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Isaiah 13:1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw- Isaiah is here specifically named as the human author. A document like this against a superpower was a dangerous thing to be author of, but he unashamedly stands up for his belief that the present system shall come crashing down- as we should. Hezekiah ended his days seeking friendship with the Babylonians (Is. 39), and this prophecy stood to condemn his seeking friendship from them. No wonder Jewish tradition has it that Hezekiah's son sawed Isaiah in half for his prophecies. Anyone who condemns "friendship with the world" faces similar hostility.

As explained on Is. 1:1, the first part of Isaiah concerns the Assyrian threat in the time of Isaiah. The appeals for repentance appear to have produced some fruit, and due to them, as well as the intercession of the remnant and also the arrogance of Assyria in refusing to be a mere tool in God's hand, the threatened Assyrian destruction of Zion didn't happen. See on Jer. 18:8-10. But Hezekiah and Judah generally didn't respond to that as fully as they might have done. And so the historical interlude concludes with the news that they are to go into captivity in Babylon. But the later part of Isaiah then goes straight on to speak of their restoration from there into a reestablished Kingdom of God in Judah; although the final section of Isaiah laments that these potential possibilities were being precluded by Judah's unspirituality. The essence of the prophecies will come ultimately true in the establishment of God's Kingdom and the repentance of Israel in the last days; albeit in a reinterpreted and rescheduled manner. And so the material about Assyria became reapplied to Babylon. Harry Whittaker correctly noted how "Assyria" and "Babylon" are used interchangeably in several places. I would argue that the terms are not interchangeable, as they were two separate entities. Rather is the confusion because the material about Assyria was reapplied and transferred to Babylon. And this transference was reflected in the way that Isaiah was perhaps rewritten, under inspiration, as explained on Is. 1:1.

Isaiah 13:2 Set up a banner on the bare mountain! Lift up your voice to them! Wave your hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles- An obvious question occurs in interpreting this chapter: Is it about a Babylonian invasion of Judah which results in Babylon being judged and destroyed by the Medes, or is it all about the fall of Babylon to the Medes? I suggest that the ambiguity of the language is intentional. The judgments Babylon was to bring upon Judah were brought upon her. This is a common feature of Divine judgment of His people's enemies. The book of Revelation therefore has clear parallels between the judgments upon Israel, and those upon the beast system which brings those judgments.

This verse may therefore refer to Babylon coming to mount Zion and mocking it, and then going in to destroy the palatial homes of the nobles (Jer. 52:13). The waving of their hand against Zion would have been seen in the Assyrian mockery of Zion in a similar way in Is. 37:23; the Assyrians did "wave the hand" against Zion, with the same phrase used in Is. 10:32. But the LXX makes the text apply to the fall of Babylon, a city built on the plain of Dura: "Lift up a standard on the mountain of the plain, exalt the voice to them, beckon with the hand, open the gates, ye rulers". This would then refer to how some accounts of the fall of Babylon unearthed by Layard claim that some disaffected with the king opened the gates to the Medes.

The ensign set up on mount Zion would refer to the "pole" upon which the serpent was lifted up, representing the crucified Lord Jesus (Num. 21:8 s.w.). In the latter day application, this is to be the spiritual rallying point for the repentant remnant of both Judah and the surrounding nations (s.w. Is. 11:10,12; 18:3; 30:17; 31:9; 49:22; 62:10). Although this was precluded from happening at the time because those remnants didn't repent, it will become gloriously true in the last days.

Isaiah 13:3 I have commanded My consecrated ones; yes, I have called My mighty men for My anger, even My proudly exulting ones-
The language here is clearly alluding to Angels as well as the Babylonians / Assyrians who were to invade Judah, and also to the Medes who were to invade Babylon. The Angels rejoiced in Yahweh's greatness, and the invading soldiers in their own greatness. This is to demonstrate that the geopolitics of the world go in waves, and they are all directly under the control of the Angelic armies of heaven. Ezekiel gives the same message, with the cherubim controlling both Judah and the Babylonians.

Hence in :4 we read that the Lord of hosts (Angels) mustered the host of the battle. Yet we clearly read elsewhere that "the Angel of the Lord" went out and smote the Assyrians. So we have some Angels sent with a mission to bring the Assyrians there  and others sent to destroy them. Other Angels are actually described as the armies themselves, the weapons of indignation against the land of Israel. And another Angel 'destroys' them. So here we have the wondrous ways of God, absolute unity in absolute diversity.

All these things will come to their ultimate term in the last days. Is. 13 has many links with Joel's prophecy, which clearly refers to the last days as well as immediate situations with the Babylonians and Assyrians; :8,10 connect with the latter day prophecy of Luke 21.

Isaiah 13:4 The noise of a multitude is in the mountains, as of a great people; the noise of an uproar of the kingdoms of the nations gathered together! Yahweh of Armies is mustering the army for the battle-
See on :3. In the context of Babylon's judgment, "the “mountains” would be the Zagros range, North East of Babylon, from where the  Medes came. But Babylon likewise invaded Judah from the North East, appearing to come towards them leaping on the mountains (Joel 2:2,5 etc.). What they did to God's people was done to them. As explained on :3, all these things happened with the same Divine hallmark upon them, because the same Angels were manipulating the situation.

Isaiah 13:5 They come from a far country, from the uttermost part of heaven, even Yahweh, and the weapons of His indignation, to destroy the whole land-
Assyria and Babylon were Yahweh's weapons (Is. 10), intended to destroy the whole land of Israel. But the language is just as true of the Medes being used to destroy Babylon. Just as Babylon had been the nation from the north who would bring God' judgments, so now she is to be judged from the north. She was to be made to realize how she had made others feel. It is not simply so that 'what goes around comes around'; there is a purpose in these judgments repeating themselves. It was so that those who had witnessed and participated in the judgment of Israel might come to see how it felt, and thereby repent. We too are at times made to feel the effect of our actions upon others- for the same reason.

Time and again the prophets describe the judgments to fall upon Israel in the same terms as they speak of the condemnations of the surrounding nations (e.g. Jer. 50:3,13). The message was clear: rejected Israel would be treated as Gentiles. Even if we are separated from this world externally, we can still act in a worldly way, and share the world's condemnation.

The judgment was to be upon all Babylonia, "the whole land", not just the city of Babylon. All attempts to apply this verse solely to the city of Babylon are therefore misplaced; it refers to all Babylonia. And the whole area didn't become a literal desert; the fertile crescent remained fertile. This recalls how the similar judgments upon the area of Edom likewise didn't come about at the time; see on Jer. 49:18. But this will happen in the last days.

Isaiah 13:6 Wail; for the day of Yahweh is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty-
Is "Wail!" an invitation for Babylon to repent and cry to God? This verse is about verbatim in Joel 1:15 where it is an appeal for Judah to repent before the Assyrians or Babylonians destroyed them. But now it is true of those nations themselves. Jer. 18:8 clearly states that this purpose could have been changed. It was God's intention that all the nations around Israel would repent along with His people, and turn to Him. Even Babylon could have repented at this point. "Therefore hear the counsel of Yahweh..." in Jer. 50:45 is also an appeal for repentance. That God should make so much effort with hardened worldlings... indicates His depth of concern for human salvation. And it should encourage us in our witness. Jer. 51:8 puts it like this: "Wail for her; take her balm for her pain, if so be she may be healed". This opens another window into what God potentially planned at this time. Balm in Jer. 46:11 refers to repentance.

Isaiah 13:7 Therefore all hands will be feeble, and everyone’s heart will melt-
This is not quite the same as the impression given by surface level Bible teachers that the king of Babylon was rejoicing in his city, confident in his own strength, when the Medes diverted the course of the Euphrates and took the city by surprise. The record in Daniel 5 is correct, but that record doesn't contradict the information given here- that the king was already deeply concerned at the advance of the Medes. Here we read that he was feeble at the news of the enemy advance. Hence we should give due weight to the discovery by Layard of inscriptions which say that Babylon opened her own gates in surrender.


Isaiah 13:8 They will be dismayed. Pangs and sorrows will seize them, they will be in pain like a woman in labour. They will look in amazement one at another, their faces will be faces of flickering flame-
Even this figure suggests that something is to be brought forth; the Divine hope was that Babylon's sufferings would lead to a repentant Gentile remnant who could join in His reestablished Kingdom. See on :6. And the language here is that of Jerusalem's sufferings (Jer. 4:9 etc.), and likewise it was God's hope that a repentant remnant would be elicited by their sufferings. But this didn't happen, and so these things are transferred to the last days. Then, the day of the Lord will result in the wicked being "in pain as of a woman that travaileth" (Is. 13:8; is quoted in 1 Thess. 5:3). The Lord also seems to have alluded to this when He spoke of how the faithful just before His coming would be like a woman in travail, with the subsequent joy on delivery matching the elation of acceptance at Christ's return (Jn. 16:21). So, it's travail- or travail, especially in the last days. If we choose the way of the flesh, it will be travail for nothing, bringing forth in vain (this is seen as a characteristic of all worldly life in Is. 65:23). We either cut off the flesh now (in spiritual circumcision), or God will cut us off. This point was made when the rite of circumcision was first given: "The uncircumcised [un-cut off] man... shall be cut off" (Gen. 17:14).

