ISAIAH CHAPTER 13.
The Burden of Babylon.
GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE PROPHECIES OF WRATH. — V. 1. The burden of Babylon, the sentence of judgment revealed by special inspiration of the Lord, which Isaiah, the son of Amoz, did see: v. 2. Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, raising the standard of battle upon a deforested peak, where it may be visible from all sides, exalt the voice unto them, calling in urgent invitation, shake the hand, in a beckoning gesture, that they may go into the gates of the nobles, summoned to celebrate a victorious battle, a war against the enemies which would result in a glorious triumph. V. 3. I have commanded My sanctified ones, Jehovah Himself summoning the warriors consecrated to His work, I have also called My mighty ones for Mine anger, the heroes who should carry out the purposes of His wrath, even them that rejoice in My highness, boasting of the victory won in His might. V. 4. The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people, a turmoil as when masses of people, great armies, congregate; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together, an exceptionally large and powerful host. The Lord of hosts, the Commander-in-chief of all heavenly forces, mustereth the host of the battle, ready to carry out His plan of punishment upon the heathen. V. 5. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, from beyond the horizon, where the earth appears to be hounded by the sky, even the Lord, and the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land, literally, “to overturn the whole earth,” for the entire world, then known, would feel the ravages of the war of destruction determined upon by Jehovah. The prophet now turns directly to the heathen nations, with Babylon in the lead: v.6. Howl ye, in consternation and terror; for the day of the Lord is at hand, when He intends to carry out His judgment; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty, all the enemies being included in this threat and all opposition being declared useless from the start. V. 7. Therefore shall all hands be faint, hanging down limp and without strength, and every man’s heart shall melt, like water, said of an utter lack of courage, of complete hopelessness; v. 8. and they shall be afraid, terrified in bewilderment; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them, their terror showing in convulsive movements; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth, Joel 2, 6; they shall be amazed one at another, staring with all evidences of extreme terror, their faces shall be as flames, alternately reddening and blanching as their fear drives the blood back and forth in the body. V. 9. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, the day of His vengeance, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, consuming with its heat, to lay the land desolate; and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it, for the Lord here has the whole earth in mind. V. 10. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light, the figure of utter darkness pointing to the severity of the punishment; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, ceasing to shine as soon as it rises, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. All this, as in Joel 3, 4 and Amos 5, 8, indicates that all hope would be vain. V. 11. And I will punish the world for their evil and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, so that the voice of boasting is no longer heard, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible, putting down the tyrants and stopping their violence. V. 12. I will make a man more precious than fine gold, humankind becoming rarer on earth than the choicest gold, even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir, noted for the purity and the rich amounts of the gold it produced. In this manner would the Lord visit the world with His anger, to punish and annihilate it in the extremity of His wrath. V. 13. Therefore I will shake the heavens, namely for the purpose of punishing the earth and making men scarce on it, and the earth shall remove out of her place, being crowded aside, as it were, by the immensity of God’s indignation, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts and In the day of His fierce anger. All creatures that are not objects of His punishment are bound to become its instruments, for He is determined to make this chastisement a type and a beginning of the final Judgment upon a godless world.
AGAINST BABYLON IN PARTICULAR. — V. 14. And it, namely, Babylon, shall be as the chased roe, the timid gazelle, which is so easily startled, and as a sheep that no man taketh up, like a panic-stricken flock which simply cannot be brought together again. They shall every man turn to his own people and flee every one into his own land, that is, the great mass of strangers gathered in the great world market, Babylonia, would, at her fall, scatter in all directions, every one anxious to reach the protection of his own country. V. 15. Every one that is found, not having sought safety in flight, shall be thrust through, and every one that is joined unto them, rather, intercepted in flight, shall fall by the sword, for it is a general slaughter which will come upon the mixed population of Babylon. V. 16. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their parents witnessing their murder; their houses shall be spoiled, everything plundered, and their wives ravished, for war ever brutalizes men, in many cases placing them below the level of beasts. The punishment in general having been described, the prophet now proceeds to mention particulars. V. 17. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, the Medo-Persians being the world power which conquered Babylon, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it, that is, it would be impossible to bribe them, to buy them off, and thus save the city whose destruction was firmly determined upon by the Lord. V. 18. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces, a very vivid description of the effect which would attend the wholesale slaughter; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb, not sparing even the unborn children, 2 Kings 8, 12; 15, 16; los. 14, 1; Amos 1, 13; their eye shall not spare children, for the enemies would be devoid of all pity. V. 19. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, an ornament of beauty in the midst of conquered nations, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, to which they all pointed with pride as the greatest capital of the world, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, utterly destroyed, an eternal wilderness. V. 20. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabians, the Bedouin nomads, pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there, total desolation should reign there forever. V. 21. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, making their dens in the midst of the ruins; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, the howling jackals probably being meant; and owls shall dwell there, rather, ostriches, and satyrs, or wild goats, thought to be possessed of demons, shall dance there. V. 22. And the wild beasts of the islands, probably hyenas, shall cry in their desolate houses, in the ruined palaces of the city, and dragons in their pleasant palaces, jackals or wolves being among the inhabitants of the stone heaps remaining. And her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged, the threatened ruin would come in a comparatively short time. And so it came to pass, for the destruction of Babylon, begun by Darius Hystaspes, continued by Xerxes, was completed by Seleucus Nicator in the fourth century before Christ, so that even before the birth of Christ the historian Strabo describes the ruins of proud Babylon in words which are strangely like those of the prophet here recorded.