Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

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

The predictions as to foreign nations are for the sake of the covenant people, to preserve them from despair, or reliance on human confederacies, and to strengthen their faith in God;-also in order to extirpate narrow-minded nationality. God is YAHWEH (H3068) TO ISRAEL, not for Israel's sake alone, but that He my be thereby 'ELOHIYM (H430) TO THE NATIONS. These prophecies are in their right chronological place, in the beginning of Hezekiah's reign;-then first the nations of Western Asia, on the Tigris and Euphrates, assumed a most menacing aspect.

The burden, [ masaa' (H4853)] - weighty or mournful prophecy. So the Chaldaic paraphrases, 'the burden of the cup of malediction' (Grotius). Otherwise simply, the prophetic declaration, from a Hebrew root [ naasa' (H5375)], to put forth with the voice anything, as in Numbers 23:7, "Baalam took up his parable" (Maurer). So apparently it means, Proverbs 31:1; Zechariah 12:1. But the primary meaning is probably a weighty saying or solemn prophecy, taken up (as nasa means) in the mouth of man. So Kimchi.

Of Babylon - concerning Babylon.

Verse 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.

Lift ye up a banner - (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 11:10.)

Upon the high mountain - or else, 'a bare (literally, bald; i:e., without trees) mountain' [ nishpeh (H8192), from shaapah (H8192); akin to an Aramaic root, bald; Syriac, to level or make plain. But Buxtorf supports the English version. Shaapah (H8192) means to be high: so the noun in Numbers 23:3. The Vulgate takes nishpeh (H8192) here by metathesis from nesheph (H5399), twilight, and translates dark, referring to Babylon, on account of its confusion, as Babel means. Or else, on account of the fogs from the marsh in which Babylon lay. But Babylon was not on a mountain, but in a low plain]. From "the high mountain" the banner could be seen afar off, so as to rally together the peoples against Babylon.

Exalt the voice unto them - unto the Medes (Isaiah 13:17), the assailants of Babylon. It is remarkable that Isaiah does not foretell here the Jews' captivity in Babylon, but presupposes that event, and throws himself beyond, predicting another event still more future, the overthrow of the city of Israel's oppressors. It was now 174 years before the event.

Shake the hand - beckon with the hand; wave the hand to direct the nations to march against Babylon.

That they may go into the gates of the nobles - Babylonian, rather, in a bad sense, tyrants ( nªdiybiym (H5081)); as in Isaiah 14:5, "rulers," in parallelism to "the wicked;" and Job 21:28 (Maurer).

Verse 3

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

I have commanded my sanctified ones - the Median and Persian soldiers solemnly set apart by me for the destruction of Babylon, not inwardly "sanctified," but designated to fulfill God's holy purpose (Jeremiah 51:27-28; Joel 3:9; Joel 3:11; where the Hebrew for prepare war is sanctify war).

For mine anger - to execute it

(Even) them that rejoice in my highness - `those who are made to triumph for my honour' (Horsley). The pagan Medes could not be said to 'rejoice in God's highness.' Maurer translates, 'My haughtily exulting ones' (Zephaniah 3:11): a special characteristic of the Persians (Herodotus, 1: 88, 'The Persians being haughtily-insolent by nature'). They rejoiced in their own highness, but it was His that they were unconsciously glorifying-literally, 'the rejoicing ones of my highness.'

Verse 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.

The noise of a multitude in the mountains - namely, which separate Media and Assyria, and on one of which the banner to rally the hosts is supposed to be reared.

A tumultuous noise. The Babylonians are vividly depicted as hearing some unwonted sound like the din of a host: they try to distinguish the sounds, but can only perceive a tumultuous noise.

Of the kingdoms of the nations - Medes, Persians, and Armenians, composed Cyrus' army.

Verse 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.

They come - namely, 'Yahweh,' and the armies which are "the weapons of His indignation." From a far country - Media and Persia, stretching to the far north and east.

From the end of heaven - the far east (Psalms 19:6).

Verse 6

Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.

The day of the Lord is at hand - the day of His vengeance on Babylon (Isaiah 2:12). Type of the future "great day of His wrath" (Revelation 6:17).

It shall come as a destruction - literally, a devastating tempest; Hebrew, Shod.

From the Almighty - not from mere man; therefore irresistible: "Almighty." There is a play on similar sounds: Hebrew, Shod (H7701), Shaday (H7706).

