Isaiah 13: Babylon, the glory of kingdoms:
Shall be made like Sodom and Gomorrah.
Babylon, what a place it must have been. What a glorious city, with unmatched beauty, power, fame, and terror.
No city of history invokes the images this ancient city does. The historic city is a model of all the great cities of past and present. Any city hoping to achieve the status of greatness must set its sights on the surpassing greatness of Babylon. It is the greatest city man has built. All other cities shrink in comparison.
It rose to prodigious heights in a time long ago. The glory of it’s past has risen to mythical proportions. It was a time when tribes and nations fought ferociously against one another, seeking to dominate all others.
Babylon rose up in the midst of this thirst for power and conquered every tribe and nation within its vast reach. It achieved greatness. It ruled the world. Its fame is legendary.
The gardens, towers, temples, and walls of the extraordinary city all reached legendary heights of fame.
Rising to the Heavens
It is claimed that the famous Tower of Babel reached all the way to heaven.
The immense wall surrounding the city was wide and strong enough for chariots to race side-by-side as they circled the mighty metropolis.
The gardens of Babylon surpassed all others of its time. They reached the enviable status and rank as one of the seven great wonders of the ancient world.
The mythical city of Atlantis is only myth, but Babylon was real, and it was spectacular.
The future of Babylon is already determined, yet unfulfilled. It is a city of the distant past but it has an important role to play in the future. You see, God’s Word says a city called Babylon will meet utter destruction in the end of days.
Far from glorious, the future of Babylon might best be described as a nuclear wasteland.
But where is that city? What are we to make of the numerous Bible passages that refer to an end of days city called Babylon that will face destruction? (Joel Richardson believes he has found the answer to that mystery.)
Chapter thirteen of Isaiah is one of many Bible passages that advances this mystery. How can a city from so long ago, return again to prominence? Now that nuclear weaponry has replaced bow and arrow, will the legendary city return a final time to face nuclear annihilation?
God gives us the answer. That answer begins to unfold in this chapter.
“The burden against Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.”
The biblical prophets often referred to their message as a burden from the Lord. It implied an ominous outcome for the nation or people addressed.
Isaiah finished his prophetic career in 685 B.C., almost 100 years before Judah finally fell to the Babylonian Empire (586 B.C.). At the time of this prophecy, Babylon was a rising power, but they were still inferior to the more dominant Assyrian Empire. Yet the LORD, knowing the end of all things told the prophet about a future judgment on the pride of Babylon. It was hundreds of years before the judgment saw fulfillment.
But why me Lord?
Why is God speaking to Babylon? Is the message for them or some other nation? The prophecy encouraged the Jewish Nation, which endured severe punishment already. It presented to them the truth that God was just. Wicked nations will receive timely and equal judgment and justice. Israel and Judah were feeling the sting of God’s discipline. It would have been understandable for them to wonder if God was unfairly afflicting them. He wasn’t, He judges fairly.
It’s also important to know that Babylon, Assyria and other surrounding powers had conquered Israel and Judah. God demonstrated His love to His people by announcing His vengeance against their enemies.
“Lift up a banner on the high mountain, raise your voice to them; wave your hand, that they may enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded My sanctified ones; I have also called My mighty ones for My anger; those who rejoice in My exaltation.” The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like that of many people! A tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together! The LORD of hosts musters the army for battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven; the LORD and His weapons of indignation, to destroy the whole land. Wail, for the day of the LORD, is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty. Therefore all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid. Pangs and sorrows will take hold of them; they will be in pain as a woman in childbirth; they will be amazed at one another; their faces will be like flames.”
My Mighty Ones
The LORD says He will bring an army against Babylon. He will bring his sanctified ones to judge the mighty power. This prophecy, like so many others, has a near and far fulfillment hidden in its wording.
The Lord will bring “mighty ones’ and ‘kingdoms of nations’ from ‘a far country, and from the end of heaven.’ The Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon. They were close neighbors, not from a county far away. A future group of mighty nations will fight a final battle against a nation that represents a final Babylon.
They will be amazed at one another:
The original fall of Babylon was accomplished by a clever surprise attack by Cyrus, the citizens of the city were completely shocked (Daniel 5). (The writing on the Wall)
“Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate; and He will destroy its sinners from it. For the stars of heaven and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened in its going forth, and the moon will not cause its light to shine.
“I will punish the world for its evil,
and the wicked for their iniquity; I will halt the arrogance of the proud, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a mortal more rare than fine gold, a man more than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place, in the wrath of the LORD of hosts and in the day of His fierce anger. It shall be as the hunted gazelle, and as a sheep that no man takes up; every man will turn to his own people, and everyone will flee to his own land. Everyone who is found will be thrust through, and everyone who is captured will fall by the sword. Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered and their wives ravished.”
The day of the LORD comes:
This phrase, Isaiah uses, speaks prophetically of both a near fulfillment (the day of judgment against the Babylonian Empire), and an ultimate fulfillment (the final day of judgment at the return of Jesus).
The day of the LORD is an important prophecy term. Bible authors use the term twenty-six times. It points to the period of judgment when the LORD will set all things right. The day of the LORD is the time of the end, not some time in history when one nation defeated another.
The stars of heaven…
and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be darkened:
Several prophetic passages describe the cosmic disturbances that will precede and surround the return of Jesus (Joel 2:10, Revelation 6:12-14, Isaiah 34:4). Jesus was quoting from the passage from Isaiah in Matthew 24:29: Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.
In the near fulfillment of the judgment of Babylon, they felt like the whole world was coming apart. In the ultimate fulfillment connected with the return of Jesus, the whole world will be falling apart.
I will punish the world for its evil:
Babylon is the world; the world is Babylon, both are ripe for ultimate judgment. Isaiah combines the vision of Babylon’s judgment with the judgment of the whole world for its evil.
Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place:
The writers of Haggai 2:6 and Hebrews 12:25-28 repeat this prophecy. God will shake everything we think is secure. Whatever a person or nation trusts in will prove faulty. Only God is secure. Trust only in Him.
“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, who will not regard silver; and as for gold, they will not delight in it. Also, their bows will dash the young men to pieces, and they will have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye will not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans’ pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It will never be inhabited, nor will it be settled from generation to generation; nor will the Arabian pitch tents there, nor will the shepherds make their sheepfolds there. But wild beasts of the desert will lie there, and their houses will be full of owls; ostriches will dwell there, and wild goats will caper there. The hyenas will howl in their citadels, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. Her time is near to come, and her days will not be prolonged.”
I will stir up the Medes against them:
This prophecy came to Isaiah decades before the Babylonian Empire defeated the Assyrian Empire. Way before the time when the Medes eventually conquered the Babylonians.
The words of this prophecy are very specific. This puts skeptics of the Bible in a difficult position. Critics say Isaiah wrote after these events occurred because the future is unknown. They must be unfamiliar with the God who sees the end before the beginning. God does know the future, and He knows the specifics.
It will never be inhabited:
When the city is in ruins, the population will never return. “When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he did not devastate the city. The walls remained standing until 518 B.C. Babylon slowly fell into decay over many years. This fulfilled the initial prophecy of Isaiah. Babylon became completely depopulated by the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century A.D., and to this day it lies deserted.”
Jesus wins in the end
This is also true in its ultimate fulfillment. When Jesus returns in glory and conquers the world system, He will rule the earth for 1,000 years. As He does, there will be no more “world system” in opposition to God as we know it. The world system stands in opposition to God. That system will never rule again.
More from Isaiah: