Isaiah 47


The destruction of Babylon is denounced by a beautiful

selection of circumstances, in which her prosperous is

contrasted with her adverse condition. She is represented as a

tender and delicate female reduced to the work and abject

condition of a slave, and bereaved of every consolation, 1-4.

And that on account of her cruelty, particularly to God's

people, her pride, voluptuousness, sorceries, and incantations,


The folly of these last practices elegantly exposed by the

prophet, 12-15.

It is worthy of observation that almost all the imagery of this

chapter is applied in the book of the Revelation, (in nearly

the same words,) to the antitype of the illustrious capital of

the Chaldean empire, viz., Babylon the GREAT.


Verse 1. Come down, and set in the dust-"Descend, and sit on the

dust"] See Clarke on Isa 3:26, and on "Isa 52:2".

Verse 2. Take the millstones, and grind meal-"Take the mill, and

grind corn"] It was the work of slaves to grind the corn. They

used hand-mills: water-mills were not invented till a little

before the time of Augustus, (see the Greek epigram of Antipater,

which seems to celebrate it as a new invention, Anthol. Cephalae,

653;) wind-mills, not until long after. It was not only the work

of slaves, but the hardest work; and often inflicted upon them as

a severe punishment:-

Molendum in pistrino; vapulandum; habendae compedes.

TERENT. Phorm. ii. 1. 19.

Hominem pistrino dignum.

Id. Heaut. iii. 2. 19.

To grind in the mill, to be scourged, to be put in the stocks,

were punishments for slaves. Hence a delinquent was said to be a

man worthy of the mill. The tread-mill, now in use in England, is

a revival of this ancient usage. But in the east grinding was the

work of the female slaves. See Ex 11:5; 12:29, (in the version of

the Septuagint; Mt 24:41;

Homer, Odyss. xx. 105-108. And it is the same to this day.

"Women alone are employed to grind their corn;" Shaw's Algiers and

Tunis, p. 287. "They are the female slaves, that are generally

employed in the east at those hand-mills for grinding corn; it is

extremely laborious, and esteemed the lowest employment in the

house;" Sir J. Chardin, Harmer's Observ. i., p. 153. The words

denote that state of captivity to which the Babylonians should be


Make bare the leg, uncover the thigh] This is repeatedly seen in

Bengal, where there are few bridges, and both sexes, having

neither shoes nor stockings, truss up their loose garments, and

walk across, where the waters are not deep. In the deeper water

they are obliged to truss very high, to which there seems a

reference in the third verse: Thy nakedness shall be uncovered.

Verse 3. I will not meet thee as a man-"Neither will I suffer

man to intercede with me."] The verb should be pointed, or

written, aphgia, in Hiphil.

Verse 4. Our Redeemer-"Our Avenger"] Here a chorus breaks in

upon the midst of the subject, with a change of construction, as

well as sentiment, from the longer to the shorter kind of verse,

for one distich only; after which the former subject and style are

resumed. See Clarke on Isa 45:16.

Verse 6. I was wroth with my people] God, in the course of his

providence, makes use of great conquerors and tyrants as his

instruments to execute his judgments in the earth; he employs one

wicked nation to scourge another. The inflicter of the punishment

may perhaps be as culpable as the sufferer; and may add to his

guilt by indulging his cruelty in executing God's justice. When he

has fulfilled the work to which the Divine vengeance has ordained

him, he will become himself the object of it; see Isa 10:5-12.

God charges the Babylonians, though employed by himself to

chastise his people, with cruelty in regard to them. They exceeded

the bounds of justice and humanity in oppressing and destroying

them; and though they were really executing the righteous decree

of God, yet, as far as it regarded themselves, they were only

indulging their own ambition and violence. The Prophet Zechariah

sets this matter in the same light: "I was but a little angry and

they helped forward the affliction;" Zec 1:15.-L.

Verse 7. So that thou didst not-"Because thou didst not"] For

ad, read al; so two MSS., and one edition. And for,

acharithah, "the latter end of it," read acharithecha,

"thy latter end;" so thirteen MSS., and two editions, and the

Vulgate. Both the sixth and seventh verses are wanting in one of

my oldest MSS.

Verse 9. These two things shall come to thee in. a moment] That

is, suddenly. Belshazzar was slain; thus the city became

metaphorically a widow, the husband-the governor of it, being

slain. In the time in which the king was slain, the Medes and

Persians took the city, and slew many of its inhabitants, see

Da 5:30, 31. When Darius took the city, he is said to have

crucified three thousand of its principal inhabitants.

In their perfection-"On a sudden"] Instead of bethummam,

"in their perfection," as our translation renders it, the

Septuagint and Syriac read, in the copies from which they

translated, pithom, suddenly; parallel to rega, in a

moment, in the preceding alternate member of the sentence. The

concurrent testimony of the Septuagint and Syriac, favoured by the

context, may be safely opposed to the authority of the present


For the multitude-"Notwithstanding the multitude"] berob.

For this sense of the particle beth, see Nu 14:11.

Verse 11. Thou shalt not know from whence it riseth-"Thou shalt

not know how to deprecate"] shachrah; so the Chaldee

renders it, which is approved by Jarchi on the place; and

Michaelis Epim. in Praelect. xix.; see Ps 78:34.

Videtur in fine hujus commatis deese verbum, ut hoc membrum

prioribus respondeat. "A word appears to be wanting at the end of

this clause to connect it properly with the two preceding.-SECKER.

In order to set in a proper light this judicious remark, it is

necessary to give the reader an exact verbal translation of the

whole verse:-

"And evil shall come upon thee, thou shalt not know how to

deprecate it;

And mischief shall fall upon thee, thou shalt not be able

to expiate it;

And destruction shall come suddenly upon thee, thou shalt

not know"--

What? how to escape, to avoid it, to be delivered from it?

perhaps tseth mimmennah, "they could not go out from

it," Jer 11:11. I am persuaded that a phrase is here lost out of

the text. But as the ancient versions retain no traces of it, and

a wide field lies open to uncertain conjecture, I have not

attempted to fill up the chasm, but have in the translation, as

others have done before me, palliated and disguised the defect,

which I cannot with any assurance pretend to supply.-L.

Verse 13. From these things-"What are the events"] For

measher, read mah asher, so the Septuagint, "what is

to happen to thee."

Verse 15. To his quarter-"To his own business"] leebro.

Expositors give no very good account of this word in this place.

In a MS. it was at first leabdo, to his servant or work,

which is probably the true reading. The sense however is pretty

much the same with the common interpretation: "Every one shall

turn aside to his own business; none shall deliver thee."

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