We now enter into the second great division in the Book of Isaiah. Beginning in Isaiah 13 and continuing through chapter 27 we have prophecies concerning the nations that surround Israel, Judah and Jerusalem. Isaiah prophecies the judgments that will befall the nations and God triumph over this world’s governments. Nation after nation is judged for their failure to heed God’s warnings, for their opposition and rebellion against God and God’s commands. We encounter one of the great themes in both the book of Isaiah and the Bible; resistance and rebellion against God result in judgment. But even within the prophecies, the warnings—are rays of hope—God is willing to save those who will repent and turn to Him.
God will defeat all enemies who oppose Him and His people.
The Bible teaches that there is an invisible war going on all around us.
When we look at ancient prophecies we sometimes wonder what this has to do with us. Each generation is confronted with the message to either choose the Lord or be doomed in the Day of Judgment. Judgment Day is coming. Throughout these prophecies, the Lord consistently offers the promise of salvation to all who truly turn to Him, repent of their sins and live righteously.
The next several chapters will deal with the nations of Arabia, Assyria, Babylon, Cush, Damascus or Syria, Edom, Egypt, Moab, Philistia and Tyre. Isaiah will give a prophecy and record the reason for judgment. In each case will see the application for our lives and circumstances.
Chapter 13 begins with the nation Babylon. Isaiah prophetically pronounces the fact that an army would be stirred up, that this army would inflict great wrath and terror upon Babylon. The destruction of Babylon would be like Sodom and Gomorrah—complete— final.
God was revealing this prophecy because Babylon would several centuries down the road, destroy Jerusalem, destroy the Temple, enslave the people of Judea and Jerusalem. God would deliver His people from bondage. In the final days, God will judge this world’s evil system, that stands in perpetual opposition to God and the things of God. One day God will put an end to all rebellion. God will punish all who defy the only true and living God; and that punishment will be eternal. The Lord God will deliver His people from a world of sin and persecution. After the defeat of Babylon in the end times, the evil world system will never rise again.
"because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”" (Acts 17:31, NKJV)
Babylon Destroyed (1-22)
" The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. " (Isaiah 13:1, NKJV) The word translated “burden” is the Hebrew word “massa” can mean something lifted or carried.
The idea is to carry an extremely heavy load.
The message of judgment weighed heavily on the prophet’s heart.
The message of judgment weighs heavily on any person who has had to make the
uncomfortable decision to warn family and friends that sin is evil, wicked, consequential. It is never easy to say—stop sinning or face the consequences of God’s judgment.
In this case the message is directed towards Babylon, but the people of Judah and Jerusalem would have been well aware of Isaiah’s message for them.
Some have suggested that Isaiah did not really write this “oracle” or prophecy. Certain scholars simply presume that people cannot know the future. We believe that God does know the future and has the ability to communicate that future through His prophets. I believe in predictive prophecy.
Remember, in the Bible—Babylon often represents the governments of men, the evil, wicked, government systems that stand in opposition to God, and the Kingdom of God. A frightening, graphic description is given of Babylon’s complete collapse.
The Banner Raised (vv.2-5)
"“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
Isaiah sees a banner raised on a high mountain.
The Bible teaches that God plans, orchestrates, moves people, armies and nations. God will stir an army to come against Babylon. That army is the army of the Medes (v. 17).
In 612 B.C. to 609 B.C. the Medes joined the Babylonians in defeating the Syrians. In 539 B.C., the Medes formed an alliance with King Cyrus of Persia to conquer Babylon. In His sovereign power, God stirs the heart of leaders, of nations to be His agents on the earth.
In dealing with Babylon the Lord would arouse the Medes to raise a banner for war. A loud shout and the waving of the hands would summon the armies to quickly mobilize. They were being brought together to attack the gates of the nobles (or the palaces—the strongholds of the princes of Babylon).
Isaiah refers to them as “my sanctified ones”. They are set apart by God for His purpose. Behind the scenes of world history the Lord Himself was orchestrating the assembly and uniting their armies. God had appointed them to be the instrument of His judgment. God’s appointment of the Medes had nothing to do with the Medes being holy, or righteous, or more noble than the Babylonians. This was not about a morally superior country subduing a morally inferior community.
The noise of Kingdoms of nations gathered together:
Isaiah predicts a great number of nations joining the forces; what we might call a national army. This army would be God’s agent to execute His judgment. This multi-national coalition would destroy the whole country of Babylon (v.5). The Army is said to be the weapon of God’s anger and God’s wrath.
Yet –I am certain they did not realize they were being used by God to accomplish God’s purposes. Just like most unbelievers—have no idea that an invisible God works in the visible circumstances of mankind, to accomplish His plans.
The Description of Judgment (vv.6-16)
"Wail, for the day of the Lord is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. " (Isaiah 13:6, NKJV)
Warren Wiersbe gives a summary of what happened to the city of Babylon as well as pointing to God’s judgment in the last days of human history;
The city of Babylon was completely destroyed in 689 B.C. by Sennacherib and the Assyrian army, but it was rebuilt by Sennacherib’s son. In 539 B.C. Darius the Mede captured the city (Dan. 5:31), but he did not destroy it. In the centuries that followed, Babylon had its “shining moments,” but after the death of its last great conqueror, Alexander the Great, the city declined and soon was no more. Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled, for the city was not rebuilt.
But it is clear that Isaiah’s prophecy describes something more significant than the ups and downs of an ancient city. The prophets often began a message by focusing on local events, but then enlarged their vision to reveal something greater. Isaiah saw the fall of Babylon a picture of “the Day of the LORD”(Isa. 13:6,9,13), that time when God will pour out His wrath on the whole world (v.11). The image of the woman in travail is used in Scripture to describe a time of judgment (v.8, 21:3; 26:17; Jer. 6:24; Micah 4:9-10; Matt. 24:8; where sorrows is birth pains. . .)
Isaiah looked beyond that day to the day when the Babylonian world system would be destroyed (Rev.17-18)(see Be Comforted, pp.44-45).
The people cry out in utter terror. They scream as the Day of the Lord approaches. The Day of the Lord will bring execution of true justice. People –mankind—will get what they deserve. Think carefully—the Day of the Lord—people will not be able to prevent it or endure it.
Remember the prophecy has a dual meaning—it applies to the destruction of a physical Babylon—but also to a future Babylon—is that Babylon rebuilt—or spiritual? It would appear that spiritual Babylon—the Kingdoms of Men—who stand in opposition to God—will also be brought down—at the end of human history.
"Therefore all hands will be limp, Every man’s heart will melt, " (Isaiah 13:7, NKJV)
"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. " (Isaiah 13:8, NKJV)
The Day of the Lord brings unparalleled terror. Hands are weakened and fall limp. People are overwhelmed with fear and gripped by pain, like the pain of a woman in labor. Their faces like flames—People look at each other—see the horror and the pain—and the helplessness and can do nothing. It is like being caught in a burning building—and knowing there is no escape.
"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. " (Isaiah 13:9-10, NKJV)
There are repeated prophecies concerning atmospheric and astronomical phenomena. Some have suggested that the earth may actually change its axis, or rotation.
The whole world will be affected by God’s judgment.
"“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. " (Isaiah 13:11, NKJV)
Isaiah’s prophecy is extended to the whole world, the world of human beings. Including our world. The wicked will be judged for their sins, the proud for their arrogance, and the ruthless for their haughtiness. Remember haughtiness means “high mindedness”. The high minded are those who elevate human reason above the revelation of God. "I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, A man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. " (Isaiah 13:12, NKJV)
Following the judgment of God –there will be few survivors. Leupold points out there are two words used for man—in this verse—one refers to the average man on the streets, the other to the strong, the mighty, the important, the noble, the once populous Babylon will have few people left. After the judgment of the last days—it would appear that only a few believers survive.
"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. " (Isaiah 13:13, NKJV)
The day of the Lord seems to be a day that effects the whole universe.
" Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?" (2 Peter 3:1-12, NKJV)
"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. " (Isaiah 13:14, NKJV)
The day will be a day of savage brutality. The gazelle is fast—but no matter how fast you are—you will not run fast enough to escape the judgment. The people of Babylon will be captured or killed. In utter horror the citizens of Babylon will watch their children die, their property looted, their wives and their daughters raped.
"“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. " (Isaiah 13:17-18, NKJV)
Isaiah reminds the reader—the Medes cannot be bought off—no amount of gold or silver will satisfy them. They want revenge. They were motivated by what they suffered under
"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.”" (Isaiah 13:19-22, NKJV)
The destruction of Babylon will be total and permanent. Remember Babylon is the symbol of all that is false and stands in opposition to God. Babylon is every evil civilization that stands in opposition to God.
Verse 20—can be translated---“SHE will not be inhabited for a long time and she will not be lived in for generation after generation” (see Walvoord and Zuck, Editors;
BibleKnowledge Commentary; p.1060).
Some Bible teachers have suggested—that Babylon will be rebuilt in the last days---only to be destroyed one more time. After Babylon’s destruction—only wild animals will be able to survive the devastated land. Isaiah declared Babylon’s days were numbered, its destruction—certain.
We know the world will face a final day of judgment. God is going to execute justice. God will avenge all evil. The Scriptures teach that a record is being kept of every word and every deed—every thought.
"But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment." (Matthew 12:36, NKJV)
"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ," (2 Corinthians 10:3-5, NKJV)