The Book of Isaiah Bible Study Chapter 46

Isaiah

We start off this week with Isaiah 46

v1: Bel…Nebo: These are two Babylonian idols. The context here is that this is a prophecy prophesying about the Babylonian empire coming to an end. The end of the Babylonian empire came about when the Medes and Persians rose up and brought judgment against the Babylonians by conquering them. Cyrus was a leader in this Medo Persian empire. 

  • Bows down…stoops: These idols were not able to stand up against the judgment of G-d.
  • Beasts…cattle: Domesticated animals. What many believe is that these idols were of a specific type of animal. They did not look like gods and nor did it look like they had power, but they were symbols of creation. This kind of idolatry gave a status to creation. These people bowed down to the creation rather than to the Creator. 
  • Heavily loaded…weary: They were tired/fatigued. When the joy of the L-rd is our strength (when we walk with G-d) we mount up like we have the wings of eagles – we can run and not grow weary, walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31). However, those who engage in idolatry become weaker and weaker. 

v2: Bow down together: This speaks of their humiliation. They are not victorious. They could not overcome the judgment that G-d brought upon them.

  • Together: In a total manner.
  • Burden: A word that relates to judgment. 

v3: Most scholars see the first two verses of this chapter as relating primarily to the Babylonian empire and its demise – their defeat, humiliation and going into exile. In this verse there is a change. The prophet warns the Jewish people to pay attention to what happened to Babylon. G-d is not a respecter of person. He sent Judah into exile because of their idolatry, and now Judah are going to see that the same type of punishment or consequence is also going to be inflicted upon Babylon for her idolatry. 

  • The remnant of the house of Israel: Although the tribe of Judah was the dominant tribe taken into the Babylonian exile there were also some people from Israel (from the northern tribes) who were also exiled in Babylon. 
  • Upheld by Me…carried: G-d helped or supported Israel in the midst of their burden (their judgment).
  • From birth…from the womb: G-d has looked after the nation of Israel from its very beginnings. 

v4: Even to old age I am He: G-d does not change. People are young and then they get very old, but throughout that time G-d does not change. He stays the same. 

  • Gray hairs: Old age.
  • I will carry you…and will deliver you: This is G-d’s promise, and He doesn’t change. There is a history, that can be seen, that, even when the children of Israel went into exile, even though they lost battles, G-d sooner or later restored them, He brought them back and renewed His relationship with them. G-d carries or bears up His people. We can be assured that from the womb until the time that we die G-d is a faithful G-d.

v5: The Israelites had a history of falling into idolatry. G-d wants to know which idol is like Him, which one can would even be comparable to Him. In this verse G-d is challenging the people to think about who or what they are actually worshipping. 

v6: G-d is scolding them for the way that they behave. The offerings that they made to G-d tended to be stingy and cheap, but they were lavish in their spending on themselves and on their idols. 

v7: It: Their idol.

  • It stands: The point is that this idol did not move from its place.
  • Cries out to it: An individual will cry out to the idol – wanting its help.
  • It cannot answer nor save him out of his trouble: This idol cannot do anything. The idol cannot respond to those who cry out to it for help. Those who worship idols have no hope. 

v8: Remember this: G-d is still talking to the house of Jacob and Israel. 

  • Show yourself (strong): Many Bible translate this phrase to say ‘Be a man’ but it is a phrase that many chief commentators say means to show themselves strong, to deal with things with power, to do things as they should be done – to be the type of individual that G-d has created humanity to be. We need to come to our senses, do what is right (ie the will of G-d). 
  • Transgressors: This term for a transgressor is the modern Hebrew for someone who is a criminal (a rebellious person). This person knows the law, but he transgresses it or rebels against it. 
  • Recall to mind, O you transgressors: G-d is consistent. We can be assured that G-d is going to respond to disobedience. He hates disobedience and He will not tolerate it for long. There are consequences, punishments, judgment for disobedience/rebellion. 

v9: Remember: According to the sages of Israel, when this word appears in the Bible it always has to do with covenant. We need to remember the covenant that G-d gave, the covenant He made with the people (us). Through the New Covenant, G-d’s covenant is offered to all humanity. We need to remember that G-d is a covenant keeping G-d. 

  • The former things of old: Those things that happened long ago. 
  • None: Zero. Nothing. There is nothing that can be compared to or that is like G-d.

v10: Declaring the end from the beginning: This is something unique and it shows the uniqueness of G-d. G-d has given us counsel and insight (revelation). He has not left us to guess about what is happening around us. G-d has told us what is going to happen at the end of this age – judgment. Many individuals teach that this world is going to get better and that believers are going to have a major impact in this world – bringing G-d’s will into many different segments of society. This is an unbiblical teaching. It cannot be backed up Biblically so is therefore a false teaching. G-d has told us that He is going to pour His wrath out on this world, and He is going to destroy it. This is what we can expect. This is the news that G-d has declared from the beginning. 

  • Things that are not yet done: G-d has been accurate in the past and He will continue to be accurate into the future. 
  • My counsel shall stand: G-d’s counsel will be established.
  • I will do all My pleasure: G-d is going to ultimately bring about the fulfilment of His will. He is going to do this through His wrath – destroying everything that has not experienced redemption. 

v11: Most scholars (Christian and Jewish) see this verse as referring to the time of Cyrus.

  • A bird of prey: A hawk or an eagle. A majestic, powerful bird of prey. Parallelism informs us that this bird of prey is really a man. 
  • I have spoken it: The counsel that Cyrus received was the L-rd’s counsel. It is counsel that had to do with the edict allowing the Jewish people to return to Israel, back to Jerusalem, and to rebuild the temple.
  • I have purposed it; I will also do it: G-d has said it so He will make sure that it is done. 

v12: Listen: Hear, pay attention and respond properly.

  • Stubborn-hearted: This is a word that could speak of a knight – a noble individual – however, in this context, it is speaking about someone who is strong and mighty in their heart (in their thoughts). This means that they are stubborn. They are pursuing their own wills, thinking their own thoughts. 
  • Far from righteousness: When we are stubborn, committed to what we want, we do not pay attention to G-d’s truth. We don’t study it and we don’t apply it to our lives. We don’t share it with others. When we are focussed on our own wills we are going to be very far away from righteousness. The Kingdom of G-d is related to righteousness (Matt 6:33). As Kingdom people, we are commanded to seek righteousness. 

v13: I bring My righteousness near: This is what G-d is promising.

  • My salvation shall not linger: G-d’s salvation will not delay. His salvation will not be late. It will come on time, as scheduled. 
  • I will place salvation in Zion for Israel: G-d keeps on letting us know that He is going to cause a change to happen in Israel. Salvation seems so distant for Israel, but a change is coming whereby G-d will bring this salvation close for them. 

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