The Prophet Isaiah His name means “Yahweh is salvation.”
He has been called:
“the Prince of the Old Testament Prophets” (Copass),
“the Saint Paul of the Old Testament” (Robinson) and
“the greatest prophet” (Eusebius).
The son of Amoz The fifth evangelist
A prophet of the gospel before the Gospel The great central-prophet
Circle which would aptly apply to Isaiah
1. Theologian 2. Reformer 3. Statesman 4. Historian 5. Poet
6. Orator 7. Prince 8. Patriot 10. Played for New England
Valeton evaluated the ministry of Isaiah in these poignant words: “Never perhaps has there been another prophet like Isaiah, who stood with his head in the clouds and his feet on the solid earth, with his heart in things of eternity and with mouth and hand in the things of time, with his spirit in the eternal counsel of God and his body in a very definite moment of history.”
The Book of Isaiah
It has been called “the Mount Everest of Prophetic Literature.”
Grandeur Sublime revelations of God’s character
Evangelical Abundant evidence of supernatural revelation
Passages which encourage Christians.
A. A Prologue: A Nation Indicted (chap. 1)
1. Accusation 1:2-15
a. Count one: ingratitude 1:2-3
God likened his people to rebellious children.
b. Count two: Corruption 1:4
c. Count three: Judah was incorrigible 1:5-6
The children of God had been severely disciplined by their Father. They were covered from head to toe with bruises, wounds and welts.
d. Count four: hypocrisy 1:7-15
The rulers and people of Israel were so wicked that their counterparts could only be found in Sodom and Gom.
2. Invitation 1:16-20
a. Stop doing wrong
b. Replace previous wrong with positive action
As an incentive to repentance, Father held out to his beloved children the prospect reinstatement
two scenarios: first, scarlet sin, i.e., the sin of murder itself, becomes as white as snow. Willing obedience could make possible such forgiveness. The forgiven sinner would be able to enjoy life and the blessing of God. He would “eat the best from the land.”
The second scenario, however, pictures the fate of one who refused God’s mercy and rebelled against him. That individual would be devoured by the sword (1:18–20).
3. Lamantation over Disaster 1:21-23
To underscore the terrible & need for repentance. Likened once-faithful Jerusalem to a fallen woman, to silver which had become worthless, and to wine diluted by water. That place which was once the very embodiment of righteousness now harbored murderers. The rulers, who should have been forceful advocates for the less fortunate, accepted bribes from the rich and powerful.
4. Purgation through judgment 1:24-31
The penitent of Zion would redeemed from judgment, the rebellious crushed by his wrath.
B. A Sermon (chaps. 2–4).
1. Promise: A Glorious City (2:2–5).
Jerusalem in the “last days,” i.e., the Messianic Age.
2. Indictment: An Abandoned People (2:6–9).
people embraced superstitions of heathen, ultimately result in humbling of proud sinners in judgment.
God’s Day (2:10–22).
In that day the Lord would arise to shake the earth (2:19–22).
Judgment on Judah (3:1–12).
God’s judgment would remove every supply and support
Judgment on the Women (3:16–4:1).
5. Promise: A Better Day (4:2f)
C. A Song: A Vineyard Destroyed (chap. 5).
1. The Choice Vineyard (5:1–7).
2. The Rotten Fruit (5:8–23).
3. The Bitter Consequences (5:24–30)
D. A Vision: A Prophet Called (chap. 6).
1. A Vision of God (6:1–3).
2. A Vision of Self (6:5–7).
3. A Vision of Service (6:8–13).
… the primary reason for reading Isaiah is to see the Lord. Certainly we’ve seen God in other Old Testament books. We’ve seen His power in the Exodus, His righteousness in the Law, His justice in the Book of Judges. But somehow it’s as though we saw God through the events recorded. He is there, but as a shadow; glimpsed, but not fully revealed, in His actions in history. In Isaiah the veil of history is pulled aside and we see God directly, revealed in all His glory.
For all of us who desire to know God in a deeper and fuller way, the Book of Isaiah holds great promise. As you study it with your group, you will together be filled with wonder at the greatness and majesty of our God. You will be moved to praise and to hope, as God lifts high the torch of revelation to show us … Himself!
• Holy One, Isaiah 5:15–16
• Sovereign Lord, Isaiah 8:13–15
• God the Judge, Isaiah 11:3–5
• God, our Salvation, Isaiah 26:1–4
• Everlasting God, Isaiah 44:6–8
• The Living God, Isaiah 41:10, 13
• Lord of Glory, Isaiah 60:1–3
We meet God in a special way in this book, and will come to appreciate Him deeply.
