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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Isaiah 14

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XIV.

God's merciful restoration of Israel: their triumph in the fall of the king of Babylon. God's purpose against Assyria. Palestine is threatened.

Before Christ 712.


Verse 1

Isaiah 14:1. For the Lord will have mercy The prophet here continues his discourse concerning Babylon, wherein we have a continuation of the prophesy concerning the fall of the Babylonish empire and its rulers, Isaiah 14:1-23 and a prophesy interwoven, concerning the great slaughter which the king of Assyria should meet with on the mountains of Israel; Isaiah 14:24-27 the former part describes, first, the fruit or consequence of the fall of Babylon; that is to say, the perfect deliverance of the people of God; Isaiah 14:1-3 and secondly, continues the prediction concerning the fall of the Babylonish kings, Isaiah 14:4-20 and the destruction of Babylon, Isaiah 14:21-23. This chapter is not only connected with that preceding by the particle for, but by the argument in the last clause; her time is near to come, &c. A reason, therefore, is here given, not only for the fall of Babylon, but also for the speedy approach of that fall, which was not to be delayed, because the deliverance of the church, determined by God, depended upon it. These verses exhibit to us as well the antecedent as the consequent blessings to be conferred upon the people of God after the fall of Babylon; which the prophet piously considers in their cause; namely, the mercy of JEHOVAH. The antecedent benefits are three; 1. The choosing of the house of Jacob. 2. The placing of them in their own land. 3. Rest from grief, fear, and the hard bondage of former times (Isaiah 14:3.). The consequent benefits are also threefold: 1st, the joining of proselytes to the people of God, by the communion of the same religion, Isaiah 14:1. 2nd, The offices of humanity, charity, and benevolence, to be shewn them by certain people, who should bring them to their own place, Isaiah 14:2. 3rdly, The hereditary possession of many nations who had vexed them, joined with dominion over them, Isaiah 14:2. There can be no doubt that this prophesy refers to the restoration of the Jews after the Babylonish captivity; but as that restoration was figurative of their great and future one under the Gospel, these words, most likely, have a remote reference hereto. See Romans 15:27.


Verses 4-7

Isaiah 14:4-7. Thou shalt take up this proverb The latter member of this discourse is employed in a figurative enarration of the fall of the kings of Babylon, Isaiah 14:4-21 and of Babylon itself, Isaiah 14:22-23. The prophet introduces his prediction concerning the fall of the kings of Babylon by a poetic or dramatic song, in which the church congratulates herself and all other people on this event: in this song he elegantly represents, as in a scene, various persons speaking; as, first, the church, or people of God, Isaiah 14:4-7 secondly, the cedars of Lebanon, Isaiah 14:8 thirdly, the spirits of departed kings and princes, Isaiah 14:9-11 and fourthly, the church again, which closes the scene. Bishop Lowth observes, in his 17th Prelection, that the prophet, after having described the deliverance of the Israelites from their Babylonish slavery, and their return to their own country, introduces them on a sudden, as singing a triumphal ode upon the fall of the Babylonish monarch; which abounds with the most splendid images, and is carried on by a succession of prosopopoeias, the most beautiful of their kind. The poem opens with a sudden exclamation of the Jews, expressing their joy and admiration on the unexpected vicissitude of their affairs, and the death of the tyrant: the earth itself, and its productions, join in the triumph; the fir-trees and cedars of Lebanon (under which images are represented kings and princes in the ancient hieroglyphics, and in the parabolical style) exult with joy, and insult the declining power of this cruel enemy, Isaiah 14:7-8. After this follows a very bold figure, or prosopopoeia, in which hell, or the infernal regions, are represented under the image of a person rousing the spirits of the princes and kings, its inhabitants; who immediately arise from their thrones, and go to meet the king of Babylon: as he approaches them, they insult and deride him, and seek for solace in his calamity, Isaiah 14:9-11. Nothing can be more awful and tremendous than the images in these verses. All the descriptions of the state of the dead in the Jewish rabbins seem to be drawn from their graves; (concerning which see the note on ch. Isaiah 5:11-14.) the sides of those subterraneous caverns were cut into separate cells, which were adorned with carvings, and appropriated to the reception of a single body. Let us imagine then that we behold one of these vast, dreary, sepulchral caves, in which the

Gentile kings are deposited in their respective cells, with their arms placed under their heads, and their attendants lying near them,—for it was a Jewish opinion, that the whole armies or those nations which were destroyed, descended into the regions of the dead together.—Lo! the king of Babylon is introduced: they all rise from their thrones, go to meet him, and as he advances thus address him, Art thou become weak as we are? art thou become like unto us?—But no words, except those of his own, can express the sublimity of the prophet's ideas. After this the Jews are introduced as speaking again; and in an exclamation, agreeable to the funeral rites of the ancients, with great elegance aggravate the misery of his fall, Isaiah 14:12. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! Lucifer is said to set before the morning-star rises; and it is observable, that the Hebrew שׁחר shachar, does not signify morning or daylight, but the twilight which precedes the appearance of the morning-star. See ch. Isaiah 13:10. They then introduced this fallen Lucifer, this king of Babylon, as speaking in his own person, and, by his mad boasting of his invincible power, still heightening the greatness of his fall. I will exalt myself says he, above the stars of God, above all other princes; I will sit upon the mount of the congregation, &c. Isaiah 14:13-14. That is, "I will sit triumphant in the temple of the God of Israel himself, which was built on mount Moriah, and on the north side of Jerusalem." But, as if this was not sufficient, other speakers are brought in: some persons are introduced, who find the carcase of the Babylonish king, and, after viewing him with the greatest attention, scarcely know him again, Isaiah 14:15-17. They then reproach him with having the common rites of burial denied him on account of his cruelty and barbarity, and execrate both his name, race, and posterity, Isaiah 14:18-21. The whole is concluded with an awful and tremendous speech from God himself, wherein he threatens perpetual excision and destruction to the king of Babylon, his posterity, and the city itself, and confirms this denunciation, as irrevocable and immutable, by the solemn sanction of an oath. Vitringa renders the 21st verse, Prepare slaughter unto his children for the iniquity of their fathers: Let them not rise up to possess the land, that enemies should fill the face of the world. The meaning is, "Take care, lest if you spare his children, they raise themselves again, and obtain possession of the land, filling the world with enemies, prepared to avenge their father's injuries, and to spread around all kinds of confusion." See Bishop Lowth's Prelections.


Verse 22-23

Isaiah 14:22-23. For I will rise, &c. Thus the prophet ends this remarkable song, and again informs us, what he had set forth in the first part of this prophesy, that the judgment should not rest in the royal house, but should pass to all the other inhabitants of Babylon; who should also be wholly cut off; and the city itself entirely wasted and destroyed. See the note on chap. Isaiah 13:19-22. It is remarkable, that the river Euphrates having been turned out of its course by Cyrus when he took Babylon, and never afterwards restored to its former channel, all that side of the country was flooded by it, and thence becoming boggy and marshy, this prophesy was literally fulfilled, though it was delivered by Isaiah one hundred and sixty years before, and at a time when Babylon was one of the greatest and most flourishing cities in the world: so eminently was that strong and sublime expression verified, I will sweep it with the besom of destruction. See Vitringa, and Newton on the Prophesies.


Verses 24-27

Isaiah 14:24-27. The Lord of Hosts hath sworn This period, though of a peculiar and different, is not of a totally foreign argument: it contains the epilogue and conclusion of the foregoing prophesy. As what the prophet foretold concerning the destruction of Babylon might justly seem great beyond expectation, he was desirous that the truth of the prediction should be collected from another remarkable and not dissimilar divine judgment, which should precede the completion of this prophesy; namely, the wonderful slaughter which the king of Assyria should meet with in Canaan itself, as an example of the divine indignation, and a pledge of the truth of similar predictions, denouncing the destruction of the enemies of the people of God. This is the scope and sense of the present period; which moreover contains a preface or introduction to the divine oath, and the subject matter of that oath; Isaiah 14:24-25 together with the basis and foundation of it, the divine purpose and power; Isaiah 14:26-27. And no one can doubt of the completion of this prophesy, who reads the account of the destruction of Sennacherib's army. See chap. 36: and 37: Vitringa has annexed to his explanation of the letter of this prophesy, an account of the mystical sense of it; which he considers as referring to the spiritual Babylon or papal power. See 2 Thessalonians 2:4 and the book of Revelation.


Verse 28

Isaiah 14:28. In the year that king Ahaz died, was this burden We have here the second sermon of this second book; in which the prophet denounces judgment against the Philistines, exulting in the prosperous state of their affairs under the reign of Ahaz, and conceiving, on the death of that king, when this prophesy was delivered, still greater hopes of increasing prosperity; and foretels the grievous calamities they should suffer, as well from the son of Ahaz, as from the Assyrians; thus humbling their pride and boasting, and encouraging the pious and afflicted Jews with the hope of better times. This discourse consists of an inscription in this verse, and of the body of the prophesy, Isaiah 14:29-32.: in the former member whereof the prophet dehorts the Philistines from vain and empty boasting, a proof of their approaching calamity; the consequence of which would be joyful to the pious and afflicted; Isaiah 14:29-30. In the latter member he recommends to them mourning for a similar reason, and unfolds the new judgment which should complete the preceding one, with the hope of the pious; Isaiah 14:31-32. Concerning the subject and the time of this prophesy there can be no doubt, as they are both set forth by the prophet. Respecting its completion we shall speak in the subsequent notes. See Vitringa, and the Universal History, vol. 2: p. 217.


Verse 29

Isaiah 14:29. Rejoice not, &c.— This prophesy against the Philistines is conceived in a form familiar with Isaiah and the other prophets, of an immediate address to them, wherein they are admonished to refrain from joy either on account of the death of Ahaz, which might seem advantageous to the state of their affairs, or on account of the power of the Jewish kingdom's being weakened under Ahaz; by a reason drawn from the quality of his successor, who should strenuously vindicate the injuries brought by them upon the Jewish nation under Ahaz, and should repress their ferocity and pride. This appellation may be divided into three parts: first, the proposition, in which they are exhorted to receive modestly the news of the death of Ahaz; Isaiah 14:29.; secondly, the reason of the proposition, taken from the quality of the successor who should punish them; Isaiah 14:29.; thirdly, the consequence of their punishment, the security of the husbandman and the inhabitants of Judaea; Isaiah 14:30. Vitringa renders properly the first part of the 29th verse, Rejoice not all of thee, O Palestine, because the rod smiting thee is broken. Palestine was a southern and maritime tract of the land of Canaan, abounding with many noble cities, and among others inhabited by the Philistines. Foreign writers frequently call Judaea in general by this name. By the cockatrice it is agreed that Hezekiah is meant, who verified this prediction; For he smote the Philistines even unto Gaza, and the borders thereof, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. See 2 Kings 18:8 and Vitringa.


Verse 30

Isaiah 14:30. And the first-born of the poor In these words we have the consequence of the destruction of the Philistines to be effected by Hezekiah, and a more distinct declaration of the judgment itself. The consequence was to be the secure and peaceful habitation of Judah, in those parts especially which had been long exposed to the incursions and depredations of this hostile nation; and for this very reason the prophet calls these inhabitants of Judaea poor and needy; denoting the husbandmen, under the reign of Ahaz, exhausted and reduced to the greatest distress, as God, under that impious prince, had delivered them up to desolation. 2 Chronicles 30:7. But, every where emphatical in his expressions, the prophet calls them the first-born of the poor; that is to say, the very poorest. So in Job, the first-born of death, is the most violent and terrible of deaths, chap. Job 18:13. Some think, that by the root and the remnant are meant the nobles and the vulgar. Vitringa is of opinion, that the two words mean the same thing; as a root, when the branches are cut off, is that alone which remains of the tree; and that the prophet alludes to the weakening of the Philistines by the Assyrians, and the cutting off the remnant of them by Hezekiah. See Isaiah 14:22 and 2 Chronicles 32:23; 2 Chronicles 32:33 where the felicity of the reign of Hezekiah after the overthrow of the Assyrian in the land of Canaan is related. The time of this destruction of the Philistines was, according to Vitringa, after the overthrow of Sennacherib.


Verse 31-32

Isaiah 14:31-32. Howl, O gate; &c.— Howl, O gate; cry, O city; all of thee is dissolved, O Palestine; for, &c.—And there shall not be a solitary one among his legions. Vitringa: see also Bishop Lowth. In this latter part, a new calamity is denounced upon Palestine, to be brought upon it by the Assyrians; and in the 32nd verse, the cause is explained why the Jews should be exempted from that calamity. The prophet sees as it were a thick cloud coming from the north, darkening the heaven, an emblem of the numerous army coming from that quarter against Palestine. Now he sees the messengers of this nation, as in a common danger, going to the king of Judaea, and deliberating concerning the common safety. While he beholds the first, he turns his discourse to one of the cities of the Philistines, which was most remarkable, and excites them to lamentation for this or for a new calamity; at the same time teaching the Jews what answer they should give the messengers of that nation upon this occasion. See Jeremiah 47:2 and Vitringa.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, It was peculiarly for Zion's sake that God visited her oppressors, both to avenge her quarrel, and by their ruin to procure the liberty of the people, whom Cyrus, on his conquest of Babylon, sent back to their own land.

1. God encourages his people with promises of mercy in general, that they might not think, because of their sufferings, that they were utterly rejected.

2. He engages, in particular, to bring them once more into their own land; to increase their number by faithful proselytes, to open the hearts of Cyrus and his subjects to help them on their journey, see Ezra 1:4 and to give them servants and handmaids out of the land of their captivity. Thus God having restored them with honour, and replenished them, they would no longer be under servitude, distressed and sorrowful, but enjoy a happy rest in the fertile land of Canaan. And this seems to look forward to the times of the Gospel, when, through the preaching of Jesus and his apostles, multitudes of Jews and Gentiles should be converted and brought home to the church, the land of the Lord, and lead their captivity captive; no more the servants of corruption, or distressed with terrifying and guilty fears; but entering into pardon, peace, and rest, through Jesus, here below, as an earnest of that eternal rest which remaineth for the faithful above.

2nd, The triumphs of God's people, and the wretchedness to which their conquerors shall be reduced, are here most elegantly displayed. The description is called a proverb, a taunting speech, full of sarcasm and irony.

1. With admiration and exultation the people of God behold the fall of Babylon, the golden city, full of splendor; and also of her oppressive king. For his wickedness, cruelty, and tyranny, God had broken his sceptre, and hurled him from his throne, overtaken by just judgment, and none either able or willing to deliver him. Note; (1.) Riches profit not in a day of wrath. (2.) When God in his determined justice seizes the sinner, none can stay his righteous vengeance, or deliver out of his hand.

2. The fall of this oppressive power would be the peace and joy of the nations of the earth. Their troubler removed, quietness would be restored, and with gladness the people would celebrate their deliverance. The very firs and cedars are represented as rejoicing, since now no feller would hew them down, to build gorgeous palaces for these proud monarchs. Or rather, the kings and princes of the earth, hereby represented, are happy to be delivered from the bondage and fears under which they groaned during the tyrannic sway of Babylon's monarchs. Note; Peace and quietness in a nation is matter of great thankfulness.

3. Whilst earth rejoices in being rid of such a burden, those who are in hell, or the state of the dead, are represented as welcoming the king of Babylon with sarcastic taunts to their dark abode. They are all in motion, hasting to congratulate him on his arrival. It stirreth up the dead, Rephaim, the giants, the chief ones of the earth: these, informed of his approach, are represented as going to meet him; and the kings of the nations, as rising from their thrones, in derision to pay him that homage which in his lifetime they had been obliged to render. These all with affected wonder shall say, Art thou also become weak as we! a boasted god, but found, like us, a dying worm. How short-lived is thy glory! how despicable thy end! Thy pomp is faded in the dust, thy music lost in groans, and thy gorgeous body, once clothed in purple and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every day, is now loathsome in corruption, and meat for worms. How wondrous the change! How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! proud as the prince of darkness, like him once shining as the morning-star, and in glory exalted high as heaven, but now cut down even to the ground, low as the nations thou hast wasted. How vain thy former pride and boast! nothing once seemed too high for thy aspiring ambition: thou hast said, I will establish a monarchy as wide as the heavens, bring suppliant kings to the footstool of my throne, and sit as conqueror on Zion's holy mount; yea, not content with earthly dignity, affecting divine honours, as if thou couldst ascend above the clouds, and rival the Most High. But how different thy catastrophe! brought down to hell, and numbered among the dead! Note; (1.) Pride is the bosom-sin of fallen man: since our first parents, affecting godlike wisdom, were undone, we have inherited their guilty ambition. (2.) They who go down to the grave in their iniquities, will be thrust down into hell as their eternal punishment.

4. The living can scarcely believe their own eyes, when they behold him fallen from his high estate, and weltering in his blood; so different his ghastly countenance, deformed with wounds, and pale in death, from what he once appeared; and therefore insulting over him they shall say, Is this the man, the mighty conqueror, who shook the thrones and humbled the monarchs of the earth; who by his ravages depopulated the nations, destroyed their cities, and made the world a wilderness, and whose captives groaned under a heavy yoke, without hope of being ever loosed? Yes; this is he, once higher than the highest, now more despicable than ever he was dignified. Whilst other kings in pomp are carried to the tomb, the clods of the valley made sweet unto them, and stately monuments erected over them to perpetuate their memory; destitute even of a grave, thy corpse is cast out as an abominable branch, and, like the raiment of those who are slain with the sword, clotted with blood, which none cared to touch as ceremonially unclean; trodden under foot as mire by men and horses in the battle, and afterwards cast into the pit, and covered with a heap of stones. Such shall be thy vile end, denied a place among the tombs of thy ancestors, because of thy wanton cruelty, murders, and arbitrary oppression; for this is God's righteous decree, that the seed of evil-doers shall never be renowned, or not for ever, their momentary blaze of glory being quickly extinguished, and their honour laid in the dust. Note; (1.) In the blaze of conquest we admire the hero, and are apt to overlook the murderer, the robber, and the scourge of mankind. (2.) The pomp of a gorgeous sepulchre is a poor distinction; yet, for the punishment of iniquity to be denied a grave, is a brand of real infamy. (3.) Strange changes are soon brought about when God will work; and it is a wretched greatness to be proud of, which stands in so slippery a place, and may so quickly be dashed in pieces.

5. The utter ruin of the royal family, and Babylon the seat of their majesty, is declared. The Medes and Persians are commanded to prepare slaughter for them, to visit on them the sins of their fathers, and not spare the most distant branch, but utterly extirpate the name of the Babylonish monarchs, that they may no more succeed to the throne of their ancestors, or fill the world with cities to perpetuate their same, or extend their grandeur; and their metropolis, utterly ruined, should become a marsh, and the abode of bitterns, swept with the besom of destruction, and scarce a stone left upon another: all which was literally accomplished.

The whole of this awful and terrible destruction also looks forward to the ruin of Babylon mystical, whose pride, impiety, tyranny, and cruelty, will meet with as condign punishment, and be matter of the like joy to the saints of God, as fully appears from the book of Revelations. Compare Isaiah 14:7-8 with Revelation 15:2-3; Rev_19:2-3; Rev_20:9-10 with 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8., Revelation 13:4, Revelation 20:10.; Isaiah 14:11 with Revelation 18:22.; Isaiah 14:12 with Revelation 11:7; Rev_13:7; Rev_13:15; Rev_18:21; Isaiah 14:13-14 with Revelation 18:7-8., 2 Thessalonians 2:4.; Isaiah 14:15-16 with Revelation 19:20; Isaiah 14:23 with Revelation 18:21; Revelation 18:24.

3rdly, While the more distant events of the utter destruction of Babylon, and the deliverance of God's people, are expected, an earnest of their fulfilment is given in two signal instances of a nearer date, the destruction of Sennacherib's army, and the subdual of the Philistines.

1. The Assyrians shall be broken, when invading God's land, and be trodden under foot on the mountains of Israel, who now shall be delivered from the yoke of bondage, and, with the ruin of their oppressors, regain their freedom. This work God undertakes himself to accomplish, ratified by his solemn oath. His hand is stretched out upon the mighty army of Assyria, composed of all nations brought under her tyrannic sway: or this is his purpose throughout the earth, to punish universally the persecutors of his people. And who can defeat the counsels of infinite wisdom, or oppose the arm of Omnipotence? Note; They who are the enemies of God's people will smart for it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 14:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/isaiah-14.html. 1801-1803.

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Friday, November 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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