Isaiah 47:1-15

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47:1. Masoretic Text: Come down and sit in the dust, virgin daughter of Babylon. Sit on the ground without a throne, daughter of the Chaldeans, for you will no longer be called tender and dainty.

Septuagint: Come down; sit on the ground, virgin daughter of Babylon. Enter into the darkness, daughter of the Chaldeans, for no longer will you be called tender and dainty.

The Targum of Isaiah refers to Babylon as the “kingdom of the congregation of Babylon” and the “kingdom of the Chaldeans.”


Babylon is called “virgin daughter,” for the city, in its position as the capital of the dominant power in the region, had not then been ravaged by war and appeared to be secure. This was to change, for Babylon would fall and come to resemble a captive woman who is forced to seat herself on the ground in a state of disgrace.

Babylon (the “daughter of the Chaldeans,” the capital city of Chaldea) would cease to be in an exalted position as if seated on a splendid throne. No more would Babylon by like a mistress with servants, like a lady who is spoken of as “tender and dainty,” spoiled, accustomed to a comfortable way of life, and lacking in the kind of strength that comes from performing hard labor.

The Septuagint does not include the reference to a throne but contains a directive for Babylon to go into darkness, which suggests that there would be no bright prospects for the city, only gloom. This thought is repeated in verse 5, where it is also found in the Hebrew text.

47:2. Masoretic Text: Take the millstones and grind meal. Remove your veil. Strip off [your] train [shóvel]. Uncover [your] leg. Pass through rivers.

Septuagint: Take a millstone; grind meal. Uncover your covering [for your face]. Uncover the gray hairs. Expose the legs. Pass through rivers.

There is uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word shóvel, here rendered “train,” that is, the train of a long robe. In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the corresponding word is the plural form of shul (“skirts”). The Septuagint rendering about uncovering the “gray hairs” suggests that the translator was not familiar with the Hebrew expression.

According to the interpretation in the Targum of Isaiah, Babylon would become the recipient of “sickness” or affliction, “enter into servitude,” and “uncover the glory of [its] kingdom.” The rulers would be dismayed and the warriors scattered, “carried away as the waters of a river.”


Babylon would be reduced to a state of servitude, comparable to that of a slave woman who turns the upper millstone on the lower one of a hand mill to grind the grain. Babylon is commanded to remove the veil and to strip off the train or skirt, thus no longer being like a noble woman who can veil her face from the lustful gazes of lowlifes and be attired with a beautiful robe. The uncovering of the leg or legs could refer to lifting up the garment in order to ford a stream or river. Depending on the nature of their labors, slave women might have to do this on a regular basis.

47:3. Masoretic Text: Your nakedness will be exposed; also your shame will be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will meet no man [’adhám, “earthling”].

Septuagint: Your shame will be uncovered; your reproaches will be revealed. I will take what is just from you; no more will I hand over to men.

The Targum of Isaiah represents the judgment to befall Babylon as being different from that of the “sons of men,” suggesting that it would be more severe.


Babylon would experience humiliating defeat. The disgrace would be comparable to being stripped naked and exposed to shame before onlookers. When exacting vengeance by means of military forces, YHWH would not “meet” anyone favorably or spare anyone. The conquerors would act indiscriminately during the campaign of conquest.

The Septuagint rendering about taking “what is just” from Babylon could mean subjecting Babylon to severe judgment without any mitigation or consideration, as when justice is no longer the guiding principle. The fact that YHWH would be personally involved in taking action against Babylon could be understood to denote that he would not be handing Babylon over to men to act completely according to their own objectives. Another possible meaning is that God would not just leave it up to men to execute judgment against Babylon.

47:4. Masoretic Text: Our Redeemer — YHWH of hosts [is] his name, the Holy One of Israel.

Septuagint: The one rescuing you — the Lord Sabaoth [is] his name, the Holy One of Israel — has said:

The expression “Sabaoth” is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means “hosts” or “armies.”


The one who redeems or delivers Israel is YHWH of hosts. This identifies him as having hosts of angels in his service and assured that nothing would prevent the people from being released from Babylonian exile. As the Holy One of Israel, YHWH is the absolute standard of purity in all respects. His word about future release from exile was trustworthy and would not fail to be fulfilled.

47:5. Masoretic Text: Sit in silence and go into darkness, daughter of the Chaldeans, for you will no longer be called mistress of kingdoms.

Septuagint: Sit, being stunned; enter into the darkness, daughter of the Chaldeans. No longer will you be called strength of a kingdom.

In the Targum of Isaiah, Babylon is called “kingdom of the congregation of the Chaldeans” and the “mighty one of the kingdoms.”


