From Isaiah 13-17
Isaiah predicts a time when Babylon will be defeated and God’s people removed from their oppression. When this happens he says Israel will take up a taunt against them. Have you ever taunted your defeated foe?
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Chapters 13-17 consist of a series of judgments against the nations about Judah. These nations include Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, and Damascus. The after the judgment pronounced on Babylon, the remnant of God’s people are given some hope.
14 For the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land, and sojourners will join them and will attach themselves to the house of Jacob. 2 And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them in the LORD’s land as male and female slaves. They will take captive those who were their captors, and rule over those who oppressed them. (Isa 14.1-2)
Some time in the future they will return to their land with others. They will be rulers over the inhabitants of the land (‘possessing them as slaves’). They will take their captors captive and rule over those who oppressed them.
Isaiah promises a reversal in their current circumstances.
When all these things happen and the LORD has given them rest they will taunt their enemies. They will taunt the king of Babylon.
3 When the LORD has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve, 4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:
“How the oppressor has ceased, the insolent fury ceased!
5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers,
6 that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in anger with unrelenting persecution.
7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing.
8 The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.’
9 Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of the nations.
10 All of them will answer and say to you: ‘You too have become as weak as we! You have become like us!’
11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your harps;
maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers. (Isa 14.3-11)
The first section of the taunt speaks about Babylon as the broken oppressor. The nations previously under their rule give a collective sigh of relief when they are defeated.
12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low!
13 You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north;
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit.
16 Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms,
17 who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’
18 All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb;
19 but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.
20 You will not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people. (Isa 14.12-20)
The second section describes Babylon as the fallen morning star. ‘Fallen from heaven’, ‘I will make myself like the Most High’, ‘brought down to Sheol’. The tale of pride and downfall has lead people to believe the song speaks about Satan.
“May the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named!
21 Prepare slaughter for his sons because of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the world with cities.” (Isa 14.20-21)
The children of the evildoers are cut short because otherwise they would fill the world with their evil. They are slaughtered because they have been raised in their fathers sins.
22 “I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and will cut off from Babylon name and remnant, descendants and posterity,” declares the LORD. 23 “And I will make it a possession of the hedgehog, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of hosts. (Isa 14.22-23)
Isaiah predicts an end of utter destruction for Babylon. Name, remnant, descendants and posterity are cut off and destroyed. Strangely, these will become the possession of the hedgehog and pools of water. Hedgehogs take the place of men, marshes take the place of palaces.
We know Babylon is eventually defeated by Persia (‘Cyrus the Great’). Persia is defeated by the Greeks (‘Alexander the Great’) and the Greeks the Romans. The control of the Judean’s passes from the Babylonians to the Persians. During this time they are still in exile, but they will soon be released by Cyrus (Ezra and Nehemiah).
If this taunt happened it must have been while they were still under foreign rule. Perhaps Isaiah is alluding to Persia’s control of Babylon as if it is their own. The taunt raises the question about how far triumph over an enemy is something that can be relished.
Do you taunt your oppressors when they are finally brought down?
Certainly it is normal to feel this way. They would also know the LORD brought it about and thus be thankful. But it has the danger of degenerating into pride.
In the gospel Jesus conquered sin and death. He did this through his own death on the cross and resurrection. There are not many instances where God’s people can taunt their enemies. Particularly when they are people, because we have to ask are we at times no different?
But when Jesus returns and raises up his people may take up a taunt against death itself.
50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 15.50-57)
Do you believe Jesus will raise you from the dead? Is this a taunt you think you will sing out when Jesus raises you from the dead? Why is that?
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.