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Isaiah 13

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A Prophecy Against Babylon (ch. 13:1 – 14:24)     


Isaiah 13 and 14 concerns God's judgment on Babylon.  The thing we need to understand is that when Isaiah spoke and wrote these words, Babylon was not an empire.  It was just a city cut in half by the Euphrates River.   The city had a double wall, 87 feet thick and 350 feet high. It was wide enough to race 6 chariots side by side on it.


Babylon's origin is first seen in Genesis 10, the Tower of Babel.  In Isaiah's day it was a city state of Assyria. 


There are two main cities that thread their way through the Bible.  One is Babylon, the city of man.  The other is Jerusalem, the city of God.  Both find their origin in the book of Genesis and spoken of in the very last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation.      


Babylon defeats Egypt in war in 606 B. C. which brings Babylon into its world empire status.


I believe that most of chapter 13 and 14 have yet to happen.  They are in reference to the end of this age.  Babylon did fall to the Medes and Persians, as can be seen here, but once you look into these chapters, it becomes clear that this is end time prophecy.  God often used events in human history, like, the fall of Babylon, symbolically and prophetically of end time events. We must distinguish between the fall of Babylon in Old Testament days and the destruction of Babylon at the end of this age.


It's also important to point out that some believe that Babylon is merely a symbolic city.  Others say it's a real city or empire, and, among those who believe this, there are different ways to think about who Babylon is.  Some say it's America.  Some say Iran, Iraq, or other eastern Muslim nations.  Some say it's Europe.   


When Rome came to power, Roman paganism adopted much, if not most, of the Babylonian paganism and culturalism.  The Christmas tree and the Easter bunny that was adopted by Christianity find its roots in Rome and ultimately back to Babylon.  Sixty  minutes in an hour, and our means of time comes from Babylon.  Three hundred and sixty degrees in a circle is also Babylonian.  Much of modern western ways is a product of Babylon.    


Babylon as a cultural identity goes back at least 2500 years B. C..  Some suggest it goes back beyond that but we have little to no historic record of it.  Many say that Babylonian culture dates back in infinity.  Babylon as an empire fell in 539 B. C..        


Verse 1 in the NIV opens with the words, "an oracle concerning Babylon".  The KJV better reflects the Hebrew text in my opinion when it reads, "the burden of Babylon".  That which is to follow concerning Babylon, concerns her judgment, thus the word "burden" is better suited.


The word "them" in verse 2 refers to the Medes and the Persian army that would be used as a tool of God to attack Babylon.  The Medes and the Persian were enemies of each other, but, for the sake of conquering Babylon , they would join forces. 


So, when verses 2 and 3 say, "raise a banner on a hilltop", (banner meaning flag) "shout to them … to enter the gates of the nobles ... I have commanded my holy ones…", Isaiah is speaking of the Medo-Persian army.  They are considered God's holy ones, not because they are holy but because they are being used by God.  The word "holy" being used in the sense that God has separated this army until Himself and for His purpose.


As verse 3 states, the Medo-Persian army was instrumental in carrying out God's wrath on Babylon.  Of course, they did not know they were being used as instruments of the Jewish God.  Babylon was being judged and brought down because of her treatment of Israel.  It's all about the Abrahamic Covenant.  He who blesses Israel will be blessed and he that curses Israel will be cursed.  Babylon did not treat Israel well.  They would now pay for this.


Verse 4 begins to show things of a much wider scale than the invasion of the Medo-Persians upon Babylon.  It is important to understand that many prophetic passages have a double fulfillment, and this is one of these passages.  In other words, God uses, even initiates, events in human history to be prophetic of a future event.  In this case, the attack on Babylon represents the attack on Babylon as seen in the book of Revelation at the end of this age.  See Revelation 17 and 18. 


When verse 4 says "listen to the noise … among the kingdoms (plural)" … a massing of the nations, (plural) this suggests a number of nations coming to battle.  This gives an end time bent to this passage.  We know that at the end of this age, all the nations will be dragged into war in the Middle East , and as verses 4 and 5 states, there will be an army coming from the heavens that will end the battle of battles. 


The argument against this being an end time prophecy because of the word "nations", translated from the Hebrew word "gowy", could be that nations could well be translated as ethnic peoples.  There were a number of different ethnic peoples who comprised the Babylonian Empire. 


