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14. Prophecy Against Babylon
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. 2And 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 them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors. 3And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
4That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! 5The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. 6He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. 7The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. 8Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us. 9Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. 10All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? 11Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. 12How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! 13For thou hast said in thine 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: 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. 15Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. 16They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; 17That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? 18All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. 19But thou art cast out of thy 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 carcase trodden under feet. 20Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned. 21Prepare 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. 22For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. 23I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts.
24The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: 25That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. 26This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. 27For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? 28In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
29Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. 30And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. 31Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times. 32What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
Isa 14:1-3. The Certainty of Deliverance from Babylon.
Isa 14:4-23. The Jews' Triumphal Song Thereat.
"It moves in lengthened elegiac measure like a song of lamentation for the dead, and is full of lofty scorn" [Herder].
Isa 14:24-27. Confirmation of This by the Hereforetold Destruction of the Assyrians under Sennacherib;
a pledge to assure the captives in Babylon that He who, with such ease, overthrew the Assyrian, could likewise effect His purpose as to Babylon. The Babylonian king, the subject of this prediction, is Belshazzar, as representative of the kingdom (Da 5:1-31).
1. choose—"set His choice upon." A deliberate predilection [Horsley]. Their restoration is grounded on their election (see Ps 102:13-22).
strangers—proselytes (Es 8:17; Ac 2:10; 17:4, 17). Tacitus, a heathen [Histories, 5.5], attests the fact of numbers of the Gentiles having become Jews in his time. An earnest of the future effect on the heathen world of the Jews' spiritual restoration (Isa 60:4, 5, 10; Mic 5:7; Zec 14:16; Ro 11:12).
their place—Judea (Ezr 1:1-6).
possess—receive in possession.
captives—not by physical, but by moral might; the force of love, and regard to Israel's God (Isa 60:14).
Isa 14:4-8. A Chorus of Jews Express Their Joyful Surprise at Babylon's Downfall.
The whole earth rejoices; the cedars of Lebanon taunt him.
the king—the ideal representative of Babylon; perhaps Belshazzar (Da 5:1-31). The mystical Babylon is ultimately meant.
golden city—rather, "the exactress of gold" [Maurer]. But the old translators read differently in the Hebrew, "oppression," which the parallelism favors (compare Isa 3:5).
rulers—tyrants, as the parallelism "the wicked" proves (compare see on Isa 13:2).
6. people—the peoples subjected to Babylon.
is persecuted—the Hebrew is rather, active, "which persecuted them, without any to hinder him" [Vulgate, Jerome, and Horsley].
7. they—the once subject nations of the whole earth. Houbigant places the stop after "fir trees" (Isa 14:8), "The very fir trees break forth," &c. But the parallelism is better in English Version.
8. the fir trees—now left undisturbed. Probably a kind of evergreen.
Isa 14:9-11. The Scene Changes from Earth to Hell.
Hades (the Amenthes of Egypt), the unseen abode of the departed; some of its tenants, once mighty monarchs, are represented by a bold personification as rising from their seats in astonishment at the descent among them of the humbled king of Babylon. This proves, in opposition to Warburton [The Divine Legation], that the belief existed among the Jews that there was a Sheol or Hades, in which the "Rephaim" or manes of the departed abode.
9. moved—put into agitation.
for thee—that is, "at thee"; towards thee; explained by "to meet thee at thy coming" [Maurer].
chief ones—literally, "goats"; so rams, leaders of the flock; princes (Zec 10:3). The idea of wickedness on a gigantic scale is included (Eze 34:17; Mt 25:32, 33). Magee derives "Rephaim" (English Version, "the dead") from a Hebrew root, "to resolve into first elements"; so "the deceased" (Isa 26:14) "ghosts" (Pr 21:16). These being magnified by the imagination of the living into gigantic stature, gave their name to giants in general (Ge 6:4; 14:5; Eze 32:18, 21). "Rephaim," translated in the Septuagint, "giants" (compare see on Job 26:5, 6). Thence, as the giant Rephaim of Canaan were notorious even in that guilty land, enormous wickedness became connected with the term. So the Rephaim came to be the wicked spirits in Gehenna, the lower of the two portions into which Sheol is divided.
