THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 7: Chapters 12-16
Part One: Prophecies of Condemnation
Conclusion of the Book of Emmanuel and
Proclamations Concerning the Nations
Let me humbly surrender all my desires and aspirations to you, submitting myself to Your divine plan for my life. Grant me a spirit of kindness, thankfulness, and charity together with the gratitude to praise You in all aspects of my life, trusting that You will give me what I need. Protect my family, my community, and my nation from evil influences, giving me the wisdom and discernment to battle against the twisted logic that excuses or applauds evil in the misguided application of tolerance. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study of today's lesson in which God reminds the nations of the earth that He and He alone is the sovereign Lord over the destiny of men and nations. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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day "declares Yahweh "I shall gather in the lame and bring together the strays
and those whom I have treated harshly. From the footsore I shall make a
remnant, and from the far-flung a mighty nation. And Yahweh will reign over
them on Mount Zion thenceforth and forever.
Micah 4:6-7 (a contemporary of Isaiah)
Summary of Chapters 9-11
In Chapter 9:7-10:19, Isaiah recounted in detail how Yahweh will punish the people Northern Kingdom of Israel who have, in their pride and arrogance, abandoned God to rely on their own strength and wisdom. He will use the Assyrian Empire as His instrument of judgment. And then, in 10:5-19, Isaiah revealed how God will punish Assyria for going beyond the purpose which God had intended in their cruelty and in their arrogance by not recognizing their part in His divine plan. After the prophecies of devastation, Isaiah returns again to the sub-theme of the preservation of the "faithful remnant" gathered back from the nations of the Gentiles in 10:20-22, together with assurances of God's protection for the Southern Kingdom Judah from the Assyrian enemy, even though the Assyrian army advances to the very gates of Jerusalem in 10:23-34.
In Isaiah 11:1-16, Isaiah gave God's third prophecy of the coming of the Davidic Messiah to redeem God's people and to usher in an eschatological kingdom that returns mankind and all creation to the ideal unity with God that was enjoyed before the Fall of Adam (also see Is 7:14 and 8:23/9:1-6/7 for the first two prophecies). The "Book of Emmanuel" section of the Book of Isaiah, which began in Chapter 6, is concluded in Chapter 12 with a psalm of thanksgiving to God for turning from anger, when He stretched out His hand to punish the covenant people for their infidelities (see 5:26; 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4), to mercy in extending His hand once more to rescue His people, and His invitation to return to the protection of the Almighty God (Is 11:11-12).
Chapter 12: A Psalms of Thanksgiving
Isaiah 12:1-6 ~ Extoling God's Mercy and His Glory
1 And, that day, you will say: "I praise you, Yahweh, you have been angry with me but your anger is now appeased and you have comforted me. 2 Look, he is the God of my salvation: I shall have faith and not be afraid, for Yahweh is my strength and my song, he has been my salvation." 3 Joyfully you will draw water from the springs of salvation 4 and, that day, you will say, "Praise Yahweh, invoke his name. Proclaim his deeds to the people, declare his name sublime. 5 Sing of Yahweh, for his works are majestic, make them known throughout the world. 6 Cry and shout for joy, you who live in Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in his greatness."
Question: What is "that day" in 12:1? See the
same words two other times in Is 11:10 and 12. Quote the relevant passage.
Answer: "And, that day..." in 12:1 refers to "that day" in 11:10-12 when the prophet promised the coming of the Davidic heir, the Redeemer-Messiah: That day, the root of Jesse, standing as a signal for the peoples, will be sought out by the nations and its home will be glorious. 11 When that day comes, the Lord will raise his hand a second time to ransom the remnant of his people, those still left, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, Cush and Elam, from Shinar, Hamath and the islands of the Sea. 12 He will hoist a signal for the nations and assemble the outcasts of Israel; he will gather the scattered people of Judah from the four corners of the earth.
Question: What is the "home" that will be
"glorious" in the end of Isaiah 11:10?
Answer: The Kingdom of the new David, the "root of Jesse", that is the Church of Jesus Christ into which He will "gather the scattered people" from "the four corners of the earth."
The Church sees herself as this "holy remnant" of mankind that has experienced God's salvation in the work of Jesus Christ, and, as in Isaiah's prophecy in chapter 12, she feels called to give witness to her joy before all mankind. Therefore, the Council of Vatican II declares: "all sons [and daughters] of the Church should have a lively awareness of their responsibility to the world; they should foster in themselves a truly catholic spirit; they should spend their forces in the work of evangelization. And yet, let everyone know that their first and most important obligation for the spread of the Faith is this: to lead a profoundly Christian life" (Ad gentes, 36).