For Babylon, the “daughter of the Chaldeans” or their capital city, to sit in silence suggests that the vibrant activity associated with a major city would have come to an end. The city would have become like a woman that has been stunned or so severely shocked by calamity that she is unable to utter a word, her grief being too great. The going into darkness indicates that there would be nothing to brighten the prospects for Babylon. Nothing but gloom would exist everywhere. The exalted state that Babylon once enjoyed as a “mistress of kingdoms,” or in a dominant position over other royal realms, would come to an end. No one would then speak of Babylon as a “mistress of kingdoms.” The Septuagint reference to the “strength of a kingdom” may be understood to mean being in possession of greater might than other royal realms.

47:6. Masoretic Text: I was angry with my people. I profaned my inheritance, and I gave them into your hand. You granted them no mercies. You made your yoke very heavy on the elder.

Septuagint: I was provoked at my people. You profaned my inheritance. I gave [them] into your hand, but you did not grant them mercy. You made the yoke of the elder very heavy.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the phrase about profaning the inheritance.


On account of their disregard for his commands, YHWH was angry with his people Israel. By letting them be conquered, he profaned them as his heritage, not treating them as the holy people whose God he was. According to the Septuagint rendering, Babylon is represented as doing the defiling or profaning. Although Babylon was only allowed to act as the instrument for punishing the disobedient people, the Babylonians acted on their own with no sense of accountability in the way they treated conquered peoples. They showed no compassion to the Israelites, not even having any regard for the aged. According to the Targum of Isaiah, Babylon made rule over the aged very heavy, and the Septuagint rendering indicates that the “yoke” was very heavy. This signifies that the aged were submitted to oppression, and they may also have been subjected to carrying heavy burdens that they did not have the strength to bear.

47:7. Masoretic Text: And you said, “For limitless time I will be mistress of perpetuity.” You did not take these things to your heart, did not remember their end.

Septuagint: And you said, “Forever [literally, ‘into the age’] I will be ruling.” You did not perceive these things in your heart nor did you remember the last things.


Babylon is represented as a woman who felt completely secure, considering herself to remain a mistress for all time to come. In her “heart” or within herself, she never gave thought to the possibility that her then-existing position of dominance could end as it had for other peoples and nations and that she would not be able to keep conquered peoples in permanent exile. It simply did not occur to her that this could happen. Never did she remember or recall that the “end” or final outcome could differ markedly from what it then was. She gave no thought to what her conduct would finally lead.

47:8. Masoretic Text: And now hear this, pampered one, the one sitting in security, the one saying in her heart, “I [am], and [there is] none besides me. I will not sit as a widow nor know loss of children.”

Septuagint: But now hear these things, the dainty one, the seated one, being secure, the one saying in her heart, “I am, and [there] is not another. I will not sit as a widow nor know loss of children.”

Instead of the Hebrew word for “know,” the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah (the Great Isaiah Scroll) has the Hebrew word for “see.”


Babylon is admonished to hear what her judgment is to be. In her dominant position, Babylon is portrayed as a pampered or spoiled woman, one accustomed to an easy life, secure in her favorable situation. In her “heart” or within herself, she regarded herself as being without equal. She was the ultimate one, with no one being like her. Never did Babylon consider that she would be subjected to the ravages of war, with the inhabitants of the city (her “children”) being slaughtered by triumphant warriors. As a defeated city with slain inhabitants, Babylon would be a childless widow.

47:9. Masoretic Text: And these two things will come to you suddenly, in one day — loss of children and widowhood. They will come upon you in full measure, in your many sorceries, exceedingly in the power of your enchantments.

Septuagint: But now these two things will come upon you suddenly, in one day. Widowhood and loss of children will come suddenly upon you in your sorceries, exceedingly in the power of your enchantments,


The very things the Babylonians did not expect to happen would befall the city — loss of children and widowhood. This would occur quickly, as in a single day. The fortunes of Babylon would change, with the city coming to be like a woman who loses her children and the security and protection her husband had formerly provided. In this case, “widowhood” may allude to Babylon’s losing the patron deity, as may be suggested by the reference (in verse 2) to Bel and Nebo being taken into captivity. Since kings were regarded as the protectors of their subjects, the widowhood of Babylon could also signify that her monarch would perish.

Compared to her flourishing and proud state as the capital of the dominant power in the region, Babylon would come to resemble a widow who had also lost her children. This would be because a sizable number of the city’s inhabitants would be killed during the campaign of conquest.

The calamity would not be partial but would befall Babylon in full measure, with nothing to mitigate the blow. This would be despite the fact that Babylon engaged in occult practices — sorcery, divination, and casting spells or resorting to incantations. Her many forms of sorcery or witchcraft and powerful enchantments or spells would be ineffectual, and Babylon would not be spared from a sudden fall before the conquering military force.

