Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Isaiah 13

Verses 1-5

The Lord Musters His Army - Isaiah 13:1-5 describes the call and gathering of a great and mighty army that the Lord gathers to implement His divine plan of redemption for Israel. Herodotus (485-425 B.C.) 33] and Xenophon (430-354 B.C.), 34] two Greek historian, record this assembly of a great army of Medes and Persians under Cyrus, and his conquest of the city of Babylon. The description of Cyrus mustering his army and marching them towards Babylon with regular meetings in his tent in preparation for his assault upon the city of Babylon is reflected in Isaiah 13:1-5. This is the same Cyrus that Ezra mentions in Ezra 1:1, whose decree officially ended the Babylonian Captivity of the Jewish people, allowing many to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple and their city. Daniel records the fall of Babylon under King Belshazzar with the writing on the wall and the prophecy of the fall of this great city ( Daniel 5:1-30).

33] See Herodotus 1191in Herodotus I, Books I-II, trans. by A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975), 238-241.

34] See Xenophon, Cyropaedia 751-34in The Cyropaedia, or Institutions of Cyrus, and the Hellenics, or Grecian History, trans. J. S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell and Sons, 1880), 220-225.

It is possible that this army will be used to destroy some or all of the ten nations listed in Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 27:13. We are given an allusion to the swift movement of the Lord's army in Isaiah 19:1, which says that "the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud."

Isaiah 19:1, "The burden of Egypt. Behold, the LORD rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence, and the heart of Egypt shall melt in the midst of it."

Isaiah 13:1 The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

Isaiah 13:1Word Study on "burden" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "burden" "massâ" ( מַשָּׂא) (H 4853) means, "a bearing, a carrying, a burden, a load," and it also means, "something uttered, singing, a gift or tribute." Strong says it literally means, "burden, tribute," and figuratively, "an utterance, a doom, a singing, a desire."

Comments- Within the collection of prophecies against the Gentile nations ( Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 27:13), ten of them will begin with the Hebrew word ( מַשָּׂא) (H 4853), which means, "a burden" ( Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 21:13; Isaiah 22:1; Isaiah 23:1).

Isaiah 13:1Word Study on "see" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "see" ( חָזָה) (H 2372) means, "to see, to behold." Strong says it literally means, "to gaze at," and thus, "to perceive, contemplate (with pleasure)," and specifically, "to have a vision of."

Isaiah 13:2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles.

Isaiah 13:2Comments- Reading Isaiah 13:2 we envision a man standing upon the peak of a high mountain. He plants a large banner with a message on it for all to see. We also see a man waving his hands and crying out with all his might with a message that all must hear. He stands upon "the high mountain" in order for his message to be heard to the ends of the earth, which is stated in Isaiah 13:5.

Scripture Reference:

Isaiah 18:3, "All ye inhabitants of the world, and dwellers on the earth, see ye, when he lifteth up an ensign on the mountains; and when he bloweth a trumpet, hear ye."

Isaiah 13:3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.

Isaiah 13:3Comments- Reading Isaiah 13:2, we ask ourselves what this man is doing. What is he saying? In a few minutes after he cries out, the scene moves to a tent with military generals planning for battle.

Isaiah 13:4 The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.

Isaiah 13:4Comments- Reading Isaiah 13:4, we hear a faint noise in the distance, a sort of rumbling that steadily grows louder in volume and intensity. The trumpets blast in the distance to rally the troops. Suddenly, over the horizon appears the distant images of an army, its soldiers, horses and chariots prepared for battle, and supply wagons in the rear. There are generals leading their troops forward. Above them the host of heaven are assembled in the sky, great and mighty angels ready to give support to this mighty army of men. A great and dreadful army has gathered from the nations who have responded to this cry upon the mountains, and there is none to stop them.

Isaiah 13:5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land.

Isaiah 13:5Comments- Reading Isaiah 13:5, we begin to realize that the message on the banner has been read, and the voice of the messenger has been heard, and his frantic waving has gathered the attention of a huge audience. We now understand that this messenger sent a cry across the nations to gather themselves for a great battle. His voice has been heard to the fartherest reaches of the heavens. There is no army to distant to respond to this muster of armies for battle.

This is the army of the Lord, and He has raised up mighty men to implement His divine purpose and plan for the redemption of mankind. There is no one able to altar this plan.

Verses 1-13

Prophecies Against the Nations - Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 27:13 records prophecies against twelve nations, culminating with praise unto the Lord. God planted the nation of Israel in the midst of the nations as a witness of God's plan of redemption for mankind. Instead of embracing God's promises and commandments to mankind, the nations rejected Israel and their God, then they participated in Israel's destruction. Although God judges His people, He also judged these nations, the difference being God promised to restore and redeem Israel, while the nations received no future hope of restoration in their prophecies; yet, their opportunity for restoration is found in Israel's rejection when God grafts the Church into the vine of Israel ( Romans 11:11-32). The more distant nations played little or no role in Israel's idolatry, demise, and divine judgment, so they are not listed in this passage of Scripture.