The canticle of praise in Chapter 12 expresses joy for all parts of Israelite society:
(Encountering the Book of Isaiah, Bryan e. Beyer, page 91).
In verses 1-2 Isaiah describes the joy the redeemed sinner knows because of God's great work on his behalf that inspires both trust and gratitude. God was angry (verse 1), but how His anger is spent and He comforts His people. Because God is the source of salvation, each individual of the covenant people knows he can trust God and not fear Him. This line from verse 2: for Yahweh is my strength and my song, he has been my salvation is similar to the Song of Victory Moses and the Israelites sang after the miracle of the parting of the Sea of Reeds and their deliverance from the Egyptians: "Yah is my strength and my song, to him I owe my deliverance." "Yah" is the shortened form of the divine name "Yahweh." The singer of this hymn of praise recognizes God deliverance of His people as another miracle akin to the Sea of Reeds/Red Sea miracle.
In verses 3-5, Isaiah changes the focus to the entire
covenant community who praises God for bringing them "water from the springs of
salvation" and "Praise Yahweh, invoke his name. Proclaim his deeds to
the people" is from Psalm 105:1, a psalm that recounts the wonderful history of
Israel. The wording "water from the springs of salvation" is significant. In
Israel water came from the River Jordan, from many streams, from underground
well-water, from the collection of rainwater in cisterns, but the best,
freshest water was from natural springs. In the canticle, the people compare
the gift of God's salvation to the freshest and best water like the "living" or
"flowing" water from natural springs.
Question: When did Jesus use the same imagery for salvation with a woman who was drawing water from a well? See Jn 4:4-14.
Answer: He offered the Samaritan woman "living water" and whoever drank of this water would never thirst again because the "water" Jesus gives is the water that "will become in him a spring of water, welling up for eternal life."
Question: In verses 4-5 the people are grateful
for God's works on their behalf; what do they do to show their gratitude?
Answer: They proclaim His marvelous deeds to their own people and to the nations of the world.
"6 Cry and
shout for joy, you who live in Zion, for the Holy One of Israel is among you in
his greatness." In this verse the tense suddenly changes to the feminine
singular and Zion, the symbolic word for covenant people as a whole, is
personified as a woman.
Question: Consult the chart on the symbolic images of the prophets (handout from lesson 1). Which of the symbolic images might account for the use of the feminine singular in this part of the canticle? Also see Rev 19:6-8.
Answer: The symbolic image of marriage and the people of the Sinai Covenant as Yahweh's Bride as in the description in Revelation 19:6-8.
In the Old Testament the Church, "Zion", is symbolically represented as God's virgin Bride (see the chart on the reoccurring images of the prophets from lesson 1). Perhaps this imagery is what accounts for the feminine singular in this verse. With the restoration of His people, God's relationship with Israel as His faithful bride has been reestablished, and He is one with His people in the covenant bond of faithfulness this is symbolized like the covenant bond between a bridegroom and his bride in marriage. Jesus used this same symbolic imagery, referring to Himself as the "Bridegroom" (Mt 9:15; Lk 5:34-35).
Isaiah Chapters 1-12 contain truths that are valuable and which we should apply to our lives today. The Book of Isaiah has much to tell us about who God is, who we are in our relationship with God, and what God expects of us as His covenant people:
Chapters 13-23: Proclamations concerning the Nations
Up to this point, the attention has been focused on the Israelites of the Northern and the Southern Kingdoms of Judah who have abandoned God and His covenant, unleashing the judgment sanctions of the covenant treaty Israel made with Yahweh at Mt. Sinai. A secondary focus has been on the Assyrians as the instrument of God's justice and prophecies of the Davidic Messiah. But, in the next eleven chapters, the focus is on God's work in other nations of the region. There are two reasons for this shift:
Chapters 13-23 answer these challenges to God's divine plan in Isaiah's oracles against the nations by announcing that Yahweh is sovereign over all the nations of the earth whether or not they recognize Him as the One True God. Assyria's capital city Nineveh came to recognize God's sovereignty when He sent the prophet Jonah to call them to repentance (Book of Jonah) in c. 759 BC, but soon thereafter they returned to their pagan gods. And Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, will come to recognize the sovereignty of Yahweh over all other gods through the ministry of the prophet Daniel, but his revelation will not convert his people (Dan 2:46-47; 4:33-34). The day, however, will come when God will call all these nations and all the nations of the earth to have a covenant relationship with Him through the divine Messiah, the branch of Jesse, the greater than David who is Jesus of Nazareth.
