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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 L ord of hosts is mustering

an army for battle.


They come from a distant land,

from the end of the heavens,

the L ord and the weapons of his indignation,

to destroy the whole earth.



Wail, for the day of the L ord 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 L ord 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 L ord 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.

1. The burden of Babylon From this chapter down to the twenty-fourth, the Prophet foretells what dreadful and shocking calamities awaited the Gentiles and those countries which were best known to the Jews, either on account of their being contiguous to them, or on account of the transactions of commerce and alliances; and he does so not without weighty reasons. When various changes are taking place, some think that God sports with the affairs of men, and others, that everything is directed by the blind violence of fortune, as profane history sufficiently testifies; very few are aware that these things are appointed and regulated by the purpose of God. There is nothing of which it is more difficult to convince men than that the providence of God governs this world. Many indeed acknowledge it in words, but very few have it actually engraven on their heart. We tremble and shudder at the very smallest change, and we inquire into the causes, as if it depended on the decision of men. What then shall be done, when the whole world is thrown into commotion, and the face of affairs is so completely changed in various places, that it appears as if everything were going to ruin?

It was therefore highly useful that Isaiah and other prophets should discourse about calamities of this nature, that all might understand that those calamities did not take place but by the secret and wonderful purpose of God. If they had uttered no prediction on those subjects, such a disordered state of affairs might have shaken and disturbed the minds of the godly; but when they knew long beforehand that this would happen, they had in the event itself a mirror of the providence of God. When Babylon was taken, which they had previously learned from the mouth of the Prophet, their own experience taught them that the prediction had not been made in vain, or without solid grounds.

But there was also another reason why the Lord commanded that the destruction of Babylon and other nations should be foretold. These predictions were of no advantage to Babylon or the other nations, and these writings did not reach them; but by this consolation he intended to alleviate the grief of the godly, that they might not be discouraged, as if their condition were worse than that of the Gentiles; which they would have had good reason to conclude, if they had seen them unpunished escape the hand of God. If the monarchy of Babylon had remained unshaken, the Jews would not only have thought that it was in vain for them to worship God, and that his covenant which he had made with Abraham had not been fulfilled, since it fared better with strangers and wicked men than with the elect people; but a worse suspicion might have crept into their minds, that God showed favor to accursed robbers, who gave themselves up to deeds of dishonesty and violence, and despised all law both human and divine. Indeed, they might soon have come to think that God did not care for his people, or could not assist them, or that everything was directed by the blind violence of fortune. Accordingly, that they might not faint or be thrown into despair, the Prophet meets them with the consoling influence of this prediction, showing that the Babylonians also will be punished.

Besides, the comparison taught them how severe was the punishment that awaited them, which they had knowingly and willingly brought upon themselves. For if God pronounces such dreadful threatenings against the unbelieving and irreligious Gentiles, who wandered in darkness, how much greater will be his rigour and severity against a rebellious people who have intentionally sinned against him!

The servant who knoweth his master’s will, and doeth it not, is justly beaten with many stripes. (Luke 12:47.)

Thus when God threatened such dreadful punishment against the blind Gentiles, the Jews, who had been instructed in the law, might behold as in a mirror what they had deserved.

But the chief design which Isaiah had in view in these predictions was, to point out to the Jews how dear and valuable their salvation was in the sight of God, when they saw that he undertook their cause and revenged the injuries which had been done to them. He spoke first of the desolation and ruin that would befall the kingdom of Judah and of Israel, because judgment must begin at the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17.) God takes a peculiar care of his own people, and gives his chief attention to them. Whenever therefore we read these predictions, let us learn to apply them to our use. The Lord does not indeed, at the present day, foretell the precise nature of those events which shall befall kingdoms and nations; but yet the government of the world, which he undertook, is not abandoned by him. Whenever therefore we behold the destruction of cities, the calamities of nations, and the overturning of kingdoms, let us call those predictions to remembrance, that we may be humbled under God’s chastisements, may learn to gather wisdom from the affliction of others, and may pray for an alleviation of our own grief.

The burden. As to the word burden, which frequently occurs, I shall state briefly in what sense it ought to be understood. It was generally employed by the prophets of God, whenever they threatened any afflictive event, in order to inform the people that no afflictive event happened which the Lord himself did not lay as a burden on men’s shoulders. The wickedness and obstinacy of the people having constrained the prophets to preach incessantly about God’s chastisements, the consequence was, that as a matter of ordinary jesting they called all the prophecies by the name of a burden; as is evident from Jeremiah 23:36, where the Lord kindles into fierce indignation, because they not only spoke of his word contemptuously, but also held it up to dislike. This word makes known to the godly, that the Lord appoints all calamities and afflictions, that every one may suffer the punishment of his own sin.

Which Isaiah, the son of Amoz, saw. He expressly states that what he is about to utter was revealed to him by a heavenly vision, that the weight which is thus given to it may render it victorious over all the judgments pronounced by the flesh. It was difficult to believe that a monarchy so flourishing, and so prodigiously rich, could be overturned in any way. Their eyes being dazzled by beholding such vast power, the Prophet draws away their attention from it to believe the heavenly revelation, that they may expect by faith the judgment of God which they could not comprehend by the unaided exercise of their own minds.

2. Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain. The word mountain contains a metaphor; for the discourse relates to Babylon, which, we know, was situated on a plain; but with a view to its extensive dominion, he has assigned to it an elevated situation, like a fortress set on high above all nations. But perhaps it will be thought better to take the word mountain as used indefinitely; as if he had said, “When a signal is given there will be a vast assemblage from very distant countries, because all men will be attracted towards it by the wide and extensive influence of the sight;” and, indeed, I consider this opinion to be more probable, but I chose to mention at first the opinion which had been commonly received. Yet it might be thought absurd that the Prophet here enjoins the creatures to yield, as it were, obedience to him, if God had not fortified the Prophet by his instructions and authority. A private man here commands the Medes and Persians, assembles armies, orders a banner to be lifted up, and sounds the trumpet for battle.

This should therefore lead us to consider the majesty of God, in whose name he spoke, and likewise the power and efficacy which is always joined with the word. Such modes of expression are frequently found in the Prophets, that, by placing the events as it were before our eyes, he may enable us to see that God threatens nothing by his servants which he is not ready immediately to execute. Isaiah might indeed have threatened in plain and direct terms, “The Persians and Medes will come, and will burst through the gates of Babylon, notwithstanding the prodigious strength of its fortifications.” But those exclamations are far more energetic, when he not only assumes the character of a herald and proclaims war, but, as if he exercised the highest authority, orders the Medes and Persians to assemble like hired soldiers. Not only does he show that they will be ready at the bidding of God, because they are moved by his secret influence; but, having been sent by God to announce the ruin of Babylon, he claims for his own voice the accomplishment of what appeared to be beyond belief. It amounts to this, “When God hath spoken about what shall happen, we ought to entertain no doubt concerning it.” It deserves our notice also, that he describes the Persians and Medes, without mentioning their names; for that threatening is more emphatic, when he points them out, as it were, with the finger, as when we say, “This and that man.” This contributes to the certainty of the prophecy, when he points out such distant events as if they were at hand.

Shake the hand, that they may enter within the gates of the nobles. When he says, Shake the hand, and they shall enter, he means that the Persians and Medes shall no sooner begin to advance at the command of God than their road shall be plain and easy in spite of every obstruction. Though the Hebrews call Princes נדיבים, (Nedibim,) that is, generous and bountiful, on which is also founded that saying of Christ, εὐεργέται καλοῦνται, they are called benefactors, (Luke 22:25,) yet I think that the Prophet draws our attention to the splendor of power in which the Babylonians gloried. They were furnished above others with forces and warlike armaments, so that it appeared to be incredible that they could ever be vanquished. But the Prophet threatens that nothing shall hinder God from opening up a way and entrance to the enemies.

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