Isaiah 13

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2006 James Melough

13:1.  “The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.”


The “burden” refers to the revelation God was about to give Isaiah   concerning the fate of Babylon. 


Though there isn’t any obvious reason for describing Isaiah as “the son of Amoz,” it is interesting to note that Amoz means to be strong, courageous, so it’s not surprising to find that Isaiah, his son, seems to have been similarly endued.


Babylon, meaning confusion (by mixing), is a type of the false religion of apostate Christendom (Roman Catholic and Protestant), and particularly of the great false church that will consist of the union of both in the coming Great Tribulation.  Only the spiritually blind will fail to see that everything is already tending toward that evil marriage, with ever increasing speed.


The destruction that overtook ancient Babylon however, is but a typological foreshadowing of that which will befall the diabolic system that has been centered in Rome for almost twenty centuries, and that continues to lord it over the millions of its duped adherents.


13:2.  “Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.”


The banner was to be set up on a high place where all would see it, while by voice, and hand motions the Medes and Persians were to be summoned together for the destruction of Babylon.


Scholars differ as to whether the call to “go into the gates of the nobles” was to enlist the aid of the aristocracy, or to ravage the houses of the wealthy Babylonians.  The latter is the more likely, for the Roman Catholic church, which Babylon represents, is one of the wealthiest entities on earth; consider for example the millions she paid out in reparation following the recent scandal that erupted in connection with the activity of her homosexual priests.


The larger picture points to the activity of the Tribulation age Beast ruler who will be God’s instrument for the destruction of the great false Roman Catholic church, see Revelation 17-18, particularly 17:5, “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”  Revelation 17:9 further confirms that the evil entity is the Roman Catholic church, “The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.”  From time immemorial Rome has been known as the city of the seven hills.


13:3.  “I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.”


In the present context “... sanctified” means “set apart for a special purpose,” The Amplified Bible identifying them as the Medes and Persians, they being the instrument God was going to use for the destruction of Babylon.


13:4.  “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.”


Taylor renders this verse, “Hear the tumult in the mountains!  Listen as the armies march!  It is the tumult and shout of many nations: the Lord of hosts has brought them here.”


The description is of the Medo-Persian armies that the Lord was going to assemble for the destruction of Babylon, that destruction pointing to the still future, but now imminent destruction of what Babylon represents, i.e., the great false religious system that has been centered in Rome for the past two millennia.


13:5.  They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.”


“... the end of heaven” means  “from the ends of the earth.”  That terrible final war will involve the whole world.


13:6. “Howl ye: for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.”


“Howl” is also rendered wail, yell, scream in terror.


“The day of the Lord” is generally understood to be that long period of time that will begin after the Rapture, and conclude with the creation of the new heavens and earth; but in the present context the focus seems to be upon the devastating judgments of the Great Tribulation.


13:7.  “Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:”


The terror induced by the destruction of Babylon is but a faint adumbration of that which will seize the hearts of those about to be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire following the judgment of the great white throne.


As the lifting up of hands is often synonymous with man’s rebellion against God, so on that terrible day will the hands of earth’s rebels hang down helplessly when the arm of the Lord is extended in destructive might; and the hearts formerly filled with arrogant pride will be melted, i.e., become faint and fearful.  Their terror is vividly described in Revelation 6:15-17, “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”


13:8.  “And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed (stare aghast) one at another; their faces shall be as flames.”


Their faces being as flames means that the flames of the burning city would be reflected on their pale terror-stricken countenances.


13:9. “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.”


It is generally agreed that “the day of the Lord” in the present context does not refer to the destruction of Babylon, the great false church, by the beast, in the Great Tribulation, as described in Revelation 17-18, but rather to the destruction of literal Babylon, by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC, and which foreshadows that of the false church by the beast in the now impending Great Tribulation.


The word “cruel” here means “pitiless.”  Jehovah would show no mercy either towards ancient Babylon, or to the present evil religious system ruling from Rome, and of which literal Babylon is the OT type.


13:10.  “For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”


These phenomena will occur at the opening of the sixth seal in the Great Tribulation, see Revelation 6:12-17, their literal and spiritual significance being discussed in my commentary on Revelation which is also available on this web site.


13:11.  “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”


As used here “evil” relates to what man is inherently; “wicked” describes his evil thoughts and schemes; “iniquity” is a general term for the actual evil produced by his corrupt nature.  “Arrogancy” embraces the idea of offensive display of imagined superiority or self-importance, overbearing pride.  To be haughty is to be disdainfully proud, snobbish, arrogant.


In the present context “terrible” describes those who are imperiously arrogant, insolent, tyrannical, ruthless.


