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Saturday, July 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 14

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Verse 1

The LORD Has Compassion on Jacob

The subject of the previous chapter is continued and explained. Now the reason is given for the judgment on the heathen ruler described in the previous chapter. That reason is that the LORD will have compassion on Jacob, the twelve tribes, and fulfill His choice of Israel, the twelve tribes. The judgment on the nations will show His people that He is on their side.

The pre-fulfillment at the time of Zerubbabel only applies to the two tribes realm. The full fulfillment in the future applies to the twelve tribes of Israel. At the time of Zerubbabel Judah remains under the authority of the nations. In the future Israel will have authority over the nations (Isaiah 14:2).

Four aspects can be distinguished in this context:
1. Judgment on Israel: The heathen ruler has been used by the LORD to discipline His people because His people have become willful and rebellious.
2. Judgment on the nations: The arrogance and excessive cruelty of the nations in their actions compel Him to bring His judgment on these nations when they have accomplished their task of discipling Israel.
3. Blessing on Israel: The promises made to the fathers must be fulfilled. This means that a restoration of Israel must take place.
4. Blessing on the nations: When the restoration of Israel has taken place, this restored Israel will be the instrument through which God will bless the nations.

Just as the fall of Babylon means a partial blessing for Judah – after all, Cyrus gives them permission to return to the land of the fathers (Ezra 1:1-Leviticus :) – so the judgment of the Lord Jesus on Babylon in the end time will result in full blessing for the whole people. When the hymn of praise for the fall of Babylon is sung (Revelation 19:1-Joshua :), the wedding of the Lamb will be celebrated immediately afterwards (Revelation 19:7-1 Samuel :). Immediately after the wedding, Christ returns to earth (Revelation 19:11) to sit on His throne in Jerusalem and govern His people, and the earth, in blessing.

In summary, Isaiah 14:1 shows in a fourfold manner the plans of blessing the LORD has devised for Israel:
1. He has compassion on them and
2. makes His choice come true,
3. He settles them in their own land given to them by Him; and
4. when strangers see the blessing thereof, they will want to be part of that blessed people. These strangers live among the Israelites and, like once a Rahab and a Ruth, will voluntarily join the house of Jacob.

Verses 2-8

The Tables Have Turned

God will, in order to carry out His purpose toward His people, use the nations to bring His people to their dwelling place (Isaiah 14:2). It is clear that what is said here did not happen in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, when a small remnant from Babylon returns to Jerusalem. That is a partial return, where the returned remnant remains under the power of the nations (Ezra 9:9; Nehemiah 9:36).

The restoration that takes place in the end time, takes place in two steps. First we have the return of the two tribes who now two thousand years ago rejected Christ and will go through the great tribulation. The two tribes will be restored after the discipline by the king of the North and by the appearance of Christ. Then the lost ten tribes (Deuteronomy 28:25; Deuteronomy 32:26) will return to the land of Israel and be restored (Ezekiel 37:21). The nations will do everything to bring these ten tribes back to the land of Israel in a short time.

We see that whoever remains of the former oppressors after God’s judgment on them will become “male servants and female servants” of the Israelites. The tables are turned. The oppressed are now the rulers and those who have ruled are now the prisoners (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:6-Judges :).

The joy over the fall of the harsh regime is great. Also great is the mockery that comes over the once mighty king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:3-Numbers :). In the past we recognize this king in the person of Belsazar (Daniel 5:1), but prophetically we see in him the future ruler of Europe, referred to as the beast of the sea (Revelation 13:1) and the little horn of Daniel 7 (Daniel 7:8; Daniel 7:20Daniel 7:24). We must distinguish this person, referred to here as the oppressor because of his part in the persecution of the faithful remnant, from the antichrist, the ungodly king of Israel, the beast of the earth (Revelation 13:11).

Isaiah incites the singing of a mocking song, keeping alive the memory of the downfall of the king of Babylon. This mock song (Isaiah 14:4) consists of four stanzas:
1. on earth: relief (Isaiah 14:4-Ruth :);
2. in the realm of the dead (Sheol): amazement (Isaiah 14:9-1 Kings :);
3. in heaven: the ejection of Satan, the power behind Babylon (Isaiah 14:12-Ezra :);
4. on earth: judgment (Isaiah 14:16-Ecclesiastes :).

