Isaiah 14:13
For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
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(13) I will ascend into heaven.—The boast of the Chaldæan king is represented as nothing less than an apotheosis, which they themselves claimed. So Shalmaneser describes himself as “a sun-god” (Records of the Past, iii. 83), Assurbanipal as “lord of all kings” (ib., iii. 78). In contrast with the Sheol into which the Chaldæan king had sunk, the prophet paints the heaven to which he sought to rise. He, the brightest star, would raise his throne above all the stars of God.

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation . . .—The words have often been interpreted of Jerusalem or the Temple, as the “mountain of assembly” (as the tabernacle was “the tent of the congregation,” or “of meeting”), and “the sides (better, recesses) of the north” have been connected, like the same phrase in Psalm 48:2, with the portion of the Temple which the king of Babylon is supposed to threaten. Most modern scholars are, however, agreed that this interpretation is untenable. What is brought before us is the heaven, the “mountain of assembly,” where the great gods in whom the king of Babylon believed sat in council. So Assyrian hymns speak of “the feasts of the silver mountains, the heavenly courts” (as the Greeks spoke of Olympus), where the gods dwell eternally (Records of the Past, iii. 133). And this ideal mountain was for them, like the Meru of Indian legend, in the farthest north. So in the legendary geography of Greece, the Hyperborei, or “people beyond the north wind,” were a holy and blessed race, the chosen servants of Apollo (Herod., ii. 32-36). In Ezekiel 28:14 the prophet recognises an ideal “mountain of God” of like nature, and the vision of the future glory of a transfigured Zion, in chap 2:1-3, implies, as we have seen, an idea of the same kind. Possibly the same thought appears in Ezekiel’s vision, “out of the north” (Isaiah 1:4).

14:1-23 The whole plan of Divine Providence is arranged with a view to the good of the people of God. A settlement in the land of promise is of God's mercy. Let the church receive those whom God receives. God's people, wherever their lot is cast, should endeavour to recommend religion by a right and winning conversation. Those that would not be reconciled to them, should be humbled by them. This may be applied to the success of the gospel, when those were brought to obey it who had opposed it. God himself undertakes to work a blessed change. They shall have rest from their sorrow and fear, the sense of their present burdens, and the dread of worse. Babylon abounded in riches. The king of Babylon having the absolute command of so much wealth, by the help of it ruled the nations. This refers especially to the people of the Jews; and it filled up the measure of the king of Babylon's sins. Tyrants sacrifice their true interest to their lusts and passions. It is gracious ambition to covet to be like the Most Holy, for he has said, Be ye holy, for I am holy; but it is sinful ambition to aim to be like the Most High, for he has said, He who exalts himself shall be abased. The devil thus drew our first parents to sin. Utter ruin should be brought upon him. Those that will not cease to sin, God will make to cease. He should be slain, and go down to the grave; this is the common fate of tyrants. True glory, that is, true grace, will go up with the soul to heaven, but vain pomp will go down with the body to the grave; there is an end of it. To be denied burial, if for righteousness' sake, may be rejoiced in, Mt 5:12. But if the just punishment of sin, it denotes that impenitent sinners shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt. Many triumphs should be in his fall. God will reckon with those that disturb the peace of mankind. The receiving the king of Babylon into the regions of the dead, shows there is a world of spirits, to which the souls of men remove at death. And that souls have converse with each other, though we have none with them; and that death and hell will be death and hell indeed, to all who fall unholy, from the height of this world's pomps, and the fulness of its pleasures. Learn from all this, that the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned. The royal city is to be ruined and forsaken. Thus the utter destruction of the New Testament Babylon is illustrated, Re 18:2. When a people will not be made clean with the besom of reformation, what can they expect but to be swept off the face of the earth with the besom of destruction?For thou hast said in thine heart - It was thy purpose or design.

