Isaiah 46 continues along the theme we read today in Psalm 106.
Psalms 106:28 They joined themselves also unto Baalpeor, and ate the sacrifices of the dead.
It is a short chapter addressing these false gods and idols.
The Idols of Babylon and the One True God
Isa 46:1 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.
Isa 46:2 They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
Isa 46:3 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:
Isa 46:4 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.
Isa 46:5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
Isa 46:6 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.
Isa 46:7 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.
Isa 46:8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
Isa 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Isa 46:10 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:
Isa 46:11 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.
Isa 46:12 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
Isa 46:13 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.
For some detail commentary here is John Gill’s.
INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH 46
This chapter contains a prophecy of the taking of Babylon by Cyrus, and of the deliverance of the Jews; who are encouraged to expect the divine protection, and a continuance of it; are dehorted from idolatry, and directed to look to the Lord alone for righteousness and salvation. The taking of Babylon is signified by the demolition of its idols, which become the plunder of the enemy, and by the carrying of the inhabitants of it captive, Isa 46:1. Then follows a promise of grace and mercy to the remnant of Israel that should now be delivered; that the Lord, who had cared for them from the infancy of their state, would not leave them in their declining times, Isa 46:3, when they are dehorted from the worship of idols, from the consideration of the matter of which they were made, as silver and gold; from their being the works of men’s hands; and from their inability to move themselves, or help others; and from the Lord being the true God, as appears by his omnipotence and omniscience, Isa 46:5. A description is given of Cyrus, who should be the instrument of the Jews’ deliverance from Babylon, Isa 46:11. And the chapter is concluded with an address to the stout hearted and unrighteous Jews, to observe the righteousness and salvation which were brought near and set before them, Isa 46:12.
Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth,…. These are names of the idols of Babylon. Bel is by some thought to be the contraction of Baal, the god of the Phoenicians, called by them Beel; so “Beelsamin” (h), in the Phoenician language, is Lord of heaven: but rather this is the Belus of the Babylonians, who was a renowned king of them, and after his death deified; whom Nebuchadnezzar, according to Megasthenes (i), calls Belus his progenitor, and by whom Babylon was walled about. This idol is, no doubt, the same with Jupiter Belus, who had a temple in Babylon with gates of brass, and which was in being in the times of Herodotus (k), as he reports. This name is sometimes taken into the names of their kings, as Belshazzar or Beltesbazaar. Nebo was another of their idols, an oracular one, from whom, by its priests, prophesies of things future were pretended to be given out; for it may have its name from נבא, “to prophesy”, and answers to the Apollo or Mercury of other nations. The Alexandrian copy of the Septuagint has very wrongly, instead of it, Dagon the god of the Philistines; and so the Arabic version “Dsagon”. This name Nebo was also taken into the names of the kings of Babylon, as Nabonassar, Nabopalassar, Nebuchadnezzar, and others. As Bel is the same with Belus, so Nebo is the same with Beltis, the queen Megasthenes or Abydenus speaks of in the same place; and Bel may design the sun, and Nebo the moon, which may have its name from נוב, “to bud forth”, or “make fruitful”, as the moon does; see Deu 33:14. It is said of both these deities, that they “stooped” or “bowed down”; being taken down from the high places where they were set upright, and looked grand and majestic, and where they might be seen and worshipped by the people. Jarchi gives the words another sense, that it represents in a sarcastic way these idols, as through fear, in a like condition that men are in, in a fit of the colic, who not being able to get to the solid stool, are obliged to bend their knees, and ease themselves as they can (l). Aben Ezra seems to refer to the same signification of the word, when he says the sense was well known, but it was not fit to write it. The prophet goes on in the derision of these idols:
their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle; that is, being taken down, and broke to pieces for the sake of the silver, and gold, and brass that were about them, or they were made of, they were put into sacks by the Persians, and laid upon camels, and mules, and horses, and transported into Media and Persia. Jarchi interprets it, their idols are like to beasts, which defile themselves with their dung as they do; and so the Targum renders it,
“their images are “in” the likeness of serpents and beasts.”
These were the forms of them:
your carriages were heavy loaden, they are a burden to the weary beast; this seems to be spoken to the Persians, who loaded their carriages, and their beasts, with this lumber, that their wagons were ready to break down, and their cattle groaned under the weight of it; a sarcastic jeer at the idols which were become the plunder and prey of the soldiers. It was usual at the taking of cities to demolish the idols of them; and this was typical of the demolition of Heathen idols, and the cessation of Heathen oracles in the Gentile world, through the spread of the Gospel in it, in the first times of Christianity.
(h) Sanchoniatho apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 1. c. 10. p. 34. (i) Apud Euseb. Praepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 4. l. p. 456. (k) Clio, sive l. 1. c. 181. Vid. Pausan. Messen. p. 261. (l) Vid. gloss. in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 63. 2.