Friday, November 7, 2014

Isaiah on Babylon’s Delusions of Grandeur

Isaiah 47 contains prophecy of Babylon’s downfall and we are encouraged to also read it as prophecy of the downfall of the wicked world.  In part of it, Isaiah addresses Babylon’s delusions of grandeur and then punctures them. (You’ve probably read these verses recently in Sunday school.)

7 ¶And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.
8 Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:
9 But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. (Isaiah 47:7-9)

Babylon (and the wicked world) doesn’t think about what she’s doing in terms of the long term consequences.  Even though there is evidence that her course leads to destruction, she ignores it and denies it pertains to her.

Isaiah notes Babylon is “given to pleasures,” as if she had given all her time and energy to pleasure as a gift.  (Contrast this with Zion, which gives timeand talents and all to build up the kingdom of God.)  If Babylon’s pleasures were innocent, then the worst that could be said of her was that she is merely a trivial entity, but Babylon’s pleasures are wicked, cruel, and corrupting.

Babylon also “dwellest carelessly.”  In modern figurative terms, Babylon is the crazy driver who drives roaring drunk, runs red lights, hops the median, drives on the wrong side, and plays chicken through crowded roads.   Babylon may occasionally look like it lives an exciting life, but there is a heavy payback waiting.

But because consequences don’t come immediately, Babylon deceives herself into thinking they won’t come at all and that it is strong enough to prevent them from ever coming.  But it would take more than godlike strength to do that, so Babylon thinks she is a god.

“[thou] sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me” – In opposition to Jehovah, who says there is no god beside Him, Babylon insists there is none like her.

Isaiah points out how Babylon insists she shall never be a widow or lose her children, but Isaiah says in response that Babylon will lose both in a moment in a day.

If Babylon is compared to a woman, what might her husband and children represent?  The husband represents protective and providing power, so he may be seen in the laws and industries and government policies that enable Babylon to continue as she does.  Who keeps Babylon from being brought to account?  Who gives Babylon what she wants?  Who sets laws that allow Bablyon to get what she wants and keep it?  Who defends her?   Also, Babylon’s children represent the results of what she does, results of which she is proud. 

Again, Isaiah says Babylon will lose husband and children in one day, which we can now see means that the powers that enabled and protected her and the results she was so proud of will both be destroyed.  The easiness and speed of that destruction should give us an idea of how weak a foundation she had.

Interestingly enough, John the Revelator confirms this prophecy in his vision of Babylon’s destruction (see Rev. 18:7-14).  In it, we read of the kings and merchants lamenting Babylon’s fall and how there is no more market for their wares because she is gone and how all the fruits she lusted after are gone.


Steve said...

"Careless," in the English of the King James Bible, seems to indicate a sense of security rather than a reckless lifestyle. (Other translations seem to confirm this interpretation, see )

We see this attitude today in modern Western societies. The abundance we enjoy today rests on a somewhat fragile foundation, but those who voice concerns are often dismissed as foil hat-wearing nuts.

Michaela Stephens said...

Thanks for bringing that up, Steve. It's true that Babylon exudes a sense of security and "all is well," when foundations are shaky.

But from a spiritual standpoint, Babylon is also reckless.