This chapter foretells the total destruction of Babylon because of her iniquities. Destruction of ancient Babylon is a type for the destruction of the wicked at the time of the Second Coming of Christ. In characteristic Isaiah style some of the events in this chapter refer to the destruction of ancient Babylon, others refer to the destruction of modern spiritual Babylon, and some refer to both.

This dual meaning is well-known in the scriptures. John the Beloved, in describing a woman shown to him in vision that symbolizes the apostate churches of the latter days, said:

And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
And upon her forehead was a name written, mystery, Babylon the great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth.
And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration (emphasis added).1

John also described the subsequent destruction of spiritual Babylon:

And he [the angel] cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.
For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies.
And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.
For her sins have reached unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities.2

In Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord refers to the wicked of the earth in the latter days as Babylon:

They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.3

Verses 1 through 5 describe how prideful Babylon would be utterly humiliated. Verse 1 begins: “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.” “O virgin daughter” refers to the ancient city; similar usage is applied to the ancient city of Jerusalem.4 “Virgin daughter” is applied because the city had never been conquered.5 “Sit in the dust” and “sit on the ground” mean that the ancient city would be humiliated; there would be no throne symbolically for her to sit upon, and she would be reduced to the status of a slave. “Daughter of the Chaldeans” is a synonym for “daughter of Babylon.” “Chaldeans” sometimes is applied to the educated class in ancient Babylon.6

Verse 2 further describes the humiliation of Babylon: “Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.” The grinding of meal with millstones was a task relegated to the poor or to servants, here given to the once-proud daughter of Babylon, the inhabitants of which would be taken into slavery.7 “Make bare the leg,” uncover the thigh,” and “uncover thy locks” all describe the total humiliation of Babylon—symbolized here by nakedness, as of a once-regal queen stripped bare before her subjects, taken into slavery, and perhaps subjected to sexual abuse. “Make bare the leg” means “strip off” or “expose oneself by removing the skirt.”8 Nakedness as a spiritual metaphor means without preparation or without the protection of sacred covenants. “Pass over the river” means to cross the Tigris or Euphrates into countries where the few survivors would serve as slaves.

Verse 3 continues the symbolization: “Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.” “I will take vengeance” explains the symbolism. “I will not meet thee as a man” means a representative of the conquering army would not come forward, seeking to negotiate; Babylon’s conquerors would not come seeking treaty or compromise, but destruction.9

Verse 4 interjects: “As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” Here Isaiah explains that the righteous—oppressed both by ancient Babylon’s ruthless rule and the wickedness of her modern counterpart—look unto the Lord for deliverance and redemption.

Verse 5 describes Babylon’s dejection: “Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” No more would Babylon serve as capital city for empires or kingdoms. “Get thee into darkness” means “descend into mourning,” or into exile.10 “Daughter of the Chaldeans” refers to the practice of sorcery and astrology, for which ancient Chaldea was known.11

Verses 1 through 5 contain a chiasm:

A: (1) Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
C: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.
D: (2) Take the millstones, and grind meal:
E: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg,
F: uncover the thigh,
G: pass over the rivers.
F: (3) Thy nakedness shall be uncovered,
E: yea, thy shame shall be seen:
D: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man. (4) As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.
C: (5) Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness,
B: O daughter of the Chaldeans:
A: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.

The message of this chiasm is that Babylon would be totally humiliated militarily. “Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon” is complemented by “for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.” “Thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate” matches “sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness;” “uncover thy locks, make bare the leg” is complemented by “thy shame shall be seen;” and “uncover the thigh” matches “thy nakedness shall be uncovered.”

In verse 6, the Lord describes Judah’s captivity and punishment at the hand of Babylon: “I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.”12 “I have polluted mine inheritance” means the Lord allowed the conqueror to enter the land designated as the inheritance for His people.13 “Into thine hand” means “into thy control.” The conquerors showed apostate Judah no mercy—not even toward the elderly, who would normally be deserving of respect and veneration. Although the Lord allowed ancient Babylon to overrun Judah and take her people captive, He would hold Babylon accountable for her cruelty and injustice.

In verse 7, Babylon trifles with the warnings given: “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.” “The latter end” refers to the destruction of Babylon—both the ancient city and her modern counterpart. “I shall be a lady forever” reveals Babylon’s perceived self-sufficiency and haughtiness and connotes great pleasure in her assuming the role of mistress.14

In verses 8 and 9, the Lord warns Babylon. Verse 8 begins: “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.” Babylon dismisses the unavoidable consequences of wickedness.15 “Dwelling carelessly” means “carefree living.” “I am, and none else beside me” characterizes modern Babylon’s total rejection of God and denial of His very existence;16 “I am” is the Hebrew meaning for “Jehovah;”17 Babylon herself assumes the role of god.

Verse 9 continues: “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.”18 “Loss of children” and “widowhood” symbolize destruction of Babylon’s inhabitants, leaving the city bereft. Destruction would come upon the ancient city—and upon its modern counterpart—suddenly.

