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happened, I think it not improper, before I give an account of what the profane writers say of it, briefly to put together what we find upon the same head in the sacred pages, that the reader may be the more capable of comparing the predictions and the accomplishment of them together.
I. The Prediction of the Jewish Captivity at Babylon, and of the
Time of its Duration.
God Almighty was pleased not only to cause the captivity, which his people were to suffer at Babylon, to be foretold a long time before it came to pass, but likewise to set down the exact number of years it was to last.
The term he fixed for it was seventy years, after which he promised he would deliver them, by bringing a remarkable and irretrievable destruction upon the city of Babylon, the place of their bondage and confinement. And these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Jer. xxv. 11.
II. The Causes of God's Wrath against Babylon. That which kindled the wrath of God against Babylon was, 1 her insupportable pride ; 2. her inhuman cruelty towards the Jews and 3. the sacrilegious impiety of her king;
1. Her pride. She believed herself to be invincible.* She said in her heart, I am the queen of nations, and I shall remain so for ever. There is no power equal to mine. All other powers are either subject or tributary to me, or in alliance with me. I shall never know either barrenness or widowhood. Eternity is written in my destiny, according to the observation of all those that have consulted the stars to know it.
2. Her cruelty. It is God himself that complains of it. willing,t says he, to punish my people, as a father chastiseth his children. I sent them for a time into banishment at Babylon, with a design to recall them, as soon as they were become more thankful and more faithful. But Babylon and her prince have added to the paternal chastisement which I inflicted, such cruel and inhuman treatment as my clemency abhors. Their design has been to destroy; mine was to save. The banishment they have turned into a severe bondage and captivity, and have shown no compassion or regard either to age, infirmity, or virtue.
3. The sacrilegious impiety of her king. To the pride and cruelty of his predecessors Belshazzar added an impiety that was peculiar to himself. He did not only prefer his false divinities to the
* Dixisti, In sempiternum ero domina-Dicis in corde tuo, Ego sum, et non est præer me amplius: non sedebo vidua, et ignorabo sterilitatem, Isa. xlvii. 7, 8.
| Iratus sum super populum meum, et dedi eos in manu tuâ, Babylon. "Non posuisti ein misericordiam: super senern aggravasti jugum tuum valde. Veniet super te malum. Isa xlvii. 6.
true and only God, but fancied that he had vanquished his power because he was possessed of the vessels which had belonged to his worship; and, as if he meant it to affront him, he affected to apply those holy vessels to profane uses. This was what completed the measure of God's wrath.
III. The Decree pronounced against Babylon. Prediction of the
Calamities that were to fall upon her, and of her utler Destruction.
Make bright the arrows, gather the shields,* saith the prophet, speaking to the Medes and Persians. The Lord hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it, because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance of his temple. Howl yest for the day of the Lord is at hand,
,-a day cruel both with wrath and fierce anger to lay the land desolate. Behold, f I will punish the king of Babylon and his land, as I have punished the king of Assyriu.
Shout against her round about.|| Recompense her according to her work ; according to all that she hath done, do unto her :-and spare not her young men; destroy ye utterly all her host. Every one that is found shall be thrust through,T and every one that is joined to them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces, and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. O daughter of Babylon,** who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, and the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.tt It shall never be inhabited; neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation ; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there; but wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there; and satyrs shall dance there: And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water ;f1 and I will sweep it wilh the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts. The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have proposed, so shall it stand.
* Jer. li. 11. † Isa. xiii. 6,9. | Jer. 1. 18.
il Jer. I. 15. 29, and li. 3. | Isa. xiil. 15-18. xiii. 19-22. 11 Isa. xiv 23 24.
In the destruction of Nineveh ** Ps cxxxvii. 8, 9. It Isa
IV. Cyrus called to destroy Babylon, and to deliver the Jews. Cyrus, whom the Divine Providence was to make use of, as an instrument for the executing his designs of goodness and mercy towards his people was mentioned in the Scripture by his name, above 200 years before he was born. And, that the world might not be surprised at the marvellous rapidity of his connuests, God was pleased to declare, in very sublime and remarkable terms, that he himself would be his guide; and that in all his expeditions he would lead him by the hand, and would subdue all the princes of the earth before him. Thus saith the Lord to his anointed,* to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates, and the gates shall not be shut. I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight. I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron. And I will give thee the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know, tha. I the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Isr l: For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel, mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
V. God gives the Signal to the Commanders, and to the Troops, to
march against Babylon. Lift ye up a banner, saith the Lord, upon the high mountain,t that it may be seen afar off
, and that all they who are to obey me may know my orders. Exalt the voice unto them that are able to hear you. Shake the hand, as a signal to hasten the march of those that are too far off to distinguish another sort of command. Let the officers of the troops go into the gates of the nobles, into the pavilions of their kings. Let the people of each nation range themselves around their sovereign, and make haste to offer him their service, and to go unto his tent, which is already set up.
I have commanded my sanctified ones ; f I have given my orders to those whom I have sanctified for the execution of my designs; and these kings are already marching to obey me, though they know me not. It is I that have placed them upon the throne, that have made divers nations subject to them, in order to accomplish my designs by by their administration. I have called my mighty ones for mine anger. I have caused the mighty warriors to come up, to be the ministers and executioners of my wrath and vengeance. From me they derive their courage, their martial abilities, their patience, their wisdom, and the success of their enterprises. If they are invincible, it is because they serve me: every thing gives way, and trembles, before them, because they are the ministers of my wrath and in dignation. They joyfully labour for my glory, they rejoice in my highness. The honour they have of being under my command, ana of being sent to deliver a people that I love inspires them with ardour and cheerfulness: Behold! they triumph already in a certain assurance of victory.
| Ibid. xiii. 3.
* Isa. alv. 1-4.
† Ibid. xiii. 2 in irá meå. Heb. in iram meam.
VOL. II. M
The prophet witness in spirit of the orders that are just given, is astonished a, the swiftness with which they are executed by the princes and the people. I hear already, he cries out, The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people: a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together.* The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle:t They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, where the voice of God, their master and sovereign, has reached their ears.
But it is not with the sight of a formidable army, nor of the kings of the earth, that I am now struck; it is God himself that I behold; all the rest are but his retinue, and the ministers of his justice. It is even the Lord and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
A grievous vision is declared unto me :f The impious Belshazzar, king of Babylon, continues to act impiously; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. To put an end to these excesses, go up, thou prince of Persia; go up, 0 Elam: And thou prince of the Medes, besiege thou Babylon: Besiege, 0 Media; all the sighing, which she was the cause of, have I made to cease. That wicked city is taken and pillaged; her power is at an end, and my people is delivered.
VI. Circumstances relating to the siege and the taking of Babylon,
There is nothing, methinks, better calculated to raise in us a pro found reverence for religion, and to give us a great idea of the Deity, than to observe with what exactness he reveals to his prophets the principal circumstances of the besieging and taking of Babylon, not only many years, but several ages, before it happened.
i. We have already seen that the army by which Babylon will be taken, is to consist of Medes and Persians, anú to be commanded by Cyrus.
2. "The city shall be attacked after a very extraordinary manner, in a way which she did not at all expect: Therefore shall evil come upon thee: thou shalt not know from whence it riseth.|| She shall be all on a sudden and in an instant overwhelmed with calamities, which she was not able to foresee: Desolation shali culle upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know. I In a word she shall be taken, as it were
sa. xiii. 4. of the Hebrew words.
| Ibid. ver. 5.
| Isa. xlvii. 1!
Ib. xxi. 2.
This is the sense
in a net, before she perceiveth that any snares have been laid for ber: I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, 0 Babylon, and thou wast not aware.*
3. Babylon reckoned the Euphrates alone was sufficient to render her impregnable, and triumphed in her being so advantageously situated and defended by so deep a river: O thou that dwellest upon many waters if it is God himself who points out Babylon under that description. And yet that very river Euphrates shall be the cause of her ruin. Cyrus, by a stratagen (of which there had never been any example before, nor has there been any thing like it since) shall turn the course of that river, shall lay its channel dry, and by that means open himself a passage into the city: I will dry up her sea, and make her springs dry. A drought is upon her waters, and they shall be dried up. Cyrus shall take possession of the quays of the river; and the waters which · rendered Babylon inaccessible, shall be dried up, as if they had been consumed by fire: The passages are stopped, and the reeds they have burnt with fire.
4. She shall be taken in the night-time, upon a day of feast.ng and rejoicing, even whilst her inhabitants are at table and think upon nothing but eating and drinking: In their heat I will make their feasts, and I will make them drunken, that they may rejoice, and sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the Lord.|| It is remarkable, that it is God who does all this, who lays a snare for Babyion : I have laid a snare for thee ; T who drieth up the waters of the river; I will dry up her sea; and who brings that drunkenness and drowsiness upon her princes: I will make drunk her princes.**
5. The king shall be seized in an instant with an incredible terror and perturbation of mind : My loins are filled with pain : pangs have taken hold upon me as the pangs of a woman that travaileth : I was bowed down at the hearing of it: I was dismayed at the seeing of it ; my heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: The night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.ft This is the condition Belshazzar was in, when in the middle of the entertainment he saw a hand come out of the wall, which wrote such characters upon it as none of his diviners could either explain or read; but more especially when Daniel declared to him, that those characters imported the sentence of his death. Then,1 says the Scripture, the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The terror, astonishment, fainting, and trembling of Belshazzar, are here described and expressed in the same manner by the prophet who was an eye-witness of them, as they were by the prophet who foretold them 200 years before.
But Isaiah must have had an extraordinary measure of divine illumination, to be able to add, immediately after the description of
* Jer. 1. 24.
| Id. li. 13.
| Id. I. 38. and li. 36.
Id. li. 32.
! Id. li 39.