13:12.  “I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.”


Ophir was a country of uncertain location, from which gold, precious stones, and trees were brought to Solomon, see 1 Kings 10:11; and the fact being declared here is that as gold is a rare metal, so by war would God decimate the male population till an able-bodied man would be equally rare.


13:13.  “Therefore will I shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.”


While this may certainly apply metaphorically to what God was then about to do to literal Babylon, the ultimate application is to what will occur in the Great Tribulation, when He will destroy the evil religious system which Babylon represents, and which has been centered for the past two millennia in Rome, see Revelation chapters 17-18.


It is to be remembered however, that the parabolic application isn’t limited to God’s destruction of ancient Babylon: it includes His impending annihilation of Roman Catholicism, and apostate Protestantism.


13:14.  “And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.”


This continues the description of Medo-Persia’s sack of ancient Babylon, but points also to what will be in the fast approaching Great Tribulation, when God, using the Beast as his instrument, will utterly destroy Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism.  The Beast’s persecution of all religion, and the demand that he alone be worshiped, will prompt the wholesale exodus from every branch of apostate Christianity pictured in this verse.  Only true believers will be willing to die rather than worship him.


13:15.  “Every one that is found shall be thrust through: and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.”


This continues the prophetic picture of the Tribulation age Beast ruler’s attempted annihilation of Christianity, false as well as genuine, and his demand that he alone be worshiped


13:16. “Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.”


As with much of prophecy, there have been partial fulfillments, the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in AD70 being one such example; but the ultimate application of this prophecy relates to the activity of the Beast in the Great Tribulation.


13:17.  “Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.”


In the present instance the implied Medes’ disregard of silver and gold is not to be taken literally: it means that no offer of wealth would persuade them to call off their intended destruction of Babylon; nor will anything induce the Beast to abandon his attempted destruction of Christianity, false and genuine, in the Great Tribulation.


13:18.  “Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.”


The Medes would be implacable as will be also the armies of the Beast.


13:19.  “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.”


The reference here is not to a literal latter day Babylon, for that city is never to be rebuilt, but to the evil system which it represents: the union of Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism. It is that unified evil religious system that will be destroyed by the Beast in the Great Tribulation.


As Babylon was the most glorious and beautiful of all ancient kingdoms, so is Roman Catholicism among the world’s religious systems, the wealth and splendor of the Papal palace being without equal.  But as God overthrew ancient Babylon, so will He also destroy religious Rome, His instrument being the Tribulation age beast emperor.  And as the very sites of Sodom and Gomorrah are today uncertain, so will it yet be with Rome: her destruction will be absolute.


13:20.  “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.”


In accordance with God’s edict ancient Babylon has never been rebuilt, and to this day the site remains an object of the superstitious dread of the Arabs of the region.  Likewise the harlot church consisting of the union of Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism in the impending Great Tribulation, will be destroyed by the Beast, and never rebuilt.


13:21.  “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.”


To this day the site of ancient Babylon is as described here, wild animals making their dens amid the ruins of the once great city, “doleful creatures” being those whose cries are plaintive; and satyrs being imaginary creatures which were part human and part horse or goat.


The natives of the region still avoid the place, their superstitious minds peopling it with these same imaginary inhabitants.  Another resident is the owl, a creature of the night, inhabiting ruins and lonely places, and emitting a distinctive mournful cry.


13:22.  “And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”


“dragons” in the present context is a general term which includes jackals, wolves, wild dogs, and hyenas.  The once pleasant houses and beautiful palaces would become desolate ruins.  This is the present fitting description of the once magnificent Babylon, and in it God would have us see a symbolic picture of the condition of the present world as it will be following the terrible judgments of the coming Great Tribulation.


The words “her time is near” have as much relevance to today’s world as they had to the once great Babylon; and we are reading only half the message if we fail to recognize that the fate of ancient Babylon is but a preview of what is to befall our present great modern civilization in the now impending Great Tribulation. 


But the warning has also a personal relevance to men’s souls, over 700 of which pass from time into eternity every minute, most of them entering for ever, without hope of deliverance, into a state infinitely more dreadful than that portrayed by ruined Babylon, their descent being first of the body into the grave, and of the soul into hell, and then following the resurrection of damnation, the consignment of body,  soul, and spirit into the eternal torment of the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire.


If you haven’t yet been born again, see John 3:3,7,15,16,17,18, and 36, confess now that you are a sinner without a shred of righteousness, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior.  Tomorrow may be too late.  By tomorrow you may have crossed the invisible line that separates God’s mercy from His wrath, leaving you to become an eternal inhabitant of that awful region represented by ruined Babylon.

[Isaiah 14]

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     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
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