The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Isaiah 13

Isa 13:1

The word "oracle" or "burden" (Isa 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 22:1; 23:1) is from the Heb "to lift up", in foreboding or expectation; it implies something that God has planned for another. More often than not, it speaks of a coming punishment; but at times it simply means an important event involving a particular people. The distinction must be determined by the context. Often, the "burden" begins with warnings of judgments to come, and then proceeds with prophecies of something beneficial arising out of the dark times. Zec 12 illustrates this: it begins with a "burden... for Israel... in the siege", but then quickly speaks of a time of blessing succeeding the time of affliction: Jerusalem inhabited again in her own place (Zec 12:6,7). The burdens of Isaiah generally follow this same pattern, with special ref to the LD of Gentile times and the establishment of "Israel in their own land" (Isa 14:1) and Christ as the "ruler of the land... upon the mount of the daughter of Zion" (Isa 16:1). Also the roles of various Gentile powers, esp in relation to Israel and God's plans for the LD, are outlined. What might first appear to be a dry and unrewarding study becomes in reality a promise of God's deliverance for His people (in typical prophecies) and a glorious assurance (in initial fulfillments) that God's purpose stands firm (Isa 14:26,27).

"Isa 13-23 contains a series of judgment oracles against various nations. It is likely that Israel, not the nations mentioned, actually heard these oracles. [However, perhaps Isaiah's 'burdens' were handed in writing to the ambassadors of the various nations who came to Hezekiah's coronation: Isa 14:32. Cp idea in Jer 27:2-4.] The oracles prob had a twofold purpose. For those leaders who insisted on getting embroiled in international politics, these oracles were a reminder that Judah need not fear foreign nations or seek international alliances for security reasons. For the righteous remnant within the nation, these oracles were a reminder that Israel's God was indeed the sovereign ruler of the earth, worthy of his people's trust" (NET notes).

Isa 13-23: Ten "burdens": (1) Babylon or Assyria (Isa 13; 14:1-27), (2) Philistia (Isa 14:28-32), (3) Moab (Isa 15; 16); (4) Damascus (Isa 17); (5) Egypt (Isa 18-20); (6) the desert of the sea (Isa 21:1-10); (7) Dumah (Isa 21:11,12); (8) Arabia (Isa 21:13-17); (9) the valley of vision (Isa 22); and (10) Tyre (Isa 23). Ten may be a significant number: cp Gen 15:19-21; Dan 2; 7; Psa 83; Eze 38:1-6; Rev 17:12-14.

See Lesson, Babylon = Assyria.

"It is to be expected that these burdens will have a LD ref, in addition to their contemporary relevance. This is the normal characteristic of nearly all Messianic prophecy. In several places (eg, Isa 17:13; 13:5,6; 19:23-25; 22:22) clear links with other LD prophecies seem to demand this" (WIsa 194).

Isa 13:1-18: Judah is overrun and devastated by the ruthless armies of Sennacherib. Isa 13:19-22: the overthrow of Assyria/Babylon. Isa 14:1-3: Israel's restoration. Isa 14:4-27: the fate of Assyria/Babylon and all its might.

"Who can doubt that the further fulfillment of Isa 13; 14 will produce the very situation which made the reign of Hezekiah one of the most exciting in all history? Once again, as then, there will be wrath on the state of Israel for its godlessness and lack of faith; the Land will be overrun by a confederacy of enemies; vast numbers will be herded away as slave labour in the lands of their conquerors; then, through the repentance of the faithful remnant and the merits of one Man whom God has smitten with undeserved suffering for the sake of His people, there will come sudden incredible divine deliverance, and the City of God will be safe; a gracious year of jubilee will be celebrated, with the joyous return of all the captives; and then will ensue a reign of righteousness and peace and prosperity more adequate to fulfill all the long-cherished dreams of God's pious and faithful ones. Not all of this picture comes in Isa 13;14; but much of it is there, and the other details are copiously filled in, in Isaiah's later prophecies" (WIsa 200).

Isa 13:2

A BARE HILLTOP: Or "the levelled mountain" (WK), ie the Temple mount in Jerusalem. (Neither Babylon nor Nineveh are situated on anything like mountains!)

GATES OF THE NOBLES: A special entry-gate for the rulers of Israel: 1Ch 9:18; 2Ch 23:20; Jer 39:3; Lam 5:14.

Isa 13:3

MY HOLY ONES: Also called "MY warriors" (gibborim) and "those who rejoice... in ME". This cannot = pagans! Prob ref the angels of God. Cp same idea, Joel 3:11.

