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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Isaiah 46

 

 

Verse 1-2

Bel and Nebo were the two chief gods of Babylonia. Bel ("lord," cf. the Canaanite Baal) was the title of the father of the gods in the Babylonian pantheon, whose name was Enlil. Bel was also later the title of Marduk, the city god of Babylon and the hero of Enuma Elish, the Babylonian Creation account. Nebo was Bel"s Song of Solomon , and he was supposedly a wise administrator. The names Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar ("Nebo, protect the boundary"), and Nabonidus, among others, show reverence for Nebo, and the name Belshazzar (" Bel and the Dragon , protect the king") honored Bel. [Note: See Archer, p642.] Nebo was the god of learning, writing, and astronomy. The Babylonians carried images of these prominent gods in their New Year"s Day parades.

Isaiah envisioned Bel and Nebo as bending over as the Babylonians carried their images in procession (cf. 1 Samuel 5:3-4). These images rode on carts that beasts of burden hauled with some difficulty, evidently because of their weight. The gods, which the images both represented and contained, were a burden to these animals. Rather than lifting burdens, these idols created them for their worshippers. The prophet foresaw the idol images and the Babylonian gods being carried off into captivity (by Cyrus), powerless to aid their worshippers.


Verse 3-4

Addressing the remnant (house) of His people, Yahweh reminded the Judahites that He had carried Israel (as a burden sometimes) throughout her history (cf. Isaiah 63:9; Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 1:31; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalm 28:9), and He would continue to do so. This, of course, is the opposite of what the Babylonians had to do to their idols ( Isaiah 46:1-2). The Israelites had never carried Him, but it was Hebrews , and only Hebrews , who had always carried them.

"Normally, we expect that as children reach maturity, they do not need to be carried any longer. Furthermore, there usually comes a time when the child must begin to carry the aged parent. This is where God transcends the imagery. There will never come a time when we outgrow our dependence on God.... Nor will there ever be a time when a doddering old grandfather-God will somehow need to lean on us, and we will need to find a young, virile god for a new age." [Note: Oswalt, The Book . . . 40-66 , p230.]


Verse 5

There is no comparison between the true God and false gods (cf. Isaiah 40:18).


Verse 6-7

This is Isaiah"s fourth and last expos of the folly of idol worship (cf. Isaiah 40:19-20; Isaiah 41:6-7; Isaiah 44:9-20). How foolish it is to spend a lot of money and effort to make something that cannot care for itself much less its worshipper. It has no power to respond in any way, much less to save.

"There are two kinds of gods in this world: the kind you carry and the One who can carry you." [Note: Dyer, in The Old . . ., p569.]


Verse 8

God admonished the transgressing Israelites to remember what He was about to say, which would summarize the point being made in this section. It would give them confidence whenever they recalled it in the future. Again, remembering is the antidote to unbelief. Israel needed much encouragement, as well as stern warnings, because she was only a small island of monotheists in a sea of polytheists.


Verses 8-13

God as righteous46:8-13

The last segment of this section ( Isaiah 45:14 to Isaiah 46:13) returns to the subject of God as the righteous deliverer (cf. Isaiah 45:14-19).


Verse 9

The Israelites needed to remember all that God had done going all the way back to Creation. Only then would they become convinced that Yahweh was unique, the only true God.


Verse 10-11

God had throughout history predicted how history would unfold, including things that had not happened previously. His revelations were in harmony with His purpose to carry out His beneficial will for humankind. Most recently He had predicted Cyrus, who would descend on Babylon like an eagle on a rabbit. His audience could count on this prediction coming to pass, because it was just the latest example of what He had done since the beginning.


Verse 12

God challenged the hard-hearted Israelites, who found it hard to believe that God would deliver them, to pay attention to Him (cf. Isaiah 46:3). They were far short of fulfilling the righteous act of believing God, which constitutes conformity to His will.

"Those who are far from righteousness are those who are far from being right with God, and so are deep in their own sin and depravity." [Note: Young, 3:229.]


Verse 13

God would be faithful to His covenant promises and bring salvation to Zion (cf. Isaiah 44:26-28; Romans 3:21-25; Romans 5:8; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He would soon bring the righteousness that His people lacked. This deliverance would glorify His name. Some have interpreted the "stubborn-minded" in Isaiah 46:12-13 as the Babylonians, rather than the Israelites, but this is a minority view. [Note: E.g, J. Martin, p1101.]

"This proves to be Isaiah"s final appeal to Israel to accept the Lord"s will, to believe what he says and trust what he does, though even as he make [sic] his appeal he senses that it is falling on deaf ears (12)." [Note: Motyer, p370.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 46:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/isaiah-46.html. 2012.

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