W e have a prophecy concerning the destruction of Babylon; and the Lord, for the comfort of the Church, causeth his servant to make it known, and the powers by whom he would accomplish it, even the Medes and Persians.
I pray the Reader to remark, with me, at the opening of this chapter, that from this part of the prophet's writings, a new subject seems to open: the prophet begins, what he calls burdens. Hence we have, in several successive chapters after this burden of Babylon, the burden of Moab, and the burden of Damascus, and the burden of Egypt, and the like. But the history of those nations is no farther entered into, than as they minister to the Church, either in persecuting the Church, or becoming instruments to her prosperity, according to the sovereign will and appointment of God. Although none of them thought so: neither did their heart intend it: yet to this little handful of people, this Church, this portion of the Lord Jesus, they all ministered; and every monarchy of the earth rose, or fell, as should bring about the Lord's purposes concerning Zion. I would beg the Reader to keep this in view while reading the history of men and nations; yea, even in modern times, as well as in the ages that are past, he will find, that for the salvation and preservation of God's Israel, all the nations of the earth are formed; and that they are moved about and directed to this one purpose only. Here the Lord begins with Babylon, in the threatened desolations which should overtake that nation. The things predicted were not to be accomplished for more than a hundred years; and during that time, the Lord's Israel was to go into captivity in Babylon, and seventy years were to be accomplished upon them. But in the mean time, the Lord will comfort his people with his promises. Reader! mark this! Is it not most blessed, and most gracious in the Lord, if, when at any time he is about to correct them for their transgressions, he pours in his consolations before? Do you know anything of this kind in your own exercises?
In the figurative language of prophecy, the Lord describes the destruction of Babylon. The army that shall come against Babylon, the Lord calls his sanctified ones, and his mighty ones. By sanctified, we must not, as we are very apt to do, suppose is meant God's holy ones; but only such as the Lord hath set apart, and appointed to this service. The word sanctified, doth not always mean holy. The army by which, as the Lord's instruments, the Lord would destroy Babylon, were no more holy than the Babylon to be destroyed. Babylon was now, by the Lord's appointment, to take his people into captivity, and afflict them. But Babylon, after that is over, shall be accounted with, and be herself ruined. Hence therefore, the Lord sends by whom he will send, and when he is pleased to correct his whole Church, or any one individual of that Church, the rod the Lord corrects with, shall, when he hath finished the correction, be thrown away. Reader! mark this observation for present times, as well as those that are past, for it will be found uniformly true. If the Reader will compare what is said in this chapter, with what the Lord hath said in another part of Isaiah's prophecy, he will find a beautiful and striking correspondence. See Isaiah 45:1-4.
I know that I am singular in my views of this sweet portion, which comes in between what went before, and what follows after these verses: at least I have never seen the writings of any Commentator, who doth not apply these verses, as the former, to the subject of Babylon's destruction; as if from the greatness of the slaughter which would take place in the fall of Babylon, men would become so scarce, as that one only would be more precious than gold. But, with all humble submission, I would say, that I cannot help reading these two verses as in parentheses; as if in the midst of judgment, the Lord remembered mercy; and while speaking of the dreadful punishment which should take place for sin, the Lord pointed to his dear Son, as the one only source from whence a whole world of evil should find mercy. Surely, it is from Jesus alone, and by his gracious interposition, that the earth stands. And therefore, why may not the Lord be supposed to be saying by these verses; when I have punished, and am punishing the world, for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity, and have caused the arrogancy of the proud to cease; then shall my people look unto Him whom they have pierced, and mourn; and then shall the Man, Christ, my fellow, be more precious than fine gold: even this one identical Man, the Lord our righteousness, than the golden wedge of Ophir. Reader, remember, I do not presume to say that such is the interpretation of the passage: but if I err, may the Lord forgive my error: I confess that the very thought refresheth my soul. And the passage, seen in this point of view, in the midst of Babylon's burden, is not unlike some sweet herbage, or some cooling stream, found in the midst of the desert, where all around is a heath, or a dreary prospect.