This reversal of affairs is due to the LORD (Isaiah 14:5). He has worked it, for He has “broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers”. The reason is that this disciplinary staff has not kept its measure and has constantly stricken and persecuted (Isaiah 14:6). He has gone beyond the LORD’s will in his wrath and desire for destruction and has become a scourge to the nations. When his yoke is broken, the earth is at rest and there is joy everywhere; the cheers burst forth (Isaiah 14:7).

Even the trees breathe as it were relieved (Isaiah 14:8). The Babylonians had cut down large areas of forest in Lebanon, because they could use the wood for anything. Now they lie down felled, powerless to climb Lebanon and cut trees.

Verses 9-21

The Fall of Satan

Then a new scene unfolds about the final fall of Babylon. We see the spirits of the slain rulers and people of Babylon in “Sheol” (Isaiah 14:9). Sheol – Greek: Hades (Luke 16:23) –, is the place where the spirits of the dead go. These are the spirits of those who are lost. It is not hell (gehenna), but the realm of the dead.

Those who are already there greet the newcomer. There is commotion when they see who the newcomer is. They bump into each other and point at him who is coming. It is said to the newcomer that he was expected. Those who are in the realm of the dead know why they are there and are also aware that all those who have lived as they have, will also be there. Kings rise from their thrones. In their imagination they are still rulers. On earth they would have risen from their thrones for fear and to flatter, now they do so mockingly.

This scene makes it clear that after death souls are fully aware of their situation. There is a lot of activity in the realm of the dead. They can talk to each other. There is also a vivid memory of life on earth (cf. Luke 16:23-Obadiah :). There is no Scripture that teaches or even assumes an unconscious state or a sleep of soul.

Among those who are already in the realm of the dead, there is not the respect for the newcomer that was there on earth. They honor the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:10) as Israel earlier does in a mock song (Isaiah 14:4). They shout interchangeably that he is now one of them. He is no longer above them. There is nothing left of the strength and haughtiness of the king of Babylon. He is as weak as they are.

His pomp has been thrown into the grave – not Sheol, as it says in Isaiah 14:11. He is mockingly reminded of the beautiful music he enjoyed during his life (Daniel 3:5). What he now hears is the ruthless sarcasm of his fellow-sufferers. In a sarcastic way they draw a comparison between the past on earth and the present in the realm of the dead. On earth he lay on luxurious couches and pillows, while he covered himself with beautiful blankets and bedspreads. This is different now. Maggots are now his bed and he lies under a blanket of worms.

They tell him how he saw himself as a god with his place in heaven, but that he has now fallen out of it (Isaiah 14:12). It is over with his pride. He who has called himself “star of the morning, son of the dawn”, is disillusioned. He has fallen, he who has “weakened the nations”.

The name “star of the morning” comes from the Latin lucifer meaning “light bearer”. In Hebrew, the word hillel is used, which means ‘bright’ or ‘lightening’. This is exactly the meaning of the Hebrew word nahash which indicates the serpent in its original state after its creation (Genesis 3:1). Here in Isaiah the meaning ‘son of the dawn’ is added to this name. This is just a Hebrew poetic description for “star of the morning”. Both the ‘star of the morning’ and the ‘son of the dawn’ is a description of what we now know as the planet Venus.

If we combine the meanings, we are surprised to see ‘bright morning star’ as the original name of our opponent. It is a name that is used twice in the book of Revelation for the Lord Jesus (Revelation 22:16; Revelation 22:17). Can anyone other than Him bear that title? The Son of God gives a new dignity to every title that has been stained by the unfaithfulness of any creature. He does so by accepting that title Himself and showing and unfolding it in a perfect way.

When Satan has emerged from the hand of the Creator, he is first the shining star of the morning. He is the leader of the “morning stars” who rejoiced (Job 38:7) at the creation of the earth. However, the bright morning is soon obscured by clouds, namely by the fall of the angelic prince. But God be praised that another “bright morning star” will once introduce the day of eternal rest and eternal glory on the basis of His work of salvation. Then He will sing the hymn of praise among His own (Psalms 22:22).

The foregoing makes it clear that although what is written in this Isaiah 14:12 applies in the first place to the king of Babylon, we find behind it a description of Satan (Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:9). He used the characteristics of the Lord Jesus originally given to him for himself. That has made him Satan, which means ‘adversary’.

In the description of the judgment on the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:11-Psalms :) we see behind the power of Tyre the same evil power as here behind the power of Babylon. That it goes beyond a description of the death of the king of Babylon here is also shown by the fact that the beast of Revelation 13 does not die an ordinary death like this, but is thrown alive into the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20).

Satan is the inspirer of this king, the founder of Babylon. Babylon is made by Satan his seat to corrupt the world from there. The spirit of Babylon who instigated the building of the tower (Genesis 11:1-1 Samuel :) is revived in Nebuchadnezzar, the first king of the world empire Babylon. This will be even more particularly the case in his last representative to whom this prophecy in its fullness relates, that is, the beast of the sea (Revelation 13:1-2 Samuel :).

Proudness is the sin of Satan (Isaiah 14:13-2 Chronicles :; cf. 1 Timothy 3:6). That sin has caused his fall. His heart has exalted itself. What he conceived in his heart was hidden from everyone, but not from God. Five times in these verses we read his presumptuous intention: “I will.” He saw himself as a rising star that went higher and higher. First to heaven to raise his throne there above the stars of God, which are His angels (Isaiah 14:13). That exaltation served as a stepping stone to even higher, “above the heights of the clouds”, to be equated there with the Supreme (Isaiah 14:14).

Babylon defies God by wanting to be like Him and to rule over the ends of the earth. He thinks he can equal God. That endeavor will fail hopelessly and will be punished once and for all. We clearly see how behind the proud intention of the king of Babylon to make himself equal to God, that of the devil is hidden.

Satan has exalted himself and has been humiliated and will be humiliated even more. The complete contrast we see in the Lord Jesus. He is the Most High and He has humbled Himself and taken the form of a slave. He is exalted by God in heaven and will also be openly exalted on earth (Philippians 2:5-1 Kings :). In the way of the devil and in the way of the Lord Jesus we see the full truth of the words of the Lord Jesus: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).

The fate of the king of Babylon is “Sheol”, the realm of death, where everything is eternal misery and wail (Isaiah 14:15). Instead of ascending above the highest clouds, he lies in “the recesses of the pit”, the grave. By “those who see you” (Isaiah 14:16) are not meant the spirits in the realm of the dead, but the people on earth. They express their amazement at the fall of the tyrant. It seems as if they cannot believe their eyes that this wretched man is the man for whom the whole world trembled with fear. Is that the man who trampled everything underfoot and broke down and imprisoned everyone in an iron grip (Isaiah 14:17)?

Other kings have had an honorable burial and rest in their own graves (Isaiah 14:18). But the corpse of the king of Babylon – especially Belsazar, the last king (Daniel 5:30) – was contemptibly thrown away and has not been even near a grave (Isaiah 14:19). So great is the disgust about him. Other corpses of defeated combatants have been thrown into graves and covered with stones. His body lies unburied and is trampled.

He suffers this fate because he has ruined his country and killed his people (Isaiah 14:20). The reign of his house will be over. His house will perish ingloriously. In the realm of the dead, the lineage of evildoers, his offspring, will not be mentioned forever. There it will be over forever with all the glory of man.

His demise is a warning example of demise for all evildoers (Isaiah 14:21). Children who follow their fathers in their iniquity will end up on a place of slaughter. They will fall and will not rise again. It will be impossible for them to insure themselves again from the earth and build cities there to their own glory and pleasure.

Verses 22-23

The Final Judgment on Babylon

The king of Babylon and his descendants rose up against the LORD. But the moment will come when “the LORD of hosts”, that is He who is far beyond all earthly and also heavenly powers, will rise up against them (Isaiah 14:22). Those who are “them” are specified. They are “name and survivors [or: remnant]” of Babylon. All those who bear the royal name are exterminated. No one remains of the entire royal family. To underline its radical character it is said that this concerns both “offspring and posterity”, or son and grandson, as it also can be translated. Anyone who could lay claim to the throne will perish. The dynasty simply ceases to exist.

He will make their abode uninhabitable for people, where no one will want to live except the unclean hedgehog (Isaiah 14:23). He will wipe away the city itself “with the broom of destruction”. This indicates that the city has turned to dust that can be wiped away. It finds everything its final fulfillment in the end time (Revelation 18:21).

Verses 24-27

Prophecy About Assyria

In Isaiah 14:24, after the judgment on Babylon, we find the downfall of Assyria, after which even more realms pass the review with which God will act. With this we move into the field of vision of the prophet to the area we know today as northern Iraq with even more countries of the near east, such as Syria and Iran. The fact that the fall of Babylon was first discussed is proof that the prophecy is related to the last days, because in ancient times Assyria fell before Babylon. After all, Babylon conquered and subdued Assyria. This happened in 612 BC with the fall of Nineveh.

More details can be found in the book of Nahum (cf. Micah 5:3-Deuteronomy :). In the book of Daniel this enemy is also mentioned under the name ‘the king of the North’ (Daniel 11:6-Ezra :; Daniel 11:28Daniel 11:40). The Assyrian empire includes the peoples of northern Iraq to Pakistan, all islamic countries today, which explains their intense hatred of Israel.

Assyria does not represent the beast or the antichrist, although the spirit that makes him a declared enemy of God’s people is of the same satanic origin. Prophetically, the place of the Assyrians is taken by the king of the North, who in the future, together with several nations (Psalms 83:5-Ruth :), will march against Jerusalem and be broken at Jerusalem (Daniel 11:45).

God’s dealings with Assyria begin with the establishment of the general declaration of the unshakeable intent of “the LORD” (Isaiah 46:10; Psalms 33:10; Proverbs 21:30; Acts 2:23; Acts 4:28). He is the Omniscient and the Almighty, He is “the LORD of hosts”. By hosts are meant the stars, but also the angels, God’s heavenly hosts, and also the hosts of Israel. He is also the Lord of all the hosts of the world. All those different hosts carried out His plan.

What He presupposes and decides, He also brings about, in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). Man proposes but God disposes. It is not man who writes history, but God does. Not only does God know everything, but He also controls everything, so that everything comes out exactly as He planned it (Isaiah 44:7). This is the sovereignty of God. He acts with each people according to His own intention. Starting point is how a people has behaved towards His people. He will repay all enmity, He will reward every good deed (Matthew 25:31-1 Corinthians :).

As said, the LORD will destroy Assyria in Israel, more accurately, on the mountains of Israel – “in My land, and … on My mountains” (Isaiah 14:25). As a result, the yoke and the burden laid upon Israel by Assyria will be removed from them. What an enlightenment that will give! In the counsel of the LORD what He will do with Assyria – breaking the yoke that this enemy has imposed on His people – is also included what He will do with all the nations connected with Assyria (Isaiah 14:26).

Thus Isaiah 13-14 together form a general introduction for God’s counsel regarding the earth (Isaiah 15-23) to prepare it for the government of Christ. This is also shown by the fact that Babylon and Assyria are mentioned here under one ‘burden’ (Isaiah 13:1), unlike the other nations (Isaiah 14:28-23:18).

All nations will have to submit when He judges. The hand of the LORD which in Isaiah 1-12 is stretched out in judgment against Israel (Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:12Isaiah 9:17; Isaiah 9:21Isaiah 10:4), is now stretched out against all nations (Isaiah 14:26). This is worked out in Isaiah 13-23. Who will be able to stop Him when His hand is stretched out against them in judgment (Isaiah 14:27)?

God is not like a man who makes plans, but who lacks the strength to carry them out. Perfect wisdom and absolute power are united in Him. This science gives the believer complete peace with respect to his life. He can rely on that God for his whole life and everything that happens in his life.

Verses 28-32

Prophecy About Philistia

The rest of this chapter and the following chapters describe the destruction carried out among the various nations by the LORD (Isaiah 10:23), indirectly by His rod the Assyrians (Isaiah 10:5; Isaiah 10:24). Its pre-fulfillment takes place by some kings of Assyria, successively Tiglath-Pileser, Shalmaneser and finally Sargon. However, the final fulfillment will take place under the leadership of the king of the North (Daniel 11:40-Acts :). Successively the Philistines (Isaiah 14), Moab (Isaiah 15-16), Damascus (Isaiah 17), Israel (Isaiah 18), Egypt (Isaiah 19) and Cush (Isaiah 20) will be victims of Assyria’s thirst for action. In part, after they are conquered, they will be made allies of Assyria.

It begins with the Philistines (Isaiah 14:28-Jonah :). They live in the west, in the strip of land on the Mediterranean Sea, today’s Gaza Strip. The “oracle” or “burden” about the Philistines comes to Isaiah in a new year of death, that of Ahaz (Isaiah 14:28; cf. Isaiah 6:1). After the death of Ahaz, Hezekiah comes to the throne and he will defeat the Philistines completely (2 Kings 18:8). The joy of the Philistines is great at first, because “the staff” under which they first bowed is broken (Isaiah 14:29).

As an explanation of this verse it is stated that “the rod” means the house of David. The grandfather of Ahaz, Uzziah, is the rod that struck them (2 Chronicles 26:6). As a result of the unfaithfulness of the house of David and Judah, their rod was broken and they lost their dominion over the Philistines. The Philistines are happy about this. However, their joy will disappear, because from the root of the serpent (Ahaz) a viper (Hezekiah) will emerge and eventually the Messiah. Under His blessed reign, “most helpless” and “the needy” will be satiated and secure (Isaiah 14:30). At His coming the Messiah will use Israel (Jeremiah 51:20-Isaiah :) to destroy the Philistines (Isaiah 11:14; cf. Zephaniah 2:4).

For Judah this should be a warning not to connect with the Philistines and not to respond to requests to be stronger together against Assyria. Judah, here called “the firstborn” [“those who are most helpless” is literally “the firstborn of the helpless”], will also be humiliated. Of the firstborn, those to whom the double part of the blessing has been promised (Deuteronomy 21:17), only “helpless” and “needy” will remain. But these poor and vulnerable will be shepherded and safe. Also from Philistia will remain something after the destruction, “your root” and “your remnant”. But the “carrot” will die of hunger and the “remnant” will be killed by Christ’s army (Isaiah 11:14).

Philistia is called to wail and to cry (Isaiah 14:31). The “gate” is the entrance to the city. There the enemy comes first. The gate, that is all who keep watch there, will not be able to offer any resistance. There is only mourning. The “city” will then be captured, because of which the inhabitants will cry out. All of Philistia will melt away with fear because of what happens to the city. All resistance is broken.

The enemy comes “from the north” as a cloud of “smoke”. This evokes the picture of an all-consuming fire coming at great speed. There are no openings in the ranks of the enemy. They are inviolable and overcome any opposition without suffering any losses themselves. The description fits with the advance of the king from the north to Egypt, invading and exterminating several countries (Daniel 11:40-John :). It is plausible that he starts with Philistia.

Philistia has sent messengers to Zion to enter into an alliance with Judah in order to join forces against the advancing Assyrians (Isaiah 14:32). But they must be answered that the LORD has founded Zion and that therefore Judah does not need the help of Philistia at all. The LORD Himself will be able to protect His wretched people.

This will become even more evident in the future and will be a testimony for the Name of the LORD. Against the downfall of the surrounding nations who were hostile to Israel and who have always set out to destroy God’s people and land, stands the foundation of Zion.

Messengers from all nations, including Philistia, will get an answer to the question how it is possible that such a small and oppressed and plagued people have such a glorious end. The answer is that the LORD did it. That is also the guarantee that the wretched of His people, those who have suffered so much, have now found a definitive refuge there. There need be no more fear of a new threat of danger.

Zion was founded by the LORD in His grace when He made David king. Zion is the symbol of the mercy and grace of God (cf. Hebrews 12:22). In that grace, represented in Zion, the God-fearing poor of God’s people will rest. They have done that in the past, they will do that in the future. We may do that in the present.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 14". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/isaiah-14.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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