Isaiah 13

Sunday Morning Bible Study

April 11, 1999

Introduction

Up to this point, Isaiahís messages have been aimed primarily at Godís people. But now the message is aimed at various other nations of Isaiahís day (Babylon, Syria, Egypt, etc). They are all nations who at some time had or would persecute Israel.

This current prophecy is going to be one centered around what is known as the "day of the Lord" (vs.6, 9)

We saw back in chapter 2 that this is a special term in the Bible that is used at least three ways. It can be used historically to describe when God gets involved in the affairs of Israel or any heathen nation. It can have a double fulfillment to be both towards something that has already occurred as well as something yet in the future. It can be used strictly towards that final time, after the Rapture, that can include the Great Tribulation and the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth.

How is it being used here? I believe it is a double fulfillment. Weíll go through the chapter first as it dealt with Isaiahís immediate future, and then again as it relates to our future.

1st Pass Ė near fulfillment

:1 The burden of Babylon

burden Ė massa' Ė load, burden; utterance, oracle. Weíre going to see this word a lot over the next ten chapters. Isaiah is going to have 10 prophecies regarding some of the various Gentile nations from here through chapter 23. The prophecies are called "burdens" probably due to their heavy, serious nature.

Lesson

Judgment is serious.

Itís a heavy subject. But itís obviously necessary as well.

Babylon Ė Babel Ė "confusion (by mixing)". Babel or Babylon, the ancient site and/or capital of Babylonia situated on the Euphrates. Keep in mind, though Babylon was a fairly important city in Isaiahís day, it had not yet become the great empire it would be under Nebuchadnezzar.

:2 Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain Ö

The picture is that of getting a banner put up high on a hill where it can be seen to signal the troops to come and attack the city.

:3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.

sanctified ones Ė qadash Ė to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate. Speaking of the Medes and Persians who were being set apart by God to do His work of destroying Babylon. God had spoken of the Assyrians as the "rod of His anger" (Is. 10:5), and now He will be using another nation.

that rejoice in my highness Ė or, "My proudly exulting ones". The historian Herodotus wrote that a special haughtiness was a unique characteristic of the Persians.

:4 the LORD of hosts mustereth the host of the battle

God will be calling the nations together for a war.

Lesson

Godís hand in history.

There are times like at the present when we wonder if a few crazy madmen are going to destroy the whole planet. God isnít going to let anything happen that He hasnít already planned on happening.

:5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven

far country Ė Media and Persia, to the north and the east. The area of the Medes is about 300 miles to the east of Babylon. See map.

the end of heaven Ė a term for the far east. David described the sunís circuit as coming from the same place (Ps. 19:6).

:9 cruel both with wrath and fierce anger

Lesson

The justice of Godís wrath.

As we mentioned last week, we need to be careful that we donít get the wrong idea about this. Godís wrath is not based on His moods. His wrath is based on the principle of justice. His wrath is the very appropriate, just and fair payment for manís sin. Having a problem with this? Think of some of mankindís atrocities that weíve done to one another. Is it appropriate for society to punish a man who stalks, tortures and kills another person? Of course it is. Godís "wrath" is no different. It is the appropriate penalty for our sin.

:10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations Ö

constellations Ė [email protected] Ė constellation, Orion; the Hebrew word actually means fool, stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton, arrogant one. Orion was the same as Nimrod, the founder of Babylon. Apparently the Hebrews didnít think much of him.

:12 I will make a man more precious than fine gold Ö Ophir

Ophir Ė has been variously identified as southern Arabia, E Africa, or India.

Isaiah 13:12 (NAS) I will make mortal man scarcer than pure gold

Sounds a little familiar when we see whatís happening in Kosovo where the men have been rounded up and shot while the women and children have been chased off.

:14 as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up

chased roe Ė gazelle; the most timid and easily startled. Babylon will be a frightened people.

a sheep that no man taketh up Ė Babylon will be like a sheep without a shepherd, one that is not cared for.

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

This is only what they had done to others.

(Psa 137:8-9 KJV) O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. {9} Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

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

This is an amazing prophecy considering that Babylon and the Medes were extremely distant from Isaiah, and they had not yet risen as great nations.

:17 which shall not regard silver

You wonít be able to buy them off. The secular historian Xenophon (Cyropaedia, 5,1,10) represents Cyrus as attributing this characteristic to the Medes.

:18 Their bows Ö

The Persians (who were allied with the Medes) were known for being great bowmen.

:19 shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

Some say that this simply means that Babylon will be totally overthrown.

But thatís not the image that Sodom and Gomorrah conjure up. They give the idea of total destruction. And thatís NOT how ancient Babylon was conquered by the Medes.

When Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he did it by diverting the mighty Euphrates River which ran right through the middle of the city. He then marched his army up the dry river bed into the city. But the city was taken with hardly any loss of life. Babylon continued to prosper. When Alexander the Great conquered Persia, he made it his new capital just before he died in 323 BC. From there, the city went through a gradual degradation until by 20 BC, the historian Strabo described it as a "vast desolation."

A couple of hundred years after Isaiah, Jeremiah also predicted the fall of Babylon. But his prophecy also didnít quite happen completely. He said Babylon would fall suddenly and be destroyed (Jer. 51:8). John records that Babylon would be judged in one hour (Rev. 18:10). It used to be that weíd try to spiritualize the Babylon in Revelation because there was nothing left of the old Babylon. Not any more.