In these verses we have a continuation of the subject concerning the destruction of Babylon, with the effects to be wrought by it on all the people. And, what is very observable, so hardened against all impressions of mercy shall be the enemies of Babylon, that, contrary to the usage of armies, this army shall totally disregard plunder. They are not fighting for silver nor gold: they are the Lord's instruments of destruction; and as such, their minds are all instinctively directed to the accomplishment of this one purpose. Probably in answer to the prayers of his people, who cried to him under the oppression of Babylon. Let the Reader consult to this purpose those scriptures, and then judge: Lamentations 4:21-22; Ps 137 throughout.
I pray the Reader to read this prophecy very attentively, and mark well the awful destruction threatened. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed in a day; and Babylon in a night. In the same moment when Belshazzar was rioting, came his death. Daniel 5:30. The glory of Babylon is not only related by profane historians to have been the greatest of all monarchies; but sacred scripture makes mention of it as such. Thou saidst (saith the Lord) I shall be a lady forever; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children: but these two things shall come upon thee in a moment, in one day; the loss of children, and widowhood. See Isaiah 47:5 to the end; and the accomplishment, Daniel 5:31. And what is yet, if possible, more remarkable in the fulfillment of this prophecy, is the astonishing overthrow. All conquerors, when they subjugate kingdoms, conquer them to possess them; and the more splendid they are, the more they delight in their conquests. But concerning Babylon, the Lord had said, it should never be inhabited, nor . dwelt in from generation to generation; unless by doleful creatures, satyrs, and beasts of the desert; and this was literally fulfilled: for historians who have visited Babylon, all agree in one report, that the very spot where it stood, though in its splendour it covered over thirty miles in breadth; cannot now be ascertained. None indeed have ventured to explore the interior parts of it, on account of the beasts of prey, and serpents which dwell in it. There is one thought more, which this prophecy, connected with its accomplishment, furnisheth; and that is the view winch the gospel hath taken of it, when speaking of it as a type of the utter destruction of Babylon under the New Testament dispensation. If the Reader will consult Re 17 and Re 18 and compare them with this prophecy, and the passage already referred to, Isaiah 47:5 to the end, he will find abundant matter to furnish him with subjects of the most improving nature. - I only add, as a finishing comment on the whole, when the Reader hath made his own observations upon these solemn scriptures, looking up to God the Holy Ghost for instructions to improve the whole to the divine glory, and his own happiness, I beg of him to look into the human heart, yea, into his own, and see whether, by the fall of man, there is not a similar ruin induced, so that the heart which was once the temple of the living God, is now become the habitation of corrupt passions, like dragons and beasts of prey? Oh! the state, the fallen state of fallen man!
READER! we have been now attending to the inspired penman's account of the burden of Babylon. And we who live in gospel days, have lived to see the accomplishment of God's denunciation against that devoted kingdom. Here let as ponder well the solemn subject; for it is a very solemn one. Think not, Reader, that the subject is remote, and the history one in which you and I have no concern. Indeed, indeed we have the highest concern. For as Babylon became the den of dragons, which was once the glory of kingdoms, and the beauty of the Chaldees excellency; so our corrupt and fallen nature, is become the habitation of every unclean and corrupt affection, which was once beautiful and lovely. And unless this nature be changed by sovereign grace, and the heart, which is now like a cage of unclean birds and beasts of prey, be made once more the habitation of God through the Spirit; how shall we ever, see the face of God in glory, or be recovered to our original happiness?
Precious Jesus! now doth every view of our nature, and the miseries of it, tend to endear thee to the heart, and to bring home the vast, the infinite importance of thy salvation? Oh! thou purifier of our lost nature! Oh! thou almighty Jesus! thou canst cleanse, and thou wilt cleanse by thy blood, the souls and bodies of thy people! Yes! blessed Jesus, in thee, and by thee, they shall be restored, yea, more than restored, to their original purity and holiness. Thou wilt drive out the strong man armed, and subdue all our sins, under thee. Yea, the God of peace will bruise Satan under our feet shortly. Hail, thou glorious restorer of all our waste places! Hail, thou blessed Emmanuel, who hast redeemed us to God by thy blood. Ere long thou wilt take home thy Church to thine eternal kingdom, and present it to thyself, a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that it shall be holy and without blemish. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 13". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany