corner graphic   Hi,    
ver. 2.0.19.07.21
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to classic.studylight.org/

Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Isaiah 13

 

 

Verses 1-13

SECOND SUBDIVISION

THE PROPHECIES AGAINST FOREIGN NATIONS

Isaiah 13-27

A.—THE DISCOURSES AGAINST INDIVIDUAL NATIONS

Isaiah 13-23

The people of God do not stand insulated and historically severed from the rest of the human race, but form an integral part of it, and contribute to the great web of the history of humanity. Therefore the Prophet of the Lord must necessarily direct his gaze to the Gentile world, and, as historiographer, set forth their relations to the Kingdom of God, whether hostile or friendly. It is true that, in those prophecies that deal with the theocracy as a whole, or with individual theocratic relations or persons, the prophet has always to set their relations to the outward world in the light of God’s word. But he has often occasion to make some heathen nation or other the primary subject of direct prophecy. Isaiah, too, has such occasion: and his prophecies that come under this category we now find collected here.

Amos, also, put together his utterances against foreign nations (chap1). But this grouping is so interwoven in the plan of his work, that, like an eagle first circles around his prey, and then swoops down on it, so he first passes through the nations dwelling around the Holy Land, then settles down on the chief nation, Israel, dwelling in the middle. Isaiah has brought the independent prophecies against foreign nations into a less intimate connection with his utterances that relate directly to the theocracy, by incorporating them into his book as a special סֵפֶר (or volume). Zephaniah has joined Isaiah in this as to material and form; except that the latter appears less marked because of the smallness of his book ( Isaiah 2). But Jeremiah (chap46–51) and Ezekiel (chap25–32) have, just like Isaiah, devoted independent divisions of their books to the utterances against foreign nations. The order in which Isaiah gives his prophecies against the heathen nations is not arbitrary. It makes four subdivisions. First, in chaps13, 14, comes a prophecy against Babylon. It stands here for a double reason:1) because it begins with a general contemplation of the day of Jehovah, which evidently is meant for a foundation for all the following denunciations of judgment; 2) because Isaiah, after he had lived to see the judgment of God on Assyria under the walls of Jerusalem, knows well that the world-power culminates, not in Assyria, but in Babylon, and that not Assyria but Babylon is to execute the judgment of God on the centre of the theocracy.

But it is quite natural that Assyria should not be unrepresented in the list of the nations against which the Prophet turns his direct utterances. This is the less allowable because the following utterances have all of them for subject the relations to Assyria of the nations mentioned. For all that the Prophet has to say from Isaiah 14:28 to Isaiah 20:6, and then again in chap21 (from Isaiah 13:11 on), 22,23stands in relations more or less near to the great Assyrian deluge that Isaiah saw was breaking in on Palestine and the neighboring lands. Thus the second division begins with the brief word against Assyria, Isaiah 14:24-27. To this are joined prophecies against Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ephraim, Cush and Egypt. The third division forms a singular little סֵפֶר—It might be named libellus emblematicus. For it contains a second prophecy against Babylon, then a similar one against Syria, against the Arabians, and against Jerusalem, the last with a supplement directed against the steward Shebna. These four prophecies in chap21,22stand together because they all of them have emblematical superscriptions. Out of regard to this the prophecy against Babylon ( Isaiah 21:1-10) stands here, although in respect to its contents it belongs rather to13,14Even the prophecy against “the valley of vision” with its supplement stands here out of regard to its superscription, although it is directed against no heathen nation, but against Jerusalem; so that we must say that chaps13–23contain prophecies against the heathen nations, not exclusively, but with one exception that has its special reasons.

Chap 23 forms the fourth division. It contains a prophecy against Tyre, which, indeed, presupposes the Assyrian invasion, but expressly names the Chaldeans as executors of the judgment on Tyre. On account of this remarkable, and, in a certain respect, solitary instance of such a sight of things distant, this prophecy is put alone and at the end.

Thus the chapters13–23are divided as follows:—

I. The first prophecy against Babylon, Isaiah 13:1-22.

II. Prophecies relating to Assyria, and the nations threatened by Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ephraim, Cush, Egypt, Isaiah 14:24–20:26.

III. The libellus emblematicus, containing prophecies against Babylon, Edom, Arabia and Jerusalem, the last with a supplement directed against the steward Shebnah21, 22.

IV. Prophecy against Tyre23.

____________________

I.—THE FIRST PROPHECY AGAINST BABYLON

Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23

There yawns a tremendous chasm between the preceding prophecies that originated in the time of Ahaz and the present. We at once recognize Isaiah again in13, 14It is his spirit, his power, his poetry, his wit. They are his fundamental views, but it is no longer the old form. His way of speaking is quieter, softer, clearer; he no longer bursts on us like a roaring mountain stream. He is grown older. But he has progressed, too, in his prophetic knowledge. Now he knows that it is not Assyria that is the theocracy’s most dangerous enemy. For him Assyria is a thing of the past. In proportion as it came to the front before, it now and henceforth retires. Isaiah had seen Assyria’s humiliating overthrow before the gates of Jerusalem. Now he knows that another power, that Babylon shall destroy the theocracy and stand as the sole governing world-power. But he knows, too, that Babylon’s day will come as well as Nineveh’s. For how could Jehovah’s Prophet ever doubt that his Lord and his nation will triumph, and that the world-power will be overthrown? But the judgment of Babylon is for him only a part of the great judgment of the world, of that “day of the Lord,” that does not come on one day, but realizes itself in many successive stages. He sees in Babylon the summit of the world-power, by whose disintegration Israel mast be made free. Therefore he makes the great day of Jehovah’s judgment break before our eyes ( Isaiah 13:1-13), but describes immediately only the judgment upon Babylon. On both these accounts this prophecy stands at the head of all Isaiah’s prophecies against the nations. For it seemed fitting to put in the front a general and comprehensive word about the great judgment day which immediately introduced the denunciation of judgment against the head of all the nations of the world-power. Some have maintained that it was impossible that Isaiah could have recognized Babylon as the enemy of the theocracy: and that it was still more impossible that he could have predicted the deliverance of Israel out of the captivity of Babylon. But both these chapters are Isaiah’s, both in form and contents, as we have declared above and shall prove in detail below. Beside, there is the consideration that our chapter has undoubtedly been used by Jeremiah (50, 51), by Ezekiel in various passages ( Ezekiel 7:17, comp. Isaiah 13:7–7:28, comp. Isaiah 13:11 to Isaiah 19:11, comp. Isaiah 14:5 to Isaiah 38:6; Isaiah 38:15 to Isaiah 39:2, comp. Isaiah 14:13), and by Zephaniah ( Zephaniah 3:11, comp. Isaiah 13:3), as shall be shown when dealing with the passages concerned. Therefore it seems to me to be beyond doubt that Isaiah wrote our chapters. But how Isaiah could know all that is here given to the world under his name ( Isaiah 13:1) as prophecy, that is certainly a problem. That is the problem that science should propose to itself for solution. It ought not to deny accredited facts in order not to be compelled to recognize prophecy as a problem, i.e. as possible. For to deny premises in order to avoid a conclusion that one will not draw, is just as unscientific as it is to invent premises in order to gain a conclusion that one wants to draw.

The discourse divides into a general part and a particular. The former ( Isaiah 13:1-13) Isaiah, as has been said, at the same time the introduction to the totality of the prophecies against the heathen nations. The particular part again presents two halves: the first ( Isaiah 13:14-22) portrays the judgment on Babylon, the second, after a short reference to the redemption and return home of Israel ( Isaiah 14:1-2) contains a satirical song on the ruler of Babylon conceived in abstracto ( Isaiah 14:3-23).

____________________

a) The preface: introduction in general to the prophecies of the day of the Lord

Isaiah 13:1-13

1 The[FN1] burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.

2 Lift ye up a banner upon [FN2]the high mountain,

Exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand,

That they may go into the gates of the nobles.

3 I have commanded my sanctified ones,

I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger,

Even them that rejoice in my highness.

4 The noise of a multitude in the mountains, [FN3]like as of a great people:

A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together:

The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.

5 They come from a far country,

From the end of heaven,

Even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation,

To destroy the whole land.

6 Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand;

It shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.

