Isaiah 13:1-14:32 Link to LXE Modernized (1)
Phase Two: Judgment Against Babylon/Lucifer
In chapters 13 and 14, God through Isaiah pronounces judgment against Babylon and Lucifer. Phase one of God’s judgment was against his own house. Judgment against God’s own house, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah, dominated the first twelve chapters. Next, God through his prophet turns to phase two. Phase two is against many nations and cities. Chapters 13 and 14 concern Babylon. After this, Isaiah continues phase two’s judgment against many nations through Chapter 24. Then his attention turns to restoration for Judah, followed by judgment again against his own people. The prophet continues to alternate blessing for the redeemed and judgment for the unwilling throughout the entire book.
Isaiah’s Main Characters
When we think of the Book of Isaiah as a great biblical drama, we find strongly defined characters: 1) God, 2) God’s Messiah, who shares divinity with God, 3) Judah, the southern kingdom, 4) Israel, the northern kingdom, 5) God’s remnant, those whom he redeems, 6) the foreign adversaries, and 7) the new enemy, which is the enemy, Satan.
Notice that this list shows God’s household of Israel and Judah as separate from those whom God redeems. Both testaments teach concerning a remnant of Israel and Judah whom God saves. Gentiles are added to this remnant, as we learned in prior posts. What is NEW in chapters 13 and 14 is the well developed character, Lucifer, the enemy. Messiah also figures strongly in a few Septuagint verses.
Concrete or Symbolic?
What is it about a passage that causes a reader to search for multiple layers of meaning? One indication is the way the author uses words. Chapter 13 begins with what we might call hyperbole. First, the Lord speaks strongly through Isaiah as one who himself leads armies to “fulfill My anger,” or “wrath.” He calls the attacking nations “mighty ones,” or literally giants in Greek. The text speaks of “the sound of many nations upon the mountains.”
Second, as God’s speech continues, the destruction he decrees appears to be universal. These forces come from “a land afar off, from the utmost foundation of heaven; the Lord and his warriors are coming to destroy all the world,” (Isaiah 13:5).
Third, God the speaker uses eschatological (end times) phrases throughout the passage. Examples are “all the world” (Isaiah 13:5, 9, 11), “all the earth” (Isaiah 14:7, 26), “the day of the Lord” (Isaiah 13:6, 9), “in that day” (Isaiah 14:3), “all the nations” (Isaiah 14:26), and variations of “destroy sinners” (Isaiah 13:9, 11; 14:5).
An End-Times Text
Compare the language in passages such as these.
Isaiah 13:4 A voice of many nations on the mountains, even like to that of many nations; a voice of kings and nations gathered together; the Lord of hosts has given command to a war-like nation, 5 to come from a land afar off, from the utmost foundation of heaven; the Lord and His warriors are coming to destroy all the world. 6 Howl, for the day of the Lord is near, and destruction from God shall arrive…9 For behold, the day of the Lord is coming which cannot be escaped, a day of wrath and anger, to make the world desolate, and to destroy sinners out of it. 10 For the stars of heaven, and Orion, and all the host of heaven, shall not give their light; and it shall be dark at sunrise, and the moon shall not give her light. 11 And I will command evils for the whole world, and will visit their sins on the ungodly; and I will destroy the pride of transgressors, and will bring low the pride of the haughty. (CAB, Complete Apostles’ Bible, a modernization of Brenton’s Septuagint).
Revelation 16:19 The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. (ESV)
Revelation 16:14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. (ESV)
If we classify the two passages in Revelation as end times texts, then why not the very similar passages in Isaiah? Is it possible that John derived some of his thought and language from Isaiah? And, there is an even likelier explanation–that the one God is behind all these passages.
Isaiah Himself Symbolizes
As it turns out, there is no need for the reader to question her recognition of symbolism in Isaiah 13-14. Isaiah himself uses symbolism. He turns God’s punishment of concrete, local Babylon into a symbol of God’s punishment of Satan.
Where Do We Find Isaiah’s Symbols?
First, Isaiah compares the destruction of Babylon to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha (Isaiah 13:19). In this metaphor, Isaiah employs these two cities as symbols of God’s utter devastation. Just as God punished Sodom and Gomorrha, making them completely uninhabitable, so shall he do to Babylon. This is not the first time Isaiah has used Sodom and Gomorrha as symbols of God’s devastating judgment. He also did so in Isaiah 1:9.
Second, the reader is not imagining layers of meaning when she compares Babylon to Satan. Isaiah himself introduces this symbol.
Isaiah 14:11 Your glory has come down to Hades, and your great mirth; under you they shall spread corruption, and the worm shall be your covering. 12 How has Lucifer, that rose of the morning, fallen from heaven! He that sent orders to all the nations is crushed to the earth. 13 But you have said in your heart, I will go up to heaven, I will set my throne above the stars of heaven; I will sit on a lofty mount, on the lofty mountains toward the north; 14 I will go up above the clouds; I will be like the Most High. 15 But now you shall go down to hell, even to the foundations of the earth! (CAB)
The reader should compare Isaiah 14:4-21 with Revelation 18. The two passages describe the same event: God’s judgment against Satan and his final destruction.