10. They taunt him and derive from his calamity consolation under their own (Eze 31:16).
weak—as a shade bereft of blood and life. Rephaim, "the dead," may come from a Hebrew root, meaning similarly "feeble," "powerless." The speech of the departed closes with Isa 14:11.
worm—that is bred in putridity.
worms—properly those from which the crimson dye is obtained. Appropriate here; instead of the crimson coverlet, over thee shall be "worms." Instead of the gorgeous couch, "under thee" shall be the maggot.
Isa 14:12-15. The Jews Address Him Again as a Fallen Once-bright Star.
The language is so framed as to apply to the Babylonian king primarily, and at the same time to shadow forth through him, the great final enemy, the man of sin, Antichrist, of Daniel, St. Paul, and St. John; he alone shall fulfil exhaustively all the lineaments here given.
12. Lucifer—"day star." A title truly belonging to Christ (Re 22:16), "the bright and morning star," and therefore hereafter to be assumed by Antichrist. Gesenius, however, renders the Hebrew here as in Eze 21:12; Zec 11:2, "howl."
weaken—"prostrate"; as in Ex 17:13, "discomfit."
sides of the north—namely, the sides of Mount Moriah on which the temple was built; north of Mount Zion (Ps 48:2). However, the parallelism supports the notion that the Babylonian king expresses himself according to his own, and not Jewish opinions (so in Isa 10:10) thus "mount of the congregation" will mean the northern mountain (perhaps in Armenia) fabled by the Babylonians to be the common meeting-place of their gods. "Both sides" imply the angle in which the sides meet; and so the expression comes to mean "the extreme parts of the north." So the Hindus place the Meru, the dwelling-place of their gods, in the north, in the Himalayan mountains. So the Greeks, in the northern Olympus. The Persian followers of Zoroaster put the Ai-bordsch in the Caucasus north of them. The allusion to the stars harmonizes with this; namely, that those near the North Pole, the region of the aurora borealis (compare see on Job 23:9; Job 37:22) [Maurer, Septuagint, Syriac].
14. clouds—rather, "the cloud," singular. Perhaps there is a reference to the cloud, the symbol of the divine presence (Isa 4:5; Ex 13:21). So this tallies with 2Th 2:4, "above all that is called God"; as here "above … the cloud"; and as the Shekinah-cloud was connected with the temple, there follows, "he as God sitteth in the temple of God," answering to "I will be like the Most High" here. Moreover, Re 17:4, 5, represents Antichrist as seated in Babylon, to which city, literal and spiritual, Isaiah refers here.
sides of the pit—antithetical to the "sides of the north" (Isa 14:13). Thus the reference is to the sides of the sepulcher round which the dead were arranged in niches. But Maurer here, as in Isa 14:13, translates, "the extreme," or innermost parts of the sepulchre: as in Eze 32:23 (compare 1Sa 24:3).
Isa 14:16-20. The Passers-by Contemplate with Astonishment the Body of the King of Babylon Cast Out, Instead of Lying in a Splendid Mausoleum, and Can Hardly Believe Their Senses that It Is He.
16. narrowly look—to be certain they are not mistaken.
consider—"meditate upon" [Horsley].
17. opened not … house … prisoners—But Maurer, as Margin, "Did not let his captives loose homewards."
18. All—that is, This is the usual practice.
in glory—in a grand mausoleum.
19. cast out of—not that he had lain in the grave and was then cast out of it, but "cast out without a grave," such as might have been expected by thee ("thy").
branch—a useless sucker starting up from the root of a tree, and cut away by the husbandman.
raiment of those … slain—covered with gore, and regarded with abhorrence as unclean by the Jews. Rather, "clothed (that is, covered) with the slain"; as in Job 7:5, "My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust" [Maurer].
thrust through—that is, "the slain who have been thrust through," &c.
stones of … pit—whose bodies are buried in sepulchres excavated amidst stones, whereas the king of Babylon is an unburied "carcass trodden under foot."
