Isaiah 13–14. God Deals With the Nations. Pt I. Babylon.
Key Notes: Prophecy of future empires. The King of Babylon. Babylon as an evil power. Our place in the culture.
Is God's dealing with Israel a unique case? Have we any reason to think that God cares about or deals with other nations? In Isaiah 13–23 we will learn part of the answer: Babylon.
Isa.13–14 can be viewed as a palindrome:
A1.The Day of the Lord. Destruction of the earth. 13:2–16.
B1. The overthrow of Babylon. 13:17–22.
C. The security of future Israel. 14:1–2
B2. The overthrow of the King of Babylon. 14:3–23
A2.The end of Assyrian power; God's purpose concerning the whole earth. 14:24–27
Packaged in the center is C, the future consolation of Israel. That is the heart of the message.
13:1–16. God summons His consecrated ones to the Great Battle. The near-event is the destruction of Babylon. We do not know if these are heavenly hosts, or human instruments. The armies of many nations are (?also) gathered together to destroy the whole earth. The intent is to destroy sinners, the wicked, the arrogant, the ruthless. When they are gone there will be hardly anyone left. Men, women and children will be killed.
13:17–22 The destruction of Babylon is seen as a near-event modeling that Final Battle. Joel 1–2 uses a locust invasion to describe the end of Israel in 586 BC and the eventual Last Days. In a similar way, Jesus' prophecy in Matt.24:15–31 describes the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD as a near fulfillment of the Last Days. IIPet.3:10–13 describes a fiery end to the world with establishment of a new heavens and earth, as the final cataclysm.
The stunning aspect of this prophecy is that the Medes are named as Babylon's conqueror. At the time of Isaiah's writing, Assyria had not yet ascended to world power. Babylon was still on the horizon. The Medes and Persians were not even a consideration. Isaiah is writing about 700BC. Assyria would be overcome by Babylon. Babylon was conquered by Darius the Mede in 539BC. The city of Babylon was finally demolished by the Greeks around 100BC. It has never been rebuilt. (Isa.13:20). The prophet sees far into the future. The argument that the prophet only sees what happens in his time denies the work of God's Spirit.
14:1–2 In the midst of violence, God's plan is that Israel will return with the help of the Gentiles. They will make slaves and "rule over their oppressors" suggests an event yet to come. The support of Israel by the people of the USA, especially evangelicals, since 1914 is a history worth reading. Some of the early Christian leaders were called Zionists.
14:3–23 The apex of Babylon is its King, presumably Nebuchadnezzar. Israel will in later years be able to sing this lament against the king of Babylon. The earth is at rest now that he is gone. He is dead, fallen as if a star from Heaven, cut down to the ground because of his pride and ambition to be above God. He said "I will..." five times, marking his fierce desire to take the throne of heaven.
"I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God,
I will set my throne on high;
I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
Now he is dwelling in Sheol, clothed with the slain, covered with worms, not buried in state but cast out and trodden under foot. He is worse off than the other leaders of the earth. His sons will not be allowed to rebuild Babylon.
14:24–27 As a final note, Assyria will be broken in Judah. The story is told in Isa.36–39. This is God's purpose and it cannot be annulled.
14:28–32 "in the year that King Ahaz, died came this oracle...." When King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord, high and lifted up. (6:1–13). The prophetic burden of that chapter was that Israel would be cut to the stump. In the year that King Ahaz died came a prophecy of Philistia's destruction and the promise if Israel's refuge in Zion.
The passage raises many questions.
Why is Babylon so important?
•Babylon was a city built at the beginning of civilization in rebellion against God. Gen.11:1–9
•Shortly after Isaiah's time, Babylon will be the final destroyer of Israel as an sovereign nation. Israel was not to be a sovereign state again for 2500 years.
•In Daniel, Babylon was the first part of the world system that was succeeded by Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the revived Roman Empire. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. Dan.2:31–45
•In Revelation, Babylon is the city-state that "has dominion over the kings of the earth." (Rev.17:18). She rides on the back of the Beast. (Rev.17:3). The Beast appears to be the Anti-Christ who is energized by the Dragon or Satan. (Rev.13:2). Babylon is "drunk with the blood of the saints and the blood of the martyrs of Jesus." (Rev.17:6).
Babylon is portrayed thus at the beginning, the middle and the end of history, as the enemy of God and God's people. In the end times it dominates the world until it is overthrown, burned with fire. Rev.18:8
Is the King of Babylon Satan?
Are we seeing here a description of the fall of an angel? The king is called Day-Star, Son of Dawn. The Day-Star is the morning star, Venus in astrology. "Falling from Heaven" (Isa.14:12) reminds us of Jesus saying "I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven." (Lk.10:18). Rev.12:7 describes the great dragon thrown down from heaven to earth.
However, the commentators are reluctant to assign Isa.14:2 to Satan. For one thing, Christ is the Day-Star. "I am the root and offspring of David, the bright morning star." (Rev.22:16). Peter refers to the "Morning star" arising in your hearts. (IIPet.1:19). The Church of Thyatira is promised "the Morning Star." (Rev.2:28). So the king of Babylon is more like a god--a Christ-figure ruling Babylon, extremely powerful and proud. Nebuchadnezzar's god-image fits the concept well. (Dan.2, 4).
Satan should probably not be called "Lucifer"--Light-bearer--although he masquerades as an angel of light. He is the Accuser, Beelzebub, Belial, the Dragon, Diabolus, Liar, Murderer from the beginning. (IICor.11:14).
(New Bible Dictionary. JD Douglas, edit; Tyndale,’82: "lucifer".)
Nevertheless, we see Satanic power behind Babylon in Rev.17:7,and we may infer demonic power behind the king of Babylon in Isaiah's time. We also read of the Prince of Persia and the Prince of Greece opposing Michael, the Archangel (Dan.10:13,20), supporting the idea of demonic power influencing great world leaders, opposed to God.
We are a part of a great world-system which may not be Babylon but is an image or a precursor of it. It may be what we can now see emerging: a global economy, a unified Europe, America with overwhelming military power, rapid communication, and fast travel. But it does not, for now, engage in intense persecution. But we are no more in control of "The System" than Israel was of Babylon. Are we on the outside or the inside of "The System"? Both. But God warns us "not to participate in her sins." (Rev.18:4).
We are faced with dilemmas as were the Christians in Rome 2000 years ago. We must avoid being seduced by the culture-- we, and the children who come after us. There is a swirl of seductions that threatens to sweep us under and we try to find our way through it. The following table has some suggestions for lines we may draw in the culture.
We say "no"to:
|free speech||relativism (everyone is right)|
|human beauty||worship of sexuality|