TO CARRY OUT MY WRATH: Which they did (Isa 37:36)!

Isa 13:5

THE WEAPONS OF HIS WRATH: Assyria/Babylon, the rod in the hand of God (Isa 10:5).

TO DESTROY THE WHOLE COUNTRY: This is what the Assyrians did to most of Judah.

Isa 13:6

Quotes or is quoted by Joel 1:15, where the primary ref is to the Assyrian invasion of the Land.

WAIL: "Howl" (AV) = Heb "yalal", a play on words with "hallel" (praise) as in "Halleluyah".

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR: Used by Peter (2Pe 3:10) and Paul (1Th 5:2) with ref to 2nd Coming.

DESTRUCTION FROM THE ALMIGHTY: Pun: "shad mish-Shaddai".

Isa 13:7

EVERY MAN'S HEART WILL MELT: "Men will faint from terror" (Luk 21:26).

Isa 13:8

A WOMAN IN LABOR: Same figure as Psa 48:5,6, re the Assyrian threat against Jerusalem. Refs 2nd coming in 1Th 5:3; Mar 13:8.

Isa 13:10

STARS... CONSTELLATIONS... SUN... MOON: The heavenly bodies are often a figure of Israel (eg Gen 37:9,10; Jer 31:35,36; Mat 24:29; Rev 6:12,13).

CONSTELLATIONS: The plural of the special constellation "Orion", the "hunter", for which the ancient eastern name was "Nimrod, the founder of Babylon and Assyria (Gen 10:8,9). The plural = intensive, as in "the great and mighty Nimrod".

WILL NOT SHOW THEIR LIGHT: Sun, moon, and stars being darkened is repeated in prophecies of the 2nd Coming: Joel 2:31; 3:15; Isa 24:23; Mat 24:29; Luk 21:25; Rev 6:12,13.

Isa 13:11

THE RUTHLESS: Heb "aritz" = the powerful, terrible, or tyrannical. One of Isaiah's standard descriptions of the Assyrians (eg Isa 25:3,4,5; 29:5).

Isa 13:12

OPHIR: See Lesson, Ophir.

Isa 13:13

HEAVENS TREMBLE; AND THE EARTH WILL SHAKE: See echoes in Isa 50:3; 51:6, with ref to the overthrow of God's people (and cp Psa 102:25,26). LD applications: Hag 2:6; Heb 12:26; Rev 6:12,14.

FROM ITS PLACE: Heb "maqom", usually ref to a holy place or altar -- ie, the Temple at Jerusalem.

Isa 13:16

THEIR INFANTS WILL BE DASHED TO PIECES: "This is the very judgment denounced upon the people of Nineveh (Nah 3:10), exactly in accordance with the bitter prayer of Psa 137:9" (WIsa 197). Also in Hos 13:16.

THEIR HOUSES WILL BE LOOTED AND THEIR WIVES RAVISHED: Quoted in Zec 14:2 with ref to Jerusalem in LD.

Isa 13:17

I WILL STIR UP AGAINST THEM THE MEDES: Either (1) Median mercenaries in the Assyrian army used against Israel, or (2) Median inroads into Assyria after the disaster of Isa 37:36.

Isa 13:19

Vv 19-22: "Jeremiah, who was a great quoter of earlier Scriptures, saw the fulfillment of these words re Nineveh in his own time. And yet he went on to assert a further fulfillment re the Babylon he knew (Jer 50:27,39,40; 51:11,28,29,33,37,62) -- a very long-range prophecy, this! Nor does this end the story, for again the words are picked up to describe the ultimate fate of the apocalyptic 'Babylon' (Rev 18:2)" (WIsa 203).

LIKE SODOM AND GOMORRAH: An enacted parable of the LD: Luk 17:28,29.

Isa 13:22

HER TIME IS AT HAND: A speedy fulfillment of the prophecy. This rules out a ref to the Babylon of Nebuchadnezzar and beyond -- too far in future. The only reasonable candidate for a speedy fulfillment is Nineveh. (Cp Zep 2:14,15.) Even then, it was about a century before Nineveh fell.

"Is it poss that just as the destruction of Nineveh proclaimed by Jonah (Jon 3:4) was deferred for 150 years, so also Isaiah's urgent prophecy about the Assyrians, learning their lesson from Sennacherib's experience, caused them not only to send all their Jewish captives home but also to leave God's Land alone, even when they were busy plundering Egypt?" (WIsa 202).

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