Isaiah 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(22) Wild beasts of the islands . . .—The Authorised version rests on a false etymology of the words, which strictly mean “wailers,” and in its form ey probably represents the cry of a wild beast, such as the jackal, with which it is commonly identified (see Isaiah 34:14; Jeremiah 50:39), or, possibly, the hyæna. Perhaps, however, as the word “jackal” is wanting in the next clause, it would be best to keep “wailers.”

In their desolate houses.—Literally, as the text stands, among their widows; but the word closely resembles that for “castles” or “fortresses” in Isaiah 32:14; Isaiah 34:13. The Authorised version is either an attempt to combine the two meanings, or to take the word “widow” figuratively, as in Isaiah 47:8, for a house bereaved of its owner.

Dragons in their pleasant palaces.—Better, jackals (Isaiah 34:13; Jeremiah 51:37, and elsewhere) in their palaces of pleasure.

Her time.—The appointed day of visitation (Jeremiah 46:21; Jeremiah 50:27).

The whole passage finds a singular parallel in an inscription of Assurbanipal’s recording his devastation of the fields of Elam: “Wild asses, serpents, beasts of the desert and galhus (bull-shaped demons), safely I caused to lie down in them” (Records of the Past, i., p. 80). Isaiah may have known of such boasts, and if so, his words may have pointed to the working of a law of retribution like that invoked by the Babylonian exiles in Psalm 137:8. The doom that Babylon had inflicted on others was to come upon herself. The language of modern travellers illustrates the fulfilment of the prediction. “Owls start from the scanty thickets, and the foul jackal stalks among the furrows” (Layard, Nineveh and Babylon, p. 484, quoted by Kay).

13:19-22 Babylon was a noble city; yet it should be wholly destroyed. None shall dwell there. It shall be a haunt for wild beasts. All this is fulfilled. The fate of this proud city is a proof of the truth of the Bible, and an emblem of the approaching ruin of the New Testament Babylon; a warning to sinners to flee from the wrath to come, and it encourages believers to expect victory over every enemy of their souls, and of the church of God. The whole world changes and is liable to decay. Wherefore let us give diligence to obtain a kingdom which cannot be moved; and in this hope let us hold fast that grace whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.And the wild beasts of the islands - (איים 'ı̂yı̂ym); see the notes at Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 41:1, on the word rendered 'islands.' The word denotes islands, or coasts, and as those coasts and islands were unknown and unexplored, the word seems to have denoted unknown and uninhabited regions in general. Boehart supposes that by the word here used is denoted a species of wolves, the jackal, or the "thoes." It is known as a wild animal, exceedingly fierce, and is also distinguished by alternate howlings in the night ("see" Bochart's "Hieroz." i. 3. 12). The word wolf probably will not express an erroneous idea here. The Chaldee renders it, 'Cats.'

Shall cry - Hebrew, 'Shall answer, or respond to each other.' This is known to be the custom of wolves and some other wild animals, who send forth those dismal howls in alternate responses at night. This alternation of the howl or cry gives an additional impressiveness to the loneliness and desolation of forsaken Babylon.

And dragons - (תנין tannı̂yn). This word, in its various forms of "tannim, taninim, tannin, and tannoth," denotes sometimes "jackals or thoes," as in Job 30:29; Psalm 44:19; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3. But it also denotes a great fish, a whale, a sea monster, a dragon, a serpent. It is translated 'a whale' in Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12; Ezekiel 32:2; 'serpents,' Exodus 7:9-10, Exodus 7:12; 'dragons,' or 'dragon,' Deuteronomy 32:33; Nehemiah 2:13; Psalm 44:19; Psalm 74:13; Psalm 91:13; Psalm 148:7; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9; Jeremiah 14:6; Jeremiah 51:34; Malachi 1:3, "et al.;" and once 'sea monsters,' Lamentations 4:3. A "dragon" properly means a kind of winged serpent much celebrated in the dark ages. Here it may not improperly be rendered "jackal" ("see" Bochart's "Hieroz." i. 1. 9, p. 69).

In their pleasant palaces - Hebrew, 'Their palaces of luxury and pleasure.' The following testimonies from travelers will show how minutely this was accomplished: 'There are many dens of wild beasts in various parts.' 'There are quantities of porcupine quills.' 'In most of the cavities are numberless bats and owls.' 'These caverns, over which the chambers of majesty may have been spread, are now the refuge of jackals and other savage animals. The mouths of their entrances are strewed with the bones of sheep and "goats;" and the loathsome smell that issues from most of them is sufficient warning not to proceed into the den.' - (Sir R. K. Porter's "Travels," vol. ii. p. 342.) 'The mound was full of large holes; we entered some of them, and found them strewed with the carcasses and skeletons of animals recently killed. The ordure of wild beasts was so strong, that prudence got the better of curiosity, for we had no doubt as to the savage nature of the inhabitants. Our guides, indeed, told us that all the ruins abounded in lions and other wild beasts; so literally has the divine prediction been fulfilled, that wild beasts of the deserts should lie there.' - (Keppel's "Narrative," vol. i. pp. 179, 180.)

And her time is near to come - This was spoken about 174 years before the destruction of Babylon. But we are to bear in mind that the prophet is to be supposed to be speaking to the captive Jews "in" Babylon, and speaking to them respecting their release (see Isaiah 14:1-2; compare remarks on the Analysis of this chapter). Thus considered, supposing the prophet to be addressing the Jews in captivity, or ministering consolation to them, the time was near. Or if we suppose him speaking as in his own time, the period when Babylon was to be destroyed was at no great distance.

On this whole prophecy, we may observe:

(1) That it was uttered at least 170 years before it was fulfilled. Of this there is all the proof that can be found in regard to any ancient writings.

(2) When uttered, there was the strongest improbability that it would be fulfilled. This improbability arose from the following circumstances:

(a) The Jews were secure in their own land, and they had no reason to dread the Babylonians; they had no wars with them, and it was improbable that they would be plucked up as a nation and carried there as captives. Such a thing had never occurred, and there were no circumstances that made it probable that it would occur.

(b) The great strength and security of Babylon rendered it improbable. It was the capital of the pagan world; and if there was any city that seemed impregnable, it was this.

(c) It was improbable that it would be overthrown by "the Medes." Media, at the time when the prophecy was uttered, was a dependent province of Assyria (note, Isaiah 13:17), and it was wholly improbable that the Medes would revolt; that they would subdue their masters; that they would be united to the Persians, and that thus a new kingdom would arise, that should overthrow the most mighty capital of the world.

(d) It was improbable that Babylon would become uninhabitable. It was in the midst of a most fertile country; and by no human sagacity could it have been seen that the capital would be removed to Susa, or that Seleucia would be founded, thus draining it of its inhabitants; or that by the inundation of waters it would become unhealthy. How could mere human sagacity have foreseen that there would not be a house in it in the sixteenth century; or that now, in 1839, it would be a wide and dreary waste? Can any man now tell what London, or Paris, or New York, or Philadelphia, will be two years hence? Yet a prediction that those cities shall be the residence of 'wild beasts of the desert,' of 'satyrs' and 'dragons,' would be as probable now as was the prediction respecting Babylon at the time when Isaiah uttered these remarkable prophecies.

(3) The prophecy is not vague conjecture. It is not a "general" statement. It is minute, and definite, and particular; and it has been as definitely, and minutely, and particularly fulfilled.

(4) This is one of the evidences of the divine origin of the Bible. How will the infidel account for this prophecy and its fulfillment? It will not do to say that it is accident. It is too minute, and too particular. It is not human sagacity. No human sagacity could have foretold it. It is not "fancied fulfillment." It is real, in the most minute particulars. And if so, then Isaiah was commissioned by Yahweh as he claimed to be - for none but the omniscient jehovah can foresee and describe future events as the destruction of Babylon was foreseen and described. And if "this" prophecy was inspired by God, by the same train of reasoning it can be proved that the whole Bible is a revelation from heaven. For a very interesting account of the present state of the ruins of Babylon, furnishing the most complete evidence of the fulfillment of the Prophecies in regard to it, the reader may consult an article in the "Amos Bib. Rep.," vol. viii. pp. 177-189. (See also the two "Memoirs on the Ruins of Babylon," by C. John Rich, Esq. London, 1816 and 1818.) The frontispiece to this volume, compiled from the sketches of recent travelers, gives accurate and interesting views of those ruins.

22. wild beasts of the islands—rather, "jackals"; called by the Arabs "sons of howling"; an animal midway between a fox and a wolf [Bochart and Maurer].

cry—rather, "answer," "respond" to each other, as wolves do at night, producing a most dismal effect.

dragons—serpents of various species, which hiss and utter dolorous sounds. Fable gave them wings, because they stand with much of the body elevated and then dart swiftly. Maurer understands here another species of jackal.

her time … near—though one hundred seventy-four years distant, yet "near" to Isaiah, who is supposed to be speaking to the Jews as if now captives in Babylon (Isa 14:1, 2).

Her time is near to come; so it was, though not according to man’s rash judgment and impatient expectation, yet according to God’s estimation, and to the eye of faith, whereby Abraham saw Christ’s day as present, many ages before it came, John 8:56: and comparatively; for it happened within two hundred years; which is but a small proportion of time, if it be compared either with the foregoing or following ages of the world, or with the immense duration of eternity, from whence it was decreed by God, and therefore might well be said now to be near the accomplishment of it. In like manner the apostles speak of the day of judgment as near in their time, though it was at many ages distance.

Her days shall not be prolonged beyond the time prefixed and appointed by God. Compare Habakkuk 2:3. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses,.... The Targum and Syriac version, "in their palaces", and so the Vulgate Latin; or "with their widows", such as have lost their mates: what creatures are here meant is very uncertain; we in general call them the wild beasts of the islands, because the word is sometimes used for islands; the Targum renders it "cats", wild ones; the Syriac version, "sirens"; and the Arabic, the "hyaenae"; the Septuagint version, "onocentaurs"; and the Vulgate Latin version, "owls", which live in desolate houses, and cry or answer to one another, which is the sense of the phrase here:

and dragons in their pleasant palaces; where they delight to be, though otherwise very dismal. The Septuagint and Arabic versions render it, "hedgehogs": the Syriac version, "wild dogs"; and the Vulgate Latin version, "sirens"; the word is commonly used for "whales", and sometimes for serpents, which seems to be the sense here; and to this agrees the account that R. Benjamin Tudelensis (r) gives of Babylon, who, when he was there, about five or six hundred years ago, saw the palace of Nebuchadnezzar in ruins, but men were afraid to enter into it, because of serpents and scorpions, which were within it. Rauwolff, a German traveller, about the year 1574, reports of the tower of Babylon, that it was so ruinous, so low, and so full of venomous creatures, which lodge in holes made by them in the rubbish, that no one durst approach nearer to it than within half a league, excepting during two months in the winter, when these animals never stir out of their holes (s):

and her time is near to come; that is, the time of the destruction of Babylon, as the Targum expresses it; which, though two hundred years or more from the time of this prophecy, yet but a short time with God; and when this was made known to the Jews in captivity, for whose comfort it is written, it was not afar off:

and her days shall not be prolonged; the days of her prosperity and happiness, but should be shortened.

(r) Itinerarium, p. 76. (s) Vid. Prideaux's Connection, par. 1. p. 569.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
22. the wild beasts of the islands] R.V. wolves. The word has certainly nothing to do with that for “island.” It probably comes from another root meaning “to howl”; but again it is impossible to specify the particular animal.

their desolate houses] The word is ’almânôth, “widows,” which A.V. following, as so often, Jewish authorities understands figuratively. It is either a by-form or a copyist’s error for ’arměnôthâm, their palaces (see ch. Isaiah 34:13). For dragons render jackals (R.V.).Verse 22. - Wild beasts of the islands. In the Hebrew, iyyim, which means "wailers" or "howlers," probably "jackals." The Revised Version gives "wolves." In their desolate houses; or, in their castles (Cheyne). And dragons; i.e. "serpents." These have not been observed recently; but one of our old travelers notes that "the lande of Baby-lone," in his day, "was fulle of dragons and grote serpentes, and dyverse other veney-mouse ecstes alle abouten" (Mandeville, quoted by Ker Porter, 'Travels,' vol. 2. p. 36). Near to come. About one hundred and eighty years elapsed between the utterance of this prophecy and the fall of Babylon - a short period in the lifetime of a nation.



"Every one that is found is pierced through, and every one that is caught falls by the sword." By "every one that is found," we understand those that are taken in the city by the invading conquerors; and by "every one that is caught," those that are overtaken in their flight (sâphâh, abripere, Isaiah 7:20). All are put to the sword. - The third and fourth disasters are plunder and ravage. Isaiah 13:16 "And their infants are dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses plundered, and their wives ravished." Instead of tisshâgalnâh, the keri has the euphemistic term tisshâcabnâh (concubitum patientur), a passive which never occurs in the Old Testament text itself. The keri readings shuccabt in Jeremiah 3:2, and yishcâbennâh in Deuteronomy 28:30, also do violence to the language, which required עם שכב and את (the latter as a preposition in Genesis 19:34) for the sake of euphemism; or rather they introduce a later (talmudic) usage of speech into the Scriptures (see Geiger, Urschrift, pp. 407-8). The prophet himself intentionally selects the base term shâgal, though, as the queen's name Shegal shows, it must have been regarded in northern Palestine and Aramaean as by no means a disreputable word. In this and other passages of the prophecy Knobel scents a fanaticism which is altogether strange to Isaiah.
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