Isaiah 14:1-23 (NKJV)
For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob. Then people will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them for servants and maids in the land of the Lord; they will take them captive whose captives they were, and rule over their oppressors.
It shall come to pass in the day the Lord gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:
“How the oppressor has ceased, The golden city ceased!
The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, The scepter of the rulers;
He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke, He who ruled the nations in anger, Is persecuted and no one hinders.
The whole earth is at rest and quiet; They break forth into singing.
Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you, And the cedars of Lebanon, Saying, ‘Since you were cut down, No woodsman has come up against us.’
“Hell from beneath is excited about you, To meet you at your coming; It stirs up the dead for you, All the chief ones of the earth; It has raised up from their thrones All the kings of the nations.
They all shall speak and say to you: ‘Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us?
Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, And the sound of your stringed instruments; The maggot is spread under you, And worms cover you.’
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
“Those who see you will gaze at you, And consider you, saying: Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms,
Who made the world as a wilderness And destroyed its cities, Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’
“All the kings of the nations, All of them, sleep in glory, Everyone in his own house;
But you are cast out of your grave Like an abominable branch, Like the garment of those who are slain, Thrust through with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit, Like a corpse trodden underfoot.
You will not be joined with them in burial, Because you have destroyed your land And slain your people. The brood of evildoers shall never be named.
Prepare slaughter for his children Because of the iniquity of their fathers, Lest they rise up and possess the land, And fill the face of the world with cities.”
“For I will rise up against them,” says the Lord of hosts, “And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant, And offspring and posterity,” says the Lord.
“I will also make it a possession for the porcupine, And marshes of muddy water; I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” says the Lord of hosts.
Today we continue to look at how God will punish Babylon. Isaiah 14 opens up with hope — that God will have mercy on Jacob despite all that had been proclaimed, and allow them to settle in their own land. God would not let them just die off; the promise of redemption was real and present. Not only that, but Isaiah speaks of strangers who will come into the service of Israel. It was an invitation to the rest of the world to receive the blessings of God. These strangers would become captive to the Israelites, reversing the situation that they had been in. I’m not really sure what this verse is supposed to point to, because in no other part of the Bible does this part of Isaiah’s prophecy really come through. Even after being liberated by Cyrus, Israel was not a free nation much less an oppressor. After Persia came Rome, who was a superpower that only persecuted Israel even further. While this could be a loophole in the prophecy, more likely perhaps is the idea that Isaiah was not speaking of physical kingdoms but spiritual ones. Christ came and took under him the world as servants so that they may share in the salvation and blessings of Israel. This would not be a difficult link to make especially considering the Messianic prophecies that Isaiah had previously made and would make after in the book. It’s not about Israel taking arms and becoming a superpower nation but about the kingdom of God finally descending upon the nations. This probably would’ve helped a lot with the perspectives of the Israelites who took these prophesies literally and were waiting for political deliverance rather than spiritual deliverance. Isaiah then continues to talk about the fall of the king of Babylon. The previous chapter had already talked about how Babylon itself would meet its fall but here is a specific condemnation of the king of Babylon. Babylon here does not just refer to itself; for a big part of the Bible, mention of Babylon referred not only to the actual country but to the concept of a great superpower. Such was the might of Babylon. It’d be like how we talk about band-aids as a stand-in title for bandages, or Google as the stand-in for searching something on the web. Names have been linked to concepts because of how prominent they have become in a particular area. The king of Babylon therefore represents this idea of a ruler who was haught and wicked. Someone who struck the people continuously and ruled with wrath is persecuted by God. The result is singing and praise because no longer would the nations be cut down. Babylon itself was known as a country that devastated the nearby lands and now that it had fallen, this destruction would reduce both to the people and to nature. Meanwhile, hell greets the king of Babylon with open arms, sneering at his fall and the idea that such a great king could become weak, covered in “worms” and “maggots”. It is more evident here that the king of Babylon is not a mere person but a concept. For sure there were some kings of Babylon that were very prominent, but this is not merely about a single king. Rather, this is about the ‘king of Babylon’. Now we get to a part of the Bible that often gets interpreted strangely. Verse 12 talks about Lucifer and often times this has been linked to the devil. People make the assumption that the devil was called Lucifer and he was thrown down from heaven, creating a backstory for the devil. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but based on the context, this is not a separate part from the passage on the king of Babylon. This Lucifer, or ‘morning star’ as it is better translated, is a title given by the king of Babylon to himself. To be the shining star of the morning is to be basically the sun, which was seen as one of the foremost celestial bodies. Another candidate for the title of morning star would be Venus, which could shine bright in the early hours. Venus was worshipped in Babylonian culture as Ishtar and has been one of the goddesses whose history has transcended time. Regardless of the celestial body ‘morning star’ seems to refer to, there is the idea of someone so great that he has risen up to heaven, which would be fitting for the haughty arrogance displayed by the king of Babylon. From that lofty position, the king was cut to the ground. Note here that the phrase “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God” is an idea that would have been strange if it were used to refer to the devil. If Lucifer was really the name of an archangel that fell and become the Satan, then Lucifer would not have needed to ascend to heaven, being already part of it. This more likely is referring to how the king of Babylon claimed himself to be greater specifically than the God of Israel, who he had conquered. In response to that, God casts him towards Sheol, a theme that repeats in the previous passage. He who wishes to lift himself above the Lord would be cast down to the deepest depths. God reversed the notion of that haughty pride and flipped it in on its head. You see a repetition of the theme that this individual is mocked despite having been great before. So much so that despite kings in general being able to sleep in their own graves, the king of Babylon would be cast out and not joined with the slain in burial. Verse 12-21 are essentially a mirrored image of verse 4-11, repeating the ideas in reverse — of a brutal king who destroyed all, sent down to hell despite the pomp and arrogance. The point here would be verse 12, that the one who “weakened the nations” would be “cut down to the ground”. This is a strong reminder that our strength is nothing in the face of the Lord Almighty. The final message for Babylon is that of destruction. Babylon would be cut off forever from the world, swept away by the “broom of destruction” and no longer remembered as a nation.
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.