Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.
Isa 13:1-22. The Thirteenth through Twenty-third Chapters Contain Prophecies as to Foreign Nations.—The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-seventh Chapters as to Babylon and Assyria.
The predictions as to foreign nations are for the sake of the covenant people, to preserve them from despair, or reliance on human confederacies, and to strengthen their faith in God: also in order to extirpate narrow-minded nationality: God is Jehovah to Israel, not for Israel's sake alone, but that He may be thereby Elohim to the nations. These prophecies are in their right chronological place, in the beginning of Hezekiah's reign; then the nations of Western Asia, on the Tigris and Euphrates, first assumed a most menacing aspect.
1. burden—weighty or mournful prophecy [Grotius]. Otherwise, simply, the prophetical declaration, from a Hebrew root to put forth with the voice anything, as in Nu 23:7 [Maurer].
of Babylon—concerning Babylon.
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.
2. Lift … banner—(Isa 5:26; 11:10).
the high mountain—rather, "a bare (literally, "bald," that is, without trees) mountain"; from it the banner could be seen afar off, so as to rally together the peoples against Babylon.
unto them—unto the Medes (Isa 13:17), the assailants of Babylon. It is remarkable that Isaiah does not foretell here the Jews' captivity in Babylon, but presupposes that event, and throws himself beyond, predicting another event still more future, the overthrow of the city of Israel's oppressors. It was now one hundred seventy-four years before the event.
shake … hand—beckon with the hand—wave the hand to direct the nations to march against Babylon.
nobles—Babylonian. Rather, in a bad sense, tyrants; as in Isa 14:5, "rulers" in parallelism to "the wicked"; and Job 21:28 [Maurer].
I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.
3. sanctified ones—the Median and Persian soldiers solemnly set apart by Me for the destruction of Babylon, not inwardly "sanctified," but designated to fulfil God's holy purpose (Jer 51:27, 28; Joe 3:9, 11; where the Hebrew for prepare war is "sanctify" war).
for mine anger—to execute it.
rejoice in my highness—"Those who are made to triumph for My honor" [Horsley]. The heathen Medes could not be said to "rejoice in God's highness" Maurer translates, "My haughtily exulting ones" (Zep 3:11); a special characteristic of the Persians [Herodotus,1.88]. They rejoiced in their own highness, but it was His that they were unconsciously glorifying.
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.
4. the mountains—namely, which separate Media and Assyria, and on one of which the banner to rally the hosts is supposed to be reared.
tumultuous noise—The Babylonians are vividly depicted as hearing some unwonted sound like the din of a host; they try to distinguish the sounds, but can only perceive a tumultuous noise.
nations—Medes, Persians, and Armenians composed Cyrus' army.
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.
5. They—namely, "Jehovah," and the armies which are "the weapons of His indignation."
far country—Media and Persia, stretching to the far north and east.
end of heaven—the far east (Ps 19:6).
destroy—rather, "to seize" [Horsley].
Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.
6. day of the Lord—day of His vengeance on Babylon (Isa 2:12). Type of the future "day of wrath" (Re 6:17).
destruction—literally, "a devastating tempest."
from the Almighty—not from mere man; therefore irresistible. "Almighty," Hebrew, Shaddai.
Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:
7. faint … melt—So Jer 50:43; compare Jos 7:5. Babylon was taken by surprise on the night of Belshazzar's impious feast (Da 5:30). Hence the sudden fainting and melting of hearts.
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 one at another; their faces shall be as flames.
8. pangs—The Hebrew means also a "messenger." Horsley, therefore, with the Septuagint translates, "The heralds (who bring word of the unexpected invasion) are terrified." Maurer agrees with English Version, literally, "they shall take hold of pangs and sorrows."
woman … travaileth—(1Th 5:3).
amazed—the stupid, bewildered gaze of consternation.
faces … flames—"their visages have the livid hue of flame" [Horsley]; with anguish and indignation.
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.
