Isaiah 13

After twelve chapters of stern words to Judah, Isaiah turned his attention to foreign nations. The foreign nations denounced in these eleven chapters were guilty of committing the same crimes as Judah: injustice, social and moral abuses, pride, and greed, to name but a few.

Isaiah prophesied that the foreign nations guilty of such crimes would be punished. If God held foreign nations accountable, how much more His own people. If God administered severe judgment on foreign nations, how much more severe would be His judgment on His own people. These chapters also illustrate God’s work in and sovereignty over all nations.

Practical Consideration: Isaiah’s oracles were meant to help Judah.
Isaiah’s oracles against foreign nations were meant to help Judah.

First, they should have reminded Judah of her responsibility to be a distinctive people.

Second, they should have served as a warning to Judah regarding the folly of trusting in foreign alliances for national protection rather than trusting in God.

Third, they should have reminded Judah of her responsibility to have a godly impact upon the nations of the earth rather than allowing herself to be shaped by the godless practices of those nations.

Fourth, they should have helped Judah come to the realization that the God who held heathen nations accountable for their sin would hold His own people accountable for their sin. Judah failed to learn any of these lessons from Isaiah’s oracles.

The Amazing Fall of Babylon

13:1
What is the historical context of Isaiah’s oracle against Babylon?
Isaiah’s oracle against Babylon envisioned the destruction of Babylon. The Babylonians besieged and plundered Jerusalem, destroyed the Temple and the city, broke down the walls around Jerusalem, carried many Jews off into exile, and put to death many religious, civic, and military leaders.

The fall of the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C. (2 Kings 25) marked the end of any independent Jewish state until May 14, 1948. Isaiah envisioned the destruction of Babylon, which occurred in 539 B.C. at the hands of Cyrus.

13:2-22
What steps would God take to deal with Babylon?
Isaiah 13:2-5 describes the mustering of a great army. This great army (13:3-5) is summoned to assembly by a signal given from the top of a hill (13:2). This army will execute a terrible judgment on Babylon (13:6 and 19) that will cause even the most courageous to lose heart and grow faint (13:7-8). This judgment will be so severe that its impact will be felt by the whole cosmos (13:9-13).

The wicked, the proud, and the ruthless will especially feel the force of God’s judgment (13:11). They will be like hunted animals (13:14) and experience the awful cruelties of war (13:15-16). Isaiah identified the Medes as the instrument of God’s judgment (13:17) who would mercilessly destroy Babylon (13:18-22).

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