I will ascend into heaven - Nothing could more strikingly show the arrogance of the monarch of Babylon than this impious design. The meaning is, that he intended to set himself up as supreme; he designed that all should pay homage to him; be did not intend to acknowledge the authority of God. It is not to be understood literally; but it means that he intended "not" to acknowledge any superior either in heaven or earth, but designed that himself and his laws should be regarded as supreme.

Above the stars of God - The stars which God has made. This expression is equivalent to the former that he would ascend into heaven.

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation - The word rendered 'congregation' מועד mô‛êd from יעד yâ‛ad "to fix, appoint"), properly means a fixed or definite time; then an "appointed" place of meeting; then a meeting itself; an assembly, a congregation. What is referred to here it is difficult to determine. The Septuagint renders it, 'On a high mountain, on the lofty regions which lie to the north.' The Chaldee, 'I will sit in the mount of covenant, in the regions of the north.' Grotius supposes that when the king of Babylon said he would ascend into heaven, he meant the land of Judea, which was called heaven because it was dedicated to God; that when he said be would ascend above the stars, he meant to denote those 'who were learned in the law;' that by the 'mount of the congregation,' he meant mount Moriah where was the temple; and that by the 'side of the north,' he meant mount Zion, which, he says, was on the north of Jerusalem. It is remarkable that the usually accurate Grotius should have fallen into this error, as mount Zion was not on the north of Jerusalem, but was south of mount Moriah. Vitringa defends the same interpretation in the main, but supposes that by the 'mount of the congregation' is meant mount Zion, and by 'the sides of the north;' is meant mount Moriah lying north of Zion. He supposes that mount Zion is called 'the mount of the congregation,' not because the congregation of Israel assembled there, but because it was the "appointed place" where God met his people, or where he manifested himself to them, and appeals to the following places where the word which is here lrcndered 'congregation' is applied, in various forms, to the manifestation which God thus made Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:42-43; Psalm 74:8. So Lowth supposes that it refers to the place where God promised to meet with his people Exodus 25:22; Exodus 29:42-43, and to commune with them, and translates it 'the mount of the divine presence.' But to this interpretation there are great objections:

(1) The terms here employed 'the mount of the congregation,' 'the sides of the north,' are not elsewhere applied to mount Zion, and to mount Moriah.

(2) It does not correspond with the evident design of the king of Babylon. His object was not to make himself master of Zion and Moriah, but it was to exalt himself above the stars; to be elevated above all inferior beings; and to be above the gods.

(3) It is a most forced and unnatural interpretation to call the land of Judea 'heaven,' to speak of it as being 'above the stars of God,' or as 'above the heights of the clouds;' and it is clear that the king of Babylon had a much higher ambition, and much more arrogant pretensions, than the conquest of what to him would be the comparatively limited province of Judea.

However important that land appeared to the Jews as their country and their home; or however important it was as the place of the solemnities of the true religion, yet we are to remember that it had no such consequence in the eyes of the king of Babylon. He had no belief in the truth of the Jewish religion, and all Judea compared with his other vast domains would appear to be a very unimportant province. It is evident, therefore, I think, that the king of Babylon did not refer here to Judea, or to Zion. The leading idea of his heart, which ought to guide our interpretation, was, that he designed "to ascend in authority over all inferior beings, and to be like the Most High." We are to remember that Babylon was a city of idolatry; and it is most probable that by 'the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north,' there is reference to a belief prevalent in Babylon that the gods had their residence on some mountain of the north.

This was a common opinion among the ancients. The Hindus call that mountain "Meru;" the Persians, who are followers of Zoroaster, "Al Bordsch;" the Arabs, "Kafe;" and the Greeks, "Olympus." The common opinion was that this mountain was in the center of the world, but the Hindoos speak of it as to the north of themselves in the Himalaya regions; the followers of Zoroaster in the mountains of Caucasus, lying to the north of their country; and the Greeks speak of Olympus, the highest mountain north of them in Thessaly. The Hindoo belief is thus referred to by Ward: 'In the book of Karma-Vipaka, it is said that the heavenly Vishnu, Brahma, and Siva, are upon the three peaks of the mountain Su-Meru, and that at the foot of this mountain are the heavens of twenty-one other gods.' ("View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos," vol. i. p. 13.) So Wilford, in a Treatise on the mountain Caucasus, in the "Asiatic Researches," vol. vi. p. 488, says, 'The Hindoos regard the mountain Meru as the dwelling-place of the gods.

