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Isaiah 46, 47: God’s Message to Babylon: Chapter 2: Babylon in Mourning

In Isaiah 47 God reprimands Babylon as if she were a fallen sorceress queen. He explains to her why she has fallen from power and was now a helpless bond woman. Isaiah 47:1 begins,

1 “Come down and sit in the dust [afar, “dust, debris, that which has been pulverized”], O virgin [bethulah] daughter of Babylon; sit on the ground without a throne [kissa, “throne, stool, seat”], O daughter of the Chaldeans! For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate.

The queen of Babylon has fallen from her throne and is seen sitting in the debris of her once-great city. In Scripture, cities are often pictured metaphorically as virgins. What is more remarkable in this case is that the fallen queen of Babylon is called bethulah, “virgin,” whereas the messianic prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, which references the Virgin Mary, uses the term almah, a more general term that includes any young woman (including virgins).

Cities as Daughters

The fact that the Babylonian queen is said to be the “virgin daughter of Babylon” suggests that she represents a future generation. We see the same in the case of Jerusalem in the latter days when she is restored, as in Micah 4:8,

8 “As for you, tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you it will come—even the former dominion will come, the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.

This terminology was commonly used of Jerusalem and usually thought of in terms of the earthly city. However, the Hebrew name, Ierushalayim, has the dual ending (“ayim”) and literally means “two Jerusalems.” The meaning of this was discussed among the ancient rabbis and never resolved, but we know from the New Testament that this prophesies of two cities—the earthly city and the heavenly city. Paul refers to them allegorically as Hagar and Sarah (Gal. 4:24).

The point is that we may also interpret Jerusalem and the daughter of Jerusalem in light of these two cities that are called by the same name. Many references to the daughter of Jerusalem suggest a future time element—another generation yet to come—as Micah 4:8 clearly shows. It is the closest that the Old Testament prophets come to differentiating between the two cities, for in most cases, which “Jerusalem” is left to the discernment of the reader.

If the reader does not know that there are two Jerusalems, he is left with only one option, which may be incorrect.

As a general rule, when the prophets speak of Jerusalem in terms of corruption and judgment, they speak of the earthly city. When the prophets speak of Jerusalem in terms of perfection and glory in the latter days, they speak of the heavenly city.

The contrast between Babylon and Jerusalem in the big prophetic picture is in the fact that the latter-day daughter of Babylon falls from a throne of glory to sit in the debris of her once-powerful city, while the latter-day daughter of Jerusalem is elevated from the dust to her throne of glory. This reversal of fortune, of course, comes at the end of the age when Jerusalem’s “seven times” of judgment expire.

But the “Jerusalem” that figuratively died is not the same city that is raised in glory, nor is the “old man” of flesh raised up into glory at the resurrection of the dead. Those who are begotten by God are new creatures in Christ, having a new identity which Paul calls the “new man,” and this is what is raised to life. Having transferred our identity from the old man to the new, “we” are raised in glory as part of the new creation.

Babylon is thus an “old man” city which, like Adam himself, is condemned to death. In the end, the earthly Jerusalem too is enslaved to sin and must die, for no form of flesh is able to perfect itself under the Old Covenant.

Hence, in the end the earthly Jerusalem is classed alongside of Sodom, Egypt, and Babylon (Rev. 11:8) as incorrigible cities, ruled by the flesh and all of its carnal desires.

The heavenly Jerusalem is thus contrasted with both Babylon and the earthly Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 fulfills the glorious prophecies of “Jerusalem” in the writings of Isaiah and the other prophets.

Babylon, the Bond Woman

Isaiah 47:2, 3 says,

2 “Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, uncover the leg, cross the rivers. 3 Your nakedness will be uncovered, your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.”

The daughter of Babylon is pictured as a half-naked slave girl grinding meal for her masters. She is told to “strip off the skirt” and “uncover the leg,” not to be immodest but to be more able to work hard. This was also done when they crossed shallow streams or rivers, so that their clothing remained dry. Royalty, of course, would be carried across the rivers without having to strip down and expose their shame.

We might also draw a contrast with Israel, which crossed the Red Sea and the Jordan River on dry ground without needing to strip down.

Thus, God says, “I will take vengeance” for the way in which Babylon mistreated its own slaves. God had sold Jerusalem on account of her sin into the hands of Babylon, according to the law in Exodus 22:3. But slave-owners were also accountable to God to treat their slaves right. In fact, they were responsible to God to turn those who were slaves of sin into slaves of righteousness (Rom. 6:16).