47:10. Masoretic Text: And you trusted in your evil. You said, “No one sees me.” Your wisdom and your knowledge — it has led you astray. And you said in your heart, “I [am], and [there is] none besides me.”

Septuagint: in the hope of your evil. For you have said, “I am, and [there] is not another.” Know that the understanding of these things and your whoredom will be shame to you. And you have said in your heart, “I am, and [there] is not another.”

The Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah says “knowledge” (not “evil”).

There is Greek manuscript evidence for the reading “evil” instead of “whoredom.”


In relation to the words of the previous verse, the “evil” seems to pertain to the sorceries and powerful spells. In these, the Babylonians trusted or hoped, believing that the sorceries and powerful spells or incantations would safeguard them from calamity.

Babylon’s expression about no one seeing her may be understood to mean that no one who could hold an accounting would be observing her actions, which prominently involved occult practices. With Babylon’s “wisdom” or “knowledge” being contrary to YHWH’s will, it had caused her to go astray from what was right and acceptable to him.

In this context, Babylon’s “wisdom” and “knowledge” probably denote thorough familiarity with the occult arts. There is also a possibility that the reference to “wisdom” and “knowledge” includes expertise in planning for and executing successful military campaigns and commercial pursuits. The mention of “these things” in the Septuagint may be understood to apply to the same aspects as do “wisdom and knowledge” in the Hebrew text. “Whoredom” or “evil” would likewise involve occult practices, and involvement with these would not shield Babylon from calamity and so would come to be a source of shame or disgrace when the invading military force captured the city.

Babylon is portrayed as arrogantly expressing herself as being without equal. In the Septuagint, her words to this effect appear twice. As the capital of the dominant power in the region, Babylon is represented as saying, “I [am], and [there is] none besides me.” In the view of the people of Babylon, no other city resembled Babylon in greatness.

47:11. Masoretic Text: And evil will come upon you. You will not know her dawn [sháchar). And ruin will fall upon you which you will not be able to cover [kaphár], and devastation will come upon you suddenly which you will not know.

Septuagint: And destruction will come upon you, and by no means will you know. A pit, and you will fall into it. And misery will come upon you, and by no means will you become clean. And destruction will come upon you suddenly, and by no means will you know.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” precedes the two phrases about not knowing.

The rendering “by no means” preserves the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

In the Targum of Isaiah, the initial reference is to not knowing how to pray against the evil that was destined to come.


The conquest by the military force under the command of the Persian king Cyrus is the evil that was to befall Babylon. There is uncertainty about how the Hebrew word sháchar is to be understood. If “dawn” is the significance here (as it is in many other contexts), the thought about not knowing the “dawn” of the evil could be that the calamity would strike so suddenly that there would appear to be no prior indication of its “dawn” or start. The calamity would be completely unexpected. Translators vary in their renderings. “But upon you will come evil you will not know how to predict.” (NAB) “For this, evil shall come on you; you shall not know its origin.” (J. P. Green) “Therefore evil will overtake you, and you will not know how to conjure it away.” (REB) “Hence, disaster will befall you which you will not know how to charm away.” (NJB) “But disaster will happen to you; you will not know how to avert it.” (HCSB) “But troubles will come to you, and you will not know how to stop them.” (NCV)

The basic sense of the Hebrew verb kaphár is “cover” or “atone.” In connection with “ruin,” this could signify that Babylon would be unable to cover the ruin so as to avoid it or to cover the ruin itself by means of a recovery. The sudden devastation would be one that Babylon did not know or had not experienced as the capital of the dominant power in the region, or would be a devastation that Babylon did not know how to avoid.

According to the Septuagint, the calamity would be comparable to an open pit into which Babylon would fall. As for the misery that would befall the city, Babylon would not be able to be clean or free from it.

47:12. Masoretic Text: Stand now with your enchantments and with your abundant sorceries with which you have toiled from your youth. Perhaps you may be able to benefit; perhaps you may cause trembling.

Septuagint: Stand now with your enchantments and with your abundant sorcery, which you have learned from your youth, if you will be able to benefit [from them].

At the beginning of this verse in the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the conjunction “and” appears above the line of the main text. The verse itself is shorter than in the Masoretic Text, ending with the words, “from your youth and to [this] day.


These words challenge Babylon to make use of her occult arts as had been her practice from her youth, or from the start of her history, and had continued to that very time. The objective in employing enchantments, incantations, or spells, and sorceries or witchcraft would have been to try to ward off calamity or to cause trembling, striking with terror the military force coming against her.

47:13. Masoretic Text: You are wearied with your abundant counsels. Let them stand and deliver you, the ones dividing the heavens, the ones looking at the stars, the ones predicting at the new moons concerning what will befall you.

