A Judgment Without Mercy
WHEN a righteous judge sits in judgment on a case his first consideration is the administration of justice. But even if the accused is proved guilty, such a judge always looks for an opportunity to exercise mercy, to lighten the sentence upon the guilty one, thereby tempering justice with mercy. There must, however, be a basis for mercy. Such basis may be in the fact that the guilty one’s motive was not malicious and deliberate. It may lie in extenuating circumstances: the person may be handicapped by a bad background, or he may have had a sudden or unusual provocation; it may be only the first offense, and not a practice or habitual. Finally, an attitude of repentance in recognition of the wrong and a strong desire to right it to the extent possible and to shun forever such wrong way may give the judge the desired basis for lightening the sentence.
On the other hand, if thorough search reveals no foundation on which mercy can be extended, but, rather, the person is malicious, deliberate, unrepentant and a practicer of a vicious course of action, the judge would be most remiss if he failed to exact the full penalty of the law. Not only would justice be unsatisfied, but mercy or further toleration of the bad one’s activities would bring into question the judge’s qualifications for office, would subject law-abiding persons to danger and weaken the confidence of others in the law of the land. He would have to apply full justice without mercy.
There is record of a case of judgment without mercy rendered by the Supreme Judge of the Universe. It is found in the Bible at Isaiah, chapter 47. One might ask, How could such a judgment be possible by the God who declared himself to Moses as “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth, preserving loving-kindness for thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin”? (Ex. 34:6, 7) Because the criminal in this case, the ancient city of Babylon, was thoroughly malicious, merciless herself, and undeserving of any favor. As any judge of a high court writes up his decision and backs it up with his arguments, giving reasons for it, so Jehovah does, through his prophet Isaiah.
The reader of this forty-seventh chapter of Isaiah will do well, as he considers it, to read also the eighteenth chapter of Revelation, which describes a like judgment, but one that comes much closer “home” to us today, for it deals with the judgment upon present-day false religion that stems from ancient Babylon.
ADVANCE NOTICE A KINDNESS
Though Isaiah wrote the prophecy at Jehovah’s command when Assyria was ruling as the Second World Power of Bible history, over one hundred years before Babylon rose to world rulership, God could justly do this because the city Babylon had already shown herself to be committed irreconcilably against God. This was so from the time of her beginning with Nimrod. God knew her hard-set course of action. The judgment uttered beforetime was actually a kindness, for any in Babylon who desired to take a different course could heed the prophecy and escape her merciless judgment. Those of the Chaldeans who heard or read the prophecy must have felt their ears tingle, for they could hear Jehovah say, as though his people were already captive in Babylon:
“Come down and sit down in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon. Sit down on the earth where there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. For you will not experience again that people call you delicate and dainty. Take a hand mill and grind out flour. Uncover your veil. Strip off the flowing skirt. Uncover the leg. Cross over the rivers. You ought to uncover your nakedness. Also, your reproach ought to be seen. Vengeance is what I shall take, and I shall not meet any man kindly.”—Isa. 47:1-3.
Yes, you who have sat on the throne ruling the kingdoms, you “daughter,” capital city of Babylonia, ruling city of the land of the Chaldeans, come off that throne now and sit in the dust, just as you made Judah’s capital city, the “daughter of Zion,” Jerusalem, do in 607 B.C.E. In your high and mighty position you have been too good to serve someone else, too beautiful and dainty. Though your religion has robbed all your young marriageable women of their virginity in the immoral worship of Venus, you consider yourself a virgin politically, because you have never been seized and ravished by foreign conquerors since the days of becoming the Third World Power. But now as a captive, a slave, where is your delicacy and daintiness? Get out the hand mill and get ready to grind out flour, laboriously, for your masters. Take off the veil. Strip off the flowing royal skirt, uncover your leg up to the hip and tuck your dress between your legs as you wade barefoot as captive across the rivers through which your conquerors drag you. Your nakedness and shame should be uncovered before all and your reproach for your wickedness against the nations and particularly against God’s city Jerusalem with its temple of Jehovah. Do not look for help from outsiders, for I will see that vengeance is taken and will execute anyone trying to come to your help.
How delighted Jehovah’s people Israel are at this vengeance, for Jehovah here prepares the way for their repurchase, in which he would use Cyrus the Great and in return would give to Cyrus’ dynasty the land of Egypt as a repurchase price. So delighted are they that they here interrupt Jehovah’s judgment, saying: “There is One repurchasing us. Jehovah of armies is his name, the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa. 47:4) Graciously permitting this expression of gratitude from his people, Jehovah continues:
REASONS FOR NO MERCY
“Sit down silently and come into the darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for you will not experience again that people call you Mistress of Kingdoms. I grew indignant at my people. I profaned my inheritance, and I proceeded to give them into your hand. You showed them no mercies. Upon the old man you made your yoke very heavy. And you kept saying: ‘To time indefinite I shall prove to be Mistress, forever.’ You did not take these things to your heart; you did not remember the finale of the matter.”—Isa. 47:5-7.
You, Babylon, may think you are a bright, shining star in the eyes of the pagan nations and your city may even be literally well lighted due to the fact that your inhabitants have learned how to get petroleum from the soil of Mesopotamia. But now it is darkness for you. Your light has gone out and instead of being looked to as the Mistress of Kingdoms, you will now be told what to do by others. My reason for this severe judgment upon you is that I delivered my people into your hand, I sold them to you without price because of their sins against me. But instead of recognizing this fact and respecting my name and the people upon whom my name rested, you went out of your way to exert all your viciousness and malice in order to exalt your gods and humiliate my name. On even the old and weaker captives you placed burdens they could not bear; how much more so upon the ones younger and stronger! Instead of realizing that Israel was my son, my firstborn, instead of being ready to be used by me merely as an instrument of discipline, a temporary one, and letting my people go at my appointed time—O no! You kept saying, ‘Now that they are in my grasp I will be permanent mistress over them and the other nations as well.’ You forgot justice, you forgot mercy. You hardened your heart, you did not think there would be any finale to your oppressive rule. Oh, I know even now that you will not profit by this very warning I am giving you in advance. Because of your hardheartedness the principle, “The one that does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy” (Jas. 2:13), applies most certainly to you.
“And now hear this, you pleasure-given [woman], the one sitting in security, the one saying in her heart: ‘I am, and there is nobody else. I shall not sit as a widow, and I shall not know the loss of children.’ But to you these two things will come suddenly, in one day: loss of children and widowhood. In their complete measure they must come upon you, for the abundance of your sorceries, for the full might of your spells—exceedingly. And you kept trusting in your badness. You have said: ‘There is no one seeing me.’ Your wisdom and your knowledge—this is what has led you away; and you keep saying in your heart: ‘I am,* and there is nobody else.’ And upon you calamity must come; you will know no charming against it. And upon you adversity will fall; you will not be able to avert it. And upon you there will suddenly come a ruin that you are not accustomed to know.”—Isa. 47:8-11.
Ah, Babylon, I well know that you feel so safe and secure that you can give yourself completely over to pleasure in drunken excesses against my people and my name. You are confident that you are supreme and there is no one else on earth like you, or who can take away your position. You feel that now you are a secure and prosperous “woman,” having a husband, and with Nabonidus your first ruler and Belshazzar as second upon the throne, that you will never be bereft of the Shemite dynasty started by Nebuchadnezzar. But little do you realize how suddenly you will suffer loss of these when the Medes and Persians defeat your armies and you become a widow bereaved of many of your children, eventually to lose them all. Yes, in process of time, your entire population will fade away, as a complete measure for your sins.
But why no further motherhood for you? Why this complete devastation? Because you are a sorceress. Among my people sorcerers are forbidden. They must be put to death. But you have practiced sorcery to the limit. The incantations of your priests, their jargon that fascinates and binds your victims, are rank demonism. I even cut off the Assyrian capital city, Nineveh, which was called the “Mistress of sorceries”; how much more so you. You trust in your devilish religion and in your armed might. While you render worship to your gods, you think that there are no others who can see you or judge you. Yes, though you have much wisdom of this world through your priesthood and the many clay tablets in your libraries, these have led you astray and you have put your trust only in something that will bring you into captivity and ruin. They have caused you to believe that with your knowledge, science and might no one else can be your rival or world-power successor. What false security! Why, your gods are nothing, completely powerless to avert the disaster to come upon you, a calamity such as has never been known in your past history.
