Isaiah 14
Matthew Poole's Commentary
For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.
Israel should be delivered from the Babylonish captivity: their triumphant insultation over Babel, Isaiah 14:1-23. God’s purpose against Assyria, Isaiah 14:24-27. Palestina is threatened, Isaiah 14:28-32.

The Lord will have mercy on Jacob; God will pity and deliver his people; and therefore will destroy Babylon, which hinders it, and set up Cyrus, who shall promote it.

will yet choose Israel; will renew his choice of them; for he had refused and rejected them.

The stranger shall be joined with them: so they did in part at their coming from Babylon, being thereunto moved either by the favour which the Jews had in the Persian court, or by the consideration of their wonderful deliverance, and that exactly in the time designed by their holy prophets. But what was then begun was more fully accomplished at the coming of the Messiah.

And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the LORD for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
Which they might do literally, and sometimes did, after their return into their own land, either by their power with the Persian monarchs, as in the days of Cyrus and Darius, and especially of Ahasuerus; or by their own prowess, as in the time of the Maccabees. But this was more evidently and eminently verified in a spiritual sense, in the days of the gospel, when the apostles and other ministers, who were of the Jewish nation, conquered a great part of the Gentile world to the worship and obedience of their Messiah.

And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,
From thy fear; for besides their present hard service, they were in perpetual fear of further severities and sufferings, at the pleasure of their cruel lords and masters.

That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!
Shalt take up into thy mouth, as it is fully expressed, Psalm 50:16.

How hath the oppressor ceased! this is spoken by way of astonishment and triumph. Who would have thought this possible?

The golden city, as they used to call themselves; which therefore he expresseth here in a word of their own language.

The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers.
This is an answer to the foregoing question. It is God’s own work, and not man’s; and therefore it is not strange that it is accomplished.

He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.
In anger; with rigour, and not with clemency, as many conquerors have done.

Non hindereth; neither the Babylonians themselves, nor their confederates, could withstand the power of the Medes and Persians.

The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.
The whole earth; the inhabitants and subjects of that vast empire, who groaned under their cruel bondage.

Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.
The cedars of Lebanon, which were felled down for the service of her pride and luxury, but now are suffered to stand and flourish. It is a figure usual in sacred and profane writers, called prosopopaeia.

Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.
Hell; or, the grave, as the same word is rendered, Isaiah 14:11, and in innumerable other places; to which he elegantly ascribeth sense and speech, as poets and orators frequently do.

The chief ones, Heb. the he-goats; which lead and govern the flock. From their thrones; from their several graves, which he seems to call their thrones by way of irony or derision, the only thrones now left to them. Thrones both paved and covered with worms, as is noted, Isaiah 14:11, instead of their former thrones made of ivory or silver, and adorned with gold and precious stones.

All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?
Thou, who wast king of kings, and far superior to us in power and authority, that didst neither fear God nor reverence man, that didst slay whom thou wouldst, and keep alive whom thou wouldst, Daniel 5:19.

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.
Thy pomp is brought down to the grave; all thy glory is lost and buried with thee.

The noise of thy viols; all thy musical and melodious instruments, which were much used in Babylon, Daniel 3:5,7,10, and were doubtless used in Belshazzar’s solemn feast, Daniel 5:1, at which time the city was taken; to which possibly the prophet here alludes.

The worm is spread under thee, instead of those rich and stately carpets upon which thou didst frequently tread.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
From heaven; from the height of thy glory and royal majesty. As kings are sometimes called gods in Scripture, so their palaces and thrones may be fitly called their heavens.

O Lucifer; which properly is a bright and eminent star, which ushers in the sun and the morning; but is here metaphorically taken for the high and mighty king of Babylon. And it is a very usual thing, both in prophetical and in profane writers, to describe the princes and potentates of the world under the title of the sun or stars of heaven. Some understand this place of the devil; to whom indeed it may be mystically applied; but as he is never called by this name in Scripture, so it cannot be literally meant of him, but of the king of Babylon, as is undeniably evident from the whole context, which certainly speaks of one and the same person, and describes him as plainly as words can do it.

Song of Solomon of the morning: the title of son is given in Scripture not only to a person or thing begotten or produced by another, but also in general to any thing which is any way related to another; in which sense we read of a son of stripes, Deu 25:2, the son of a night, Jonah 4:10, a son of perdition, John 17:12, and, which is more agreeable to the present case, the sons of Arcturus, Job 38:32.

For thou hast said in thine 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 north:
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.

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
Above the heights of the clouds, to wit, into heaven, as he said, Isaiah 14:13.

Like the Most High, in the uncontrollableness of my power, and the universal extent of my dominion over all the earth.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
No text from Poole on this verse.

They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;
Shall narrowly look upon thee; as hardly believing their own eyes, because this change seemed impossible to them.