The 6 nations and one alliance are condemned to judgment in the oracle of chapters 13-19: Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, the Damascus-Israel alliance, Cush, and Egypt.
Isaiah 13:1-9 ~ The Day of Yahweh's Judgment Concerning Babylon
1 Proclamation about Babylon, seen by Isaiah son of Amoz. 2 On a bare hill hoist a signal, shout for them, beckon them to come to the Nobles' Gate. 3 I have issued orders to my sacred warriors, I have summoned my heroes to serve my anger, my proud champions. 4 The noise of the great crowd in the mountains, like an immense people, the tumultuous sound of kingdoms, of nations mustering: it is Yahweh Sabaoth marshalling the troops for battle. 5 They come from a distant country, from the far horizons, Yahweh and the instruments of his fury to lay the whole country waste. 6 Howl! For the Day of Yahweh is near, coming like devastation from Shaddai. 7 This is why all hands fall limp, why all men are losing heart; 8 they are panic-stricken, seized with pains and convulsions; they writhe like a woman in labor, they look at one another appalled, with feverish faces. 9 Look, the Day of Yahweh is coming, merciless, with wrath and burning anger, to reduce the country to a desert and root out the sinners from it.
Jeremiah also prophesies a divine day of vengeance against Babylon in Jeremiah 51:47-58. Yahweh's Day of Judgment (referred to as "The Day of Yahweh" in verses 6 and 9) against Babylon is foretold in 13:1-14:23. But why does Isaiah start with Babylon when Assyria is the most immediate threat? Assyria will take the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom into exile in two deportations in 732 and 722 BC. But it is the Southern Kingdom of Judah that will produce the promised "Woman" of Genesis 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14, and it will be her son who is to be the "Emmanuel/God-with-us", the "Branch", and the Davidic heir and Redeemer-Messiah in fulfillment of both Genesis 3:15, God's covenant with David in 2 Samuel chapter 7, and Isaiah's prophecies (7:14; 9:1/8:23-9:6/7; 11:1-9). These oracles are taking place in the 8th century BC, but it will be the Babylonians who will be God's instrument of judgment against the Kingdom of Judah and her failed Davidic kings in the 6th century BC, and it will be Babylon who must give up the faithful remnant of Judah in captivity after seventy years in order that they might return to the Promised Land to move forward God's divine plan in the return of the "faithful remnant" after Babylon's defeat in 539 BC.
Since this prophecy of the destruction of Babylon is so far removed from the time of Isaiah's ministry in the 8th century BC, many modern commentators propose it was not written by Isaiah but by another writer they call the "second Isaiah" who lived in the 6th century BC when these events took place. There are three problems with this interpretation:
Question: How will God bring about the defeat of
the Babylonians? See verse 4-5.
Answer: Their defeat will not come about through the efforts of a single nation but from many kingdoms banning together to wage war against Babylon.
The hoisting of a "signal" or "banner" in verse 2 indicates a signal flag as a rallying point for those nations gathering to come against Babylon. The commands in verse 2 are in the plural, suggesting a call for everyone to join in the battle. It is not an ordinary alliance; it is the response to a divine invitation. The invited nations respond quickly (13:4-5), and the sound of their gathering carries a great distance as they muster in their camp. That they "come from a distant country, from the far horizons" (verse 5) emphasizes the interaction between God's divine plan and His human instruments. It is forces in the spiritual realm that is shaping earthly events.
6 Howl! For the
Day of Yahweh is near, coming like devastation from Shaddai.
Shaddai like Sabaoth is a descriptive title for Yahweh. "Sabaoth" refers to Yahweh as the commander of the hosts/armies of angels and is His divine warrior title giving expression to the majesty and power of God. In the Greek it is translated kyrios pantokrator, "Lord Almighty", and is used about three hundred times in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament (Rom 9:29; Jam 5:4). Scholars have argued over the exact Hebrew translation of Shaddai/ El Shaddai. It is most often translated as "Almighty" or "God Almighty" or "God the All-Sufficient One". The etymology is so ancient that Biblical scholars do not agree on the meaning of this title for God. Genesis 17:2-3 combines the elements of the Divine Name with Shaddai when God told Abraham: "I AM El Shaddai. Live in my presence, be perfect, and I shall grant a covenant between myself and you, and make you very numerous. And Abram bowed to the ground."
The expression "Day of Yahweh", in Hebrew = yom YHWH, and similar expressions like "day of punishment", "day of vengeance" (the meaning of vengeance in Hebrew is "balancing the scales"), "day of salvation", and in those translations that replace the divine name with LORD, "day of the LORD", occurs frequently in both the Old and New Testaments.(1) The expression does not refer to a 24-hour day but to a period in time in which God manifests His purposes in a particularly distinctive way in the heavens and on earth. The "Day of Yahweh" usually includes three elements in the awesome coming of God in power and majesty:
The New Testament writers also spoke of the "Day of Yahweh" as the "Day of the Lord", or the "Day of Christ Jesus", or the "Day of Christ" in these same three ways, proclaiming the day of the Lord's ultimate fulfillment in Jesus' Second Coming: I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6 NAB; also see 1:10 = "Day of Christ; 2:16 = "Day of Christ"; 2 Thes 2:2 = "Day of the Lord").
In verses 7-8 fear grips the Babylonian people. They have no chance of escape, like a woman in labor cannot escape the inevitability of childbirth. In verse 9, the warning Look, the Day of Yahweh is coming, merciless, with wrath and burning anger, to reduce the country to a desert and root out the sinners from it, the focus of His judgment is sin and sinners.
As confirmed in secular records, kingdoms previously conquered by the Babylonians rose up and, forming an alliance, waged war against their oppressor. According to Scripture, these nations rose against the Babylonians according to God's invitation (verses 2-3).
Isaiah 13:10-14 ~ The End of Time for Babylon and the
Return of the Refugees
10 For in the sky the stars and Orion will shed their light no longer, the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will no longer give its light. 11 I am going to punish the world for its wickedness and the wicked for their guilt, and put an end to the pride of the arrogant and humble the haughtiness of despots. 12 I shall make people scarcer than pure gold, human life scarcer than the gold of Ophir. 13 This is why I am going to shake the heavens, why the earth will reel on its foundations, under the wrath of Yahweh Sabaoth, the day when his anger ignites. 14 Then like a hunted gazelle, like sheep that nobody gathers in, everyone will head back to his people, everyone will flee to his native land.
Verses 10-14, in the hyperbole of poetic language, express the end of Babylon as an influential regional power. The Babylonians were famous for their astrologers, their star charts and prophecies associated with the heavens. In modern parlance, God was going to "stop the clock" of the proud and arrogant Babylonians and humble their leaders. Such apoplectic language is common in Scripture; see for example Isaiah 34:4, Amos 8:9, and Jesus' prophecies in Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24-27 and Luke 21:25-27.
11 I am going to
punish the world for its wickedness and the wicked for their guilt ...
Question: What does the use of the word "world" instead of "land" or "country" suggest?
Answer: It suggests a wider judgment. God's focus in this event in salvation history is Babylon, but He will judge sinners wherever He finds them.
14 Then like a
hunted gazelle, like sheep that nobody gathers in, everyone will head back to
his people, everyone will flee to his native land.
The result would be that all the people taken into captivity by the Babylonians and dispossessed of their lands would return to their native countries. This prophecy was fulfilled in the Edit of Cyrus, 539/38 BC. In the autumn of 539 BC, King Cyrus of Persia (reined over Persia 559-530 BC) successfully conquered the Babylonian Empire with a coalition of Babylonian vassal states. In the first year of his reign, which began in March-April of 538 BC (their year began in the spring), he issued an edict proclaiming that all exiled peoples were to be allowed to return to their native lands and rebuilt their temples. See the Bible's record of the edict proclaimed to the Jews in Ezra 1:2-4.
Isaiah 13:15-22 ~ Utter Destruction for the City of
Babylon and her Citizens
15 All those who are found will be stabbed, all those captured will fall by the sword, 16 their babies dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses plundered, their wives raped. 17 Look, against them I am stirring up the Medes who care nothing for silver, who set no value by gold. 18 Bows will annihilate the young men, they will have no pity for the fruit of the womb, or mercy in their eyes for children. 19 And Babylon, that pearl of kingdoms, that splendid jewel of the Chaldaeans, will, like Sodom and Gomorrah, be overthrown by God. 20 Never again will anyone live there or reside there for all generations to come. 21 Never again will the Arab pitch his tent there, or the shepherds bring their flocks to nest. But beasts of the desert will make their haunt there and owls fill their houses, there ostriches will settle their home, there goats will dance. 22 Hyenas will howl in its towers, jackals in its delightful palaces, for its doom is about to come and its days will not last long.
The Babylonians, without protection or leadership, will
suffer the same atrocities that they inflicted on others (see Ps 137:9; Hos 13:16; Zec 14:2).
Question: Who will God use as His primary instrument of judgment?
Answer: God will use the Medes.
The Medes were a people who lived in the region south of the Caspian Sea, north of the Zagros Mountains and the Kingdom of Elam, and east of Assyria. They formed an alliance with Babylon and other nations to defeat the Assyrians and conquer the Assyrian capital city of Nineveh in 612 BC. King Cyrus of Persia will conquer the Medes in 550 BC and merge them into the Persian Empire.
Question: To whom does Isaiah compare Babylon's final destruction?
Answer: He compares their destruction to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Verses 21-22 have a slow fulfillment. King Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC. He did not destroy the city but made it a provisional capital. The city continued into the Persian and Greek periods, but by 200 AD it was abandoned and remained an undisturbed ruin until the 19th century AD when it was excavated by archaeologists.
Chapter 14: The End of the Exile and the Death of the King of Babylon
Isaiah 14:1-2 ~ The Return of the Refugees
1 Yahweh will have pity on Jacob, he will choose Israel once more and resettle them on their native soil. Foreigners will join them, attaching themselves to the House of Jacob. 2 Peoples will take them and escort them home, and the House of Israel will take them as slaves, men and women on Yahweh's soil. They will enslave those who enslaved them and will master their oppressors.
Question: What two prophecies does Isaiah make
concerning Judah's future?
When the Judahites return in the 6th century BC, many men will have married pagan women who will return with their husbands. Those women who did not convert but retained their pagan gods and influenced their children to worship pagan gods will be a problem for the returning people and their leaders (see the Book of Ezra chapters 9-10).
Isaiah 14:3-8 ~ The Taunt against the King of Babylon
3 When that day comes, and Yahweh gives you rest from your suffering and torment and the grim servitude to which you have been subjected, 4 you will recite this satire on the king of Babylon and say: "How did the tyrant end? How did his arrogance end? 5 Yahweh has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers, furiously lashing peoples with continual blows, angrily hammering nations, pursuing without respite. 7 The whole world is at rest and calm, shouts of joy resounding, 8 the cypresses, the cedars of Lebanon, rejoice aloud at your fate, Now that you have been laid low, no one comes up to fell us.'"
This satirical poem for a fallen tyrant is directed against the king of Babylon, but it could also be directed against every fallen tyrant of every age to whom the poem should serve as a warning. The accusation of "arrogance" in verse 4 has been repeated throughout the condemnation prophecies; it was included among the sins of the Israelites and their leaders and will continue to be among the list of chief sins (Is 9:9; 10:12; 13:11; 16:6; 37:29).
The mention of the felling of the cedars of Lebanon in verse 8 refers to how the oppressive regime of the Babylonians (and the Assyrians before them) stripped the natural resources of conquered nations. It was a pattern of behavior for conquerors in the past and continues in our modern age.
Isaiah 14:9-15 ~ Sheol welcomes the King
The citizens of Judah still taunting the King of Babylon: 9 "On your account, Sheol below is a stir to greet your arrival. He has roused the ghosts to greet you, all the rulers of the world. He has made all the kings of the nations get up from their thrones. 10 They will all greet you with the words, So, you too, have become like us. 11 Your pride has been flung down to Sheol with the music of your lyres; under you a mattress of maggots, over you a blanket of worms. 12 How did you come to fall from the heavens, Daystar, son of Dawn? How did you come to be thrown to the ground, conqueror of nations? You who used to think to yourself: 13 I shall scale the heavens; higher than the stars of God I shall set my throne. I shall sit on the Mount of Assembly far away to the north. 14 I shall climb high above the clouds, I shall rival the Most High.'
Sheol, the abode of the dead, is personified as welcoming the Babylonian king/kings who will now be a citizen/citizens of his kingdom in the company of other dead rulers of earthly kingdoms. It is the dead who now address the fallen king of Babylon in 10b-15, asking how someone who made so many great boasts could come to such an end.
Question: What are the 5 boasts of the Babylonian
king/kings? The Mount of Assembly refers to God's heavenly throne room and
The Fathers of the Church (Origen, Augustine, Jerome, and others), citing verse 12 and arguing that humans do not fall from heaven, interpreted the 5 "I shall/I will" boasts of the king of Babylon in verses 13- 14 as symbolic of the arrogant and prideful boasts of Satan against God in the great heavenly rebellion that took place prior to the Fall of Adam and which is recorded in the Book of Revelation: And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael with his angels attacked the dragon. The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven. The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angels were hurled down with him (Rev 12:7-9).
