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Scripture teaches that God is the one who raises up world powers and God is the one who brings them low. We have seen this worked out in history time and time again. Here we come to the example of the Divine Humiliation of Babylon. If ever there was a nation that thought it was autonomous and all powerful and beyond the reach of any conqueror, it was the nation of Babylon (present day Iraq). Yet the Book of Daniel records the suddenness of its fall at the hands of Cyrus, king of Persia. Daniel 5 – maxim = Pride goes before a Fall

What does this teach us about the mighty nation of the United States of America today? Our leaders would be foolish to imagine that they ascended to power on the basis of their own strength and wisdom. Likewise, our leaders would be foolish to imagine that the United States will not be held accountable before God for its pride and wickedness and false delusion of self sufficiency. No nation has the power to perpetuate itself forever. Pride still goes before a fall and the Lord is still in the business of raising up and bringing low as He sees fit.


So largely this is a chapter of judgment; but there is an important sub theme here as well – that of the Lord’s protection of His elect people

Illustration: response to Deflate gate – gloating or defending?



Bookends declaring coming reversal of fortunes (:1, 5)

A. (:1) Reversal of Fortunes Declared

1. The Depths: Brought Low

a. Down to the Dust

“Come down and sit in the dust,”

Mark of humility and mourning – cf. Job; Lam. 2:10 at the fall of Jerusalem

As far away from the throne as you can get

b. Dethroned

“Sit on the ground without a throne,”

You have to sit on the ground because there is no more throne

Deprived of former glory

2. The Heights: From Lofty Privilege

“O virgin daughter of Babylon;”

“O daughter of the Chaldeans.”

Rich Cathers: “virgin daughter” — the idea is that the nation of Babylon had not yet been conquered or captured. The city walls had never been broken down.

3. The Change: From Luxury and Comfort To Harsh Subjugation

“For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate.”

Life of luxury and comfort is over

Reputation has changed drastically

B. (:2-3) Reversal of Fortunes Described

1. Commands of Subjugation and Humiliation

a. Demeaning Work of Slaves

“Take the millstones and grind meal.”

Sin leads to slavery — Look at example of Samson – humiliated by being relegated to the work of the servants to grind the grain – Judges 16:21

Oswalt: Work at the millstones was considered the lowest form of slavery (Exod. 11:5; Job 31:10; Matt. 24:41). The lower stone, with a concave surface, had a peg fixed in the middle. The upper stone, with a convex surface, had a hole drilled in its center through which the peg of the lower stone protruded. Grain was poured into the hole while the upper stone was turned. A groove from the center to the circumference of the lower stone allowed the ground meal to work its way out.

b. Disgraceful Humiliation of Common Laborer

“Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the leg, cross the rivers.”

Mark of humiliation for these virgins to have their veil removed and head uncovered; disgraceful

Parunak: network of irrigation rivers and canels that made the land productive; doing servile work that causes her to uncover her thigh; remove her nice flowing garments

Constable: She should remove her veil, which she, as an upper-class lady, had worn previously to hide her beauty from commoners. Removing her veil would disgrace her. She should also take off her long skirt and uncover her legs, so she could work in the fields, and wade through the irrigation ditches of the rivers. She would become not only a beggar (Isaiah 47:1), but a servant.

2. Causing Agent of Subjugation and Humiliation

a. Shamefully Exposed and Violated

“Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed;”

Parunak: Violent image; Lev. 18 and 20 – euphemism for unlawful sexual relationships; I am going to expose you and you will be raped; why does our culture insist on dressing in ways that God describes as consistent with His judgment? Degrading; Who is going to do this??

b. Judged Without Hope of Deliverance

“I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.”

Parunak: nobody will be able to intercede for you and protect you from the coming humiliation

This paragraph is about divine retribution; God is watching and there is final accountability; punishment appropriate for the crime

C. (:4) Reminder: Redemption is God’s Stance Towards His Chosen Nation

Parunak: intrusive verse because of change of voice so that Isaiah is responding here

Review of the precious names of God:

1. All About Gracious Redemption

“Our Redeemer,”

Guzik quoting Bultema: A gaal had to be a close relative. Christ is this too, for according to His humanity He came forth from the Jews. A gaal had to be able to deliver. The Holy One of Israel does not lack this ability. Sometimes a gaal had to exercise bloody vengeance. Christ will work bloody vengeance upon Babylon for its oppression of His people. Frequently a gaal had to pay a ransom to free a prisoner. The Lord Jesus paid with his blood on Golgotha to ransom His people. On the basis of these considerations, to which could be added many more, it is evident that the name Gaal is very fitting for the Savior.