9. cruel—not strictly, but unsparingly just; opposed to mercy. Also answering to the cruelty (in the strict sense) of Babylon towards others (Isa 14:17) now about to be visited on itself.
the land—"the earth" [Horsley]. The language of Isa 13:9-13 can only primarily and partially apply to Babylon; fully and exhaustively, the judgments to come, hereafter, on the whole earth. Compare Isa 13:10 with Mt 24:29; Re 8:12. The sins of Babylon, arrogancy (Isa 13:11; Isa 14:11; 47:7, 8), cruelty, false worship (Jer 50:38), persecution of the people of God (Isa 47:6), are peculiarly characteristic of the Antichristian world of the latter days (Da 11:32-37; Re 17:3, 6; 18:6, 7, 9-14, 24).
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.
10. stars, &c.—figuratively for anarchy, distress, and revolutions of kingdoms (Isa 34:4; Joe 2:10; Eze 32:7, 8; Am 8:9; Re 6:12-14). There may be a literal fulfilment finally, shadowed forth under this imagery (Re 21:1).
constellations—Hebrew, "a fool," or "impious one"; applied to the constellation Orion, which was represented as an impious giant (Nimrod deified, the founder of Babylon) chained to the sky. See on Job 38:31.
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.
11. world—the impious of the world (compare Isa 11:4).
arrogancy—Babylon's besetting sin (Da 4:22, 30).
the terrible—rather, tyrants [Horsley].
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.
12. man … precious—I will so cut off Babylon's defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold.
Therefore I will 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.
13. Image for mighty revolutions (Isa 24:19; 34:4; Hab 3:6, 10; Hag 2:6, 7; Re 20:11).
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.
roe—gazelle; the most timid and easily startled.
no man taketh up—sheep defenseless, without a shepherd (Zec 13:7).
every man … to his own people—The "mingled peoples" of foreign lands shall flee out of her (Jer 50:16, 28, 37; 51:9).
Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.
15. found—in the city.
joined—"intercepted" [Maurer]. "Every one that has withdrawn himself," namely, to hide in the houses [Gesenius].
Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.
16. (Ps 137:8, 9).
Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.
17. Medes—(Isa 21:2; Jer 51:11, 28). At that time they were subject to Assyria; subsequently Arbaces, satrap of Media, revolted against the effeminate Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, destroyed Nineveh, and became king of Media, in the ninth century B.C.
not regard silver—In vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom. The heathen Xenophon (Cyropædia, 5,1,10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes, disregard of riches. A curious confirmation of this prophecy.
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.
18. bows—in the use of which the Persians were particularly skilled.
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
19. glory of kingdoms—(Isa 14:4; 47:5; Jer 51:41).
beauty of … excellency—Hebrew, "the glory of the pride" of the Chaldees; it was their glory and boast.
as … Gomorrah—as utterly (Jer 49:18; 50:40; Am 4:11). Taken by Cyrus, by clearing out the canal made for emptying the superfluous waters of the Euphrates, and directing the river into this new channel, so that he was able to enter the city by the old bed in the night.
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.
20. Literally fulfilled.
neither … Arabian pitch tent—Not only shall it not be a permanent residence, but not even a temporary resting-place. The Arabs, through dread of evil spirits, and believing the ghost of Nimrod to haunt it, will not pass the night there (compare Isa 13:21).
neither … shepherds—The region was once most fertile; but owing to the Euphrates being now no longer kept within its former channels, it has become a stagnant marsh, unfit for flocks; and on the wastes of its ruins (bricks and cement) no grass grows.
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.
21. wild beasts—Hebrew, tsiyim, animals dwelling in arid wastes. Wild cats, remarkable for their howl [Bochart].
doleful creatures—"howling beasts," literally, "howlings" [Maurer].
owls—rather, "ostriches"; a timorous creature, delighting in solitary deserts and making a hideous noise [Bochart].
satyrs—sylvan demi-gods—half man, half goat—believed by the Arabs to haunt these ruins; probably animals of the goat-ape species [Vitringa]. Devil-worshippers, who dance amid the ruins on a certain night [J. Wolff].
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.
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).