|Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.
||Bel slumps down, Nebo is stooped over:their idols are loaded upon beasts and cattle;the images you bore aloftare piled as burdens on weary animals.
||כָּרַע בֵּל קֹרֵס נְבוֹ הָיוּ עֲצַבֵּיהֶם לַחַיָּה וְלַבְּהֵמָה נְשֻׂאֹתֵיכֶם עֲמוּסוֹת מַשָּׂא לַעֲיֵפָה ׃
|They stoop, they bow down together, they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
||Such godsa altogether sag and bow down,unable to rescue their burden;they themselves go into captivity.
||קָרְסוּ כָרְעוּ יַחְדָּו לֹא יָכְלוּ מַלֵּט מַשָּׂא וְנַפְשָׁם בַּשְּׁבִי הָלָכָה ׃
|Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:
||Hear me, O house of Jacob,and all you remnant of the house of Israel,who have been a load on me since birth,borne up by me from the womb:
||שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי בֵּית יַעֲקֹב וְכָל־שְׁאֵרִית בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל הַעֲמֻסִים מִנִּי־בֶטֶן הַנְּשֻׂאִים מִנִּי־רָחַם ׃
|And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
||Even to your old age, I am present;till you turn grey, it is I who sustain you.It is I who made you, and I who bear you up;it is I who carry and rescue you.
||וְעַד־זִקְנָה אֲנִי הוּא וְעַד־שֵיבָה אֲנִי אֶסְבֹּל אֲנִי עָשִׂיתִי וַאֲנִי אֶשָּׂא וַאֲנִי אֶסְבֹּל וַאֲמַלֵּט ׃
|To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
||To whom will you compare me or count me equal?To whom will you liken me,that we should appear similar?
||לְמִי תְדַמְיוּנִי וְתַשְׁווּ וְתַמְשִׁלוּנִי וְנִדְמֶה ׃
|They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a God: they fall down, yea, they worship.
||They who squander gold from the purseand weigh out silver on the scaleshire a smith to make them a godthey bow down to and worship.
||הַזָּלִים זָהָב מִכִּיס וְכֶסֶף בַּקָּנֶה יִשְׁקֹלוּ יִשְׂכְּרוּ צוֹרֵף וְיַעֲשֵׂהוּ אֵל יִסְגְּדוּ אַף־יִשְׁתַּחֲוּוּ ׃
|They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
||They bear it aloft, carrying it on their shoulders;when they set it in place, there it stands,unable to budge from its spot.Though they cry to it for help, it does not answer;it cannot save them from trouble.
||יִשָּׂאֻהוּ עַל־כָּתֵף יִסְבְּלֻהוּ וְיַנִּיחֻהוּ תַחְתָּיו וְיַעֲמֹד מִמְּקוֹמוֹ לֹא יָמִישׁ אַף־יִצְעַק אֵלָיו וְלֹא יַעֲנֶה מִצָּרָתוֹ לֹא יוֹשִׁיעֶנּוּ ׃
|Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
||Put yourselves in mind of thisand come to your senses;take it to heart, you offenders.
||זִכְרוּ־זֹאת וְהִתְאֹשָׁשׁוּ הָשִׁיבוּ פוֹשְׁעִים עַל־לֵב ׃
|Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
||Review the prophecies of the events of old!I am God, there is none other.I am divine; nothing resembles me.
||זִכְרוּ רִאשֹׁנוֹת מֵעוֹלָם כִּי אָנֹכִי אֵל וְאֵין עוֹד אֱלֹהִים וְאֶפֶס כָּמוֹנִי ׃
|Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
||I foretell the end from the beginning,from ancient times things not yet done.I speak, and my purposes take effect;I accomplish all my will.
||מַגִּיד מֵרֵאשִׁית אַחֲרִית וּמִקֶּדֶם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־נַעֲשׂוּ אֹמֵר עֲצָתִי תָקוּם וְכָל־חֶפְצִי אֶעֱשֶׂה ׃
|Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
||I summon a bird of prey from the east,from a distant landthe man bwho performs my counsel.bWhat I have spoken, I bring to pass;what I have planned, I do.
||קֹרֵא מִמִּזְרָח עַיִט מֵאֶרֶץ מֶרְחָק אִישׁ עֲצָתִו (עֲצָתִי) אַף־דִּבַּרְתִּי אַף־אֲבִיאֶנָּה יָצַרְתִּי אַף־אֶעֱשֶׂנָּה ׃
|Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
||Hear me, you stubborn-hearted,who are far from righteousness:
||שִׁמְעוּ אֵלַי אַבִּירֵי לֵב הָרְחוֹקִים מִצְּדָקָה ׃
|I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.