It is St. Jerome in his Latin Vulgate translation who translated the Hebrew word "heylel", meaning "brightness" as in the "Daystar/Morning star" as "Lucifer" and identified him with the prince of demons. Jerome wrote: "For greater ease of understanding we translated this phrase as follows: How you have fallen from heaven, Lucifer, who arose in the morning.' But if we were to render a literal translation from the Hebrew, it would red, How you have fallen from heaven, howling son of the dawn.' Lucifer is also signified with other words. And he who was formerly so glorious that he was compared to a bearer of lightening is now told that he must weep and mourn" (Commentary on Isaiah, 5:14.12-14). In their interpretation of these verses the Fathers wrote that the 5 "I shall/I will" boasts of Satan were answered by the 5 bloody wounds on the Body of Christ as He suffered on the Cross: the 2 wounds in each of His hands, the 2 wounds in each of His feet, and the blood from the crown of thorns on His head. See CCC 391-395, 550.
Isaiah 14:15-21 ~ The Taunt Continues and the Ghosts
of Sheol address the King of Babylon
The taunt continues:"15 Now you have been flung down to Sheol, into the depths of the Abyss! 16 When they see you, they will scrutinize you and consider what you have become, Is this the man who made the world tremble, who overthrew kingdoms? 17 He made the world a desert; he levelled cities and never freed his prisoners to go home.' 18 All other kings of nations, all of them, lie honorably, each in his own tomb; 19 but you have been thrown away, unburied, like a loathsome branch, covered with heaps of the slain pierced by the sword who fall on the rocks of the abyss like trampled carrion.' 20 You will not rejoin them in the grave, for you have brought your country to ruin and destroyed your people. The offspring of the wicked leave no name behind them. 21 Prepare the slaughter for his sons for the guilt of their father! Never again must they rise to conquer the world and cover the face of the earth with their cities."
Isaiah 14:22-23 ~Yahweh's final decree
22 "I will raise against them, declares Yahweh Sabaoth, and deprive Babylon of name, remnant, offspring and posterity, declares Yahweh. 23 I shall turn it into the haunt of hedgehogs, a swamp. I shall sweep it with the broom of destruction", declares Yahweh Sabaoth.
Part of the judgment for the sins of the wicked ruler of Babylon (who is probably not a single ruler but a series of rulers) is that the suffering he caused will not only impact the people he conquered, but the penalty Babylonia will pay will bring suffering to all the Babylonian people and the members of the royal family. God does not judge a son or daughter for the sins of a father or mother, but in war it is inevitable that the defeated nation and the offspring of the leaders should suffer because of the sins of their fathers. When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in 587/6 BC, King Zedekiah of Judah, the last reigning Davidic king, was forced to watch the murder of all of his sons (2 Kng 25:6-7).
The fall and humiliation of the king/kings of Babylon is so great it makes those who see him/them in Sheol ask with amazement if he/they really was/were the king/kings who ruled with such power on earth.
Isaiah 14:24-27 ~ Against Assyria
24 Yahweh Sabaoth has sworn it, "Yes, what I have planned will take place, what I have decided will be so: 25 I shall break Assyria in my country, I shall trample on him on my mountains. Then his yoke will slip from their shoulders." 26 This is the decision taken in defiance of the whole world; this, the hand outstretched in defiance of all nations. 27 Once Yahweh Sabaoth has decided, who will stop him? Once he stretches out his hand, who can withdraw it?
Assyria is destined for destruction and nothing will stop it. After 2 chapters of prophecy against Babylon, Isaiah speaks only 4 verses on Assyria's judgment. It is probably because he already dealt with Assyria in 10:5-34 and will again in 36:1-37:38. Isaiah 14:25 is probably an allusion to the invasion of Assyrian King Sennacherib and his siege of Jerusalem with his army spread across the mountains upon which Jerusalem rested in 701 BC. Yahweh's intervention routed his army; it is a story told in chapters 36-37.
Next Isaiah gives two proclamations in a poetic oracle: one against the Philistines and the second against Moab; territories that bordered Judah on the west and the east and both of which were at one time vassals of the Davidic kings.
Isaiah 14:28-32 ~ Against the Philistines
28 In the year Ahaz died came this proclamation: 29 All Philistia, do not rejoice because the rod which used to beat you is now broken, for the serpent stock will produce a viper, its offspring will be a flying dragon. 30 While the first-born of the poor are grazing and the destitute are resting in safety, I shall make your stock die of hunger and then slaughter what remains of you. 31 Howl, gate! Shriek, city! Totter, all Philistia! For a smoke is coming from the north, and there are no deserters in those battalions. 32 What reply will be given then to the messengers of that nation? That Yahweh founded Zion and there the poor of his people will find refuge.