In the Puranas it is said, that upon the mountain Meru there is eternal day, for a space of fourteen degrees around the mountain Su-Meru, and consequently eternal night for the same space on the opposite side; so the Hindoos are constrained to admit that Su-Meru is directly upon the top of the shadow of the earth, and that from the earth to that peak there is a vast cone-formed hill, dense as other earthly bodies, but invisible, impalpable, and impassable by mortals. On the side of this hill are various abodes, which, the higher one ascends, become the more beautiful, and which are made the dwellings of the blessed, according to the degrees of their desert. God and the most exalted of the divine beings have their abodes on the sides of the north, and on the top of this mountain.' According to the Zendavesta, the Al Bordsch is the oldest and the highest of the mountains; upon that is the throne of Ormuzd, and the assemblage of the heavenly spirits (Feruer; see Rosenmuller, "Alterthumskunde," vol. i. pp. 154-157).

Thus in Babylon, some of the mountains north in Armenia may have been supposed to be the special dwelling-place of the gods. Such a mountain would "appear" to be under the north pole, and the constellations would seem to revolve around it. It is not improbable that the Aurora Borealis, playing often as it does in the north with special magnificence, might have contributed to the belief that this was the special abode of the gods. Unable to account - as indeed all moderns are - for these special and magnificent lights in the north, it accorded with the poetic and mythological fancy of the ancients to suppose that they were designed to play around, and to adorn the habitation of the gods. This disposition to make the mountains of the north the seat of the gods, may have arisen also in part from the fact that the country on the north of Babylon was a volcanic region, and that the light emitted from volcanoes was an appropriate manifestation of the glory of superior invisible beings. 'On the borders of the Caspian (Sea), in the country around the Bakir, there is a tract called The Field of Fire, which continually emits inflammable gas, while springs of naphtha and petroleum occur in the same vicinity, as also mud volcanoes.

In the chain of Elburs, to the south of this sea, is a lofty mountain, which, according to Morier, sometimes emits smoke, and at the base of which there are several craters where sulphur and saltpetre are procured in sufficient abundance to be used in commerce.' (Lyell's Geology, vol. i. p. 297.) We find some trades of these ideas in the Scriptures. The north is often mentioned as the seat of the whirlwind, the storm, and especially as the residence of the cherubim. Thus in Ezekiel's vision of the cherubim, the whole magnificent scene is represented as coming from the north - as if the appropriate abode of the cherubim:

'I looked, and lo! a whirlwind from the north

Came sweeping onward, a vast cloud that rolled


13. above … God—In Da 8:10, "stars" express earthly potentates. "The stars" are often also used to express heavenly principalities (Job 38:7).

mount of the congregation—the place of solemn meeting between God and His people in the temple at Jerusalem. In Da 11:37, and 2Th 2:4, this is attributed to Antichrist.

sides of the north—namely, the sides of Mount Moriah on which the temple was built; north of Mount Zion (Ps 48:2). However, the parallelism supports the notion that the Babylonian king expresses himself according to his own, and not Jewish opinions (so in Isa 10:10) thus "mount of the congregation" will mean the northern mountain (perhaps in Armenia) fabled by the Babylonians to be the common meeting-place of their gods. "Both sides" imply the angle in which the sides meet; and so the expression comes to mean "the extreme parts of the north." So the Hindus place the Meru, the dwelling-place of their gods, in the north, in the Himalayan mountains. So the Greeks, in the northern Olympus. The Persian followers of Zoroaster put the Ai-bordsch in the Caucasus north of them. The allusion to the stars harmonizes with this; namely, that those near the North Pole, the region of the aurora borealis (compare see on [709]Job 23:9; Job 37:22) [Maurer, Septuagint, Syriac].