20. not … joined with them—whereas the princes slain with thee shall be buried, thou shalt not.
thou … destroyed … land—Belshazzar (or Naboned) oppressed his land with wars and tyranny, so that he was much hated [Xenophon, Cyropædia 4.6, 3; 7.5, 32].
seed … never be renowned—rather, "shall not be named for ever"; the Babylonian dynasty shall end with Belshazzar; his family shall not be perpetuated [Horsley].
Isa 14:21-23. God's Determination to Destroy Babylon.
21. Prepare, &c.—charge to the Medes and Persians, as if they were God's conscious instruments.
his children—Belshazzar's (Ex 20:5).
rise—to occupy the places of their fathers.
fill … with cities—Maurer translates, "enemies," as the Hebrew means in 1Sa 28:16; Ps 139:20; namely, lest they inundate the world with their armies. Vitringa translates, "disturbers." In English Version the meaning is, "lest they fill the land with such cities" of pride as Babylon was.
22. against them—the family of the king of Babylon.
23. bittern—rather, "the hedgehog" [Maurer and Gesenius]. Strabo (16:1) states that enormous hedgehogs were found in the islands of the Euphrates.
pools—owing to Cyrus turning the waters of the Euphrates over the country.
Isa 14:24-27. A Fragment as to the Destruction of the Assyrians under Sennacherib.
This would comfort the Jews when captives in Babylon, being a pledge that God, who had by that time fulfilled the promise concerning Sennacherib (though now still future), would also fulfil His promise as to destroying Babylon, Judah's enemy.
25. That—My purpose, namely, "that."
break … yoke—(Isa 10:27).
26. This is … purpose … whole earth—A hint that the prophecy embraces the present world of all ages in its scope, of which the purpose concerning Babylon and Assyria, the then representatives of the world power, is but a part.
hand … stretched out upon—namely, in punishment (Isa 5:25).
27. (Da 4:35).
Isa 14:28-32. Prophecy against Philistia.
To comfort the Jews, lest they should fear that people; not in order to call the Philistines to repentance, since the prophecy was probably never circulated among them. They had been subdued by Uzziah or Azariah (2Ch 26:6); but in the reign of Ahaz (2Ch 28:18), they took several towns in south Judea. Now Isaiah denounces their final subjugation by Hezekiah.
28. In … year … Ahaz died—726 B.C. Probably it was in this year that the Philistines threw off the yoke put on them by Uzziah.
29. Palestina—literally, "the land of sojourners."
serpent's root—the stock of Jesse (Isa 11:1). Uzziah was doubtless regarded by the Philistines as a biting "serpent." But though the effects of his bite have been got rid of, a more deadly viper, or "cockatrice" (literally, "viper's offspring," as Philistia would regard him), namely, Hezekiah awaits you (2Ki 18:8).
30. first-born of … poor—Hebraism, for the most abject poor; the first-born being the foremost of the family. Compare "first-born of death" (Job 18:13), for the most fatal death. The Jews, heretofore exposed to Philistine invasions and alarms, shall be in safety. Compare Ps 72:4, "Children of the needy," expressing those "needy in condition."
feed—image from a flock feeding in safety.
He shall slay—Jehovah shall. The change of person, "He" after "I," is a common Hebraism.
31. gate—that is, ye who throng the gate; the chief place of concourse in a city.
from … north—Judea, north and east of Palestine.
smoke—from the signal-fire, whereby a hostile army was called together; the Jews' signal-fire is meant here, the "pillar of cloud and fire," (Ex 13:21; Ne 9:19); or else from the region devastated by fire [Maurer]. Gesenius less probably refers it to the cloud of dust raised by the invading army.
none … alone … in … appointed times—Rather, "There shall not be a straggler among his (the enemy's) levies." The Jewish host shall advance on Palestine in close array; none shall fall back or lag from weariness (Isa 5:26, 27), [Lowth]. Maurer thinks the Hebrew will not bear the rendering "levies" or "armies." He translates, "There is not one (of the Philistine watch guards) who will remain alone (exposed to the enemy) at his post," through fright. On "alone," compare Ps 102:7; Ho 8:9.