Today, God through Isaiah speaks again of the coming Babylonian captivity and the subsequent destruction of Babylon and restoration of His people. He begins by calling out Babylon for her idolatry. Bel and Nebo are Babylonian gods (46:1). Interestingly, Bel (another name for Marduk) is the supreme god in the Babylonian pantheon, and Nebo is his son. God speaks of these gods bowing before Him. Then He speaks of the idols the Babylonians make to worship these “gods.” The idols of these gods need to be carried by beasts of burden. The gods do nothing to help bear the burden of the idols, but themselves go into captivity (v. 2). In the ancient world, conquering nations would take the idols of the conquered into captivity to represent their victory over even their gods.
God offers an aside to His people – the remnant (v. 3). This is the spiritual people of God that are part of the physical people going into captivity (see Rom 9:6). God has preserved them from the moment He made them (this is more of that creating and forming imagery we have seen in previous chapters). And He will continue to preserve them (v. 4). He will save them.
God now turns His attention back to Babylon. This is similar to the “courtroom” scene we have considered (beginning in 41:1). God asks Babylon specifically what He had already asked of the nations (v. 5 – see 44:7, 45:20-21). Will they compare God to idols (vv. 5-6). These idols that have to be carried from place to place (v. 7 – see v. 1)? God tells them that there is no God like Him (v. 9), declaring the end from the beginning and sovereignly making it so (vv. 10-11). God will sovereignly “bring near My righteous” by saving His remnant from Babylon (vv. 12-13).
Chapter 47 begins with a pronouncement of judgment on Babylon. She will go from throne to the dust of the ground (47:1). She will be stripped bare (v. 2). Her sin and her shame will be revealed and there will be no mercy shown (v. 3) by the One Isaiah declares to be the Redeemer of Israel, YHWH of hosts (v. 4). In verse 5, we see that idea of the wicked being make deaf (“sit in silence”) and blind (“go into darkness”). Even though God sovereignly used Babylon to judge and chastise His people, Babylon is still responsible for her sin, her treatment of Judah, and her pride (vv. 6-7). Like Israel and Judah who both thought they were secure (Amos 6:1), so Babylon’s sense of security is unfounded (v. 8-9). God will swiftly bring upon them all they thought could never happen to them, regardless of their sorcery and the power of their gods.
In verse 10, we see that Babylon thought she was secure because she thought there was no one to judge her. The king and the people became their own god. But they will not be able to avoid the disaster that will befall them, and their gods will be powerless to help them (v. 11). In verses 12-13, God challenges Babylon and her gods to stop the disaster He is threatening. Their astrologers who predict the future, have they predicted their judgment? But they are powerless to stop the judgment (v. 14). No one Babylon trusts in: their magicians, their astrologers, the demons they worship – none can save them (v. 15).
In chapter 48, God addresses all of His physical people (48:1). They indeed swore by His name and confessed Him, but they worshiped Him wrongly, and worshiped Him alongside the gods of the nations. Yet because of who they were, they believed they would not be judged (v. 2). But God told them from the beginning that this would happen (see Deut 28:15-68), and now He has brought it about (v. 3). God knew they would harden themselves to Him, so He declared these things before they were in the land, and before they forsook Him, so they would not blame the other so-called gods they worshiped (v. 5). God wants them to know this is of Him.
They now see that what God declared was true (v. 6). So now God will declare new things that are just as sure. Things that they have not known up until now (vv. 7-8). For His own sake, God will not completely destroy the physical people (v. 9). He has refined the people and preserved a remnant that He would not be profaned by the nations (v. 10 – see Ex 31:11-14). Then God again states that He will not give His glory to another (see 42:8) and that He is the first and the last (v. 12 – see 41:4). He then again points to Himself as sovereign Creator (v. 13). Verse 14-15 is again speaking of Cyrus (see 44:28-45:4). But verse 15 (and 16) is also speaking of Christ, Who is the One speaking in the last line of verse 16: “And now the Lord YHWH has sent Me, and His Spirit.”
God then laments over Israel (and Judah) who He has redeemed, taught, and led from the time of the Exodus until that moment (v. 17). If only they had paid attention to Him! They would have been righteous (v. 18), they would have inherited the promise to Abraham (v. 19 – see Gen 22:17 and Isa 10:22), and they would not have been cut off from God (v. 19). Then God makes the promise of restoration for His true people. God will redeem His servant (v. 20). Verse 21 describes the “new” Exodus that God promises His true people. Note that verse 20 speaks of the coming out of Babylon (yet future) but then tells us what we will say when it happens using the past tense from 20b. This is what God is doing in verse 21, speaking of then future events as if they already happened. This is the “new thing” God has declared (see v. 6 and 43:16-21). But for the wicked (those who were not righteous in verses 18), there is no such peace (v. 22).