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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Isaiah 14

 

 

Verses 1-32

Isaiah 14:1. And set them in their own land. This prediction is so correct, as appears from the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, that no man can doubt the truth of prophecy; and its literal accomplishment demonstrates the truth of divine revelation.

Isaiah 14:6. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke. Nebuchadnezzar began his career by joining the Medes to overthrow Nineveh. In his twelfth year he destroyed Ecbatana, the capital of the Medes. After that he turned his arms against all the countries of western Asia, but the immortal Judith, by killing his general Holofernes, stopped the expedition for one year! He conquered all the countries from Antioch to Egypt. His strokes on the nations were “continual strokes.” Yet Tyre resisted him in a siege of thirteen years.

Isaiah 14:12. Oh Lucifer, son of the morning. The Babylonian empire was accounted the sun of the east, and her king as the morning light. He is here called Lucifer; that is, light maker. His presence, in the glory in which he was created, occasioned brightness. Such is the import of the Hebrew word hailail, from the expansion of light.

Isaiah 14:13. I will sit also upon the mount—in the sides of the north. Mount Zion, and the temple, were situate on the north side of Jerusalem. So that in his pride he said, he would fill the throne of God, and be like the Most High.

Isaiah 14:15. Thou shalt be brought down to hell, or hades, as described in Psalms 9:17; Psalms 16:10.

Isaiah 14:20. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial. This punishment was inflicted on some idolatrous kings of Judah, who were not allowed to be buried with David. Belshazzar’s carcase was trodden underfoot, being slain at the feast by the Medes.

Isaiah 14:29. A fiery flying serpent. When Herodotus travelled in Egypt, he was shown by the priests a species of serpent preserved in their collections, which had wings, not of feathers, but something like the bat. Professor Cuvier, living in Paris, enumerates the Pterodactyli or flying lizards, tail short, neck long, muzzle elongated, and armed with sharp teeth. One of the species is the size of a thrush, and the other not larger than a bat. Vide Plin. lib. 24. c. 13.

REFLECTIONS.

Isaiah having foretold the sore destruction of Babylon, now consoles his captive country, who should rise by her fall, and bring back from their captivity a considerable number of the forlorn heathen as servants to do their harder work. Then follows the mystical parable, or song of reproach against Babylon. Here indeed we enter on classic ground; here the schools of Greece and Rome must yield to the schools of the Hebrew prophets. Homer, Virgil, and others, whose daring imaginations entered the abodes of Tartarus, must all concede the laurel to Isaiah. He surpasses them in the grandeur of his subjects, in the powers of satire, in the boldness of metaphor, and the beauties of diction. He had before his eyes the Nebuchadnezzar who shook off the Assyrian yoke, annihilated their empire, conquered Asia, rebuilt his capital, and having then no equal on earth, equalled himself with the MOST HIGH, and forced the east to adore his statue. He had before his eyes a Belshazzar who inherited all the power, and all the pride of his Sire. He had before his eyes this huge empire, which like the ancient tower of Babel fell by its own weight when nobody suspected danger. Instead of the tears and elegies due to innocence oppressed, he saw all the surrounding nations relieved of the iron sceptre, giving glory to retributive justice, and filled with songs of praise. He opens his song with a boldness worthy of his subjects. How has the oppressor ceased? The crimes and cruelties of the Babylonian kings are marked, to teach rulers to govern in the fear of the Lord, knowing that they are only ministers of the God of heaven, whose kingdom alone is an everlasting kingdom.

The second apostrophe seems to be to Nebuchadnezzar, though he is not mentioned by name. Hell from beneath is moved to meet thee at thy coming! All the murdered kings and princes of Asia, whose only crime was defending their country, arose from their beds of state in which they were interred, to salute him as he entered the wide gaping caverns of Tartarus; for he had been accustomed to receive homage more than human in his triumphs of honour. They ask him why he was come alone, or but with the few slaves murdered to keep their master’s company. They ask what he had done with all his power, of which he now had not a vestige left. They ask where was his pomp of purple, guards, chariots, and nobles. They ask why he had exchanged his perfumes for the worm, his music for howling, his riches for poverty, and his palace for a dungeon. But the grandest stroke of satire is levelled against his assumed divinity. Here, as though hell failed in eloquence, borrowing language for once of heaven, they exclaim, How art thou fallen from heaven, oh Lucifer, son of the morning! Thou, who but yesterday didst set up thyself above JEHOVAH the God of heaven; who didst burn his temple, and claim the worship of an empire to thy statue, how art thou cast down to the lowest abyss of hell! Thou who didst make the earth to tremble, and cities desolate, and the world a wilderness; thou who didst never open the house of thy prisoners. Know oh man, that the fetters of eternal darkness shall never be loosed from thy feet.—Ah, who can bear the irony of hell! And if this is but the entrance into the abyss, what must the dregs of the punishment be! Come then to this gloomy school ye proud, ye oppressors, ye avaricious, and ye infidels, who like this great monarch set up reason above the laws of the Most High. Here you shall learn that you are only men; and that injured innocence, and oppressed humanity are about to feast their eyes on your misery. Come hither also ye riotous and crowded theatres, who love no light but the nocturnal tapers. Here is a real tragedy, perfect in all its characters, and interesting in all its parts. All the scenes are sublime, and qualified to inform your judgment, instruct your conscience, and impress your heart; and happy is the man disposed to profit by the instruction.

From the eighteenth verse, the poem is literally applicable to Belshazzar. The kings of the earth were generally buried with funeral honour’s, and their armour laid at their side, as though they were ready to awake, and defend their country at a moment’s notice. But Belshazzar fell intoxicated, and was pierced disgracefully among the slain in the general carnage. See Daniel 5.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 14:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/isaiah-14.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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