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Isaiah 13

Daniel Tan

Isaiah 13 (NKJV)

The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.

“Lift up a banner on the high mountain, Raise your voice to them; Wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles.

I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger — Those who rejoice in My exaltation.”

The noise of a multitude in the mountains, Like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The Lord of hosts musters The army for battle.

They come from a far country, From the end of heaven — The Lord and His weapons of indignation, To destroy the whole land.

Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty.

Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man’s heart will melt,

And they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; They will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; They will be amazed at one another; Their faces will be like flames.

Behold, the day of the Lord comes, Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, To lay the land desolate; And He will destroy its sinners from it.

For the stars of heaven and their constellations Will not give their light; The sun will be darkened in its going forth, And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

“I will punish the world for its evil, And the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir.

Therefore I will shake the heavens, And the earth will move out of her place, In the wrath of the Lord of hosts And in the day of His fierce anger.

It shall be as the hunted gazelle, And as a sheep that no man takes up; Every man will turn to his own people, And everyone will flee to his own land.

Everyone who is found will be thrust through, And everyone who is captured will fall by the sword.

Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; Their houses will be plundered And their wives ravished.

“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, Who will not regard silver; And as for gold, they will not delight in it.

Also their bows will dash the young men to pieces, And they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; Their eye will not spare children.

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, The beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

It will never be inhabited, Nor will it be settled from generation to generation; Nor will the Arabian pitch tents there,

Nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there.

But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches will dwell there, And wild goats will caper there.

The hyenas will howl in their citadels, And jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, And her days will not be prolonged.”

Today we will look at the prophecy against Babylon.

This is the first of the burdens against countries that are not Israel, a message and warning towards those who believed that they were above the destruction that they witnessed and caused to God's holy nation. The word “burden” used here is massa in Hebrew, meaning ‘burden’ or ‘load’. This is an oracle of weight and heft towards those who hear it, in this case Babylon.

It is unlikely that Isaiah actually went to all these nations to prophesy and therefore warn them. Rather, these oracles served as some form of comfort to Israel that even though these enemies would come, they would not go unpunished by the Lord simply because these nations were being used as tools for the Lord to carry out His wrath on Israel.

The Lord here is depicted to muster His soldiers for war. You “lift up a banner” if there is a need to gather an army and true enough, the depiction here is that of those sanctified by God who have been called to apply God's anger. The size of the army is like that of a multitude of people, a stirring of masses. The kingdoms are gathered together from all ends “to destroy the whole land”.

Here, the Lord’s army is depicted as this unstoppable force that will rage throughout the land. The following stanzas of the poetic prophecy talk about the day of the Lord. The notion of it is similar and more impressive than our conceptions of D-Day in the face of war settings. Destruction doesn’t just come in the form of bullets and artillery shells. It comes from the Lord himself.

The fear that those who are besieged is real. Isaiah states that “every man’s heart will melt and they will be afraid”, almost as if a “woman in childbirth” will they experience pain. Comparing this to the haughtiness and the greatest that Babylon had as a nation, this is a stark difference. Verse 10 notes that the celestial lights (sun, moon, stars) “will be darkened” in the wake of the Lord. If you remember, the king of Babylon has described himself as the morning star, and the idea of Babylon as almost heavenly was an idea spread throughout the nations due to its greatness. The Lord puts an end to this through His power.

The world will be punished for its evil. God doesn't simply destroy for the sake of it. Destruction here is a cleansing force used by God to right the world. The imagery depicted isn’t just of Babylon ending, but the world itself. The magnitude of destruction that Isaiah prophesied would befall Babylon is great. And without a doubt the eventual fall of Babylon in 539BC was catastrophic.

Indeed, Isaiah directly quotes the events that would happen to Babylon. That the Medes, who did not have any regard for the riches, simply massacred all. No one was spared, whether men or women, young or old. Even pregnant women were not spared. The glory of Babylon was destroyed and Babylon never again came to rise. Nothing would ever exist where Babylon once was, except the “wild beasts of the desert”.

The detail and precision of the last part of this prophecy was so great that critics believed that Isaiah was writing in post rather than in present. However, if this is indeed a future seeing oracle, then it further demonstrates the absolute power that God has in deciding the fate of all but that He does not execute unless truly necessary.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.

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