Verse 6 says, "Wail for the day of the Lord is near".  Throughout the Bible, when you see the term, "the day of the Lord", this always refers to the day God institutes judgment, and in this case, I believe the judgment is against the nations of the earth, as seen symbolically in Babylon.  I say "symbolically" because this text speaks of Babylon being many nations, not just the one empire of Persia, even though Persia is made up of many ethic peoples, or nations.


Verse 6 says that the day of the Lord "will come as destruction from the Almighty".  The final battle of the ages is between the nations of the world and God Himself. 


Verses 7 and 8 speak of how man will respond to the judgment of God.  It's interesting to note that the examples given here are all found in the New Testament as well.  Jesus said that "man's hearts will fail them for fear of the things coming on earth. (Luke 21:26)  Isaiah says that "every man's heart will melt … terror will seize them". 


Isaiah speaks of "women in labour".  Jesus speaks of "birth pains" in relation to the things happening on earth. (Matthew 24:8)


The word "aghast" in verse 8 suggests total amazement, being dumbfounded, not being able to figure out or comprehend what is happening.  This is the way the New Testament speaks of the end of this age.            


Verse 9 shows us a picture of God that modern man knows little about when it uses such words as "God's wrath, fierce anger, and cruel days".  Many Christians steer clear of these types of verses, but do so at their own peril.


When verse 10 speaks of the star, the sun, and the moon not giving their light, this imagery is seen in a number of places in the New Testament.  Peter on the day of Pentecost uses such terminology. (Acts 2:19 -20)  This shows very clearly that what we are really seeing in this passage is more than the invasion of the Medes and the Persians against Babylon.  It's the invasion of God and His heavenly host against the nations of the world.


Verse 11 even says that God "will punish the world'.  We're talking about the world here not just Babylon.  Babylon is simply a symbol of the world in the passage.  Thus the reason why many people think that the fall of Babylon as seen in Revelation 17 and 18 is symbolic of the nations of this world headed by the anti-Christ.


Note that in verse 11 the reason for God's punishment of the nations of the world is because of their pride and arrogance, especially as it relates to their defiance of God.  I believe that in the last seven years of this age, in the tribulation period, the nations of the world will come to know that they are actually fighting against God.  They believe they can win the war.  This is pure pride, along with a good measure of stupidity.


Verse 12 states that God will make man "scarcer than gold".  This simply means, as the book of Revelation makes clear, many men and women will be killed in the day of the Lord.  Some suggest the day of the Lord is the last seven years.  Others suggest it is the exact day Jesus returns.  It's my thinking that the term "day of the Lord is used in both ways in the Bible.


In verse 13 words that can only be understood as cataclysmic, show this passage to be speaking of the end of this age.  There's no way around this.  Isaiah 13 and 14 clearly speak of end time events.  These events take place because of God's "burning anger", something that modern peoples both ignore and reject.  Christians must have the knowledge of God's burning anger burned into their hearts.  I believe that to the degree we understand God's sense of justice and His anger towards injustice and sin, will be the degree to which we will begin to understand His love.


In verse 14 we see people being so haunted that they try to flee to their own nations, to the lands from which they have come.  Note that we're talking about people from many nations.  Again, this has to be talking about the end of this age.  The reason why people flee back to their nations is that God dragged them to the Middle East in the first place for battle, as seen in Ezekiel 38 and 39. 


Verses 15 and 16 speak of numerous horrors that will come upon Babylon in the last days.  It's not a pretty site. 


Notice the mention of the Medes in verses 17 and 18who do not care for silver.  When the Medes and the Persians attacked Babylon, they did not take a spoil.  They weren't interested in Babylon's riches.  They just wanted the Babylonians killed.  They simply wanted revenge.


Verse 19 speaks "of the jewel that is Babylon".   Similar language is used in Revelation 17 and 18 to describe Babylon just before she falls.


Verse 20 speaks of Babylon never being lived in again.  This suggests to me that the city of Babylon is being spoken of here, not the empire back in those days.  The Medes and the Persians overthrew the Babylonian Empire by conquering the city of Babylon.  That's what I believe is being talked about here.


Some feel that the city of Babylon will be rebuilt, but this passage seems to say it won't.  So, if this thinking is correct, we cannot expect end time Babylon to be the literal city of Babylon located in Iraq.


Most commentators believe the wild animals mentioned in verses 21 and 22 refer to demonic activity that takes place in and around the city of Babylon, which by the way, is just south of the modern day city of Bagdad.  There certainly has been a lot of demonic activity in that part of the world, or so I think.



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