It is the year of King Ahaz of Judah's death, and he is succeeded by his 25 year old son, Hezekiah. The year is 715 BC (or 727 BC depending on the chronology used for Hezekiah's reign). Other nations often saw the opportunity to take advantage of an untested ruler, which probably accounts for the rejoicing of the Philistines. At one time the Philistines city states were vassals of the Davadic kings. Both peoples had a long history with Judah. David in his outlaw days served the Philistine king of Gath, and his great-grandmother was a Moabite (Ruth of the Book of Ruth).
Question: How does Isaiah warn the Philistines?
Answer: Isaiah's warning is that the Judeans may have changed earthly kings, but their heavenly King is still on His throne and will deal with them by sending an army as His instrument of justice.
The message is that it is better for the Philistines to seek help from Judah than to stand against the Kingdom of Judah because the Judahites have God on their side (16:1-4a). The viper and his son, the flying serpent (who is more formidable than the viper) probably represent Ahaz and his son, Hezekiah. King Hezekiah of Judah defied the Assyrians and devastated the Philistines cities with his army (2 Kng 18:7-8).
Isaiah 15:1-9 ~ Lament over Moab's Condition
1 Proclamation about Moab: Laid waste in a night, Ar-Moab lies silent; laid waste in a night, Kir-Moab lies silent. 2 The daughter of Dibon has climbed to the high places to weep; on Nebo and in Medeba Moab laments. Every head shaven, every beard cut off, 3 they wear sackcloth in their streets; on their roofs and in their squares, everyone is lamenting and collapsing in tears. 4 Heshbon and Elealeh are crying out in distress, their voices can be heard as far as Jahaz. That is why the warriors of Moab are shivering, his soul trembles at the sound. 5 His heart cries out in distress for Moab, whose fugitives are already at Zoar, nearly at Eglath-Shelishiyah. They climb the slope of Luhith, weeping as they go; on the road to Horonaim they utter heart-rending cries. 6 The Waters of Nimrim have become a waste land, the grass dried up, the plants withered away, nothing green any more. 7 That is why they are carrying what they could save of their stores across the Ravine of the Willows. 8 For the cry for help re-echoes round the territory of Moab; their wailing, right to Eglaim, to Beer-Elim, their wailing; 9 Dimon's waters are swollen with blood, and I have worse in store for Dimon: a lion for those of Moab who survive, for those left on its soil.
Moab territory was along the eastern coast of the Dead Sea, south of the tribal lands of Reuben that at this time had been absorbed into the Aramaean and Ammonite kingdoms and no longer existed. Kings Saul and David conquered Moab in the age of the United Kingdom (1 Sam 14:47; 2 Sam 8:2), and Moab remained a vassal state under the Davidic king Solomon, but Moab regained independence in the days of the divided kingdom. Some battles are recorded in 2 Kings 3:4-27 and 2 Chronicles 20:1-26 and in the famous Mesha stela of King Mesha of Moab.(2)
The location of many of these cities is unknown. The Ravine of Willows is probably on Moab's southern border. The Moabites were the descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot and his incestuous relationship with his elder daughter (Gen 19:35-37). The expression "Laid waste in a night" in verse 1 emphasizes the suddenness of the attack. The list of cities is roughly from north to south and the list names all Moab's principal cities. The list is an indication that the entire territory of Moab was devastated and is similar to the prophecies for Moab in Jeremiah chapter 48. It is a horrible and heart rendering description of the devastation of a people.
Isaiah 16:1-6 ~ The Moabites' Petition
Send the lamb to the ruler of the land, from Sela by the desert, to the mountain of the daughter of Zion, for soon, like a fluttering bird, like nestlings cast out, will be the women of Moab at the fords of the Arnon. Hold a council, make a decision. At noon spread your shadow as if it were night. Hide those who have been driven out, do not betray the fugitive, let those who have been driven out of Moab come and live with you; be their refuge in the face of the devastator. Once the oppression is past, and the devastation has stopped and those now trampling on the country have gone away, the throne will be made secure in faithful love [hesed], and on it will sit in constancy within the tent of David a judge seeking fair judgment and pursuing uprightness. We have heard about Moab's pride, about how very proud it is, about its arrogance, its pride, its rage, it bravado, which will come to nothing!
