Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Isaiah 13:20

It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation; Nor will the Arab pitch his tent there, Nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there.
New American Standard

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Cyrus;   Tent;   Thompson Chain Reference - Folds;   The Topic Concordance - Judges;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Babylon;   Ishmaelites, the;   Tents;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Babylon;   Isaiah;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Arabia;   Sheep;   Shepherd;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Fold;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Babel;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Arabia;   Isaiah;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Arabia, Arabs;   Isaiah, Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Eternity;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Babylon ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Babylon;   Medes;   Nineveh;   Rebels;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Babylon;   Messiah;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Demon;   Isaiah;   Satyr;   Tent;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Arabia;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for February 20;  

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

It shall never be inhabited - This has been completely fulfilled. It is now, and has been for centuries, a scene of wide desolation, and is a heap of ruins, and there is every indication that it will continue so to be. From Rauwolff‘s testimony it appears, that in the sixteenth century ‹there was not a house to be seen;‘ and now the ‹eye wanders over a barren desert, in which the ruins are nearly the only indication that it had ever been inhabited. It is impossible to behold this scene and not be reminded how exactly the predictions of Isaiah and Jeremiah have been fulfilled, even in the appearance Babylon was doomed to present, “that she should never be inhabited.”‘ - (Keppel‘s “Narrative,” p. 234.) ‹Babylon is spurned alike by the heel of the Ottoman, the Israelites, and the sons of Ishmael.‘ - (Mignan‘s “Travels,” p. 108.) ‹It is a tenantless and desolate metropolis.‘ - (Ibid. p. 235; see Keith “On Prophecy,” p. 221.)

Neither shall it be dwelt in … - This is but another form of the expression, denoting that it shall be utterly desolate. The following testimonies of travelers will show how this accomplished: ‹Ruins composed, like those of Babylon, of heaps of rubbish impregnated with nitre, cannot be cultivated.‘ - (Rich‘s “Memoir,” p. 16.) ‹The decomposing materials of a Babylonian structure doom the earth on which they perish, to lasting sterility. On this part of the plain, both where traces of buildings are left, and where none stood, all seemed equally naked of vegetation; the whole ground appearing as if it had been washed over and over again by the coming and receding waters, until every bit of genial soil was swept away; its half-clay, half-sandy surface being left in ridgy streaks, like what is often seen on the flat shores of the sea after the retreating of the tide.‘ - (Sir R. K. Porter‘s “Travels,” vol. ii. p. 392.) ‹The ground is low and marshy, and presents not the slightest vestige of former buildings, of any description whatever.‘ - (Buckingham‘s “Travels,” vol. ii. p. 278.) ‹The ruins of Babylon are thus inundated so as to render many parts of them inaccessible, by converting the valleys among them into morasses.‘ - (Rich‘s “Memoir,” p. 13.)

Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there - The Arabians dwelt chiefly in tents; and were a wandering people, or engaged in traffic which was conducted in caravans traveling from place to place. The idea here is, that Babylon, so far from being occupied as a permanent residence for any people, would be unfit even for a resting place. It would be so utterly desolate, so forsaken, and so unhealthy, that the caravan would not even stop there for a night. What a charge this from its former splendor! How different from the time when it was the place of magnificent palaces, when strangers flocked to it, and when people from all nations were collected there!

Neither shall the shepherds … - This is an additional image of desolation. Babylon was situated in the midst of a most fertile region. It might be supposed that, though it was to be destroyed, it would still furnish pasturage for flocks. But no, says the prophet, it shall be so utterly and entirely desolate, that it shall not even afford pasturage for them. The reasons of this are:

(1) that the whole region round about Babylon was laid under water by the Euphrates after the city was taken, and became a stagnant pool, and of course an unfit place for flocks; and

(2) that Babylon was reduced to an extended scene of ruins; and on those ruins - those extended wastes of broken walls, of bricks and cement - no grass would grow.

The prophecy has been remarkably fulfilled. It is said that the Arabs cannot be persuaded to remain there even for a night. They traverse these ruins by day without fear; but at night the superstitious dread of evil spirits deters them from remaining there. ‹Captain Mignan was accompanied by six Arabs completely armed, but he “could not induce them to remain toward night, from the apprehension of evil spirits. It is impossible to eradicate this idea from the minds of these people, who are very deeply imbued with superstition … And when the sun sunk behind the Mujelibe, and the moon would have lighted his way among the ruins, it was with infinite regret that he obeyed the summons of his guides.”‘ - (Mignan‘s “Travels,” as quoted by Keith, pp. 221,222.) ‹All the people of the country assert that it is extremely dangerous to approach the mound‘ (the mound in Babylon called Kasr, or Palad) ‹after nightfall, on account of the multitude of evil spirits by which it is haunted.‘ - (Rich‘s “Memoir on the Ruins of Babylon,” p. 27.) The Joseph Wolff, speaking of his visit to Babylon, says, ‹I inquired of them (the Yezeedes), whether the Arabs ever pitched their tents among the ruins of Babylon. No, said they, the Arabs believe that the ghost of Nimrod walks amidst them in the darkness, and no Arab would venture on so hazardous an experiment.‘

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/isaiah-13.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall shepherds make their flocks to lie down there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and ostriches shall dwell there, and wild goats shall dance there. And wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged."

