Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 13

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



God’s armies, Isaiah 13:1-5. The destruction of Babylon by the Persians and Medes: their great distress and anguish; and their utter desolation, Isaiah 13:6-22.

Verse 1

The burden: this title is commonly given to sad prophecies, which indeed are grievous burdens to them upon whom they are laid. See 2 Kings 9:25; Jeremiah 23:33,Jeremiah 23:36.

Of Babylon; of the city and empire of Babylon by Cyrus, for their manifold and great sins, and in order to the deliverance of his people.

Verse 2

Lift ye up a banner, to gather soldiers together for this expedition.

Upon the high mountain; whence it may be discerned at a considerable distance. Withal he seems to intimate that their enemies should come from the mountainous country of Media.

Unto them; to the Medes, who are named below, Isaiah 13:17.

Shake the hand; beckon to them with your hand, that they may come to this service.

That they may go into the gates of the nobles; that they may go and fight against Babylon, and take it, and so enter into the palaces of the king, and of his princes, and spoil them at their pleasure; which the Medes and Persians did. The manner of expression implies how easily and expeditiously they did their work, that, like Caesar, they might say they only came, and saw, and overcame.

Verse 3

My sanctified ones; the Medes and Persians, fitly so called, because they were solemnly designed and set apart by God for his own service, and for this holy work of executing his just vengeance upon them.

My mighty ones; those whom I have made mighty for this work.

In my highness; or, as others render it, in my glory, materially considered, to wit, in the doing of that work which tends much to the advancement of my glory, in destroying of the Babylonian empire. For otherwise the Medes had no regard to God nor to his glory, but only to their own carnal ends.

Verse 4

The kingdoms of nations; the Medes and Persians, and other nations which served under them in this war; of which see Jeremiah 25:14; Jeremiah 27:7; Jeremiah 50:41.

Verse 5

From the end of heaven; from the ends of the earth under heaven, as Matthew 24:30; which is not to be understood strictly and properly, but popularly and hyperbolically, as such expressions are commonly used in sacred and profane authors. And yet in some respects this might be truly said of Persia, which on the south side was bounded by the main ocean; as for the same reason Sheba, a part of Arabia, is called

the utmost parts of the earth, Matthew 12:42.

The weapons of his indignation; the Medes and Persians, who were but a rod in God’s hand, and the instruments of his anger, as was said of the Assyrian, Isaiah 10:5.

To destroy the whole land, to wit, of Babylon, of which he is now speaking.

Verse 6

It shall come as a destruction; or rather, a destruction or devastation shall come, as the LXX. and vulgar Latin render it. For this was not

as a destruction, but was a destruction indeed. And the particle as is not seldom used to express, not the likeness, but the reality of the thing, as John 1:14.

From the Almighty; who fighteth for your adversaries, and against you, and therefore your destruction is unavoidable.

Verse 8

They shall be amazed one at another, to see so populous and impregnable a city as Babylon was, so easily and unexpectedly taken.

Flames, Heb. faces of flame; either pale with fear, or inflamed with rage and torment, as men in misery frequently are. Some render it the faces of Lehabim, a people descending from Mizraim, Genesis 10:13; 1 Chronicles 1:11, i.e. black with pain, as men use to be; of which see Joel 2:6; Nahum 2:10.

Verse 9

Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger; divers words are heaped together, to signify the extremity of his anger.

The sinners thereof; the inhabitants of that city, who were guilty of so much idolatry and cruelty, and all sorts of luxury.

Verse 10

The constellations; which consist of many stars, and therefore give a greater light.

The sun shall be darkened; either,

1. Properly and really, by an eclipse; for prodigies in heaven do sometimes go before or accompany great and public calamities upon earth. Or,

2. Figuratively, and in appearance. All things shall look darkly and dismally; men shall have no comfort nor hope. See the like descriptions of a most calamitous state, Isaiah 5:30; Isaiah 34:4; Joel 2:10,Joel 2:31, &c.