Isaiah 13:9 Behold, the day of Yahweh comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger; to make the land a desolation, and to destroy its sinners out of it-
As explained on :18, the judgments here are not only upon the city of Babylon, but upon the entire "land of the Chaldeans", Babylonia. The scale of sudden destruction implied didn't happen when the Medes took Babylon. The prophetic scenario projected in these prophecies didn't fully happen, although it will do so ultimately in the last days, as Rev. 18 makes clear. The intention of the desolation of the land, both of Judah and Babylon, was to destroy the sinners and leave a repentant, righteous remnant. This wasn't the outcome; perhaps because God foresaw that, He didn't bring the full potential extent of these judgments, neither on Babylon nor on Judah.

Isaiah 13:10 For the stars of the sky and its 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-
These words are applied in the Olivet prophecy to the situation in the last days (Mt. 24:29). For this didn't fully happen at the time, although in a symbolic sense the lights went out for Judah as well as Babylon - Assyria (Am. 8:9; Mic. 3:6). LXX has "the stars of heaven, and Orion". Orion was identified with Nimrod, founder of Assyria, and this constellation was much worshipped by the Babylonians. The prophetic potential was that Assyria and Babylon would be totally eclipsed, along perhaps with the extinguishing from sight of their favourite constellation. But this literal aspect didn't happen, just as the literal changes to the sun and moon spoken of in Is. 30:26 didn't happen, because the Kingdom of God was not reestablished at that time because Judah didn't fully repent.

Isaiah 13:11 I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will humble the arrogance of the terrible-
This humbling was surely in order to save them; see on :6. The idea was that judgment day would come there and then; the wicked would be destroyed, and those who repented and humbled themselves before Yahweh would be the only ones left. And again we see that humility is seen as the epitome of repentance and all spirituality.

Isaiah 13:12 I will make people more valuable than fine gold, even a person than the pure gold of Ophir-
A repentant remnant is in view; LXX "And they that are left shall be more precious than gold tried in the fire; and a man shall be more precious than the stone that is in Suphir"; also see on :14. As explained on :11, the intention of the judgments, both on God's people and the Babylonians, was that a repentant remnant would be produced; and each one of those people would be of extraordinary value to God; this is the scene likewise of Is. 27:12. The same language is used of the latter day purifying of Israel in Zech. 13:9. Although we can also see in these words the simple truth that the value and meaning of persons will be elevated in God's Kingdom. "Gold tried in the fire" (LXX) is a phrase used in the New Testament of the refining of all God's true people today (1 Pet. 1:7; Rev. 3:18).

Isaiah 13:13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place in the wrath of Yahweh of Armies, and in the day of His fierce anger-
Clearly heavens and earth are used symbolically, although a literal earthquake is likely in view. Babylon was to be destroyed with the same kind of miraculous Divine intervention as Sodom; but as noted on :19, this didn't happen when the Medes took Babylon. But Rev. 18 alludes to all this and makes it clear that such Divine intervention will occur against latter Babylon in the last days.

Isaiah 13:14 It will happen that like a hunted gazelle, and like sheep that no one gathers-
A repentant remnant is in view; LXX "And they that are left shall be as a fleeing fawn, and as a stray sheep". See on :12. Stray sheep is the language of men brought to repentance (Ps. 119:176; Lk. 15:6). The judgment of Babylon as later developed in Jeremiah uses the term about Judah (Jer. 50:6). The idea may be that no man gathers these lost sheep, as the Lord explains in His parable of the one lost sheep; but the Divine shepherd will.

They will each turn to their own people, and will each flee to their own land- This is developed in Jer. 50:16: "For fear of the oppressing sword they shall turn each one to his people, and they shall flee each one to his own land". The various captive peoples taken to Babylon would each return to their own land, and Judah were to do likewise. But this isn't how things quite turned out. This was the prophetic ideal scenario, but it didn't happen because many Jews preferred to remain in Babylon and they didn't repent.

Isaiah 13:15 Everyone who is found will be thrust through. Everyone who is captured will fall by the sword-
This isn't what happened when Darius the Mede took Babylon. This was the potential prophetic scenario which didn't come about, because Judah didn't repent, and their repentance was a condition for the total fulfilment of the prophecies of judgment upon Babylon (see on Jer. 50:3,4). These judgments were to be if Babylon refused to let Judah go (Jer. 50:33). But the reality was that the exiles by the end of 70 years were not asking to go, and when they were given the chance, many chose to remain in Babylon. The threat of a sword hanging over Babylon is an image used elsewhere about Jerusalem, and the idea is that there was therefore an appeal for repentance. This is what God wanted to see from Babylon.

Isaiah 13:16 Their infants also will be dashed in pieces before their eyes. Their houses will be ransacked, and their wives raped-
This wasn't really the scene when the Medes took Babylon. There was much support for Darius the Mede within Babylon; the Nabonidus Chronicle records that the people of Babylon welcomed Cyrus by spreading green twigs before him (James Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (3rd ed.) (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968, p. 306b). Both the Babylonian Chronicles and the Cyrus Cylinder describe Babylon being taken "without battle". So the main fulfilment of this must yet be future. See on Jer. 51:4.


Isaiah 13:17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not value silver, and as for gold, they will not delight in it-
There is historical evidence that the Medes didn't value gold and silver. Just as God stirred or raised up Babylon to invade Judah (Jer. 6:22), sharpening her arrows (Ez. 21:21), so He would stir up, or psychologically provoke, other nations to come and judge her (Jer. 50:9,41; 51:1,11 s.w.). This is greatly emphasized. The activity of God directly upon human hearts is a great theme of the Biblical revelation, and is to encourage us that He is eager to transform hearts, and to place desires within us beyond our own unaided psychological ability. But the Medes didn't destroy Babylon; as explained on :20 and Jer. 51:3,8, there was no destruction of the city, and so much was left that it revived several times and asserted independence. He did not take full vengeance for what Babylon did in His temple because His own people were not eager to rebuild it and were not recognizant of their role in its destruction.

Isaiah 13:18 Their bows will dash the young men in pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb. Their eyes will not spare children-
This is what was done to Jerusalem, as Jeremiah frequently expresses in his Lamentations. As people do to God's people, so it will be done to them at the day of judgment. This is a principle relevant to us all. But this isn't the scenario which happened when the Medes took Babylon; see on :16,20. As mentioned often in commentary on Jer. 50, the judgments here are not only upon the city of Babylon, but upon the entire "land of the Chaldeans", Babylonia. The scale of sudden destruction implied didn't happen when the Medes took Babylon. The prophetic scenario projected in these prophecies didn't fully happen, although it will do so ultimately in the last days, as Rev. 18 makes clear. This was because Judah and Israel didn't repent and earnestly seek to restore Zion; see on Jer. 50:3,4,26. And this was intended to be connected with the realization of these prophecies upon Babylon.  

Isaiah 13:19 Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride-
Babylon is presented as being Yahweh's servant, doing what He commanded against both Israel and the nations, with Him putting the ideas into the king of Babylon's mind. God surely would not then turn around and condemn Babylon for their obedience. I suggest that Babylon is condemned because they overstepped the bounds of their commission, they were proud, and established themselves as Yahweh with their kingdom as His kingdom. We see the huge importance God attached to humility, and how pride is the worst of sins.


Will be like when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah- Such dramatic destruction of Babylon and the area around it didn't happen at the hands of the Medes (see on :20; Jer. 50:26). The image of Sodom's destruction suggests direct, miraculous Divine intervention. This didn't happen at the time, but Rev. 18 alludes to all this and makes it clear that such Divine intervention will occur against latter Babylon in the last days.

Isaiah 13:20 It will never be inhabited, neither will it be lived in from generation to generation. The Arabian will not pitch a tent there, neither will shepherds make their flocks lie down there-
Eternal desolation may not be required by the text; LXX has "neither shall any enter into it for many generations". The impression given is that the attack upon Babylon would reduce the city to ruins immediately. But this didn't happen under the Medes; it was only some time later that Cyrus further demolished parts of Babylon's wall, and there was a rebellion of Babylon at the time of Darius Hystapses. The deportation of some of the population happened even later in the time of Seleucus Nicanor. But the impression is given that all this would happen immediately at Babylon's fall. It didn't, because the preconditions related to Judah's repentance didn't come about. And so the prophecies were reapplied and rescheduled to the last days, and are alluded to throughout Rev. 18 with reference to the fall of latter day Babylon; which appears to not refer to the literal city of Babylon.


Isaiah 13:21 But wild animals of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of jackals-
The language in Jer. 9:11 of Jerusalem's destruction into heaps haunted by jackals is applied to Babylon; and likewise the way Jerusalem was to become a hissing (Jer. 19:8) is also now to be true of Babylon. What latter day Babylon does to Jerusalem shall be done to her; and that is the theme of the book of Revelation, where the seals of judgment upon Israel become the vials of judgment upon the beast system.


Ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will frolic there- Literally, "demons", half goat, half divine imaginary creatures, "satyrs". This is proof enough that demons refer to mythical creatures and beliefs of the time, and have no real cosmic existence; and that the language of these things is used, as the language of the day, without any Divinely added footnote to the effect that these things don't actually exist.

Isaiah 13:22 Wolves will cry in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged
- As noted on :20, much of Babylon did escape when the Medes attacked and conquered her, and the city continued being inhabited for some time. This projected scenario didn't come about at the time, and yet will do in essence in its latter day fulfilment, as Rev. 18 explains. Her days as a city were in fact prolonged, because the various preconditions for this eternal destruction were not met at the time. What may be in view however is the power of the Babylonian empire; although that didn't fall for another 170 years from the time of this prophecy. It could be that Isaiah is as it were transported forward in time and speaks as if he is present at the end of Babylon's rule.