Isaiah 13 – The Doom of Babylon & Babylon

Finger Pointing UpI know that Jesus is born yet, but after He dies He’l come back and everything will be great.  But what is going to happen right now in this time?  Is Babylon going to be conquered or what’s going to happen now? 

1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

13:-23:18 – A series of prophecies against the nations (see also Jer 46:51; Eze 25-32; Amos 1-2’ Zeph 2:14-15).  They begin with Babylon (13:1-14:23) and Assyria (14:24-27) before moving on to smaller nations.  God’s judgment on His people does not mean that the pagan nations will be spared (see Jer 25:29)

1 Gold
This fragment of an ancient pottery jar was discovered at Tel Qasile near Jaffa in Israel. It contains an inscription which mentions “Ophir gold” and the temple of Horon, a Canaanite deity.

In fact, God’s judgments on the nations are often a part of His salvation of His people (see 10:12).

13:1-14:27 – This prophecy concern s Babylon during the Assyrian empire rather than during the Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The prophecy is actually against the Assyrian Empire, Babylon being its most important city.  From 729 B.C. on, the kings of Assyria also assumed the title “King of Babylon.”  Note that there is no new “burden” heading at 14:24, even though 14:24-27 clearly pertains to Assyria, so 13:1-14:27 forms a unit.

“Burden” – the Hebrew for this word is related to a Hebrew verb meaning “to lift up, carry” and is possibly to be understood as either lifting up one’s voice or carrying a burden.  Such a “burden” often contains a message of doom.

“Babylon” – see 21:1-9, 46:1-2, 47:1-15; Jer 50-51.  Its judgment is announced first because of the present Assyrian threat and because Babylon would later bring about the downfall of Judah and Jerusalem between 605 and 586 B.C.  Babylon was conquered by Cyrus the Persian (see 45:1, 47:1) in 539 B.C.  Subsequently it came to symbolize the world powers arrayed against God’s kingdom (cf 1 Pet 5:13), and its final destruction is announced in Rev 14:8, 15:19, 17-18.  Here Babylon is still part of the Assyrian Empire (see 14:24-27).

2 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.

2 Hanging Garden
The Hangining Gardens of Babylon
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
King Nebuchadnezzar built these around 600 B.C. He built them for his Persian wife, Amytis of Media, who was homesick for the trees and plants of her native land.

The garden, on the ege of the Euphrates river is said to have been a green paradise with tiered levels, vaults, “green” roof tops, every kind of tree, and an advanced water-pumping system.
The gardens were destroyed in an earthquake around 2 B.C.

“Lift ye up a banner” – see note on 5:26.

3 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” – those set apart to carry out God’s will.  Cf 10:5, where the Lord calls Assyria “the rod of mine anger”; see 45:1.  The Lord is calling out an unidentified army from a distant nation to bring judgment upon Babylon.

“Anger” – God’s anger is no longer turned against Israel (see 5:25, 9:12, 17, 21, 10:4) but against her enemies (see vv 5, 9, 13: cf 30:27).  God must punish sin, particularly arrogance (see v 11).

4 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 Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle” – the Hebrew for “army” is the singular form of the word for “hosts.”  God is the head of the armies of Israel (1 Sam 17:45), of angelic powers (1 Kgs 22:19; Lk 2:13) and here for the armies that will destroy Babylon.

3 Medes
Medes were ancient Iranian people who lived in Media. Their arrival is associated with the 1st wave of Iranian tribes in the late 2nd millennium B.C.E. (the Bronze Age collapse) through the beginning of the 1st millennium B.C.E.

5 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.

“Weapons of his indignation” – Assyria was the club in God’s hand during Isaiah’s day, and Babylon itself would later serve as God’s weapon (see 10:5).

6 Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.

“Day of the Lord” – see note on 2:11, 17, 20.

“Destruction” – Hebrew shod, forming a wordplay on “Almighty” (Hebrew Shadai) – as also in Joel 1:15, see note on 5:7.

7 Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt:

“Shall all hands be faint” – hands will fall limp as courage will fail (see Jer 6:24).

8 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.

“Afraid” – holy war usually brings panic to the enemy (see Ex 15:14-16; Judg 7:21-22).

“Pain…travaileth” – the prophets often compare the suffering of judgment and war with the pain and anguish that frequently accompany childbirth (see 26:17; Jer 4:31, 6:24).

9 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.

10 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.

4 Ruins of Babylon
Ruins of Ancient Babylon
Iraq’s famous ruins of Babylon can be found about 56 miles south of Baghdad, next to the Euphrates River. Babylon —which can be translated to “the gate of the gods” — served as the center of ancient civilization for over 1,500 years.

“Stars…sun…moon” – cosmic darkness is associated with the day of the Lord, also in Joel 2:10, 31: Rev 6:12-13; cf Judg 5:20).

11 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.

12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

“More precious than fine gold” – war will reduce the male population drastically (see 4:1 and note).

“Golden wedge of Ophir” – Solomon imported large quantities of gold from this place (see 1 Kgs 9:28, 10:11).

13 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.

“Shake the heavens…earth…remove out of her place” – thunderstorms and earthquakes often accompany the powerful presence of the Lord.  Hail may also be involved (cf 30:30; Josh 10:11).