Septuagint: You have been wearied with your counsels. Let the astrologers of heaven stand and deliver you, the ones looking at the stars. Let them announce to you what is about to come upon you.

In the Dead Sea Scroll of Isaiah, the concluding sentence of the previous verse continues here with the words, “according to your abundant counsels.”

The Targum of Isaiah represents the astrologers as deceiving Babylon when predicting what would happen to her “month by month.” The reference to “month” is understandable when considering that the Hebrew word for “month” and “moon” are the same.


The counsels, plans, or schemes of Babylon for administering affairs and endeavoring to secure and maintain her dominant position appear to have been so numerous that they could be spoken of as tiring her out. Much of the planning rested on what the astrologers perceived to be the desirable course to be taken. These astrologers who divided the heavens are called upon to stand as would persons who are ready to take action. The “dividing” of the heavens would involve identifying certain groups of stars as constellations and establishing the signs of the zodiac. Based on their observation of the stars, planets, and the moon, astrologers would make predictions. The challenge directed to them is that they accurately declare what would come upon Babylon and provide sound advice regarding what needed to be done to escape ruin.

47:14. Masoretic Text: Look! They are like stubble. Fire consumes them. They cannot deliver their soul from the power [literally, “hand”] of the flame. [This is] no coal for warming oneself, no sitting before it.

Septuagint: Look! All [are] like twigs on a fire. They will be consumed and by no means deliver their soul from the flame. For you will have coals of fire to sit on them.

The rendering “by no means” serves to preserve the emphatic sense of the two Greek words for “not.”

The phrase about “coals of fire” in the Septuagint can also be translated, “Because you will have coals of fire, sit on them.”

The Targum of Isaiah refers to the nations that are as strong as fire. These nations would destroy the astrologers who have become weak like stubble. Not a remnant of them would be left. No one would escape. There would be no place to which to go for safety.


The astrologers who functioned as counselors or advisers would be of no aid to the Babylonians, proving to be like useless stubble or chaff that is consumed in a fire. These stargazers would be unable to deliver their “soul” or themselves from destruction as by a flame, let alone set forth a plan for saving others.

For the final part of this verse, words have to be supplied to complete the thought. The meaning could be that the fire is destructive and thus not one beside which one may sit for warmth. “This is no fire for making one warm, or fire to sit by!” (NLB) “It is not a glowing coal to warm them, not a fire for them to sit by!” (REB) The other possible significance is that the astrologers would be of no use to Babylon in her time of distress. They would not be like a burning coal that could provide warmth and a fire by which one might sit for comfort. “No embers these, for keeping warm, no fire to sit beside!” (NJB) “You will get no help from them at all. Their hearth is not a place to sit for warmth.” (NLT)

The Septuagint rendering for the concluding portion of this verse conveys a different meaning. In connection with the rest of the verse that likens the astrologers to twigs on a fire, their sitting on the coals could signify being burned up by them (provided that the preposition “on” is to be understood literally).

47:15. Masoretic Text: So are you to those with whom you have toiled, those trading (sachár) with you from your youth. [Each] man in his direction, they wander. [There will be] no one saving you.

Septuagint: These will be a help to you. They have toiled in your trade [metabolé] from [your] youth. A man by himself wanders, but for you [there] will be no deliverance.


When directly linked to the previous verses, those with whom Babylon had toiled or wearied herself would be the astrologers or stargazers whom she slavishly consulted for advice and guidance. They would prove to be useless. The participle that is a form of the Hebrew word sachár applies to trading or trafficking. So the reference here could be to traders with whom Babylon had carried on business from her “youth” or from the start of her history as the capital of the dominant power in the region. If this is the case, these traders are being represented as not staying around to support Babylon but would wander off. There would not be anyone who would deliver Babylon from calamity.

In their renderings, translators commonly have limited the reference either to practicers of occult arts or to traders. “So much for your magicians with whom you have trafficked all your life: they have wandered off, each his own way, and there is not one to save you.” (REB) “Such will your wizards prove to be for you, for whom you have worked so hard since you were young; each wandering his own way, none of them can save you.” (NJB) “This is what they have profited you — the traders you dealt with since youth — each has wandered off his own way, there is none to save you.” (Tanakh) “And all your friends, those with whom you have done business since childhood, will slip away and disappear, unable to help.” (NLT)

The Septuagint rendering is obscure. Based on the previous verses, the astrologers would be a “help,” that is, one that is completely useless. The Greek word metabolé basically means “change” and may here designate “trade,” exchanging one item for another. The “helpers” appear to be represented as having done the toiling, wearying themselves, in the trade or commercial activity of Babylon. Possibly the thought about a man’s wandering could mean that he would do so when left to himself without any sound guidance.