2. All About Sovereign Majesty

“the LORD of hosts is His name,”

3. All About Holy Righteousness

“The Holy One of Israel.”

Isaiah making his boast in the Lord

D. (:5) Reversal of Fortunes Repeated

1. The Depths: Brought Low – Dismissed into darkness and obscurity

“Sit silently, and go into darkness,”

Motyer: Babylon is about to lose authority, liberty and position.

2. The Heights: From Lofty Privilege

“O daughter of the Chaldeans;”

3. The Change: From Majestic Rule To Harsh Subjugation

“For you will no more be called The queen of kingdoms.”

Great reversal of fortunes passage – James 1:9-11


A. (:6) Angry Response on the Part of the Lord

1. Towards His People – Who Needed Discipline

a. Motivation of the Lord = Anger

“I was angry with My people,”

b. Characterization of the Punishment

“I profaned My heritage,”

c. Delegation of the Discipline

“And gave them into your hand.”

2. Towards the Babylonians – Who Showed Excessive Cruelty

a. No Mercy Extended

“You did not show mercy to them,”

James 2:13

b. Unreasonable Excessive Burdens

“On the aged you made your yoke very heavy.”

Application: leaders, make sure you do not abuse your authority; important to show mercy

Motyer: The sin lies in the assumptions behind Babylonian action and the manner of their accomplishment its pitilessness, indiscriminateness, arrogance, and absence of moral sense.

B. (:7-11) Arrogant Denial on the Part of the Babylonians – Diagnosis = Arrogant Pride

1. (:7) False Assumption of Superiority and Self Perpetuation

“Yet you said, ‘I shall be a queen forever.’

These things you did not consider, Nor remember the outcome of them.”

Cf. writer’s block – this is a serious memory block – you should have take the former events of history into consideration

Constable: The mark of Babylon’s arrogance was that she assumed that she would continue to rule the world forever. She had defeated Assyria, which had been the most powerful world ruler for 300 years, and there was no power on the horizon that Babylon could see that would threaten her sovereignty. She had not considered that all nations are subject to Yahweh’s sovereignty, that no nation is self-sufficient or self-existent. She had failed to consider that someone more powerful than herself could call her to account for her treatment of the people she had conquered.

Oswalt: Because Babylon had entered a wrong assumption, the assumption of self-existence and self-perpetuation, into the equation, everything else in that equation was thrown off. Remember their end. Believing that she would rule the world forever, she did not consider that she might be held accountable for the way she treated captive peoples. Believing that she herself was the highest tribunal, she paid no attention to the results of the choices she was making day by day.

2. (:8-9) Denial of Coming Reversal of Fortune – False sense of security

Particularly Widowhood & Childlessness

“Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know loss of children.’ But these two things shall come on you suddenly in one day: Loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells.”

a. Cause of These Judgments = Wicked Character Flaws

1) Sensuality — given to a life of pleasure and indulgence

2) False Confidence

3) Devotion to the Occul

b. Pain of These Judgments

1) Widowhood

2) Childlessness

c. Severity of These Judgments

1) Suddenness = “suddenly in one day” remember Dan. 5

2) Extent = “in full measure”

3. (:10-11) Completely Oblivious to God’s Universal Harvest Law – No sense of accountability

a. Secure in Wickedness

“And you felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me,’”

Guzik: This is a searching insight into the heart of the proud sinner. They trust in their continuing wickedness to cover the tracks of their previous sin. They are clever, but their wisdom in wickedness has warped them (Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you).

b. Deluded by Human Wisdom

“Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you;

For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’”

Human Knowledge and Human Wisdom puff up and make one delusional; you think too highly of yourself; you have poor discernment – cannot discern the signs of the times; have no understanding of history and no accurate expectations regarding the future

The great “I AM” passage of humanism!

