Isaiah 13:1-14:27 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What empire is the subject of the oracle recorded in Isaiah 13-14 (note Isaiah 13:1 printed below?) What are we told will happen to this great world empire (see Isaiah 13:19-20 printed below?) Why do you suppose the Lord reveals the fate of this future empire when in fact it was the Assyrian empire that was presently threatening the nation of Judah?

The oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw. (Isaiah 13:1)

Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will become like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. (20) It will never again be inhabited, neither will anyone live in it from generation to generation. No Arabian will pitch his tent there, nor will any shepherds rest their flocks there. (Isaiah 13:19-20)

As the people of Judah found themselves being overwhelmed by the invading Assyrian army, the Lord revealed to Isaiah His future victory over the Babylonians. Why? He did so in order to give them the full picture and to provide them with the assurance of God’s ultimate victory. Under Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 B.C.) the Babylonians became a great international empire, a type or model of every great pagan empire that would ever dominate the world. As we consider the description of the conquest of Babylon as it is revealed in Isaiah 13-14, we find that it is also a picture and prophecy of God’s final and ultimate conquest over sinful mankind and over the devil himself. As Isaiah 13:19-20 indicates, this great empire, as well as all the great empires of the world, will be totally destroyed by the judgment of God and replaced by His divine and eternal kingdom (note Revelation 11:15).

2. Isaiah 13-14 is depicting the overthrow of the Babylonian empire by the Medes and the Persians (see 13:17 printed below.) But what elements in this description indicate that the victory of the Medes represents the final victory of the Lord over the whole world of sinful mankind? See especially Isaiah 13:4-5,10,13 (printed below)

See, I will stir up the Medes against them; they will not care for silver, nor will they delight in gold. (Isaiah 13:17)

The sound of tumult in the mountains, like that of a great multitude. The sound of the uproar of the kingdoms of the nations as they gather together. Jehovah of hosts is mustering the army for battle. (5) They are coming from a distant country, from the farthest recess of heaven—Jehovah himself and the weapons of his indignation—to destroy the whole land…(10) The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened, and the moon will not cause its light to shine…(13) Therefore, I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth shall be shaken out of its place by the wrath of Jehovah of hosts on the day his fierce anger is expressed. (Isaiah 13:4-5,10,13)

The description of the conquest of Babylon revealed in Isaiah 13-14 is, as indicated, also a picture and prophecy of God’s final and ultimate conquest over sinful mankind and over the devil himself. The emphasis of verse 4 is on the great multitude gathered against Babylon, the terrifying noise of this multitude, and the fact that it is the Lord of hosts Himself who is mustering these forces for battle. The assembling of the historical armies of the Medes and the Persians against Babylon suddenly takes on supernatural and cosmic dimensions: the Lord’s forces are seen as coming from “the farthest recess of heaven,” and the Lord Himself is leading them (verse 5). The whole universe is affected by this coming of the Lord’s army (verse 10). In verse 11 the Lord declares, “I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity. I will bring to an end the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” Verse 13 describes the cataclysmic destruction of that day.

3. What blessing for God’s people is being described in Isaiah 14:3-7 (printed below?)

On that day when Jehovah gives you relief from your suffering and trouble and cruel bondage, (4) you will raise this taunt against the king of Babylon, How the oppressor has come to and end! How his fury has ceased! (5) Jehovah has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers—(6) the rod that in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, that subdued the nations with fury and relentless aggression. (7) The whole earth is at rest and at peace; they break out into singing. (Isaiah 14:3-7)

Isaiah 14:3-7 describes the rest that the Lord shall give to His people on that day: the tyranny of the devil and sinful man shall be cut off and replaced by the experience of God’s perfect peace—and the whole creation shall be at rest. In the kingdom of God the redeemed will enjoy the blessing of relief from our suffering and trouble and cruel bondage—no longer will we have to endure the oppressive attacks of the devil and his forces, both spiritual and physical. For the redeemed of the Lord, the eternal state in the kingdom of God will be characterized by rest and peace in the presence of the Lord.

4. According to Isaiah 14:9-20 (printed below,) what will be the final end of the tyrannical “king of Babylon?” Do you think this passage is speaking about the earthly king of Babylon, or does it look beyond him to tell us the final fate of “the ruler of this world” (i.e.; the devil?)

Sheol down below is excited to meet you at your coming. It rouses the dead to greet you—all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings of the nations. (10) All of them shall respond and say to you, You also have become weak like us! You have become like us! (11) All your pomp has been brought down to Sheol, along with the music of your harps. Maggots are spread out beneath you, and worms cover you. (12) How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! How you have been cut down to the ground, you who once laid low the nations! (13) You said in your heart, I will ascend to heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God. I will sit enthroned upon the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain! (14) I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High! (15) But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the pit. (16) Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate, asking, Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble? (17) Is this the man who turned the world into a wilderness, who overthrew its cities and would not allow his captives to go home? (18) All the kings of the nations—all of them—lie in state, each in his own tomb. (19) But you are cast away from your tomb like a rejected branch. You are covered with the slain that were pierced with the sword, with those who descend to the bottom of the pit. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, (20) you will not join them in burial, because you destroyed your land and killed your people. May the offspring of evildoers never be mentioned again! (Isaiah 14:9-20)

Isaiah 14:9-20 describes the just retribution that God shall administer on that day: the arrogant and tyrannical king of Babylon is brought down to destruction and utter humiliation. Sheol, the place of the dead, is portrayed as preparing a welcome for the tyrant. Sheol rouses all the dead kings, causing them to arise from their thrones and stand in honor of the Babylonian’s arrival (verse 9). The dead rulers of the world greet the conquered tyrant with astonishment: they are amazed that he has become as weak and impotent as themselves; that he, too, has succumbed to death; and that, whereas pomp and glory once covered him, now he is covered with worms (verses 10-11). As the language of verses 12-15 indicates, this poetic description of the fallen tyrant is not only a reference to the king of Babylon but to the devil himself as the evil power behind the empires of the world—note Revelation 13:2b, a passage in which the devil, portrayed as “the dragon,” is said to have given authority to “the beast,” which represents the empires of this world.

5. At the end of this passage (Isaiah 14:24-25 printed below) what enemy nation does the Lord promise to conquer? According to verse 26 (printed below) this victory is a token of what future victory?

Jehovah of hosts has sworn, saying, Surely, as I have planned, so shall it happen; and as I have purposed, so shall it be established—(25) namely, that I will crush the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains I will trample him down. Then his yoke will be taken off of my people, and his burden removed from their shoulders. (Isaiah 14:24-25)

This is the plan that has been determined for the whole world; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. (Isaiah 14:26)

In Isaiah 14:24-25 the Lord Almighty pledges to overthrow the invading Assyrian army that was threatening to swallow up His people. In verse 26 the Lord declares that the victory He is about to accomplish over the Assyrians is a token of His final and ultimate victory: “This is the plan that has been determined for the whole world; and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.” Thus, that generation of God’s people who experienced the threat of Assyria and who witnessed the Lord’s conquest of that invader (and all God’s people who read the record of these things,) are to view that conquest of the Assyrians as a token of the Lord’s final victory.