7 Therefore shall all hands [FN4]be faint,

And every man’s heart shall melt:

8 And they shall be afraid:

Pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them;

They [FN5]shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth:

They shall [FN6]be amazed one at another;

Their faces shall be as [FN7]flames.

9 Behold, the day of the Lord cometh,

Cruel both with wrath and fierce anger,

To lay the land desolate:

And he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

10 For the stars of heaven and [FN8]the constellations thereof

Shall not give their light:

The sun shall be darkened in his going forth,

And the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

11 And I [FN9]will punish the world for their evil,

And the wicked for their iniquity;

And I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease,

And will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.

12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold;

Even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir.

13 Therefore I will shake the heavens,

And the earth shall [FN10]remove out of her place,

In the wrath of the Lord of hosts,

And in the day of his fierce anger.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

On Isaiah 13:1. מַשָּׂא from נָשָׂא is elatum, “something borne, that which is proposed,” therefore as much onus as effatum. On account of this ambiguity it is almost exclusively used of such divine utterances as impose on men the burden of judicial visitation. From Jeremiah 23:33 sqq. we learn that the word, being abused by mockers on account of this ambiguity, was prohibited by Jehovah as designation of prophetic utterances. In Isaiah the word occurs twelve times in the sense of “judicial sentence;” and, excepting Isaiah 36:6, it so occurs only in chapters13–23, and here again, with the exception of Isaiah 22:1 (for the particular reasons see the comment in loc.), solely in utterances against foreign nations. This last circumstance is easily to be explained by the unfavorable meaning that underlies the word, which was pressed by the mockers, Jeremiah 23:33 sqq. A מַשָּׂא simply and only is never directed against the theocracy. But it cannot be inferred from the absence of this in passages that relate to the theocracy that the word is foreign to Isaiah (Knobel).

On Isaiah 13:2. נִשְׁפֶה occurs only here; comp. שְׁפִי Isaiah 41:18; Jeremiah 3:2, etc.——נשׂא נס is an expression peculiar to Isaiah. Comp. Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:3.——לָהֶם after קוֹל is to be referred to the nations called.——נדיבים פתחי designates the goal of the movement to which the nations are summoned. Both words belong to Isaiah 3:26; Isaiah 32:5; Isaiah 32:8.——נָדִיב is “the free, the noble” (comp. at Isaiah 32:5; and Proverbs 19:6; Proverbs 25:7, etc.).

On Isaiah 13:3. עליזי גאותי are “Those rejoicing at my highness” (gen. obj.). Both words are entirely characteristic of Isaiah. The עליזי is found only Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 23:7; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 32:13, and in the borrowed passage Zephaniah 3:11. Hence it is incomprehensible how the passage last named can be explained to be the original. Moreover Isaiah is almost the only one of the prophets that uses גאוה. For beside Isaiah 9:8; Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 25:11, and the borrowed passage Zephaniah 3:11, it occurs only Jeremiah 48:29, where Jeremiah, for the sake of a play on words, heaps together all substantive derivatives from גאה.

On Isaiah 13:4. דמות occurs again in Isaiah only Isaiah 40:18. It is found oftenest in Ezekiel, and in an adverbial sense as here = כִּדְמוּת ( Ezekiel 23:15). Also שָׁאוֹן is a word of Isaiah’s. It occurs only seventeen times in the Old Testament; of these, eight times in Isaiah 5:14; Isaiah 13:4; Isaiah 17:12; (bis), Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 25:5; Isaiah 66:6. The expression צבא מלחמה, beside the present, occurs only Numbers 31:14, and 1 Chronicles 7:4; 1 Chronicles 12:37. There is evidently a contrast intended between צבא and צבאות: the Lord of the heavenly hosts now musters His army hordes on earth.

On Isaiah 13:5. Shall we regard בָּאִים at the beginning of the verse as dependent on מפקד, Isaiah 13:4, and as apposition with צבא מלחמה? It is against this that the second half of Isaiah 13:5 must then be construed as a rhetorical exclamation, which in this connection and form seems strange. It is in favor of this that otherwise בָּאִים must be construed as predicate. But then it would be said of Jehovah that He comes from a far country. But may not this be said in the present connection? It has just been said that Jehovah summons the war hordes and musters them. He is therefore their leader. Need it seem strange then that He is described as approaching at their head? Therefore בָּאִים is the predicate of Isaiah 13:5 b, placed at the beginning. מארץ מרחק occurs again only Isaiah 46:11; other turns of expression Isaiah 8:9; Isaiah 10:3; Isaiah 17:13; Isaiah 30:27; Isaiah 33:17. כלי זעמו occurs again only Jeremiah 50:25; on זעם comp. on Isaiah 10:5. חַבֵּל comp. on Isaiah 10:27; Isaiah 32:7; Isaiah 54:16.

On Isaiah 13:6. כשׁד, note the play on words; כְּ is the Song of Solomon -called Kaph veritatis. Isaiah often uses שֹׁד, Isaiah 16:4; Isaiah 22:4; Isaiah 51:19, etc.; שַׁדַּי he uses only this once.

On Isaiah 13:7. תרכּינה כּל־ידים, the expression occurs in Isaiah only here, and is borrowed by Ezekiel 7:17 from this place.

On Isaiah 13:8. נבהל in Isaiah again only Isaiah 21:3 in a similar connection.——צירים occurs again only Isaiah 21:3 (bis) in the sense of constrictiones, cruciatus, cramps.—חבלים Isaiah uses ( Isaiah 5:18; Isaiah 33:20; Isaiah 33:23) in the sense of “cords,” and in the kindred “cries of a woman in travail” ( Isaiah 26:17; Isaiah 66:7).——חול used not seldom of a travailing woman, and as a figure of feeling terror; Isaiah 23:4-5; Isaiah 26:17-18; Isaiah 45:10; Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 66:7-8.——תמה stupere occurs again only Isaiah 29:9. Note the constructio pracgnans.

On Isaiah 13:9. אכזרי only here in Isaiah: it is adjective. The two substantives are, co-ordinate with אכזרי, apposition with יוֹס, doubtless because adjectives cannot be formed from these substantive notions, as can be done from אַכְזָר. Therefore, according to frequent usage, we are to construe עברה and חרון אף as abstract nouns used in a concrete sense. עברה frequent in Isaiah 9:18; Isaiah 10:6; Isaiah 13:13; Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 16:6. חרון אף excepting Isaiah 13:13 does not occur again in Isaiah. The expression is frequent in the Pentateuch: Exodus 32:12; Numbers 25:4; Numbers 32:14; Deuteronomy 13:18.——By the words לשׂום וגו׳ the Prophet designates the object of the day of judgment.——The expression שׂום לשׁמה only here in Isaiah. Perhaps it is borrowed from Joel 1:7. היה לשׁמה Isaiah 5:9. שַׁמָּה alone Isaiah 24:12.——That הארץ means “the earth,” see “Exeget. and Crit.” on Isaiah 13:5.——השׁמיד Isaiah 10:7; Isaiah 14:23; Isaiah 26:14.—הטאים Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 33:14.

On Isaiah 13:10. כִּי is not causative, but explicative. That the day of the Lord is dreadful, and nothing but burning wrath will be evident in that the stars become dark.——If כוכבים and כסילים are distinguished, the explanation cannot be that the latter are not also כוכבים, but that they are only a pre-eminent species of stars. The Vav. is therefore the Vave augmentative: “the stars of heaven and even its Orions.” The latter are the most luminous stars, whose brightness, because of the first magnitude, more easily than all others penetrates whatever hinderances there may be. The plural of כסיל, Isaiah, any way, a generalizing one, i.e., that elevates the individual to the rank of a species. Otherwise we know of only one כְּסִיל as a star. But as 1 Samuel 17:43, Goliath says to David: “thou comest to me with the starves,” although David had only one staff; or as Jeremiah 28:12, after telling of the breaking of one yoke, continues; “wooden yokes hast thou broken,” therefore here as elsewhere the plural of the individual is conceived as equivalent to the genus. Compare Cicerones, Scipiones, les Voltaire, les Mirabeau; and perhaps כּוֹכְבֵי בֹקֶר Job 38:7 belongs to the same category.—הֵהֵל, Hiph. from הלל, a verb that elsewhere expresses clearness of sound, occurs only Job 31:26; Job 41:10, and in both places in connection with אוֹר.——On חשׁך השׁמשׁ comp. Isaiah 5:30.—Of נגתּ there is only one other form in Isaiah, and that Kal. in just one passage, Isaiah 9:1.

On Isaiah 13:11. הארץ is more expressly defined as תֵּבֵל This word is very frequent in the first part of Isaiah 14:17; Isaiah 14:21; Isaiah 18:3; Isaiah 24:4; Isaiah 26:9; Isaiah 26:18; Isaiah 27:6; Isaiah 34:1. It never means a single land, but is always either the οἰκουμε̇νη as terra fertilis contrasted with the desert ( Isaiah 14:17) or the οἰκουμἐνη as a whole contrasted with the single parts. Delitzsch well remarks that it never has the article, and thus in a measure appears as a proper noun.—פקד with על of the person and accusative of the thing like Jeremiah 23:2; Jeremiah 25:12; Hosea 1:4. גָּאוֹן a frequent word in Isaiah 2:10; Isaiah 2:19; Isaiah 2:21; Isaiah 4:2, etc.; Isaiah 60:15; Ezekiel 7:24 seems to have had in mind our passage.—זֵדִים only here in Isaiah, whereas גאוה (comp. at Isaiah 13:3) and עריץ ( Isaiah 25:3-5; Isaiah 29:5; Isaiah 29:20; Isaiah 49:25) occur not seldom.

On Isaiah 13:12. אוקיר which makes a paronomasia with אופיר (a genuine Isaianic word) occurs only here (Kal. Isaiah 43:4).—On אֱנוֹשׁ and אדם comp. on Isaiah 8:1.—פַז (only here in Isaiah; comp. Psalm 19:11; Psalm 21:4) is purified gold; כֶּתֶם is absconditum, jewel, ornament generally: not found again in Isaiah.—כתם אופיר is found again Psalm 45:10; Job 28:16.

On Isaiah 13:13. על־כן cannot be construed “for this reason.” For it cannot be said that the Lord will shake heaven and earth because He punishes the earth and makes men scarce on it. Rather the reverse of this must be assumed: God shakes heaven and earth in order to punish men. Thus על־כן = “therefore, hence,” but in the sense of intention (to this end, Job 34:27). Here, too, there evidently floats before the mind of the Prophet a passage from Job 9:6, where it reads: הַמַּרְגִּיז אֶרֶץ מִמְּקוֹמָהּ. The thought that the earth shall be crowded out of its place, which is peculiar to both of these passages, is something so specific, added to which the juxtaposition of הִרְגִּין and הָאָרֶץ מִמְּקֹמָהּ is so striking, that it is impossible to regard this relation of the two passages as accidental. If we ask where the words are original, we must decide in favor of Job, because there the thought is founded in the context. For in Isaiah 13:5 it is said: “which removeth the mountains, and they know not; which overturneth them in his anger.” On this follows naturally: “Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.”—רעשׁ in Isaiah again Isaiah 24:18; Isaiah 14:16. Comp. moreover 2 Samuel 22:8 ( Psalm 18:8); Joel 4:16.—The words בעברת to אפו are the Prophet’s. בְּ is taken by some as determining the time (Knobel), by others as assigning a reason (Delitzsch), But both may be combined: the revelation of the divine wrath coincides with the day of His anger, and so much so that יוֹם, the day, may be taken as concrete for the abstract notion of the manifestation, coming to the light. Comp. Isaiah 10:3; Isaiah 17:6.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Prophet opens his prophecy against the nations with a denunciation of judgment against Babylon. This prophecy must have originated at a period when the Prophet had come to the knowledge that Babylon was the real centre of the world-power, and Assyria only a front step. But Isaiah opens his prophecy against Babylon with an introduction from which we learn that he regards the judgment against Babylon as the germ-like beginning of “the day of the Lord” in general. First, by means of a banner planted on a high mountain, visible far and wide, there goes forth a summons to order men of war to an expedition against a city ( Isaiah 13:2). Then ( Isaiah 13:3) the Lord says, more plainly, Himself taking up the word, that it is He that assembles the men of war and that He assembles them for a holy war. The command gathers in vast numbers and Jehovah musters them ( Isaiah 13:4). They come then from the ends of the earth, as it were led by Jehovah, brought together in order to accomplish the work of destruction ( Isaiah 13:5). Now those threatened hear proclaimed: the day of the Lord is here ( Isaiah 13:6). Thereupon all are in fear and terror ( Isaiah 13:7-8). And in fact the day of the Lord draws near ( Isaiah 13:9). The stars turn dark ( Isaiah 13:10). The Lord Himself declares that the object of His coming is to lay low everything in the world that lifts itself up proudly ( Isaiah 13:11), so that men shall become scarce as fine gold ( Isaiah 13:12). By this manifestation of divine wrath, however, heaven and earth must be shaken ( Isaiah 13:13).

2. The burden—did see.

Isaiah 13:1. One sees a sentence of judgment when, by means of prophetic gaze, one learns to know its contents, which may be presented to the spiritual eye by visible images (comp. on Isaiah 1:1). That Isaiah is named here, and by his entire name, son of Amoz, is doubtless to be explained in that this superscription, which corresponds to the prophecy Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23, was at the same time regarded as superscription of the entire cycle 13 to23and that this cycle, as an independent whole, was incorporated in the entire collection.

3. Lift ye up a banner—my highness.

Isa 13:2-3.

Isaiah 13:2 speaks in general. Without saying to whom the summons is directed or from whom it proceeds; there is only a summons to raise the standard of war for the purpose of assembling warriors. On a bare mountain, devoid of forest, shall the signal be raised, that it may be clearly seen on all sides. But with the voice, too, ( Isaiah 37:23, Isaiah 40:9, Isaiah 58:1) and with hand-beckoning ( Isaiah 10:32, Isaiah 11:15) shall the nations be called to march forth. The gates of the nobles can only mean the main gates of the hostile city, which alone (in contrast with the small side gates, figuratively called “needle-eyes” Matthew 19:24) serve for the entree of princes in pomp, in the present case for the victors. Still the expression occasions surprise. Ought we perhaps to read פְּתָחַי: “that they come willingly into my gates?” I do not venture to decide.

Isaiah 13:3 makes us know who is the origin of the summons. It is the Lord who calls His warriors who are consecrated to Him and joyfully obey Him. The warriors are called consecrated, holy, because the war is a holy one. Comp. Joel 4:9, Jeremiah 6:4; Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 51:27. Precisely for this the Prophet immediately after uses the bold expression: “I have called them for mine anger,” i.e. that they may be executors of my purpose of wrath (comp. Isaiah 10:5).

4. The noise of a multitude——the whole land.

Isaiah 13:4-5. Those summoned heard the call. They are heard approaching in troops. The interjection קוֹל [“hark”Naegelsb.] is frequent in the second half of Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 40:6; Isaiah 52:3; Isaiah 66:6. Jeremiah, too, imitates the language: Jeremiah 48:8; Jeremiah 50:22; Jeremiah 50:28; Jeremiah 51:54. The expression קוֹל הָמוֹן [“Hark, a tumultuous noise,” Naegelsb.] “noise of a multitude,” occurs 1 Samuel 4:14, 1 Kings 18:41; 1 Kings 20:13; 1 Kings 20:28. In Isaiah again Isaiah 33:3. Then in Ezekiel 23:42, Daniel 10:6. I do not believe that by “the mountains” is meant the Zagros mountains that separated Media from Babylon. [Zagrus mons, now represented by the middle and southern portion of the mountains of Kurdistan.—Tr.]. For here the prophecy bears still quite a general character. Only by degrees does the special judgment upon Babylon appear out of the cloud of the universal judgment. The enemies, according to Isaiah 13:5, come “from a far country, from the end of heaven.” Did the Prophet mean particularly the Zagros, why did he not designate it more distinctly? The mountains are, doubtless, no certain, concrete mountains, but ideal mountains, a poetic embellishment. Added to this, it is likely Joel 2is in the Prophet’s mind. There, too, as here ( Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 13:9) the day of the Lord is at hand. But there the grasshoppers are the enemies to be expected. These, too, come like chariots, that leap upon the mountains like the blush of dawn spread upon the mountains. Especially the order of the words בֶּהָרִים דְּמוּת עַס־רַב, “in the mountains like as of a great people,” seems to me to recall Joel 2:2עַל־הֶהָרִים עַם רַב “upon the mountains a great people,” a form of expression that in Joel, too, belongs to the poetic drapery. That Isaiah had in mind the words of Joel is the more probable, in as much as the expression עם רב is used by him only here, and beside Joel 2:2, is found only in Ezekiel 17:9; Ezekiel 17:15; Ezekiel 26:7.

The army, then, which Jehovah musters, consists of people that have come from a far land, and from the end of heaven, i.e. from the place where the heavenly expanse is bounded by the earth. The expression “from the end of heaven” is characteristic of Deuteronomy. For, except the present passage, it occurs only Deuteronomy 4:32 (bis), Isaiah 30:4 (with the borrowed expression Nehemiah 1:9), and Psalm 19:7. That Isaiah by these expressions would designate the Medes is quite improbable. As in their cities, according to 2 Kings 17:6, Israelite exiles dwelt at that time, how could he locate them in the uttermost borders of the earth’s surface, where otherwise he locates, say, Ophir ( Isaiah 13:12) or Sinim ( Isaiah 49:12)? The undefined, universal, and if I may so say, the superlative mode of expression, proves that it is to be taken in an ideal sense. The end that the Lord will accomplish by means of “the weapons of His indignation” is: to overturn the whole earth. “The whole earth!” For this judgment on Babylon belongs to “the day of the Lord.” It is thus an integral part of the world’s judgment. Just as Isaiah, so Ezekiel uses traits of Joel’s prophecy of the world’s judgment in order to let the judgment that he had to announce to Egypt, appear as a part of the world’s judgment ( Isaiah 30:2 sqq.).

5. Howl ye—their faces as flames.

Isaiah 13:6-8. Here it is seen plainly how the Prophet would represent the judgment on Babylon as a part of the world’s judgment. For the traits that now follow are entirely taken from the descriptions of the world’s judgments as we meet them already in the older Prophets, and as, on the other hand, the later New Testament descriptions of the great day of judgment connect with our present one. Especially Isaiah has Joel in his mind. “Howl ye,” is taken from הילילו, Joel 1:5; Joel 1:11; Joel 1:13. Ezek. too, uses the word Isaiah 30:2, and Matthew 24:30, in the eschatological discourse of Christ. The words: “for the day of the Lord is at hand,” are taken word for word from Joel 1:15. From קרוב “at hand,” it is seen that the Prophet would portray here the impression that the approach of the day will make on men; for, as is known, the moments that precede any great catastrophe have terrors quite peculiarly their own. In Isaiah 13:9, he describes the judgment as taking place. When men notice that the destruction comes from God Almighty, they abandon all opposition as useless. The sign of this is that they let their hands fall limp, and that their hearts become like water (comp. Deuteronomy 20:8; Joshua 7:5; Isaiah 19:1).

For the image of the travailing woman, and of the terror depicted in the countenances, the Prophet is indebted to Joel 2:6. That terror and anguish not only make one pale, but also agitate the blood, and thereby produce heat and sweat is well known. Only the latter does the Prophet make prominent. He was likely moved to this because in Joel ( Isaiah 1:19, Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 2:5), which is in his thought, the expression לחב, “a flame,” occurs thrice.

6. Behold the day—light to shine.

Isaiah 13:9-10. The day is not only near; it is here. (Comp. under Text. and Gram. above). What constellation is meant by the name כְּסִיל is not settled. The LXX, here and Job 38:31 translate ̓Ωρίων. Likewise the Vulg. Amos 5:8 and Job 9:9. Others (Saadia, Abulwalid,etc.), take it to be Canopus, the Antarctic Polar star in the southern steering-oar of Argo. Niebuhr (Beschr. v. Arabien, p113), following the Jews of Sana, supposes it is Sirius. But the passage in Job 38:31 (“or wilt thou loose the bands” [Dillmann:traces] of כסיל?) corresponds very well to the representation that Orion (Syr. gaboro, Arab. gebbar) is the giant chained to the sky. Comp. Herzog,Real-Encycl. Art. Gestirnkunde, vonLeyrer, XIX. p565. [According to Hitzig and Knobel, the darkening of the stars is mentioned first, because the Hebrews reckoned the day from sunset.—J. A. A.].

When the rising sun is without rays, and moon and stars lose their shining, then both day and night are robbed of their lights. The language of the Prophet seems not only to be drawn from Job, but also from Joel 3:4, and Amos 5:8, as on the other hand Christ’s discourse, Matthew 24:29, borrows from our passage.

7. And I will punish——his fierce anger.

Isaiah 13:11-13. The Prophet lets the Lord speak here, partly, to confirm what the Prophet had said, partly to set it forth more exactly. But unmarked, the subject of the discourse changes again ( Isaiah 13:13 b) by the Prophet resuming and continuing the discourse of the Lord. What was said, Isaiah 13:9, in brief words; “and He shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it,” is in Isaiah 13:11, more distinctly expressed by the Lord. The Lord says, then, that He will punish the whole earth for their wickedness, and the wicked (according to his righteousness) for their guilt. The means by which men incur guilt is their injustice in the sense of violent oppression, according to the view common to the Old Testament in general, and to Isaiah in particular (comp. on Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 1:21 sqq.). Therefore the Almighty Judge announces here that a time shall come when He will take in hand the mighty of the earth who abuse their power, and will humble them. The thought of this verse recalls Isaiah 2:10 sqq.

In consequence of this visitation, human kind shall become rare in the earth as the noblest gold. From this passage it appears that the Prophet, though he speaks of a judgment on the whole habitable world (οἰκουμένη, תֵּבֵל), has still by no means the idea of its total destruction, say, by fire ( 2 Peter 3:7; 2 Peter 3:10). The locality of Ophir is still an open question. The other instances of its occurrence in Scripture are Genesis 10:29 ( 1 Chronicles 1:23), 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 22:49; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 2 Chronicles 8:18; 2 Chronicles 9:10; Job 22:24. Four places are proposed; South Arabia, East Africa, Abhira between the Indus Delta and the Gulf of Cambay, and southern lands in general, for which Ophir may be only a collective name. The best authorities, as Lassen, Ritter (Erdkunde XIV. p348 sqq.),Delitzsch, decide in favor of East India. But Crawford, “hardly less learned regarding India than Lassen,” in his “Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands,” asserts, on the contrary, “that there is not a shadow of possibility for locating Ophir in any part of India.”

The African traveller Carl Mauch gives considerable weight to the scale in favor of East Africa; he thinks that he has discovered the ancient Ophir in the port Sofala or Sofara on the East coast of South Africa in latitude20° 14.

Isaiah 13:13. See under Text. and Gram. above.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 13:2-13. The prophecy concerning the day of the Lord has its history. It appears first in the form of the announcement of a scourge of locusts (Joel); then it becomes an announcement of human war-expeditions and sieges of cities. Finally it becomes a message that proclaims the destruction of the earth and of its companions in space. But from the first onward, the last particular is not wanting: only at first it appears faintly. In Joel 2:10, one does not know whether the discourse is concerning an obscuration of the heavenly bodies occasioned only by the grasshoppers or by higher powers. But soon ( Joel 3:4; Joel 3:20) this particular comes out more definitely. In the present passage of Isaiah it presses to the foreground. In the New Testament ( Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24 sq.; Luke 21:25) it takes the first and central place. We observe clearly that the judgment on the world is accomplished in many Acts, and is yet one whole; and as on the other hand nature, too, is itself one whole, Song of Solomon, according to the saying: “whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” ( 1 Corinthians 12:26), the catastrophes on earth have their echo in the regions above earth.

2. On Isaiah 13:4 sqq. “God cannot do otherwise than punish accumulated wickedness. But He overthrows violence and crime, and metes out to tyrants the measure they have given to others, for He gives to them a master that the heathen shall know that they too are men ( Psalm 9:21; Psalm 11:5).”—Cramer.

[On13 Isaiah 13:3. “It cannot be supposed that the Medes and Persians really exulted, or rejoiced in God or in His plans.—But they would exult as if it were their own plan, though it would be really the glorious plan of God. Wicked, men often exult in their success: they glory in the execution of their purposes; but they are really accomplishing the plans of God, and executing His great designs.”—Barnes.]

[On Isaiah 13:9. “The moral causes of the ruin threatened are significantly intimated by the Prophet’s calling the people of the earth or land its sinners. As the national offences here referred to, Vitringa enumerates pride ( Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 47:7-8), idolatry ( Jeremiah 50:38), tyranny in general ( Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 14:17), and oppression of God’s people in particular ( Isaiah 47:6).”—J. A. Alexander.]

3. On Isaiah 13:19 sqq. Imperiti animi, etc. “Unlearned minds when they happen on allegories, can hold no certain sense of Scripture. And unless this Papal business had kept me to the simple text of the Bible, I had become an idle trifler in allegories like Jerome and Origen. For that figurative speech has certain allurements by which minds seek to dispose of difficulties. … The true allegory of this passage is concerning the victory of conscience over death. For, the law is Cyrus, the Turk, the cruel and mighty enemy that rises up against the proud conscience of justitiaries who confide in their own merits. These are the real Babylon, and this is the glory of Babylon, that it walks in the confidence of its own works. When, therefore, the law comes and occupies the heart with its terrors, it condemns all our works in which we have trusted, as polluted and very dung. Once the law has laid bare this filthiness of our hearts and works, there follows confusion, writhing, and pains of parturition; men become ashamed, and that confidence of works ceases and they do those things which we see now-a-days: he that heretofore has lived by confidence of righteousnesss in a monastery, deserts the monkish life, casts away to ashes all glory of works, and looks to the gratuitous righteousness and merit of Christ, and that is the desolation of Babylon. The ostriches and hairy creatures that remain are Eck, Cochleus and others, who do not pertain to that part of law. They screech, they do not speak with human voice, they are unable to arouse and console any afflicted conscience with their doctrine. My allegories, which I approve, are of this sort, viz., which shadow forth the nature of law and gospel.” Luther.

4. On Isaiah 13:21 sqq. “There the Holy Spirit paints for thee the house of thy heart as a deserted, desolate Babylon, as a loathsome cesspool, and devil’s hole, full of thorns, nettles, thistles, dragons, spukes, kobolds, maggots, owls, porcupines, etc., all of which is nothing else than the thousandfold devastation of thy nature, in as much as into every heart the kingdom of Satan, and all his properties have pressed in, and all and every sin, as a fascinating serpent-brood, have been sown and sunk into each one, although not all sins together become evident and actual in every one’s outward life.”—Joh. Arndt’s Informatorium biblicum, § 7.

5. On Isaiah 14:1-2. “Although it seems to me to be just impossible that I could be delivered from death or sin, yet it will come to pass through Christ. For God here gives us an example; He will not forsake His saints though they were in the midst of Babylon.”—Heim and Hoffmann after Luther.

6. On Isaiah 14:4 sqq. “Magna imperia fere nihil sunt quam magnae injuriae.

Ad generum Cereris sine caede et sanguine pauci

Descendunt reges et sicca mente tyranni.—Luther.

Impune quidvis facere id est regem esse.”—Sallust.

Among the Dialogi mortuorum of Lucian of Samosata the thirteenth is between Diogenes and Alexander the Great. This dialogue begins with the words: “Τί τοῦτο, Ἀλέξανδρε, τέθνηκας καὶ σὺ, ὥσπερ ἡμεῖσ ἅπαντες;” thereupon the contrast is ironically set forth between what Alexander was, as one given out to be a son of the gods, and so recognized by men, and possessor of all highest human glories, and what he is at present. It Isaiah, as is well known, doubtful whether Lucian really was acquainted with the Scriptures. See Planck, Lucian and Christianity in Stud. u. Krit., 1851, IV. p826 sqq. Comp. also Schrader, die Höllenfahrt der Istar, 1874.

7. On Isaiah 14:4 sqq. ”Omni genera figurarum utitur ad confirmandos et consolandos suos, ut simul sit conjuncta summa theologia cum summa rhetorica.”—Luther.

8. On Isaiah 14:12 sqq. As early as the LXX. this passage seems to have been understood of Satan. It points that way that they change the second person into the third; πῶς ἐξέπεσεν, etc. At least they were so understood. See Jerome, who thereby makes the fine remark: “Unde ille cecidit per superbiam, vos ascendatis per humilitatem.” But Luther says: “Debet nobis insignis error totius papatus, qui hunc textum de casu angelorum accepit, studia literarum et artium deccndi commendare tamquam res theologo maxime necessarias ad tractationem sacrarum literarum.”

9. On Isaiah 14:13-14. “The Assyrian monarch was a thorough Eastern despot … rather adored as a god than feared as a man.” Layard’s Discoveries amongst the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, 1853, New York, p632. “In the heathen period the pre-eminence of the German kings depended on their descent from the gods, as among the Greeks” (Gervinus, Einleit. in d. Gesch. d. 19 Iahrh., 1853, p14). Christian Thomasius, in his Instit. jurispr. divinae, dissert. proœmialis, p16, calls the princes “the Gods on earth.” In a letter from Luxemburg, after the departure of the Emperor Joseph II, it is said (in a description of the journey, of which a sheet lies before me): “we have had the good fortune to see our earthly god.” Belani, Russian Court Narratives, New Series, III. Vol, p. Isaiah 125: “The Russian historian Korampzin says in the section where he describes the Russian self-rule: “The Autocrat became an earthly god for the Russians, who set the whole world in astonishment by a submissiveness to the will of their monarch which transcends all bounds.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Sentence.

FN#2 - a bald mountain.

FN#3 - Heb. the likeness of.

FN#4 - Or, fall down.

FN#5 - shall writhe.

FN#6 - Heb. wonder every man at his neighbor.

FN#7 - Heb. faces of the flames.

FN#8 - their Orions.

FN#9 - will visit on the world its wickedness, and on the wicked their iniquity.

FN#10 - shake.


Verses 14-22

b) The particular part: The prophecy against Babylon

Isaiah 13:14 to Isaiah 14:23

1. THE JUDGMENT ON THE CITY AND STATE OF BABYLON

Isaiah 13:14-22

14 And it shall be as the chased roe,

And as [FN11]a sheep that no man taketh up:

They shall every man turn to his own people,

And flee every one into his own land.

15 Every one that is found shall be thrust through;

And every one that Isaiah 12joined unto them shall fall by the sword

16 Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes;

Their houses shall be spoiled and their wives ravished.

17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them,

Which shall not regard silver;

And as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

18 Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces;

And they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb;

Their eye shall not spare children,

19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,

The beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,

Shall be as [FN13]when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

20 It shall never be inhabited,

Neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation:

Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there;

Neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

21 But [FN14]wild beasts of the desert shall lie there;

And their houses shall be full of [FN15] [FN16]doleful creatures;

And [FN17] [FN18]owls shall dwell there,

And satyrs shall dance there.

22 And [FN19]the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their [FN20]desolate houses,

And dragons in their pleasant palaces:

And her time is near to come,

And her days shall not be prolonged.

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

On Isaiah 13:14. והיה is to be construed neuter = “it shall be, it turns out, such are the circumstances.” The Hoph. particip. מדח only here; beside this in Isaiah the Niph. and Pual participles, Isaiah 8:22; Isaiah 16:3-4.—צְבִי with the meaning “gazelle,” occurs only here in Isaiah. It seems that the Prophet by והיה כצבי here and והיתה בבל צבי וגו Isaiah 13:19, intended a contrast. Babylon צבי in the sense of decus, is at the same time צבי in the sense of dorcas.—ואין מקבץ occurs again Nahum 3:18; Jeremiah 49:5.

On Isaiah 13:15. נמצא comp. Isaiah 22:3; Isaiah 37:4. דקר only here in Isaiah. נספה from ספה “to snatch, seize.”—רטשׁ that occurs only in Piel and Pual, is used exclusively of dashing to pieces human bodies: Hosea 10:14; Hosea 14:1; Nahum 3:10; 2 Kings 8:12; in Isa. the word occurs only here and Isaiah 13:18. שָׁסַם (kindred to שׁשׂה,שׁסה, Isaiah 10:13; Isaiah 17:14; Isaiah 42:22) only here in Isa. Comp. Zechariah 14:2.—Niph. נשׁגל (Kal. Deuteronomy 28:30; Pual Jeremiah 3:2) occurs only here and Zechariah 14.

On Isaiah 13:19. צבי comp. on Isaiah 4:2, where also Isaiah has גאון and תפארת though not in a genitive relation, a combination that occurs in no other place.—כמהפכת comp. on Isaiah 1:7. The original passage is Deuteronomy 29:22. The substantive like infinitives has retained the verbal force.

On Isaiah 13:20. The intransitive use of ישׁב and שׁכן (= “to be a habitation”) occurs first in Joel 4:20. It does not occur later in Isaiah; whereas in Jeremiah it is frequent ( Jeremiah 17:6; Jeremiah 17:25; Jeremiah 30:18; Jeremiah 46:26; Jeremiah 50:13; Jeremiah 50:39): in Ezekiel 29:11 also, and in Zechariah 2:8; Zechariah 9:5. The expression עד דור ודור, occurs only here in Isaiah. דּוֹר occurs in various connections, Isaiah 34:10; Isaiah 34:17; Isaiah 51:8; Isaiah 58:12; Isaiah 60:15; Isaiah 61:4.—עֲרָבִי. So still Jeremiah 3:2; comp. Jeremiah 25:24, otherwise in later books עַרְבִי 2 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Chronicles 22:1; Nehemiah 2:19; Nehemiah 4:1; Nehemiah 6:1. Because of the following רֹעִים, this cannot be understood to mean nomadic shepherds in general. But the word signifies the Arabian proper, because in fact “Babylon lay near enough to Arabia for Arabians proper to come thither with their flocks” (Gesenius).—יַהֵל for יְאַהֵל, like מַלְּפֵנוּ Job 35:11, for מְאַלְּפֵנוּ. The form occurs only here The verb אָהַל (Kal. Genesis 13:12; Genesis 13:18) is denominativum.—הִרְבִּיץ is to make רֵבֶץ: thus it is direct causative. Hiph. ( Isaiah 54:11).

On Isaiah 13:21. צִיִּים (from צִי unused, from which צִיָּה terra arida) are dwellers in the desert; whether men or beasts is undetermined. Yet analogy favors the latter; for in what follows only beasts are mentioned. The word occurs in Isaiah again Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 34:14; comp. Jeremiah 50:39. Ewald, (Lehrb. § 146, g. Anm.) derives ציים, and איים with the meaning “criers, howlers,” from Arabic roots, as it seems to me, without necessity.—אחים ἅπάξ λεγ. The LXX, evidently following a kindred sound, translate καὶ πλησθήσονται οἰκίαι ἤχου. But the parallelism demands rather some species of beast. Jerome translates dracones. Aurivillius proposed first ulula, “owls,” “horn owls.”—בַּת יַעֲנָה ( Leviticus 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15) is “the ostrich.” The masculine form יְעֵנִים found only Lamentations 4:3. According to some, the name means “the mourning daughter of the desert,” (Meier, Wurzelw. p49); according to others, the word is related to the Syr. jaeno, “greedy, ravenous.” The feminine designation has essentially a poetic reason, comp. בַּת גְּדוּד, Micah 4:14 with בְּנֵי גְּדוּד 2 Chronicles 25:13. בַּת־אֲשׁוּרִים,בַּת־עַיִן ( Ezekiel 27:6). The word occurs in Isaiah again Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20; comp. Jeremiah 50:39; Micah 1:8; Job 30:20.—שּׂעירים are hirsuti, pilosi, “goats,” i.e., goat-shaped demons.—רִקֵּד Piel only here in Isaiah; comp. Job 21:11; Joel 2:5; Nahum 3:2.

Isaiah 13:22 אִיִּיב are “jackals.” The singular אִי seems abbreviated from אֱוִי from an unused אָוָה, ululavit. In Arabic the jackal still is called ibn-awa. The word is found only here and Isaiah 34:14, and Jeremiah 50:39.—אלמנות only here for ארמנות (perhaps with reference to their widowhood). Comp. Isaiah 23:13; Isaiah 25:2; Isaiah 32:14; Isaiah 34:13.—תַּנִּים are also “jackals” (comp. Gesen. Thesaur. p39, 1457; 1511). The word in Isaiah again Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 35:7; Isaiah 43:20.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

1. The Prophet turns from the universal judgment that comprehends all the several acts of judgment against the world-power from first to last, to portray the special judgment to be accomplished on Babylon as the climax of the world-power in its first stage, or as the head of the first world-monarchy. He begins by describing the flight out of the world’s metropolis of men that had flowed thither out of all lands ( Isaiah 13:14). This flight has sufficient cause—for whoever is taken perishes ( Isaiah 13:15). Children are dashed in pieces, houses plundered, women ravished ( Isaiah 13:16). The Lord particularly names the people charged with executing the judgment: they are the Medes, a people that do not regard silver and gold ( Isaiah 13:17), but also as little the children, and even the fruit of the womb ( Isaiah 13:18). Then shall Babylon, hitherto the ornament and crown of the Chaldean kingdom, be overthrown like Sodom and Gomorrah ( Isaiah 13:19). It will come to be a dwelling-place for men ( Isaiah 13:20). Only beasts of the desert and dismal hobgoblins shall revel in the spots where once luxury reigned,—and in fact the time of the judgment is near, and a respite not to be hoped for.

2. And it shall be—ravished.

Isaiah 13:14-16. It is said that rats forsake a vessel that is going to be shipwrecked. When ruin impends over a community, whoever is not bound to it by ties of piety or of possession flees out of it. Thus first of all the foreigners flee. The crowd of such in Babylon will scatter like scared gazelles, like a herd panic-stricken. Babylon was the world’s capital, and consequently a resort for people of all nations. All these, therefore, will seek safety in flight. The words: “every man—own land” are found word for word in Jeremiah 50:16 (comp. Jeremiah 46:16; Jeremiah 51:9; Jeremiah 51:44). A comparison with the context proves that these words are original with Isaiah. With Isaiah the thought is the natural consequence of the preceding image of the frightened gazelles and sheep. In Jeremiah we read: “Cut off the sower from Babylon, and him that handleth the sickle in the time of harvest.” To these words the thought: “they shall turn every one to his people,” would be joined on without natural connection, did not the inserted: “for fear of the oppressing sword,” (artfully) bridge over the gap.

3. Behold, I will stir up—not spare children.

Isaiah 13:17-18. The Prophet proceeds artistically from the general to the particular. First he describes quite in general the vast, I might say the cosmical, apparatus of war that the Lord sets in motion. To Isaiah 13:14 the earth in general seems to be the objective point of this military expedition. And it Isaiah, too, only not all at once. For, from the description immediately following, taken with the totality of eschatological imagery that prophecy offers, it appears that that general prophecy is realized only by degrees. From Isaiah 13:14 on we notice that a great centre of the world-power is the object of the execution. At Isaiah 13:17 we are made aware who are to be the executors, but still are in ignorance against whom they are to turn. Not till Isaiah 13:19 is Babylon named. Of course the superscription, Isaiah 13:1, is not to be urged against this statement of the order of thought.

The Medes are first named Genesis 10:2; but after that the present is the next mention; afterwards Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 25:25; Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28; 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11. Not till the books of Daniel and Ezra are they mentioned often. In Genesis 10:2 they are named as descendants of Japheth. This corresponds accurately with their Arian derivation. Herodotus ( Genesis 7:62), who unhistorically derives the name Μῆδοι from Medea, says that from ancient times they were named generally Arians. Medea was bounded on the East by Parthia and Hyrcania, on the South by Susiana and Persis, on the West by Armenia and Assyria, and on the North by the Caspian Sea. Comp. Lassen and Spiegel,Keilinschriften;Arnold in Herzog’sReal-Encycl. IX:231 sq. It must be particularly noted here that Isaiah makes the Medes and not the Persians the executors of judgment on Babylon. Jeremiah also, who relies on Isaiah’s prophecies against Babylon, does this ( Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28). In my work: “The Prophet Jeremiah and Babylon” I have pointed out what a strong proof lies in this fact against the view that the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah against Babylon were composed during the exile. Verily, in the time of the exile, and after the event, no one forging a prophecy against Babylon that would pretend to credibility, would have named the Medes as its destroyer. Any forger must have named the Persians. But if, about the time when the Medes in a mighty uprising freed themselves from the bondage of five centuries to the Assyrians, the Prophet of Jehovah sees in this nation instantly the future conquerors of Babylon, there is a prophetic look which, justified by the present, loses none of its correctness, because, in fact, not the Medes alone, but the Medo-Persians, accomplished the deed that was predicted. When Isaiah 21:2 names the Elamites along with the Medes, it does not militate against what has just been said. For the Elamites are not identical with the Persians. See on Isaiah 21:2. And when, too, in Greek writers, the Persians often appear under the name “Medes” (comp. πόλεμος μηδικός, στράτευμα μηδικόν, μηδίζειν, Vitringain loc.), still it does not happen exclusively, but so that the Persians are named along with them, and for a special reason, viz., because the Medes were recognized as the ἀρχηγέται by the Greeks. In short, with the Greeks that designation proceeds from exact knowledge. In Isaiah and Jeremiah, the way in which the Medes are mentioned makes the impression that of the Persians they knew nothing, and of the Medes not much.

By saying that the Medes regard not silver and gold, the Prophet would intimate that they are impelled by higher motives than common love of booty. What those higher motives may be, he does not say. They might have their reason in a thirst for revenge (Delitzsch); but they might also have their source in an impulse to fulfil some mission of which they were unconscious. At all events, it is strange that Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28 sq, where he mentions the Medes, gives prominence both times to this thought. For he says there: “The Lord hath raised up (הֵעִיר as in our ver. מֵעיר) the spirits of the kings of the Medes; for his device is against Babylon to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the Lord, the vengeance of His temple.” And thus, too, Jeremiah 51:29 : “for every purpose of the Lord shall be performed against Babylon.” Bows shall dash the young men to pieces ( Isaiah 13:18)!—An extraordinary expression. One might suppose that רטשׁ means here simply to cast down, to strike to the ground, were it not (comp. on Isaiah 13:16 Text. and Gram.) that Piel and Pual of רטשׁ are constantly used of dashing to pieces human bodies. But in view of this, and moreover that bows and not the bowmen are named, one must understand an effect of crowds is meant, and an indirect dashing to pieces by precipitating those struck, say from the walls. Besides the Medes, Elamites, Persians, and later the Parthians, were celebrated in all antiquity as bowmen. Comp. Isaiah 22:6; Jeremiah 49:35; Herod7, 61sq; Cyrop. II:1, 6 sq. The fruit of the womb being named along with children, makes it likely that children unborn are meant. Comp. 2 Kings 8:12; 2 Kings 15:16; Hosea 14:1; Amos 1:13. Their eye shall not spare.—By synecdoche the eye that expresses pity is taken for the efficient source. The expression is from the Pentateuch ( Genesis 45:20; Deuteronomy 7:16; Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 19:21 and often; Ezra 5:11 and often).

4. And Babylon—not be prolonged.

Isaiah 13:19-22. The entire first half of Isaiah 13:20 occurs as a quotation, Jeremiah 50:39. Babylon shall be uninhabited forever. It shall not even be used as a temporary stopping place. Not even the nomadic Arabian, nor a wandering shepherd of another race, shall camp there and rest his flocks. Goats = “satyrs.” Perhaps here is the source of that representation of the devil as a being furnished with horns and goat’s feet. Comp. Geseniusin loc.

When the Prophet at the last declares the judgment on Babylon to be near, that is only in consequence of his having said generally ( Isaiah 13:6; Isaiah 13:9) that the day of the Lord is at hand. Moreover the notion “near” is a relative one. Here also from the Prophetic view-point that is represented as near, which, according to common human reckoning, is still far off. As regards the fulfilment of this prophecy, it is sufficiently proved that it has been accomplished, not at once, but gradually in the course of the centuries. We have thus here again an example of that prophetic gaze which, as it were, sees in one plain what in reality is extended through many successive stages of time. Comp. what Vitringa has compiled on this subject with great learning, under the title, “Implementum prophetiae literale;”Gesenius and Delitzsch in their commentaries; my work: “Der Prophet Jeremia und Babylon.” p135 sq.; and especially Ritter,Erdkunde XI. p865 sq.; “Die Ruinengruppe des alten Babylon.”Ritter describes the impression made by the vast extent of Babylon’s ruins: “When one mounts one of these elevations, he beholds in the external, solemn stillness of this world of ruins the bright mirror of the Euphrates flowing far away, that wanders full of majesty through that solitude like a royal pilgrim roaming amid the silent ruins of his desolated kingdom.”

[J. A. Alexander on Isaiah 13:20-21. “The endless discussions as to the identity of the species of animals here named, however laudable as tending to promote exact lexicography and natural history, have little or no bearing on the interpretation of the passage. Nothing more will be here attempted than to settle one or two points of comparative importance. Many interpreters regard the whole verse as an enumeration of particular animals. This has arisen from the assumption of a perfect parallelism in the clause. It is altogether natural, however, to suppose that the writer would first make use of general expressions, and afterwards descend to particulars. This supposition is confirmed by the etymology and usage of ציים, both which determine it to mean those belonging to or dwelling in the desert. In this sense it is sometimes applied to men ( Psalm 72:9; Psalm 74:14), but as these are here excluded by the preceding verse, nothing more was needed to restrict it to wild animals, to which it is also applied in Isaiah 34:14 and Jeremiah 50:39. This is now commonly agreed to be the meaning, even by those who give to אהים a specific sense. The same writers admit that אהים properly denotes the howls or cries of certain animals, and only make it mean the animals themselves, because such are mentioned in the other clauses. But if ציים has the generic sense which all now give it, the very parallelism of the clauses favors the explanation of אחים in its original and proper sense of howls or yells, viz., those uttered by the ציים.—The history of the interpretation שׂעירים is so curious as to justify more fulness of detail than usual. It has never been disputed that its original and proper sense is hairy, and its usual specific sense Hebrews -goats. In two places ( Leviticus 17:7; 2 Chronicles 11:15) it is used to denote objects of idolatrous worship, probably images of goats, which, according to Herodotus, were worshipped in Egypt. In these places the LXX. render it ματαίοις, vain things, i.e., false gods. But the Targum on Leviticus explains it to mean demons (שׁדין), and the same interpretation is given in the case before us by the LXX. (δαιμόνια), Targum and Peshito. The Vulg. in Lev. translates the word daemonibus, but here pilosi. The interpretation given by the other three versions is adopted also by the Rabbins, Aben Ezra, Jarchi, Kimchi,etc. It appears likewise in the Talmud and early Jewish books. From this traditional interpretation of שׂעירים here and Isaiah 34:14 appears to have arisen, at an early period, a popular belief among the Jews that demons or evil spirits were accustomed to haunt desert places in the shape of goats or other animals. And this belief is said to be actually cherished by the natives near the site of Babylon at the present day. Let us now compare this Jewish exposition of the passage with its treatment among Christians. To Jerome the combination of the two meanings—goats and demons—seems to have suggested the Pans, Fauns and Satyrs of the classical mythology, imaginary beings represented as a mixture of the human form with that of goats, and supposed to frequent forests and other lonely places. This idea is carried out by Calvin, who adopts the word satyri in his version, and explains the passage as relating to actual appearances of Satan under such disguises. Luther, in like manner, renders it Feldgeister.Vitringa takes another step, and understands the language as a mere concession or allusion to the popular belief, equivalent to saying, the solitude of Babylon shall be as awful as if occupied by Fauns and Satyrs—there if anywhere such beings may be looked for. Forerius and J. D. Michaelis understand the animals themselves to be here meant. The latter uses in his version the word Waldteufel (wood-devils, forest-demons), but is careful to apprise the reader in a note that it is the German name for a species of ape or monkey, and that the Hebrew contains no allusion to the devil. The same word is used by Gesenius and others in its proper sense. Saadias, Cocceius, Clericus and Henderson return to the original meaning of the Hebrew word—viz.: wild goats. But the great majority of modern writers tenaciously adhere to the old tradition. This is done, not only by the German neologists, who lose no opportunity of finding a mythology in Scripture, but by Lowth, Barnes, and Stuart in his exposition of Revelation 11:12 and his Excursus on the Angelology of Scripture (Apocal. II:403).

The result apppears to be, that if the question is determined by tradition and authority, שׂעירים denotes demons; if by the context and the usage of the word, it signifies wild goats, or more generically hairy, shaggy animals. According to the principles of modern exegesis, the latter is clearly entitled to the preference. But even if the former be adopted, the language of the text should be regarded, not as ‘a touch from the popular pneumatology’ (as Revelation 18:2 is described by Stuartin loc.), but as the prediction of a real fact, which, though it should not be assumed without necessity, is altogether possible, and therefore, if alleged in Scripture, altogether credible.”

Ib. Isaiah 13:22. As איים, according to its etymology, denotes an animal remarkable for its cry, it might be rendered hyenas, thereby avoiding the improbable assumption that precisely the same animal is mentioned in both clauses.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. On Isaiah 13:2-13. The prophecy concerning the day of the Lord has its history. It appears first in the form of the announcement of a scourge of locusts (Joel); then it becomes an announcement of human war-expeditions and sieges of cities. Finally it becomes a message that proclaims the destruction of the earth and of its companions in space. But from the first onward, the last particular is not wanting: only at first it appears faintly. In Joel 2:10, one does not know whether the discourse is concerning an obscuration of the heavenly bodies occasioned only by the grasshoppers or by higher powers. But soon ( Joel 3:4; Joel 3:20) this particular comes out more definitely. In the present passage of Isaiah it presses to the foreground. In the New Testament ( Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:24 sq.; Luke 21:25) it takes the first and central place. We observe clearly that the judgment on the world is accomplished in many Acts, and is yet one whole; and as on the other hand nature, too, is itself one whole, Song of Solomon, according to the saying: “whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it” ( 1 Corinthians 12:26), the catastrophes on earth have their echo in the regions above earth.

2. On Isaiah 13:4 sqq. “God cannot do otherwise than punish accumulated wickedness. But He overthrows violence and crime, and metes out to tyrants the measure they have given to others, for He gives to them a master that the heathen shall know that they too are men ( Psalm 9:21; Psalm 11:5).”—Cramer.

[On13 Isaiah 13:3. “It cannot be supposed that the Medes and Persians really exulted, or rejoiced in God or in His plans.—But they would exult as if it were their own plan, though it would be really the glorious plan of God. Wicked, men often exult in their success: they glory in the execution of their purposes; but they are really accomplishing the plans of God, and executing His great designs.”—Barnes.]

[On Isaiah 13:9. “The moral causes of the ruin threatened are significantly intimated by the Prophet’s calling the people of the earth or land its sinners. As the national offences here referred to, Vitringa enumerates pride ( Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 47:7-8), idolatry ( Jeremiah 50:38), tyranny in general ( Isaiah 14:12; Isaiah 14:17), and oppression of God’s people in particular ( Isaiah 47:6).”—J. A. Alexander.]

3. On Isaiah 13:19 sqq. Imperiti animi, etc. “Unlearned minds when they happen on allegories, can hold no certain sense of Scripture. And unless this Papal business had kept me to the simple text of the Bible, I had become an idle trifler in allegories like Jerome and Origen. For that figurative speech has certain allurements by which minds seek to dispose of difficulties. … The true allegory of this passage is concerning the victory of conscience over death. For, the law is Cyrus, the Turk, the cruel and mighty enemy that rises up against the proud conscience of justitiaries who confide in their own merits. These are the real Babylon, and this is the glory of Babylon, that it walks in the confidence of its own works. When, therefore, the law comes and occupies the heart with its terrors, it condemns all our works in which we have trusted, as polluted and very dung. Once the law has laid bare this filthiness of our hearts and works, there follows confusion, writhing, and pains of parturition; men become ashamed, and that confidence of works ceases and they do those things which we see now-a-days: he that heretofore has lived by confidence of righteousnesss in a monastery, deserts the monkish life, casts away to ashes all glory of works, and looks to the gratuitous righteousness and merit of Christ, and that is the desolation of Babylon. The ostriches and hairy creatures that remain are Eck, Cochleus and others, who do not pertain to that part of law. They screech, they do not speak with human voice, they are unable to arouse and console any afflicted conscience with their doctrine. My allegories, which I approve, are of this sort, viz., which shadow forth the nature of law and gospel.” Luther.

4. On Isaiah 13:21 sqq. “There the Holy Spirit paints for thee the house of thy heart as a deserted, desolate Babylon, as a loathsome cesspool, and devil’s hole, full of thorns, nettles, thistles, dragons, spukes, kobolds, maggots, owls, porcupines, etc., all of which is nothing else than the thousandfold devastation of thy nature, in as much as into every heart the kingdom of Satan, and all his properties have pressed in, and all and every sin, as a fascinating serpent-brood, have been sown and sunk into each one, although not all sins together become evident and actual in every one’s outward life.”—Joh. Arndt’s Informatorium biblicum, § 7.

5. On Isaiah 14:1-2. “Although it seems to me to be just impossible that I could be delivered from death or sin, yet it will come to pass through Christ. For God here gives us an example; He will not forsake His saints though they were in the midst of Babylon.”—Heim and Hoffmann after Luther.

6. On Isaiah 14:4 sqq. “Magna imperia fere nihil sunt quam magnae injuriae.

Ad generum Cereris sine caede et sanguine pauci

Descendunt reges et sicca mente tyranni.—Luther.

Impune quidvis facere id est regem esse.”—Sallust.

Among the Dialogi mortuorum of Lucian of Samosata the thirteenth is between Diogenes and Alexander the Great. This dialogue begins with the words: “Τί τοῦτο, Ἀλέξανδρε, τέθνηκας καὶ σὺ, ὥσπερ ἡμεῖσ ἅπαντες;” thereupon the contrast is ironically set forth between what Alexander was, as one given out to be a son of the gods, and so recognized by men, and possessor of all highest human glories, and what he is at present. It Isaiah, as is well known, doubtful whether Lucian really was acquainted with the Scriptures. See Planck, Lucian and Christianity in Stud. u. Krit., 1851, IV. p826 sqq. Comp. also Schrader, die Höllenfahrt der Istar, 1874.

7. On Isaiah 14:4 sqq. ”Omni genera figurarum utitur ad confirmandos et consolandos suos, ut simul sit conjuncta summa theologia cum summa rhetorica.”—Luther.

8. On Isaiah 14:12 sqq. As early as the LXX. this passage seems to have been understood of Satan. It points that way that they change the second person into the third; πῶς ἐξέπεσεν, etc. At least they were so understood. See Jerome, who thereby makes the fine remark: “Unde ille cecidit per superbiam, vos ascendatis per humilitatem.” But Luther says: “Debet nobis insignis error totius papatus, qui hunc textum de casu angelorum accepit, studia literarum et artium deccndi commendare tamquam res theologo maxime necessarias ad tractationem sacrarum literarum.”

9. On Isaiah 14:13-14. “The Assyrian monarch was a thorough Eastern despot … rather adored as a god than feared as a man.” Layard’s Discoveries amongst the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, 1853, New York, p632. “In the heathen period the pre-eminence of the German kings depended on their descent from the gods, as among the Greeks” (Gervinus, Einleit. in d. Gesch. d. 19 Iahrh., 1853, p14). Christian Thomasius, in his Instit. jurispr. divinae, dissert. proœmialis, p16, calls the princes “the Gods on earth.” In a letter from Luxemburg, after the departure of the Emperor Joseph II, it is said (in a description of the journey, of which a sheet lies before me): “we have had the good fortune to see our earthly god.” Belani, Russian Court Narratives, New Series, III. Vol, p. Isaiah 125: “The Russian historian Korampzin says in the section where he describes the Russian self-rule: “The Autocrat became an earthly god for the Russians, who set the whole world in astonishment by a submissiveness to the will of their monarch which transcends all bounds.”

Footnotes:

FN#11 - a flock that no one collects.

FN#12 - is caught.

FN#13 - Heb. the overthrowing.

FN#14 - Heb. Ziim.

FN#15 - Heb. Ochim.

FN#16 - horned owls, or, yells.

FN#17 - Or, ostriches.

FN#18 - Heb. daughters of the owl.

FN#19 - Heb. Iim.

FN#20 - Or, palaces.

 


Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/isaiah-13.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
ADVERTISEMENT
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
ADVERTISEMENT
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology