Isaiah Chapter Thirteen and Fourteen
Isaiah 13 - 14
The Fall of Babylon
Chapters 13 and 14: The Future History of Babylon is given by Isaiah throughout his book in outline form. The future and ultimate fall of Babylon is announced here first which is the proper place because the rehearsal of the trials brought on the nation by Assyria are now completed. Historically Babylon filled the position of oppressor of Israel immediately after the fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, Thus after giving the future events and trials that the nation of Judah would face from the expansion of the Assyrian Empire it is proper to begin to outline the heritage which was passed on by the Assyrians to the Babylonians. The Babylonians are said here in Isaiah to follow and to continue the oppression of the Jewish nation.. In his book Isaiah describes Babylon: its founding and its rise to power, subsequent history, capture and destruction of Tyre, captivity and destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, and its decisive fall and destruction of the Chaldean dynasty at the hand of Cyrus,-- all are outlined in detail by Isaiah. The following passages are in contexts and/or are references to all of the above history. Isaiah 13:1; 19; 14:4; 14:22; 21:9; 23:13; 43:14ff; 47:1ff; 47:5; 48:14; 48:20. Some of these verses are in the midst of a whole sections or complete chapters devoted to Babylon and its future fall and return of the Jewish captives to Zion. Particularly chapters 13, 14, 23, and 42 to 48. In these contexts also the theme of the future return to Zion introduces many messianic prophecies because as a result of the fall of Babylon the nation was reestablished and grew over centuries into a large and prosperous nation. Isaiah says that in the period of the return to Zion from Babylon the Messiah will come and add the dimensions of a universal support of Zion by the Gentile nations resulting in the coming of the Messiah.
Chapter 40 was written specifically to the Babylonian captives, long before the rise of Babylon to power, and it offers comfort to those who will endure the captivity. The comfort there is centered in the news of the visit of YHWH himself and a messenger who will go before him to announce his coming. The comfort to the captives also includes the fall of Babylon announced first here and which in chapters 40-48 is enlarged upon in an even greater detail than is announced here in the two following chapters (13 and 14) and in chapter 23. The certainty of the fall of Babylon and the deliverance of the Jews by the Median King Cyrus predicted by Isaiah two centuries previous to the events is one of the most outstanding historical prophecies of the Bible.
1. The Oracle of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.
Verse 1: The word "Oracle,"[masa' ] is consistently rendered this way in modern translations. It means "burden" in a literal sense but is used to introduce a separate vision from among others in which it may be found. It is so used by Jeremiah 23:33ff, Ezekiel 12:10; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; 12:1; and Isaiah uses it very often to introduce a new and separate vision as in Isaiah 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 21:11; 21:13; 22:1; 23:1; 30:6. Here in 13:1 the use of the word signals a break in the content and a new vision is begun. What is past is the interaction of Assyrian kings which brought about the fall of Israel and its disappearance as a nation among other nations. What follows will concern the destruction of Babylon and after that introduction then the destruction brought on by them on Judah and the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. Even though Judah, historically, was punished first, the destruction of Babylon is given as the first "Oracle." Thus assurance is given beforehand, (as was done with Israel concerning Assyria, that that nation which was used by God to punish his sinning people and to purge idolatry from them) will suffer terrible judgements and disappear from the pages of history. So with Babylon, it will suffer extinction but Judah will be reborn and Israel will be gathered back to the restored Zion and have a future in the history of a world which will have lived for centuries without Assyria or Babylon who are never to be restored. Restoration will be a fact of history for Judah and Israel but not for Assyria and Babylon. This historical prophecy is more than nationalistic bravado. It is one more of the amazing precognitions that abound in the Bible.
2 Lift up a banner on the high mountain, raise the voice to them, wave the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. 3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones from my anger, even them that rejoice in my majesty.
Verse 3: Sanctified ones: See Jeremiah 50:20-30 for God's elaborate call to arms against Babylon. The "sanctified ones" are those who are chosen by God to carry out the work of the demise of the great Babylonian power. It does not necessarily mean angels, but is does not exclude them but more likely refers to Cyrus, who led the Medes and Persians to destroy Babylon The Medes as the leaders in Babylon's destruction are mentioned by name in verse 17 below. See Daniel 10:12-21 for a description of angels influencing the turn of historical events or in inhibiting the advance and/or direction of military power. It is ultimately God who rules in the affairs of men As Nebuchadnezzar was told and learned, recorded in Daniel 4:25 "till you know that the most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will."
4 The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts gathers the host of the battle. 5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.
