Isaiah 47 – O Spider of Babylon

Isaiah 47 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Forest Mint

Today’s PassageIsaiah 47

If yesterday was a knock on Babylon’s gods, today is a knock on their rulers.

We’ve seen in past chapters that God plans to discipline his people for their sins by allowing Babylon to capture them. Verses 6-7 of chapter 47 provide us with a good summary of the situation: “I was angry with My people, I profaned My heritage and gave them into your hand. …Yet you said, ‘I will be a queen forever.’” God uses Babylon as an instrument of judgment on Israel, but Babylon doesn’t recognize its role. It grows proud and thinks its subjugation of Israel is about its greatness, not Israel’s sin before their God.

So, God is going to humble Babylon. He states, “[D]isaster will fall on you for which you cannot atone; and destruction about which you do not know will come on you suddenly” (47:11). Why won’t Babylon be able to atone for the coming disaster? I speculate it’s because they won’t recognize Israel’s God YHWH as the one true judge with the power to punish or pardon, and instead they’ll rely on their useless gods from chapter 46. And in Isaiah 45:1-7, of course, we see that God will use Cyrus the Great, of the Persian Empire, to bring down Babylon.

But it occurs to me: what if Cyrus himself gets arrogant, refusing to acknowledge his status as a mere instrument of the God who reigns over all of human history? How would God bring Cyrus to justice if he, the pot on the wheel, says of the divine Potter, “He has no hands?” (45:9) It reminds me of the song in which an old lady accidentally swallows a fly, swallows a spider to catch the fly, and swallows an increasingly ludicrous array of animals to deal with her compounding problems. How will God keep the situation from escalating?

Look, around here I read the passage and spit it off the dome. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get profound theological insights, and sometimes you get references to children’s songs.

Anyway, before I clock out on today’s reading, I’ve got one more observation. Babylon exhibits the height of hubris in two verses, repeating the statement “I am, and there is no one besides me” (47:8, 10). Sound familiar? It’s the kind of language that God has been using to describe himself! God is in a category by himself, at the top of the ontological ladder, with no equal in all existence. Babylon, on the other hand, is utterly unqualified to make that claim. Egypt, Syria, Persia: like these, Babylon’s just another empire that will have their day in the sun and then fall. They’re not unique, they’re not eternal. And in time they’ll see it when they experience their mortality firsthand.

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