Matthew Poole's Commentary
The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.God’s armies, Isaiah 13:1-5. The destruction of Babylon by the Persians and Medes: their great distress and anguish; and their utter desolation, Isaiah 13:6-22.
The burden: this title is commonly given to sad prophecies, which indeed are grievous burdens to them upon whom they are laid. See 2 Kings 9:25 Jeremiah 23:33,36.
Of Babylon; of the city and empire of Babylon by Cyrus, for their manifold and great sins, and in order to the deliverance of his people.
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.Lift ye up a banner, to gather soldiers together for this expedition.
Upon the high mountain; whence it may be discerned at a considerable distance. Withal he seems to intimate that their enemies should come from the mountainous country of Media.
Unto them; to the Medes, who are named below, Isaiah 13:17.
Shake the hand; beckon to them with your hand, that they may come to this service.
That they may go into the gates of the nobles; that they may go and fight against Babylon, and take it, and so enter into the palaces of the king, and of his princes, and spoil them at their pleasure; which the Medes and Persians did. The manner of expression implies how easily and expeditiously they did their work, that, like Caesar, they might say they only came, and saw, and overcame.
I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.My sanctified ones; the Medes and Persians, fitly so called, because they were solemnly designed and set apart by God for his own service, and for this holy work of executing his just vengeance upon them.
My mighty ones; those whom I have made mighty for this work.
In my highness; or, as others render it, in my glory, materially considered, to wit, in the doing of that work which tends much to the advancement of my glory, in destroying of the Babylonian empire. For otherwise the Medes had no regard to God nor to his glory, but only to their own carnal ends.
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.The kingdoms of nations; the Medes and Persians, and other nations which served under them in this war; of which see Jeremiah 25:14 27:7 50:41.
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.From the end of heaven; from the ends of the earth under heaven, as Matthew 24:30; which is not to be understood strictly and properly, but popularly and hyperbolically, as such expressions are commonly used in sacred and profane authors. And yet in some respects this might be truly said of Persia, which on the south side was bounded by the main ocean; as for the same reason Sheba, a part of Arabia, is called
the utmost parts of the earth, Matthew 12:42.
The weapons of his indignation; the Medes and Persians, who were but a rod in God’s hand, and the instruments of his anger, as was said of the Assyrian, Isaiah 10:5.
To destroy the whole land, to wit, of Babylon, of which he is now speaking.
Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.It shall come as a destruction; or rather, a destruction or devastation shall come, as the LXX. and vulgar Latin render it. For this was not
as a destruction, but was a destruction indeed. And the particle as is not seldom used to express, not the likeness, but the reality of the thing, as John 1:14.
From the Almighty; who fighteth for your adversaries, and against you, and therefore your destruction is unavoidable.
Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:No text from Poole on this verse.
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.They shall be amazed one at another, to see so populous and impregnable a city as Babylon was, so easily and unexpectedly taken.
Flames, Heb. faces of flame; either pale with fear, or inflamed with rage and torment, as men in misery frequently are. Some render it the faces of Lehabim, a people descending from Mizraim, Genesis 10:13 1 Chronicles 1:11, i.e. black with pain, as men use to be; of which see Joel 2:6 Nahum 2:10.
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.Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger; divers words are heaped together, to signify the extremity of his anger.
The sinners thereof; the inhabitants of that city, who were guilty of so much idolatry and cruelty, and all sorts of luxury.
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.The constellations; which consist of many stars, and therefore give a greater light.
The sun shall be darkened; either,
1. Properly and really, by an eclipse; for prodigies in heaven do sometimes go before or accompany great and public calamities upon earth. Or,
2. Figuratively, and in appearance. All things shall look darkly and dismally; men shall have no comfort nor hope. See the like descriptions of a most calamitous state, Isaiah 5:30 34:4 Joel 2:10,31, &c.
In his going forth; as soon as he riseth, when he is most welcome to men, and giveth them hopes of a pleasant day. As soon as they have any appearance or hope of amendment, they shall be instantly disappointed.
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.The world; the Babylonish empire, which is called the world, as the Roman empire afterward was, Luke 2:1, because it was extended to a great part of the world, and because it was vastly populous, and Babylon itself looked more like a world than one city.
Of the terrible; of them who formerly were very terrible for their great power and cruelty.
I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.The city and nation shall be so depopulated, that few men shall be left in it.
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.I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place; a poetical and prophetical description of great errors and confusions, as if heaven and earth were about to meet together.
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.And it, to wit, Babylon,
shall be as the chased roe; fearful in itself, especially when it is pursued by the hunter.
As a sheep that no man taketh up; in a most forlorn and neglected condition.
Every man; those soldiers of other and more warlike nations whom she had hired to assist her; which she used to do at other times, but especially upon this great occasion; of which See Poole "Jeremiah 50:16"; See Poole "Jeremiah 51:9".
Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.That is found in Babylon, at the taking of it; the expectation whereof made them flee away with all speed.
Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, as a just recompence for the like cruelty acted by them upon the Jews, 2 Chronicles 36:17, which also was foretold, Psalm 137:9.
Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.The Medes; under whom he comprehends the Persians, who were their neighbours and confederates in this expedition.
They shall not delight in it; which is to be understood comparatively. They shall more eagerly pursue the destruction of the people than the getting of spoil; whereby it shall appear that they are only the executioners of my vengeance against them; they will accept no ransom to save their lives.
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.Their bows; under which are comprehended their arrows, and possibly other weapons of war; for so generally sometimes is the bow used in Scripture, as 2 Samuel 1:18 Psalm 78:9 Isaiah 41:2. Shall dash the young men to pieces; or, shall pierce the young men through, as the Chaldee readers it.
And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.The glory of kingdoms; which once was the most noble and excellent of all the kingdoms then in being, and Was more glorious than the succeeding empires, whence it was represented by the head of gold, Daniel 2:32.
The beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency; the famous and beautiful seat of the Chaldean monarchy.
Shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; shall be totally and irrecoverably destroyed, as is more fully expressed in the following verses; which yet was not done immediately upon the taking of the city by Darius and Cyrus, but was fulfilled by degrees, as is confessed by historians, and appears this day.
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.It shall never be inhabited, after the destruction threatened shall be fully accomplished.
Neither shall the Arabian, who dwelt in tents, and wandered from place, where they could find pasture; but shall avoid this place, either because the land, once noted for great fruitfulness, is now become barren; or because the land is accursed by God, and abhorred by all men; or for fear of the wild beasts, as it follows.
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.Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; the land being forsaken by men, shall be possessed by wild beasts, which love solitary places. What the Hebrew words used here, and in the next verse, signify, the learned may see in my Latin Synopsis; and for others, it may suffice to know that in which all the learned agree, that these are frightful and solitary creatures; of which if I should particularly discourse, I should rather perplex than edify the vulgar reader.
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.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.