The earth; all the nations of the earth.

That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?
Whereby he signifies both his irresistible power, and his continued cruelty. He neither was willing to give them any liberty or ease, nor could any force him to do it.

All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house.
All of them; other kings most commonly do, as the word all is frequently used.

Every one in his own house; are buried in their own sepulchres, having stately monuments erected to their honour and memory.

But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
Cast out of thy grave; or, cast from thy grave or burying place; which very probably happened to Belshazzar, who was slain in the night, Daniel 5:30, when his people had neither opportunity nor heart to bestow an honourable interment upon him, and the conquerors would not suffer them to do it.

Like an abominable branch; like a useless and rotten twig of a tree, which he that pruneth the trees cutteth off, and casteth away with abhorrency, and suffers to lie rotting more and more upon the ground; or, like a degenerate plant of a noble vine, which is abominable.

As the raiment of those that are slain; which, being cut and mangled, and besmeared with mire, and defiled with blood, was cast away with contempt, and abominated as an unclean thing, as it was in divers respects, in that age and state of the church.

That go down to the stones of the pit; which persons being slain, they, together with their garments, are cast into some pit. He saith, to the stones of the pit, either because such bodies are commonly thrown into the next pits, and pits were frequently made by digging stones out of their quarries; or because there usually are a great number of stones in the bottoms of pits, either naturally, or being cast in thither upon, divers occasions; and when dead bodies are cast in thither, men use to throw a heap of stones upon them.

As a carcass trodden under feet; neglected, like such a carcass. Or this might literally happen to Belshazzar’s dead body, through military fury and contempt, or from other causes.

Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.
Thou shalt not be joined with them; not in place, for so the kings of several nations did not use to be joined in the same sepulchre; but in condition, not be buried as they are.

Thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people; thou hast exercised great tyranny and cruelty, not only to thine enemies, but even to thine own subjects; which it is more than probable Belshazzar did, and it is certain that his parents and predecessors had done, whose sins contributed, together with his, to bring down God’s judgments upon that empire.

The seed of evil-doers, such as Belshazzar was, being descended from that Nebuchadnezzar who had made such horrid slaughters and devastations in the world, merely to gratify his own unsatiable lusts, and who had been so impious towards God and his temple, and so bloody towards his church and people.

Shall never be renowned; or, shall not be renowned for ever. Although I have long borne with thee and thy family, and suffered them to get a great name in the world, yet I will now put a period to the renown of thy family and empire.

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.
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.

For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.
The name and remnant; the remembrance of those that are dead, and the persons of those who yet survive.

I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.
The bittern; a great water fowl, which thrusting its bill into some broken reed, or hollow thing, makes a great noise; which also delights in solitary places, as also in waterish grounds, such as those were about Babylon. Others render the word hedge-hog, or porcupine; but this being not considerable in itself, nor at all necessary for the clearing of the text, I shall not trouble the English reader with any discourse about it; and the learned may consult my Latin Synopsis.

Pools of water: the ground about Babylon was of itself very moist and waterish, because of the great river Euphrates running by it, which was kept from overflowing the country with charge and labour; which being neglected, as it must needs be when the city was destroyed and dispeopled, it was easily turned into pools of water.

The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
I will not repent of this threatening, as I did of that against Nineveh, Jonah 3:4,10. And this solemn oath is added to confirm the faith of God’s people, because otherwise the destruction of this vast and mighty empire might seem incredible. But it is to be diligently observed, that this verse doth not only concern this present prophecy of Babylon’s destruction by the Medes and Persians, but is also to be extended unto the foregoing prophecy concerning the overthrow of Sennacherib and the Assyrian host, Isaiah 10, as appears by the next verse, where the sum of that prophecy is repeated. Nor is this any digression, but very pertinent to the main design and business of this chapter; inasmuch as the overthrow of that great Assyrian host, and of the deliverance of God’s people at that time, was a pledge of the certain accomplishment of that future destruction of the city and empire of Babylon, and of their deliverance out of that captivity.

That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.
The Assyrian; Sennacherib, and his Assyrian army. In my land; in Judea, which is my land in a peculiar manner, being chosen by me, and consecrated to my use and service, and inhabited by my people.

Upon my mountains; in my mountainous country, for such Judea was, Deu 8:9 Psalm 133:3 Ezekiel 6:2,3 39:2,4,17, especially about Jerusalem, Psalm 125:2, upon some of which probably his army was lodged.

Then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders; which words are repeated from Isaiah 10:27, where they are explained.

This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.
Upon the whole earth; upon this vast empire, now in the hands of the Assyrians, and shortly to come into the hands of the Babylonians.

The whole earth is put synecdochically for a great part of it. The hand; the providence of God executing his purpose.

