been your carriers (as Jehovah is to His people, Isa 46:3, 4) are become burdens| (see on Isa 46:4).
2. deliver -- from the enemies' hands.
burden -- their images laid on the beasts (Isa 46:1).
themselves -- the gods, here also distinguished from their images.
3. in contrast to what precedes: Babylon's idols, so far from bearing its people safely are themselves borne off, a burden to the laden beast; but Jehovah bears His people in safety even from the womb to old age (Isa 63:9; De 32:11; Ps 71:6, 18). God compares Himself to a nurse tenderly carrying a child; contrast Moses' language (Nu 11:12).
4. old age -- As |your| -- |you| -- |you,| are not in the Hebrew, the sentiment is more general than English Version, though of course it includes the Jews from the infancy to the more advanced age of their history (Isa 47:6).
I am he -- that is, the same (Ps 102:27; Joh 8:24; Heb 13:8).
I will bear ... carry -- Not only do I not need to be borne and carried Myself, as the idols (Isa 46:1).
5. (Isa 40:18, 25).
6. (Isa 40:19, 20; 41:7.) They lavish gold out of their purses and spare no expense for their idol. Their profuseness shames the niggardliness of professors who worship God with what cost them nothing. Sin is always a costly service.
7. cry ... can ... not ... save -- (Isa 45:20, with which contrast Isa 45:19).
8. show yourselves men -- Renounce the childishness of idolatry as shown in what precedes (1Co 14:20; 16:13; Eph 4:14). In order to be manly we must be godly; for man was made |in the image of God,| and only rises to his true dignity when joined to God; virtue is derived from the Latin vir, |a man.|
bring ... to mind -- rather, |lay it to heart.|
transgressors -- addressed to the idolaters among the Jews.
9. former -- namely, proofs of the sole Godship of Jehovah, from predictions fulfilled, and interpositions of God in behalf of Israel (Isa 45:5).
10. (Isa 45:21; 41:22, 23; 44:26).
yet -- not in the Hebrew. Translate, |What had not been done| [Horsley].
do all my pleasure -- (Isa 53:10; Ro 9:19).
11. ravenous bird -- Cyrus so called on account of the rapidity of his marches from the distant regions of Persia to pounce on his prey (see on Isa 41:2; Isa 41:25; Jer 49:22; Eze 17:3). The standard of Cyrus, too, was a golden eagle on a spear (see the heathen historian, Xenophon, 7, where almost the same word is used, aetos, as here, ayit).
executeth my counsel -- (Isa 44:28; 45:13). Babylon represents, mystically, the apostate faction: the destruction of its idols symbolizes the future general extirpation of all idolatry and unbelief.
purposed ... also do it -- (Isa 43:13).
12. stout-hearted -- stubborn in resisting God (Ps 76:5; Ac 7:51).
far from righteousness -- (Isa 59:9; Hab 2:4).
13. near -- antithetical to |far| (Isa 46:12; Isa 51:5; 56:1; 61:10, 11; Ro 10:6-8).
righteousness -- answering to |salvation| in the parallel clause; therefore it means here, |my righteous deliverance|; righteous, because proving the truth of God's promises, and so contrived as to not compromise, but vindicate, His righteousness (Isa 42:21; Ro 3:26).
Zion ... my glory -- rather, |I will give salvation in Zion; to Israel (I will give) my glory| [Horsley]. (Isa 63:11; Ps 14:7; Lu 2:32).