God has been refuting this false, delusional claim throughout this whole section of chaps. 40-48

c. Destined for Unavoidable Disaster

“But evil will come on you which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone,

And destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly.”


A. (:12) Taunting Tone of the Lord

1. Take Your Best Shot

“Stand fast now in your spells

and in your many sorceries with which you have labored from your youth;”

Jim Bomkamp: Babylon is the source of all occult practice, and in Isaiah’s day they were the center of all occult practice in the world. However, the Lord tells Babylon that the nation would fall in spite of all the sorceries and spells which her magicians, shaman, diviners, and sorcerers might cast. . .

Astrology is such a ridiculous occult practice when you think of it. The astrologer looks to the stars for the alignment of the sun, moon, planets and stars to determine what influence these planets would have upon events that occur. They believe that each planet exerts a certain distinct type of influence or drive upon men and women and is therefore associated with a certain astrological sign. A horoscope then details the alignment of these heavenly bodies during a particular designated point in time, and indicates which astrological sign(s) is being most influential. By the way, the sun exerts trillions of times more and the moon exerts millions of times more gravitational pull upon the earth than any planet. The influence of any planet upon the earth is not even measurable at this point in time, I do not believe, and the measure of any star’s influence is definitely immeasurable. Yet, superstitiously astrologers follow the guidelines of this ancient art whose roots go all of the way back to the first nation, Babylon.

Ironside: It has been characteristic down through the centuries that when men, great leaders, gave up confidence in God and His Word they readily became the prey of all sorts of charlatans. Even the infamous Hitler had a special astrologer whom he consulted as to lucky and unlucky days, and suitable times to attack nations. He consulted the map of the stars to see what was indicated. That began at Babylon. Centuries ago they had their astrologers, their star-gazers.

Cf. U.S. presidents – Ronald and Nancy Reagan

2. Try to Have An Impact – Positively or Negatively

“Perhaps you will be able to profit,

Perhaps you may cause trembling.”

Motyer: concerned with Babylon’s religion and its officiants. Here the question is, does it perform religion’s functions of providing strength in a crisis (12) and clear forewarnings (13)?

B. (:13-14) Charlatan Claims of False Religion Exposed

1. False Religion is Tiresome

“You are wearied with your many counsels;”

Motyer: Commitment, discipline and effort are a true part of religion, but when allied to the worthless they are only a weariness.

2. False Religion is Futile

“Let now the astrologers, those who prophesy by the stars, those who predict by the new moons, stand up and save you from what will come upon you.”

Rich Cathers:

  • astrologers – habar (to divide) + shamayim (heavens, sky); to be an astrologer; Horoscopes, etc.

  • stargazers – chozeh – seer; vision

  • monthly – chodesh – the new moon, month, monthly

  • prognosticators – yada– to know; (Hiphil) to make known, declare; Those who would make predictions once a month at the time of the new moon.

3. False Religion Disappoints

“Behold, they have become like stubble, fire burns them;

They cannot deliver themselves from the power of the flame;”

4. False Religion Crushes Hopes

“There will be no coal to warm by,

Nor a fire to sit before!”

Motyer: False religion may seem to offer the warmth of helpfulness, but it is not a fire to sit by, rather a fire which will burn up, a furnace of destruction.

C. (:15) Misguided Meandering of Imposter Saviors

1. Wasted Your Time by Exploiting Your Loyalty

“So have those become to you with whom you have labored,

Who have trafficked with you from your youth;”

Motyer: Babylon labored at its religion (12), but the religious practitioners were making a trade out of Babylon.

2. Wandered Clueless and Left You Defenseless

“Each has wandered in his own way.

There is none to save you.”

Oswalt: These few words at the end of v. 15 capture the whole argument of chs. 40-47: everybody needs a savior; the gods and the magical worldview on which they rest cannot save; the Lord who stands outside the cosmos and directs it according to his good purposes can save; which shall we choose?


How low can a nation go? Pretty low when it comes to divine vengeance and retribution. When the reversal of fortunes comes (and it will come) the picture is shocking.

Rev. 18