Isnít it interesting how similar Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Revelation all are? Doesnít it sound like theyíre all talking about the same event?

:20 It shall never be inhabited

This was true up until fifteen years ago. Weíll talk about this in a minute. I donít think this prophecy has been fulfilled yet.

:21 owls Ö satyrs

Better, "ostriches" and "shaggy goats"

:22 wild beasts Ö dragons

Better, "hyenas" and "jackals"

2nd Pass Ė distant fulfillment (not too distant though!)

:1 Babylon

The name "Babylon" is actually used several ways in the Bible.

1. It is primarily used for the real, historical city located on the Euphrates River.

2. But we see it also used to describe false religion, as itís used in Revelation 17:

(Rev 17:5 KJV) And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.

3. There is also a third possible use, that of describing the world system as it is today. It is possible that Revelation 18 is using it in this way, though I also think itís possible that it could be referring to the real city, which is being rebuilt by Saddam Hussein.

Could it be that this chapter may apply to all three? Possible.

Up until recently, there werenít many people who considered Isaiah 13 as being in the future, regarding a real city of Babylon. That has all changed.

In the late 1980ís, Saddam Hussein started a project to rebuild the city of Babylon. Supervised by Muaayad Saeed, head of Iraqís Antiquities Department, they have already rebuilt Nebuchadnezzarís palace at Babylon. In a news article from last September, 1998, Saeed discussed how they are currently trying to decide whether to rebuild what they consider might be the famous tower of Babel, also located at Babylon. (http://abcnews.go.com/sections/science/DailyNews/babel980917.html)

:3 I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.

sanctified ones Ė qadash Ė to consecrate, sanctify, prepare, dedicate, be hallowed, be holy, be sanctified, be separate. In the first destruction of Babylon, this was the Medes. In the second destruction, this is the army of God (which will include us).

that rejoice in my highness Ė or, "My proudly exulting ones". Maybe the King James isnít so bad after all, after all, Godís army does rejoice in His highness!

:4 a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together

Sounds like a lot of our latest wars, nations joining together in "coalitions".

At the end, the ten nation confederacy, the restored Roman Empire headed by the antichrist that is centered in Europe will turn its back on Babylon, or at least the "Religious Babylon", which some see as being Rome.

(Rev 17:16-17 KJV) And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire. {17} For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.

:5 They come from a far country, from the end of heaven

far country Ė Media and Persia Ö these are in modern Iran. See map.

the end of heaven Ėthe Far East

:8 And they shall be afraid

Fear is understandable. But itís not necessary.

(Isa 12:2 KJV) Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.

:9 he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.

Lesson

Sinners shall be destroyed.

There will be a time when the world will have to pay for its sin.

Itís funny how we can cry for justice, but donít often think about the reality of it.

When we hear of atrocities happening around the world, we get all indignant and want the aggressors punished. When we hear of a friend who had been cheated on by their spouse, we get angry for our friend. We think itís not fair.

But then we turn around and start fantasizing about an affair ourselves.

Lesson

God would rather save sinners.

Before you start getting upset that sinners will be destroyed, keep in mind Godís heart.

(Ezek 33:11 KJV) Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

God is giving the world a chance to ask for help. Heís giving the world a chance to come and repent and ask for forgiveness.

Jesusí heart is to rescue sinners before itís too late. He was known as the "friend of sinners". We ought to be the same.

(Luke 7:36-50 KJV) And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. {37} And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, {38} And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. {39} Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. {40} And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. {41} There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. {42} And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? {43} Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. {44} And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. {45} Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. {46} My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. {47} Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. {48} And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. {49} And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? {50} And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.

Where are you in this story? Are you like the Pharisee who can only think about how much he hates sinners? Are you like the woman who is in desperate need of forgiveness? Are you on Jesusí team, reaching out to the sinners?

When we look at this event known as the "Day of the Lord", donít forget that the reason God is waiting so long for it to happen is because He wants to save sinners! (2Pet. 3:9)

:10 the sun shall be darkened in his going forth Ö

These are things that are scheduled to happen during the Great Tribulation, when Jesus comes back (Joel 2:10-11; Mat. 24:29)

:11 And I will punish the world for their evil

We have gone from the punishment upon Babylon, to the whole world being under judgment.

Lesson

Are you ready for judgment?

We have gotten so comfortable in America. We have begun to think that the world is just getting better and better. The cold war is over. We enjoy such prosperity. We have enjoyed such peace.

This situation in Yugoslavia should be a kind of wake up call for some of us. Do you realize how close weíre getting to the edge of another world war? This came across the news desks just yesterday from CNN:

Yeltsin warns of possible war in Kosovo

Russian President Boris Yeltsin warns that NATO should not push Moscow toward military action over Kosovo, saying this could trigger a possible world war. Meanwhile, the Kremlin denied that Russian missiles had been retargeted toward NATO countries. "I told NATO, the Americans, the Germans: Don't push us towards military action. Otherwise, there will be a European war for sure and possibly world war," Yeltsin said. (CNN Headline News 4-10-99)

Iím not bringing this up because I think that this war is going to lead to Armageddon, though I guess anything is possible. But itís been quite a while since the world has been this close to a world war. What if judgment is right around the corner?