Friday, January 18, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 13

What is Babylon? It is mentioned extensively throughout the Bible as one of the most dominant societies in the world during Old Testament times. From a secular perspective, we know that it was one of the great ancient societies. It existed more than 24 centuries before the birth of Christ until the Medes destroyed it in 539 B.C. It existed as a society for nearly 2,000 years, but almost no trace exists of it today except for what Saddam Hussein started rebuilding in the 1980’s. During the time the book of Isaiah was written, it was ruled by the Assyrians and was one of the largest cities in the world, yet today it stands buried in the desert sands.

Why is this so important? Well, in Chapter 13 of Isaiah, we see the prophetic vision of Babylon as is true today laid out for us. Though it was a center of commerce and society, it was not a society that followed God. Instead, it was a symbol of pagan religion and culture. The Israelites were subject to the Babylonians and were beginning to doubt whether God would triumph for them. This is prophesied in the long awaited Day of the Lord, which can mean a variety of things.

6 Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
7 Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt.
8 Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.
9 See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger— to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. – Isaiah 13:6-9

Here, the Day of the Lord is equated to the impending destruction of Babylon. We know that it was destroyed by the Medes and continues to be uninhabited to this day. We also know, from reading Revelation, that Babylon is prophesied to return to prominence, meaning the Day of the Lord can still be in the future as well. John the Revelator saw his vision of Babylon as an even more evil society separated from God. It also came after Christ came to earth and long after the city of Babylon had been destroyed. This is proof that God has delivered before, so why should we doubt He can deliver again?

17 See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold.
18 Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children.
19 Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.
20 She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there.
21 But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. – Isaiah 13:17-21

We have seen that Isaiah has prophesied things that have yet to occur, but how is this for sending chills down your spine: according to my study Bible, Isaiah was written between 700 and 680 B.C. Like Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series, Isaiah not only says Babylon will be destroyed and no one will live there, he even names the people who will destroy her in verse 17. This occurred in 539 B.C. You can’t say that Isaiah wrote this after the fact because he was long dead by the time it happened! This just proves both how powerful and how merciful God is because he once again delivered on His promises.


1. What could be viewed as Babylon in the present day in terms of a lost nation?
2. How do you interpret the Day of the Lord?
3. Does the rebuilding of Babylon stand as a sign of Revelation?

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