In his going forth; as soon as he riseth, when he is most welcome to men, and giveth them hopes of a pleasant day. As soon as they have any appearance or hope of amendment, they shall be instantly disappointed.

Verse 11

The world; the Babylonish empire, which is called the world, as the Roman empire afterward was, Luke 2:1, because it was extended to a great part of the world, and because it was vastly populous, and Babylon itself looked more like a world than one city.

Of the terrible; of them who formerly were very terrible for their great power and cruelty.

Verse 12

The city and nation shall be so depopulated, that few men shall be left in it.

Verse 13

I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place; a poetical and prophetical description of great errors and confusions, as if heaven and earth were about to meet together.

Verse 14

And it, to wit, Babylon,

shall be as the chased roe; fearful in itself, especially when it is pursued by the hunter.

As a sheep that no man taketh up; in a most forlorn and neglected condition.

Every man; those soldiers of other and more warlike nations whom she had hired to assist her; which she used to do at other times, but especially upon this great occasion; of which See Poole "Jeremiah 50:16"; See Poole "Jeremiah 51:9".

Verse 15

That is found in Babylon, at the taking of it; the expectation whereof made them flee away with all speed.

Verse 16

Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, as a just recompence for the like cruelty acted by them upon the Jews, 2 Chronicles 36:17, which also was foretold, Psalms 137:9.

Verse 17

The Medes; under whom he comprehends the Persians, who were their neighbours and confederates in this expedition.

They shall not delight in it; which is to be understood comparatively. They shall more eagerly pursue the destruction of the people than the getting of spoil; whereby it shall appear that they are only the executioners of my vengeance against them; they will accept no ransom to save their lives.

Verse 18

Their bows; under which are comprehended their arrows, and possibly other weapons of war; for so generally sometimes is the bow used in Scripture, as 2 Samuel 1:18; Psalms 78:9; Isaiah 41:2. Shall dash the young men to pieces; or, shall pierce the young men through, as the Chaldee readers it.

Verse 19

The glory of kingdoms; which once was the most noble and excellent of all the kingdoms then in being, and Was more glorious than the succeeding empires, whence it was represented by the head of gold, Daniel 2:32.

The beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency; the famous and beautiful seat of the Chaldean monarchy.

Shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah; shall be totally and irrecoverably destroyed, as is more fully expressed in the following verses; which yet was not done immediately upon the taking of the city by Darius and Cyrus, but was fulfilled by degrees, as is confessed by historians, and appears this day.

Verse 20

It shall never be inhabited, after the destruction threatened shall be fully accomplished.

Neither shall the Arabian, who dwelt in tents, and wandered from place, where they could find pasture; but shall avoid this place, either because the land, once noted for great fruitfulness, is now become barren; or because the land is accursed by God, and abhorred by all men; or for fear of the wild beasts, as it follows.

Verse 21

Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; the land being forsaken by men, shall be possessed by wild beasts, which love solitary places. What the Hebrew words used here, and in the next verse, signify, the learned may see in my Latin Synopsis; and for others, it may suffice to know that in which all the learned agree, that these are frightful and solitary creatures; of which if I should particularly discourse, I should rather perplex than edify the vulgar reader.

Verse 22

Her time is near to come; so it was, though not according to man’s rash judgment and impatient expectation, yet according to God’s estimation, and to the eye of faith, whereby Abraham saw Christ’s day as present, many ages before it came, John 8:56; and comparatively; for it happened within two hundred years; which is but a small proportion of time, if it be compared either with the foregoing or following ages of the world, or with the immense duration of eternity, from whence it was decreed by God, and therefore might well be said now to be near the accomplishment of it. In like manner the apostles speak of the day of judgment as near in their time, though it was at many ages distance.

Her days shall not be prolonged beyond the time prefixed and appointed by God. Compare Habakkuk 2:3.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 13". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.