"It shall never be inhabited" (Isaiah 13:20). All right, let the arrogant destructive critics tell us how any post-exilic author of this section of Isaiah could possibly have written a line like this. Even as late as the conquest of Babylon, anyone with the slightest information about world affairs in that day would have been hailed as a lunatic for authoring a line like this. It was only Isaiah's deserved reputation as a true prophet of God that protected him from the same fate.

This marvelous prophecy regarding Babylon was inspired by God. No human wisdom could have foreseen it; no brilliant evaluator of the fate of nations could have predicted it. Such a fate for Babylon was as totally beyond "thinkability" on the part of any person in that whole time period as a prediction today that New York City would eventually be uninhabited! From the times of Cyrus until those of Alexander of Macedon (334-320 B.C.) Babylon remained one of the chief cities of the Persian empire. Alexander intended to make it his capital; but his death thwarted his plans. Afterward Babylon began to decline; and Strabo (born in 60 B.C.) described Babylon as "a perfect desert."[13] Josephus, however, stated that the place had a large population during the first century of our era.[14] But not for long, "It went rapidly to decay and soon disappeared from sight. The place became and has ever since remained `uninhabited.'"[15] From these observations the shameful efforts of some critics to deny the Isaiah authorship of this prophecy are exposed as illogical and totally unacceptable.

Regarding Babylon today, Dummelow observed that, "Its glory lingered for a time, but it died away before the beginning of the Christian era; and Babylon is now, and has long been, only a heap of ruins."[16]

"And her time is near to come ..." Peake complained that the prophecy predicted the downfall of Babylon would take place near in the future,[17] but since it did not occur for about 180 years after Isaiah revealed this prophecy, it must mean that the prophecy was written during the exile! As Rawlinson explained, however, "A hundred eighty years is indeed but a short time in the history of a nation."[18]

This great prophecy, however, covered a time period far greater than that of the relatively short time between the prophecy and the physical fall of Babylon, but embraced at the same time many generations beyond that. Note the statement in Isaiah 13:20, "from generation to generation." It would be impossible to state any more emphatically than this does it that the prophecy is not merely for weeks or years but for generations and generations and centuries of time. How perfectly was the prophecy fulfilled! All of the infidels on earth cannot possibly deny a single line of it.

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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 13:20". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/isaiah-13.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

It shall never be inhabited,.... As it has not been since its utter destruction. PausaniasF16Arcadica sive, l. 8. p. 509. , who lived in the times of Adrian, says, Babylon, the greatest city that ever the sun saw, that then there was nothing left of it but a wall: what is now called Babylon is a new city, and built in another place:

neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; which is the same thing repeated in other and stronger terms, for the confirmation of it:

neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; that sort of the Arabians called Scenitae, because they dwelt in tents, and moved from place to place with their flocks, for the sake of pasture; but here there should be none for them, and therefore would not pitch their tents at it:

neither shall the shepherds make their folds there; as they had used to do in the pastures adjoining to it, which were formerly exceeding good, but now would be barren and unfruitful; and as there would be no shepherds in the city, so neither would any neighbouring ones come hither, or any from distant parts; partly because of the unfruitfulness of the place, and partly through fear of wild beasts, which had their habitation there, as follows. PlinyF17Ut supra. (Nat. Hist. l. 6. c. 26.) says it was reduced to a mere desert.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/isaiah-13.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the o Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there.

(o) Who used to go from country to country to find pasture for their beasts, but they will find none.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/isaiah-13.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Literally fulfilled.

neither  …  Arabian pitch tent — Not only shall it not be a permanent residence, but not even a temporary resting-place. The Arabs, through dread of evil spirits, and believing the ghost of Nimrod to haunt it, will not pass the night there (compare Isaiah 13:21).

neither  …  shepherds — The region was once most fertile; but owing to the Euphrates being now no longer kept within its former channels, it has become a stagnant marsh, unfit for flocks; and on the wastes of its ruins (bricks and cement) no grass grows.

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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 13:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/isaiah-13.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Inhabited — After the destruction threatened shall be fully accomplished.

Arabian — Who dwelt in tents, and wandered from place to place, where they could find pasture.

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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 13:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/isaiah-13.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Isaiah 13:20 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.

Ver. 20. Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there.] The Scenites, (a) or vagrant shepherds of the Arabian Desert, that oft flitted for better pasture, shall shun Babylon as haunted with wild beasts, or rather with dragons and devils in the Revelation; all this is applied to, and shall be verified of, Rome. [Isaiah 18:1-7]

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-13.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

It shall never be inhabited, after the destruction threatened shall be fully accomplished.

