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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Isaiah 13




Collection of Oracles Concerning the Heathen - Isaiah 13-23 part iii

Oracle Concerning the Chaldeans, the Heirs of the assyrians - Isaiah 13:1-14:27

Just as in Jeremiah (chapters 46-51) and Ezekiel (chapters 25-32), so also in Isaiah, the oracles concerning the heathen are all placed together. In this respect the arrangement of the three great books of prophecy is perfectly homogeneous. In Jeremiah these oracles, apart from the prelude in chapter 25, form the concluding portion of the book. In Ezekiel they fill up that space of time, when Jerusalem at home was lying at her last gasp and the prophet was sitting speechless by the Chaboras. And here, in Isaiah, the compensate us for the interruption which the oral labours of the prophet appears to have sustained in the closing years of the reign of Ahaz. Moreover, this was their most suitable position, at the end of the cycle of Messianic prophecies in chapters 7-12; for the great consolatory thought of the prophecy of Immanuel, that all kingdoms are to become the kingdoms of God and His Christ, is here expanded. And as the prophecy of Immanuel was delivered on the threshold of the times of the great empires, so as to cover the whole of that period with its consolation, the oracles concerning the heathen nations and kingdoms are inseparably connected with that prophecy, which forms the ground and end, the unity and substance, of them all.

Verse 1

The heading in Isaiah 13:1, “Oracle concerning Babel, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see,” shows that chapter 13 forms the commencement of another part of the whole book. Massâh (from נסא ) , efferre , then effari , Exodus 20:7) signifies, as we may see from 2 Kings 9:25, effatum , the verdict or oracle, more especially the verdict of God, and generally, perhaps always, the judicial sentence of God,

(Note: In Zechariah 12:1. the promise has, at any rate, a dark side. In Lamentations 2:14 there is no necessity to think of promises in connection with the mas'oth ; and Proverbs 30:1 and Proverbs 31:1 cannot help us to determine the prophetic use of the word.)

though without introducing the idea of onus (burden), which is the rendering adopted by the Targum, Syriac, Vulgate, and Luther, notwithstanding the fact that, according to Jeremiah 23:33., it was the scoffers who associated this idea with the word. In a book which could throughout be traced to Isaiah, there could be no necessity for it to be particularly stated, that it was to Isaiah that the oracle was revealed, of which Babel was the object. We may therefore see from this, that the prophecy relating to Babylon was originally complete in itself, and was intended to be issued in that form. But when the whole book was compiled, these headings were retained as signal-posts of the separate portions of which it was composed. Moreover, in the case before us, the retention of the heading may be regarded as a providential arrangement. For if this “oracle of Babel” lay before us in a separate form, and without the name of Isaiah, we should not dare to attribute it to him, for the simple reason that the overthrow of the Chaldean empire is here distinctly announced, and that at a time when the Assyrian empire was still standing. For this reason the majority of critics, from the time of Rosenmüller and Justi downwards, have regarded the spuriousness of the prophecy as an established fact. But the evidence which can be adduced in support of the testimony contained in the heading is far too strong for it to be set aside: viz., (1.) the descriptive style as well as the whole stamp of the prophecy, which resembles the undisputed prophecies of Isaiah in a greater variety of points than any passage that can be selected from any other prophet. We will show this briefly, but yet amply, and as far as the nature of an exposition allows, against Knobel and others who maintain the opposite. And (2.) the dependent relation of Zephaniah and Jeremiah - a relation which the generally admitted muse-like character of the former, and the imitative character of the latter, render it impossible to invert. Both prophets show that they are acquainted with this prophecy of Isaiah, as indeed they are with all those prophecies which are set down as spurious. Stähelin, in his work on the Messianic prophecies (Excursus iv), has endeavoured to make out that the derivative passages in question are the original passages; but stat pro ratione voluntas . Now, as the testimony of the heading is sustained by such evidence as this, the one argument adduced on the other side, that the prophecy has no historical footing in the circumstances of Isaiah's times, cannot prove anything at all. No doubt all prophecy rested upon an existing historical basis. But we must not expect to be able to point this out in the case of every single prophecy. In the time of Hezekiah, as Isaiah 39:1-8 clearly shows (compare Micah 4:10), Isaiah had become spiritually certain of this, that the power by which the final judgment would be inflicted upon Judah would not be Asshur, but Babel , i.e., an empire which would have for its centre that Babylon, which was already the second capital of the Assyrian empire and the seat of kings who, though dependent then, were striving hard for independence; in other words, a Chaldean empire. Towards the end of his course Isaiah was full of this prophetic thought; and from it he rose higher and higher to the consoling discovery that Jehovah would avenge His people upon Babel, and redeem them from Babel, just as surely as from Asshur. The fact that so far-reaching an insight was granted to him into the counsels of God, was not merely founded on his own personality, but rested chiefly on the position which he occupied in the midst of the first beginnings of the age of great empires. Consequently, according to the law of the creative intensity of all divinely effected beginnings, he surveyed the whole of this long period as a universal prophet outstripped all his successors down to the time of Daniel, and left to succeeding ages not only such prophecies as those we have already read, which had their basis in the history of his own times and the historical fulfilment of which was not sealed up, but such far distant and sealed prophecies as those which immediately follow. For since Isaiah did not appear in public again after the fifteenth year of Hezekiah, the future, as his book clearly shows, was from that time forth his true home. Just as the apostle says of the New Testament believer, that he must separate himself from the world, and walk in heaven, so the Old Testament prophet separated himself from the present of his own nation, and lived and moved in its future alone.

