Today’s selected passage continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah, and more specifically, is found in the forty-sixth chapter of the book. When this chapter opens up, it does with a powerful declaration concerning Bel and Nero. The prophetic word of the Lord through Isaiah begins with these words—“Bel Bowery down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaded; they are a burden to the weary beast. They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity” (Isaiah 46:1-2). The opening five words of this passage are absolutely incredible when you consider what the prophet Isaiah is actually speaking about and declaring. Who is Bel? Who is Nebo? If you begin to study the history of Bel, you will notice that Bel is the Akkadian form of Belue, signifying “lord” or “master,” and is a title rather than a genuine name. Bel was applied to various gods in the Mesopotamian region of Akkad, Assyria and Babylonia. The feminine form is Belit, “Lady,” “Mistress.” Bel is represented in Greek as Belos and in Latin as Belus. According to Wikipedia, Bel became especially used of the Babylonian god Marduk and when found in Assyrian and neo-Babylonian personal names or mentioned in inscriptions in a Mesopotamian context it can usually be taken as referring to Marduk and no other god. Similarly Belit mostly refers to Bel Marduk’s spouse Sapanit. However, Marduk’s mother, the Sumerian goddess called Ninhursag, Dawkins, Ninmah and other names in Sumerian, was often known as Beli-lil, “Lady of the gods” in Akadian. Nebo, or “Nabu” is the patron god of scribes, wisdom and literature, being worshipped by the Assyrian and Babylonian people. He was identified as the son of the great god Marduk by the Babylonians and as the son of Asher by the Assyrians. Nabu was known as Nisaba in the Sumerian pantheon, gaining prominence among the Assyrians and Babylonians in the first millennium BC following his association with Marduk. Nabu was worshipped in Babylon’s sister city Borsippa, where his statute was moved to Babylon each New Year so that he could pay his respects to his father. Nabu’s symbol was a stylus resting on a tablet. His wife was the Akkadian goddess Tashmet. Nabu was also seen as the inventor or writing, an oracle, and the patron of all the rational arts. He also possessed the tablets of destiny, which fixed the length of human life. Due to his role as an oracle, Nabu was associated with the Mesopotamian moon god Sin.
It becomes quite clear with these descriptions recorded in Wikipedia that both Bel and Nebo were patron gods which existed in the Assyrian and Babylonian territory. One does not have to wonder who and what the prophet Isaiah is speaking of in this passage, for it becomes quite clear the prophet is speaking of two distinct gods which the Assyrians and Babylonians worshipped as deities. What makes this reference so incredibly powerful is what Isaiah proclaims and declares regarding them—namely that “Bel Bowery down, and Nebo stoopeth.” Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord of hosts made a powerful declaration concerning Bel and Nebo that one bows and the other stoopeth—thus signifying and suggesting that both gods would be brought low upon the earth. The prophet Isaiah spoke of both the Assyrian and Babylonian gods as being brought low upon the earth, and it would be the Lord of hosts Himself who would bring down these false gods. The prophet Isaiah reveals and declares that the idols of Assyria and Babylon rode on beasts, and upon the cattle, and thus caused carriages to be heavy laden. The gods of these two ancient peoples rode upon cattle and beasts of the earth as they were transported from place to place. Through the prophet Isaiah the Lord declared that not only were the idols and false gods bowed down and stooped toward the ground, but the beasts upon which they rode were also stooped down together and bowed down. The beasts upon which the idols and false gods could not deliver the burden and therefore buckled under the weight and pressure these false gods placed upon them. What’s more, is that the prophet even declares that these idols were themselves gone into captivity—a reality which is actually quite interesting when you consider that with each successive conquest of an empire and dynasty, false gods, idols and images were either altered and renamed, or discarded altogether. The false gods of one empire and people weren’t necessarily the same gods of another people, as the gods of such nations, kingdoms and empires could be absorbed by a nation and people much stronger than the people themselves. What’s even more telling about this is that many of the gods of certain peoples were actually at the mercy of a people that were stronger than the people who worshipped those gods. A perfect example of this is seen in Sennacherib’s threat to Hezekiah and all Jerusalem and Judah, for Sennacherib spoke of his conquest—not only of nations and peoples, but also of their gods.
One of the things that is interesting to consider is how the prophet speaks of how Bel and Nebo were carried upon the backs of beasts which moved upon the face of the earth. The false gods which were worshipped by the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians were transported upon carts that were moved from place to place by various beasts that were driven by men. Isn’t it interesting how such idols were driven by men and carried by beasts and were unable to transport and move themselves. I can’t help but be reminded of David’s first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant back into Jerusalem, and the method and means he used to do so. “And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said unto all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good unto you, and that it be of the Lord our God, let us send abroad unto our brethren every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves unto us: and let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul. And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, From Shihor of Egypt even unto the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath-hearing. And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is to Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up thence the ark of God the Lord, that dwelleth between the cherubims, whose name is called on it. And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzzah and Ahio drive the cart. And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps and with psalteries, and with timbres, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came unto the threshingfloor of Chidon, Uzzah put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God. And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perez-uzza to this day. And David was afraid of God that day, saying, How shall I bring the ark of God home to me? So David brought not the ark home to himself to the city of David, but carried it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. And the ark of God remained with the family of Obed-Edom, and all that he had” (1 Chronicles 13:1-14).
If you continue reading in the book of First Chronicles—specifically the fifteenth chapter—you will find the account of the Ark of the Covenant finally making its way to the city of Jerusalem, but only after David had realized how the Ark of the Covenant should be transported. “And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent. Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them hath the Lord chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister unto Him for ever. And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord unto his place, which he had prepared for it. And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites…And David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, and Joel, Shemaiah, and Eliel, and Amminadab, and said unto them, Ye are the chief of the fathers of the Levites: sanctify yourselves both ye and your brethren, that ye may bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel unto the place that I have prepared for it. For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order. So the priests and the Levities sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the Lord. And David spake to the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren to be the singers with instruments of musick, psalteries and harps and cymbals, sounding, by lifting up the voice with joy…So David, and the elders of Israel, and the captains over thousands, went to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the house of Obed-Edom with joy. And it came to pass, when God helped the Levites that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that they offered seven bullocks and seven rams” (1 Chronicles 15:1-26).
These two passages reveal David’s first attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem, yet the first time he attempted to bring it into the city he did so after the same manner as what was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah spoke of Bel and Nebo being brought low, and how their idols caused the beasts to be weighed down by the weight and pressure of the idols and false gods. Through the prophet Isaiah we get the strong impression that the idols and false gods of Assyria and Babylon could not transport themselves, and were undoubtedly transported the same way David attempted to bring the Ark of the Covenant at first. When an attempt was made to bring the Ark of the Covenant the very first time, David believed he could transport it on a cart that was dragged by beasts. It wouldn’t be until later when David understood that none but the Levites could carry the Ark of the Covenant. What’s more, is that David recognized and realized that the Ark of the Covenant had to be carried upon the shoulders of the priests, high and lifted up. The presence of God must never be brought in on the backs of mere creatures, but must be brought in high and exalted before the Lord. IT was the prophet Isaiah who saw the Lord of hosts seated upon His throne in heaven high and exalted, and His train filled the temple. We must pay close attention to this, for if we want to entertain the presence of the Lord, we must do so allowing Him to be high and exalted. We must not attempt to carry or drag the presence of the Lord the way others transport idols, images and false gods of their own making. In order to illustrate this point even further, it’s necessary that we examine the prophetic book of Ezekiel concerning the vision of the wheeled chariot which transported the very throne of God.
“And I looked, and behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire unfolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the color of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s food: and they sparkled like the color of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The a ppearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And when those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the color of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech. As the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake” (Ezekiel 1:4-28).
There is a passage found in the Old Testament book of First Samuel that must also be considered, for it can and will help to explain the mystery that surrounds what we read in the forty-sixth chapter of the book of Isaiah. “And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Ebed-ever unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the Ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon’s house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us: for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our God. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, What shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel” And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the Ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried about, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction: and he smote the men of the city with a very great destruction: and He smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts. Therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to His own place, that it slay us not, and our people: for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men that died not were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven. And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, What shall we do to the ark of the Lord? Tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, If ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: then ye shall be healed, and it shall be known to you why His hand is not removed from you. Then said they, What shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to Him? They answered, Five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was on you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of your emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel; peradventure He will lighten His hand from off you, and from off your bods, and from off your land” (1 Samuel 5:1-6:5).
This passage in the book of First Samuel is quite astounding and remarkable, for within this passage we find Dagon—the false god of the Philistines—bowed down and brought low before the Ark of the God of Israel. The very next day after the Philistines brought the ark of God into the temple of their God Dagon, they discovered the false god Dagon bowed down and brought low before the Ark of the God of Israel. When they attempted to set Dagon back in his place, they arose the next day—except on this day, not only was Dagon again bowed low and brought down to the ground, but his head was cut off and removed from his body, and the palms of his hands were also cut off. This is an absolutely incredible picture of the divine power of God to completely humble and humiliate the false gods of the nations and peoples of the earth. I can’t help but notice a powerful distinction drawn between the bringing low and bowing down of Bel and Nebo, and the bringing low and bowing down of Dagon in the temple of the Philistines. The more I read this passage in Isaiah—quite honestly, the more I read this second portion of the prophetic book—the more I can’t help but get the strong sense the Lord is not only seeking, but is also going to bring low the idols, the images and false gods we have set up our temples. The apostle Paul wrote that we are the Temple of the Holy Spirit, yet I can’t help but wonder how many times we attempt to share this temple with idols, images and false gods of our own making. I am wonderfully and powerfully convinced the Lord desires to bring low and cause to bow down each and every false god and image we have set up and created—even those idols we have set up within our hearts as the prophet Ezekiel spoke of. We are living in days when the Lord desires to bring low and cause to bow down each and every idol that is found within our lives. I am convinced the Lord of hosts is taking each and every idol and image within our hearts and lives, and is bringing them low and causing them to bow down before His holy presence. Just as Dagon was brought low and caused to bow down before the holy presence of the Lord, so too the Lord desires to bring low every idol and image within our lives and cause them to bow down before Him.
When you read the second portion of the prophetic book of Isaiah, you will notice the Lord beginning to draw a clear distinction and separation between Himself and the false gods that permeated and saturated the landscape. “To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? 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 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. Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors, remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:5-9). It becomes quite clear from the words of the prophet Isaiah that the Lord is separating Himself from the false gods which men worshipped, and drawing a clear and defining line between Himself and the false images and olds which men themselves created. As we proceed to read these words, we must come to terms with the reality that there is only One true God, and that all other gods, idols and images must bow down and be brought low before Him. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to allow our idols and images to be brought low. The truth of the matter is that we might not even have any choice, say or decision in the matter, for the Lord can bring down any idol, any image, any false god he wants to. The Lord brought down and brought low the Twin Towers located up lower Manhattan nearly sixteen years ago and did so without consulting any man or woman. Let us recognize that the Lord can humble and even humiliate any idol and/or image we have made in our hearts and lives, and that we dare not try and defend such realities and manifestations within our lives. Are we willing to accept the idols and images being brought low within our lives? Are we willing to understand how the presence of the Lord should be treated, and how the holy presence of God cannot be treated the same way idols and images are? We cannot, we must not, we dare not attempt to draw forth the presence of the Lord on the back(s) of that which has been created. We dare not make any attempt to worship the Lord in any other position outside of being high and lifted up. We must be the priests who carry the presence of God upon our shoulders, high and exalted in our generation. We are living in days when the Lord is going to humble and humiliate many of our idols and images—that and those things which we have worshipped for years. I would strongly encourage us to ready and prepare ourselves for the bringing low and the bowing down of every idol, every image, and every false god we have formed, we have fashioned, we have made with out own hands. Oh that we would be willing to allow every idol and image to be brought low and bowed down, and every wall brought low and collapsed like the walls of Jericho. WHEN WALLS COLLAPSE AND FALSE GODS ARE BROUGHT LOW! WHEN WALLS COME DOWN AND IDOLS ARE BROUGHT DOWN! Let us this day purpose and resolve within our hearts and spirits that we are going to be willing to allow every wall to fall down, and every idol to be brought down low.