Isaiah 14

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

14:1.  “For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.”


When the name Jacob is used the focus is upon the nation as an earthly people, but when the name Israel is used, what is written relates to them as a spiritual people, hence the propriety of God’s first extending mercy, and then bestowing blessing.  This is the pattern of His dealing with all men.  He is merciful, and faithful to pardon sin in response to penitent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  His setting them “in their own land” is the typological declaration of the fact that at the moment of conversion every believer ceases to be a bond slave in Satan’s kingdom of darkness, and becomes instead a willing servant of the Lord Jesus Christ in His kingdom of light, their ultimate bliss being to dwell with Him for ever in heaven, where there is no night, as it is written, “And there shall be no night there,” Revelation 22:5.


In the context of this verse however, the reference is to God’s settling redeemed Israel in Palestine in the Millennium, hence the twice repeated use of the earthly name Jacob; the strangers who will be joined with them being the converted Gentiles of that coming glorious era.


14:2.  “And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.”


While the immediate reference is to the regathering of Israel from their bondage in Babylon, the ultimate application is to their return to Palestine from the scattering that will occur during the coming Great Tribulation.  From that diaspora God will not only restore them to their land, but will in addition promote them to supremacy over all nations.


The expectation of the Church however, is infinitely higher, for we who comprise her will then reign with Him from the heavenly Jerusalem, not only during the Millennium, but for ever.  How great a recompense that will be for those who loved not their lives unto death, but were willing to die - and often by the most cruel means - rather than deny their Lord Who redeemed their souls by His own precious blood.


14:3.  “And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,”


This was the Lord’s comfort to His earthly people Israel languishing under the brutal bondage of Babylon, but it embraces also those who for centuries of this Christian era, were tortured and slain by spiritual Babylon, Papal Rome.


14:4.  “That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!”


“oppressor” is also rendered extortioner: exactress of gold: tyrant.  As the historical reference was to literal Babylon, so is the spiritual allusion to what Babylon represents: Papal Rome, one of the richest entities on earth.  But as literal Babylon has long since ceased to exist, so will Papal Rome also be destroyed, the Beast ruler of the now imminent Great Tribulation being her God-appointed annihilator.


The term “golden city” is generally understood to relate to the wealth and glory of ancient Babylon, and who will deny that the clear application is also to Papal Rome?


14:5.  “The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.”


So sure was the destruction of ancient Babylon that the prophet could speak of it as already accomplished.  The annihilation of Papal Rome is equally certain.


14:6.  “He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.”


The reference is to God’s avengement of Babylon’s ruthless sadistic tyranny over the subject nations, none being either willing or able to aid the fallen former oppressor.  So will it be also relative to spiritual Babylon, Papal Rome, in the coming Great Tribulation.  None will be willing or able to deliver her out of the hand of the Beast.


14:7.  “The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.”


There has been no such period in the past, nor will there be any fulfillment of this before the Millennium.


14:8.  “Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.”


The fir trees represent the people; and the cedars of Lebanon, the rulers: they all rejoiced together at Babylon’s destruction which came at the hand of Sennacherib in 689 BC; but there can be little question that the ultimate reference is to the overthrow of Papal Rome by the Beast in the Great Tribulation.


14:9.  “Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.”


This describes the amazement that will be in hell when the Pope and all his “princes” are killed by the Beast, and their souls descend into that dread place.  The raising up of the kings from their thrones doesn’t mean that those who had been kings on earth will occupy thrones in hell: there are no thrones in that awful realm.  The description is of their former earthly state of glory.


14:10.  “All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?”


It will be thus that the doomed denizens of hell will greet the arrival of the last Pope into the darkness and torment of that dread realm.  He who had been greater than any earthly king, having wielded dominion over countless deluded millions world-wide, will be brought down to the common level of every other sinner, to await with them consignment to eternal torment in the quenchless flame of the lake of fire.


14:11.  “Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols (lyres): the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.”


Pomp includes the idea of magnificence, might, power, pride, etc., and only the willfully blind will refuse to recognize that all of these things are the trappings of popery.  The earthly glory and power of Papal Rome exceeds that of any earthly potentate, for its dominion is over men’s souls.  But the day is fast approaching when what is here predicted will be fulfilled in terrible reality, when the Beast, as God’s instrument, will destroy the last vestige of papal power, and bring its agents down to the grave.


14:12.  “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”


Lucifer means howling: shining one, the latter meaning indicating something of the glory that was his in his unfallen condition; and the former suggesting the vast difference between those two states.


“... which didst weaken the nations” clearly relates to his evil activity as a fallen creature, and not to his original perfect state, “weaken” here meaning to crush and trample down into the earth.  In the Amplified Bible translation he is addressed as “O blasphemous satanic king of Babylon,” which identifies him, not only as the evil power behind the throne of literal ancient Babylon, but also of the present wicked power which Babylon represents, Papal Rome - the nations still being weakened by the activity of that Satanic system, for poverty and ignorance are concomitant with the degree of Papal power.


14:13.  “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:”


14:14.  “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”


“I will ascend into heaven” should not be taken as implying that Satan has never been in heaven - he has, - but was expelled when he attempted to occupy the highest place there: the very throne of God.


It is customary to think of God’s throne as being in the heavens in a general sense, but it is instructive to consider that were two men to stand, one at the north pole and the other at the south, and point to heaven, they would be pointing in opposite directions.  The verse we are now considering identifies the northern heavens as being God’s dwelling place; and it is significant that there is a void in the northern heavens which no telescope has been able to penetrate; and it is interesting to consider also that the North or Pole star is the one in relation to which virtually all earthly directions are calculated.


It is also to be noted that the north is the direction which is scripturally associated with intelligence (of which God is the Source),  in contrast to faith, which is associated with the south, while the east is invariably connected with departure from God, as the west is with approach to Him.  Note for example that when Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden they went eastward, Genesis 3:24; and that the wise men came from the east to visit the baby Jesus, Matthew 2:1, Scripture recording that when returning they went back, “by another way,” Matthew 2:12, which was of course eastward, but the Divine Penman has been careful not to associate them even indirectly with the direction which speaks of evil. 


14:15.  “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”


How great has been the fall of this once mighty spirit!  From having had free access to heaven for untold ages as the anointed cherub, see 7:1, his end is to be as recorded in Revelation 20:10, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”


14:16.  “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;”


Those described here are generally taken to be the occupants of the lake of fire, their scrutiny of Satan occurring when he himself is finally cast into that awful place of eternal torment.


14:17.  “That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?”


This devastation of the earth very probably includes not just what will occur in the Great Tribulation, but all the evil that the arch fiend has wrought in the world in the ages since his fall.  


The prisoners mentioned here appear to be all those who have died without having been born again, the new birth being the only way by which men can escape from Satan’s thraldom, he doing everything in his power to prevent sinners from trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, and thus escaping his bondage.


14:18.  “All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.”


The glory mentioned here is that of earth, not heaven, as is made clear by less ambiguous translations, e.g., “... they all are lying in state, each one in his crypt,” Rotherham Translation; “... sleep in honor, each within his tomb,” Moffatt; “The kings of the nations lie in stately glory in their graves,” Taylor; the honor and glory being not heavenly, but earthly, and therefore worthless.


14:19.  “But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.”


The KJ translation here is metaphorical: Satan has never had, nor will he ever have a grave.  His end will be to be cast into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.


“...abominable” in the present context means detested, abhorred, loathsome dung or carrion, as revolting as the blood-soaked garments on a rotting corpse.


“... the stones of the pit” means “sepulchers excavated amongst stones.”  Satan’s end would be as ignominious as that of a trampled and unburied carcase.


14:20.  “Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.”


This continues to emphasize that Satan, because of his unique wickedness, would never have a burial, nor would his name ever be associated with praise and honor, but with eternal infamy.


14:21.  “Prepare a slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.”


Every man born into this world is spiritually a child of Satan, and becomes a child of God only by being born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior: see Christ’s words to the hypocritical religious leaders of Israel, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do ....” John 8:44.  The eternal inheritance of the unconverted is to share their spiritual father’s fate, i.e., suffer everlasting torment in the lake of fire.


How different is the inheritance of believers!  Those of them who survive the terrible judgments of the Great Tribulation will inherit the transformed earth in the Millennium, and then dwell with the Lord for ever in the new heavens and new earth, together with the believers of all the ages.


14:22.  “For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant and son, and nephew, saith the Lord.


This was fulfilled literally in the destruction of ancient Babylon by the Medes and Persians in 539 BC, but the reference here is to what literal Babylon represents: Papal Rome and apostate Protestantism, which will have become one in the Great Tribulation.


14:23.  “I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom (broom) of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts.”


“...bittern” is also rendered porcupine, hedgehog, hoot owl, bustard, creatures that inhabit lonely, desolate places, or swamp land.  The particularly appropriate metaphoric description continues to be of God’s destruction of spiritual Babylon, Papal Rome and apostate Protestantism, in the Great Tribulation, (see comments on verse 22)


14:24.  “The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:”


The Jerusalem Bible renders this verse, “... what I have planned shall happen, what I have decided shall be fulfilled.”


Nothing can thwart God’s purposes.


14:25.  That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.

14:26.  “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.”


Taylor has translated this verse, “This is My plan for the whole earth - I will do it by My mighty power that reaches everywhere around the world.”


14:27.  “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?  And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?”


“...hosts” here means armies, and the truth being emphasized is that God is omnipotent.  None can stand against Him or alter His purposes, for He controls not only the armies of men, but also of angels.


14:28.  “In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.”


Ahaz died in 727 BC.


14:29.  “Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina (Philistia), because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.”


Assyria was “the rod” God had used to smite the Philistines in the past, and He warns them, the Philistines, not to rejoice because that “rod” had been broken.  (See Isaiah 37:36 for the account of God’s destruction of the Assyrian army when He slew 185,000 of them in one night while they slept).


The “cockatrice” out of the serpent’s root was king Hezekiah of Judah who proved to be an even more terrible scourge of the Philistines than the Assyrians had been.


14:30.  “And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.”


The poor and needy mentioned here were God’s people Israel whom He would protect and bless; but He would exterminate the Philistines,  history bearing eloquent testimony to the fulfillment of His word: Israel has been preserved to this day, but the Philistines faded from the page of history more than 2,000 years ago.


14:31.  “Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.”


The “smoke” from the north would be the well-trained Assyrian army; there being among them “none alone” meaning that there would be no stragglers or deserters.  They would be dedicated to the destruction of the Philistines.


14:32.  “What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.”


The nation here is Philistia, and the messengers, those whom they would send to Israel with questions, undoubtedly mocking, concerning her God, her response being to inform them that Jehovah was He, and that she had implicit trust in Him.


It would be well were we prepared to give a similar answer to those who question us concerning our faith and the One in Whom it rests with complete confidence.

[Isaiah 15]

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