Isaiah 14:21
Prepare 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.
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(21) Prepare slaughter for his children.—Literally, as in Jeremiah 51:40, a slaughter house. The command may be addressed to the Medes of Isaiah 13:17, or to any minister of the Divine vengeance. In the judgment of God, as seen in history, that judgment falls necessarily on the last members of an evil and cruel dynasty. In this sense the sins of the fathers are visited on the children, while, in the eternal judgment which lies behind the veil, each single soul stands, as in Ezekiel 18:4, on its own personal responsibility, and may win pardon for itself. Penitent or impenitent (and the latter seems here implied), the children of the evil-doers should cease to be conquerors and rulers.

Nor fill the face of the world with cities.—The words describe the boast of the great monarchs, who, like Nimrod, built cities to perpetuate their fame. (Comp. Genesis 10:10-12; Daniel 4:30.) The Babylonian and Assyrian kings record their destructive and constructive work with equal exultation (Records of the Past, v., pp. 80, 119, 123). Various readings have been suggested, giving ruined heaps, or terrible ones, or enemies, or conflicts; but there seems no need for any change.

Isaiah 14:21-23. Prepare slaughter for his children — O ye Medes and Persians, cut off all the branches of the royal family. This, it is probable, was actually done, for Belshazzar being slain, and the monarchy translated to the people last mentioned, it is not likely that any related to the family of the former monarchs were suffered to survive. That they do not rise, nor possess the land — Not recover their former power, nor fill the face of the world with cities — “It was the ambition of the great monarchs of those times, to build new cities, and call them by their own names, thereby to perpetuate their memory. Hence the cities took their rise, which were called by the names of Seleucia, Ptolemais, Alexandria, &c. Some render the latter part of the verse, Nor fill the face of the world with enemies, such as should continue a succession of war and bloodshed, and disturb the peace and quiet of mankind.” — Lowth. I will cut off from Babylon the name, &c. — The remembrance of those that are dead, and the persons of those who yet survive. I will make it a possession for the bittern — A great water-fowl, which delights in solitary places, as also in watery grounds, such as those were about Babylon. And pools of water — The ground about Babylon was of itself very moist, because of the great river Euphrates running by it, which was kept from overflowing the country with charge and labour; this being neglected, when the city was destroyed, it was easily turned into pools of water. And I will sweep it with the besom of destruction — I will make a clear riddance of all its wealth and substance: see similar expressions 2 Kings 21:13. Bishop Lowth translates this clause nearly according to the version of the LXX. And I will plunge it in the miry gulf of destruction, saith Jehovah, God of hosts.

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?Prepare slaughter for his children - That is, cut them off not only from inheriting the honor of their father, but from life. This command seems to be directed to the Medes and Persians, and denotes that they would thus cut off his children.

For the iniquity of their fathers - On account of the crimes of their ancestors - the pride, haughtiness, and oppression of the kings of Babylon. This is the statement of a general principle of the divine administration, that the consequences of crime often pass over from the perpetrator, and impinge on his descendants (see Exodus 20:5).

That they do not rise - That they do not rise to occupy the places of their fathers; that they be degraded and reduced from their elevation and honored.

Nor fill the face of the world with cities - The Septuagint renders this, 'And fill the land with wars.' The Chaldee, 'And fill the face of the world with "enemies."' The Syriac, 'And fill the face of the earth with war.' These versions evidently took the word ערים ‛ārı̂ym to mean "enemies" or "wars" - a sense which the word sometimes may have. But the common interpretation is to be preferred. The apprehension was, that they would fill the land, if they lived, with such cities of pride, magnificence, and wickedness, as "Babylon" was, and that thus crimes would be multiplied and prolonged; and hence, the purpose of God was not only to cut off Babylon - the "model" of all cities of arrogance and pride - but also to cut off those who would be disposed to rear similar cities, and to fill the land again with crime.

Isa 14:21-23. God's Determination to Destroy Babylon.

21. Prepare, &c.—charge to the Medes and Persians, as if they were God's conscious instruments.

his children—Belshazzar's (Ex 20:5).

rise—to occupy the places of their fathers.

fill … with cities—Maurer translates, "enemies," as the Hebrew means in 1Sa 28:16; Ps 139:20; namely, lest they inundate the world with their armies. Vitringa translates, "disturbers." In English Version the meaning is, "lest they fill the land with such cities" of pride as Babylon was.

Prepare slaughter for his children; O ye Medes and Persians, cut off all the branches of the royal family of Babylon.

For the iniquity of their fathers; in the guilt whereof the children are justly involved, partly because of that community of nature and interest which is between parents and children, which makes them for the most part bear a share with them, as in their rewards and advantages, so also in their punishments and miseries; and partly because they justified their sins by their impenitency, and imitation of their wicked example.

Do not rise, i.e. not recover their former splendour and power.

With cities; erected by them, either as instruments of tyranny, to keep the country round about them in slavery, or as monuments of their power and riches, as Babylon was, Daniel 4:30.

Prepare slaughter for his children,.... These words are directed to the Medes and Persians, to prepare instruments of slaughter, and make use of them; and prepare themselves for the slaughter of the whole royal family, Belshazzar and all his children. So it is threatened to Jezebel, or the Romish antichrist, that all her children should be killed with death, Revelation 2:23,

for the iniquity of their fathers; they imitating and following them in their sins, partaking of them, and filling up the measure of their iniquities:

that they do not rise, nor possess the land; stand up and succeed him in the government of the land, as their inheritance:

nor fill the face of the world with cities; as their ancestors had done, which were built by them to perpetuate their name and glory, and to keep the nations in awe subdued by them. The Targum renders it, "with enemies"; which is followed by Aben Ezra, Jarchi, and Kimchi; and so the Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions, "with wars"; to the great disturbance of the peace of the world, and to the disquietude of the inhabitants of it; which is a great plague to the world, and a judgment in it.