Verse 10 elaborates the Lord’s indictment of Babylon: “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.” Secular knowledge deceives modern Babylon; existentialism abounds; she denies even the existence of God. Her secret combinations, however, are not hidden from the Lord.

Verse 11 continues: “Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.” “Evil” is translated from a Hebrew word meaning “misery” or “distress.”19 Because of her wickedness, disaster would come upon Babylon from a source not foreseen. “Mischief” is translated from a Hebrew word that means “ruin” or “calamity.”20

Doctrine and Covenants places these foretold events in the modern context, relating to latter-day spiritual Babylon and her destruction:

Wherefore the decree hath gone forth from the Father that they [the righteous] shall be gathered in unto one place upon the face of this land [America], to prepare their hearts and be prepared in all things against the day when tribulation and desolation are sent forth upon the wicked.21

Verse 12 describes more abominations of Babylon, both ancient and modern: “Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.” The Lord challenges the wicked to put their enchantments and sorceries to the test; these will prove ineffective in protecting them at the moment of calamity.

Verses 9 through 12 contain a chiasm:

(9) But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood:
A: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries,
B: and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.
C: (10) For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness:
D: thou hast said, None seeth me.
E: Thy wisdom
E: and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee;
D: and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.
C: (11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
A: and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.

In this chiasm,  reasons for Babylon’s destruction are set forth. Babylon has reveled in sorcery and secret combinations; her wisdom and knowledge have perverted her. “For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness” is complemented by “therefore shall evil come upon thee;” “thou hast said, None seeth me” matches “I am, and none else beside me.” Babylon denies God’s existence; therefore, she reasons, her secret combinations and wickedness are unseen.

Verse 13 repeats the challenge: “Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.” These abominable practices would be of no help in saving Babylon from destruction or even giving advance warning.

Verses 11 through 13 contain a chiasm:

(11) Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off:
A: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
B: (12) Stand now with thine enchantments,
C: and with the multitude of thy sorceries,
D: wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth;
E: if so be thou shalt be able to profit,
E: if so be thou mayest prevail.
D: (13) Thou art wearied
C: in the multitude of thy counsels.
B: Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up,
A: and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.

Babylon’s practice of astrology and enchantment would be of no help in her time of desperation. “Desolation shall come upon thee suddenly” matches “these things that shall come upon thee;” “Stand now with thine enchantments” complements “let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up.”

Verse 14 describes the destruction of modern Babylon: “Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.” The fire of destruction will consume all available fuel, leaving the few survivors deprived of warmth and light. Fire will completely destroy the wicked.22

Verse 14 contains a chiasm:

A: (14) Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them;
B: they shall not deliver themselves
C: from the power of the flame:
B: there shall not be a coal to warm at,
A: nor fire to sit before it.

The wicked of Babylon will be consumed with fire, whereas those who survive the burning will be left desolate and cold. “The fire shall burn them” contrasts with “nor fire to sit before it.” “They shall not deliver themselves” contrasts with “there shall not be a coal to warm at.”

Verse 15 foretells that the merchants of the world who trafficked with Babylon, participating in her wickedness, will abandon her at her destruction: “Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.”23

 


Notes:

1. Revelation 17:4-6.
2. Revelation 18:2-4.
3. Doctrine and Covenants 1:16.
4. See Isaiah 1:8 and pertinent commentary; also Isaiah 10:32; 16:1; 37:22; 52:2; 62:11.
5. Isaiah 47:1, footnote 1c.
6. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 409.
7. Isaiah 47:2, footnote 2a.
8. F. Brown, S. Driver, and C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon: Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA, 01961-3473, 1996, Strong’s No. 2834, p. 362.
9. Isaiah 47:3, footnote 3a.
10. Brown, et al.,1996, Strong’s No. 2822, p. 365.
11. Victor L. Ludlow, Isaiah: Prophet, Seer, and Poet: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982, p. 395.
12. Verse 6 contains a chiasm: I was wroth/polluted mine inheritance/thine hand/shew them no mercy/laid thy yoke.
13. Isaiah 47:6, footnote 6a.
14. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 1404, p. 150; see also Isaiah 47:7, footnote 7a.
15. Isaiah 47:8, footnote 8b.
16. Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry and Tina M. Peterson, Understanding Isaiah: Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1998, p. 410.
17. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 3068, p. 217-218.
18. Verses 8 and 9 contain a chiasm: Widow/loss of children/these two things/moment…day/loss of children/ widowhood….
19. Brown et al., 1996, Strong’s No. 7451, p. 948.
20. Isaiah 47:11, footnote 11a.
21. Doctrine and Covenants 29:8.
22. See Isaiah 1:7, 28; 64:1-2, 11; 66:15-16 and pertinent commentary.
23. Verse 15 contains a chiasm: Thus shall they be unto thee/thou hast laboured/thy merchants/they shall wander/ none shall save thee.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s