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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 13:17

Behold, I am going to stir up the Medes against them, Who will not value silver or take pleasure in gold.
New American Standard Version
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Bible Study Resources

Nave's Topical Bible - Archery;   Cyrus;   Gold;   Money;   Persia;   The Topic Concordance - Judges;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Babylon;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Babylon;   Isaiah;   Media;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Persia;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Media;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Babel;   Cyrus;   Medes;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Isaiah;   Medes, Media;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Isaiah, Book of;   Medes, Media;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Babylon ;   Medes, Media ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Medes;   Rebels;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Babylon;   Medes;   Messiah;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Medes, Me'dia;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Division of the Earth;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Isaiah;   Medes;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Media;  
Every Day Light - Devotion for February 20;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Which shall not regard silver "Who shall hold silver of no account" - That is, who shall not be induced, by large offers of gold and silver for ransom, to spare the lives of those whom they have subdued in battle; their rage and cruelty will get the better of all such motives. We have many examples in the Iliad and in the Aeneid of addresses of the vanquished to the pity and avarice of the vanquishers, to induce them to spare their lives.

Est domus alta: jacent penitus defossa talenta

Caelati argenti: sunt auri ponders facti

Infectique mihi: non hic victoria Teucrum

Vertitur; aut anima una dalbit discrimina tanta.

Dixerat: Aeneas contra cui talia reddit:

Argenti atque auri memoras quae multa talenta

Gnatis parce tuis.

Aen. 10:526.

"High in my dome are silver talents rolled,

With piles of labored and unlaboured gold.

These, to procure my ransom, I resign;

The war depends not on a life like mine:

One, one poor life can no such difference yield,

Nor turn the mighty balance of the field.

Thy talents, (cried the prince), thy treasured store

Keep for thy sons."


It is remarkable that Xenophon makes Cyrus open a speech to his army, and in particular to the Medes, who made the principal part of it, with praising them for their disregard of riches. Ανδρες Μηδοι, και παντες οἱ παροντες, εγω ὑμας οιδα σαφως, ὁτι ουτε χρηματων δεομενοι συν εμοι εξελθετε· "Ye Medes, and others who now hear me, I well know that you have not accompanied me in this expedition with a view of acquiring wealth." - Cyrop. lib. v.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who shall not regard silver, and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. And their bows shall dash the young men in pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; and their eyes shall not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah."

This is the first specific mention of Babylon since the head of the chapter; and the mention of the Medes as the destined destroyers of Babylon must have come as a shock to that generation in which Isaiah wrote, because they were, at that time, probably the last people on earth that any human student of the current era would have chosen for such a task. Assyria was the big power when Isaiah wrote this. Babylon, which would later overthrow Assyria and take Israel captive, was, when Isaiah's prophecy was given by the Lord, no threat at all to Assyria. Here indeed is a sensational leap in predictive prophecy.

The statement in Isaiah 13:17 that the destroyers of Babylon would not regard silver or gold, "does not mean that they were a rude or barbaric people, but that they could not be bought off"[12] from their purpose of destroying Babylon.

The mention of "bows" (Isaiah 13:18) designates the chief weapon of the Medo-Persian conquest. This weapon continued to dominate ancient warfare until the deployment of the Macedonian phalanx by Alexander the Great, the chief weapon of which was the spear.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Behold, I will stir up - I will cause them to engage in this enterprise. This is an instance of the control which God claims over the nations, and of his power to excite and direct them as he pleases.

The Medes - This is one of the places in which the prophet specified, “by name,” the instrument of the wrath of God. Cyrus himself is subsequently mentioned Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1 as the agent by which God would accomplish his purposes. It is remarkable, also, that ‹the Medes‘ are mentioned here many years before they became a separate and independent nation. It was elsewhere predicted that the Medes would be employed in this siege of Babylon; thus, in Isaiah 21:2: ‹Go up, O Elam (that is, Persia), besiege, O Media;‘ Jeremiah 51:11: ‹Jehovah hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes, for his device is against Babylon to destroy it.‘ Media was a country east of Assyria, which is supposed to have been populated by the descendants of Madai, son of Japheth Genesis 10:2. Ancient Media extended on the west and south of the Caspian Sea, from Armenia, on the north, to Faristan or Persia proper, on the south.

It was one of the most fertile regions of Asia. It was an ancient kingdom. Ninus, the founder of the Assyrian monarchy, is said to have encountered one of its kings, whom he subdued, and whose province he made a part of the Assyrian empire. For 520 years, the Medes were subject to the Assyrians; but, in the time of Tiglath-pileser and Shalmaneser, they revolted, and, by the destruction of the army of Sennacherib before Jerusalem - an event which was itself subsequent to the delivery of this prophecy respecting Babylon - they were enabled to achieve their independence. At the time when this prophecy was uttered, therefore, Media was a dependent province of the kingdom of Assyria. Six years they passed in a sort of anarchy, until, about 700 years b.c., they found in Dejoces an upright statesman, who was proclaimed king by universal consent. His son and successor, Phraortes, subdued the Persians, and all upper Asia, and united them to his kingdom.

He also attacked Assyria, and laid siege to Nineveh, the capital, but was defeated. Nineveh was finally taken by his successor, Cyaxares, with the aid of his ally, the king of Babylon; and Assyria became a province of Media. This widely-extended empire was delivered by him to his son Astyages, the father of Cyrus. Astyages reigned about 35 years, and then delivered the vast kingdom to Cyrus, about 556 years b.c., under whom the prediction of Isaiah respecting Babylon was fulfilled. In this way arose the Medo-Persian kingdom, and henceforward “the laws of the Medes and Persians” are always mentioned together Esther 1:9; Esther 10:2; Daniel 6:8, Daniel 6:12. From this time, all their customs, rites, and laws, became amalgamated. - (Herod. i. 95-130). In looking at this prophecy, therefore, we are to bear in mind:

(1) the fact that, when it was uttered, Media was a dependent province of the kingdom of Assyria;

(2) that a long time was yet to elapse before it would become an independent kingdom;

(3) that it was yet to secure its independence by the aid of that very Babylon which it would finally destroy;

(4) that no human foresight could predict these revolutions, and that every circumstance conspired to render this event improbable.

The great strength and resources of Babylon; the fact that Media was a dependent province, and that such great revolutions must occur before this prophecy could be fulfilled, render this one of the most striking and remarkable predictions in the sacred volume.

Which shall not regard silver … - It is remarkable, says Lowth, that Xenophon makes Cyrus open a speech to his army, and, in particular, to the Medes, who made the principal part of it, with praising them for their disregard of riches. ‹Ye Medes and others who now hear me, I well know, that you have not accompanied me in this expedition with a view of acquiring wealth.‘ - (“Cyrop.” v.) That this was the character of the Medes, is further evident from several circumstances. ‹He reckoned, says Xenophon, that his riches belonged not anymore to himself than to his friends. So little did he regard silver, or delight in gold, that Croesus told him that, by his liberality, he would make himself poor, instead of storing up vast treasures for himself. The Medes possessed, in this respect, the spirit of their chief, of which an instance, recorded by Xenophon, is too striking and appropriate to be passed over.

When Gobryas, an Assyrian governor, whose son the king of Babylon had slain, hospitably entertained him and his army, Cyrus appealed to the chiefs of the Medes and Hyrcanians, and to the noblest and most honorable of the Persians, whether, giving first what was due to the gods, and leaving to the rest of the army their portion, they would not overmatch his generosity by ceding to him their whole share of the first and plentiful booty which they had won from the land of Babylon. Loudly applauding the proposal, they immediately and unanimously consented; and one of them said, “Gobryas may have thought us poor, because we came not loaded with coins, and drink not out of golden cups; but by this he will know, that men can be generous even without gold.”‘ (“See” Keith “On the Prophecies,” p. 198, Ed. New York, 1833.) This is a remarkable prediction, because this is a very unusual circumstance in the character of conquerors. Their purpose has been chiefly to obtain plunder, and, especially, gold and silver have been objects to them of great value. Few, indeed, have been the invading armies which were not influenced by the hope of spoil; and the want of that characteristic among the Medes is a circumstance which no human sagacity could have foreseen.

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These files are public domain.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Medes. Here only "Medes". in Isaiah 21:2, "Persians and Medes. "In Isaiah 45:1 Cyrus named. The order is chronological.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

17.Behold I raise up against them the Medes. The Prophet, having predicted the destruction of the Babylonians, describes also the authors, or says that God will be the author; and at the same time he explains in what manner, and by means of whom, it will be accomplished; for he says that he will raise up the Medes. He certainly could not have conjectured this by human reason, for there were no jealousies and no quarrels between the Babylonians and the Medes; and if there had been any such, what power did the Medes at that time possess that they could do the Babylonians any harm? Seeing, therefore, that no preparations had been made for the Medes carrying on war against them, it is very certain that this was spoken by divine inspiration, and more especially since he foretold these events more than a hundred years before they took place.

Who shall not think of silver, nor desire gold. (206) When he says that they shall not be covetous of silver and gold, he does not mean that the Medes were not guilty of plundering and covetousness, as if they were so generous that they despised gold and silver; but, on the contrary, he means that the battle will be cruel and bloody, that they will aim at nothing but a general slaughter. For example, the Spaniards of the present day, making it their chief object in war to plunder, more readily spare the life of men, and are not so bloodthirsty as the Germans or the English, who think of nothing but slaying the enemy.

We ought not to think it strange that the Lord, though he is not cruel, yet makes use of agents who are so cruel, for he acts righteously even by the agency of wicked men, and is not stained with their wickedness. It would therefore be improper to form our judgment of the work of God from the executioners of it, for they are prompted either by ambition, or by covetousness, or by cruelty; but we ought to consider God’s righteous punishment which the Babylonians deserved on account of their transgressions.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Brian Bell Commentary on the Bible

  1. Intro:
    1. Ch.1-12 – dealt w/God’s judgment on Judah & Israel. Ch.13-24 – broadens the focus of God’s judgment to include 10 Gentile nations. [Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ethiopia,Egypt, Edom, Arabia, & Tyre]
      1. For each country’s judgment there is a purpose behind it…why let history repeat itself? (let’s learn from their mistakes)
    2. 5 Reasons for God’s Judgment?
      1. [1] To preserve Israel from despair when Gentile nations oppress them. [don’t give up when persecution comes your way!]
      2. [2] To prevent Israel from forming an alliance w/the nations.
      3. [trust 100% in God, not others!]
      4. [3] To predict the eventual downfall of all Gentile powers. [know God’s prophecies are 100% accurate!]
      5. [4] To produce faith in Israel. [again trust!]
      6. [5] To proclaim Messiah’s authority over all earthly gentile powers. (Shepherds notes; Isaiah; pg.23) [no reason to fear any nation!]
    1. ​​​​​​​PROPHECY AGAINST BABYLON! (1-5)
    2. Babylon – 1st judgment against the city(13:1-14:2) & 2nd to the king(14:3-23).
      1. It’s predictions have been literally fulfilled.
      2. Babel(confusion) Gen.11 - {Babel in Greek is Babylon}.
      3. Founded in about 3000 bc by Nimrod.
      4. Babylon is the capital city of Shinar(Gen), later called Chaldea.
      5. Jeremiah devoted 110 vs to the fall of Babylon (An important subject!)
      6. Delt w/again in the End times, esp. Rev.17,18 where “Babylon the Great” symbolizes the anti-God system that controls the end of the world.
      7. Babylon is both a city & a system! - Like we speak of Wall Street & Madison Ave. - They are actual streets, but also stand for the financial or advertising enterprises.
      8. ​​​​​​​Note also: The city of Babylon always stands in contrast w/the city of Jerusalem!
        1. The proud city of man, vs. the Holy city of God!
        2. The earthly city of human splendor, opposing the heavenly city that Glorifies God!
      9. In scripture Babylon symbolizes “man’s worldly system” organized in opposition to God.
        1. From the “Tower of Babel” to “Babylon the Great, the mother of prostitutes”.
        2. So from Gen.11 through Rev.18 is the world system of Babylon. (wiped out for Millennial reign)
    3. It epitomizes rebellion against God! (or rushing to get away from Him)
      1. It is said that Dr. Mortimer Adler suddenly left a discussion group at a tea quite disgusted, slamming the door after him. One person trying to relieve the tension, remarked, "Well, he's gone." To this the hostess replied, "No, he isn't. That's a closet!"
        1. We share the same plight when we attempt to rush from God's presence. We are confined to ourselves. (Myron S. Augsburger, When Reason Fails. Christianity Today, Vol. 30, no. 9.)
      2. Kenneth Blanchard co-author of The One-Minute Manager defines ego as Edging God Out.”
        1. It’s the Motto & Mission Statement of a Prodigal!
        2. It’s complete “Self-will!”
        3. Read – Doctor & son story. (Swindoll; Tale of the tardy Ox Cart)
    4. ALL NATIONS! (6-16)
    5. All nations are under divine control whether they acknowledge it or not. The rise & fall of nations are in the hands of God.
      1. i.e. Nebuchadnezzar – Daniel 4:31 “While the word was still in the king's mouth, a voice fell from heaven: "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!”
      2. Read - Acts 17:22-26 (esp.26 “…determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,”)
      3. God is at work in the world, & man will not have the last word!
    6. DOOM OF BABYLON! (17-22)
    7. And so is the end of all who rebel against God!
    8. Like in Isaiah’s day, so in our day today, the world today seems so successful & invincible…but one day the whole system will crumble.
      1. Thus God calls man to separate themselves from it!
      2. Read - 2 Cor.6:17 “Therefore "Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you."
      3. Time magazine reported (1/22/95) that the earthquake in Kobe, Japan, occurred when two plates on a fault line fifteen miles offshore suddenly shifted against each other, violently lurching six to ten feet in opposite directions. The result was the worst Japanese earthquake since 1923. Thousands died. More than 46,000 buildings lay in ruins. One-fifth of the city's population was left instantly homeless.
      4. The destruction unleashed by those two tectonic plates depicts what happens when a Christian rubs shoulders w/the world. Two, committed to each other, but going in different directions can only lead to trouble.” (David Farnum, Rochester, New York. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 3. (slightly modified))
        1. Can cause Tsunami’s…10 times slower…time to warn!
        2. Q: Are you rubbing shoulders with the world & its system?
        3. 1 Jn.2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
    9. Ok, so what’s my check & balance to make sure I’m “not of this world”?
    10. [1] Don’t leave a chink in your armor; don’t allow the devil to get a foothold/beachhead in your life; don’t leave the back door open to sin!
      1. A certain man in a poor country wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
        After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So first the owner went out found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the nail he still owned. Soon the house became unlivable and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
      2. "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."
    11. [2] Read - Jn.17:14-19 (key- vs.17-19)
      1. [1] Read the bible as though it were something entirely unfamiliar.
      2. [2] Face the book w/a new attitude as something new.
      3. [3] Let whatever may happen occur between yourself & it.
      4. [4] You do not know which of its sayings & images will overwhelm & mold you.
      5. [5] Read aloud the words written in the book in front of you; hear the word you utter & let it reach you.
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Brian Bell Commentary". 2017.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary


Now as we move into chapter13and he speaks of the burden of Babylon which Isaiah saw, you remember that we mentioned when we started the prophecy of Isaiah that in many of the prophecies, there was what we called the near fulfillment and the far fulfillment. The prophecies were sort of like a two-edged sword in that they had an immediate connotation, but oftentimes there was also a future connotation. So in the seventh chapter when he said, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, shall call his name Immanuel" ( Isaiah 7:14 ), and that had an immediate kind of a connotation, not of the virgin bearing a son, but a child born at that time before he is old enough to really know much the kings would be destroyed from Samaria and from Syria. But the far was a prophecy of Jesus Christ, born of the virgin Mary as was interpreted by Matthew in his gospel. So the near and the far of the prophetic fulfillment.

With Babylon in the book of Revelation chapter17,18, we have details of the destruction of the ecclesiastical Babylon in chapter17 and the commercial Babylon in chapter18. Now this particular cry against Babylon is the same as Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24. It is talking about the ecclesiastical commercial Babylon of the last days. So this prophecy is carrying us out to these end times.

Lift up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness. The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: for the LORD of hosts is mustering the host of the battle ( Isaiah 13:2-4 ).

The kingdoms of nations. This, of course, Jesus said, "Kingdoms against kingdoms, nations shall rise against nations, kingdoms against kingdoms" ( Matthew 24:7 ). This would be one of the signs of His second coming, the worldwide state of wars. And so the gathering of God of these nations, the kingdoms of nations. This great gathering which is spoken of in Psalm 2:1-12, "Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?" ( Psalm 2:1 ) For they have gathered together, the kings of the earth have gathered together against Jehovah and against His anointed or His Messiah saying, "We will not let them to rule over us," but God who dwells in the midst of heaven shall laugh, seeing that He has them in derision. And yet He will establish His kingdom upon the holy hill of Zion. So the whole Psalm 2:1-12 comes in to this picture here as we see now the kingdoms of nations gathered together in this last portion of the Great Tribulation period. And we"re dealing now with that final period of Great Tribulation prior to the return of Jesus Christ. As the nations have gathered together really in a sense to try to hinder the establishing of the Lord"s kingdom.

They come from far countries, from the end of heaven, even the LORD, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty ( Isaiah 13:5-6 ).

The day of God"s vengeance and wrath, the day of God"s judgment that is to be poured out in the Great Tribulation.

Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man"s heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travails: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. 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. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened ( Isaiah 13:7-10 )

We are told this in Matthew 24:1-51 . Definitely we"re in the Great Tribulation period.

the sun will be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine ( Isaiah 13:10 ).

Now upon whom is this coming? God"s people, the church? Those servants that have been faithful unto Him? God forbid! We"ve not been appointed unto wrath, Paul tells us in both Romans and in Thessalonians, in case you didn"t get it the first time. But God says,

And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity ( Isaiah 13:11 );

It is a punishment against the evil world and against the iniquity of the world. But "God has not appointed us unto wrath" ( 1 Thessalonians 5:9 ). Our iniquity has been forgiven through Jesus Christ. He bore God"s wrath for my sin. And therefore, I will not have to face God"s wrath when it is poured out upon the world. It is to be poured out upon a Christ-rejecting world. But I haven"t rejected Christ. And that is why when Jesus talks about these very things, in Luke 21:1-38, He says in talking of these things, "Pray ye always, that you"ll be accounted worthy to escape all of these things, and to be standing before the Son of man" ( Luke 21:36 ). So when these things begin to take place, don"t look for me down here; I"ll be up around the throne of God saying, "Worthy is the Lamb to receive glory and honor and might and dominion and power."

and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold ( Isaiah 13:11-12 );

There will be a tremendous slaughter.

even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore [God said] I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place ( Isaiah 13:12-13 ),

Now this is interesting because more than one place God has made reference to the earth being shaken out of its place. In fact, God speaks about the "earth staggering to and fro like a drunken man" ( Isaiah 24:20 ). We"ll get that as we move on in Isaiah. Isaiah tells us that. And will be moved out of her place. It would seem that the earth has gone through changes in its past.

It would appear that at one time the earth"s orbit was a360-day orbit, rather than the365 and a quarter. It would seem that at one time the earth was not tilted at twenty-three and a third degrees on its axis. Because we know that at one time, there were tropical jungles around the North Pole. There were forests in the South Pole area. So the earth has gone through some tremendous upheavals. They believe that there has actually been a polar shift. In the book, Worlds in Collision, Immanuel Velikovsky suggests that the earth actually has changed its rotation from the present; that before, the earth actually rotated from west to east instead of east to west. And he gives you his reasons. You want to read the book, Worlds in Collisions; he gives quite a bit of argument in that vein.

Now the interesting thing is that we do know that in the Kingdom Age, God is going to restore the earth like it was during the time of Adam and Eve, back to the Garden of Eden where the deserts will disappear. The Bible speaks of that age where there will be streams in the deserts, rivers in dry places and all. And "the deserts will blossom and bud as a rose" ( Isaiah 35:1 ), and the desert areas being removed. The whole earth once again being like a giant garden.

Now, it is possible that in this earth being moved out of her place is a reference to another flip or a change of the polar axis, and rather than being tilted at twenty-three and a third degrees, which gives us our seasons, that the earth will be on pretty much a straight axis as far as its relationship to the sun, which would have quite a dramatic effect upon the earth. One, the ice caps of the polar regions would be melted. And the polar regions would again become very lush places as far as warmer climate. With this greater mass of water, there would be more evaporation now, as the sun would draw more water into the atmosphere and it could be that once again the earth would be covered with the water canopy. As the temperatures would be equalized with the equator and the poles, you would no longer have these tremendous cold-hot areas where the winds would be formed and created coming down from the poles from the cold areas, coming into these warmer areas where the heat rises and the cold air comes flowing in to fill it. And you could get rid of the violent storms. Again, you"d have only very gentle breezes and a very lush kind of an atmosphere around the whole earth. And I may not even have to go to Hawaii. You could go to Death Valley and the thing is going to be like a glorious garden with rivers and waterfalls and beautiful ferns and everything else, you know.

The whole earth, the scripture said, will be filled with His glory. And so God is going to restore it, and it could very well be that in this very shaking of the earth and removing it out of its place, it could be a reference to that.

Now the physicists who talk about the shifting of the polar axis refer to the earth"s wobble. That the earth before the flip of the polar axis or the shift of the polar axis goes into a wobble state and then it shifts. When you read where Isaiah said, "The earth will stagger to and fro like a drunken man," it would be describing the wobble and then it said, "And shall be moved out of her place." So it is very possible that the scriptures are actually prophesying a polar axis shift that could bring a whole new climate around the whole world and setting it up for the Kingdom Age where God restores it back like it once was, where there were no burning deserts, where there, you know, where the whole earth was able to produce and all.

And really, if you fly from... You hear of the population explosion and all of this and the earth is getting too crowded, but all you have to do is get in a jet and fly all over the United States and you"ll see all of that vast territory that is not inhabited. It"s not fit for habitation because of the deserts and everything else. But if God would restore all of that, make all that area habitable, there"s plenty of room for every child of God.

So interesting reference here. Just what it all indicates, we are free to guess, but we really don"t know. But again he refers to

the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger ( Isaiah 13:13 ).

So this is in the period of the judgment where God shakes the thing and turns it. But this all is a preface to His return, the day of God"s wrath. You remember that Revelation chapter6 tells us that the people of the earth will be crying unto the rocks and the mountains saying, "Fall on us, and hide us from the face of the Lamb: for His day of wrath has come; and who shall be able to stand?" ( Revelation 6:16-17 )

Now does it really make sense to you that God would place His church in the middle of all of this when He specifically told us that He has not appointed us unto wrath? What kind of a mentality would try to insist and encourage everyone to gear up for it that you"re going to have to be here? Calling us escapisms or escapists or whatever. I just can"t understand.

And so he speaks about

And it shall be as the chased roe ( Isaiah 13:14 ),

And this is referring to the Jews.

They will be a sheep that no man takes up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword ( Isaiah 13:14-15 ).

The fierce anger.

Their children also shall be dashed in pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished ( Isaiah 13:16 ).

Now I told you Isaiah"s prophecy jumped from far to near, near to far. This would seem to be a near reference to the Babylonian invasion as we get to verse Isaiah 13:14, because in Psalm 137:8, Psalm 137:9,the psalmist opens that Psalm 137:1-9 by declaring, "When we were in Babylon, we hanged our harps on the willow tree and we cried. They said unto us, "Sing us one of your songs of Zion." But how can we sing of Zion when we are in captivity?" ( Psalm 137:1-4 ), and so forth. And then he takes out against Babylon and he said, "Happy will be they who dash your children in the street, even as you dashed our children." Psalm 137:8, Psalm 137:9 comes into play here and it was a reference to the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem.

But then Babylon itself will be destroyed. Verse Isaiah 13:17 :

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. 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. And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees" excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah ( Isaiah 13:17-19 ).

Now here is an interesting thing. Isaiah is predicting that the Medes will be destroying the Babylonian kingdom, and at this point, the Assyrian empire was really the predominant empire. Babylonian empire had not yet taken Assyria. And, of course, the Medes were just a small insignificant tribe when he actually prophesied that they will be the destroyers of the great Babylonian kingdom.

Only God could have known that, and thus, God proves that He is God and the author of the book by writing of these things, showing that He is outside of our time domain. Knowing the end from the beginning.

And speaking of the destruction of Babylonian:

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. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs [or demons] shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged ( Isaiah 13:20-22 ).

So the destruction of Babylon by the Medes. "

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Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

1. Burden] The corresponding verb means 'to lift up' (a) a load, (b) the voice (cp. Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 42:2, Isaiah 42:11), used of Balaam lifting up his voice in oracular utterance (Numbers 24:3, Numbers 24:15, Numbers 24:23). Hence the noun signifies an utterance, or oracle (e.g. 2 Kings 9:25), and is often prefixed, as here, to prophetic utterances (Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Proverbs 31:1). Since it is often applied to threatening utterances, the meaning of 'burden' is also suitable. In Jeremiah 23:33 there is a play on the two meanings of the word.

2. Banner] RV 'ensign,' i.e. a signal for the mustering of distant armies (Isaiah 5:26). High] RV 'bare,' i.e. without trees; upon such a mountain the signal would be clearly seen. Unto them] i.e. the people whom the prophet has in mind, though they have not yet been mentioned.

Shake the hand] the threatening gesture of besiegers (Isaiah 10:32).

3. Sanctified ones] RV 'consecrated ones,' i.e. warriors. The thought may be that the war is a holy one, Babylon's destroyers being the ministers of Jehovah's vengeance.

4. The prophet hears the noise of the armies assembling at the signal (Isaiah 13:2). Of the battle] RV 'for the battle.'

6. The Almighty] Heb. Shaddai, a name of God frequent in the Pentateuch, and belong-to the pre-Mosaic revelation (Exodus 6:3); it is not often found in the prophets, and when it occurs the severe and awful aspect of the divine nature is the more prominent one (Joel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 10:5).

8. As flames] RV 'faces of flame,' i.e. flushed with agitation.

10. The day of Jehovah is accompanied by signs in the heavens as in Joel 2:10, Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15; Zephaniah 1:14, Zephaniah 1:15. Such language need not be understood literally, but vividly expresses a time of terror and dismay.

12. Precious] RV 'rare'; the slaughter will be so great that few men will be left (Isaiah 24:6). Golden wedge] RV 'pure gold'; the gold of Ophir was most esteemed.

13. See a similar description Haggai 2:6. The prophets are carried in thought beyond the particular political convulsion in view to the final overthrow of all that is hostile to God.

14. RV 'And it shall come to pass that as,' etc. That no man taketh up] i.e. without a shepherd. They shall.. turn] i.e. the settlers in Babylon, either taken captive from other countries, or resorting thither for trade (Jeremiah 50:16), will, on the overthrow of the city, disperse to their own lands.

15. The reason for the hurried flight of Isaiah 13:14 the fall of the city will be accompanied by indiscriminate slaughter.

Joined unto them] i.e. by colonisation. But RV 'taken,' not having been able to make good his escape.

16. The atrocities referred to frequently accompanied the sack of a city (2 Kings 8:12; Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16).

17. The invaders of Babylon are here first mentioned by name, though the prophet has had them in mind from Isaiah 13:2. The Medes had settled in the district SW. of the Caspian Sea, and are mentioned in Assyrian annals from Sargon's time onwards (cp. 2 Kings 17:6; 2 Kings 18:11): see intro. to this section. Shall not regard] i.e. they are not to be turned aside by bribes.

18. Bows] The Medes were noted archers (Jeremiah 51:11).

19. Excellency] RV 'pride.'

20. Make their fold] RV 'make their flocks to lie down.' A more terrible desolation awaits Babylon than that which had been foretold for Judah (Isaiah 7:21, Isaiah 7:25).

21. Doleful creatures] probably owls. Owls] RV 'ostriches.' Satyrs] i.e. uncanny creatures, or demons (so Targum, LXX, and Syr.), such as were thought by the Jews to haunt ruins and desert places: cp. Luke 11:24. But as the other names in the context stand for animals many prefer to render, 'he-goats' (RM, Vulg.).

22. The wild.. houses] RV 'wolves shall cry in their castles.' Dragons] RV 'jackals.' The anticipation of the utter ruin of Babylon has been literally fulfilled. In 538 b.c. it was captured by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus; and, though its glory lingered for a time, it died away before the beginning of the Christian era, and Babylon is now, and has long been, only a heap of ruins.

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John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

The Judgment of Babylon and its King

This is the first of a series of prophecies dealing mainly with foreign nations. Its subject is Babylon, where the Jews are represented as undergoing exile, from which they are about to be delivered (Isaiah 14:1-3) owing to the capture of Babylon by the Medes (Isaiah 13:17). The historical setting of the prophecy is thus much later than the age of Isaiah, in whose time the Assyrians were the great-enemies of God's people. On this ground most modern scholars regard this section as non-Isaianic, and date it during the Babylonian exile. As the Medes alone (not Cyrus and the Persians) are mentioned as the instruments used by God in the deliverance of His people, the prophecy must be dated before 549 b.c., the year in which Cyrus overthrew the Medes, who afterwards were united with him in the conquest of Babylon (538 b.c)..

Isaiah 13:1. Title prefixed to the section.

2-18. Hostile hosts are mustered to carry out Jehovah's purpose of judgment against Babylon,

19-22. with the result that it shall be utterly desolate.

Isaiah 14:1-3. The deliverance of captive Israel.

4-20. A song of triumph over the king of Babylon. 1st scene: Hades, where the spirit of the vainglorious monarch is brought low (4-15). 2nd scene: The battle-field, where his dishonoured corpse lies with the slain (16-20).

21-23. The completeness of Babylon's overthrow.

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Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

B. God"s sovereignty over the nations chs13-35

This major section of the book emphasizes the folly of trusting in the nations rather than in Yahweh. The section preceding it shows how King Ahaz trusted in Assyria and experienced destruction (chs7-12). The section following it shows how King Hezekiah trusted in the Lord and experienced deliverance (chs36-39). In this present section, the prophet expanded his perspective from Israel to include the world. The God of Israel is also Lord of the nations. This whole section of the book expands the idea that all the kingdoms of the world will become the kingdom of God and His Christ, Immanuel (cf. Daniel 2:44).

1. Divine judgments on the nations chs13-23

"This second section of the book"s first main unit [chs1-39] presents a series of judgment oracles against various nations (chapters13-23). This litany of judgment sets the stage for a vision of worldwide judgment that ushers in the Lord"s kingdom on earth (chapters24-27)." [Note: Chisholm, Handbook on . . ., p46.]

The recurrence of the Hebrew word massa", translated "oracle" or "burden," prescribes the boundaries of this section of text. There are10 oracles beginning in Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 14:28; Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1; Isaiah 21:1; Isaiah 21:11; Isaiah 21:13; Isaiah 22:1 and Isaiah 23:1. Chapters13-23present the nations over which Immanuel is ruler, and they announce judgment on them all for their pride ( Isaiah 10:5-34; cf. Isaiah 2:6-22; Isaiah 13:11; Isaiah 13:19; Isaiah 14:11; Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 17:7-11; Isaiah 23:9). They are announcements of doom on these nations, but they are also announcements of salvation for Israel if she would trust in Yahweh. Isaiah delivered them to the Israelites, rather than to the nations mentioned, at various times during his prophetic ministry. Thus they assured God"s people of Yahweh"s sovereignty over the nations with a view to encouraging them to rely in the Lord (cf. Jeremiah 46-51; Ezekiel 25-32; Amos 1-2). It would be foolish to trust in nations whom God has doomed. The unifying theme is the pride of these nations. Exalting self and failing to submit to God results in destruction.

". . . He [God] will hold every nation accountable for its actions." [Note: A. Martin, Isaiah . . ., p47.]

Alec Motyer provided a helpful diagram of the structure of this section (chs13-23) and the one that follows it (chs24-27). [Note: Adapted from Motyer, p133.]

Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:27)
Political overthrow

The desert by the sea (Babylon) ( Isaiah 21:1-10)
Religious overthrow

The city of emptiness
Isaiah 24:1-20)
Broken laws and gates

( Isaiah 14:28-32)
A Davidic king will yet reign in Zion

Silence (Edom)
( Isaiah 21:11-12)
Indefinite continuance of things as they are

Zion"s king
( Isaiah 24:21-23)
"After many days"

Moab in need, but through pride suffers destruction in spite of shelter in Zion

Evening (Arabia)
( Isaiah 21:13-17)
Desert tribes in need: no ultimate refuge in mutual security

The great banquet
All nations feasted in Zion save Moab, excluded by pride

Strong cities forsaken; the forgotten rock

The Valley of Vision (Jerusalem)
The city torn down

The city of God
The strong city; the everlasting rock

Co-equal membership: Egypt, Assyria and Israel

Holiness to the Lord

The final gathering
The harvest from Egypt and Assyria

Note that each of the first two columns of oracles (chs13-23) begins with Babylon, and the fourth section of each of these columns deals with Israel, which the peoples of the world surround in the literary structure of the passage. In the first column: Babylon is to Israel"s north, Philistia to the west, Moab to the east, and Egypt to the south. In the second column: Babylon is to the north, Edom to the south, Arabia to the east, and Tyre to the west. Thus the selection of these nations in the literary structure of the passage suggests that Israel occupies the central place in God"s plans, and the surrounding nations are vulnerable. [Note: See the map of Palestine at the end of these notes.]

"The oracles probably had a twofold purpose. For those leaders who insisted on getting embroiled in international politics, these oracles were a reminder that Judah need not fear foreign nations or seek international alliances for security reasons. For the righteous remnant within the nation, these oracles were a reminder that Israel"s God was indeed the sovereign ruler of the earth, worthy of his people"s trust." [Note: The NET Bible note on13:1.]

The first series of five oracles chs13-20

The first series (column) shows that God has placed Israel at the center of His dealings with the Gentile nations. The second series of oracles projects the principles revealed in the first series into the future, moving from concrete historical names to more enigmatic allusions. The third series points far ahead into the eschatological future but shows that the same principles will apply then. God"s dealings with the nations in Isaiah"s day were a sign of His similar dealings with them in the future.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The first oracle against Babylon13:1-14:27

The reader would expect that Isaiah would inveigh against Assyria, since it was the most threatening enemy in his day, and since he referred to it many times in earlier chapters. However, he did not mention Assyria in this section but Babylon, an empire that came into its own about a century after Isaiah"s time. Babylon was a symbol of self-exalting pride, and its glory, dating back to the tower of Babel (cf. Isaiah 13:5; Isaiah 13:10-11). Thus what he said about Babylon was applicable to Assyria and other similar self-exalting powers in the eastern part of Israel"s world. Similarly, what marked the Medes ( Isaiah 13:17-18) was their fierce destruction of their enemies, which was already in view but would become more obvious in the years that followed. When the prophet lived and wrote, Babylon was a real entity within Assyria, but Isaiah used it to represent all the nations in that area that shared its traits (cf. Genesis 9:20-25; Revelation 17-18). Behind Assyria Isaiah saw the spirit of Babel, which he condemned here. Yet this is also a prophecy against real Babylon. "Babylon" is the Greek name for "Babel."

The literary structure of this oracle, omitting the introduction ( Isaiah 13:1), is chiastic.

"A The day of the Lord: the beckoning hand, a universal purpose declared ( Isaiah 13:2-16)

B The overthrow of Babylon: the end of the kingdom, the fact of divine overthrow ( Isaiah 13:17-22)

C The security and future of the Lord"s people: a contrasting universal purpose ( Isaiah 14:1-2)

B" The overthrow of Babylon: the end of the king, the explanation of divine overthrow ( Isaiah 14:3-23)

A" The end of Assyrian power: the outstretched hand, a universal purpose exemplified and validated ( Isaiah 14:24-27)" [Note: Motyer, p135.]

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Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

This pericope foretells the destruction of Babylon. Prophecies of the day of the Lord may describe the eschatological judgment coming ( Isaiah 13:2-16), or a more recent, limited judgment coming ( Isaiah 13:17-22). Each soon-coming judgment on a particular segment of humanity foreshadows the great eschatological judgment that will fall on the whole human race in the Tribulation. This destruction of Babylon was a judgment of the Lord in a day that would be closer to Isaiah"s own time, a near and limited fulfillment of the day that the prophet just described. The fall of Assyria ( Isaiah 14:24-27) was one fulfillment, and the later fall of Babylon ( Isaiah 13:17-22) was another. The same principles that operate in the eschatological day of the Lord just described also operate in the earlier days of the Lord. [Note: See G. von Rad, "The Origin of the Concept of the Day of Yahweh," Journal of Semitic Studies4:2 (1959):97-108; and A. Joseph Everson, "The Days of Yahweh," Journal of Biblical Literature93:3 (September1974):329-37.]

Part of the Lord"s warriors would be the Medes, who occupied what is now central Iran. In Isaiah"s day, the Medes were already a powerful people that the Assyrians dreaded. They would destroy Babylon. They united with the Babylonians to destroy the last vestiges of the Assyrian Empire in609 B.C. Still later, it was the Medes and the Persians who overthrew Babylon in539 B.C. (cf. Esther 10:2; Daniel 5:30-31; Daniel 6:8; Daniel 6:12; Daniel 6:15). The Medes valued silver and gold less than military conquest; they could not be bought off, but mercilessly slew every enemy ( Isaiah 13:17-18). Revenge motivated them more than booty. [Note: Delitzsch, 1:303.]

"The Medes are probably mentioned here rather than the Persians because of their greater ferocity and also because they were better known to the people of Isaiah"s day. According to the Greek historian Xenophon, Cyrus acknowledged that the Medes had served his cause without thought of monetary reward." [Note: Grogan, p103. Cf. Delitzsch, 1:302-3.]

In the late700s B.C, Babylon was the showcase of the ancient world, specifically the showcase of the Assyrian Empire. She was culturally and economically superior to Assyria and was ascending politically. The Chaldeans were the ruling class that had been responsible for the supremacy of Babylon. However, Isaiah announced, Babylon would experience the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah: destruction from the Lord"s hand ( Isaiah 13:19). After her judgment, Babylon would be uninhabitable even by nomads. Wild animals would be the only residents of the once great city. This destruction would come soon, and it would not be delayed ( Isaiah 13:20-22).

Babylonia was under the Assyrian yoke when Isaiah gave this prophecy, probably during Hezekiah"s reign (715-686 B.C.). She was one of the nations, along with Egypt, to which Judah was looking as a possible savior. This prophecy showed that Babylon was not a safe object for trust because God would destroy her.

Has this prophecy been fulfilled? Babylon suffered defeat in689 B.C. when Assyria (including the Medes), under Sennacherib, devastated it (cf. Isaiah 23:13), but the city was rebuilt. Many interpreters believe that the fall of Babylon in539 B.C. to Cyrus fulfilled this prophecy, [Note: E.g, Archer, p621; the NET Bible note on13:22.] but Cyrus left the city intact. Others believe the destruction-that Darius Hystaspes began in518 B.C, and that Xerxes later completed-was the fulfillment. [Note: E.g, Delitzsch, 1:304.] Some scholars believe that what Isaiah predicted here never took place literally, at least completely, so the fulfillment lies in the future. [Note: E.g, G. H. Lang, Histories and Prophecies of Daniel, pp33-34; Kenneth W. Allen, "The Rebuilding and Destruction of Babylon," Bibliotheca Sacra133:529 (January1976):19-27; and Charles H. Dyer, The Rise of Babylon: Sign of the End Times; J. Martin, p1060.] Many conservatives argue for a near and a far fulfillment. I think the destruction in689 B.C. that resulted in Babylon"s temporary desolation fulfilled this prophecy (cf. Isaiah 13:22 b), and I believe there will also be an eschatological judgment of Babylon ( Revelation 17-18), though not necessarily one that requires the rebuilding of the city. Destruction terminology, such as appears in this passage, is common in the annals of ancient Near Eastern nations. It speaks generally and hyperbolically of devastating defeat and destruction, but it did not always involve exact or detailed fulfillment. [Note: See Homer Heater Jeremiah, "Do the Prophets Teach that Babylonia Will Be Rebuilt in the Eschaton?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society41:1 (March1998):36, for further specifics.]

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Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(17) Behold, I will stir up the Medes.—The Hebrew form Madai meets us in Genesis 10:2, among the descendants of Japheth. Modern researches show them to have been a mixed people, Aryan conquerors having mingled with an earlier Turanian race, and differing in this respect from the Persians, who were pure Iranians, both in race and creed. The early Assyrian inscriptions, from Rimmon Nirari III. onward (Cheyne), name them, as also does Sargon (Records of the Past, xi. 18), among the enemies whom the kings subdued. Their name had been recently brought before the prophet’s notice by Salmaneser’s deportation of the Ten Tribes to the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:6). In naming the Medes, and not the Persians, as the conquerors of Babylon, Isaiah was probably influenced by the greater prominence of the former, just as the Greeks spoke of them, and used such terms as “Medism” when they came in contact with the Medo-Persian monarchy under Darius and Xerxes. So Ӕschylus (Pers. 760) makes “the Median” the first ruler of the Persians. It is noticeable that they were destined to be the destroyers both of Nineveh and Babylon: of the first under Cyaxares, in alliance with Nabopolassar, and of the second under Cyrus the Persian, and, we may add, the Mede Darius of Daniel 5:31. If we accept the history of a yet earlier attack on Nineveh by Arbaces the Mede and Belesis of Babylon, we can sufficiently account for the prominence which Isaiah, looking at Babylon as the representative of Assyrian rather than Chaldæan power, gives to them as its destroyers. (See Lenormant, Anc. Hist., 1, p. 337.)

Which shall not regard silver.—The Medes are represented as a people too fierce to care for the gold and silver in which Babylon exulted. They would take no ransom to stay their work of vengeance. So Xenophon, in his Cyropædia (), represents Cyrus as acknowledging their unbought, unpaid service.

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Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

2. The judgment of the Nations and the Future Day of Jehovah (13-27)


The Burden of Babylon

1. Jehovah’s call to the judgment of Babylon (Isaiah 13:1-5) 2. The day of Jehovah: When Babylon falls (Isaiah 13:6-16) 3. Babylon overthrown (Isaiah 13:17-22)The great judgments announced in this part of Isaiah were only partially fulfilled in the past. The great Babylon which came into existence as the mistress of the world after this prophecy had been given, fell by the Medes (verse 17 and Daniel 5:1-31. The judgment of this Babylon is meant here first. But the Babylon of the past is the type of a Babylon of the future, another mistress of the ecclesiastical and commercial world. It is yet to appear in its final form Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24). Its fall comes in the day of the Lord. This great day is described in Isaiah 13:6-16 in this chapter.

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Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". 1913-1922.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them,.... The Babylonians; this explains who are meant by the sanctified and mighty ones, Isaiah 13:3 the Medes were a people that descended from Medai, one of the sons of Japheth, Genesis 10:2 as Josephus observesF9Antiqu. Jud. l. 1. c. 6. sect. 1. ; under these the Persians are included, though they are only mentioned, because Cyrus was sent by Cyaxares king of Media on this expedition against Babylon, and was made by him general of the Medes, and acted as such under him; and when Babylon was taken, and Belshazzar slain, Darius the Median took the kingdom, Daniel 5:31 now these are mentioned by name some hundreds of years before the thing came to pass, as Cyrus their general in Isaiah 45:1 which is a strong proof of the truth of prophecy, and of divine revelation; and, whatever might be the moving causes of this expedition, the affair was of God; it was he that put it into the hearts of the Medes, and stirred up their spirits to make war against Babylon; and though God is not the author of sin, yet he not only suffered the things to be done before and after mentioned, but in his providence ordered them as just punishments on a sinful people:

which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it; not but that they had a regard for, gold and silver, as appears by their spoiling of the houses of the Babylonians, Isaiah 13:16 but that they had not so great a regard for these things as to spare the lives of any for the sake of them; they were so intent upon taking away their lives, that they disregarded their substance; their first work was to slay, and then to spoil; they first destroyed, and then plundered; no man with his gold and silver could obtain a ransom of his life from them. CyrusF11Cyropaedia, l. 5. sect. 3. in his speech to his army said,

"O ye Medes, and all present, I truly know that not for want of money are ye come out with me,' &c.

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Judgment upon Babylon - Comments- Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:27 records Isaiah's prophecy against Babylon. This prophecy is the longest and first in a collection of prophecies against foreign nations, revealing that the seat of Satan dwells in this nation. The downfall of this major stronghold of Satan will serve as a testimony of God's divine power to the other minor strongholds, as He systematically decrees judgment against them.

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These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Isaiah 13:17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

Isaiah 13:17Comments- The prophet Daniel records the fall of Babylon to the Medes.

, "In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old."

Darius the Mede, the son of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) of the seed of the Medes, reigned briefly from 538 to 536 B.C. ( Daniel 9:1). (This is not a reference to Darius the Persian who was the third successor to Cyrus the Great.) Scholars say that at the death of Belshazzar ( Daniel 5:30), Darius "received the kingdom" of Babylon by being made king, or viceroy, over the kingdom of the Chaldeans under Cyrus the king of Persia ( Daniel 5:31). Thus, Daniel 6:28 suggests that Darius and Cyrus ruled at the same time. This is supported by the fact that the name "Darius" never occurs in any ancient documents outside of the book of Daniel. We can conclude that Darius was probably never the king over the entire Persian Empire.

Daniel 6:28, "So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian."

Daniel 9:1, "In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans;"

When we go to extra-biblical sources, we find that the Greek historians credit the takeover to Cyrus the Persian. 38] Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), the Greek historian, tells us that Cyrus led an army of Medes and Persians to Babylon and captured the city after diverting a water channel of the Euphrates river, with the dried river allowing entrance into the city by night (see Herodotus 1191). 39] Xenophon (430-354 B.C.), a later Greek historian, also records the fall of Babylon, but includes the story of two of Cyrus' skilled generals Gadatas and Gobryas, who orchestrating the assault (Cyropaedia 751-34). 40] Josephus tells us that Darius the king of Media was a relative of Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, and that together they took over the Babylonian kingdom from Belshazzar.

38] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah, Daniel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, ed. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5) The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

39] See Herodotus 1191in Herodotus I, Books I-II, trans. by A. D. Godley, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1975), 238-241.

40] See Xenophon Cyropaedia 751-34in The Cyropaedia, or Institutions of Cyrus, and the Hellenics, or Grecian History, trans. J. S. Watson and Henry Dale (London: George Bell and Sons, 1880), 220-225.

"When Evil-Mcrodach was dead, after a reign of eighteen years, Niglissar his son took the government, and retained it forty years, and then ended his life; and after him the succession in the kingdom came to his son Labosordacus, who continued in it in all but nine months; and when he was dead, it came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus; against him did Cyrus, the king of Persia, and Darius, the king of Media, make war; and when he was besieged in Babylon, there happened a wonderful and prodigious vision." (Antiquities 10112)

"And this is the end of the posterity of king Nebuchadnezzar, as history informs us; but when Babylon was taken by Darius, and when Hebrews, with his kinsman Cyrus, had put an end to the dominion of the Babylonians, he was sixty-two years old. He was the son of Astyages, and had another name among the Greeks. Moreover, he took Daniel the prophet, and carried him with him into Media, and honored him very greatly, and kept him with him; for he was one of the three presidents whom he set over his three hundred and sixty provinces, for into so many did Darius part them." (Antiquities 10115)

It would not have been uncommon for Cyrus the Persian to appoint a prominent Mede as viceroy over a part of his kingdom in order to reward loyalty and keep unity in the region. We know that many noble Medes were employed as officials, satraps and generals. This is very likely how Darius the Mede gained the description as taking the kingdom in Daniel 5:31. Since there is record of a man named Gubaru who appears as the governor of Babylonia and of Ebir-nari (the western domains under Chaldean sovereignty) in tablets dated from the fourth to the eighth year of Cyrus (535-532 B.C.), some scholars suggest that Gubaru took the title as "Dar eyawes" or "Darius" during his rule as viceroy under King Cyrus. 41]

41] Gleason L. Archer, Jeremiah, Daniel, The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol 7, eds. Frank E. Gaebelien, J. D. Douglas, Dick Polcyn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House), 1976-1992, in Zondervan Reference Software, v 28 [CD-ROM] (Grand Rapids, MI: The Zondervan Corp, 1989-2001), "Introduction: 7 Special Problems: c. Alleged historical inaccuracies: 5) The ‘legendary' Darius the Mede."

Comments - The Ecosystem of the Middle East- Isaiah 13:21-22 lists several animals, mammals and birds that make up the ecosystem of the Middle East.

Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.
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Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. 2013.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Medes. Who had set themselves at liberty about twenty years before this. They were not solicitous about gold, Ezechiel vii. 19., and Sophonias i. 18.

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". 1859.

Ironside's Notes on Selected Books




Harry A. Ironside, Litt.D.

Copyright @ 1952

edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago



WE NOW COME to a distinct section of Isaiah's prophecy, dealing particularly with the nations with whom Israel had to do in the past centuries and some of whom it will have to meet in the coming Day of the Lord. In chapters thirteen through twenty-three we have "burdens," that is, prophetic messages, relating particularly to Babylon (13,14), Moab (15,16), Damascus, the capital of Syria (17), some unnamed maritime power west of Ethiopia (18), Egypt (19), Egypt and Ethiopia (20), Edom and Arabia, (21) and of Tyre (23). Two messages also refer definitely to Palestine itself in connection with the attacks of their enemies, namely, part of chapter twenty-one and chapter twenty-two.

The nations mentioned in these chapters were those from whom Israel suffered in the past and some of them will appear on the scene in the last days, still manifesting their old enmity toward the chosen race.

In chapters thirteen and fourteen Isaiah looks on into the future, predicting the destruction that he foresaw would come upon Babylon as a result of the Medo-Persian invasion of Chaldea. It may seem strange that Babylon should occupy the place it does in these prophetic visions inasmuch as it was but an insignificant power in Isaiah's day, completely overshadowed by Assyria, but the spirit of prophecy enabled Isaiah to look on to the time when these two would be combined in one great dominion of which the city of Babylon would be the capital.

This was the power destined to carry out the judgments of GOD against Judah because of its rebellion and idolatry. As we read these chapters it is easy to see that back of the literal rulers of Babylon there was a sinister spirit-personality denominated as Lucifer, the son of the morning. That this evil angel is identical with Satan himself seems to be perfectly clear.

We note, then, the first part of the prophecy, which will have a double fulfillment: first, Babylon's destruction by the armies of Cyrus and Cyaxares (who is probably the same as the Darius of Daniel 5), and then the final destruction of the Assyrian in the last days.

In eloquent and dramatic language Isaiah pictures the downfall of the future oppressor of the

people of GOD.

"The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see. Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness. The noise of a multitude in the mountains, 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. 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. Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. 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. For the stars of heaven and 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. And I 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" (verses 1-11).

The picture presented goes far beyond that of the literal destruction of Babylon on the Euphrates in the days of the Medo-Persian conquest. It vividly presents the conditions that will prevail not only among the nations of central and western Asia, but of all Gentile powers in the day of the Lord's indignation.

In other words, the doom that fell upon Babylon of old was an illustration of the terrible fate that awaits the godless Gentile powers who will be taken in red-handed rebellion against the Lord and His Anointed in the last days. It will be noted that many of the expressions used in these verses are practically identical with those of other prophecies concerning the Day of the Lord and with the events to follow the breaking of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation.

"I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. Everyone that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces' before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished" (verses 12-16).

As we compare this passage with Haggai 2:6, 7; Hebrews 12:25-29; Zechariah 14:4, 5, and other passages relating to the Day of the Lord, we learn that not only will the kingdoms of the world be broken to pieces but there will be tremendous natural convulsions that will shake the earth and cause disorder even among the heavenly bodies, so that the people of the world will be in abject terror because of the judgments of the Lord.

So large a portion of the human race will be destroyed in the conflicts and natural catastrophes of those days that a man will be more precious than gold, and fear and terror will take hold upon all of the inhabitants of the earth who do not know and wait for the Lord in that day of His power.

"Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. 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. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tents there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" (verses 17-22).

Here the prophet reverts to the literal destruction of Babylon which began with its siege and overthrow by the Medes and Persians, but was not consummated fully until some centuries later when at last that one-time proud city was leveled to the dust, its palaces destroyed, its hanging gardens ruined, and its destruction made so complete that in all the centuries since it has never been able to rise again.

It is true that from time to time small villages have been built near the site of the ancient city, but the ruins of Babylon recently uncovered by archeologists show how completely the prophet's words have been fulfilled.

Even to this day the Arabian refuses to pitch his tent there, thinking that demons prowl by night among the ruins of the city, where owls and lizards (dragons) and other creatures of the night abound. GOD has decreed that Babylon shall never rise again. The Babylon of the Revelation is a symbolic picture of the great religious-commercial organization of the last days which will become fully developed after the true Church has been caught up to be with the Lord.

Its doom, like that of the ancient city, will soon be consummated and it too will fall, never to lift itself up again against GOD and His people.

In chapter fourteen, we see that GOD links Israel's future restoration with Babylon's doom. Though centuries were to elapse between the two events yet, inasmuch as through the decree of Cyrus a remnant was permitted to return to Jerusalem, thus fulfilling a part of the divine predictions concerning the recovery of Judah, so their final restoration is linked with the complete overthrow of Gentile power.

"For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob. And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their

oppressors" (verses 1,2).

Note the expression, "They shall take them captives, whose captives they were." This seems to give the true explanation of that much-controverted passage in Ephesians 4:8, "He led captivity captive." These words are quoted from Psalms 68:18.

The same Hebraism is found in 5:12 where the meaning is perfectly clear: Barak was to lead captive those who had held Israel captive. So CHRIST, by His triumphant resurrection, has overthrown the powers of hell and led captive Satan and his hosts who held humanity captive for so long. Satan was utterly defeated at that time (Hebrews 2:14) and those who had once been his victims are now delivered from his power. In Colossians 2:15 we are told that CHRIST, in rising from the dead, spoiled, or made a prey of, principalities and powers, that is, the hosts of evil; therefore Satan is now a defeated foe. His judgment has not yet been carried out but is as certain as that GOD's Word is true. It is for the believer to resist the devil, steadfast in the faith, knowing that he can have no power against those who cleave to the Word of God.

In the section that follows, Israel is seen exulting over the destruction of her great enemy.

"And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve, that thou shalt take up two proverbs against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! The Lord hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the sceptre of the rulers. He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth. The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing. Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us" (verses 3-8).

The "king of Babylon" seems to be used here as a synonym for all Gentile powers that throughout the centuries have taken part in the persecution of GOD's ancient people. When the last great enemy shall be destroyed they will be able to rejoice in the manifestation of the Lord's power, and just as Israel sang on the shores of the Red Sea as they viewed the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, so in that coming day will they be able to raise the Song of Moses and the Lamb as they see all their enemies brought to naught.

We come to something now that enables us to understand how sin began in the heavens, and also to comprehend something of the unseen powers that throughout the centuries have dominated the minds of evil-disposed men, seeking to thwart the purpose of GOD. The fall of Lucifer portrays the fall of Satan.

The passage links very closely with Ezekiel 28, which should be carefully considered in the effort to understand this fully.

"Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy

viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (verses 9-15).

These words cannot apply to any mere mortal man. Lucifer (the light-bearer) is a created angel of the very highest order, identical with the covering cherub of Ezekiel 28. He was, apparently, the greatest of all the angel host and was perfect before GOD until he fell through pride.

It was his ambition to take the throne of Deity for himself and become the supreme ruler of the universe.

Note his five "I wills." It was the assertion of the creature's will in opposition to the will of the Creator that brought about his downfall, and so an archangel became the devil! Cast down from the place of power and favor which he had enjoyed, he became the untiring enemy of GOD and man, and down through the millennia since has exerted every conceivable device to ruin mankind and rob GOD of the glory due to His name.

It is of him our Lord speaks in John 8:44. The Lord there shows that Satan is an apostate, having fallen from a position once enjoyed, and we know from other Scriptures how he ever goes about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

The Cross was the precursor of Satan's doom, but he is determined to wreak his vengeance upon mankind so far as he can before his own final judgment takes place, because his heart is filled with hatred against GOD and against those whom GOD loves. We know from other passages that Lucifer was not alone in his rebellion (2 Peter 2:4), and our Lord speaks of "the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), and this is confirmed in Revelation 12:7, where we read of the coming war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and the dragon and his.

These evil angels are the world-rulers of this darkness (Ephesians 6:12). They seek to dominate the hearts and minds of the rulers of the nations, stirring them up to act in opposition to the will of GOD. Therefore we need not be surprised to find in the next verses of our chapter that the king of Babylon seems to be, as it were, confounded with Lucifer. The actual meaning, of course, is that he was controlled or dominated by him.

His downfall is described:

"They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; that made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners? All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, every one in his own house. But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast

destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned. Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities. For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the Lord. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of hosts" (verses 16-23).

This passage is highly poetical, but describes in no uncertain terms the utter destruction of the last great enemy of Israel in the Day of the Lord. See also Ezekiel 31:16-18. All the glory of the warrior and the pride of world conquest end in utter destruction.

None who has dared to rise up in pride and arrogance to defy the living GOD has ever been able to escape the inevitable result of his folly.

In the Assyrian of the last days, we see as it were the incarnation of all the persecuting powers who have distressed Israel since their dispersion among the Gentiles.

"The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders. This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is matched out upon all the nations. For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?" (verses 24-27).

When the nations are gathered together for the Armageddon conflict, the Lord Himself will destroy the Assyrian with every other enemy of CHRIST and His truth. Israel will be completely delivered and GOD glorified in the kingdom to be set up in righteousness.

In the last five verses of the chapter we have a separate prophecy, given in the last year of King Ahaz, relating to Palestine and its people.

"In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden. Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent's root shall come forth a cockatrice, And his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent. And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant. Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times. What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it" (verses 28-32).

For the time being GOD had turned back the armies of Syria and of Assyria, but greater conflicts were in the future. These we know came to pass in the days of Hezekiah, and finally, at the close of the short reign of Zedekiah. First, the land was overrun by the Assyrians who, however, were turned back without accomplishing their purpose, but because of Judah's lack of repentance and self-judgment, eventually the armies of Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, slew thousands of

the people, and carried many more into captivity. Nor was this to be the last distress that would come upon that doomed land. Throughout the long years since their dispersion, Palestine has been a veritable battleground and Israel's sufferings have beggered all description, but the day of their deliverance is yet to come through the very One whom the nation rejected when He came in lowly grace as the promised Saviour and Messiah.

~ end of chapter 13, 14 ~





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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Medes — (Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11, Jeremiah 51:28). At that time they were subject to Assyria; subsequently Arbaces, satrap of Media, revolted against the effeminate Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, destroyed Nineveh, and became king of Media, in the ninth century b.c.

not regard silver — In vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom. The heathen Xenophon (Cyropaedia, 5, 1, 10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes, disregard of riches. A curious confirmation of this prophecy.

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

Behold, I will stir up the Medes - (Isaiah 21:2; Jeremiah 51:11; Jeremiah 51:28.) At that time they were subject to Assyria; subsequently Arbaces, satrap of Media, revolted against the effeminate Sardanapalus, king of Assyria, destroyed Nineveh, and became King of Media, in the ninth century B.C.

Which shall not regard silver - in vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom The pagan Which shall not regard silver - in vain will one try to buy his life from them for a ransom. The pagan Xenophon ('Cyropaedia,' Isaiah 13:1; Isaiah 13:10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes, disregard of riches. A curious confirmation of this prophecy.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

The People's Bible by Joseph Parker

The Burden of Babylon

Isaiah 13-14

It is well that there are some men who see what may be called the more majestic and overpowering aspects of God. Some of us are afraid almost to utter the great words which properly belong to the deity as descriptive of his nature and attributes and government. Herein what a wonderful difference there is between the Old Testament and the New, between the Hebrew and the Greek! Neither is sufficient alone: some men never look at the sky; they look only at the earth; others are not satisfied with looking at what is under their feet, they must with eager yet reverent eyes search the mystery of the heavens. We need all kinds of revelation in order that we may approximate to an idea concerning God"s nature, so wondrous, yet so simple; so lifted up above all time and space as known to us, and yet walking by our very sides, and tabernacling within us as an invited guest.

This is called "The Burden of Babylon." Whenever we find the word burden in this association it means oracle, a speech of doom; it is never connected with blessing, hope, enlarged opportunity, or expanded liberty; it always means that judgment is swiftly coming, and may at any moment burst upon the thing that is doomed. "Which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see." We have ventured to lay it down that there is a genius of Biblical interpretation, that things are not to be taken always in their literal and most obvious and superficial sense. This doctrine cannot be proved by one single instance; we must search the whole record in order to seize this doctrine as a possession which enables us to open many a door in the great wall, built of gold and jasper, of revelation. "Which Isaiah did see." How did he see it? The word "see" needs to be defined every day. Blind men may see. We do not see with the eyes only, else truly we should see very little; the whole body becomes an eye when it is full of light, and they who are holiest see farthest: "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Men see morally, intellectually, sympathetically, as well as visually. How could Isaiah see this burden of Babylon when it did not fall upon the proud city for two centuries? Is there, then, no annihilation of time and space? Are we the mean prisoners we thought ourselves to be? is it Song of Solomon, that we are caged round by invisible iron, and sealed down by some oppressive power, or blinded by some arbitrary or cruel shadow? We might see more if we looked in the right direction; we might be masters of the centuries if we lived with God. Isaiah is never weary of saying that he saw what he affirms. He does not describe it as having been seen by some other man; having written his record he signs it, or having begun to deliver his prophecy he writes it as a man writes his will; he begins by asserting that it is his testament, his own very witness, for he was there, saw it, and he accepts the responsibility of every declaration.

"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain" ( Isaiah 13:2). Does that mean geographically high? Not necessarily. Here again we have need to commit ourselves to the genius of Biblical interpretation. The high mountain is really a bare mountain, not bearded with a forest, not tufted with a few trees, with which the banner might be confused, but a bare, bald, rock-like height, where nothing is to be seen but the uplifted banner of God. Truly, in Christian warfare we might learn something from military enterprise. Have we put our banner in the right place? It is not enough to have a banner, we must be careful where we plant it; it may be mistaken for a tree, it may get entangled among the branches of great oaks or cedars: it is not enough to have a light, we must put it on the candlestick, and set it on the table, and not cover it with a bushel so that the darkness may be unrelieved by its presence: it is not enough to have intelligence, we must properly display it, use it for the benefit of those who are not so intelligent as we are: it is not enough to have schools, we must set the doors wide open, and compel the ignorant to enter that they may return from the sanctuary of wisdom instructed and mentally fortified: it is not enough to have a church, we must open every door and every window, and bid all the people welcome—the more wicked, the more welcome; the more ignorant, if willing to learn, the more desired with the solicitude of sympathy and interest. "Shake the hand" ( Isaiah 13:2). Is that a common signification? Is it to be read as the words would be read to-day in describing social approaches and intercourses? The word is a military word, and it signifies an emphatic gesture of the hand, so that there may be no mistake as to the place indicated: the index-fingers seems long enough to reach the top of the mountain, and to point out the very locality which the banner is to occupy. In military exploits men are not afraid of emphasis: how much afraid we are of it in the Church! The children of this world are wiser than the children of light. When men are determined upon conquering a position with guns and swords, they go about it as if they meant to conquer. How is the Church going about the conversion of the world to-day? Hardly going about the work at all, mumbling where it should roar, giving vague directions where it should give specific indications. Carlyle has said we are lost in many enterprises for want of emphasis. And there may be emphasis which is not properly distributed. We may be earnest about little things instead of great things: "Thy servant was busy here and there," and the king passed by; not, Thy servant was slothful, slumbering, but was busy "here and there," and it is impossible for any man to be busy both here and there. That is the difficulty of misdirected effort, ill-spent vigour, and vain earnestness, that men do not keep to the line, they are not found constantly at the point: they are preaching in Genesis in the morning and in Timothy in the evening; therefore the Bible is scattered, broken up; its continuity is lost, its pressure ceases to be one of the master-forces in life. Yet do not the people love the emphatic gesture, the soldier who knows the gate he means to take? Do they not applaud him in their journals, and celebrate him in their songs? Is it to be Song of Solomon, that only the Church is to be wanting in fervour, in military precision, in dignity and constancy, in warfare and instruction?

"That they may go into the gates of the nobles" ( Isaiah 13:2). The strongest gates are to be broken down. The great judgments of God do not seek little postern entrances; they are royal judgments, and must enter by royal ways. There are gates in parks and in castles which are only opened when the monarch approaches. God is the Monarch, and when he comes we must open the central gates—gates passed only by the nobles and the crowned ones of the land. "The nobles." Aristocracy, then, is of some antiquity; not by any possibility of such high antiquity as the common people. But the word "lord," as used in ordinary speech, is a word we would not willingly let die, if we could keep it to its first meanings. It comes by abbreviation from an old Saxon word, laford, and laford comes from an old Saxon verb which means to sustain, to succour. When our lords are succourers we will never violate their house, meet where they may. When the greatest are the kindest they can never be dispossessed. The time has come by the agency of Christian thought and sympathy when men must vindicate their claim to every primacy by their Wisdom of Solomon, their goodness, their fitness, their moral quality. To bring back words to their first meanings is like bringing back prodigals to their father"s house, that they may have rings on their fingers, shoes on their feet, and be clothed with the best robe. Herein every one can have a great title. When the emulation is to exceed one another in kindness, charity, love, sympathy, then the world will be occupied by one class—by the very aristocracy of heaven.

Isaiah says ( Isaiah 13:5): "They come from a far country, from the end of heaven." What a small solar system Isaiah had! He had great advantages in his vision of the Eternal; when he describes God we are touched by the majesty of his description; but when he talks about "a far country" and "from the end of heaven" we long for some little boy of our own common schools to teach him a little about geography. This is good, and most helpful to a right interpretation of the Bible; this brings us to its high point, to the things it means at all times and under all circumstances. This shows the fearlessness of truth; it will occupy any instrument, or use any medium we can supply; it attaches itself to the intelligence of the day, and uses that for purposes of enlightenment and progress. Who can tell where is the end of heaven? The destruction which is to fall upon Babylon is to come as a destruction from the Almighty. Here is a curious play upon words, which, as the old commentators would say, cannot be Englished. The word "Almighty" here means "the destroyer." In the original language it is almost a pun, a play upon syllables and tones, "it shall come as a destruction from the destroyer." How seldom is the word "Almighty" used in connection with the tender aspects of the divine nature; power would always seem to have been associated with thoughts of judgment, penalty, sovereignty of a stern and exacting kind. In this sense the word is found eight times in the Pentateuch, and twenty-three times in the Book of Job alone. All we can do with a prophecy of this kind is to find out its central principle, which belongs to all ages and to all countries. The prophecy brings God before us as the God of nations. That is a thought which we seldom realise. We fix our unit in the individual. So does God, but he also uses the unit as descriptive of a totality. Babylon is a unit; yea, Assyria, of which Babylon was part—the haughty capital—is a unit; so Media, Egypt, Damascus, Syria. Always understand what the unit is that God is speaking about—sometimes an individual, sometimes a country, sometimes a world, sometimes the universe. A unit is more than one. It is one literally, but there may be a unit of simplicity and a unit of complexity. God handles the nations as single entities: Babylon counts one, Nineveh counts one, every nation is a one; they are millions in the detail, but God lifts up the nation in its unity, examines it, judges it, sentences it, in its unity. Are we not accustomed to the same method of dealing with great questions? Do we not invest a nation with a character? How would the nation of the Jews have been described in olden times? How would the health of England or America or any other country be now stated? As if the country were but one individual. Who hestitates to speak about the function of a whole people, assigning one function to the Roman character, and a totally distinct function to the Greek instinct and culture? We ourselves, therefore, speak as God speaks of nations in their unity. A very mysterious thought this, and full of urgent instruction and suggestiveness. A metropolis may be pronounced healthy, as we have already seen, when there are hundreds of dying men in it. So there are two standards of judgment, or two views and aspects, under which questions may be considered. Say, for example, London is the healthiest city in the empire. That might be met by the assurance that indisputable statistics prove that in London at the very time of the declaration of its healthfulness there are five thousand men whose lives are despaired of. Yet the statement regarding the sanitary condition of the metropolis may be perfectly right. So we speak of England, or some other country, being honest, inspired by a spirit of equity, or honour, or courage. When a country with such a character issues a loan, all the eagles of the earth come down upon it at once. Why? Because of the character which lies behind. The word is the bond. If a country with a great character has made a proposal, the proposal will be carried out, come what may. Whoever, therefore, helps the improvement of individual character, helps the elevation of all the best national characteristics. To work for a child is to work for the nation; to work in the Sunday-school is to amend the national reputation. Thus we operate together, and co-operate with God, and the great purpose is to turn the burden into a blessing.

God is also represented as the destroyer of nations—"Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man"s heart shall melt" ( Isaiah 13:7). How terrible is this! But this is not the worst. There is a purposed cruelty which the Almighty infuses into his judgments when he has to deal with a people like the cities of Babylon; he says: "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" ( Isaiah 13:9). The word "cruelty" is not withheld. It may startle us and shock us until we come to the explanatory word, which is also to be found in the document. We must not stop at the adjective, we must go in quest of the substantive which has brought it into relation, and which it either qualifies or is explained by. Our inquiry must be: On whom will God visit a cruel judgment? And if the answer Isaiah, as it will be found to be in the succeeding chapter, we shall find that the words are well balanced, and that the way of the Lord is equal, and that the word "cruelty," which seems to be so undivine, is really the only word that could have been used with propriety and precision under circumstances so unparalleled and so exciting.

The destructions of the Lord will be executed on an infinite scale—"for the stars of heaven and 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"; and God "will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir." How often is this text misunderstood! How many times has it been explained as meaning the value which God sets upon a Prayer of Manasseh, or the value which man will one day set upon Prayer of Manasseh, because of the creation of humanity in the image and likeness of God. That thought itself is right, but it has no relation whatever to this particular text. Let us read the text, then, in the light of the history. So tremendous and complete shall be the devastation that shall fall upon Babylon that it will be hardly possible anywhere to find a Prayer of Manasseh, and his rarity shall indicate his preciousness. Because the men are so few the greater will be the surprise that they are in existence at all; for when God caused his scythe to swing through the harvests of Babylon it was not expected that a single ear would be left in the devastated field. Thus the utterance is a menace, a judgment; it is not part of a lecture upon the dignity of human nature, it is an illustration of the vastness of the sweep of the judgments of God. How complete is that devastation!

"And Babylon, the glory of the kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees" excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. 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. But wild beasts of the desert shall be there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged" ( ).

You remember Milton"s description of what happened at the time of the flood: "And in their palaces, where luxury late reigned, sea-monsters whelped and stabled." "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Oh, Babylon—Pride—where art thou when touched from above? The withering fire passes through all pomp until it burns the hidden root. All this we may say is historical and local. On the other hand, all this is moral and suggestive. This process may take place in the Babylon of the mind. The greatest mind is only safe whilst it worships. The most magnificent intellectual temple is only secure from the judgment and whirlwind of heaven in proportion as its altar is defended from the approach of every unworthy suppliant. If we hand over God"s altar, whether mental or ecclesiastical, to wrong custodians, or devote either to forbidden purposes, then make way for God"s judgments: wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and the houses that were full of beauty and colour and charm shall be full of doleful creatures; and the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces. This may happen to any one of us. Beware of arrogancy, pride, worldliness, self-sufficiency; beware of the betrayal of trusts: nature will Revelation -enter if we be unfaithful. We speak of our wisdom in putting cautionary covenants into all our legal documents, and especially a man assures himself that he is doubly safe when he has secured the right of Revelation -entry under certain breaches of agreement; he says to himself with complacency, That is justifiable; I have arranged that in the event of certain things failing I shall Revelation -enter. Nature always puts that clause into her covenants. She Revelation -enters in a moment. If the gardener is too late by one day with his spade or seed or other attention, nature begins to Revelation -enter; and if he tarry for a week he will find that nature has made great advances into the property. It is so with education, with the keeping up of intelligence, with the maintenance of healthy discipline; relax a month, and nature Revelation -enters, and nature plays the spoiler. Nature is not a thrifty, careful husbandman. Nature has a function of desolation; she will grow weeds in your richest flower-beds if you neglect them for a day. God Revelation -enters by the spirit of judgment and by the visitations of anger. Herein his providence is but in harmony with the kingdom which he has instituted within the sphere which we call husbandry, and even within the sphere which we denominate by education or discipline. It is one government. Neglect your music for a month, and you will find at the end that nature has Revelation -entered, and you are not wanted; you have not brought with you the wedding-garment of preparation up to date. There must be no intermission; the last line must be filled in. Nature will not have things done in the bulk, in the gross: nature will not allow us simply to write the name; she will weave her webwork all round the garment if we have neglected the borders, and paid attention to only the middle parts.

And how does God justify all this treatment of Babylon? We find the answer in the fourteenth chapter; he says the Babylonians were oppressors, and Babylon was an oppressor, and Babylon was the staff of the wicked. That is the explanation, and God"s explanation is always moral. God never judges men because they have been good, nor smites them because of overmuch prayer; wherever we find the record of judgment we find a record of disobedience, rebellion, haughtiness. How terrible is the fate of the wicked! He shall be mocked in his later time; they who were already on the ground shall receive him on the dust, and say:—

"All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" ( ).

Now we see the quantity with which God had to deal, and also the justice of his judgment and the wisdom of the very cruelty which plagued an arrogancy which nothing else could touch. You do not appease a tiger by sprinkling scented water upon his open mouth. You must deal with cases as you find them, taking a complete measure of them, and understanding all the forces in them and exercised by them; and so judged it will be found that God, whilst a consuming fire, is also a God of love. The eye that looked upon the Egyptians struck off the iron wheels of their chariots: that same eye, looked at from the position occupied by Israel, made morning and warmth and comfort and security infinite. God is to us what we are to God: to the froward he will show himself froward; to the good he will show himself good. This is the abiding and the unchangeable law. If we were wise with the superior—yea, the supreme wisdom—we should consider that the first thing to be done is to set ourselves in a right relation to God; then all the other relations will fall into their proper place. A quaint old critic has said that if the treble string of the viol be right, he knows that the rest will be right: the bass seldom gets wrong; he looks for the treble string. Out of that we may gather some lessons of a spiritual kind. Look for the religious line in a man"s character—for his veneration, his reverence, his sense of moral dignity and moral responsibility; and if his heart be right toward God he may have his little eccentricities and vanities, but all these will sink into nothingness before the power that can pray, and before the passion that can love.


Almighty God, thou hast promised that death shall be swallowed up in victory. Thou canst not bear death. There is no death in God. The wages of sin is death: but thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Thy Son hath abolished death, obliterated it, wiped it out, turned it into nothingness. The broad river is narrow now; men need not pass through it, they can step over it. How near is heaven! how close at hand the invisible! how all but within hand-reach all that we call heaven! We bless thee that in this little life we have hope of immortality. Corruption is not a constant companion. We look for the Lord Jesus, who shall change our common body and make it like unto his own glorious body; then when our citizenship in heaven is completed we shall walk with the saints in light, and do all thy will without reluctance and without weariness. These great anticipations make us strong even now, so that the valley is as a mountain, and the rough place as a road smoothed by God. Such are the miracles thou dost work in our consciousness and our experience, that we have no apprehension of time and space and sense and imprisonment and limitation, but are oftentimes with thy very self in the innermost, uppermost places, where the light never fades. We bless thee for all men who have gone down into the depths valiantly, who have sung in the deep places the song of the redeemed, and who have sent us messages in whispers that the rod and the staff of God can comfort the lone traveller in the darkest valley. This is enough. We are often affrighted, we carry our anticipated death like a burden and die many deaths even whilst we live; but for all sweet messages, all comforting assurances, all inspiring words, all exceeding great and precious promises, we thank God, for they are God"s word only. Grant us strength that we may do thy will; when we have accomplished thy purpose in our life upon the earth make the last time brief, and let us see our Lord, if it please thee, even with somewhat of suddenness. We pray always at the Cross. It is the altar on which no prayer dies, but every prayer is multiplied a thousandfold because of the pleading blood, the infinite, the eloquent Sacrifice. Amen.

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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. 1885-95.

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

In the thirteen chapters which follow, the prophet, like a watchman, raises his voice, and denounces woes against all the surrounding nations, and finally against his own country.

Isaiah 13:1. The burden of Babylon. The LXX merely read ode or song. Isaiah puts his name to it, being fully assured of its truth. The burden of these terrific predictions was laid upon him, he must utter them in the sublimest strains of eloquence.

Isaiah 13:2. Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain. Babylon is here called a mountain, though built on a plain, because of her power. Jeremiah 51:25. Behold I am against thee, oh destroying mountain. The fourth verse adds, the noise of a multitude on the mountains, which evidently means the nations which Cyrus visited, and from whence he gathered his allies, towards the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates, where they first lifted up their banners against Babylon. A fuller account of the fall of this city we reserve for the forty fifth chapter.

Isaiah 13:10. The sun shall be darkened. A frequent figure of speech, signifying the total obscuration of a nation, whose sun should never rise again. Thus the Hebrew sun was to be darkened, Matthew 24:29; as Joel and others had foretold. St. John augured the fall of pagan Rome in similar terms. Revelation 6:12-13.

Isaiah 13:12. The golden wedge of Ophir. That is, as in the original, afri, africa, a country without cold. The Romans called it Africa. The o in Ophir is privative, as in the Saxon orphan, without father; orgild, unfind.

Isaiah 13:14. And it [the remnant, as in the LXX] shall be as a chased roe.

Isaiah 13:17. I will stir up the Medes. At that time the Medes were an inconsiderable nation, no way likely to overthrow Babylon.

Isaiah 13:20. It shall never be inhabited. The ruins of Babylon are discovered as overgrown with various trees, a wide instructive heap, where no Arab can pitch his tent, or feed his flock. The bricks dried in the sun, of which the city was built, would soften and return to clay. Truly the Hebrew prophets were divinely inspired. Had Babylon revived as Rome did, what would have become of the truth of prophecy? Babylon was cursed for a world of blood, and with a malediction which must for ever remain. What a subject for elegy, for rhetoric, for the powers of verse: what a monitress for nations!


Babylon the first and greatest of kingdoms, Babylon the queen of cities, here received its sentence; which sentence the prophets continued to repeat for about one hundred and sixty years before the execution, because they saw a portentous cloud constantly suspended over a proud and bloody people. The national crimes which caused her to sink in the high balances of heaven, are recited at large by Jeremiah and Daniel. Isaiah saw the armies assembling in Media, and the nations joining Cyrus in his circuitous route. They assembled from the end of heaven, Media being the remotest oriental kingdom which the Hebrews knew.

The invading army, called God’s sanctified ones, because of their divine commission, was to meet with no particular opposition. Hence, according to Xenophon’s Cyropædie, Cyrus never had one serious affair in his vast career of conquest.

The nations presently joined him: and in the battle on the plain before Babylon, the immense multitude fled to the city almost on the first onset, except a column of veteran Egyptians. The sun and moon were darkened, which figuratively implies that it was a dark and dismal day for the proud and bloody city, and that the king and his satraps should be confounded in their counsels. All hands were weak, and all hearts faint. How dreadful is the situation of the wicked, when overtaken with the visitations of heaven. They are appalled by terror of conscience, and paralized by the recollection of their crimes. When they cry, heaven mocks, because the age of mercy is past, and the grace of repentance is denied.

The fall of Babylon was to be with immense slaughter. Every one found, and not sheltered in his house, was to be thrust through. So it was for several days after the armies entered the city. Xenophon’s words imply, I think, that every one found in the palaces was put to the sword. The houses, in many cases, were forced for plunder, the little ones dashed to pieces, and the women treated with horrible indignities. Here the human heart unveiled itself on a broad scale; here rage, avarice, and every bad passion took vengeance, not on vanquished victims only, but on helpless infancy, and unprotected innocence. These are scenes which bear the nearest resemblance to hell of any which the history of man affords.—And thou, oh God, didst sit all calm in the heavens, and look on in righteous repose. Why didst thou see multitudes bleed, myriads of whom were innocent and helpless, and call thy victors thy sanctified ones? Was it because, instead of repenting, this haughty city sat as a queen, and was hardened in every crime? Was it because those very Babylonians had committed all those atrocities in Jerusalem. Lamentations 5:11, and because they had made Nineveh and so many other cities of the earth without an inhabitant? Oh yes and thy justice which had long been beclouded as to the returns of vengeance, now shone forth with spotless lustre, and all the surrounding nations applauded its equity.

The cite of proud Babylon should be accursed and made desolate. Venomous reptiles should inhabit its ruins; and the satyrs, shaggy and voracious beasts, should make their dens there. After the Medes left it, its glory faded; and when Alexander the great sought to make it a seat of his empire, which would have contradicted these prophecies, God took him away in the thirtieth year of his age. And Seleucus, fixing his residence at Seleucia, about four leagues distant, gradually drew off the inhabitants. Hence Babylon was swept with a besom of destruction; and like Sodom, a monument of God’s vengeance in its ruins, that all the cities of the earth might be instructed by its fall.

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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 13:17 Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and [as for] gold, they shall not delight in it.

Ver. 17. Behold I will stir up the Medes.] Together with the Persians under the conduct of Darius and Cyrus.

Which shall not regard silver,] sc., For a ransom, but shall kill all they meet, though never so rich, and able to redeem their lives. [Proverbs 13:8 Jeremiah 41:8]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

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

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

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

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". 1854-1889.

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

The LORD Punishes Evil

In Isa 13:14 the prophecy returns to the destruction of Babylon. This is evident from the rest of the chapter. All foreigners who were first attracted by the riches of Babylon and sought their advantage on this world market will flee the city to return to their own people and land. Skittish as "a hunted gazelle" and scattered "like sheep" without a shepherd, they will want to escape the advancing armies of the Medes and Persians. Also the restored Roman Empire (Europe) will consist of people from many countries. When the verdict will come, these people will flee and return to their own people and their own land.

Those who do not flee or are caught on the run fall into the hands of an enemy who spares nothing and no one (Isa 13:15-18). What they encounter on their way is thrust through without pardon or cut down by the sword (Isa 13:15). Respect for what belongs to others in life, possession, and marriage, they do not have (Isa 13:16). They do not have the feelings that go with it. Ruthlessly they dash to pieces small children in front of their parents and ravish women, insensitive to begging them not to do so.

They do not allow themselves to be bribed, insensitive as they are to silver and gold, which means nothing to them (Isa 13:17). Their goal is to destroy their enemies with ruthless cruelty and to make sure that no new growth can come. Therefore, they dash to pieces boys, kill children already in the womb, and spare no child already born (Isa 13:18).

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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 13:17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Against Babylon in Particular

v. 14. And it, namely, Babylon, shall be as the chased roe, the timid gazelle, which is so easily startled, and as a sheep that no man taketh up, like a panic-stricken flock which simply cannot be brought together again. They shall every man turn to his own people and flee every one into his own land, that is, the great mass of strangers gathered in the great world market, Babylonia, would, at her fall, scatter in all directions, every one anxious to reach the protection of his own country.

v. 15. Every one that is found, not having sought safety in flight, shall be thrust through, and every one that is joined unto them, rather, intercepted in flight, shall fall by the sword, for it is a general slaughter which will come upon the mixed population of Babylon.

v. 16. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes, their parents witnessing their murder; their houses shall be spoiled, everything plundered, and their wives ravished, for war ever brutalizes men, in many cases placing them below the level of beasts. The punishment in general having been described, the prophet now proceeds to mention particulars.

v. 17. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, the Medo-Persians being the world power which conquered Babylon, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it, that is, it would be impossible to bribe them, to buy them off, and thus save the city whose destruction was firmly determined upon by the Lord.

v. 18. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces, a very vivid description of the effect which would attend the wholesale slaughter; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb, not sparing even the unborn children, 2Ki_8:12; 2Ki_15:16; Hos_14:1; Amo_1:13; their eye shall not spare children, for the enemies would be devoid of all pity.

v. 19. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, an ornament of beauty in the midst of conquered nations, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, to which they all pointed with pride as the greatest capital of the world, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, utterly destroyed, an eternal wilderness.

v. 20. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabians, the Bedouin nomads, pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there, total desolation should reign there forever.

v. 21. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there, making their dens in the midst of the ruins; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, the howling jackals probably being meant; and owls shall dwell there, rather, ostriches, and satyrs, or wild goats, thought to be possessed of demons, shall dance there.

v. 22. And the wild beasts of the islands, probably hyenas, shall cry in their desolate houses, in the ruined palaces of the city, and dragons in their pleasant palaces, jackals or wolves being among the inhabitants of the stone heaps remaining. And her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged, the threatened ruin would come in a comparatively short time. And so it came to pass, for the destruction of Babylon, begun by Darius Hystaspes, continued by Xerxes, was completed by Seleucus Nicator in the fourth century before Christ, so that even before the birth of Christ the historian Strabo describes the ruins of proud Babylon in words which are strangely like those of the prophet here recorded.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.

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

             b) The particular part: The prophecy against Babylon

  Isaiah 13:14 to Isaiah 14:23


  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.


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.


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.]


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.”


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 Public Domain.
Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Doom of Babylon. B. C. 739.

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 be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: 8 And they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another their faces shall be as 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 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 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 remove out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger. 14 And it shall be as the chased roe, and as 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 is joined 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.

We have here a very elegant and lively description of the terrible confusion and desolation which should be made in Babylon by the descent which the Medes and Persians should make upon it. Those that were now secure and easy were bidden to howl and make sad lamentation for,

I. God was about to appear in wrath against them, and it is a fearful thing to fall into his hands: The day of the Lord is at hand (Isaiah 13:6), a little day of judgment, when God will act as a just avenger of his own and his people's injured cause. And there are those who will have reason to tremble when that day is at hand. The day of the Lord cometh, Isaiah 13:9. Men have their day now, and they think to carry the day but God laughs at them, for he sees that his day is coming, Psalm 37:13. Fury is not with God, and yet his day of reckoning with the Babylonians is said to be cruel with wrath and fierce anger. God will deal in severity with them for the severities they exercised upon God's people with the froward, with the cruel, he will show himself froward, will show himself cruel, and give the blood-thirsty blood to drink.

II. Their hearts shall fail them, and they shall have neither courage nor comfort left they shall not be able either to resist the judgment coming or to bear up under it, either to oppose the enemy or to support themselves, Isaiah 13:7,8. Those that in the day of their peace were proud, and haughty, and terrible (Isaiah 13:11), shall, when trouble comes, be quite dispirited and at their wits' end: All hands shall be faint, and unable to hold a weapon, and every man's heart shall melt, so that they shall be ready to die for fear. The pangs of their fear shall be like those of a woman in hard labour, and they shall be amazed one at another. In frightening themselves, they shall frighten one another they shall wonder to see those tremble that used to be bold and daring or they shall be amazed looking one at another, as men at a loss, Genesis 42:1. Their faces shall be as flames, pale as flames, through fear (so some), or red as flames sometimes are, blushing at their own cowardice or their faces shall be as faces scorched with the flame, or as theirs that labour in the fire, their visage blacker than a coal, or like a bottle in the smoke, Psalm 119:83.

III. All comfort and hope shall fail them (Isaiah 13:10): The stars of heaven shall not give their light, but shall be clouded and overcast the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, rising bright, but lost again, a certain sign of foul weather. They shall be as men in distress at sea, when neither sun nor stars appear, Acts 27:20. It shall be as dreadful a time with them as it would be with the earth if all the heavenly luminaries were turned into darkness, a resemblance of the day of judgment, when the sun shall be turned into darkness. The heavens frowning thus is an indication of the displeasure of the God of heaven. When things look dark on earth, yet it is well enough if all be clear upwards but, if we have no comfort thence, wherewith shall we be comforted?

IV. God will visit them for their iniquity and all this is intended for the punishment of sin, and particularly the sin of pride, Isaiah 13:11. This puts wormwood and gall into the affliction and misery, 1. That sin must now have its punishment. Though Babylon be a little world, yet, being a wicked world, it shall not go unpunished. Sin brings desolation on the world of the ungodly and when the kingdoms of the earth are quarrelling with one another it is the fruit of God's controversy with them all. 2. That pride must now have its fall: The haughtiness of the terrible must now be laid low, particularly of Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar, who had, in their pride, trampled upon, and made themselves very terrible to, the people of God. A man's pride will bring him low.

V. There shall be so great a slaughter as will produce a scarcity of men (Isaiah 13:12): I will make a man more precious than fine gold. You could not have a man to be employed in any of the affairs of state, not a man to be enlisted in the army, not a man to match a daughter to, for the building up of a family, if you would give any money for one. The troops of the neighbouring nations would not be hired into the service of the king of Babylon, because they saw every thing go against him. Populous countries are soon depopulated by war. And God can soon make a kingdom that has been courted and admired to be dreaded and shunned by all, as a house that is falling, or a ship that is sinking.

VI. There shall be a universal confusion and consternation, such a confusion of their affairs that it shall be like the shaking of the heavens with dreadful thunders and the removing of the earth by no less dreadful earthquakes. All shall go to rack and ruin in the day of the wrath of the Lord of hosts, Isaiah 13:13. And such a consternation shall seize their spirits that Babylon, which used to be like a roaring lion and a raging bear to all about her, shall become as a chased roe and as a sheep that no man takes up, Isaiah 13:14. The army they shall bring into the field, consisting of troops of divers nations (as great armies usually do), shall be so dispirited by their own apprehensions and so dispersed by their enemies' sword that they shall turn every man to his own people each man shall shift for his own safety the men of might shall not find their hands (Psalm 76:5), but take to their heels.

VII. There shall be a general scene of blood and horror, as is usual where the sword devours. No wonder that every one makes the best of his way, since the conqueror gives no quarter, but puts all to the sword, and not those only that are found in arms, as is usual with us even in the most cruel slaughters (Isaiah 13:15): Every one that is found alive shall be run through, as soon as ever it appears that he is a Babylonian. Nay, because the sword devours one as well as another, every one that is joined to them shall fall by the sword those of other nations that come in to their assistance shall be cut off with them. It is dangerous being in bad company, and helping those whom God is about to destroy. Those particularly that join themselves to Babylon must expect to share in her plagues, Revelation 18:4. And, since the most sacred laws of nature, and of humanity itself, are silenced by the fury of war (though they cannot be cancelled), the conquerors shall, in the most barbarous brutish manner, dash the children to pieces, and ravish the wives. Jusque datum sceleri--Wickedness shall have free course, Isaiah 13:16. They had thus dealt with God's people (Lamentations 5:11), and now they shall be paid in their own coin, Revelation 13:10. It was particularly foretold (Psalm 137:9) that the little ones of Babylon should be dashed against the stones. How cruel soever and unjust those were that did it, God was righteous who suffered it to be done, and to be done before their eyes, to their greater terror and vexation. It was just also that the houses which they had filled with the spoil of Israel should be spoiled and plundered. What is got by rapine is often lost in the same manner.

VIII. The enemy that God will send against them shall be inexorable, probably being by some provocation or other more than ordinarily exasperated against them or, in whatever way it may be brought about, God himself will stir up the Medes to use this severity with the Babylonians. He will not only serve his own purposes by their dispositions and designs, but will put it into their hearts to make this attempt upon Babylon, and suffer them to prosecute it with all this fury. God is not the author of sin, but he would not permit it if he did not know how to bring glory to himself out of it. These Medes, in conjunction with the Persians, shall make thorough work of it for, 1. They shall take no bribes, Isaiah 13:17. All that men have they would give for their lives, but the Medes shall not regard silver it is blood they thirst for, not gold no man's riches shall with them be the ransom of his life. 2. They shall show no pity (Isaiah 13:18), not to the young men that are in the prime of their time--they shall shoot them through with their bows, and then dash them to pieces not to the age of innocency--they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb, nor spare little children, whose cries and frights one would think should make even marble eyes to weep, and hearts of adamant to relent. Pause a little here and wonder, (1.) That men should be thus cruel and inhuman, and so utterly divested of all compassion and in it see how corrupt and degenerate the nature of man has become. (2.) That the God of infinite mercy should suffer it, nay, and should make it to be the execution of his justice, which shows that, though he is gracious, yet he is the God to whom vengeance belongs. (3.) That little infants, who have never been guilty of any actual sin, should be thus abused, which shows that there is an original guilt by which life is forfeited as soon as it is had.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

We have here the terrible desolation of Babylon by the Medes and Persians. Those who in the day of their peace were proud, and haughty, and terrible, are quite dispirited when trouble comes. Their faces shall be scorched with the flame. All comfort and hope shall fail. The stars of heaven shall not give their light, the sun shall be darkened. Such expressions are often employed by the prophets, to describe the convulsions of governments. God will visit them for their iniquity, particularly the sin of pride, which brings men low. There shall be a general scene of horror. Those who join themselves to Babylon, must expect to share her plagues, Revelation 18:4. All that men have, they would give for their lives, but no man's riches shall be the ransom of his life. Pause here and wonder that men should be thus cruel and inhuman, and see how corrupt the nature of man is become. And that little infants thus suffer, which shows that there is an original guilt, by which life is forfeited as soon as it is begun. The day of the Lord will, indeed, be terrible with wrath and fierce anger, far beyond all here stated. Nor will there be any place for the sinner to flee to, or attempt an escape. But few act as though they believed these things.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Concise Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Matthew Henry Concise Commentary

on the Whole Bible". 1706.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The Medes; under whom he comprehends the Persians, who were their neighbours and confederates in this expedition.

They shall not delight in it; which is to be understood comparatively. They shall more eagerly pursue the destruction of the people than the getting of spoil; whereby it shall appear that they are only the executioners of my vengeance against them; they will accept no ransom to save their lives.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

A Vivid Picture of Babylon’s Future And Its End (Isaiah 13:17-22).

Having depicted the destruction of Babylon in apocalyptic terms Isaiah brings it down to earth. He partly does it in terms of the Medes. The Medes participated in a number of invasions of Babylon from Sargon II onwards and were very much feared. They founded their own empire and up to around the time of Cyrus II (whose father was Persian and whose mother was Medan) were the senior partners of the Medo-Persian alliance. While they sometimes had to pay tribute to a particularly powerful Assyrian king, (and at one stage to the Scythians), they were never really subjugated, and in the end assisted in the destruction of first Assyria, and then Babylonia. They were wild fighters of Indo-Iranian origin who came from the north and settled in the Near East and were expert bowmen, and they were feared by all. Sargon spoke of them as ‘madaia dannuti’ (‘the mighty Medes’). No one wanted to see the Medes approaching their city. It struck a cold chill to the heart.

Analysis of Isaiah 13:17-22.

a Behold I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver, and as for gold, they will not delight in it (Isaiah 13:17).

b And their bows will dash the young men in pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb. Their eye will not spare children (Isaiah 13:18).

c And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah (Isaiah 13:19).

c It will never be inhabited, nor will it be dwelt in from generation to generation, nor will the Arabian pitch tent there, nor will shepherds make their flocks to lie down there (Isaiah 13:20).

b But the wild beasts of the wilderness will lie there, and their houses will be full of howling creatures, and ostriches will dwell there, and he-goats (‘goat-satyrs’) will dance there (Isaiah 13:21).

a And wolves will howl in their castles, and jackals in the pleasant palaces, and her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged (Isaiah 13:22).

These parallels are significant in the understanding of the reputation of the Medes. In ‘a’ the Medes who cannot be bought off will be stirred up against Babylon and in the parallel wolves and jackals will dwell there, and her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged. In ‘b’ Medan bows will dash young men in pieces, and the Medes are totally merciless as regards children, and in the parallel the ruins of Babylon will be inhabited by wild beasts, howling creatures, and ‘goat-satyrs’, bringing out the reputation of the Medes. In ‘c’ glorious Babylon will become like Sodom and Gomorrah, a desolate and forgotten heap, and in the parallel it will never be inhabited and it will be avoided by men.

Isaiah 13:17-18

‘Behold I will stir up the Medes against them,

Who will not regard silver,

And as for gold,

They will not delight in it.

And their bows will dash the young men in pieces,

And they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb.

Their eye will not spare children.’

If we would interpret Scripture truly we have no right to rip this verse from its context. Here we are told quite clearly that what has been described, ‘the burden of Babylon’ (Isaiah 13:1), is to occur at the hands of the nations, and partly, but only partly, at the hands of the Medes, those fearsome peoples from beyond Babylon.

In view of what we know of history the temptation for us here is to assume that this refers to the taking of Babylon in 539 BC by the Medes and the Persians. But it is important to note that the total emphasis here is on the Medes alone, and the Medes were a constant threat to Babylon from the very moment of their arrival from the steppes, even though spasmodically ‘controlled’ by Assyria. There is no mention, or even hint, here of the Persians. The point here is that the Medes will be let loose on them, those dreadful Medes whose bows shoot a man to pieces. But while they were to be specially feared they would only be one invader among many (Isaiah 13:4). Humanly speaking the fierce Medes would be an obvious ally for any attack on Babylon. They loved warfare and were just waiting there on its eastern borders, looking for their opportunity. Isaiah’s prophecies were enlightened common sense inspired by God. And the Medes would certainly be closely involved in most of Babylon’s downfalls. Thus there is no reason for reading a Medo-Persian conflict here.

But when the Medes struck, said Isaiah, it would be because God had stirred them up. They would not be able to be bought off by bribery or offers of gold. They would be ‘under divine orders’. And the bows for which they were famous would destroy the enemy, and the usual consequences of war would then follow, for the Medes would particularly have no pity. It is unusual to see a bow as ‘dashing in pieces’ but the words are picked up from Isaiah 13:16. In mind, however, may be the picture of someone torn apart by arrows, the idea being of the multitude of arrows that the Medes would let loose.

Isaiah 13:19

‘And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.’

‘The glory of kingdoms, the Beauty.’ These were probably descriptions that Babylon was applying to itself in its connections with Judah (Isaiah 39:1). As they boasted of their wealth and success, in order to impress Hezekiah, this would be the kind of language that they had used, and Isaiah takes it up and mocks it. He is angry because they are depicting themselves in terms that challenge Yahweh’s supremacy. That is what makes him realise that Babel/Babylon has not changed. And he is angry that Hezekiah has yielded to it. But such boasting would explain why Hezekiah felt it necessary to reveal his own comparatively puny treasures, comparatively puny but of which he was so proud (Isaiah 39:2). No doubt the Babylonian embassy had brought large gifts in their hands.

So Babylon even now saw itself as ‘the glory of kingdoms’. It was the ‘Beauty’ of which the Chaldeans were so proud. They gloried in themselves though the centuries, and no nation boasts like the resurrected nation. The ‘Chaldeans’ were a prominent group in southern Babylonia and the term was later used of all Babylonians, as here. Babylon was recognised throughout the known world for its splendour. Even Nineveh could not compare with it and its ancient civilisation. And their pride in the fact knew no bounds.

But the same words ‘glory’ and ‘beauty’ were used of the ‘sprouting of Yahweh’ in Isaiah 4:2 and of Yahweh Himself in Isaiah 28:5. Thus Isaiah saw Babylon as exalting itself to the same status as God and His ways. It was the Anti-God. And in its blasphemy it would suffer the same fate as Sodom and Gomorrah, which were bywords for sinfulness.

‘Will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.’ This is Babylon’s final destiny. Isaiah sees it as clearly as if it were in his own day. The Medes will continue to be a thorn in their sides, and would be a part of the alliances that would continually and finally break them, until they would in the end be nothing but a ruin on a mound of earth.

It is the genius of the Hebrew prophets that they prophesied of trends and purposes which in the end became more true than they at first realised. These words of Isaiah are a good example of this. He did not know that the Medan impact on Babylon would be far greater than he realised, nor at this stage did he realise quite how great Babylon would become in the not too distant future. That was a realisation that possibly grew on him as he contemplated that future. For once he knew that Assyria’s end was ‘near’, he may possibly have begun to see Babylon as the obvious candidate for rising to prominence and then have come to recognise what the consequences for Israel/Judah would be. And then this prophecy would be even more true. But if so that would come later when he realised that the Assyrian venture against Babylon had not been the final end for Babylon, in respect of a future that he knew must come.

Isaiah 13:20-22

‘It will never be inhabited,

Nor will it be dwelt in from generation to generation,

Nor will the Arabian pitch tent there,

Nor will shepherds make their flocks to lie down there.

But the wild beasts of the wilderness will lie there,

And their houses will be full of howling creatures,

And ostriches will dwell there,

And he-goats (‘goat-satyrs’) will dance there.

And wolves will howl in their castles,

And jackals in the pleasant palaces,

And her time is near to come,

And her days will not be prolonged.’

For its end would inevitably come. The ‘world’ invasions would do their work. The contrast here is with its glory and its beauty. It will become a ghost town, a deserted city, an eerie place. The fact that the wandering Arab, the caravanners, or shepherd will not pitch tent or settle their sheep there may suggest the idea that it would be seen as cursed or haunted. And this is borne out by the following description.

These descriptions parallel the mention of the Medes. They bring out just how much the Medes were feared, and how they were looked on. The ruined castles and palaces will become homes for wild beasts and ghostly creatures, places where wolves and jackals will be king, and mysterious presences, howling creatures and goat-satyrs, the invention of fevered minds, will wander. Paradoxically we too do not need to believe in ghosts to be conscious of ghostly presences in such a situation.

This was to be the final end of ancient Babylon, as today we know it was. It did happen eventually, and the Medes would have a big hand in it, and that is all that Isaiah foresaw and was prophesying. The fact that it did not happen quite as simply as portrayed is proof that it is genuine prophecy.

‘And her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged.’ This desolation of Babylon, ‘the glory of the kingdoms’, described throughout the chapter, is neither dated nor specifically connected with Israel and Judah. And there is no mention of the exile. It is thus quite possible that it was the coming of the ambassadors from Babylon that set up this train of thought, and resulted in this burden, with its certainty of Babylon’s final total destruction. Thus Isaiah warns that Babylon’s time is coming, and that, in divine terms, in the not too distant future. In spite of all her boasting her future glory will only be temporary, for among her enemies will be the dreaded Medes.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Isaiah 13:1 to Isaiah 14:23. The Utter Ruin of Babylon and Triumphal Ode over her Monarch's Death.—Historical conditions are here presupposed entirely different from those of Isaiah's time. The subject of Isaiah 13 is the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes a century and a half after his age. Since the downfall is said to lie in the near future, the prophecy must have been written very near the close of the Exile. The description of Babylon is also not true to the situation of Isaiah's day. The great oppressing empire, whose downfall he predicted, was Assyria. Babylon was subject to it, though it revolted from time to time, and it was united in friendly relations with Judah by hate for the common oppressor. In our prophecy Babylon is no longer a subject state, but "the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans' pride," proud and arrogant, haughty and terrible. The ode in Isaiah 14:4 b - Isaiah 14:21 probably belongs to the same date. It is a song of triumph over the fall of an unnamed oppressor. The writer pictures with undisguised exultation the taunts that will be aimed at the fallen tyrant in Sheol. Although the king is not named, the close connexion with the preceding prophecy makes it likely that the king of Babylon is meant. Isaiah 14:1-4 a is apparently an editorial link between Isaiah 13 and the ode that follows. If so, the reference to the restoration is to the return from the Dispersion rather than simply from Babylon. Prophecies of the return were not necessarily composed before the return under Cyrus, for neither that nor the subsequent return led by Ezra embraced more than a comparatively small remnant of the Jewish population out of Palestine. Long afterwards the hope of restoration was still cherished.

Isaiah 13. A standard is to be set on the bare mountain, that it may be seen far and wide. The warriors are summoned to enter the gates of the Babylonians, here called "the nobles," other nations being the common people in comparison with these world rulers. The warriors are summoned to execute Yahweh's anger. They proudly exult in prospect of victory. They are called consecrated because war was regarded as a holy enterprise, and those who took part in it as specially dedicated to the Divine service, which imposed upon them several restrictions, or, as they are technically called, taboos. Yahweh was Himself supposed to go with His armies to battle. Campaigns were inaugurated with sacrifice (pp. 99, 114). The prophet hears the Medes mustering in their mountains to pour down on the plains of Babylonia. Though they howl, for Yahweh's day is at hand, men shall be powerless and dismayed in pain and perplexity. The day comes, cruel and angry, to desolate the land and extirpate sinners. The sun, moon, and stars will be darkened; the wicked will be punished and the haughty be brought low; a man will be rarer than gold; the heavens will tremble, the earth leap from her place. Then the traders or visitors who have come from all quarters to Babylon will rush home in headlong flight. The atrocities which were the usual accomplishments of the capture of a city, especially by savage warriors like the Medes, will be perpetrated at Babylon's fall. For they will not be bought off, they will be pitiless even to the most helpless, and Babylon, now at last mentioned by name, the capital of many subject kingdoms, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah, desolate for ever, unvisited even by the nomad or the shepherd, the home of wild beasts and uncanny monsters. And this judgment is near at hand.

Isaiah 13:1. burden: read mg. It is derived from the verb "to lift up," meaning to lift up the voice.

Isaiah 13:6. Cf. Joel 1:15.

Isaiah 13:8. faces of flame: variously explained as the flame of pain, shame, or excitement.

Isaiah 13:10. The failure of the heavenly bodies to shine is a very common element in prophetic pictures of judgment. Read, perhaps, "For the heavens and the constellations thereof." Constellations means such constellations as Orion.

Isaiah 13:12. Ophir: the situation has been much disputed. It has been located on the W. coast of India, and on the S.E. coast of Africa, opposite Madagascar. The most probable view is that it was on the S.E. coast of Arabia, but the name may also have included the district opposite this on the E. coast of Africa. See the Dictionaries.

Isaiah 13:15 f. The atrocities were not actually perpetrated, for Babylon surrendered peacefully to Cyrus.

Isaiah 13:17. The Medes (pp. 58, 60) were a mountaineering nation to the N.E. of Babylon. Cyrus united them with the Persians under his sway, and together they captured Babylon in 538. See pp. 61, 77.

Isaiah 13:19. The Chaldeans (pp. 58f.) were a people living on the coast S.E. of Babylonia. Merodach Baladan (p. 71) who held Babylon for a time against Assyria, was a Chaldean. But they were not in any sense Babylonians till Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who was a Chaldean, founded the new Babylonian empire about 626 (p. 60). The name was subsequently used as synonymous with Babylonians. In Daniel we have the curious use of Chaldeans in the sense of magicians or wise men (pp. 524f.).

Isaiah 13:21 f. Parallels occur in Zephaniah 2:14 f.; Jeremiah 50:39; Jeremiah 51:37; Isaiah 34:11-15. The creatures mentioned belonged not merely to what we should call natural history, but supernatural, which were not sharply distinguished by the ancient mind. The names are in some cases of uncertain meaning. The satyrs are demons, probably in the shape of goats. It is a common Arab superstition that ruins are haunted by uncanny creatures. The author further predicts that this desolation is to come quickly. As a matter of fact the city remained unharmed under Cyrus. Its outer walls were destroyed when it revolted from Darius I, and it gradually decayed. It was still inhabited in the time of Alexander the Great, who purposed to make it his capital, and who died there.

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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary


Isa . The Medes … shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

I. One of the most universal and powerful of all passions is the love of money. Consider—

2. How powerful it is in its operation! It drives men to exhausting toil. It leads them to face appalling dangers. It persuades them to endure distressing privations. It betrays them into the basest crimes. Up to a certain point, it may be said to be a useful servant; it works to promote our welfare, by overbalancing other tendencies that would degrade and ruin us; but when once that limit is overpassed, it transforms itself into a tyrannical master. Like many an Eastern tyrant, it destroys all other lawful passions that might dispute with it the throne (H. E. I., 400, 402).

II. But this passion, powerful as it is, may be controlled and conquered. "The Medes … shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it." This means, not that they should be exempt from the influence of this worldwide passion, but that in them it would be temporarily overborne by another more powerful passion—the passion for revenge. For years the dominion of Babylon over them had been maintained by the most relentless rigour and frightful cruelties; and when the hour for successful revolt came, the one thought of the Medes would be—Revenge! That one intense longing would consume all others; the men on whom it had laid hold would forget their thirst for riches.

This really is only an instance and illustration of what Dr. Chalmers used to call "the expulsive power of a new affection." Many other affections come up to the human heart, and expel avarice; e.g., love of wife or children, ambition, vanity, &c. We see, therefore, that the love of money can be conquered, and as reasonable men always in danger of being overcome by it, we should ask by what passion or principle it can be conquered most nobly. That principle and that passion is the love of Christ. Of those who are truly possessed by it, it may be truly said that they do not regard silver; and as for gold, they do not delight in it. They may have much money, and by their splendid genius for business may be constantly gaining much more; but they possess it, it does not possess them; they are its masters. By the use of it they are ennobled. Let us pray that our hearts may be garrisoned by this more powerful and noble passion; then all the assaults of avarice upon them shall be made in vain. We shall meet them as Christ Himself met the offer of all the wealth and glory of the world; and the result will be, that we shall possess the true riches which will be valuable in the eternal world (Mat ; Mat 6:19-21).

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

In these verses we have a continuation of the subject concerning the destruction of Babylon, with the effects to be wrought by it on all the people. And, what is very observable, so hardened against all impressions of mercy shall be the enemies of Babylon, that, contrary to the usage of armies, this army shall totally disregard plunder. They are not fighting for silver nor gold: they are the Lord's instruments of destruction; and as such, their minds are all instinctively directed to the accomplishment of this one purpose. Probably in answer to the prayers of his people, who cried to him under the oppression of Babylon. Let the Reader consult to this purpose those scriptures, and then judge: Lamentations 4:21-22; Ps 137 throughout.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". 1828.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 13:17-18. Behold, &c. — Here follows the second part of this prophecy, in which the calamity which the prophet had foretold, principally in figure, is plainly related and set forth in its causes and consequences. Its causes are stated to be the Medes, raised up by God himself against the Babylonians, and described as being extremely full of cruelty and avidity of revenge, Isaiah 13:17-18. The consequences are, the desolation of Babylon, and the calamity to be brought upon it, Isaiah 13:19-22. I will stir up the Medes — Under whom he comprehends the Persians, who were their neighbours and confederates in this expedition. Which shall not regard silver, &c. — That is, comparatively speaking. They shall more eagerly pursue the destruction of the people than the getting of spoil. Their bows also — Under which are comprehended other weapons of war; shall dash the young men to pieces — Or, shall pierce the young men through, as the Chaldee renders it. But, as both Herodotus and Xenophon affirm that the Persians used τοξα μεγαλα, large bows, according to the latter, bows three cubits long, and undoubtedly proportionably strong; we may easily conceive, as Bishop Lowth observes, that, with such bows, especially if made of brass, as bows anciently often were, (see Psalms 18:35; Job 20:24,) the soldiers might dash and slay the young men, the weaker and unresisting part of the inhabitants, (here joined with the fruit of the womb and the children,) in the general carnage in taking the city.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Joseph Benson's Commentary. 1857.

The Biblical Illustrator

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 13:17". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

The Biblical Illustrator

Isaiah 13:17

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them

The Medes

The Medes care not for gold, but for blood, though it be the blood of boys and infants.
Sir E. Strachey, Bart.)

The Medes and gold

“Ye Medes and others who now hear me, I well know that you have not accompanied me in this expedition with a view of acquiring wealth.”--Speech of Cyrus to his army. (Xenophon, Cyrop. V.)

The Medea

The worst terror that can assail us is the terror of forces, whose character we cannot fathom, who will not stop to parley, who do not understand our language nor our bribes. It was such a power with which the resourceful and luxurious Babylon was threatened. With money the Babylonians did all they wished to do, and believed everything else to be possible. They had subsidised kings, bought over enemies, seduced the peoples of the earth, The foe whom God now sent them was impervious to this influence. From their pure highlands came down upon corrupt civilisation a simple people, whose banner was a leathern apron, whose goal was not booty nor ease but power and mastery, who came not to rob but to displace. (Prof. G. A. Smith, D. D.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Isaiah 13:17". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 13:17-18. Behold, I will stir up the Medes Here follows the second part of this prophesy; in which, what the prophet had foretold principally in figure, is here plainly related; and is easily divided, as it contains the antecedent and consequent, the cause and effect. The antecedent, or efficient causes of the evil to come, are the Medes and Persians, raised up by God himself against the Babylonians, and described from their ruling principle, extremely full of cruelty and avidity of revenge, Isaiah 13:17-18. The consequence is, the desolation of Babylon, and the calamity to be brought upon it, Isaiah 13:19-22. The expression in the 18th verse, Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces, might be rendered, And they shall with their bows dash to pieces the children: according to the Vulgate, They shall kill their little ones with their arrows: cruel and relentless, and thirsting only for blood, no money will be able to bribe them; no gold or silver be able to satiate their thirst of destruction. Ancient historians assure us, that the Medes and Persians were thus notorious for their cruelty, and also that they carried remarkably large bows, and were eminent for their skilfulness in the use of them. Bishop Newton observes, that at the time when Isaiah wrote this prophesy, the Medes were a people of no account, forming only a province under the king of Assyria, and not erected into a separate kingdom till the time of Dioces, about the 17th year of king Hezekiah. They afterwards became a very considerable people, and made up the principal part of the army which was brought against Babylon by Cyrus, whose mother was a Mede. When Babylon was taken by Darius, he ordered 3000 of the principal men to be crucified, and thereby fulfilled the prophesies of the cruelty which the Medes and Persians should use towards the Babylonians, contained in this passage, and in Jeremiah 50:42. See Prophec. vol. 1: p. 295.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expositor's Bible Commentary




Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-23

THIS double oracle is against the City [Isaiah 13:2-22; Isaiah 14:1-2] and the Tyrant [Isaiah 14:3-23] of Babylon.


[Isaiah 13:2-22; Isaiah 14:1-23]

The first part is a series of hurried and vanishing scenes-glimpses of ruin and deliverance caught through the smoke and turmoil of a Divine war. The drama opens with the erection of a gathering "standard upon a bare mountain" (Isaiah 13:2). He who gives the order explains it (Isaiah 13:3), but is immediately interrupted by "Hark! a tumult on the mountains, like a great people. Hark! the surge of the kingdoms of nations gathering together. Jehovah of hosts is mustering the host of war." It is "the day of Jehovah" that is "near," the day of His war and of His judgment upon the world.

This Old Testament expression, "the day of the Lord," starts so many ideas that it is difficult to seize any one of them and say this is just what is meant. For "day" with a possessive pronoun suggests what has been appointed beforehand, or what must come round in its turn; means also opportunity and triumph, and also swift performance after long delay. All these thoughts are excited when we couple "a day" with any person’s name. And therefore, as with every dawn some one awakes saying, This is my day; as with every dawn comes some one’s chance, some soul gets its wish, some will shows what it can do, some passion or principle issues into fact: so God also shall have His day, on which His justice and power shall find their full scope and triumph. Suddenly and simply, like any dawn that takes its turn on the round of time, the great decision and victory of Divine justice shall at last break out of the long delay of ages. "Howl ye, for the day of Jehovah is near; as destruction from the Destructive does it come." Very savage and quite universal is its punishment. "Every human heart melteth." Countless faces, white with terror, light up its darkness like flames. Sinners are "to be exterminated out of the earth; the world is to be punished for its iniquity." Heaven, the stars, sun and moon aid the horror and the darkness, heaven shivering above, the earth quaking beneath; and between, the peoples like shepherd-less sheep drive to and fro through awful carnage.

From Isaiah 13:17 the mist lifts a little. The vague turmoil clears up into a siege of Babylon by the Medians, and then settles down into Babylon’s ruin and abandonment to wild beasts. Finally [Isaiah 14:1] comes the religious reason for so much convulsion: "For Jehovah will have compassion upon Jacob, and choose again Israel, and settle them upon their own ground; and the foreign sojourner shall join himself to them, and they shall associate themselves to the house of Jacob."

This prophecy evidently came to a people already in captivity-a very different circumstance of the Church of God from that in which we have seen her under Isaiah. But upon this new stage it is still the same old conquest. Assyria has fallen, but Babylon has taken her place. The old spirit of cruelty and covetousness has entered a new body; the only change is that it has become wealth and luxury instead of brute force and military glory. It is still selfshness and pride and atheism. At this, our first introduction to Babylon, it might have been proper to explain why throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation this one city should remain in fact or symbol the enemy of God and the stronghold of darkness. But we postpone what may be said of her singular reputation, till we come to the second part of the Book of Isaiah where Babylon plays a larger and more distinct role. Here her destruction is simply the most striking episode of the Divine judgment upon the whole earth. Babylon represents civilisation; she is the brow of the world’s pride and enmity to God. One distinctively Babylonian characteristic, however, must not be passed over. With a ring of irony in his voice, the prophet declares, "Behold, I stir up the Medes against thee, who regard not silver and take no pleasure in gold." The worst terror that can assail us is the terror of forces, whose character we cannot fathom, who will not stop to parley, who do not understand our language nor our bribes. It was such a power with which the resourceful and luxurious Babylon was threatened. With money the Babylonians did all they wished to do, and believed everything else to be possible. They had subsidised kings, bought over enemies, seduced the peoples of the earth. The foe whom God now sent them was impervious to this influence. From their pure highlands came down upon corrupt civilisation a simple people, whose banner was a leathern apron, whose goal was not booty nor ease but power and mastery, who came not to rob but to displace.

The lessons of the passage are two: that the people of God are something distinct from civilisation, though this be universal and absorbent as a very Babylon; and that the resources of civilisation are not even in material strength the highest in the universe, but God has in His armoury weapons heedless of men’s cunning, and in His armies agents impervious to men’s bribes. Every civilisation needs to be told, according to its temper, one of these two things. Is it hypocritical? Then it needs to be told that civilisation is not one with the people of God. Is it arrogant? Then it needs to be told that the resources of civilisation are not the strongest forces in God’s universe. Man talks of the triumph of mind over matter, of the power of culture, of the elasticity of civilisation; but God has natural forces, to which all these are as the worm beneath the hoof of the horse: and if moral need arise, He will call His brute forces into requisition. "Howl ye, for the day of Jehovah is near; as destruction from the Destructive does it come." There may be periods in man’s history when, in opposition to man’s unholy art and godless civilisation, God can reveal Himself only as destruction.


[Isaiah 14:3-23]

To the prophecy of the overthrow of Babylon there is annexed, in order to be sung by Israel in the hour of her deliverance, a satiric ode or taunt-song (Hebrews mashal, Eng. ver. parable) upon the King of Babylon. A translation of this spirited poem in the form of its verse (in which, it is to be regretted, it has not been rendered by the English revisers) will be more instructive than a full commentary. But the following remarks of introduction are necessary. The word mashal, by which this ode is entitled, means comparison, similitude, or parable, and was applicable to every sentence composed of at least two members that compared or contrasted their subjects. As the great bulk of Hebrew poetry is sententious, and largely depends for rhythm upon its parallelism, mashal received a general application; and while another term - shir- more properly denotes lyric poetry, mashal is applied to rhythmical passages in the Old Testament of almost all tempers: to mere predictions, proverbs, orations, satires or taunt-songs, as here, and to didactic pieces. The parallelism of the verses in our ode is too evident to need an index. But the parallel verses are next grouped into strophes. In Hebrew poetry this division is frequently effected by the use of a refrain. In our ode there is no refrain, but the strophes are easily distinguished by difference of subject-matter. Hebrew poetry does not employ rhyme, but makes use of assonance, and to a much less extent of alliteration-a form which is more frequent in Hebrew prose. In our ode there is not much either of assonance or alliteration. But, on the other hand, the ode has but to be read to break into a certain rough and swinging rhythm. This is produced by long verses rising alternate with short ones falling. Hebrew verse at no time relied for a metrical effect upon the modern device of an equal or proportionate number of syllables. The longer verses of this ode are sometimes too short, the shorter too long, variations to which a rude chant could readily adapt itself. But the alternation of long and short is sustained throughout, except for a break at Isaiah 14:10 by the introduction of the formula, "And they answered and said," which evidently ought to stand for a long and a short verse if the number of double verses in the second strophe is to be the same as it is-seven-in the first and in the third.

The scene of the poem, the underworld and abode of the shades of the dead, is one on which some of the most splendid imagination and music of humanity has been expended. But we must not be disappointed if we do net here find the rich detail and glowing fancy of Virgil’s or of Dante’s vision. This simple and even rude piece of metre, liker ballad than epic, ought to excite our wonder not so much for what it has failed to imagine as for what, being at its disposal, it has resolutely stinted itself in employing. For it is evident that the author of these lines had within his reach the rich, fantastic materials of Semitic mythology, which are familiar to us in the Babylonian remains. With an austerity, that must strike every one who is acquainted with these, he uses only so much of them as to enable him to render with dramatic force his simple theme-the vanity of human arrogance.

For this purpose he employs the idea of the underworld which was prevalent among the northern Semitic peoples. Sheol-the gaping or craving place-which we shall have occasion to describe in detail when we come to speak of belief in the resurrection, is the state after death that craves and swallows all living. There dwell the shades of men amid some unsubstantial reflection of their earthly state (Isaiah 14:9), and with consciousness and passion only sufficient to greet the arrival of the newcomer and express satiric wonder at his fall (Isaiah 14:9). With the arrogance of the Babylonian kings, this tyrant thought to scale the heavens to set his throne in the "mount of assembly" of the immortals, "to match the Most High." But his fate is the fate of all mortals-to go down to the weakness and emptiness of Sheol. Here, let us carefully observe, there is no trace of a judgment for reward or punishment. The new victim of death simply passes to his place among his equals. There was enough of contrast between the arrogance of a tyrant claiming Divinity and his fall into the common receptacle of mortality to point the prophet’s moral without the addition of infernal torment. Do we wish to know the actual punishment of his pride and cruelty? It is visible above ground (strophe 4); not with his spirit, but with his corpse; not with himself, but with his wretched family. His corpse is unburied, his family exterminated; his name disappears from the earth.

Thus, by the help of only a few fragments from the popular mythology, the sacred satirist achieves his purpose. His severe monotheism is remarkable in its contrast to Babylonian poems upon similar subjects. He will know none of the gods of the underworld. In place of the great goddess, whom a Babylonian would certainly have seen presiding, with her minions, over the shades, he personifies-it is a frequent figure of Hebrew poetry-the abyss itself. "Sheol shuddereth at thee." It is the same when he speaks (Isaiah 14:13) of the deep’s great opposite, that "mount of assembly" of the gods, which the northern Semites believed to soar to a silver sky "in the recesses of the north" (Isaiah 14:14), "upon the great range which in that direction" bounded the Babylonian plain. This Hebrew knows of no gods there but One, whose are the stars, who is the Most High. Man’s arrogance and cruelty are attempts upon His majesty. He inevitably overwhelms them. Death is their penalty: blood and squalor on earth, the concourse of shuddering ghosts below.

The kings of the earth set themselves

And the rulers take counsel together,

Against the Lord and against His Anointed.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh;

The Lord shall have them in derision.

He who has heard that laughter sees no comedy in aught else. This is the one unfailing subject of Hebrew satire, and it forms the irony and the rigour of the following ode.

The only other remarks necessary are these. In Isaiah 14:9 the Authorised Version has not attempted to reproduce the humour of the original satire, which styles them that were chief men on earth "chief-goats" of the herd, bellwethers. The phrase "they that go down to the stones of the pit" should be transferred from Isaiah 14:19 to Isaiah 14:20.

And thou shalt lift up this proverb upon the king of Babylon, and shalt say, -


Ah! stilled is the tyrant,

And stilled is the fury!

Broke hath Jehovah the rod of the wicked,

Sceptre of despots:

Stroke of (the) peoples with passion,

Stroke unremitting,

Treading in wrath (the) nations,

Trampling unceasing.

Quiet, at rest. is the whole earth,

They break into singing;

Even the pines are jubilant for thee,

Lebanon’s cedars!

"Since thou liest low, cometh not up

Feller against us."


Sheol from under shuddereth at thee

To meet thine arrival,

Stirring up for thee the shades,

All great-goats of earth!

Lifteth erect from their thrones

All kings of peoples.

10. All of them answer and say to thee, -

"Thou, too, made flaccid like us,

To us hast been levelled!

Hurled to Sheol is the pride of thee,

Clang of the harps of thee;

Under thee strewn are (the) maggots

Thy coverlet worms."


How art thou fallen from heaven

Daystar, sun of the dawn

(How) art thou hewn down to earth,

Hurtler at nations.

And thou, thou didst say in thine heart,

"The heavens will I scale,

Far up to the stars of God

Lift high my throne,

And sit on the mount of assembly,

Far back of the north,

I will climb on the heights of (the) cloud,

I will match the Most High!"

Ah I to Sheol thou art hurled,

Far back of the pit!


Who see thee at thee are gazing;

Upon thee they muse: I

s this the man that staggered the earth,

Shaker of kingdoms?

Setting the world like the desert,

Its cities he tore down:

Its prisoners he loosed not

(Each of them) homeward.

All kings of people, yes all,

Are lying in their state;

But thou! thou art flung from thy grave,

Like a stick that is loathsome.

Beshrouded with slain, the pierced of the sword,

Like a corpse that is trampled.

They that go down to the stones of a crypt,

Shalt not be with them in burial.

For thy land thou hast ruined,

Thy people hast slaughtered.

Shall not be mentioned for aye

Seed of the wicked!

Set for his children a shambles,

For guilt of their fathers!

They shall not rise, nor inherit (the) earth,

Nor fill the face of the world with cities.


But I will arise upon them,

Sayeth Jehovah of hosts;

And I will cut off from Babel

Record and remnant,

And scion and seed,

Saith Jehovah:

Yea, I will make it the bittern’s heritage,

Marshes of water!

And I will sweep it with sweeps of destruction.

Sayeth Jehovah of hosts.

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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Expositor's Bible Commentary".

The Pulpit Commentaries


THE BURDEN OF BABYLON. The series of prophecies which commences with this chapter and continues to the close of Isaiah 23:1-18; is connected together by the word massa, burden. It has been argued that the term "burden" is an incorrect translation of massa, as used by Isaiah and later prophets (Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1; Zechariah 9:1; Zechariah 12:1; Malachi 1:1); and that "utterance," or "prophecy," would be more suitable (comp. Proverbs 30:1; Proverbs 31:1, where massa is thus rendered in the Authorized Version). But the facts remain that massa means a "burden" in the ordinary sense, and that the prophecies to which it is prefixed are generally (in Isaiah always) of a denunciatory character. The translation may therefore be allowed to stand—at any rate in the present chapter.

It is remarkable that Babylon heads the list of the Church's enemies in the present catalogue. Dr. Kay supposes the term "Babel" to be equivalent to "Asshur-Babel," and to designate "the Assyro-Babylonian Empire." He thinks that "Babel" heads the list on account of Assyria's position, under Tiglath-Pileser and Shalmaneser, in the van of Israel's adversaries. But neither Isaiah nor any other sacred writer knows of an Assyro-Babylonian kingdom or empire. Assyria and Babylonia are distinct kingdoms in Genesis (Genesis 10:8-12), in 2 Kings (18-20.), in 2 Chronicles (2 Chronicles 20:12.), in Isaiah (36-39.) and in Ezekiel (23; 30; 31.). They had been at war almost continuously for above seven centuries before the time of Isaiah. Assyria had, on the whole, proved the stronger of the two, and had from time to time for a longer or a shorter period held Babylonia in subjection. But the two countries were never more one than Russia and Poland, and, until Tiglath-Pileser assumed the crown of Babylon in 729 B.C they bad always been under separate monarchs. Individually, I can only account for the high position here given to Babylon by the prophet, on the supposition that it was thus early revealed to him that Babylonia was the great enemy to be feared—the ultimate destroyer of Judah and Jerusalem, the power that would carry the Jewish people into captivity.

Isaiah 13:1

Which Isaiah … did see (comp. Isaiah 1:1; Isaiah 2:1, etc.). Isaiah always "sees" his prophecies, whether they are of the nature of visions (as Isaiah 6:1-13.) or the contrary. The word is probably used to express the strong conviction that he has of their absolute certainty.

Isaiah 13:2

Lift ye up a banner; rather, a standard"an ensign," as in Isaiah 5:26 : Isaiah 11:12. "Ensigns" were used both by the Assyrians and the Egyptians. "Banners," or flags, do not seem to have been employed in the ancient world. Upon the high mountain; rather, upon a bare mountain—one that was clear of trees, so that the signal might be the better seen from it. God's army having to be summoned against Babylon, the summons is made in three ways:

The whole description is, of course, pure metaphor. That they may go into the gates of the nobles. Either that they may enter into the palaces of the grandees in Babylon, or that they may take the towns of the tributary princes.

Isaiah 13:3

I have commanded my sanctified ones. The pronoun "I" is emphatic—"I myself." Not only will an external summons go forth, but God will lay his own orders on them whom he chooses for his instruments, and bid them come to the muster. All who carry out his purposes are, in a certain sense, "sanctified ones" (comp. Jeremiah 22:7; Jeremiah 51:27; Zephaniah 1:7, etc.). Here the Modes and Persians are specially in. tended (see Isaiah 13:17). For mine anger; i.e. "for the purpose of executing my anger." Even them that rejoice in my highness; rather, my proudly exultant ones (Cheyne, Rosenmüller, Gesenius). AEschylus calls the Persians ὑπερκόμπους; Herodotus, ὑβριστάς (1. 41). The high spirits, however, natural to gallant soldiers on going out to war, rather than any special haughtiness or arrogancy, are intended.

Isaiah 13:4

The noise of a multitude in the mountains. I do not know why Isaiah should not have been "thinking of his geography" (Cheyne). As soon as the Greeks knew anything of the Persians, they knew of them as a mountain people, and attributed their valor and their handy habits to the physical character of their country (Herod; 9. ad fin.). Jeremiah connects the invading army which destroyed Babylon with mountains, when he derives it from. Ararat (comp. Genesis 8:4), Minni (Armenia), and Ashchenaz (Jeremiah 51:27). At any rate, the mention of "mountains" here is very appropriate, both Media and Persia being, in the main, mountainous countries. A great people; or, much people—not necessarily of one nation only. The host of the battle; rather, a host of war; i.e. a multitude of men, armed and prepared for war.

Isaiah 13:5

They come from a far country (comp. Isaiah 46:11). Both Media and Persia were "far countries" to the Hebrews, Persia especially. There is no indication that they knew of any countries more remote towards the East. Hence the expression which follows, "from the end of heaven"—the heaven being supposed to end where the earth ended. Isaiah, like the other sacred writers, conforms his language on cosmical subjects to the opinions of his day. Even the Lord. With a most effective anthropomorphism, Jehovah is made to march with the army that he has mustered (verse 4) against the land that has provoked his wrath—i.e. Babylonia. The weapons (comp. Isaiah 10:15; Jeremiah 1:1-19 :25; Jeremiah 51:20). To destroy the whole land. Many critics would render ha-arets by "the earth" here. It may be granted that the language of the prophecy goes beyond the occasion in places, and passes from Babylon to that wicked world of which Babylon is a type; but, where the context permits, it seems better to restrict than to expand the meaning of the words employed.

Isaiah 13:6

Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand (comp. Joel 1:15); literally, the expression used in both passages is a day of Jehovah. The idiom would not, however, allow the use of the article, so that the phrase is ambiguous. "The day of Jehovah" is properly "that crisis in the history of the world when Jehovah will interpose to rectify the evils of the present, bringing joy and glory to the humble believer, and misery and shame to the proud and disobedient" (Cheyne). But any great occasion when God passes judgment on a nation is called in Scripture "a day of the Lord." "a coming of Christ." And so here the day of the judgment upon Babylon seems to be intended. It shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Isaiah is thought to quote from Joel (Joel 1:15) here; but perhaps both prophets quoted from an earlier author. Shaddai (equivalent to "Almighty') is an ancient name of God, most rarely used by the prophetical writers (only here, and in Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 10:5; Joel 1:15), and never elsewhere by either Isaiah or Joel. It has generally been said to mean "the Strong One;" but recently the theory has found favor that it meant originally "the Sender of storms," from the Arabic sh'da—jecit, effudit. However this may be, the word is certainly used in the later times mainly to express God's power to visit and punish, and the present passage might perhaps be best translated, "It shall come as a destruction from the Destroyer (k'shod mish-Shaddai yabo')."

Isaiah 13:7

Therefore shall all hands be faint (comp. Jeremiah 1:1-19 :43; Ezekiel 7:17; Zephaniah 3:16). There shall be a general inaction and apathy. Recently discovered accounts of the capture of Babylon by Cyrus show a great want of activity and vigor on the part of the defenders. Every man's heart shall melt (comp. Deuteronomy 20:8; Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1, etc.). The general inaction will spring from a general despondency. This statement agrees much better with the recently discovered documents than does the statement of Herodotus, that, safe within their walls, the Babylonians despised their assailants, and regarded themselves as perfectly secure.

Isaiah 13:8

They shall be afraid; rather, dismayed. Pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; literally, they shall take hold of pangs and sorrows. They shall be amazed; rather, look aghast. Their faces shall be as flames. I know no better explanation than that of Dr. Kay, that a sudden transition is intended flora despondency to extreme excitement.

Isaiah 13:9

The day of the Lord (see the comment on Isaiah 13:6). Cruel; i.e. severe and painful, not really "cruel." To lay the land desolate. As in Isaiah 13:5, so here, many would translate ha-arets by "the earth," and understand a desolation extending far beyond Babylonia. But this is not necessary.

Isaiah 13:10

The stars of heaven … shall not give their light. Nature sympathizes with her Lord. When he is angry, the light of the heavens grows dark. So it was at the crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 27:45); so it will be at the end of the world (Matthew 24:29). So it is often, if not always, at the time of great judgments. The constellations; literally, the Orions. Kesil, the Fool, was the Hebrew name of the constellation of Orion, who was identified with Nimrod, the type of that impious folly which contends against God. From its application to this particular group of stars (Job 9:9; Job 38:31; Amos 5:8), the word came to be applied to constellations in general. The Baby-Ionians very early marked out the sky into constellations.

Isaiah 13:11

I will punish the world for their evil. Here the prophecy certainly goes beyond the destruction of Babylon, and becomes a general warning to the wicked of all court-tries. Each country is to feel that its turn will come. Punishment will fall especially on the unjust, the proud, and the haughty (comp. Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 2:11-17, etc.).

Isaiah 13:12

I will make a man more precious than fine gold (comp. Isaiah 4:1). Population shall he so diminished that man shall be the most highly esteemed of commodities. The more scanty the supply of a thing, the greater its value. The golden wedge of Ophir; rather, pure gold of Ophir. Ophir is mentioned as a gold-region in 1 Kings 9:28; 1 Kings 10:11; 1 Kings 22:48; 1 Chronicles 29:4; 2 Chronicles 8:18; 2 Chronicles 9:10; Job 22:24; Job 28:16; Psalms 45:9. Its locality is uncertain. Gold of Ophir appears to have been considered especially pure.

Isaiah 13:13

I will shake the heavens (comp. Joel 3:16; Haggai 2:7; Matthew 24:29). In general, this sign is mentioned in connection with the end of the world, when a "new heaven and a new earth" are to supersede the old (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; Revelation 21:1). Isaiah may, perhaps, pass here from signs connected with the fall of Babylon to those which will announce the last day—each "day of the Lord" being, as already observed, a type of the final and great day (see the comment on verse 6). Or, possibly, the allusion may be to some "shaking" by God of a supra-mundane kingdom as preliminary to his passing judgment on Babylon (so Dr. Kay; comp. Isaiah 24:21).

Isaiah 13:14

It shall be as the chased roe. When the visitation comes on Babylon, there shall be a loosening of all ties between her and the subject nations. Her armies shall disband themselves, the pressed soldiers from foreign countries deserting, and hastening with all speed to their several homes. A flight of the foreign traders and visitors may also be glanced at. As a sheep that no man taketh up; rather, as sheep with none to gather them.

Isaiah 13:15

Every one that is found … every one that is joined unto them; i.e. all the population, both native and foreign.

Isaiah 13:16

Their children also shall be dashed to pieces. In the barbarous warfare of the time, even children were not spared (see Psalms 137:9; Nahum 3:10; Hosea 13:16). When a town was taken by assault, they were ruthlessly slaughtered. When spared, it was only to be dragged off as captives, and to become the slaves of their captors in a foreign land. Assyrian sculptures often illustrate this latter practice. Their wives ravished (comp. Lamentations 5:11; Zechariah 14:2).

Isaiah 13:17

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them. Isaiah's knowledge that the Medes should take a leading part in the destruction of Babylon is, no doubt, as surprising a fact as almost any other in the entire range of prophetic foresight, or insight, as set before us in Scripture. The Medes were known to Moses as an ancient nation of some importance (Genesis 10:2); but since his time had been unmentioned by any sacred writer; and, as a living nation, had only just come within the range of Israelite vision, by the fact that, when Sargon deported the Samaritans from Samaria, he placed some of them "in the cities of the Medes" (2 Kings 17:6). The Assyrians had become acquainted with them somewhat more than a century earlier, and had made frequent incursions into their country, finding them a weak and divided people, under the government of a large number of petty chiefs. Sargon had conquered a portion of the tribes, and placed prefects in the cities; at the same time planting colonists in them from other parts of the empire. That, when the weakness of Media was being thus made apparent, Isaiah should have foreseen its coming greatness can only be accounted for by his having received a Divine communication on the subject. Subsequently, he had a still more exact and complete communication (Isaiah 21:2). Which shall not regard silver. The Medes were not a particularly disinterested people; but in the attack on Babylon, made by Cyrus, the object was not plunder, but conquest and the extension of dominion. The main treasures of Babylon—those in the great temple of Bolus—were not carried off by Cyrus, as appears both from his own inscriptions, and from Herodotus.

Isaiah 13:18

Their bows (comp. Jeremiah 1:9, Jeremiah 1:14). Both the Medes and the Persians were skilled archers. Herodotus tells us that every Persian youth was taught three things—"to ride, to draw the bow, and to speak the truth". At Persepolis, Modes and Persians are alike represented as carrying bows and quivers. AEschyius regards the contest between the Persians and the Greeks as one between the arrow and the spear.

Isaiah 13:19

Babylon, the glory of kingdoms. The "glory" of Babylon consisted:

1. In her antiquity. She had been the head of a great empire long before Assyria rose to power.

2. In her origination of literature, architecture, and the other arts, which all passed from her to Assyria, and thence to the other nations of Asia.

3. In her magnificence and the magnificence of her kings, which provoked the admiration of the Assyrians themselves. As time went on, she grew in wealth and splendor. Perhaps it was granted to Isaiah to see her in ecstatic vision, not merely such as she was in the time of Sargon under Merodach-Baladan, but such as she became under Nebuchadnezzar, the greatest of her kings, who raised her to the highest pitch or glory and eminence. The beauty of the Chaldees' excellency. The Kaldi appear to have been originally one of the many tribes by which Babylonia was peopled at an early date, From the expression, "Ur of the Chaldees," which occurs more than once in Genesis (Genesis 11:28, Genesis 11:31), we may gather that they were inhabitants of the more southern part of the country, near the coast. The same conclusion may be drawn from the Assyrian inscriptions, especially those of Shalmaneser II.—the Black Obelisk king. The term never became a general name for the Babylonian people among themselves or among the Assyrians; but, somehow or other, it was accepted in that sense by the Jews, and is so used, not only by Isaiah, but also by the writers of Kings and Chronicles, by Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Habakkuk. As when God overthrew Sodom. Equally sudden and complete as that destruction.

Isaiah 13:20

It shall never be inhabited. This part of the prophecy did not receive its fulfillment till many centuries had gone by. From the time of Cyrus to that of Alexander the Great, Babylon was one of the chief cities of the Persian empire. Alexander was so struck with it, and with the excellence of its situation, that he designed to make it his capital. It first began seriously to decline under the Seleucidae, who built Seleucia on the Tigris as a rival to it, and still further injured it by fixing the seat of government at Antioch. But it had still a large population in the first century after our era (Josephus, 'Ant. Jud.,' 18.9, § 8); and is mentioned as a place of some consequence in the time of Trajan (Die Cass; 68.27), and even in that of Severue (Die Cass; 75.9). But after this it went rapidly to decay. Under the Sassuntans it disappears from sight; and when Benjamin of Tudela, in the twelfth century, visited the spot, there was nothing to be seen of the mighty city but those ruins of the Kasr, or palace, which still arrest the traveler's attention. The site had become, and has ever since remained, "without inhabitant." Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there. A superstitious feeling prevents the Arabs from encamping on the mounds of Babylon, which are believed to be the haunts of evil spirits. Neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. The nitrous soil of the Babylonian mounds allows them to produce nothing but the coarsest and most unpalatable vegetation. The shepherds consequently do not feed their flocks on them.

Isaiah 13:21

Wild beasts of the desert shall lie there. It is not quite clear what particular wild beasts are intended. Those actually noted on the site of Babylon are lions, jackals, and porcupines. These sometimes make their lairs in the ruins. Doleful creatures; in the original, okhim. What animal is meant we cannot say, as the word occurs only in this passage. Mr. Cheyne translates it by "hyenas." Owls shall dwell there; literally, daughters of the owl (as in Le Isaiah 11:16; Deuteronomy 14:15; Job 30:29; Jeremiah 1:1-19 :39; Micah 1:8; and infra, Isaiah 34:13; Isaiah 43:20). Mr. Rich says, "In most of the cavities of the Babil Mound there are numbers of owls and bats." Sir A. Layard," A large grey owl is found in great numbers, frequently in flocks of nearly a hundred, in the low shrubs among the ruins of Babylon". Satyrs shall dance there. The word translated "satyr" is, etymologically, "hairy one," and ordinarily means "a goat." Some have supposed "wild goats" to be here intended, but they are not found in Babylonia. The translation "satyr" is defended by many, who think Isaiah might draw upon current beliefs for some features of his description. Dr. Kay gives "baboons," since the Moko—a kind of baboon—is known in Babylonia.

Isaiah 13:22

Wild beasts of the islands. In the Hebrew, iyyim, which means "wailers" or "howlers," probably "jackals." The Revised Version gives "wolves." In their desolate houses; or, in their castles (Cheyne). And dragons; i.e. "serpents." These have not been observed recently; but one of our old travelers notes that "the lande of Baby-lone," in his day, "was fulle of dragons and grote serpentes, and dyverse other veney-mouse ecstes alle abouten". Near to come. About one hundred and eighty years elapsed between the utterance of this prophecy and the fall of Babylon—a short period in the lifetime of a nation.


Isaiah 13:1-18

The fall of Babylon a type of the general punishment of the wicked.

Scripture deals with history altogether in the way of example. Whether the subject be Assyria, or Syria, or Egypt, or Babylon, or even the "peculiar people of God," the object is to teach men by the facts adduced what they have to expect themselves. In Isaiah 10:1-34. Assyria, here Babylon, is held up as a warning to sinners. The absolute certainty that punishment will overtake them at God's hands is the main lesson taught; but, beyond this, something is also taught concerning the method and (so to speak) economy of the Divine punishments; as, for example, the following:—

I. THAT GOD PUNISHES BY MEANS OF INSTRUMENTS, WHICH ARE GENERALLY PERSONS. God has two sets of instruments—natural agents, such as storm, lightning, blight, pestilence, etc.; and intellectual and moral agents, or persons. It depends entirely on his own will whether he will employ agents of the one kind or of the other. In dispensing good to man he employs largely natural agents, "making his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). But in punishing men he seems to make use, to a greater extent, of persons. Now he raises up a tyrannical and oppressive king, like Rameses II. or Nebuchadnezzar, to carry out his sentence of suffering; now he allows a democratic assembly to establish a reign of terror in a sinful ]and; anon he uses the arrows of savage hordes, or the guns and bayonets of disciplined hosts, to chastise an offending people. Once only has he ever used his power to strike with sudden death on a large scale, and even there he employed a spiritual agent; it was "the angel of the Lord," who "went out and smote in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and fourscore and five thousand" (2 Kings 19:35).

II. THAT THE INSTRUMENTS ARE FOR THE MOST PART QUITE UNCONSCIOUS THAT GOD IS USING THEM. We are told this distinctly of Assyria. "I will give him a charge … howbeit he meaneth not so, neither doth his heart think so" (Isaiah 10:6, Isaiah 10:7). And it was, no doubt, equally true of Babylon. The "hammer of the whole earth" (Jeremiah 1:1-19 :23) did not know that she was being used to "break in pieces the nations, and to destroy kingdoms" (Jeremiah 51:20). She too "meant not so," but was only seeking her own aggrandizement. Even the Medes and the Persians, though "called from a far country to execute God's counsel"(Isaiah 47:11), were unconscious of their call-blind instruments in the hand of Jehovah, as much as if they had been an army of locusts. But this only shows the power of God the more, who can make not only good men serve him, but had; not only angels, but devils.

III. THAT GOD'S PUNISHMENTS COME SUDDENLY AND TAKE MEN BY SURPRISE. Neither Assyria nor Babylon bad much warning of their fate. Each seemed well-nigh at the zenith of its power when the final blow came. "I have laid a snare for thee, and thou art also taken, O Babylon," says Jehovah, "and thou wast not aware"(Jeremiah 1:1-19 :24); and again we are told, "Babylon is suddenly fallen and destroyed" (Jeremiah 51:8). God's punishments are apt to come, even on individuals, suddenly. When a man says to his soul, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry," then comes the sentence of God, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke 12:19, Luke 12:20). Job's example is an extreme one (Job 1:13-19); but modified instances of men crushed by quick blows of unexpected calamity are within every one's experience. Destruction comes upon God's enemies generally "at unawares" (Psalms 35:8).

IV. THAT ON FINDING THEMSELVES THE OBJECTS OF DIVINE PUNISHMENT, MEN ARE FILLED WITH TERROR AND DESPONDENCY. The terror and despondency of the Baby-Ionians are strongly marked in the descriptions both of Isaiah and Jeremiah; e.g. "Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid: pangs and sorrow shall take bold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another" (Isaiah 13:7, Isaiah 13:8). "The land shall tremble and sorrow … The mighty men of Babylon have forborne to fight; they have remained in their holds … they became as women" (Jeremiah 51:29, Jeremiah 51:30). Some such feelings come upon all who are conscious that the hand of God is laid upon them, not for chastisement, but for punishment.

V. THAT DIVINE PUNISHMENTS SELDOM STOP AT THEIR IMMEDIATE OBJECTS, BUT PASS ON AND AFFECT OTHERS ALSO. Partly, this would seem to be inevitable from the interconnection of man with man, and of nation with nation; but partly, also, it appears to be the result of the Divine will, which is set on punishing sin, and wherever it finds sin must punish it. Let Israel have to be punished for certain sins, Judah will be found to have committed the same sins; Judah must therefore participate in the punishment. When God arises to judge one nation, he, in a certain sense, arises to judge the whole earth; there must be equity in his dealings. If he has punished Babylonia, and Egypt is as bad, he must punish Egypt; if Egypt is no worse than Ethiopia, he must punish Ethiopia. The sin of Sodom brought destruction on all the cities of the plain—that of the Canaanitish nations on them, and on many of their neighbors. A Jehoram provokes God by his idolatry, and is deservedly smitten (2 Kings 9:24). An Ahaziah, far less guilty, but still guilty, shares his fate (2 Kings 9:27). The punishment of Babylon led on to the punishment of the "world for its evil" (Isaiah 41:11), and to such a general depopulation of Western Asia as made a man more precious than the gold of Ophir (Isaiah 13:12).

VI. THAT DIVINE PUNISHMENTS ARE OFTEN COMPLETE AND FINAL. It was said of Assyria, "There is no healing of thy bruise" (Nahum 3:19). And a similar finality attaches to most judgments upon nations. Babylonia, though she made some desperate efforts to throw off the Persian yoke, never recovered herself. Egypt, a few years later, sank finally under foreign dominion. The ten tribes lost their separate existence after their captivity, and became merged in Judah. Judah's nationality was obliterated by Titus. The history of the world is a history of nations whom God has punished for their sins by final destruction. And the punishment of individuals, too, is often final. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram "went down quick into hell" (Numbers 16:30). Uzzah was smitten with sudden death for touching the ark (2 Samuel 6:7). Ananias and Sapphira tell dead for uttering lies (Acts 5:5, Acts 5:10). The question of punishments in another world is not here at issue. What the example of Babylon teaches is, that God's punishments, so far as this world is concerned, are often final.


Isaiah 13:1-22

Oracle concerning Babylon.

I. APPROACH OF THE WARRIORS OF JEHOVAH. On the bare mountain the banner is upraised, and with loud cry and commanding gesture of the hand a host of warriors is summoned from all sides. As in verse 26, Jehovah is viewed by the poet as a mighty Battle-Leader, Lord of hosts. His voice is heard, "I have given commission to my anointed ones, have called my heroes for my work of punishment, my proudly rejoicing ones!" And then a noise is heard in the mountains as of a great multitude, for Jehovah is mustering his forces from the remotest parts, and preparing with the weapons of his wrath to destroy the earth. A cry of terror will be heard through the land; men's hands will droop, their hearts will melt, for the day of judgment is near. Horror will be depicted on every face. The lightning, the fire that burns up the stubble (Joel 2:6), will be flashed back, as it seems, from the amazed eyes. In prophetic thought every great epoch of calamity and ruin is a judgment, a "day of Jehovah." For wrath and clemency are the two opposite sides of the unity of his being and character. No spring-time is ushered in without storms; no epoch of fruitful manhood is gained without struggles, within or without; no mischief departs from society, no false power is overthrown, without violence. Well for us if, stayed by religious faith, we can see the day of Jehovah shown amidst the darkest times, and when nations are perplexed with fear of change to be able to say, "The Lord reigneth." If he is a living God, then his will must be felt in political change. Nothing good can pass away; only falsehood must be overthrown.

II. THE DAY OF JEHOVAH. Its description is borrowed:

1. From the most fearful phenomena of nature. The stars are hidden, the sunrise is overclouded, the light of the moon is withdrawn. A universal trembling seems to fill the air, while the earth would bound from its place. So close is the sympathy of the human spirit with nature, its dark or bright aspects seem to be the aspect of the God of nature in wrath or in kindness to man.

2. From the most fearful scenes of war. In a few bold lines the picture is struck out. Fugitives are seen flying in every direction, like frightened gazelles, or like a flock of sheep without its shepherd. Those overtaken are pierced by the spear, or struck down by the sword. Children at the breast are dashed to pieces, houses plundered, women outraged. More horrible is the spectacle of a battle-field than that of Nature in her wildest uproar. It is the opening of the hell in the heart of man.

3. Its moral purpose defined. There is, then, some light to be found even here. The God of justice and holiness is "searching home for evil on the face of the earth, and for the guilt of the unrighteous."

"Ever and anon some bright white shaft

Burned thro' the pine-tree roof-here burned and there,

As if God's messenger thro' the close wood screen

Plunged and replunged his weapon at a venture,

Feeling for guilty thee and me."

The thought that God holds inquisition for evil and evil-doers is deeply stamped in Bible lore. There are heresies which he cannot and will not tolerate. They are not identical with what some call heresies. These are often departures from our fashions of life and of thought; but it is only disagreement with him and his law of inward right that is the condemnable dissent. Again, it is his object to bring down the pride and arrogance of the haughty. How deeply marked, again, is this thought of overstepping our proper limits as the essence of sin, from the Fall onwards! It is fixed in the word "transgression." The "lust to seem the thing we are not" is at the root of display, of ambition, of domineering over others. The prophets saw in the bloated dominion of great states like Egypt and Assyria the effects of these unbalanced lusts, which must sooner or later topple the tyrants into ruin. And thus the purpose of judgment resolves itself into that of sifting mankind—to make the people "rarer than fine gold, and men than Ophir's treasures." When ill weeds are cleared away, there is a chance for good plants to flourish; and when a mass of human evil has disappeared, room is made for something of another quality, to renew the tradition of the Divine in man.

III. THE FINAL DEVASTATION. (Isaiah 13:17-22.) Here is a picture of the Medes—a horde of savages, who despise civilization, and who will pour in upon Babylon, as in later days Attila came with his hosts to tread on the necks of the Romans. The dread memory of the cities of the plain can alone furnish a parallel to what will be seen on the site of Babylon. Where now the sounds of luxury and mirth are heard in proud palaces, soon not a nomad tent will be pitched, nor a shepherd's fold; but only the cries of wild creatures will be heard, and satyrs hold their obscene dances. This magnificent picture of the overthrow of human greatness and pride springs, let us observe, from conscience. And none can study such pictures or visit the ruins of ancient cities without a quickening of the pulse of conscience. Such glimpses as we can gain of ancient life in. those proud cities of the Orient bear out the views of the prophet. It was a life which overpassed life's restrictions, and which ended in death. Mournful is the inscription on Sardanapalus's tomb, "Let us eat, drink, and love; for the rest is of little worth." We may learn the lesson that, when men so speak of life, they have abused it; and while we believe that there is a sacredness in human life and in the grand products of human life, this is only so as long as they reflect the purposes of God. Out of such scenes as those the prophet depicts, a solemn voice seems to speak, declaring that human life and glory are held cheap in comparison with those profound and, from us, half-hidden, half-revealed ends towards which the whole creation moves.—J.


Isaiah 13:7

Mental depression.

"Faint." A common experience enough this. Some people pride themselves on the speciality of their experiences, just as they consider their physical ailments to be altogether peculiar and unique. Faint! Who amongst us does not understand that? Why, we do not know. Care is like the atmosphere; its pressure is enormous, but the thing itself is invisible. "Light as air," some say; but many temperaments could say, "heavy as air," which depresses all the nerve-functions of the body. Faint! We like to know not only that it is common, but that greatly heroic spiritual natures have felt it! Read at your leisure Luther's letter where he says of the evil one, "He lies closer to me than my Catharine," and where in one part of his diary he is so desolate and disheartened that he suggests, if God wishes the Reformation to go on, he must come and take it in hand himself. Faint! If lousy men feel it, women feel it sometimes more—thinking about the children; having the worry of household management; finding it so difficult to preserve elevation of thought amid the cares of common life.

I. WE ARE FAINT IN OUR FAILURES TO REACH OUR OWN IDEAL OF THE DIVINE LIFE. Our ideals have been beautiful. They have charmed our meditation, inspired our purposes, I am not speaking of spiritual excitements or emotions, No, my friend! Rather quiet and meditative hours. When we verily and indeed feel that piety is more than safety, when we feel that we would not do without religion if we could, we are fulfilling all the noblest aspirations within us. And these have been noble. In gazing on the image of Christ we have desire to be conformed to that image. But our condition here, you say, is one in which we have to do with such mean things—it is such a battle to live at all! Mean things? No, my friend. Nothing is mean that Christ can shine through. We can dignify common life, or God would not have given us common life to dignify. Christian life is beautiful, but it is difficult. It is detail that casts down men and women too. When we read Stanley's last journey through the dark continent, we find a week's desolation is crowded into ten lines of print; but it must have been very wearisome sometimes, and now and then all seemed nearly over. Yet the motto was "Onward!" You may have an idea or two—but try and write a book. It is completeness that tries. You may have looked at the Christian life with aesthetic admiration. But now you are in it. God help you, as he will. Be diligent. Gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober. Hope to the end. The ideal shall be realized some day. Not destroyed. You will be without fault before the throne.

II. WE ARE FAINT IN RELATION TO THE MORAL STATE OF THE WORLD. Jesus wept over Jerusalem as he gazed on the city that was doomed, for its own denial and rejection of himself. We are not one whit nearer solving the mystery of moral evil. No one can give us the why of sin. Some of the Germans have tried hard at a philosophy of that, but have failed. It cannot be educational only, or we should never have the sense of guilt. But here it is, and we have it in ourselves. Even now sin exists, if it does not reign. And here it is around us everywhere. We have a mighty Savior, and we want men to love him, to trust him. But they are often so besotted, so blinded, so hardened, that they prefer their slavery. What wonder we are faint-hearted! You tell us that Christ is the same in heaven that he was on earth—the same in all sensitive care and love and desire. Yes. And I believe that the world's sin grieves him still—pains him always. "Ye crucify the Son of God afresh" is not to be frittered away as a mere metaphor! What did Christ say after his ascension to the persecuting Saul? "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Not "My Church" merely. The Head felt with the members. Fainti spoke of great men just now. Did not Moses shatter the tables of the Law in sad and bitter disappointment? Did not Paul find fickleness in his converts? Did not the Judaizers hamper his work? Did not some of his companions desert him? Was not sin still mighty within him, as well as around him? But Christ, the Conqueror of sin and death, was his Lord. The Holy Ghost gave him inner might.

III. FAINT IN RELATION TO THE DISCIPLINE OF SORROW. We need it. But "no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous" Faint! You may have left one at home who used to come and drink of the brook by the way at church, who is frail and ill now. You remember some who have had a dire discipline of trial through kith and kin, who have cast the crown of honor into the dust. You would not think much of them if they had not been cast down. Superficial people who say, "Make an effort!" "Cheer up!" only worry the nerves; they-do not really ease trouble, because we cannot be "merry" with a heavy heart. You must lift up with a wise hope, a real trust, a child's confidence. "Show us the Father," then we can endure; then we can "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him." But you say, "Faintness depresses us." Mind what you say, because you reveal character. It is just like saying, "Music must always be made for me; I won't be made sad; I won't enter an atmosphere of depression." Human hearts cannot always smile. Faint people must be in a world like this, but it will be only for a season; it will lead them to him who can raise up, who will lay beneath them his own everlasting arms, who will "not destroy," Never. "Chastened, but not destroyed"—tested, but not destroyed. At such times do not rest in "moods" or feelings, but look out of yourselves to Christ,

IV. WE ARE FAINT IS RELATION TO OUR INFLUENCE OVER OTHERS. We had hoped so much to send such bright rays over the dark sea from the lighthouse of our faith; to give the emerald beauty of a new spring to so many sterile places. We have not been such guides, such comforters, as we hoped to be. And the fault has been, not in lack of doing, but in want of being. To live has not been Christ. We have not been watchful enough either, against inimical forces in our fields. The Red Indians come when we are asleep or on a journey, and stamp out our corn. We are "faint" too because arrest will so soon be laid on our powers. But is it not right to rejoice that we have been able to do some good? Certainly. We have been unprofitable servants at the best, but it would be not only unreal, but wrong, to forget what God may have accomplished through us. Paul said, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ." We are not as the men of this world, cast down into the loss of joy and hope—and in despair. No, it is only for a season. We are Christ's. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."—W.M.S.


Isaiah 13:1

The burden of the Lord.

"The burden of Babylon" (see Isaiah 15:1; Isaiah 17:1; Isaiah 19:1, etc.). The use of the word "burden," to signify a message and its subsequent expansion into the phrase "the burden of the Lord" (see Jeremiah 23:33), suggest to us—

I. THAT TO ALL MEN EVERYWHERE BELONGS THE SACRED DUTY OF CARRYING THE MESSAGES OF GOD. The term here used may simply signify this—the bearing of the Word of God to those for whom it was intended. This is a work which belongs to every filial son, to every faithful servant. Possessed of it ourselves, and experiencing its exceeding preciousness, we are to convey it to all who are in need of it. We can all carry to the souls of men "the will of God concerning them in Christ Jesus, "his Divine desire that they should turn from all iniquity, should believe in his Son, their Savior and Lord, and should follow him in every path of purity, integrity, love.

II. THAT ON SOME MEN THERE SOMETIMES DEVOLVES THE PAINFUL DUTY OF DELIVERING BURDENSOME MESSAGES FROM GOD. This was notably the case with the Hebrew prophets. They were frequently commissioned to convey unpleasant, unpalatable truths to men and nations, such as few cared to announce and none liked to receive; e.g. the message of Moses to Pharaoh, of Nathan to David, and of Elijah to Ahab; such, also, as these "burdens" to Babylon, Moab, Egypt. The faithful parent, teacher, minister, has often a message to make known which is a burden in this sense; it is that which is likely to weigh heavy on the heart of him that receives it; it is

III. THAT ON THOSE IN WHOM IS THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST, SACRED TRUTH BESTS AS A BURDEN, from which they can only be delivered by faithful utterance. So was it with the Savior himself (Luke 12:50); and so with the prophets (Psalms 39:3; Job 32:18; Jeremiah 20:9); and so with the apostles (1 Corinthians 9:16). So should it be with us. We ought to feel burdened with a sense of the sin and sorrow of the world, together with the fact that we have in our minds the knowledge of those truths which are divinely suited to destroy that sin and to disperse that sorrow. This is "the burden of the Lord," resting on the man in whom is much of the Spirit of Christ—a burden which will only be lifted from him when he has spoken his most earnest word and done his most devoted work, to teach, to heal, to save.—C.

Isaiah 13:2-5

The kingdom of God.

These stirring, eloquent words of the prophet describing the gathering of the hosts at the summons of Jehovah speak to us of—

I. THE EXCEEDING BREADTH OF THE DIVINE CLAIM. All things, all nations, are Jehovah's; all these hosts that are to be gathered together are "my sanctified ones;" they are "my mighty ones." They did not know him, but, notwithstanding, God claims them as belonging to himself. He does claim all nations and peoples as his own; not only those who own their allegiance, but those also who are ignorant of his Name, and are worshippers at other shrines.



1. We understand that God has unlimited power over unresisting, inert matter.

2. We have a larger view of his omnipotence when we realize that he controls all sentient life, making every living creature to praise and serve him.

3. Our thought rises far higher as we consider how he is directing the activities of his obedient children, his voluntary servants, in all worlds.

4. We reach the largest and loftiest conception of Divine wisdom and power, in marvelous cooperation, when we dwell on his overruling energy. Jehovah so turns the selfish and ungodly projects of kings and armies to his own Divine account, that he can speak of Medes and Persians as "his sanctified ones," or as those set apart by him for this especial work; that he can represent them as "rejoicing in his highness" when they were eagerly bent on their own purposes; that he can designate them "the weapons of his indignation."

Isaiah 13:6

The day of the Lord.

We may truly speak of every day as a "day of the Lord." For when does the morning come on which we cannot say, "This is the day which the Lord has made' (Psalms 118:24)? Every day brings with it fresh tokens of his presence, new proofs of his power. The refreshment and invigoration of sleep, the provisions of the table, the enjoyment of the hearth, the activities of outward life, the continuance of mental power, etc.,—do not all these daily mercies make each returning portion or' our time a "day of the Lord?" But there is a peculiar sense in which the time of special visitation is to be so regarded. For that is the day on which—

I. GOD REVEALS HIS NEARNESS TO US AND HIS INTEREST IN US. We are in danger of imagining that God has withdrawn into a remote solitude, in which he takes no heed of the passing events of his outlying creation; that he is too great and high to concern himself with our "poor affairs." It is a conception unworthy of him and most injurious to us. When God "arises to judgment," so that it is as if all visible nature were disturbed and disordered (Isaiah 13:10, Isaiah 13:13), and the hearts of men are filled with consternation (Isaiah 13:7, Isaiah 13:8), "in the day of his fierce anger" (Isaiah 13:13), these false imaginings are scattered, and God is found and is felt to be a God at hand and not afar off—a God who has much to do with us, and with whom we have everything to do (Hebrews 4:13).

II. GOD REVEALS HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS TO US. Such events as these (Isaiah 13:9-11) are "terrible things in righteousness." The anger or "wrath" of the Lord (Isaiah 13:9, Isaiah 13:13) is thus revealed "against all unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). God is "destroying the sinners" (Isaiah 13:9) in order that he may set his seal against the sin which they have committed; he is humbling the proud that their "arrogancy may cease" (Isaiah 13:11), and that human haughtiness may receive his powerful condemnation. In such a "day" as this, the Lord is making his thought concerning iniquity very clear to the children of men.

III. GOD MANIFESTS HIS POWER TO US. Sin is apt to think itself triumphant; it is arrogant, haughty (Isaiah 13:11); it says, "Who is the Lord?" etc. (Exodus 5:2); it says, "How does God know?" (Psalms 73:11); it says, "Let us break asunder the bands of the Lord" (Psalms 2:3). In "the day of the Lord," the nation, the confederacy, the individual man, sees that human bands are nothing but thinnest thread in the hands of almighty power. Then man knows his nothingness in the presence of his Maker; his spirit is subdued (Isaiah 13:8), and he acknowledges that God is greater than he (Daniel 6:26).

IV. GOD ATTESTS HIS FAITHFULNESS AND HIS GOODNESS. God has given many promises to his people that he will appear some day on their behalf. Often his coming seems to be long delayed (Revelation 6:10). But "in the day of the Lord" this his Divine word is redeemed; then the enslaved nation is freed from its bondage; then the persecuted Church is delivered from its oppressor; then the wronged family or the injured man is saved from the wrong-doer, and walks in peace and in prosperity. Hence the many utterances of thanksgiving for the "judgments" of the Lord. The outpouring of his wrath, which seems "cruel" (Isaiah 13:9) to the guilty, shows itself to his suffering people as the long-awaited proof of his fidelity to his word and pity for his people.

1. Let the afflicted wait in hope; their cause will be espoused, their prayers heard and answered.

2. Let the guilty tremble; the day of the Lord will come, a day of darkness and confusion, a day of terror and overthrow for them; even when they may be most confident of continuance in power and sin, the coming of God in judgment may be "at hand."—C.

Isaiah 13:12

The price of a man.

The aim of the prophet is to show the extent of the disaster which, in the indignation of God (Isaiah 13:5), should overtake the guilty city. One feature of the ruin should be wholesale slaughter (Isaiah 13:15). And the result of this would be a terrible reduction of the male population. Men, usually so prevalent, so "cheap" in Babylon, should become scarce and precious; so precious should they be that it might be said, speaking figuratively, that a man would be more precious than gold, even than "the golden wedge of Ophir." What might thus be affirmed of man, in figurative language, in the day of God's wrath, shall become true of man, in simple fact and truth, in the day of Divine grace. Under Christ the day will come when the worth of a man shall be felt to be wholly irreducible to terms of gold and silver; that "no mention shall be made of pearls" when it is attempted to form an estimate of the value of a human spirit.


1. Men have treated their fellows as nothing worth. They have either treated their sufferings with callous indifference, or they have looked on their neighbors as related in no other way than through the wages market; or they have actually bought and sold them—their sinews, their intelligence, their honor—for so much gold.

2. Men have pitifully undervalued themselves. They have acted as if they were nothing better than intelligent machines for making money, or than creatures capable of so much enjoyment, or than office-holders who might attain to certain dignities for a few passing years.

II. UNDER CHRIST THE VALVE OF A HUMAN BEING HAS BEEN IMMEASURABLY RAISED. Jesus Christ by his teaching, by the illustration in his own person of what a Son of man can be, by the great purpose of his life and death, has liked up to an altogether different level our conception of mankind. Now, we know:

1. That God made every man for himself—for his layout, his friendship, his likeness, his service.

2. That God is earnestly desirous that every child o! his, however far he may have wandered from his side, should return to the Father's home (Luke 15:1-32.).

3. That for every child of man a Divine Savior suffered and died (Hebrews 2:9).

4. That before every man who will accept Jesus Christ as his Redeemer there is a holy life on earth and a blissful, glorious immortality. Instructed, inspired by these high truths, we have come, or are coming, to look on every human spirit as possessed of a value which money does not in any degree represent, which cannot be told in "golden wedges." It behooves us all

Isaiah 13:19-22

The overthrow of evil.

The minuteness of detail with which this prophecy has been fulfilled goes far to prove that holy men of old did speak "as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." The prediction is profoundly interesting in this light; it is also instructive as foretelling the entire extinction of a world-power which, at the hour of utterance, appeared to rest on immovable foundations. There are great powers—national, ecclesiastical, dynastic, institutional, social—which are as Babylon in Isaiah's time, and which need to be extinguished for the happiness and well-being of the race. Respecting the overthrow of evil, we see—

I. ITS APPARENT IMPOSSIBILITY OR DISHEARTENING DISTANCE. How utterly impossible, or at least how hopelessly remote, must the day of Babylon's overthrow have seemed to the Jews in the time of the prophet! To those of a scoffing spirit, or to the constitutionally incredulous or despondent, the words of Isaiah doubtless seemed visionary, if not altogether wild and vain, So vain may seem to us now the-hopes which are held out of the fall and ultimate extinction of existing evils—the despotic empire; the usurping and corrupt Church; the huge, wasteful, war-inciting military and naval organizations; strongly entrenched social habits which dishonor and enfeeble the community; venerable systems of erroneous belief which have lasted for centuries and deluded millions of minds, etc. It seems to us desirable, beyond all reckoning, that these things should receive their death-blow, and should be numbered among the things of the past. But how can we venture to expect their defeat and their disappearance? All strong things are in their favor; the majority of mankind favor them; pecuniary interests, deep-rooted habits, social customs, inveterate prejudices, powerful societies, are sustaining them. How hopeless it seems that powers so fortified can be successfully assailed and absolutely demolished!

II. ITS ARRIVAL IN DUE COURSE. Babylon did fall; it was taken and re-taken and taken again, and finally deserted, until it became what is here foretold. Every evil thing shall share its fate. Everything which exalts itself against God, everything which is hostile to the truth, everything which is actually harmful to mankind, shall one day be defeated and destroyed. As the little living seeds dropped into the crack of the huge temple become the upspringing plants which push their way through the strong masonry and at length overturn the tall columns and the massive walls and lay the whole structure on the ground; so the seed of Divine truth, inserted in the temple of error, of vice, of tyranny, of idolatry, of iniquity, shall spring and grow, and thrust and overturn, until the frowning walls have fallen and the structure of sin is a harmless ruin. The great Babylon of sin itself shall one day lie waste and have no inhabitant.


1. It is a wretched thing to be on the side of wrong. First and most of all, because it is the wrong side we are espousing, and it ought to be an insufferable thing to us that we are thinking, speaking, working on behalf of that which is evil in the sight of God and hurtful to the truer interests of man. But also because we are certain to be defeated in the end.

2. It is a blessed thing to be engaged on the side of righteousness. First and most, because it is the cause of God, of man, of truth, on which we are leagued; and also because we are sure to win at last. The wise and the good may meet with many a check, but they will gain the victory; the unholy and the evil-minded may snatch many an advantage, but the end shall be a miserable disaster, an utter overthrow, a dragon-haunted desert. Let us see to it that we are fighting on God's side, and, once sure that we are, let us strike our blow for truth and wisdom, confident that, however strong and high stand the towers of sin, its citadel will be taken, its day will descend into darkness, its million-peopled streets become a doleful desert.—C.


Isaiah 13:3

The Lord's sanctified ones.

This term is used of an army, regarded as being consecrated by the sacrifices which were offered at the beginning of the campaign. The assertion made by the prophet is that the Persian army was not really consecrated to Ahura-Mazda, but to Jehovah. Whatever might seem to be the bet, the fact really was that the Persians would fulfill Jehovah's will and carry out Jehovah's judgments, A "sanctified one" is, properly, one separated from self-interests and from other people's concerns, in order that he might carry out God's will. "Set apart by the purposes and providence of God, disengaged from other projects, that they might wholly apply themselves to something God would have clone: such as were qualified for that to which they were called, for what God employs men in, he does in some measure fit them for." We learn from this expression, and its connection, that we too may be set apart for God, we may be the Lord's sanctified ones; and yet, on the one hand, the fact may be unrecognized, or, on the other, the fact may bring to us impulse and honor and the unspeakable joy of service.

I. SET APART FOR GOD WITHOUT OUR KNOWING IT. As of Cyrus, the Lord's anointed, it is said, "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." But in this ease there can be no proper rewards, since the will of the man is not in harmony with the Divine will. God may use his creature man, just as he uses clouds and winds and waves, to fulfill his purposes, and there is no more to be said about it. We are the Lord's tools, his rod, his staff. Willingly or unwillingly man must do the Lord's bidding.

II. SET APART FOR GOD WITH OUR OWN GLAD CONSENT. Then we come into the position of willing, loving servants; and then there can be rewards which take three forms. Such willingly sanctified ones

Isaiah 13:6

The day of the Lord.

This expression is employed for that crisis in the history of the world when Jehovah will interpose to correct the evils of the present. Such great crises are called "days" in antithesis to the ages of Divine long-suffering. In Christian thought the term is associated with the coming day or time of judgment, and mainly with that in view we dwell on the words. Isaiah was one of a class of prophets to whom God disclosed, in visions, the scenes of the ever-nearing future. Maybe in the quietness of their homes, as they meditated on the condition of the world, and the purposes of God concerning men, they were rapt in vision, and, with various degrees of dimness or of dearness, they saw pass before their entranced view, now the scenes of battle and bloodshed, now the scenes of famine and pestilence; now they beheld the desolation of those nations that oppressed their own people—Nineveh and Babylon buried out of sight, Tyre a place for the fisher's nets; and now they seemed to hear the wild shout of the foes of Israel, as they burst through into the sacred city; and soon, in smoke and flames, they watched her very temple perish. And yet again, in dimmer lines, as though further on in the march of ages, they seemed to see the last great scene of human history—a world arraigned, the thrones set, the books opened. These visions often prostrated those prophets in the intensity of excitement; but they were given to them that they might set them on record, for the sake of their own people and the whole Church of the redeemed, that we all might learn to live in the view of that future, with the infallible decisions of the future ever in our thought, and reminding us that "he which soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting." There is much that is most solemnizing in the expression, "the day of the Lord," if we read it from the Christian standpoint, and see it to mean the day of the Lord Jesus.

I. Our LORD has HAD:

1. His day of humiliation, when he stepped down from his heavenly throne, laid aside "his most Divine array," and entered our world as the poor man's babe, born in a stable, laid in a manger, because there was no room for him in the inn.

2. He has had many a day of toil, and patience, and pleading, and prayer among men. Year after year he tarried in the flesh, proving his Divine power to save, and winning men to himself by the tender sacrificings of his love.

3. He has had a day of suffering and anguish for men. "Behold, and see if there ever was sorrow like unto his sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted him" for our sakes.

4. He has had many a day of inviting grace, when, in the power of his Spirit, he has called us to yield ourselves unto him; when, in the leadings of his providence and the ministry of his Word, he has cried, "My son, give me thy heart;" "Come unto me … and I will give you rest." He has had many a day of patience, of waiting, of long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish.


1. The day of the Lord's glory, when the multitudes of the redeemed shall crown him with many crowns—shall crown him Lord of all.

2. The day of the Lord's vindication, when he shall break down the rebellion of lost souls with the proofs of his forbearance and the memory of his repeated calls.

3. The day when the "wrath of the Lamb" must be revealed, and he shall come in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of his Son. There must be an end of this dispensation of redemption, there must be a closing up of it; there must be the "day of the Lord." For us all that day cometh as a thief in the night.

III. THE DECISIONS OF THE DAY OF THE LORD. The Scriptures do not satisfy our questionings upon the terms of decision on that day. So far as we can gather, there will be a general term, and a more particular one. The more general term may be thus expressed: "No condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus." "Condemned already," because ye believe not on the Son of God. The more particular term is thus expressed: "We must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad." How these are to fit into each other it is beyond any human power to explain, because the Bible does not afford us the means of explanation. We can, however, settle two separate facts very clearly. Our life, in its minutest acts, carries eternal issues. Everything we do, beyond its bearing on our present character, has its bearing on our eternal destiny, because on our eternal character. And we are tested by our relation to Christ. The test of the great coming day is first this—In Christ, or out of Christ. The answer to that settles all else—whether you shall be in the fold or out of it, in the everlasting peace or out of it, in heaven or out of it.—R.T.

Isaiah 13:6

God as El Shaddai.

It will at once come to mind that this is the name used for God by John Bunyan in his 'Holy War,' but it is an unfamiliar one, and one that needs explanation. It is translated in Scripture by the term "the Almighty," but that properly represents the Hebrew El Gibbor. Cheyne says, "Wherever it occurs (Joel 1:15; Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 10:5), it appears to express the more severe and awful side of the Divine nature. Though used as a mere synonym for El, or Elohim, it must at least be clear that force, and specially force as exhibited in a dangerous aspect in some natural phenomena, is the original meaning of the word, a meaning suitable enough to the earliest stage of biblical religion (see Exodus 6:3)." Gesenius thinks that, originally, before it was adopted into biblical religion, Shaddai meant, "God the Sender of storms." The connection of this physical figure with the term "Almighty" is very plain, for the Controller of the heavenly forces can surely do everything: the greater implies the less, and the great of which we know is so great that the mastery of it assures to us that there must be ability to master what we do not know.

I. THE TERM "MOST MIGHTY" AS APPLIED TO EARTHLY KINGS. It is quite the usual form in which the worth-ship of subjects is presented, and it was especially used of the monarchs of vast Eastern kingdoms, who ruled by an absolute authority. It was not, however, a mere high-sounding title; it gathered up the very various sides of kingly greatness, and put them into a single term. We may illustrate how it found expression for

It may also have embraced administration of august character.

II. THE TERM "ALL-MIGHTY" AS APPLIED TO THE KING OF KINGS. The term "almighty" rises above "most mighty," and can be truly applied to God alone. The above divisions may be taken, in which great earthly kings are said to be "most mighty," and, as applied to God, they may help us to realize the senses in which he is "all-mighty." And occasion may be made for urging the reverence which is due to him; the awe he claims, which should make "all the earth keep silence before him." It may be well also to meet the difficulty, that God cannot do absolutely everything, by showing that he can do everything which is not, under the conditions of human thought, absurd in the statement, such as make two straight lines enclose a space, or two and two count five.—R.T.

Isaiah 13:12

The preciousness of man.

Matthew Henry gives very clearly the first ideas and associations of the passage. "There shall be so great a slaughter as will produce a scarcity of men. You could not have a man to be employed in any of the affairs of state, not a man to be enlisted in the army, not a man to match a daughter to, for the building up of a family, if you would give any money for one." Such a comparison of man with gold would only be suggested to persons familiar with the sale and purchase of slaves. The irony, or satire, in the comparison lies in the over-estimate of gold in a luxurious age. It is a sad sign for any nation when its "gold of Ophir" is valued more than its men. The second clause having the more general term "human being," we are reminded that it is man as man, and not man in view of his learning, position, manners, or wealth, that the prophet regards as of incomparable value. The position of Ophir is disputed, but J. A. Alexander points out that "whether the place meant be Ceylon, or some part of continental India, or of Arabia, or of Africa, it is hen named simply as an Eldorado, as a place where gold abounded, either as a native product or an article of commerce." The older idea of the word rendered "precious" was making dear or costly; the modem idea is making rare or scarce. The expression may fittingly introduce the general topic of the value of men, for only in view of their value can their scarcity be treated as a matter of anxiety. That value may be set forth as to be recognized—

I. IN HIS MORAL NATURE. He differs essentially from the material and animal creations. Not in possession of mind, but in capacity to apprehend the distinction between right and wrong, and in power to will the right and refuse the wrong. This is what we mean by a moral nature. The animal may decide its action upon some sort of consideration of the consequences, pleasurable or painful, that may attend on its conduct. Man does not merely act in view of consequences; he estimates the character of the action, judging it in the light of what he apprehends of God, as, to him, the ideal of righteousness. As a moral being, then, man transcends all creatures, and there can be no possible comparison of him with any material thing, even the finest gold of Ophir. This moral nature belongs to all men everywhere, and cannot be overlaid, or crushed, wholly out, by any poverty, ignorance, or debasement of vice. The man is always a man, and to his moral nature God, and his fellow moral beings, may always hopefully appeal.

II. IN HIS POSSIBILITIES FOR GOOD OR EVIL. He must be a precious being who can rise to be as saintly as some have become, and can sink to be as Satanic as others have become. Dr. Horace Bushnell has a fine sermon in 'New Life,' p. 16, entitled, "The Dignity of Human Nature shown from its Ruins." After speaking of many who "magnify the dignity of human nature, by tracing its capabilities, and the tokens it reveals of a natural affinity with God and truth. They distinguish lovely instincts, powers, and properties allied to God, aspirations reaching after God," he undertakes to "show the essential greatness and dignity of man from the ruin itself which he becomes;" and then he says, "Nor is it anything new, or a turn morn ingenious than just, that we undertake to raise our conceptions of human nature in this manner, for it is in just this way that we are accustomed to get our measures and form our conceptions of many things; of the power, for example, of ancient dynasties, and the magnificence of ancient works and cities, such, for example, as Egypt, Rome, Thebes, Karnac, Luxor, or Nineveh. So it is with man. Our most veritable, though saddest, impressions of his greatness, as a creature, we shall derive from the magnificent ruin he displayed. In that ruin we shall distinguish fallen powers that lie as broken pillars on the ground; temples of beauty, whose scarred and shattered walls still indicate their ancient, original glory; summits covered with broken stones, infested by asps, where the palaces of high thought and great aspiration stood, and righteous courage went up to maintain the citadel of the mind—all a ruin now—archangel ruined." We estimate the value of raw material by "what can be made of it." On that condition man is seen to be more precious than aught else; he may be changed into the Divine image, from glory to glory.

III. IN HIS IMMORTALITY. Man's natural immortality is gravely disputed in these days, but an opinion on that difficult subject is not necessary in the treatment of this subject from our present point of view. It is possible for man to become immortal, and that stamps his incomparable value. Continuity is a common sign of value; but, further than that, the being who can be immortal must have capacity for immortal spheres. In conclusion, it may be shown that the preciousness of man, or the sanctity of human life, is the foundation of social order, and the inspiration of human brother hoed and self-denial.—R.T.

Isaiah 13:19

The fall of pride.

The type of pride, in Scripture, is Babylon; to the grandeur of it the Chaldees pointed in self-admiring triumph. "The words of this text paint the impression which the great city, even in Isaiah's time, made upon all who saw it. So Nebuchadnezzar, though his work was mainly that of a restorer, exulted in his pride in the greatness of the city of which he claimed to be the builder (Daniel 4:30). So Herodotus describes it as the most famous and strongest of all the cities of Assyria, adorned beyond any other city on which his eyes had ever looked." God's dealings with nations are illustrations, in the large, of his dealings with families and individuals. The evil recognized as characteristic of a nation may be equally characteristic of a family and of an individual, on whom, therefore, the appropriate Divine judgments will be sure to fall. Nations stand forth prominently in the world's eye, and keep their lessons in history for the instruction of all the ages. This may be illustrated from the Babylonian kingdom of the ancient days, and from Napoleonic France of modern times. The following points will readily suggest illustration from history, and from the circle of our actual experience.

I. PRIDE OF CONQUEST HAS NEVER PROVED LASTING. See the stories of Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander, Tamerlane, Charlemagne, Buonaparte, and others. It is equally true of cases of private acquisition. The man who grasps his neighbor's property, and joins field to field, has to learn that God hateth the proud. The riches gathered fly away, or the son that follows him squanders it all.

II. PRIDE OF SOCIAL GRANDEUR HAS NEVER PROVED LASTING. Beckford thought to outrival all country mansions with his Fonthill Abbey, and it fell, and great was the fall thereof. Grant thought to build a palace in the west of London, grander than all around him, and it has passed under the hammer of the auctioneer.

III. PRIDE OF COMMERCIAL PROSPERITY HAS NEVER PROVED LASTING. Venice and Genoa and the Holland ports illustrate this. God's providence brings round the judgment when the pride has become overwhelming. God holds a limit beyond which he never permits a nation, a family, or an individual to go. As soon as pride begins to take the honor due to God, stability is over, our foundations begin to shift, and the night of the first wild storm all that we have raised so anxiously lies about us in ruins. There is a day of God always near at hand for the proud.—R.T.

Isaiah 13:21, Isaiah 13:22

Literal fulfillment of prophecy.

The language of modern travelers illustrates the fulfillment of the prediction. Layard says, "Owls start from the scanty thickets, and the foul jackal stalks among the furrows." "It is a naked and hideous waste." Dr. Plumptre says, "The work was, however, accompanied by slow degrees, and was not, like the destruction of Nineveh, the result of a single overthrow. Darius dismantled its walls, Xerxes pulled down the temple of Belus. Alexander contemplated its restoration, but his designs were frustrated by his early death. Susa and Ecbatana, Seleucia and Antioch, Ctesiphon and Bagdad, became successively the centers of commerce and of government." By the time of Strabo (B.C. 20) the work was accomplished, and the "vast city" had become a "vast desolation." In illustrating the literal fulfillment of this prophecy, the dean further says, "The Bedouins themselves, partly because the place is desolate, partly from a superstitious horror, shrink from encamping on the sites of the ancient temples and palaces, and they are left to lions, and other beasts of prey. On the other hand, Joseph Wolff, the missionary, describes a strange weird scene—pilgrims of the Yezidis, or devil-worshippers, dancing and howling like dervishes amid the ruins of Babylon." It is interesting to note the following passage from the Itinerary of Benjamin Bar-ions, given by Matthew Henry. "This is that Babel which was of old thirty miles in breadth; it is now laid waste. There are yet to be seen the ruins of a palace of Nebuchadnezzar, but the sons of men dare not enter in, for fear of serpents and scorpions, which possess the place." For further indications of the precision of fulfillment, encyclopedias and books of Eastern travel should be studied. We point out here that prophecy is usually poetic, and, rather, vaguely descriptive and suggestive, than precise or minute. Sometimes, however, for the verifying of all prophecies, some portions are made precise, and are literally fulfilled, as in the case el Baby]on; and the two following points may be usefully illustrated:—


II. GENERAL FULFILMENTS THEREBY SHOWN TO BE EQUALLY CONFIRMATORY. When once the principle is established, we are freed from all bondage to demands for exact and minute agreements, and can freely read Scripture prophecy as full of poetical figure and imagery.—R.T.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.
I will
3-5; 21:2; 41:25; Jeremiah 50:9; 51:11,27,28; Daniel 5:28-31
shall not regard
Proverbs 6:34,35
Reciprocal: 1 Kings 11:14 - the Lord;  1 Kings 11:23 - God;  2 Kings 17:6 - the Medes;  2 Chronicles 36:22 - the Lord stirred;  Isaiah 13:5 - from a far;  Isaiah 21:1 - from;  Isaiah 21:5 - arise;  Isaiah 45:13 - price;  Isaiah 48:14 - he will do;  Jeremiah 21:7 - he shall;  Jeremiah 25:25 - Medes;  Jeremiah 50:3 - out of the;  Jeremiah 50:14 - in array;  Jeremiah 50:25 - opened;  Jeremiah 50:41 - GeneralJeremiah 50:42 - they are cruel;  Jeremiah 51:53 - from;  Daniel 7:5 - Arise;  Daniel 8:3 - one;  Revelation 17:16 - these

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.

Medes — Under whom he comprehends the Persians.

Not delight — Which is to be understood comparatively. They shall more eagerly pursue the destruction of the people, than the getting of spoil.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

17.Will stir up the Medes against them — That is, “I am he who causeth to arouse as out of sleep,” etc. The Hiphil participle is used of a verb having, according to Gesenius, three, according to Furst, six, several sets of meanings, of which one set chiefly uses the Hiphil with the above characterizing idea. Compare Zechariah 9:13; Song of Solomon 2:7; Isaiah 10:26. The “Medes” are here for the first time mentioned by name, and are alone mentioned, as they were the chief nation to be used, with Persia, in overthrowing Babylon. They had been subject to Assyria till B.C. 708 or 703, or B.C. 650, according to Rawlinson, when they threw off the yoke and became a federation of small kingdoms in their country of mountains and valleys situated east of old Assyria, south of Armenia and the Caspian Sea, and north of Persia, from which they were separated by the desert running out southwest from near the ancient Aryan seats. They had no friendship for their old masters of Mesopotamia. Prosperity and power came to them after they became independent, and were finally organized under one monarchy, and so on till Cyaxares becomes, at length, the probable true founder of the Median dynasty, B.C. 633, and the one who appears to begin what is the truly authentic history of the Medes. See SMITH’S Dictionary of the Bible; SMITH’S History of the World; RAWLINSON’S Five Great Monarchies; RAWLINSON’S Herodotus; LENORMANT’S Manuscript Ancient History, etc. In the final taking of Babylon the Median was chief over the Persian element of the instrumentality, (namely, Cyrus,) because it was really the chief power before Persia was connected with it as an empire. Hence the “Medes” constituted the chief foreseen figure with the prophet in the predicted event of the overthrow of the Babylonian power.

Shall not regard silver — Was this a national characteristic? Xenophon (Cyropaedia) makes Cyrus say to the Medes that they did not join him from a desire of ( ) money.


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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.