Isaiah 46–48. Babylon, Mistress of the Nations.

Key Notes: Details of Babylon's success and ruin. Arguments for the existence of God, philosophical and Biblical.

After highlighting Cyrus and his mission, Isaiah turns to Babylon, one of Cyrus' principal conquests, and the subjugator of Judah.

46:1–2 Bel and Nebo will be carried out of Babylon by oxen. The idols were in fact brought out of the city by Merodoch-Baladan in 703BC to save them when Sennacharib of Assyria sacked the city. Babylon was sacked by the Assyrians in 692 BC and also by Sargon of Assyria in 709 BC. Bel (Canaanite Baal) is the chief god of the Babylonians, also called Marduk. Nebo is his son, the god of culture and literacy. Nebo's image was routinely brought into Babylon from a nearby city at the beginning of the Babylonian year when Babylonian culture was celebrated and the magicians prophesied the prospects for Babylon in the coming year.

46:3–4 While animals carried the gods, God has carried His people Israel from birth to old age. "I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself." (Ex.19:4)
{Scripture has little else to say about old age except Psa.71:9,18;  92:14.}

46:5–13 The idol carried around on a palanquin cannot move by itself, answer a prayer, or save a petitioner from trouble. God, unlike the idols, tells the future, of Cyrus, and the salvation of Israel.

47:1–11 Babylon is likened to a young woman who will be disgraced and made to be a servant. She had been given power over Judah but was pitiless even to old people. She was so confident of her status as mistress of the world (See Rev.18:7) that she would say there was no one like her. God says there is no one beside Him. (Isa.45:1,6). The State as a kind of human deity is discussed by Hobbes in his “Leviathan”.

47:12–15 Babylon can try to get herself out of trouble with sorcery and astrology but those will not save her. Babylon controlled Assyria 615–539BC under Nebuchadnezzar. But Cyrus the Persian took Babylon in a bloodless coup in 539BC. He did not destroy the city but downgraded it by making his capitol elsewhere. The Persians ruined the city in 480BC. It was partially restored by Alexander 331BC. It was deserted from 200AD to the present time. Saddam Hussein planned to restore it.

48:1–11 God turns His light back on Israel, still obstinate and rebellious in spite of God's former prophecies. Now He will do things previously unknown. (These things are what the NT calls mysteries, of Christ, and the Church of Gentiles and Jews.)

48:12–22 God defers and restrains His anger against Israel, choosing to refine rather than destroy. If Israel had listened to God's commandments, she would have profound peace. She would come out of Babylon singing the song of redemption. Instead, there is no peace for the wicked.

A curious note: "From the beginning I have not spoken in secret...And now the Lord God has sent Me and His Spirit."Isa.48:16b. This is an abrupt reference to The Servant as the source of revelation whom we know ultimately to be Christ. With " and His Spirit" we have a strong hint of the Trinity.

Comments:
Babylon looms larger than any other pagan city in Scripture. It was first a magnet city in Genesis, then a Middle Eastern super-power, and finally a world-wide leader of the kings of the earth. It appears in Gen.11 when mankind first attempted to make a name and reach to Heaven by building. Babylon is seen again in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah as the destroyer of Jerusalem, and mistress of empire. Its leader, Nebuchadnezzar, was called "the head of gold" by Daniel (2:38) and is probably the king described in Isa.14. He was the founder of the Babylonian world empire which was replaced in turn by Medo-Persia (Cyrus), Greece (Alexander) and Rome (Caesar Augustus).

Babylon's third and final biblical appearance is in Revelation as the Harlot seated on the Beast (AntiChrist), drunk with the blood of the martyrs. (Rev.17). She will preside over a world-wide commercial empire. (Rev.18). The language of Isa.47:7,8 is used in Revelation‘:7, assuring the connection between Babylon as city-state and Babylon as a future world empire. God will eventually smash this empire and replace it with the Kingdom.

Babylon is humanity organized against God, and hating His people, whether Jews or Gentile believers. We learn something of the tyranny of quasi-government commercial enterprises from the work of the East India Company during the‘00's and the Enron Co. in 2000's. Some see national governments as big aggressive businesses.

The superiority of God over idols and fulfilling prophecy is a proof of His existence. We have seen six references to God as the predictor of the future in contrast to the useless idols: Isa.41:26–29; 44:7,8; 45:9–15,20–21; 46:8–11; 48:3–5. This proof of God is more important that commonly thought although it is not in the list of the five common arguments for the existence of God.

Does God exist? This is one of the important questions asked today.
We know three well-established evidences for the validity of Scripture, God's revelation:
•the fulfillment of prophecy
•the evidence from archaeology
•the personal experience of believers worldwide.

There are also five traditional arguments for the existence of God (moral, cosmological, teleological, ontological, and the argument from congruity). These are philosophical arguments formulated by logic largely apart from Scripture, except for the teleological argument.

Although it is often said that Scripture does not try to prove the existence of God, but acts on that assumption, there are also two biblical arguments for God's existence:
•God exists as evidenced by design in the natural world (Psa.19:1–4) including a biological language, the DNA code, sometimes called the “Language of God”. This teleological argument may not persuade scientists, but is a Biblical argument, and worth knowing.
•God exists as evidenced by His prediction of the future whereas the idols know nothing and can say nothing. This is a proof of the existence of God that I have not seen offered. But Scripture turns out to be correct in making predictions over four millennia from Abraham to Christ and to the present. This argues effectively for the existence of One who is cited as providing the information.

These proofs are independent of God's works as savior, benefactor and judge, works that are not as easy to see from outside but are clear to the eye of faith.