Babylon knew little of God’s law, however, and consistently mistreated those who had been entrusted to them as slaves. Those who have a Babylonian (fleshly) mindset do not know how to exercise authority according to the mind of God. For this reason, God holds slave-owners accountable in the end, and God takes “vengeance” (naqam). God’s vengeance is in accordance with His law and nature—unlike what we often see with men’s vengeance.

God also says that He “will not spare a man.” What does this mean?  The KJV reads, “I will not meet thee as a man.” In military terms, it might read, “I will not make peace with any man before my enemies are destroyed.” The main idea is to show that Babylon will surely be destroyed and its citizens enslaved on account of sin and rebellion against God.

This was the Hebrew way of saying, “I will not recognize or negotiate with an ambassador (intercessor) on behalf of Babylon.” Isaiah then interjects his comment in Isaiah 47:4,

4 Our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts, is His name, the Holy One of Israel.

The prophet calls Him “our Redeemer” to show that God is redeeming those of Israel who had been sold into slavery. But to Babylon, God appears as “the Lord of hosts,” that is, the Head of the heavenly army. He redeems His people and conquers His enemies. In both cases, He remains “the Holy One.” In other words, He does not sin (i.e., go against His own nature) in overcoming His enemies or in bringing judgment upon sinners.

Keep in mind that when a man or nation is sold as a slave for as many years as is just, it is possible to be redeemed prior to the year of Jubilee. Those years of slavery are thus known as “the time of redemption.” But once the year of Jubilee arrives, redemption is superseded by the Jubilee.

Israel was redeemed from Egypt two years prior to the 50th Jubilee from Adam. But Isaiah implies that Babylon has no redeemer, for redemption is accomplished only by faith in Christ.

The people of Babylon in that generation will be saved, and their citizenship will be transferred to the Kingdom of Christ. However, most of these Babylonians, who lived in previous generations, will not be converted until every knee bows at the Great White Throne. Even then, they will remain under the authority of the overcomers in that final age until the final Jubilee sets all creation free.

As always, we must read Isaiah with a New Covenant mindset, understanding the divine plan to save the world. The judgment of God proceeds out of His own nature, and of all the possible descriptions of His nature that one might choose, John set forth His essence saying, “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Hence, all of His judgments are ultimately a manifestation of love. That is why all judgment is corrective in nature, even as a father corrects his children for their ultimate good.

The Righteous Judgment of God

God is righteous in judgment, which means He does not punish forever. He has set forth the law of Jubilee to limit all slavery to sin to a certain time frame. It is the law of grace, in that the slaves are set free even if they still owe more on their debt. This applies to all sinners alike, including the “daughter of Babylon.” In the end, all bondage to sin will end, and God will be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28).

All oppressive systems of government will be replaced by the authority of Jesus Christ. Babylon as a city-state (government and way of life) will fall and never rise again, so that the individual people themselves will be saved. Babylonians will cease to exist, not because they will be destroyed or lost forever, but because they will “learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9) and transfer their citizenship from Babylon to the Kingdom of God.

The final enemy that will be destroyed is death itself (1 Cor. 15:26). For the overcomers, death will be destroyed in the first resurrection (Rev. 20:5). However, more enemies remain on the earth throughout the millennial reign of Christ (Rev. 20:7-9). So the first resurrection does not fully destroy “the last enemy.” It is the second resurrection that destroys death (mortality), for we read in Rev. 20:14,

14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.

After this, at the Great White Throne, “the second death” replaces mortality. It is the type of death that believers experience as they “die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). The death of the flesh, the “old man,” is a painful but necessary experience. We crucify the old man now so that we do not have to do it later.

This second type of death, pictured as the lake of fire, is “the last enemy” that will be destroyed at the end of the age of judgment. It will benefit all who have been judged by the “lake of fire” when all judgment finally ends with the Creation Jubilee.

The first resurrection is not a proclamation of doom for the rest of creation. Paul tells us, in fact, that it is a promise of God that gives hope to the rest of creation. Rom. 8:19-21 says,

19 For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

This freedom comes only at the end of all judgment, for only then will creation itself be set free at the great Jubilee at the end of time. This is the restoration of all things prophesied by all the prophets from the beginning of time.