14 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.

15 Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.

5 Satyr
A Satyr is half human and half goat, and are all over the pages of mythology. Both the Bible and Greek mythology associate satyrs with dancingg and the Bible prophesies they will return in the last days (Is 13:21).

16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

“Children…dashed to pieces” – invading armies often slaughtered infants and children so there would be no future warriors, nor would there be a remnant through which the city or country or people might be revived (see Ps 137:8-9; Hos 10:14; Nah 3:10).

“Wives ravished” – women also suffered greatly in war.  With their husbands killed they were often used as prostitutes (see Amos 7:17).

17 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” – located in what is today north-western Iran.  There was conflict between Assyria and Media during the 8th century B.C.  some relate the fulfillment of this verse to the period when the Medes jointed the Babylonians in defeating Assyria in 612-609 but later united with Cyrus to conquer Babylon in 539 (see Jer 51:11, 28; Dan 5:31, 6:28).

18 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.

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

“Glory…excellency” – Babylon with its temples and palaces became a very beautiful city (see Dan 4:29-30).  The Hanging Gardens of Nebuchadnezzar were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  In 4:2 the Hebrew words for “glory” and “excellency” were used to describe the “branch of the LORD.”

“Chaldees” – the Neo-Babylonian Empire of 612-539 B.C. was led by the Chaldean people of southern Babylonia.  Nabopolassar welded the tribes’ together c. 626, and his son Nebuchadnezzar became their most powerful ruler (605-562).

“Sodom and Gomorrah” – previously Isaiah compared Judah to these cities (see 1:9-10 and note).

6 Tomb
Tomb of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus is known for the cylinder that bears his name but also for the impact on ancient and modern history. The rise of the persian Empire introduced Persian philosophy, literature, and religion to the world. He’s also regarded as a statesman and politicia.

20 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.

“Never be inhabited” – Babylon was completely deserted by the 7th century A.D.

13:20-22 – see the similar description of the desolation of Edom in 34:10-15; cf Rev 18:2.

21 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.

“Satyrs” – this term is connected with demons in Lev 17:7 (“goat idols”) and 2 Chr 11:15 (“devils”).  In Rev 18:2 fallen Babylon is described as a home for demons and evil spirits.

22 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.


Babylon was one of the greatest cities of ancient Mesopotamia.  Already a fairly important city by 2100 B.C., it became the hub of the Old Babylonian Empire under Hammurabi (1792-1750 B.C.).

7 Chaldeans
Ruined Catholic Church of the Chaldeans

Babylon soon declined after Hammurabi’s death and was sacked by the Hittites around 1531 B.C., but it became powerful again under Nabosplassar, who founded the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

This was Babylon’s most glorious period; it dominated the ancient Near East from 625 to 539 B.C.  The most famous king of this period was Nebuchadnezzar II (605-562 B.C.), who, using the vast riches he had accumulated from his conquests, transformed Babylon into perhaps the most magnificent capital in antiquity.

The ruins of ancient Babylon, 53 miles (83 km) south of Baghdad in modern Iraq, encompass approximately 2,100 acres.  Excavations have revealed the glory of the city constructed by Nebuchadnezzar II, particularly that of its fortification system.

An inner city of around 1,140 acres was built up along both sides of the Euphrates River.  This was surrounded by a wall 5.5 miles (8.9 km) long, incorporating an inner wall 21 feet (6.5 m) wide and an outer wall 12 feet (3.7 km) wide, with a 24-foot (7.3-km) space between them filled with earth – resulting to a total defense depth of 57 feet (17.4 km).

Outside the outer wall was a moat, fed by the Euphrates, ranging in wideth from 60 to 250 feet (1.5 to 76.2 m).  To the east of the inner city were two more double walls totaling 4.5 miles (7.3 km) in length.  To provide additional protection against invasion from the north.

Nebuchadnezzar constructed an enormous wall 20 miles (32 km) north of Babylon.  It was 16 feet (4.9 m) thick and extended from the Euphrates to the Tigris River, a distance of approximately 25 miles (40 km).

8 Cyrus
Cyrus the Great

Within the city Nebuchadnezzar’s magnificent palace occupied an area of about 50 acres.  Along with this were over 50 temples, as well as numerous shrines and other buildings.

Babylon held a prominent place in the minds of the prophets.  Isaiah and Jeremiah both predicted its downfall (Isa 13-14; Jer 50-51).  Jeremiah also prophesied that the city’s famous walls would be torn down (Jer 50:15, 51:44, 58).

In 539 B.C., after defeating the Babylonians at the northern defense wall, Cyrus the Great and his Medo-Persian army entered Babylon without a contest.  The Babylonian Chronicle describes the fall of Babylon to Cyrus.  In 482 B.C. Babylon’s revolt against the Persian king Xerxes led to the razing of its fortification.

Thereafter Babylon experienced a slow decline.  Alexander the Great died there, and long after the exile the city was still home to a sizable Jewish population godless human culture.  Today, little remains of the city’s former grandeur (see Isa 13:20-22; Jer 50:3, 39-40, 51:29, 37, 43).

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