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Proclamation against Babylon


The oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw.



On a bare hill raise a signal,

cry aloud to them;

wave the hand for them to enter

the gates of the nobles.


I myself have commanded my consecrated ones,

have summoned my warriors, my proudly exulting ones,

to execute my anger.



Listen, a tumult on the mountains

as of a great multitude!

Listen, an uproar of kingdoms,

of nations gathering together!

The Lord of hosts is mustering

an army for battle.


They come from a distant land,

from the end of the heavens,

the Lord and the weapons of his indignation,

to destroy the whole earth.



Wail, for the day of the Lord is near;

it will come like destruction from the Almighty!


Therefore all hands will be feeble,

and every human heart will melt,


and they will be dismayed.

Pangs and agony will seize them;

they will be in anguish like a woman in labor.

They will look aghast at one another;

their faces will be aflame.


See, the day of the Lord comes,

cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,

to make the earth a desolation,

and to destroy its sinners from it.


For the stars of the heavens and their constellations

will not give their light;

the sun will be dark at its rising,

and the moon will not shed its light.


I will punish the world for its evil,

and the wicked for their iniquity;

I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,

and lay low the insolence of tyrants.


I will make mortals more rare than fine gold,

and humans than the gold of Ophir.


Therefore I will make the heavens tremble,

and the earth will be shaken out of its place,

at the wrath of the Lord of hosts

in the day of his fierce anger.


Like a hunted gazelle,

or like sheep with no one to gather them,

all will turn to their own people,

and all will flee to their own lands.


Whoever is found will be thrust through,

and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.


Their infants will be dashed to pieces

before their eyes;

their houses will be plundered,

and their wives ravished.


See, I am stirring up the Medes against them,

who have no regard for silver

and do not delight in gold.


Their bows will slaughter the young men;

they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb;

their eyes will not pity children.


And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans,

will be like Sodom and Gomorrah

when God overthrew them.


It will never be inhabited

or lived in for all generations;

Arabs will not pitch their tents there,

shepherds will not make their flocks lie down there.


But wild animals will lie down there,

and its houses will be full of howling creatures;

there ostriches will live,

and there goat-demons will dance.


Hyenas will cry in its towers,

and jackals in the pleasant palaces;

its time is close at hand,

and its days will not be prolonged.

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Isa 13:1-22. The Thirteenth through Twenty-third Chapters Contain Prophecies as to Foreign Nations.The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh Chapters as to Babylon and Assyria.

The predictions as to foreign nations are for the sake of the covenant people, to preserve them from despair, or reliance on human confederacies, and to strengthen their faith in God: also in order to extirpate narrow-minded nationality: God is Jehovah to Israel, not for Israel's sake alone, but that He may be thereby Elohim to the nations. These prophecies are in their right chronological place, in the beginning of Hezekiah's reign; then the nations of Western Asia, on the Tigris and Euphrates, first assumed a most menacing aspect.

1. burdenweighty or mournful prophecy [Grotius]. Otherwise, simply, the prophetical declaration, from a Hebrew root to put forth with the voice anything, as in Nu 23:7 [Maurer].

of Babylonconcerning Babylon.

2. Lift … banner—(Isa 5:26; 11:10).

the high mountain—rather, "a bare (literally, "bald," that is, without trees) mountain"; from it the banner could be seen afar off, so as to rally together the peoples against Babylon.

unto them—unto the Medes (Isa 13:17), the assailants of Babylon. It is remarkable that Isaiah does not foretell here the Jews' captivity in Babylon, but presupposes that event, and throws himself beyond, predicting another event still more future, the overthrow of the city of Israel's oppressors. It was now one hundred seventy-four years before the event.

shake … handbeckon with the hand—wave the hand to direct the nations to march against Babylon.

nobles—Babylonian. Rather, in a bad sense, tyrants; as in Isa 14:5, "rulers" in parallelism to "the wicked"; and Job 21:28 [Maurer].

3. sanctified ones—the Median and Persian soldiers solemnly set apart by Me for the destruction of Babylon, not inwardly "sanctified," but designated to fulfil God's holy purpose (Jer 51:27, 28; Joe 3:9, 11; where the Hebrew for prepare war is "sanctify" war).

for mine anger—to execute it.

rejoice in my highness—"Those who are made to triumph for My honor" [Horsley]. The heathen Medes could not be said to "rejoice in God's highness" Maurer translates, "My haughtily exulting ones" (Zep 3:11); a special characteristic of the Persians [Herodotus,1.88]. They rejoiced in their own highness, but it was His that they were unconsciously glorifying.

4. the mountains—namely, which separate Media and Assyria, and on one of which the banner to rally the hosts is supposed to be reared.

tumultuous noise—The Babylonians are vividly depicted as hearing some unwonted sound like the din of a host; they try to distinguish the sounds, but can only perceive a tumultuous noise.

nations—Medes, Persians, and Armenians composed Cyrus' army.

5. They—namely, "Jehovah," and the armies which are "the weapons of His indignation."

far country—Media and Persia, stretching to the far north and east.

end of heaven—the far east (Ps 19:6).

destroy—rather, "to seize" [Horsley].

6. day of the Lord—day of His vengeance on Babylon (Isa 2:12). Type of the future "day of wrath" (Re 6:17).

destruction—literally, "a devastating tempest."

from the Almighty—not from mere man; therefore irresistible. "Almighty," Hebrew, Shaddai.

7. faint … melt—So Jer 50:43; compare Jos 7:5. Babylon was taken by surprise on the night of Belshazzar's impious feast (Da 5:30). Hence the sudden fainting and melting of hearts.

8. pangs—The Hebrew means also a "messenger." Horsley, therefore, with the Septuagint translates, "The heralds (who bring word of the unexpected invasion) are terrified." Maurer agrees with English Version, literally, "they shall take hold of pangs and sorrows."

woman … travaileth—(1Th 5:3).

amazed—the stupid, bewildered gaze of consternation.

faces … flames—"their visages have the livid hue of flame" [Horsley]; with anguish and indignation.

9. cruel—not strictly, but unsparingly just; opposed to mercy. Also answering to the cruelty (in the strict sense) of Babylon towards others (Isa 14:17) now about to be visited on itself.

the land—"the earth" [Horsley]. The language of Isa 13:9-13 can only primarily and partially apply to Babylon; fully and exhaustively, the judgments to come, hereafter, on the whole earth. Compare Isa 13:10 with Mt 24:29; Re 8:12. The sins of Babylon, arrogancy (Isa 13:11; Isa 14:11; 47:7, 8), cruelty, false worship (Jer 50:38), persecution of the people of God (Isa 47:6), are peculiarly characteristic of the Antichristian world of the latter days (Da 11:32-37; Re 17:3, 6; 18:6, 7, 9-14, 24).

10. stars, &c.—figuratively for anarchy, distress, and revolutions of kingdoms (Isa 34:4; Joe 2:10; Eze 32:7, 8; Am 8:9; Re 6:12-14). There may be a literal fulfilment finally, shadowed forth under this imagery (Re 21:1).

constellationsHebrew, "a fool," or "impious one"; applied to the constellation Orion, which was represented as an impious giant (Nimrod deified, the founder of Babylon) chained to the sky. See on Job 38:31.

11. worldthe impious of the world (compare Isa 11:4).

arrogancy—Babylon's besetting sin (Da 4:22, 30).

the terrible—rather, tyrants [Horsley].

12. man … precious—I will so cut off Babylon's defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold.

13. Image for mighty revolutions (Isa 24:19; 34:4; Hab 3:6, 10; Hag 2:6, 7; Re 20:11).

14. it—Babylon.

roe—gazelle; the most timid and easily startled.

no man taketh up—sheep defenseless, without a shepherd (Zec 13:7).

every man … to his own people—The "mingled peoples" of foreign lands shall flee out of her (Jer 50:16, 28, 37; 51:9).

15. found—in the city.

joined—"intercepted" [Maurer]. "Every one that has withdrawn himself," namely, to hide in the houses [Gesenius].

16. (Ps 137:8, 9).

17. Medes—(Isa 21:2; Jer 51:11, 28). At that time they were subject to Assyria; subsequently Arbaces, satrap of Media, revolted against the effeminate Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, destroyed Nineveh, and became king of Media, in the ninth century B.C.

not regard silver—In vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom. The heathen Xenophon (Cyropædia, 5,1,10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes, disregard of riches. A curious confirmation of this prophecy.

18. bows—in the use of which the Persians were particularly skilled.

19. glory of kingdoms—(Isa 14:4; 47:5; Jer 51:41).

beauty of … excellencyHebrew, "the glory of the pride" of the Chaldees; it was their glory and boast.

as … Gomorrah—as utterly (Jer 49:18; 50:40; Am 4:11). Taken by Cyrus, by clearing out the canal made for emptying the superfluous waters of the Euphrates, and directing the river into this new channel, so that he was able to enter the city by the old bed in the night.

20. Literally fulfilled.

neither … Arabian pitch tent—Not only shall it not be a permanent residence, but not even a temporary resting-place. The Arabs, through dread of evil spirits, and believing the ghost of Nimrod to haunt it, will not pass the night there (compare Isa 13:21).

neither … shepherds—The region was once most fertile; but owing to the Euphrates being now no longer kept within its former channels, it has become a stagnant marsh, unfit for flocks; and on the wastes of its ruins (bricks and cement) no grass grows.

21. wild beastsHebrew, tsiyim, animals dwelling in arid wastes. Wild cats, remarkable for their howl [Bochart].

doleful creatures—"howling beasts," literally, "howlings" [Maurer].

owls—rather, "ostriches"; a timorous creature, delighting in solitary deserts and making a hideous noise [Bochart].

satyrs—sylvan demi-gods—half man, half goat—believed by the Arabs to haunt these ruins; probably animals of the goat-ape species [Vitringa]. Devil-worshippers, who dance amid the ruins on a certain night [J. Wolff].

22. wild beasts of the islands—rather, "jackals"; called by the Arabs "sons of howling"; an animal midway between a fox and a wolf [Bochart and Maurer].

cry—rather, "answer," "respond" to each other, as wolves do at night, producing a most dismal effect.

dragons—serpents of various species, which hiss and utter dolorous sounds. Fable gave them wings, because they stand with much of the body elevated and then dart swiftly. Maurer understands here another species of jackal.

her time … near—though one hundred seventy-four years distant, yet "near" to Isaiah, who is supposed to be speaking to the Jews as if now captives in Babylon (Isa 14:1, 2).