Verse 2

The prophet hears a call to war. From whom it issues, and to whom or against whom it is directed, still remains a secret; but this only adds to the intensity. ”On woodless mountain lift ye up a banner, call to them with loud sounding voice, shake the hand, that they may enter into gates of princes!” The summons is urgent: hence a threefold signal, viz., the banner-staff planted on a mountain “made bald” ( nishpeh , from which comes sh e phi , which only occurs in Isaiah and Jeremiah), the voice raised high, and the shaking of the hand, denoting a violent beckoning - all three being favourite signs with Isaiah. The destination of this army is to enter into a city of princes ( nedı̄bı̄m , freemen, nobles, princes, Psalms 107:40, cf., Psalms 113:8), namely, to enter as conquerors; for it is not the princes who invite them, but Jehovah.

Verse 3

“I have summoned my sanctified ones, also called my heroes to my wrath, my proudly rejoicing ones.” “To my wrath” is to be explained in accordance with Isaiah 10:5. To execute His wrath He had summoned His “sanctified ones” ( m e kuddâshim ), i.e., according to Jeremiah 22:7 (compare Jeremiah 51:27-28), those who had already been solemnly consecrated by Him to go into the battle, and had called the heroes whom He had taken into His service, and who were His instruments in this respect, that they rejoiced with the pride of men intoxicated with victory (vid., Zephaniah 1:7, cf., Isaiah 3:11). עליז is a word peculiarly Isaiah's; and the combination גאוה עליזי is so unusual, that we could hardly expect to find it employed by two authors who stood in no relation whatever to one another.

Verse 4-5

The command of Jehovah is quickly executed. The great army is already coming down from the mountains. “Hark, a rumbling on the mountains after the manner of a great people; hark, a rumbling of kingdoms of nations met together! Jehovah of hosts musters an army, those that have come out of a distant land, from the end of the heaven: Jehovah and His instruments of wrath, to destroy the whole earth.” Kōl commences an interjectional sentence, and thus becomes almost an interjection itself (compare Isaiah 52:8; Isaiah 66:6, and on Genesis 4:10). There is rumbling on the mountains (Isaiah 17:12-13), for there are the peoples of Eran, and in front the Medes inhabiting the mountainous north-western portion of Eran, who come across the lofty Shahu ( Zagros ), and the ranges that lie behind it towards the Tigris, and descend upon the lowlands of Babylon; and not only the peoples of Eran, but the peoples of the mountainous north of Asia generally (Jeremiah 51:27) - an army under the guidance of Jehovah, the God of hosts of spirits and stars, whose wrath it will execute over the whole earth, i.e., upon the world-empire; for the fall of Babel is a judgment, and accompanied with judgments upon all the tribes under Babylonian rule.

Verses 6-8

Then all sink into anxious and fearful trembling. “Howl; for the day of Jehovah is near; like a destructive force from the Almighty it comes. Therefore all arms hang loosely down, and every human heart melts away. And they are troubled: they fall into cramps and pangs; like a woman in labour they twist themselves: one stares at the other; their faces are faces of flame.” The command הילילוּ (not written defectively, הלילוּ ) is followed by the reason for such a command, viz., “the day of Jehovah is near,” the watchword of prophecy from the time of Joel downwards. The Caph in c e shod is the so-called Caph veritatis , or more correctly, the Caph of comparison between the individual and its genus. It is destruction by one who possesses unlimited power to destroy ( shōd , from shâdad , from which we have shaddai , after the form chaggai , the festive one, from c hâgag ). In this play upon the words, Isaiah also repeats certain words of Joel (Joel 1:15). Then the heads hang down from despondency and helplessness, and the heart, the seat of lift, melts (Isaiah 19:1) in the heat of anguish. Universal consternation ensues. This is expressed by the word v e nibhâlu , which stands in half pause; the word has shalsheleth followed by psik ( pasek ), an accent which only occurs in seven passages in the twenty-one prose books of the Old Testament, and always with this dividing stroke after it.

