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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 13

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-22

1. Burden] The corresponding verb means ’to lift up’ (a) a load, (b) the voice (cp. Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 42:2, Isaiah 42:11), used of Balaam lifting up his voice in oracular utterance (Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:15, Numbers 24:23). Hence the noun signifies an utterance, or oracle (e.g. 2 Kings 9:25), and is often prefixed, as here, to prophetic utterances (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Proverbs 31:1). Since it is often applied to threatening utterances, the meaning of ’burden’ is also suitable. In Jeremiah 23:33 there is a play on the two meanings of the word.

2. Banner] RV ’ensign,’ i.e. a signal for the mustering of distant armies (Isaiah 5:26). High] RV ’bare,’ i.e. without trees; upon such a mountain the signal would be clearly seen. Unto them] i.e. the people whom the prophet has in mind, though they have not yet been mentioned.

Shake the hand] the threatening gesture of besiegers (Isaiah 10:32).

3. Sanctified ones] RV ’consecrated ones,’ i.e. warriors. The thought may be that the war is a holy one, Babylon’s destroyers being the ministers of Jehovah’s vengeance.

4. The prophet hears the noise of the armies assembling at the signal (Isaiah 13:2). Of the battle] RV ’for the battle.’

6. The Almighty] Heb. Shaddai, a name of God frequent in the Pentateuch, and belong-to the pre-Mosaic revelation (Exodus 6:3); it is not often found in the prophets, and when it occurs the severe and awful aspect of the divine nature is the more prominent one (Joel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 10:5).

8. As flames] RV ’faces of flame,’ i.e. flushed with agitation.

10. The day of Jehovah is accompanied by signs in the heavens as in Joel 2:10, Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Zephaniah 1:14, Zephaniah 1:15. Such language need not be understood literally, but vividly expresses a time of terror and dismay.

12. Precious] RV ’rare’; the slaughter will be so great that few men will be left (Isaiah 24:6). Golden wedge] RV ’pure gold’; the gold of Ophir was most esteemed.

13. See a similar description Haggai 2:6. The prophets are carried in thought beyond the particular political convulsion in view to the final overthrow of all that is hostile to God.

14. RV ’And it shall come to pass that as,’ etc. That no man taketh up] i.e. without a shepherd. They shall.. turn] i.e. the settlers in Babylon, either taken captive from other countries, or resorting thither for trade (Jeremiah 50:16), will, on the overthrow of the city, disperse to their own lands.

15. The reason for the hurried flight of Isaiah 13:14 the fall of the city will be accompanied by indiscriminate slaughter.

Joined unto them] i.e. by colonisation. But RV ’taken,’ not having been able to make good his escape.

16. The atrocities referred to frequently accompanied the sack of a city (2 Kings 8:12; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16).

17. The invaders of Babylon are here first mentioned by name, though the prophet has had them in mind from Isaiah 13:2. The Medes had settled in the district SW. of the Caspian Sea, and are mentioned in Assyrian annals from Sargon’s time onwards (cp. 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11): see intro. to this section. Shall not regard] i.e. they are not to be turned aside by bribes.

18. Bows] The Medes were noted archers (Jeremiah 51:11).

19. Excellency] RV ’pride.’

20. Make their fold] RV ’make their flocks to lie down.’ A more terrible desolation awaits Babylon than that which had been foretold for Judah (Isaiah 7:21, Isaiah 7:25).

21. Doleful creatures] probably owls. Owls] RV ’ostriches.’ Satyrs] i.e. uncanny creatures, or demons (so Targum, LXX, and Syr.), such as were thought by the Jews to haunt ruins and desert places: cp. Luke 11:24. But as the other names in the context stand for animals many prefer to render, ’he-goats’ (RM, Vulg.).

22. The wild.. houses] RV ’wolves shall cry in their castles.’ Dragons] RV ’jackals.’ The anticipation of the utter ruin of Babylon has been literally fulfilled. In 538 b.c. it was captured by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus; and, though its glory lingered for a time, it died away before the beginning of the Christian era, and Babylon is now, and has long been, only a heap of ruins.

Verses 1-23

The Judgment of Babylon and its King

This is the first of a series of prophecies dealing mainly with foreign nations. Its subject is Babylon, where the Jews are represented as undergoing exile, from which they are about to be delivered (Isaiah 14:1-3) owing to the capture of Babylon by the Medes (Isaiah 13:17). The historical setting of the prophecy is thus much later than the age of Isaiah, in whose time the Assyrians were the great-enemies of God’s people. On this ground most modern scholars regard this section as non-Isaianic, and date it during the Babylonian exile. As the Medes alone (not Cyrus and the Persians) are mentioned as the instruments used by God in the deliverance of His people, the prophecy must be dated before 549 b.c., the year in which Cyrus overthrew the Medes, who afterwards were united with him in the conquest of Babylon (538 b.c)..

Isaiah 13:1. Title prefixed to the section.

2-18. Hostile hosts are mustered to carry out Jehovah’s purpose of judgment against Babylon,

19-22. with the result that it shall be utterly desolate.

Isaiah 14:1-3. The deliverance of captive Israel.

4-20. A song of triumph over the king of Babylon. 1st scene: Hades, where the spirit of the vainglorious monarch is brought low (4-15). 2nd scene: The battle-field, where his dishonoured corpse lies with the slain (16-20).

21-23. The completeness of Babylon’s overthrow.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/isaiah-13.html. 1909.
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