For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
No text from Poole on this verse.

In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.
This following burdensome prophecy concerning the Philistines, who in Ahaz’s time made an inroad into Judah, and took divers of their cities and villages, 2 Chronicles 28:18.

Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.
Of him that smote thee: most understand this of Uzziah, who did them much mischief, 2 Chronicles 26:6; but he was dead thirty-two years before this time, and therefore their joy for his death was long since past. Others understand it of Ahaz; but he was so far from smiting them, that he was smitten by them, as was noted on Isaiah 14:28. It seems better to understand it more generally of the royal race or foregoing kings of Judah, who had been a terrible scourge to them, whose rod might be said to be broken, because that sceptre was come into the hands of slothful and degenerate princes, such as Ahaz was, who had been lately broken by the Philistines, and who probably was alive when this prophecy was delivered, because he here speaks of Hezekiah not as a present, but as a future king. It is said indeed that this burden was in the year that Ahaz died; but so it might be, though it was before his death.

His fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent; from the root and race of David shall come Hezekiah, who, like a serpent, shall sting thee to death, as he did, 2 Kings 18:8.

And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
The first-born of the poor; the people of the Jews, who are brought to extreme poverty by the cruelty and the malice of other enemies. The first-born were the chief of all the children. Hence the title of first-born is given to persons or things which are most eminent in their kinds, as to the people of Israel, Exodus 4:22, to David, Psalm 89:27, to a grievous death, Job 18:13, and here to persons eminently poor.

Shall feed; shall have plenty of provisions, in spite of all thine attempts against them.

I will kill thy root; I will utterly destroy thee both root and branch, so that there shall not be a remnant of thy people reserved, as it follows. It is a metaphor from a tree, which for want of nourishment is dried up by the roots.

Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.
O gate: the gate is put either,

1. Metaphorically, for the people passing through the gates, or for the magistrates and others who used to meet in the gate for judgment, or upon other occasions; or,

2. Synecdochically, for the city, as gates are commonly put, as Jeremiah 22:19, and as it is explained in the next words.

O city: city is here put collectively for their cities, of which see 1 Samuel 6:17.

Dissolved, Heb. melted; which may be understood either,

1. Of the fainting of their spirits and courage, as Exodus 15:15 Joshua 2:9,24, &c.; or, 2. Of the dissolution of their state.

From the north; either,

1. From Judea; which lay northward from some part of the Philistines’ land. But in truth Judea lay more east than north from Palestine, and therefore the Philistines are said to be on the west, Isaiah 11:14, and never, so far as I remember, on the north. Or,

2. From Chaldea. as may be gathered,

1. From the Scripture use of this phrase, which generally designs that country, as Jeremiah 1:14,15 6:1,22, &c.

2. From Jeremiah 47, where destruction is threatened to the Philistines from the north, Isaiah 14:2, which all understand of the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar. And whereas it is speciously objected, That this suits not with the next verse, which speaks of Zion’s safety at the time of this destruction of the Philistines, whereas Zion and the land and people of Judah were destroyed together with the Philistines by Nebuchadnezzar; I humbly conceive it may be answered, that that verse is added to express the far differing condition of God’s people and of the Philistines in the events of that Babylonian war; and that whereas the Philistines should be irrecoverably and eternally destroyed thereby, and no remnant of them should be left, as was said, Isaiah 14:30, God’s people, though they should be sorely scourged, and carried into captivity, yet they should be strangely preserved, and after some years delivered, and restored to their own land and temple; whereby it would appear that Zion stood upon a sure foundation, and, albeit it was grievously shaken, yet it could not be utterly and finally overthrown.

A smoke; a grievous judgment and calamity, which is oft signified by smoke, as Genesis 15:17 Deu 29:20 Joel 2:30, either because smoke is generally accompanied with fire, or because it causeth a great darkness in the air; for afflictions are frequently described under the names of fire and darkness. In his appointed times: when God’s appointed time shall come for the execution of this judgment, not one person of all that numerous army, which is signified by the smoke last mentioned, shall retire and desert his colours, or lag behind the rest; but they shall march with great unanimity and alacrity, and none of them shall withdraw his hand till the work be finished, till the Philistines be utterly destroyed.

What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it.
What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? what shall a Jew say to the people of other nations, who shall either be sent or come to inquire concerning the state of Zion in that day, when not only the Philistines, but even the Jews themselves, shall fall by the hands of one and the same enemy?

Nation is put collectively for nations, as gate and city for gates and cities in the foregoing verse. They shall give them this answer, That although Zion at present be in a very distressed and deplorable condition, and seems to be forsaken by her God; yet she stands upon a firm foundation, and God, who first founded her, will again restore and establish her, and his poor despised people shall resort to her, as to a strong and sure refuge.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

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