Why Is Isaiah’s Use of Symbolism in Chapters 13 and 14 Important?
Why is Isaiah’s use of symbolism in Chapters 13 and 14 important? It is important for the reader to recognize and acknowledge that Isaiah uses symbols early in the book. Such awareness opens a door for the reader’s further recognition of Isaiah’s use of symbolism in later chapters of the book. In some of those later chapters, an interpretive question arises, “Is Isaiah speaking solely of Israel the geo-political nation, or is he speaking of the church?” See, for example, Isaiah 60. This is a reasonable question to ask of Isaiah, especially because the book never uses the New Testament word “church.”
In the early chapters of Isaiah, God manifests his intentions for the church. “Church,” however, is a New Testament word. Isaiah often uses the word “remnant” or “seed” with reference to the saved of God’s Old Testament people. The many chapters covered in the book so far indicate clearly that God distinguishes among his people. Some constantly disobey his precepts and never repent. These people do not inherit his promises, whether or not they belong to geo-political Israel or Judah. Those who repent and seek to obey, Isaiah calls a remnant.
Isaiah 1:9 And if the Lord of Sabaoth had not left us a seed [remnant, NKJ], we would have become like Sodom, and been made like Gomorrah. (CAB)
Isaiah’s promises of blessing for the remnant includes Gentiles who willingly come.
Isaiah 14:1 And the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and they shall rest on their land; and the stranger shall be added to them; yes, they shall be added to the house of Jacob. (CAB)
Romans 11:21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. (ESV)
Notice in the previous set of verses that Isaiah prophesies what Paul expounds. The word “stranger” in Isaiah 14:1 refers to Gentiles. And Paul, for his part, addresses the Roman Gentile converts whom God grafted in to Israel’s vine.
Punishing the Punisher
God in the Old Testament used attacking nations to punish other nations. We have seen this in previous journal entries. First, God used the armies of Assyria to call down his judgment against Israel, the northern kingdom. When Assyria got carried away by its own pride and began attacking beyond God’s command, then God punished Assyria by means of the Chaldeans, or Babylonians (see Isaiah Devotional Journal 28 and Isaiah 10:12-16).
The conquering Babylonians fell prey to the same sin of willful pride. God describes their sin as Lucifer’s in Chapter 14, quoted above. Isaiah prophesies the destruction of Babylon, the concrete city (local, geo-political, rather than symbolic), in Isaiah 13:17-22. The Persian Medes accomplished its destruction.
Alexander the Great conquered the Medo Persian Empire in its turn. The Romans vanquished the Greek empire, etc. Human history relates that kingdoms never last. Even the most powerful and enduring people groups and nation states succumb to decline and death, always being replaced by another.
This is why the prophecies of the “everlasting” kingdom of Messiah are so important. His kingdom is unique in all of human history. Further, it is “not of this world” (John 18:36). It is of “heaven” (Matthew 4:17). In other words, Christ’s kingdom does not reside in any geo-political nation. No nation embodies his kingdom, because Christ’s kingdom is “not of this world.”
Some individual verses and statements in Isaiah 13-14 are confusing and arouse more questions than answers. But the main thrust is clear. God controls history and its kingdoms. God also favors the poor and needy (Isaiah 14:30, 32).
Isaiah 14:32 And what shall the kings of the nations answer? That the Lord has founded Zion, and by Him the poor of the people shall be saved. (CAB)
Verses which prophesy the destruction of Babylon the city that attacked Jerusalem lie side by side and interspersed with other verses of an apocalyptic, end times character. Isaiah foretells the casting of Lucifer, or Satan, into hell. He also foretells the devastation of earthly (concrete) Babylon, the city.
Among other accomplishments of these two chapters, Chapters 13 and 14, lay the foundation for further symbolism in the book of Isaiah.
1 I just discovered a site that makes accessing the Septuagint Old Testament Scriptures even easier than ever. It is: © 2020 All reserved rights. It is accessible at COMPLETE APOSTLES’ BIBLE ONLINE (bibliatodo.com). The site offers a wide variety of translations with a parallel version feature. I’ve set up the link that opens this article with a parallel offering: 1) Lancelot Brenton’s translation of the Old Greek Septuagint text. This is a modernized version by Paul W. Esposito. The modernization includes pronouns, much as the New King James modernizes the King James. See The Complete Apostles’ Bible Translated by Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton. Revised and Edited by Paul W. Esposito, and, The English Majority Text Version (EMTV) of the Holy Bible, New Testament. Copyright © 2002-2004 Paul W. Esposito.
2) The other Bible I have chosen for this parallel setup is the ESV, English Standard Bible, a Masoretic text. See The English Standard Version Holy Bible (2001) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.crossway.org. By using the link I have provided, readers can access the great number of similarities and much smaller number of differences, often significant, between the two textual traditions, the Old Greek and the Masoretic.