It is important to note in prophetic history that Israel's judgment is followed by judgment upon the nations; and Israel's final restoration is followed by the restoration of the nations and the earth. Thus, some end time scholars believe that the events that take place in Israel predict parallel events that are destined to take place among the nations.

Here is a proposed outline:

1. Judgment upon Babylon — Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:27

2. Judgment upon Philistia — Isaiah 14:28-32

3. Judgment upon Moab — Isaiah 15:1 to Isaiah 16:14

4. Judgment upon Damascus — Isaiah 17:1-14

5. Judgment upon Ethiopia — Isaiah 18:1-7

6. Judgment upon Egypt — Isaiah 19:1-25

7. Prophecy Against Ethiopia & Egypt — Isaiah 20:1-6

8. Judgment upon the Wilderness of the Sea — Isaiah 21:1-10

9. Judgment upon Dumah — Isaiah 21:11-12

10. Judgment upon Arabia — Isaiah 21:13-17

11. Judgment upon Judah — Isaiah 22:1-25

12. Judgment upon Tyre — Isaiah 23:1-18

13. Judgment upon the Earth — Isaiah 24:1-23

14. Praise to God for Israel's Restoration — Isaiah 25:1 to Isaiah 27:13

Verses 1-27

Judgment upon Babylon - Comments- Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:27 records Isaiah's prophecy against Babylon. This prophecy is the longest and first in a collection of prophecies against foreign nations, revealing that the seat of Satan dwells in this nation. The downfall of this major stronghold of Satan will serve as a testimony of God's divine power to the other minor strongholds, as He systematically decrees judgment against them.

Verses 6-8

Fear Grips those Destined for the Lord's Wrath- Isaiah 13:6-8 records the response from those who see this great and mighty army marching. Fear has gripped their hearts. This passage describes the physical symptoms of the human body that has been overcome with fear. The hands become weak because the muscles of the body become weak. This is caused by an irregular heartbeat. The heart "melting" means that heart palpations feel as if the heart skips its beats or stops beating. As a result, breathing becomes difficult and the head dizzy, thus the body feels weak. The stomach pains or cramps with possible nausea or vomiting. The face becomes hot and red because of increased blood pressure, caused by rapid heartbeats.

Verses 9-16

The Day of the Lord- In Isaiah 13:9-10, the prophecy against Babylon begins to sound similar to the events described in the book of Revelation and in Jesus' Eschatological discourse ( Matthew 24-25) The phrases "day of the Lord" ( Isaiah 13:9) ( 2 Peter 3:10), the darkening of the sun, moon and stars ( Isaiah 13:10) ( Matthew 24:29), punish upon the world ( Isaiah 13:11), deaths of much of mankind ( Isaiah 13:12), and the heavens and the earth being removed ( Isaiah 13:13) ( 2 Peter 3:10) all reflect eschatological passages found in the New Testament.

Thus, we begin to realize that this prophecy has a two-fold application. It provides for Israel's immediate restoration from the Babylonian Captivity; but it also predicts the ultimate destruction of this world's corrupt system and the ushering in of the Kingdom of Heaven with Israel's restoration immediately before the Tribulation Period and beginning of the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ upon earth. Israel's restoration is only partial and temporary when King Cyrus issues his decree in the first year of his reign that allowed the Jews to return to their homeland; however, Israel's redemption will be full and complete and everlasting at Jesus' Second Coming.

2 Peter 3:10, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up."

Matthew 24:29, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:"

Isaiah 13:9 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

Isaiah 13:10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

Isaiah 13:10Word Study on "constellations" - Gesenius says the Hebrew word "Orion" "kes-eel" ( כְּסִיל) (H 3685) means, "a fool." Strong says it is derived from the primitive root ( כָּסַל) (H 3684), which literally means, "to be fat," and figuratively, "to be silly." Thus, this constellation is also called "the Fool." The Enhanced Strong says this Hebrew word is used only 4times in the Old Testament, being translated in the KJV as "Orion 3, constellation 1." This word is used in Job 38:31 and Amos 5:8 as the name of one of several constellations. Isaiah 13:10 uses this word in its plural form in a wider sense to mean all of the constellations in the heavens.

Job 9:9, "Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south."

Job 38:31, "Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion?"

Amos 5:8, "Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:"

Isaiah 13:10, "For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine."

Comments- Webster says that Orion is "a large and bright constellation on the equator between the stars Aldebaran and Sirius…it contains a remarkable nebula visible to the naked eye." In addition, John Gill tells us that the Hebrew name "Cesil" ( כְּסִיל) is a derivative of the name of the Hebrew month "Cisleu," which corresponds to the Roman calendar of November and December at which time this constellation is visible in the Middle East. He says because this constellation appears during the stormy, winter season, Virgil referred to it as "nimbosus Orion," or "stormy Orion." 35]

35] John Gill, Job, in John Gill's Expositor, in e-Sword, v 777 [CD-ROM] (Franklin, Tennessee: e-Sword, 2000-2005), comments on Job 9:9.