ANTIQUITY OF RELIGION NO SAFEGUARD
But can such a thing happen to a great religion that has existed for more than 1500 years, since the days of your founder Nimrod, and that has influenced all nations of the earth? Why, many nations have looked to you as the world’s religious center! Listen to my concluding denunciation:
“Stand still, now, with your spells and with the abundance of your sorceries, in which you have toiled from your youth; that perhaps you might be able to benefit, that perhaps you might strike people with awe. You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand up, now, and save you, the worshipers of the heavens, the lookers at the stars, those giving out knowledge at the new moons concerning the things that will come upon you. Look! They have become like stubble. A fire itself will certainly burn them up. They will not deliver their soul from the power of the flame. There will be no glow of charcoals for people to warm themselves, no firelight in front of which to sit down. Thus they will certainly become to you, with whom you have toiled as your sorcerers from your youth. They will actually wander, each one to his own region. There will be no one to save you.”—Isa. 47:12-15.
Ah, now Babylon, you will have to stand upon that which you have built up and put your trust for centuries. You have practiced your sorceries and multiplied them from the days of your wicked founder Nimrod. Now, at the time when your world power is threatened let us see if you can cause these sorceries to awe the Medes and Persians who are coming against you, to stop their advance. You have turned down the counsel of Jehovah and worn yourself out listening to your worldly-wise men, particularly your astrologers who watch the heavens from atop the Tower of Babylon, dedicated to your god Marduk. Instead of turning you to Jehovah God the Source of wisdom, they have turned you to the worship of the heavens, the things created, instead of their Creator. Let those who try to attach some prophetic meaning to the positions of the stars and their movements give predictions that will be of some help to save you. What about those who make forecasts at the appearance of each new moon? Can they tell you how to avoid evils and what to do on certain days to have success? Look! These are of no value and they themselves are in for a surprise. Rather than awe the Medes and Persians they will be stubble in the destructive flames of calamity that come upon you, Babylon. Yes, this fire that you will experience will be no mere congenial charcoal fire or brazier before which to sit comfortably and cozily, to warm yourself, but one that will consume you root and branch.
You deserve no consideration, Babylon, for from your very start you have not been my servant. You are not an apostate organization, for you never had the truth. From the beginning you have been demonic, the Devil’s visible organization. At the time of your calamity your temples, your idols, your ziggurats will avail nothing and even your sorcerers with their charms and incantations, seeing that these have failed, will actually forsake you and wander to a region where they feel they can best find safety. What a desolate widow, with no one to come to your help!
MODERN BABYLON ALSO DEMONISTIC
Was Jehovah not just in pronouncing this judgment without mercy on merciless Babylon, which he executed to bring Babylon to complete desolation, as at the present time? Then what about Babylonish religion today? In this time astrology plays a larger part than ever in giving directions to statesmen, politicians, businessmen and even individuals as to their personal problems. More and more the magazine stands are flooded with these books claiming to give advice and counsel based on the movements of the heavenly bodies. Hundreds who claim to be Christians thereby look to the demons instead of to God’s Word, which condemns this practice. It is the same false guidance by the same false religion inherited from Babylon and it is even now being approved not only by the pagan religions but also by the clergy of Christendom themselves, who, in addition, follow many other Babylonish practices. Therefore, Jehovah’s judgment against modern-day Babylon the Great will be without mercy. If the reader has compared the account in Isaiah 47 with Revelation 18, and if he desires to have favor or mercy from the Supreme Judge, he will quickly forsake such false religion. He will stop seeking counsel from God’s enemy Satan the Devil and his demonic organization. He will seek mercy by learning more of the God of mercy as expressed in his Word the Bible and by serving him. If so, he will escape the destructive flames that will consume modern Babylon.—Rev. 17:16-18; Isa. 8:19, 20; Rev. 22:15.
“I am.” Here, as also in Isa 47 verse 8, this expression is not rendered from the Hebrew verb Ehyéh, the Hebrew word used by Jehovah God in Exodus 3:14, but is simply the Hebrew pronoun Aní meaning I with the verb am understood. However, in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures the expression is Ego eimí, the same expression used by Jesus Christ in the Greek text of John 8:58 which many Trinitarians translate into English as “I am.”