Verses 4-5: Multitudes in the mountains, kingdoms of nations gathered, from a far country, from the ends of heaven: Cyrus was born in Media and escaped to Persia where he rose to power and returned to conquer Media and weld them together. He subdued all the tribes from the Indus to the east to the Scythian Steppes to the north including Assyria and then invaded and conquered Lydia, the Greek Empire of Croesus even forcing the cities of Greek Europe to seek treaties with him. All of Asia minor and Syria as well as Assyria, Media and Persia and numberless minor tribes were in his power when he turned his face toward Babylon and Egypt. Thus his army was indeed a kingdom of nations. The Chaldeans expected his attack but trusted in the powerful defenses of Babylon. Thus though fearful they did not take the advance of Cyrus seriously. Herodotus says of Cyrus' march on Babylon and the Babylonian response:"The Babylonians, encamped without their walls, awaited his coming. A battle was fought at a short distance from the city, in which the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian king, whereupon they withdrew within their defenses. Here they shut themselves up, and made light of his siege, having laid in a store of provisions for many years in preparation against this attack; for when they saw Cyrus conquering nation after nation, they were convinced that he would never stop, and that their turn would come at last." (emphasis mine) Herod. Bk I:1916. Howl; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. 7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: 8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them as in birth labor pains: they shall be astonished one at another; their faces appear as flames. 9 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners there out of it. 10 For the stars of heaven and its constellations shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. 11 And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.
Verse 11: I will punish the world: The word translated consistently by all translators "punish" is from the Hebrew word "Phaqad" [ ] which means to appoint despotically or it can mean the despot himself. Here it is a verb "Paqadtiy" [ ] and should carry the meaning of making a judgement, appointing, or ordering a course of action. Thus also in this sense it is sometimes translated "I will visit" in a sense of punishing. It means "I will visit evil upon the world." The World: The word "world" is the Hebrew word "Tevel" which does not mean the whole world as the LXX renders it calling it the "oikomene" [ ] or inhabited earth. But I think the LXX correct in making "evil" the object of the verb. That version says "I will appoint evil upon the whole inhabited earth." But Isaiah is prophesying about the destruction of Babylon and his comments are to be limited in this place to that event. The word "World;" The word "Tevel" [ ] is a use of the word "world" in the same sense that it is used in 1 John 2:15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. or in John 7:7 The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. It refers to what we mean when we say "worldliness" in a Christian sense. Thus this passage is speaking of the visitation of YHWH against the world system of the Babylonians especially as already outlined in the preceding verse (10) which describes the "worldliness" in which the Babylonians trusted, that is their preoccupation with astrology. As many do today, they asked answers from the planets and stars instead of Him who made the planets. It is this system that is meant by "I will visit (or order) evil things upon the "world system."
12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, by the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. 14 And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man takes up: every man shall turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. 15 Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined to them shall fall by the sword. 16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. 17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.
Verse 17: The Medes: Here the name of the conquering nation is mentioned. Later in chapters 44 and 45 intimate details of the conquest of Babylon will be given as well as the name of Cyrus the great leader of the Medes. The details confirm the laxity of the Babylonians which Herodotus charges them with. They actually left open the huge brass gates which were in the walls that flanked the river Euphrates in its passage through the city. These gates provided access to the water of the river for the citizens and could be closed as a defense if needed. Herodotus I:191 says these gates were left open allowing access to the Persian troops after Cyrus had reduced the water level of the river. This great historical event recorded for centuries was predicted by Isaiah 200 years before the event in these remarkable passages. See Isaiah 45:1-2.
18 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. 19. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. 20 It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch his tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.
Verses 19-20: Babylon To Never be inhabited: This is a statement about one of the world's greatest cities. It is tantamount to saying Rome will lie in dust and never be inhabited or New York or some other equally as important and well situated city. It is one thing to predict the destruction of a city and another to foresee its complete disappearance and the location itself be desolate forever! The city of Babylon was not razed to the ground in the conquest of Cyrus but actually continued to be an important city in the ancient world for several centuries. But at last it found its end after numberless conquests and was finally abandoned shortly after the beginning of the Christian expansion in the time of Constantine. It was then lost to historical sight and was so completely obliterated having been covered from view by silt and sand that its very existence was doubted by some 19th century "higher critics." Their scholarship should be held in question since the historical records are replete with the descriptions of Babylon and its history does not depend on mentions of it found in the Bible.. None the less the great discoveries of the latter half of the 19th century brought the walls of Babylon to light again and one portion of the city joined the seven wonders of the ancient world. Today the site of Babylon is still uninhabited and is just as described by Isaiah as a desolate place except for a kiosk where postcards are sold to the few tourists that may pass that way to view the ruins.
21 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. 22 And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.
1. For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
Verse 1: Yet chose Jacob: This chapter continues the picture of the future fall of Babylon. It is interesting that the fall of Babylon is depicted before the rise of Babylon to power. In like manner the return of Israel from Babylonian captivity is spoken of before the Babylonian captivity of the Jews is predicted. One reason why this may be so is: that "Jacob" includes all 12 tribes. And many of the tribes had all ready gone into exile forced by the Assyrians and at least a few more were imminently to be similarly lost in Isaiah's lifetime. The return of those captives would not take place until after the Jewish remnant tribes of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin, and Levi were taken captive between 606 to 585 B.C. and returned after 536 B.C. Then after the end of the Jewish Babylonian captivity remnants of all the tribes would join the increasing number of returnees in the newly founded second commonwealth which lasted from 536 B.C. to 70 A.D. The sequence of the historical events exactly matches the obscure predictions which could not possibly have been presaged with out divine foreknowledge.
2 And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take captive, those whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors. 3 And it shall be in the day that the LORD shall give you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear, and from the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, 4. That you shall take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How has the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
Verse 4: King of Babylon: As in 13:1; 13:18 above and 14:22 below these clear references to Babylon and Chaldea make it plain that the calamities in these two chapters (13 and 14) predict the final fall of the Babylonian Empire before it had risen as a power.
5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers. 6 He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and no one hinders. 7 The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. 8 Yes, the fir trees rejoice at you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since you laid down, no cutter is come up against us. 9 Sheol from beneath is moved for you to meet you at your coming: it stirs up the dead for you, even all the chief ones of the earth; it has raised up all the kings of the nations from their thrones. 10 All they shall speak and say to you, Are you also become weak as we? are you become like us? 11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, and the noise of your viols: the worm is spread under you, and the worms cover you.
Verses 9, 11: See footnote under 5:14 for use of Sheol instead of grave and Hell.
12 How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations!
Verse 12: Lucifer: The name "Lucifer" does not appear in the Hebrew text. It is from a Hebrew word meaning "shining one" (pronounced hey-leyl). The LXX translated it by a word meaning "the shining one" [ heosphoros] and via euphonic changes this became Lu-si-phor or as we have it in English, Lucifer. It is not a name in either the Hebrew or the Greek LXX texts. Personifying the word has given rise to the idea that Satan is portrayed in this passage and that Satan's name is "Lucifer.". It is more likely that the attributes of Satan are in those who are obsessed with power and jealous of duly constituted authority. If a description of Satan's rebellion and fall is given here it is only secondary to the lofty desire of the Babylonian monarchy. The means of the destruction of Babylon by the Medes is clearly named in 13:17 above.
13 For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the sides of the pit. 16 They that see you shall narrowly look to you, and consider you, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that shook kingdoms; 17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed its cities; that opened not the house of his prisoners? 18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. 19 But you are cast out of your grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.
Verse 19: As a rejected abominable branch: Hebrew : "ke-natsar nith'av"
[ ] This construction is another one of the uses of Nazar which is connected with Matthew 2:23 and can be translated "as a despised Nazarene," just as other "Branch" prophecies relate to the despised and rejected Nazar or branch and is therefore a subtle messianic reference. Isaiah 53 says "he" (the nazar) is despised and rejected of men." Here the Babylonian king is to suffer the same kind of rejection. From his lofty position of glory he is to be reduced to being treated like the Nazari.
20 You shall not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, and slain your people: the seed of evil doers shall never be renowned. 21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities. 22 For I will rise up against them, says the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, says the LORD. 23 I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction, says the LORD of hosts.
Verse 22: Babylon: Another clear statement making plain that chapters 13 and 14 predict the punishment and extinction of Babyom before it became a world power. Mentioned also in 13:1; 13:19; 14:4; and here in 14:22.
24. The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it happen; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: 25 That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and tread him under foot upon my mountains: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
Verse 25 The Assyrian: Assyria as the precursor of the BabylonianEmpire is sometimes substituted for Babylon and her successor. Darius, king of Persia, is called king of Assyria in Ezra 6:22 more than 100 years after the fall of Nineveh. That, however, is not the case here. Rather, this is a reversion to the former prophecy in chapters 7-12. Here at the close of the vision of the overthrow of Babylon it is inserted because this Babylonian vision is dependent on the Assyrian. This, therefore, is the conclusion of all that God had determined which begins with Assyria and will end with the overthrow of Babylon. Both nations are to be used as instruments of punishment for the house of Israel and both will go down to oblivion while the house of Israel lives on. Delitzsch agrees and gives a clear explanation of the reason for the mention of Assyria which at first seems to be out of place. The introduction of Assyria is abrupt, and is not in harmony with this section being the "Oracle" of Babylon, and at first sight is a complete change of the subject. However, after investigation it is easily seen as the summary of the "Oracle." The whole summary is in verses 24-27. It says: God's purpose has been predetermined for Babylon and it begins with Assyria. It was further assurance to those living through this two century period that the unfolding of God's purpose was on schedule as the years rolled by. The main theme: Assyria and Babylon will be lost in Sheol and never rise again. Israel and Judah will be restored and live on to become the Zion of God. And for those who patiently looked for "Zion" it did happen.
26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. 27 For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who shall annul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
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