{n} Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they may not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.

(n) He called to the Medes and Persians, and all those who would execute God's vengeance.

21. slaughter] a place of slaughter (R.V. marg.).

that they do not rise … land] R.V. that they rise not up, and possess the earth.

full the face of the world with cities] This could hardly be reckoned a crime, for it would be undoing the wrong that their father had wrought (Isaiah 14:17). Some render “enemies” or gain that sense by an emendation. Others change the word ‘ârîm (cities) into ‘iyyîm (ruined heaps). The easiest correction is simply to omit the word, the sense being complete without it.

The elegy ends here.—The passage just considered (Isaiah 14:9-20) bears a close resemblance to Ezekiel’s dirge over the fall of Pharaoh and his host (Ezekiel 32:19 ff.). Many questions of great interest and importance are suggested by both. The most important is how far such representations are to be taken as expressing the fixed belief of the writers or their age with regard to the state after death. Their affinities with Babylonian speculation on that subject, taken in connexion with the fact that such elaborate descriptions of the underworld do not occur before the Exile, may indicate that the imagination of the writers had been influenced by their contact with the religion of their conquerors. In that case it may be reasonable to suppose that they freely availed themselves of the material thus laid to their hand merely as poetic imagery, without meaning to attribute strict objective reality to all the conceptions. At the same time there was a common basis of belief underlying the Hebrew and Babylonian ideas regarding the future state, and all that is essential to the understanding of this passage was probably familiar to the minds of the Israelites before the Exile. In the conception as here presented the following points are to be noted. (1) Sheol, which is figured as a vast subterranean region, is the common gathering-place of all the dead. They exist there as shades, rěphâ’îm (Isaiah 14:9), a word which is usually explained to mean “feeble ones,”—weak, pithless adumbrations of the living form. These are represented as capable of being roused to a transient interest in human affairs by the arrival amongst them of so distinguished a personage as the king of Babylon; but their ordinary condition is one of utter inactivity, a sort of conscious death rather than life. It is true that the writer speaks only of kings and potentates, and throws little light on the state of the common man after death. Still the Old Testament as a whole knows nothing of separate spheres of existence for the righteous and for the wicked, and that idea is certainly not to be imported into the present passage. (2) We seem to find a clear trace of the antique notion that the lot of the shade in Sheol depends on the fate of the body on earth. The kings who have received due interment sit each on his throne retaining the semblance of their former greatness, while he who was “cast forth away from his sepulchre” is relegated to the “recesses of the pit.” This, however, is connected with the conviction that the fate of the body is not accidental; a dishonoured death expresses the final judgment of God on a career of exceptional wickedness. And it is this judgment of God, executed on earth, which is regarded as reflected and perpetuated in the condition of the disembodied spirit. (3) In this way the idea of retribution is extended to the other world. There is indeed an essential difference between the application of the principle here given and that to which a fuller revelation has led us. As we have seen, the retribution here spoken of is only the counterpart of a retribution already manifest on earth, whereas we have learned to look to the future life to redress the inequalities of the present, and to bring about a perfect correspondence between character and destiny, never realised in this world.

Verse 21. - Prepare slaughter for his children. Belshazzar had "wives and concubines" (Daniel 5:2), and therefore probably children. The magnanimity of Cyrus may have spared them; but neither Cambyses nor Darius Hystaspis had the same merciful disposition. As soon as there was seen to be danger of Babylon revolting, they would almost certainly be put to death. For the iniquity of their fathers (comp. Exodus 20:5). The destruction of their posterity was a part of the punishment of the fathers. That they do not rise; i.e. "that they do not recover themselves and become great monarchs once more, and once more build great cities, "such as those which they were famous for Babel, Erech, Accad, Calneh, Ur, Sepharvaim, Borsippa, Opts, Teredon, etc. It was as city-builders that the Babylonians were especially celebrated (Genesis 10:10; Daniel 4:30; Herod., 1:178, etc.). Isaiah 14:21"Prepare a slaughter-house for his sons, because of the iniquity of their fathers! They shall not rise and conquer lands, and fill the face of the earth with cities." They exhortation is addressed to the Medes, if the prophet had any particular persons in his mind at all. After the nocturnal storming of Babylon by the Medes, the new Babylonian kingdom and royal house which had been established by Nabopolassar vanished entirely from history. The last shoot of the royal family of Nabopolassar was slain as a child of conspirators. The second Nebuchadnezzar deceived the people (as Darius says in the great inscription of Behistan), declaring, "I am Nabukudrac ara the son of Nabunita." בּל (used poetically for אל, like בּלי in Isaiah 14:6 for לא) expresses a negative wish (as pen does a negative intention): Let no Babylonian kingdom ever arise again! Hitzig corrects ערים into עיּים (heaps of ruins), Ewald into עריצים (tyrants), Knobel into רעים, and Meier into עדים, which are said to signify conflicts, whilst Maurer will not take ערים in the sense of cities, but of enemies. But there is no necessity for this at all. Nimrod, the first founder of a Babylonio-Assyrian kingdom, built cities to strengthen his monarchy. The king of Asshur built cities for the Medes, for the purpose of keeping them better in check. And it is to this building of cities, as a support to despotism, that the prophet here refers.
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