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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 13

 

 

Verses 1-22

Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23. The Utter Ruin of Babylon and Triumphal Ode over her Monarch's Death.—Historical conditions are here presupposed entirely different from those of Isaiah's time. The subject of Isaiah 13 is the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes a century and a half after his age. Since the downfall is said to lie in the near future, the prophecy must have been written very near the close of the Exile. The description of Babylon is also not true to the situation of Isaiah's day. The great oppressing empire, whose downfall he predicted, was Assyria. Babylon was subject to it, though it revolted from time to time, and it was united in friendly relations with Judah by hate for the common oppressor. In our prophecy Babylon is no longer a subject state, but "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride," proud and arrogant, haughty and terrible. The ode in Isaiah 14:4 b - Isaiah 14:21 probably belongs to the same date. It is a song of triumph over the fall of an unnamed oppressor. The writer pictures with undisguised exultation the taunts that will be aimed at the fallen tyrant in Sheol. Although the king is not named, the close connexion with the preceding prophecy makes it likely that the king of Babylon is meant. Isaiah 14:1-4 a is apparently an editorial link between Isaiah 13 and the ode that follows. If so, the reference to the restoration is to the return from the Dispersion rather than simply from Babylon. Prophecies of the return were not necessarily composed before the return under Cyrus, for neither that nor the subsequent return led by Ezra embraced more than a comparatively small remnant of the Jewish population out of Palestine. Long afterwards the hope of restoration was still cherished.

Isaiah 13. A standard is to be set on the bare mountain, that it may be seen far and wide. The warriors are summoned to enter the gates of the Babylonians, here called "the nobles," other nations being the common people in comparison with these world rulers. The warriors are summoned to execute Yahweh's anger. They proudly exult in prospect of victory. They are called consecrated because war was regarded as a holy enterprise, and those who took part in it as specially dedicated to the Divine service, which imposed upon them several restrictions, or, as they are technically called, taboos. Yahweh was Himself supposed to go with His armies to battle. Campaigns were inaugurated with sacrifice (pp. 99, 114). The prophet hears the Medes mustering in their mountains to pour down on the plains of Babylonia. Though they howl, for Yahweh's day is at hand, men shall be powerless and dismayed in pain and perplexity. The day comes, cruel and angry, to desolate the land and extirpate sinners. The sun, moon, and stars will be darkened; the wicked will be punished and the haughty be brought low; a man will be rarer than gold; the heavens will tremble, the earth leap from her place. Then the traders or visitors who have come from all quarters to Babylon will rush home in headlong flight. The atrocities which were the usual accomplishments of the capture of a city, especially by savage warriors like the Medes, will be perpetrated at Babylon's fall. For they will not be bought off, they will be pitiless even to the most helpless, and Babylon, now at last mentioned by name, the capital of many subject kingdoms, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah, desolate for ever, unvisited even by the nomad or the shepherd, the home of wild beasts and uncanny monsters. And this judgment is near at hand.

Isaiah 13:1. burden: read mg. It is derived from the verb "to lift up," meaning to lift up the voice.

Isaiah 13:6. Cf. Joel 1:15.

Isaiah 13:8. faces of flame: variously explained as the flame of pain, shame, or excitement.

Isaiah 13:10. The failure of the heavenly bodies to shine is a very common element in prophetic pictures of judgment. Read, perhaps, "For the heavens and the constellations thereof." Constellations means such constellations as Orion.

Isaiah 13:12. Ophir: the situation has been much disputed. It has been located on the W. coast of India, and on the S.E. coast of Africa, opposite Madagascar. The most probable view is that it was on the S.E. coast of Arabia, but the name may also have included the district opposite this on the E. coast of Africa. See the Dictionaries.

Isaiah 13:15 f. The atrocities were not actually perpetrated, for Babylon surrendered peacefully to Cyrus.

Isaiah 13:17. The Medes (pp. 58, 60) were a mountaineering nation to the N.E. of Babylon. Cyrus united them with the Persians under his sway, and together they captured Babylon in 538. See pp. 61, 77.

Isaiah 13:19. The Chaldeans (pp. 58f.) were a people living on the coast S.E. of Babylonia. Merodach Baladan (p. 71) who held Babylon for a time against Assyria, was a Chaldean. But they were not in any sense Babylonians till Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who was a Chaldean, founded the new Babylonian empire about 626 (p. 60). The name was subsequently used as synonymous with Babylonians. In Daniel we have the curious use of Chaldeans in the sense of magicians or wise men (pp. 524f.).

Isaiah 13:21 f. Parallels occur in Zephaniah 2:14 f.; Jeremiah 50:39; Jeremiah 51:37; Isaiah 34:11-15. The creatures mentioned belonged not merely to what we should call natural history, but supernatural, which were not sharply distinguished by the ancient mind. The names are in some cases of uncertain meaning. The satyrs are demons, probably in the shape of goats. It is a common Arab superstition that ruins are haunted by uncanny creatures. The author further predicts that this desolation is to come quickly. As a matter of fact the city remained unharmed under Cyrus. Its outer walls were destroyed when it revolted from Darius I, and it gradually decayed. It was still inhabited in the time of Alexander the Great, who purposed to make it his capital, and who died there.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/isaiah-13.html. 1919.

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