||I have brought near my righteousness;it is not now far off—my salvation shall no longer be delayed.I will grant deliverance in Zion,and to Israel my glory.
||קֵרַבְתִּי צִדְקָתִי לֹא תִרְחָק וּתְשׁוּעָתִי לֹא תְאַחֵר וְנָתַתִּי בְצִיּוֹן תְּשׁוּעָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל תִּפְאַרְתִּי ׃
Historically, statues of the two chief Babylonian gods, “Bel” or “Lord,” alias Marduk or Merodach (Jeremiah 50:2)—the Babylonian equivalent of the Canaanite god Baal—and his son “Nebo” were carried in procession at the Babylonian New Year Festival. Isaiah depicts them satirically as going into captivity together with their devotees who appear quite unaware of the glaring paradox. Instead of saving their adherents from subjection to enemies, they too have become mere burdens hauled away into exile with other chattels. The idolaters’ displacement and captivity represent a variant chaos motif.
Characterizing the Jacob/Israel category of Jehovah’s people is its ambivalence about who to worship, the gods of Babylon or Jehovah. Jacob/Israel’s end-time implication in idolatry thus resembles its idolatry in the past, requiring constant reminders: “Choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my house we will serve Jehovah” (Joshua 24:15); “How long will you waver between two opinions? If Jehovah is God, follow him, but if Baal, follow him” (1 Kings 18:21). Unlike his aberrant people and their idols, who age with time, Jehovah is ageless, as they too may become (Isaiah 40:28-31).
Just as his people are burdened by their idols, so Jehovah is burdened by his people: “You have burdened me with your sins, wearied me with your iniquities. But it is I myself, and for my own sake, who blot out your offenses, remembering your sins no more” (Isaiah 43:24-25; cf. 44:22); “For he thought, ‘Surely they are my people, sons who will not play false.’ And so he became their Savior: with all their troubles he troubled himself, the angel of his presence delivering them. In his love and compassion he himself redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old” (Isaiah 63:8-9).
Whether statues of wood and clay that ostensibly represent the true God, or sophisticated inventions fabricated of modern materials of which ancient idols are a type, none can be relied on to perform a saving role. The moment one entertains that idea he already repudiates the only Savior-God. Isn’t it solemn mockery and a desecration of Jehovah’s reality—which resembles nothing made by human hands—to fashion mere images of him or to supplant him in their lives with manmade objects so that even the prophets’ parodies of helpless idols seem unable to break their spell (Deuteronomy 4:23-25)?
In innumerable past instances of his people’s idolatry Jehovah was compelled to punish them under the terms of his covenant by letting covenant curses take their course—so much, that accounts of his people’s recalcitrance comprise much of their ancient history with but few examples of covenant keeping to brighten the record. Must they now repeat that part of their past as they come to history’s finale? From the very first to the very last Jehovah cautions them to cease worshiping the works of men’s hands. Moses warned them in his day even as Jehovah’s servant does now (vv 11-13; Isaiah 50:4-11).
As a proof of his divinity, Jehovah planned his people’s history so that at the end they would experience things they experienced in the beginning, Israel’s past providing a type of the future (Isaiah 44:7). In other words, the “end” (’aharit) is foretold by the “beginning” (re’sit), end-time events resembling those of ancient times. Just so, as Jehovah “spoke” in the past so he does again; and as what he spoke was fulfilled in the past so it is again (Isaiah 42:9; 45:21; 48:4-8). As a case in point, Jehovah foretold the coming of his servant and the deliverance and destruction that would follow (vv 11-13).
Isaiah’s chiastic pattern of thirty alternating chaos and creation motifs in chapters 41-46 ends by synonymously paralleling the “bird of prey” who comes from the east with the person who exemplifies righteousness who comes from the east (Isaiah 41:2, 25), showing they are one and the same. A doubling of directionals, moreover, shows that when “the man who performs my counsel” arrives from a “distant land” or a “land far off” (v 11), Jehovah’s righteousness is no longer “far off” but is “brought near” (v 13), confirming the bird of prey’s identity as righteousness—Jehovah’s end-time servant.
Those who are far from personal righteousness must emulate one who personifies righteousness so that Jehovah—who personifies salvation—may come and dwell among them (Isaiah 62:10-12). As the time is short, however, for those “stubborn-hearted” who still cling to their idols (vv 1-9) there exists but one of two possibilities: “From the west men will fear Jehovah Omnipotent and from the rising of the sun his glory. For he will come [upon them] like a hostile torrent impelled by the Spirit of Jehovah. But he will come as Redeemer to Zion, to those of Jacob who repent of transgression” (Isaiah 59:19-20).