Verse 7

Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt:

Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt. So Jeremiah 50:43: cf. Joshua 7:5. Babylon was taken by surprise on the night of Belshazzar's impious feast (Daniel 5:30). Hence, the sudden fainting and melting of hearts.

Verse 8

And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames.

Pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them. The Hebrew means also a messenger: therefore the Septuagint and Arabic translate, 'the heralds (who bring word of the unexpected invasion) are terrified.' The Chaldaic, Vulgate, and Syriac support the English version.

As a woman that travaileth - (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) They shall be amazed one at another - the stupid, bewildered gaze of consternation.

Their faces (shall be as) flames - `their visages have the livid hue of flame' (Horsley): with anguish and indignation.

Verse 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.

The day of the Lord cometh, cruel - not strictly, but unsparingly just; opposed to mercy. Also answering, by just retribution in kind, to the cruelty (in the strict sense) of Babylon toward others (Isaiah 14:17), now about to be visited on itself.

To lay the land desolate - `the earth' (Horsley). The language from Isaiah 13:9 to Isaiah 13:13 can only primarily and partially apply to Babylon; fully and exhaustively, the judgments to come hereafter on the whole earth. Compare Isaiah 13:10 with Matthew 24:29; Revelation 8:12. The sins of Babylon, arrogancy (Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 47:7-8), cruelty (Isaiah 14:17), false worship (Jeremiah 50:38), persecution of the people of God (Isaiah 47:6), are peculiarly characteristic of the apostate Church-mystical "Babylon the great," "drunken with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus," and the Antichristian world of the latter days (Daniel 11:32-37; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 17:6; Revelation 18:6-7; Revelation 18:9-14; Revelation 18:24).

Verse 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.

The stars ... shall not give their light ... - figurative for anarchy, distress, and revolutions of kingdoms (Isaiah 34:4; Joel 2:10; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Amos 8:9; Revelation 6:12-14). There may be a literal fulfillment finally, shadowed forth under this imagery (Revelation 21:1).

And the constellations - Hebrew, kªciyl (H3684), a fool, or impious one; applied to the constellation Orion, who was represented as an impious giant (Nimrod deified, the founder of Babylon) chained to the sky. See note, Job 38:31.

Verse 11

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

I will punish the world - the wicked of the world (cf. Isaiah 11:4).

I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease - Babylon's besetting sin, as exhibited in Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:22; Daniel 4:30).

The terrible - rather, tyrants (Horsley).

Verse 12

I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

I will make a man more precious than fine gold - I will so cut off Babylon's defenders, that a single man shall be as rare and precious as the finest gold.

Verse 13

Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.

I will shake the heavens - image for mighty revolutions (Isaiah 24:19; Isaiah 34:4; Habakkuk 3:6; Habakkuk 3:10; Haggai 2:6-7; Revelation 20:11).

Verse 14

And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.

It - Babylon.

Shall be as the chased roe - gazelle: the most timid and easily startled.

And as a sheep that no man taketh up sheep defenseless without a shepherd (Zechariah 13:7) And as a sheep that no man taketh up - sheep, defenseless, without a shepherd (Zechariah 13:7).

They shall every man turn to his own people - the 'mingled peoples' of foreign lands shall flea out of her (Jeremiah 50:16; Jeremiah 50:28; Jeremiah 50:37; Jeremiah 51:9).

Verse 15

Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword.

Every one that is found - in the city.

Joined, [ hanicpeh (H5595)] - 'intercepted' (Maurer). 'Everyone that has withdrawn himself' [from 'aacap (H622)], namely, to hide in the houses,

Shall fall by the sword (Gesenius). But "add" is the sense of the same Hebrew in Isaiah 30:1, and many passages. Everyone, though not a native, who is joined to Babylon, whether as a trader, a mercenary soldier, or an auxiliary.

Verse 16

Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished.

(Psalms 137:8-9.)

Verse 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.

Behold, I will stir up the Medes - (Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28.) At that time they were subject to Assyria; subsequently Arbaces, satrap of Media, revolted against the effeminate Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, destroyed Nineveh, and became King of Media, in the ninth century B.C.

Which shall not regard silver - in vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom The pagan Which shall not regard silver - in vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom. The pagan Xenophon ('Cyropaedia,' Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 13:10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes, disregard of riches. A curious confirmation of this prophecy.

Verse 18

Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.

(Their) bows-in the use of which the Persians were particularly skilled.

Verse 19

And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

Babylon, the glory of kingdoms - (Isaiah 14:4; Isaiah 47:5; Jeremiah 51:41, "the praise of the whole earth.")

The beauty of the Chaldees' excellency - Hebrew, the glory of the pride of the Chaldees: it was their glory and boast.

Shall be as when God overthrew ... Gomorrah - as utterly (Jeremiah 49:18; Jeremiah 50:40; Amos 4:11). Taken by Cyrus, by clearing out the canal made for emptying the superfluous waters of the Euphrates, and directing the river into this new channel, so that he was able to enter the city by the old bed in the night.

Verse 20

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation - literally fulfilled.

Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there - not only shall it not be a permanent residence, but not even a temporary resting-place. The Arabs, through dread of evil spirits, and believing the ghost of Nimrod to haunt it, will not pass the night there (cf. Isaiah 13:21). Neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. The region was once most fertile; but owing to the Euphrates being now no longer kept within its former channels, it has become a stagnant marsh, unfit for flocks; and on the wastes of its ruins, bricks and cement, no grass grows.

Verse 21

But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there.

Wild beasts of the desert - Hebrew, tsiyiym (H6728), animals dwelling in arid wastes (from tsiyah (H6723), dryness). Wild cats, remarkable for their howl (Bochart).

Their houses shall be full of doleful creatures - howling beasts. Hebrew, Ochim; literally, 'howlings' (Maurer). From ach, an exclamation of pain.

Owls shall dwell there - rather, ostriches; a timorous creature, delighting in solitary deserts, and making a hideous noise (Bochart). Hebrew, bªnowt (H1323) ya`ªnaah (H3284), 'daughters of shouting,' from the root [ `aanaah (H6030)], to shout. Or, as Gesenius explains, 'daughters of voracity,' from a root [ yaa`an (H3282)], to be voracious. The ostrich will swallow any substance-iron, large stones, etc.-to assist the triturating action of the gizzard. The former view suits best the context here.

Satyrs shall dance there - Hebrew, sª`iyriym (H8163); sylvan demi-gods-half-man, half-goat-believed by the Arabs to haunt these ruins; probably animals of the goat-ape species (Vitringa). Devil worshippers, who dance amidst the ruins on a certain night (J. Wolff). The Hebrew means hairy, rough (as the Latin hircus is from hirtus, hirsutus), applicable to the he-goat. The worship of sª`iyriym (H8163), whether meaning the he-goat or, as Hamilton Smith thinks, the dog-faced baboon (Cynocephalus), was accompanied with dances. It was really devils that were thus worshipped (Leviticus 17:7, "they (the Israelites) shall no more (as in Egypt) offer their sacrificed unto devils" ( sª`iyriym (H8163)) (2 Chronicles 11:15).

Verse 22

And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.

The wild beasts of the islands - rather, jackals. Jyyim-literally, howlings called by the Arabs sons of howling: an animal standing midway between a fox and a wolf (Bochart and Maurer).

Shall cry - rather [ `aanah (H6030)], answer, respond to each other, as wolves do at night, producing a most dismal effect. Dragons - serpents of various species, which hiss and utter dolorous sounds. Fable gave them wings, because they stand with much of the body elevated, and then dart swiftly.

Her time is near - though 174 years distant, yet "near" to Isaiah, who is supposed to be speaking to the Jews as if now captives in Babylon (Isaiah 14:1-2).

Remarks: When God has a work of righteous vengeance to execute, He is at no loss for instruments; He can wield at will the passions of haughty warriors to carry out His purposes. If the elect nation were doomed, because of sin, to succumb to Babylon for a time, Babylon herself must ultimately fall forever before the "sanctified ones," who are God's executioners. How consolatory to the people of God to know that, though chastened temporarily, they shall not be destroyed ultimately; but their enemy, who triumphed over them, shall be laid forever low! The day of the Lord shall come on unpardoned, because unbelieving, sinners "as a destruction from the Almighty," sudden, stupefying, and irresistible. The "cruel" shall be paid in their own coin: "he shall have judgment without mercy that hath showed no mercy." "The arrogancy of the proud shall cease, and the haughtiness of the terrible be laid low." Revolutions in the world of nature shall probably accompany the vengeance which shall overtake sinners in the spiritual and the political world.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.