The legend of this constellation is of a celebrated mythological hero who was bound in the heavens for an unsuccessful war against the gods. Thus, Job 38:31 describes Orion as being bound with cords. Among the Eastern tradition this individual was identified as Nemrod, who rebelled against the Lord in Genesis. 36] However, the Greeks identified this person as Orion, a celebrated hunter in the oldest Greek mythology of a gigantic stature. 37]

36] Albert Barnes, Job, in Barnes" Notes, Electronic Database (Seattle, WA: Hendrickson Publishers Inc, 1997), in P.C. Study Bible, v 31 [CD-ROM] (Seattle, WA: Biblesoft Inc, 1993-2000), comments on Job 9:9.

37] David H. Levy, "Orion," in The World Book Encyclopedia, vol 14 (Chicago: World Book, Inc, 1994), 856.

Since the Hebrew word in Isaiah for "constellations" is really the word "Cesil," or "Orion," the LXX translates it as "Orion" and adds the phrase, "and all the host of heaven." It is possible that there was an older Hebrew manuscript with a smother reading that is different from the Masoretic text.

Brenton reads, "the stars of heaven, and Orion, and all the host of heaven, shall not give their light; and it shall be dark at sunrise, and the moon shall not give her light."

Verses 17-22

Isaiah 13:17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

Isaiah 13:17Comments- The prophet Daniel records the fall of Babylon to the Medes.

Daniel 5:30-31, "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."

Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes, reigned briefly from 538 to 536 B.C. ( Daniel 9:1). (This is not a reference to Darius the Persian who was the third successor to Cyrus the Great.) Scholars say that at the death of Belshazzar ( Daniel 5:30), Darius "received the kingdom" of Babylon by being made king, or viceroy, over the kingdom of the Chaldeans under Cyrus the king of Persia ( Daniel 5:31). Thus, Daniel 6:28 suggests that Darius and Cyrus ruled at the same time. This is supported by the fact that the name "Darius" never occurs in any ancient documents outside of the book of Daniel. We can conclude that Darius was probably never the king over the entire Persian Empire.

Daniel 6:28, "So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian."

Daniel 9:1, "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;"

When we go to extra-biblical sources, we find that the Greek historians credit the takeover to Cyrus the Persian. 38] Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), the Greek historian, tells us that Cyrus led an army of Medes and Persians to Babylon and captured the city after diverting a water channel of the Euphrates river, with the dried river allowing entrance into the city by night (see Herodotus 1191). 39] Xenophon (430-354 B.C.), a later Greek historian, also records the fall of Babylon, but includes the story of two of Cyrus' skilled generals Gadatas and Gobryas, who orchestrating the assault (Cyropaedia 751-34). 40] Josephus tells us that Darius the king of Media was a relative of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and that together they took over the Babylonian kingdom from Belshazzar.

38] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah, Daniel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5) The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

39] See Herodotus 1191in Herodotus I, Books I-II, trans. by A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975), 238-241.

40] See Xenophon Cyropaedia 751-34in The Cyropaedia, or Institutions of Cyrus, and the Hellenics, or Grecian History, trans. J. S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell and Sons, 1880), 220-225.

"When Evil-Mcrodach was dead, after a reign of eighteen years, Niglissar his son took the government, and retained it forty years, and then ended his life; and after him the succession in the kingdom came to his son Labosordacus, who continued in it in all but nine months; and when he was dead, it came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus; against him did Cyrus, the king of Persia, and Darius, the king of Media, make war; and when he was besieged in Babylon, there happened a wonderful and prodigious vision." (Antiquities 10112)

"And this is the end of the posterity of king Nebuchadnezzar, as history informs us; but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when Hebrews, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them." (Antiquities 10115)

It would not have been uncommon for Cyrus the Persian to appoint a prominent Mede as viceroy over a part of his kingdom in order to reward loyalty and keep unity in the region. We know that many noble Medes were employed as officials, satraps and generals. This is very likely how Darius the Mede gained the description as taking the kingdom in Daniel 5:31. Since there is record of a man named Gubaru who appears as the governor of Babylonia and of Ebir-nari (the western domains under Chaldean sovereignty) in tablets dated from the fourth to the eighth year of Cyrus (535-532 B.C.), some scholars suggest that Gubaru took the title as "Dar eyawes" or "Darius" during his rule as viceroy under King Cyrus. 41]

41] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah, Daniel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5) The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

Isaiah 13:21-22Comments - The Ecosystem of the Middle East- Isaiah 13:21-22 lists several animals, mammals and birds that make up the ecosystem of the Middle East.

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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Isaiah 13". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.