Description
This chapter prophesies the fall of Babylon, as happened in 539 BC, and ultimately the end-time fall of Mystery Babylon which is in Arabia. The humiliation of Bel and Nebo symbolises and portrays the end-time fall of Islam.
Commentary
This chapter prophesies the fall of Babylon, as was fulfilled in 539 BC, and ultimately the end-time fall of Mystery Babylon which is in Arabia (Isaiah 21). Chapter 45 portrayed the end-time humiliation of the people of Egypt, Cush and Saba who, as captives in chains, will bow down before Jesus and confess him as Lord. This chapter prophesies the humiliation of Babylon’s gods, and ultimately of Allah, the god of Mystery Babylon.

Bel and Nebo bow down, and their images are burdensome to the animals that must carry them as the defeated Babylonians are led away as captives (v1). Bel is a title meaning ‘Lord’ and was most commonly used for Marduk, the high god of Babylon. Nebo is the same as Nabu. Nabu was the patron god of Borsippa, Babylon's sister city located 11 miles southwest of Babylon, and was believed to be Marduk's scribe. Together, Marduk and Nabu were joint heads of the Babylonian pantheon, and co-rulers of the universe. But when Babylon falls, Isaiah portrays these gods bowing down before their captors and having to be carried by the Babylonian people who worship them (v2). Such impotence of Bel and Nebo is then contrasted with the omnipotence of Jehovah who has carried and supported his people Israel from birth to old age (v3-4). In verse 5, God asks rhetorically and polemically, "To whom can you compare and liken me? Tell me whom you think I resemble, so we can be compared!" His point is, there is no comparison - Jehovah carries and supports his people - Bel and Nebo must be carried and supported by their people.

In verses 6 to 7, the deliberately humiliating polemic continues. Bel and Nebo are man made gods (v6). They are carried on people's shoulders and put in place in their shrines, unable to then move, unable to reply when someone cries out to them, unable to deliver him from his distress (v7).

In verse 8 to 9, the Babylonians are told to ponder these things and to remember, by contrast, what God did for his people Israel in antiquity. This recalls God's deliverance of Israel from the Egyptians through the crossing of the Red Sea, as in Exodus 19:4, "You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt and how I lifted you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself".

Verses 9 to 10 emphasise the obvious conclusion - Jehovah is truly the only God, and his uniqueness is demonstrated in that he announces the end from the beginning, revealing the future beforehand. And having announced his plans, he then makes sure to fulfil and accomplish them.

So, what is God's plan? It is to summon an eagle from the east to carry out God's plan (v11), to bring deliverance and salvation to Zion and adorn Israel with splendour (v13).

In relation to the fall of ancient Babylon, this eagle from the east was Cyrus the Persian, whom Isaiah introduced in much detail in chapter 45. But ultimately, verse 13 points to the end-time fulfilment of this chapter, when Israel will be truly delivered, saved and adorned with splendour. The eagle in that case is Jesus, who comes from the east as in Matthew 24:27, "For just like the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so the coming of the Son of Man will be". Ultimately, when we recognise Jesus as Jehovah (Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10), he is the same eagle who carried his people across the Red Sea in antiquity (Exodus 19:4). Similarly, in 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says of the Israelites during the Exodus, "…for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ".

Ultimately, this chapter prophesies the defeat of Mystery Babylon, which is in Arabia (Isaiah 21, Revelation 17-18). The humiliation of Bel and Nebo symbolises the end-time humiliation of Islam. Jesus' omnipotence and victory is contrasted with Allah's impotence and defeat. At the second coming, Allah's ability to support Muslims will be no different to Bel and Nebo's ability to support the Babylonians.

According to Exodus 17, when the Israelites left the Desert of Sin (in what is now north western Saudi Arabia), they camped at Rephidim, near the rock at Horeb, and were attacked by the Amalakites. Later in Israel's history when Gideon defeated the Amalakites, he removed the crescent-moon ornaments from the necks of their camels and from their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna (Judges 8:21). He humiliated his defeated foes by removing their religious symbols. Just like back then, the crescent moon remains the symbol of Arabia's modern day religion, Islam. Psalm 83 describes God's end-time deliverance of Israel from a united Arab attack, and says in verse 11, "Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna". The implication is that Jesus will remove and humiliate the symbols of Islam, just as Gideon did to the Amalakites of Arabia.
Tags
Places: Babylon, Mystery Babylon, Arabia
Symbols: Bel and Nebo, Crescent moon
Tags: Fall of Babylon, Fall of Mystery Babylon, Fall of Islam, Jesus delivers Israel, Israel receives salvation, Israel adorned with glory, Jesus as an eagle, Jesus comes from the east, Jesus carries his people, Idol worshippers humiliated, Absurdity of idolatry, God uniquely predicts the future, End-time exodus, Cyrus as a type of messiah
The Lord Carries His People
1 Bel kneels down, Nebo bends low. Their images weigh down animals and beasts. Your heavy images are burdensome to tired animals.
2 Together they bend low and kneel down; they are unable to rescue the images; they themselves head off into captivity.
3 “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, all you who are left from the family of Israel, you who have been carried from birth, you who have been supported from the time you left the womb.
4 Even when you are old, I will take care of you, even when you have gray hair, I will carry you. I made you and I will support you; I will carry you and rescue you.
5 To whom can you compare and liken me? Tell me whom you think I resemble, so we can be compared!
6 Those who empty out gold from a purse and weigh out silver on the scale hire a metalsmith, who makes it into a god. They then bow down and worship it.
7 They put it on their shoulder and carry it; they put it in its place and it just stands there; it does not move from its place. Even when someone cries out to it, it does not reply; it does not deliver him from his distress.
8 Remember this, so you can be brave! Think about it, you rebels!
9 Remember what I accomplished in antiquity! Truly I am God, I have no peer; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 who announces the end from the beginning and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred, who says, ‘My plan will be realized, I will accomplish what I desire,’
11 who summons an eagle from the east, from a distant land, one who carries out my plan. Yes, I have decreed, yes, I will bring it to pass; I have formulated a plan, yes, I will carry it out.
12 Listen to me, you stubborn people, you who distance yourself from doing what is right.
13 I am bringing my deliverance near, it is not far away; I am bringing my salvation near, it does not wait. I will save Zion; I will adorn Israel with my splendor.”
(NET)