I will ascend into heaven; I will advance myself above the state of a weak and mortal man. Great monarchs are easily induced, by their own vain imaginations, and the flattery of their courtiers, to entertain an opinion of their own divinity; so far that many of them have received and required Divine worship to be paid to them. Above the stars of God; either,

1. Above all other kings and potentates whom he hath set up; or,

2. Above the most eminent persons of God’s church and people, who are frequently called stars, as Daniel 8:10 Revelation 1:16,20 12:1, which sense the next words favour.

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation; I will establish my royal throne upon Mount Zion, where the Jews meet together to worship God.

In the sides of the north: this is added as a more exact description of the place of the temple, which stood upon Mount Moriah, which was northward from the hill of Zion strictly so called, and was a part of the hill of Zion largely so called. See on Psalm 48:2. For thou hast said in thine heart,.... Which shows the pride and haughtiness that were in his heart; and were the cause and reason of his fall, for pride goes before a fall; it was the cause of the fall of angels, and of Adam, and of many kings and kingdoms; see Proverbs 16:18 with this compare Revelation 18:7,

I will ascend into heaven; be above all men, rule over the whole world; and so the Targum.

"I will ascend on high;''

unless by it is meant the temple at Jerusalem, where Jehovah dwelt, an emblem of heaven, to which sense the following clauses incline; and so the Romish antichrist sits in the temple of God, and on his throne as if he was God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; which he has made and set in the heavens, and preserves; meaning either the angels, Job 38:7 or rather the kings and princes of the earth, over whom he placed himself, having subdued them under him. It may be applied to ecclesiastical persons, pastors, and bishops of churches, compared to stars, Revelation 1:20 the third part of which the dragon drew with his tail, Revelation 12:4 and over whom the bishop of Rome has usurped an universal dominion. The Targum is,

"over the people of God I will put the throne of my kingdom;''

notoriously true of the man of sin:

I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: that is, as some think, in the temple where the tribes of Israel gathered together for worship, which was built upon Mount Zion; which, as Kimchi says, lay north of Jerusalem; see Psalm 48:2 so the tabernacle is often called the tabernacle of the congregation; but, as Cocceius and Vitringa observe, Mount Zion was not to the north, but to the south of Jerusalem; wherefore not that mount, but Mount Moriah, which was to the north of Mount Zion, is designed; however, not Babylon is here meant, as R. Joseph Kimchi thought; called, as he supposes, "the mount of the congregation", because all the world were gathered thither to the king of Babylon; and a "mount", because a strong city; and said to be "in the sides of the north", because it lay north east to the continent; but, as one observes, he had no need to boast of sitting there, where he was already. Jarchi thinks the last clause refers to the north side of the altar, in the court, where the sacrifice was killed, Leviticus 1:11 and may point at the seat of the Romish antichrist, and the sacerdotal power usurped by him, to offer sacrifice for the sins of men, particularly the bloodless sacrifice of the Mass.

For thou hast said in thy 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 {i} north:

(i) Meaning, Jerusalem of which the temple was of the north side, Ps 48:2.

13. the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north] Render: the Mount of Assembly in the uttermost north. We have here apparently an allusion to Babylonian mythology which is partly elucidated by Assyrian inscriptions. There the chief gods are spoken of as born in “the house of the mountain-summit of the lands, the mountain of Aralu” (Schrader, Cuneif. Inscr., ad loc.). The conception is very obscure, and it has not been proved that the Babylonians located their world-mountain in the north (like the Hindus and Persians). According to Jensen (Kosmologie der Babylonier, pp. 201 ff.) the idea of the “world-mountain” originated in the conception that the earth is itself a huge hollow mountain, resting on the primeval ocean. However that may be, there is little room for doubt that the “mount of assembly” in this verse is the mountain of Aralu where the great gods assemble. The opinion once prevalent that Zion is denoted was suggested by a similar phrase in Psalm 48:2; but the idea is obviously out of place in the present context.