In the era of the United Monarchy, the Moabites were vassals of the King David and his son Solomon. When the United Kingdom failed and divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Moab was a vassal of Israel until King Mesha of Moab declared his independence from Israel in the 9th century BC. In this passage, the Moabites are sending a lamb sacrifice to the Davidic king in Jerusalem (daughter of Zion) with a petition.
Question: What is the Moabites' petition to Judah
and her king in verses 3-5?
Answer: The Moabites are appealing to the king of Judah who is a descendant of David to offer them his protection and asylum as refugees from their devastated land. If he will do this, when the conflict is over, they will submit to Judah again as a vassal state.
The "fords of the Arnon River" in verse 2 are Moab's northern border. They are calling upon the once faithful covenant love (in Hebrew, hesed) that they once had in their treaty with Judah when they submitted to the rule and protection of the Davidic kings who treated them with "fair judgment and uprightness". They are willing to submit to Judah's rule again if Judah will grant them asylum to cross over into Judah.
Verse 6 is Judah's answer to Moab's petition to save them
from the Assyrians.
Question: What is Judah's response?
Answer: Judah declines their offer to return to being Judah's vassal in exchange for their asylum in Judah.
Judah's rejection of offering protection to Moab is probably more because they are unable to help than because they don't want to help. But the answer is essentially: "you were too proud to remain our vassal in the past, and you assisted our enemies, so fend for yourselves."
Isaiah 16:7-12 ~ Moab's Lament
7 And so Moab is wailing for Moab, wailing, every one of them. For the raisin cakes of Kir-Hareseth you mourn, stricken with grief. 8 For Heshbon's vineyards are withering, the vine of Sibmah whose red grapes [soreq] used to overcome the overlords of the nations. It used to reach to Jazer, had wound its way into the desert, its shoots grew so numerous they spread across the sea. 9 And so I weep, as Jazer weeps, for the vine of Sibmah. I water you will my tears, Heshbon and Elealeh. For over your harvest and vintage the cheering has died away; 10 joy and gladness have vanished from the orchards. No more revelry in the vineyards, no more happy shouting; no more the treader treads the wine in the presses, the cheering has ceased. 11 That is why my whole being quivers like a harp strings for Moab, my very heart, for Kir-Heres. 12 Moab will be seen, wearing itself out on the high places and going to its temple to pray, but it will accomplish nothing.
Northern Moab was known for their vineyards and for growing a fine quality grape that produced a fine quality wine enjoyed all across the region. Soreq is the same variety of grape as in Isaiah's vineyard parable in 5:2.
And so I weep ... So devastating is the vision that Isaiah weeps for the Moabites in verses 9-11.
Question: The Moabites will offer sacrifices on
the high places and will pray in their temple for deliverance, why will this
Answer: They are offering sacrifice and praying to false gods who are not capable of saving them.
Isaiah 16:13-14 ~ Yahweh's Judgment on Moab
13 Such was the word which Yahweh spoke about Moab in the past. 14 And now Yahweh has spoken in these terms. "Within three years, as a hired worker reckons them, the glory of Moab will be humbled, despite its teeming population. It will be reduced to nothing, an insignificant remnant."
A hired worker counts the years from harvest season to harvest season. The harvest of that year would count as "year #1", so within two years as we count this prophecy will be fulfilled. It is difficult to pin-point the date the prophecy is made or when it will be fulfilled. The Assyrians rampaged through the region at least four times. Assyrian kings Tiglath Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib V, and Esarhaddon all claimed victories over the Moabites according to documents discovered in the Assyrian archives. Since Jerusalem isn't under siege yet, the army may be that of Sennacherib who ruled 705-601 BC and who laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 BC.
Question for reflection or group discussion:
How are Isaiah's prophecies against the nations a warning to modern nations? Do their rulers commit the same crimes with the same arrogance? Is mankind able to control the abuse of nations in world bodies like the United Nations? Why or why not?
1. For examples of the use of these expressions in Isaiah:
2. The Mesha Stele is a stone monument set up by King Mesah of Moab in c. 840 BC to commemorate how the Moabite deity Kemosh rescued the Moabites. According to the inscription, Kemosh had been angry with his people and had allowed them to be subjugated by Israel. But, eventually, the stele records, the Moabites regained the favor of their chief deity and were able to throw off the yoke of Israel and restore the ancestral lands of Moab. The stone monument was discovered intact by Frederick Klein at the site of ancient Dibon (now Dhiban, Jordan) in August 1868.
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