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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Isaiah 13

Verses 1-16




An "oracle" (a burden orally expressed) involved a revelation given to a prophet of God which was, in turn, to be uttered to men. The following series of oracles were designed, not only as a warning of judgment upon hostile nations, but also as a means of encouragement for Judah.

"Babylon", in the Old Testament, is always "Babel" - bearing indisputable evidence of its deep roots in the "city of confusion", (Genesis 11:1-9). More than a city, or kingdom (though it is both, at various times), it symbolizes a highly organized world-system (religious, political and commercial) which is diametrically opposed to God’s order for man and the universe, incessantly antagonistic to the Most High; vainly proud of her accomplishments and brilliantly daring in her innovations of evil; there is, nevertheless, abundant evidence that the hand of divine restraint has been a constant check on her recklessness. And a close analysis, of the extensive ramifications of her workings, will reveal confusion, division and antagonism among her various branches. Her end is destruction. And with her all who have stopped their ears against divine warnings and pleadings to pursue the lusts aroused by her alluring deceptiveness.

1. In verses 1-2 there is the command of the Lord for His servants to raise a banner as a rallying signal for His troops (Isaiah 5:26; Jeremiah 50:2; Jeremiah 51:25); they are to be urged onward, by voice and hand, toward the gates of Babylon, (Isaiah 10:32; Isaiah 19:16; Isaiah 45:1-3; Jeremiah 51:58).

2. The Lord commands His sanctified ones; His strong and proudly-exultant warriors are summoned to execute His fierce anger upon Babylon, (comp. Joel 3:11).

3. In a passage with obvious eschatalogical or end time implications, the prophet declares what he has seen and heard, (Verse 4-8).

a. An uproar of multitudes upon the mountains! (Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 17:12; Joel 3:14). A tumult of gathering kingdoms!

b. From distant lands, even from the ends of heaven, the Lord is mustering His battle-host, (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 7:18).

c. They are instruments of His indignation, to destroy the whole land, (Isaiah 42:13; Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 24:1; Isaiah 34:2).

4. The "Day of the Lord" is viewed as "at hand" - a day of destruction which comes from the Almighty, (Verse 6; 10:3; 24:21-23; 34:2; Jeremiah 10:15; Ezekiel 30:3; Amos 5:18).

a. The hands of human ingenuity will dangle helplessly at one’s sides, (Ezekiel 7:17).

b. Once-courageous hearts will melt with fear, (Verse 7; comp. Isaiah 19:1; Leviticus 26:36-37).

c. Dismayed, seized by pain and agony; they will writhe as women in the travail of child-birth - each one standing aghast at the terror of his dearest friend, (Verse 8; comp. Isaiah 66:4; Ezekiel 21:7; Daniel 5:6; Micah 7:16-17; Nahum 2:10; Hebrews 10:27).

5. Again "the Day of the Lord" is pictured as coming, "cruel, with wrath and fierce anger", for the desolation of the land and the destruction of sinners out of it, (Verse 9; 34:1-8; Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24; Luke 21:35).

6. The stars, constellations, sun and moon will refuse their light -increasing the wretchedness of the wicked, (Verse 10; 5:30; Joel 2:10).

7. Manifesting His presence for the punishment of the wicked (Verse 11; Isaiah 3:11; Isaiah 14:5; Isaiah 26:21), the Lord will cause the arrogance of presumptuous sinners to cease, (Isaiah 2:11; Proverbs 8:13) - humbling the pride of oppressive tyrants (comp. Isaiah 25:10-11; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 29:20; Isaiah 49:25-26), and illustrating the fact that "the way of transgressors is hard", (Proverbs 13:15).

8. The extent of this threatened slaughter, and extremely diminished population, is expressed by a powerful comparison, (Verse 12; Isaiah 4:1; Isaiah 6:11-12; 1 Kings 9:28; Psalms 45:9).

9. The judgment of the Lord, in the heat of His fierce anger, is likened to the shaking of both of the heavens and the earth (Verse 13-14; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 24:1; Jeremiah 10:10; Haggai 2:6-7), which results in the flight of non-Babylonians to their own lands and people, (comp. Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 33:3).

a. It should be noted that "heavens" is sometimes used, symbolically, to designate the height of political glory-the leaders of human government, (Jeremiah 4:23-25; Ezekiel 32:7; Isaiah 34:4-5).

b. And "earth" sometimes denotes the multitude of people by whose strength "the heavens" are supported, (Revelation 12:16; Genesis 6:11; etc.).

c. An "earthquake", in its figurative usage, is suggestive of civil revolution, (Joel 2:10).

10. The purposed destruction of Babylon is to be complete -without pity or respect of persons, (Verse 15-16; Isaiah 14:19; Jeremiah 50:25-27; Jeremiah 51:3-4).

Verses 17-22


1. God specifically declares His purpose to stir up the Medes against Babylon - a people, who are indifferent toward silver and gold, (Verse 17; Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28; Daniel 5:28; Daniel 5:31).

2. Their chief delight appears to be in bloodshed - without regard to age, sex, or station in life, (comp. 2 Chronicles 36:17; Ezekiel 9:5-6; Ezekiel 9:10).

3. The destruction of Babylon is likened unto that of Sodom and Gomorrah; it is to be perpetual, (Verse 19b; Genesis 19:24-25; Deuteronomy 29:23).

a. It will be uninhabited "from generation to generation", (Isaiah 14:23; Jeremiah 51:37-43).

b. The Arabian, and the shepherd with his sheep, will refuse to spend a single night there.

c. It will, rather, become a dwelling-place for wild beasts, (Verse 20-22a; comp. Isaiah 34:11-15).

4. Isaiah declares that the time of Babylon’s destruction is near -nor will her judgment be delayed, (Verse 22).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Isaiah 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. 1985.