(Note: For the seven passages, see Ewald, Lehrbuch (ed. 7), p. 224.)

Observe also the following fut. paragogica , which add considerably to the energy of the description by their anapaestic rhythm. The men ( subj .) lay hold of cramps and pangs (as in Job 18:20; Job 21:6), the force of the events compelling them to enter into such a condition. Their faces are faces of flames. Knobel understands this as referring to their turning pale, which is a piece of exegetical jugglery. At the same time, it does not suggest mere redness, nor a convulsive movement; but just as a flame alternates between light and darkness, so their faces become alternately flushed and pale, as the blood ebbs and flows, as it were, being at one time driven with force into their faces, and then again driven back to the heart, so as to leave deadly paleness, in consequence of their anguish and terror.

Verse 9-10

The day of Jehovah's wrath is coming - a starless night - a nightlike, sunless day. “Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, a cruel one, and wrath and fierce anger, to turn the earth into a wilderness: and its sinners He destroys out of it. For the stars of heaven, and its Orions, will not let their light shine: the sun darkens itself at its rising, and the moon does not let its light shine.” The day of Jehovah cometh as one cruelly severe ( ' aczâri , an adj. rel . from ' aczâr , chosh , kosh , to be dry, hard, unfelling), as purely an overflowing of inward excitement, and as burning anger; lâsūm is carried on by the finite verb, according to a well-known alteration of style (= ūl e hashmı̄d ). It is not indeed the general judgment which the prophet is depicting here, but a certain historical catastrophe falling upon the nations, which draws the whole world into sympathetic suffering. 'Eretz , therefore (inasmuch as the notions of land generally, and some particular land or portion of the earth, are blended together - a very elastic term, with vanishing boundaries), is not merely the land of Babylon here, as Knobel supposes, but the earth . Verse 10 shows in what way the day of Jehovah is a day of wrath. Even nature clothes itself in the colour of wrath, which is the very opposite to light. The heavenly lights above the earth go out; the moon does not shine; and the sun, which is about to rise, alters its mind. “ The Orions ” are Orion itself and other constellations like it, just as the morning stars in Job 38:7 are Hesperus and other similar stars. It is more probable that the term cesiil is used for Orion in the sense of “the fool” (= foolhardy),

(Note: When R. Samuel of Nehardea, the astronomer, says in his b. Berachoth 58 b , “If it were not for the heat of the cesil , the world would perish from the cold of the Scorpion, and vice versa ,” - he means by the cesil Orion; and the true meaning of the passage is, that the constellations of Orion and the Scorpion, one of which appears in the hot season, and the other in the cold, preserve the temperature in equilibrium.)

according to the older translators (lxx ὁ ̓Ωρίων , Targum nephilehon from nephila' , Syr. gaboro , Arab. gebbâr , the giant), than that it refers to Suhêl , i.e., Canopus (see the notes on Job 9:9; Job 38:31), although the Arabic suhêl does occur as a generic name for stars of surpassing splendour (see at Job 38:7). The comprehensive term employed is similar to the figure of speech met with in Arabic (called taglı̄b , i.e., the preponderance of the pars potior ), in such expressions as “the two late evenings” for the evening and late evening, “the two Omars” for Omar and Abubekr, though the resemblance is still greater to the Latin Scipiones , i.e., men of Scipio's greatness. Even the Orions, i.e., those stars which are at other times the most conspicuous, withhold their light; for when God is angry, the principle of anger is set in motion even in the natural world, and primarily in the stars that were created “for signs (compare Genesis 1:14 with Jeremiah 10:2).

Verse 11-12

The prophet now hears again the voice of Jehovah revealing to him what His purpose is - namely, a visitation punishing the wicked, humbling the proud, and depopulating the countries. “And I visit the evil upon the world, and upon sinners their guilt, and sink into silence the pomp of the proud; and the boasting of tyrants I throw to the ground. I make men more precious than fine gold, and people than a jewel of Ophir.” The verb pâkad is construed, as in Jeremiah 23:2, with the accusative of the thing punished, and with על of the person punished. Instead of 'eretz we have here tēbel , which is always used like a proper name (never with the article), to denote the earth in its entire circumference. We have also ‛ ârı̄tzı̄m instead of nedı̄bı̄m : the latter signifies merely princes, and it is only occasionally that it has the subordinate sense of despots; the former signifies men naturally cruel, or tyrants (it occurs very frequently in Isaiah). Everything here breathes the spirit of Isaiah both in thought and form. “The lofty is thrown down:” this is one of the leading themes of Isaiah's proclamation; and the fact that the judgment will only leave a remnant is a fundamental thought of his, which also runs through the oracles concerning the heathen (Isaiah 16:14; Isaiah 21:17; Isaiah 24:6), and is depicted by the prophet in various ways (Isaiah 10:16-19; Isaiah 17:4-6; Isaiah 24:13; Isaiah 30:17). There it is expressed under the figure that men become as scarce as the finest kinds of gold. Word-painting is Isaiah's delight and strength. 'Ophir , which resembles 'okir in sound, was the gold country of India, that lay nearest to the Phoenicians, the coast-land of Abhira on the northern shore of the Runn ( Irina ), i.e., the salt lake to the east of the mouths of the Indus (see at Genesis 10:29 and Job 22:24; and for the Egypticized Souphir of the lxx, Job 28:16).

Verse 13

Thus does the wrath of God prevail among men, casting down and destroying; and the natural world above and below cannot fail to take part in it. “Therefore I shake the heavens, and the earth trembles away from its place, because of the wrath of Jehovah of hosts, and because of the day of His fierce anger.” The two Beths have a causative meaning (cf., Isaiah 9:18). They correspond to ‛al - cēn (therefore), of which they supply the explanation. Because the wrath of God falls upon men, every creature which is not the direct object of the judgment must become a medium in the infliction of it. We have here the thought of Isaiah 13:9 repeated as a kind of refrain (in a similar manner to Isaiah 5:25). Then follow the several disasters. The first is flight.

Verse 14

“And it comes to pass as with a gazelle which is scared, and as with a flock without gatherers: they turn every one to his people, and they flee every one to his land.” The neuter v'hâyâh affirms that it will then be as described in the simile and the interpretation which follows. Babylon was the market for the world in central Asia, and therefore a rendezvous for the most diverse nations (Jeremiah 50:16, cf., Isaiah 51:9, 44) - for a πάμμικτος ὄχλος , as Aeschylus says in his Persae , v. 52. This great and motley mass of foreigners would now be scattered in the wildest flight, on the fall of the imperial city. The second disaster is violent death.

Verse 15-16

“Every one that is found is pierced through, and every one that is caught falls by the sword.” By “every one that is found ,” we understand those that are taken in the city by the invading conquerors; and by “every one that is caught ,” those that are overtaken in their flight ( sâphâh , abripere , Isaiah 7:20). All are put to the sword. - The third and fourth disasters are plunder and ravage. Isaiah 13:16 “And their infants are dashed to pieces before their eyes, their houses plundered, and their wives ravished.” Instead of tisshâgalnâh , the keri has the euphemistic term tisshâcabnâh ( concubitum patientur ), a passive which never occurs in the Old Testament text itself. The keri readings shuccabt in Jeremiah 3:2, and yishcâbennâh in Deuteronomy 28:30, also do violence to the language, which required עם שכב and את (the latter as a preposition in Genesis 19:34) for the sake of euphemism; or rather they introduce a later (talmudic) usage of speech into the Scriptures (see Geiger, Urschrift , pp. 407-8). The prophet himself intentionally selects the base term shâgal , though, as the queen's name Shegal shows, it must have been regarded in northern Palestine and Aramaean as by no means a disreputable word. In this and other passages of the prophecy Knobel scents a fanaticism which is altogether strange to Isaiah.

Verse 17

With Isaiah 13:17 the prophecy takes a fresh turn, in which the veil that has hitherto obscured it is completely broken through. We now learn the name of the conquerors. “Behold, I rouse up the Medes over them, who do not regard silver, and take no pleasure in gold.” It was the Medes (Darius Medus = Cyaxares II) who put an end to the Babylonian kingdom in combination with the Persians (Cyrus). The Persians are mentioned for the first time in the Old Testament by Ezekiel and Daniel. Consequently Mâdi (by the side of which Elam is mentioned in Isaiah 21:2) appears to have been a general term applied to the Arian populations of Eran from the most important ruling tribe. Until nearly the end of Hezekiah's reign, the Medes lived scattered about over different districts, and in hamlets (or villages) united together by a constitutional organization. After they had broken away from the Assyrians (714 b.c.) they placed themselves in 709-8 b.c. under one common king, namely Deyoces, probably for the purpose of upholding their national independence; or, to speak more correctly, under a common monarch , for even the chiefs of the villages were called kings.

(Note: See Spiegel's Eran das Land zwischen dem Indus und Tigris (1863), p. 308ff.)

It is in this sense that Jeremiah speaks of “king of Madai;” at any rate, this is a much more probable supposition than that he refers to monarchs in a generic sense. But the kings of Media, i.e., the rulers of the several villages, are mentioned in Jeremiah 25:25 among those who will have to drink the intoxicating cup which Jehovah is about to give to the nations through Nebuchadnezzar. So that their expedition against Babylon is an act of revenge for the disgrace of bondage that has been inflicted upon them. Their disregarding silver and gold is not intended to describe them as a rude, uncultivated people: the prophet simply means that they are impelled by a spirit of revenge, and do not come for the purpose of gathering booty. Revenge drives them on to forgetfulness of all morality, and humanity also.

Verse 18

“And bows dash down young men; and they have no compassion on the fruit of the womb: their eye has no pity on children.” The bows do not stand for the bowmen (see Isaiah 21:17), but the bows of the latter dash the young men to the ground by means of the arrows shot from them. They did not spare the fruit of the womb, since they ripped up the bodies of those that were with child (2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16, etc.). Even towards children they felt no emotion of compassionate regard, such as would express itself in the eye: chuus, to feel, more especially to feel with another, i.e., to sympathize; here and in Ezekiel 5:11 it is ascribed to the eye as the mirror of the soul (compare the Arabic chasyet el - ‛ain ala fulânin , carefulness of eye for a person: Hariri, Comment . p. 140). With such inhuman conduct on the part of the foe, the capital of the empire becomes the scene of a terrible conflagration.

Verse 19

“And Babel, the ornament of kingdoms, the proud boast of the Chaldeans, becomes like Elohim's overthrowing judgment upon Sodom and Gomorrah.” The ornament of kingdoms ( m amlâcoth ), because it was the centre of many conquered kingdoms, which now avenged themselves upon it (Isaiah 13:4); the pride (cf., Isaiah 28:1), because it was the primitive dwelling-place of the Chaldeans of the lowlands, that ancient cultivated people, who were related to the Chaldean tribes of the Carduchisan mountains in the north-east of Mesopotamia, though not of the same origin, and of totally different manners (see at Isaiah 23:13). Their present catastrophe resembled that of Sodom and Gomorrah: the two eths are accusative; m ahpēcâh ( καταστροφή ) is used like de‛âh in Isaiah 11:9 with a verbal force ( τὸ καταστρέψαι , well rendered by the lxx ὄν τρόπον κατέστρεψεν ὁ Θεός . On the arrangement of the words, see Ges. §133, 3).

Verses 20-22

Babel, like the cities of the Pentapolis, had now become a perpetual desert. “She remains uninhabited for ever, and unoccupied into generation of generations; and not an Arab pitches his tent there, and shepherds do not make their folds there. And there lie beasts of the desert, and horn-owls fill their houses; and ostriches dwell there, and field-devils hop about there. And jackals howl in her castles, and wild dogs in palaces of pleasure; and her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged.” The conclusion is similar to that of the prophecy against Edom, in Isaiah 34:16-17. There the certainty of the prediction, even in its most minute particulars, is firmly declared; here the nearness of the time of fulfilment. But the fulfilment did not take place so soon as the words of the prophecy might make it appear. According to Herodotus, Cyrus, the leader of the Medo-Persian army, left the city still standing, with its double ring of walls. Darius Hystaspis, who had to conquer Babylon a second time in 518 b.c., had the walls entirely destroyed, with the exception of fifty cubits. Xerxes gave the last thrust to the glory of the temple of Belus. Having been conquered by Seleucus Nicator (312), it declined just in proportion as Seleucia rose. Babylon , says Pliny, ad solitudinem rediit exhausta vicinitate Seleuciae . At the time of Strabo (born 60 b.c.) Babylon was a perfect desert; and he applies to it (16:15) the words of the poet, ἐρημία μεγάλη ̓στὶν ἡ μεγάλη πόλις . Consequently, in the passage before us the prophecy falls under the law of perspective foreshortening. But all that it foretells has been literally fulfilled. The curse that Babylon would never come to be settled in and inhabited again (a poetical expression, like Jeremiah 17:25; Jeremiah 33:16), proved itself an effectual one, when Alexander once thought of making Babylon the metropolis of his empire. He was carried off by an early death. Ten thousand workmen were at that time employed for two months in simply clearing away the rubbish of the foundations of the temple of Belus (the Nimrod-tower). “ Not an Arab pitches his tent there ” ( ‛ Arâbi , from ‛ Arâbâh , a steppe, is used here for the first time in the Old Testament, and then again in Jeremiah 3:2; yăhēl , different from yâhēl in Isaiah 13:10 and Job 31:26, is a syncopated form of יאהל , tentorium figet , according to Ges. §68, Anm. 2, used instead of the customary יאהל ): this was simply the natural consequence of the great field of ruins, upon which there was nothing but the most scanty vegetation. But all kinds of beasts of the desert and waste places make their homes there instead. The list commences with ziyyim (from zi , dryness, or from ziyi , an adj. relat. of the noun zi ), i.e., dwellers in the desert; the reference here is not to men, but, as in most other instances, to animals, though it is impossible to determine what are the animals particularly referred to. That ochim are horned owls ( Uhus ) is a conjecture of Aurivillius, which decidedly commends itself. On b e noth ya‛ănâh , see at Job 39:13-18. Wetzstein connects ya‛ănâh with an Arabic word for desert; it is probably more correct, however, to connect it with the Syriac יענא , greedy. The feminine plural embraces ostriches of both sexes, just as the 'iyyim (sing. אי = אוי , from 'âvâh , to howl: see Bernstein's Lex . on Kirsch's Chrestom . Syr . p. 7), i.e., jackals, are called benât āwa in Arabic, without distinction of sex ( awa in this appellation is a direct reproduction of the natural voice of the animal, which is called wawi in vulgar Arabic). Tan has also been regarded since the time of Pococke and Schnurrer as the name of the jackal; and this is supported by the Syriac and Targum rendering yaruro (see Bernstein, p. 220), even more than by the Arabic name of the wolf, tinân , which only occurs here and there. אי , ibnu āwa , is the common jackal found in Hither Asia ( Canis aureus vulgaris ), the true type of the whole species, which is divided into at least ten varieties, and belongs to the same genus as dogs and wolves (not foxes). Tan may refer to one of these varieties, which derived its name from its distinctive peculiarity as a long-stretched animal, whether the extension was in the trunk, the snout, or the tail.

The animals mentioned, both quadrupeds ( râbatz ) and birds ( shâcan ), are really found there, on the soil of ancient Babylon. When Kerporter was drawing near to the Nimrod-tower, he saw lions sunning themselves quietly upon its walls, which came down very leisurely when alarmed by the cries of the Arabs. And as Rich heard in Bagdad, the ruins are still regarded as a rendezvous for ghosts: sâ‛ir , when contrasted with ‛attūd , signifies the full-grown shaggy buck-goat; but here se‛irim is applied to demons in the shape of goats (as in Isaiah 34:14). According to the Scriptures, the desert is the abode of unclean spirits, and such unclean spirits as the popular belief or mythology pictured to itself were se‛irim . Virgil, like Isaiah, calls them saltantes Satyros . It is remarkable also that Joseph Wolf, the missionary and traveller to Bochâra , saw pilgrims of the sect of Yezidis (or devil-worshippers) upon the ruins of Babylon, who performed strange and horrid rites by moonlight, and danced extraordinary dances with singular gestures and sounds. On seeing these ghost-like, howling, moonlight pilgrims, he very naturally recalled to mind the dancing se‛irim of prophecy (see Moritz Wagner's Reise nach Persien und dem Lande der Kurden , Bd. ii. p. 251). And the nightly howling and yelling of jackals ( ‛ ânâh after rikkēd , as in 1 Samuel 18:6-7) produces its natural effect upon every traveller there, just as in all the other ruins of the East. These are now the inhabitants of the royal 'arm e noth , which the prophet calls 'alm e noth with a sarcastic turn, on account of their widowhood and desolation; these are the inhabitants of the palaces of pleasure, the luxurious villas and country-seats, with their hanging gardens. The Apocalypse, in Revelation 18:2, takes up this prophecy of Isaiah, and applies it to a still existing Babylon, which might have seen itself in the mirror of the Babylon of old.


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The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:4". 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 26th, 2019
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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