Neither shall the Arabian, who dwelt in tents, and wandered from place, where they could find pasture; but shall avoid this place, either because the land, once noted for great fruitfulness, is now become barren; or because the land is accursed by God, and abhorred by all men; or for fear of the wild beasts, as it follows.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/isaiah-13.html. 1685.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 13:20. It shall never be inhabited — After the destruction threatened shall be fully effected. This was not done immediately upon the taking of the city by Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, his nephew; but was fulfilled by degrees, as is recorded by historians, and as appears at this day. It will be satisfactory to the reader to note some of the steps by which this prophecy was accomplished. “Cyrus took the city by diverting the waters of the Euphrates, which ran through the midst of it, and entering the place at night by the dry channel. The river, being never restored afterward to its proper course, overflowed the whole country, and made it little better than a great morass: this, and the great slaughter of the inhabitants, with other bad consequences of the taking of the city, was the first step to the ruin of the place. The Persian monarchs ever regarded it with a jealous eye; they kept it under, and took care to prevent its recovering its former greatness. Darius Hystaspis, not long afterward, most severely punished it for a revolt, greatly depopulated the place, lowered the walls, and demolished the gates. Xerxes destroyed the temples, and, with the rest, the great temple of Belus. The building of Seleucia on the Tigris exhausted Babylon by its neighbourhood, as well as by the immediate loss of inhabitants taken away by Seleucus to people his new city. (Strabo, lib. 16.) A king of the Parthians soon after carried away into slavery a great number of the inhabitants, and burned and destroyed the most beautiful parts of the city. Strabo says, that in his time a great part of it was a mere desert: that the Persians had partly destroyed it, and that time, and the neglect of the Macedonians while they were masters of it, had nearly completed its destruction. Jerome (on the place) says, that in his time it was quite in ruins, and that the walls served only for the enclosure of a park or forest, for the king’s hunting. Modern travellers, who have endeavoured to find the remains of it, have given but a very unsatisfactory account of their success. Upon the whole, Babylon is so utterly annihilated, that even the place where this wonder of the world stood cannot now be determined with any certainty.” — Bishop Lowth.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/isaiah-13.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Tents. To dwell, (Calmet) or to traffic. (Theodoret) --- Another city was built, but not so large, nor in the same place. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/isaiah-13.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

never. See note on Isaiah 25:8.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/isaiah-13.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation - literally fulfilled.

Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there - not only shall it not be a permanent residence, but not even a temporary resting-place. The Arabs, through dread of evil spirits, and believing the ghost of Nimrod to haunt it, will not pass the night there (cf. Isaiah 13:21). Neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. The region was once most fertile; but owing to the Euphrates being now no longer kept within its former channels, it has become a stagnant marsh, unfit for flocks; and on the wastes of its ruins, bricks and cement, no grass grows.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/isaiah-13.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(20) Neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there . . .—The word “Arabian” is used in its widest extent, as including all the nomadic tribes of the Bedouin type east and north of Palestine as far as Babylon (2 Chronicles 21:16; Strabo, xvi., p. 743). Here, again, we note a literal fulfilment. The Bedouins themselves, partly because the place is desolate, partly from a superstitious horror, shrink from encamping on the site 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.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/isaiah-13.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
14:23; Jeremiah 50:3,13,21,39,45; 51:25,29,43,62-64; Revelation 18:21-23
Reciprocal: Judges 6:5 - tents;  Job 3:7 - solitary;  Isaiah 7:25 - but it;  Isaiah 21:1 - the desert;  Isaiah 21:13 - O ye;  Isaiah 34:10 - from;  Isaiah 34:11 - cormorant;  Isaiah 34:17 - they shall;  Isaiah 38:12 - as a;  Isaiah 47:5 - silent;  Isaiah 47:9 - they shall come;  Jeremiah 49:29 - tents;  Jeremiah 49:33 - a dwelling;  Jeremiah 50:12 - a wilderness;  Jeremiah 50:40 - GeneralZephaniah 2:9 - as Gomorrah;  Acts 2:11 - Arabians

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/isaiah-13.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

20.It shall never be inhabited any more. By the verb תשב, (thesheb,) shall sit, he means continuance; as if he had said, “There is no hope of restoring Babylon.” All these forms of expression have precisely the same object, that the Babylonians will be destroyed with such a destruction that their ruin shall be perpetual. The picture is still further heightened by adding, that the desolation will be so great that in that place neither will the Arabians pitch their tents, nor the shepherds their folds That place must have been marvellously forsaken and uncultivated, when it was disregarded by those roving tribes; for the Arabians were a wandering and unsettled nation, and had no fixed abode. Having left their native country, because it was barren, and is therefore called Arabia Deserta, (for it is of that country that we speak,) they devoted themselves to feeding flocks and to hunting, and wandered without any fixed residence; for which reason also the Greeks called them σκηνήται, (skenetai,) dwellers in tents. Now the country around Babylon was exceedingly fertile before that calamity, which rendered this change the more astonishing and almost miraculous, either because the place lost its former fertility, or because the constant slaughter made all men abhor the sight of it. Undoubtedly the Prophet means that not only will the buildings be thrown down, but the very soil will be accursed.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 13:20". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/isaiah-13.html. 1840-57.