13, 14. Not content with his exalted position the king aspired to equality of rank with the great gods. A similar impiety had already been put by Ezekiel into the mouth of the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2; Ezekiel 28:6; Ezekiel 28:9; Ezekiel 28:14).Verse 13. - For thou hast said; rather, and thou - thou saidst; i.e. weak as thou art now shown to have been, it was thou that didst dare to say. I will ascend into heaven, etc. (comp. Isaiah 10:13, 14; Isaiah 37:24, 25). Isaiah represents rather the thoughts of the Babylonian monarch than his actual words. The Babylonian inscriptions are full of boasting egotism; but they do not contain anything approaching to impiety. The king may regard himself as, in a certain sense, Divine; but still he entertains a deep respect and reverence for those gods whom he regards as the most exalted, as Merodach, Bel, Nebo, Sin, Shamas. He is their worshipper, their devotee, their suppliant (see 'Records of the Past,' vol. 5. pp. 111-148). The Babylonian monarchs may have believed that after death they would mount up to heaven and join the "assembly of the great gods" (ibid., vol. 3. p. 83); but we scarcely know enough as yet of the religions opinions of the Babylonians to state positively what their belief was on the subject of a future life. I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation. The early commentators explained this of Mount Zion, especially on account of the phrase, "in the sides of the north," which is used of the temple-bill in Psalm 48:2. But it is well objected that Mount Zion was a place of no grandeur or dignity or holiness to the Babylonians, who had made it a desolation; and that no Babylonian monarch would have desired to "sit" there. Moreover, the "mountain" of this passage must be one which is "above the heights of the clouds" and "above the stars of God," which the most imaginative poet could not have said of Mount Zion. A mythic mountain, belonging to the Babylonian theosophy, was therefore seen to be intended, even before the times of cuneiform decipherment (Rosenmüller, Michaelis, Knobel). Now that the Babylonian inscriptions can be read, it is found that there was such a mountain, called "Im-Kharsak," or "Kharsak-Kurra," which is described as "the mighty mountain of Bel, whose head rivals heaven, whose root is the holy deep," and which "was regarded as the spot where the ark had rested, and where the gods had their seat" ('Records of the Past,' vol. 11. p. 131, with the comment of Mr. Sayce, p. 130). In Babylonian geography this mountain was identified, either with the peak of Rowandiz, or with Mount Elwend, near Ecbatana. In the sides of the north. Both El-wend and Rowandiz are situated to the northeast of Babylou - a position which, according to ancient ideas, might be described indifferently as "north" or "east." "The whole earth rests, is quiet: they break forth into singing. Even the cypresses rejoice at thee, the cedars of Lebanon: 'Since thou hast gone to sleep, no one will come up to lay the axe upon us.'" The preterites indicate inchoatively the circumstances into which the whole earth has now entered. The omission of the subject in the case of pâtz'chu (they break forth) gives the greatest generality to the jubilant utterances: pâtzach rinnâh (erumpere gaudio) is an expression that is characteristic of Isaiah alone (e.g., Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13); and it is a distinctive peculiarity of the prophet to bring in the trees of the forest, as living and speaking beings, to share in the universal joy (cf., Isaiah 55:12). Jerome supposes the trees to be figuratively employed here for the "chiefs of the nations" (principes gentium). But this disposition to allegorize not only destroys the reality of the contents, but the spirit of the poetry also. Cypresses and cedars rejoice because of the treatment which they received from the Chaldean, who made use of the almost imperishable wood of both of them for ornamental buildings, for his siege apparatus, and for his fleets, and even for ordinary ships - as Alexander, for example, built himself a fleet of cypress-wood, and the Syrian vessels had masts of cedar. Of the old cedars of Lebanon, there are hardly thirty left in the principle spot where they formerly grew. Gardner Wilkinson (1843) and Hooker the botanist (1860) estimated the whole number at about four hundred; and according to the conclusion which the latter drew from the number of concentric rings and other signs, not one of them is more than about five hundred years old.

(Note: See Wilkinson's paper in the Athenaeum (London, Noverse 1862).)

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