Bible Commentary: Isaiah 47

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Isaiah 47

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The Lady of Kingdoms 

Isaiah 47 deals once again with Babylon. Remember that at the time Isaiah wrote, Babylon was still subject to the Assyrian Empire. The Assyrians, we may recall, sacked Babylon in 689 B.C.—late in Isaiah's lifetime. However, the portrayal of Babylon in this chapter shows her to be preeminent over the nations. So it again appears that God was speaking to Isaiah about events far in the future—but when? The chapter apparently has a dual application that is parallel to other prophecies of this section. On one level, it can be seen as Cyrus' conquest of Babylon and its later destruction under one of Cyrus' successors, Xerxes. Yet the primary application of the prophecy appears to be for the end time—the "daughter" of Babylon referring mainly to a future Babylon. Indeed, the parallels with the fall of end-time Babylon in Revelation 17-18 are unmistakable.

God uses Babylon as an instrument to refine Israel and His saints, but He does not hold Babylon guiltless in the face of its ruthless treatment of them and its vain confidence in its supremacy and security (verses 6-7). The arrogance and pride of this daughter in verses 8-9 are stated again in Revelation 18:7-8. The remainder of Isaiah 47 deals with this fall and the sins that bring it about.

God's punishment will come partly, He says to the daughter of Babylon, "because of the multitude of your sorceries, for the great abundance of your enchantments" (verses 9). God strongly condemns all idolatry and demonic practices (Deuteronomy 18:9-12). However, the latter part of Isaiah 47:9 could perhaps be translated, as in the New International Version, to say that God's punishment will come "in spite of the multitude of your sorceries…." This ties in well with the next verse: "For you have trusted in your wickedness." The adherents of this system are trusting in sorceries and enchantments in two ways—to give them supernatural protection and to give them "wisdom" and "knowledge" to guide them and to predict the future (verse 10). In verse 12, God is saying, in a sense, "Now see if your enchantments and sorceries will do you any good!"

The symbolism here in Isaiah 47 goes back to the very beginnings of the city of Babylon or Babel. Babel and its empire were founded by Nimrod, a rebel against God (Genesis 10:8-12). Based on the evidence of secular history, it is apparent that he and his wife Semiramis were the originators of idolatry in the post-Flood world, evidently resurrecting a number of false concepts present before the Flood yet adding their own embellishments. They thereby set themselves up as the greatest human enemies of God's true servants. Incredibly, they are the fountainhead of much of the idolatry in the world today (yet still mere agents of the true author of idolatry, Satan the Devil).

Upon the death of Nimrod, Semiramis did not want to "sit as a widow" but desired to continue as "queen" and adored "lady" over the kingdoms of Nimrod's empire forever (compare Isaiah 47:5, 7-8; Revelation 18:7). So she concocted a fable wherein she miraculously became pregnant without having sexual relations—bearing her child Tammuz by a supposed "virgin birth" and claiming that he was the reincarnation of Nimrod. Her son was therefore deemed to be her husband. She promoted him as the "savior" of the ancient world. In reality, Semiramis was not a "virgin daughter" at all (compare Isaiah 47:1) but a great harlot, prostituting herself to the various kings of the empire to buy their aid in keeping her in power (compare Revelation 17:1-6).

Yet it should be noted that the denunciations in the various scriptures cited in the previous paragraph are not primarily aimed at Semiramis herself, but at a false Babylonian system to arise of which she served as a type. It is the same system we saw referred to as Tyre and the "virgin daughter of Sidon" in Isaiah 23—also typified by the pagan Phoenician queen Jezebel. And this refers, first and foremost, to a pagan false Christianity portrayed in Revelation 17—“Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and of the Abominations of the Earth" (verse 5)—the roots of which may be traced largely to the Babylonian Samaritans of apostolic days and the idolatry of ancient Babylon before that. This type of Christianity was to eventually gain preeminent political power, which first happened when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century. Through the Middle Ages, it dominated the Holy Roman Empire. And even today, it wields enormous authority and influence.

Interestingly, this "woman," while claiming to be the wife of Christ, is actually the wife of a false, idolatrous concept of Christ that originated in Babylonian paganism, as well as the adulterous partner of the "beast" of Revelation 17. Indeed, she is really married to the Babylonian savior figure. Yet the false gods of Babylon are going to be destroyed at Christ's return, as implied in Isaiah 46. Thus, the fallen woman will indeed be a widow. The children of this "mother of harlots and abominations"—that is, her other idolatrous creations and the false churches sprung from her—will also be destroyed (see Revelation 17:5, 16).

Babylon, it should be noted, is also the term used to represent the political and economic system that is dominated by this great false religion centered at Rome—as Revelation 18 implies. The name is also used for the city of Rome itself. The Roman-Babylonian system will experience its apex of power just before the return of Christ. But its end-time manifestation will fall with a great fall. Its "merchants" or commercial brokers and partners will be dismayed (verses 9-16; Isaiah 47:15). For in a very short time period, end-time Babylon will be destroyed—burnt with fire (verse 9, 14; Revelation 17:16; 18:9, 18).

Revelation 18:24 states that all the blood of the prophets and saints is found in her. Indeed, a trail of blood can be followed in the history of this religion. Through Babylon's fall, God will at last avenge His people for all the torment they have experienced at the hands of this evil system (verse 20). More information about this false religious system can be found in Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons, 1916. While we would not endorse everything in this particular source, it is a thoroughly researched and well-documented publication—providing a great amount of detail supporting its thesis.

You should also request or download our free booklet The Church Jesus Builto better understand the origin and development of the great counterfeit Christianity. The booklet will point you to places in the New Testament that mention the beginnings of this merger of paganism with biblical teachings, which most people now accept as Christianity. The booklet will also provide you with the means to identify God's true Church today, which Jesus promised would never die out (Matthew 16:18).