Here are some of the other characters we meet with:
52 yr reign. Grt prosperity, advancement in agriculture, etc. Decadence instead of godliness. Uzz’s pride
II Chor. 26
Faced Isrl, Syria. Allied to Assyria.
Grt reformer, but too late. Defeated Sennacheri bII K 19
Rezin and Pekah
In Chapters 1-5 the Seer saw:
1.The corruption of contemporary Israel (eg 1:2-3)
2.The consummate conquest by God (eg 2:3-4)
3.The coming calamity through conquerors (eg 3:4-5)
What did the Seer see in ch. 6?
He saw God
He was seated upon a throne
In Isaiah’s day Jehovah dwelt above the mercy seat covered by cherubs
He was high and lifted up
The redundancy suggests his majesty and authority are absolute
His train filling the temple
The Lord’s glory and influence are absolute. (remember that the temple was the one Solomon built and was the wonder of wonders of the ancient world.)
His seraphs making sure everyone was paying attention with an:
Arresting Presence 2/3 of wings used for covering
Antiphonal Presentation Unique beings to proclaim unique attribute
Authoritative Power nothing immovable before God and His holiness
Amazing Participation Smoke fm altar of incense=prayers=everyone concurs
He saw himself
In anguish and ruin (literally “Alas,ruin!”) due to being a foulmouth among Foulmouths
He only saw his true self after seeing the true God
In hope (seraphs flew) and salvation (coals=what’s left after sac.=Isa touched, at one w/state of forgiveness)
In fellowship (“Whom…”) and service (Here! Send me!)
He saw his task
Preach unpopular truth
See scant results (His preaching would harden. They could not believe because they would not.)
Endure catastrophic loss
Remember Divine hope
God Sees It All
1. Ahaz has rejected trust in God to trust in Assyria (see Isa. 7).
2. Isaiah warns that God will now bring this very nation against His people (8:1–10).
3. Even so, believers to fear God (vv. 11–18), not surrender to desperate acts (vv. 19–22).
4. Yet beyond the present gloom the future holds a bright hope - A child
5. But first Israel will be totally crushed (vv. 8–21).
Two important principles in OT prophecy:
1) the prophets saw Christ’s coming in humiliation and in glory, but did not see the period of time between these events—the church age (1 Peter 1:10–12);
2) each prophecy grew out of a definite historical setting
I. Judah Will Be Delivered from Her Enemies (7:1–16) The God who foretold virgin birth also foretold the defeat of Syro-Isrl alliance. God proved Hiself to all who will seek
II. Israel Will Be Defeated by Assyria (7:17–10:34)
From 7:17 on, Isaiah is talking to apostate Israel and Pekah, her king. He warns the Northern Kingdom that Assyria will come upon them and completely ruin them, leaving the land in poverty and ruin instead of fullness of blessing. It was at this point that the “sign child” was born (8:1–4), and named Maher-shalal-hash-baz—“speed to the spoil, haste to the prey.” His name emphasized the coming ruin of Samaria and Syria (8:4). Israel’s confederacy with Syria would not protect the people (8:11–15); they needed to join with Jehovah and let Him be their stone of safety. They needed to get back to the law (8:20).
In 9:1–7 Isaiah gives a second prediction of the coming Messiah; see Matt. 4:13–16. The areas mentioned in 9:1 suffered the most when Assyria swept over Israel, but they would be the ones to see the light of Messiah. In vv. 3–5, the prophet looks down the years to the time when Israel would rejoice, when burdens would be lifted, when the weapons of warfare would be burned as fuel—the time when Jesus Christ would reign as Prince of Peace. See here the humanity of Christ (“a Child is born”) and the deity of Christ (“a Son is given”). Then the prophet jumps from His humble birth to His glorious reign, when He shall rule from Jerusalem and there shall be perfect peace.
In 9:8–10:34, Isaiah continues to warn Israel of her impending doom. He also warns Assyria not to become proud of her victories, for she is but a tool in the hands of God. Her day of defeat will come too. We may see in Assyria a type of the Antichrist who will gather all nations against Jerusalem at the Battle of Armageddon. Just as God defeated Assyria with His miraculous power, so He will defeat Satan and his united armies (Rev. 19).
Isaiah used three vivid contrasts to show the rulers of Judah the mistake they were making by trusting Assyria instead of trusting the Lord.
1. They chose a flood instead of a peaceful river (Isa. 8:5–10).
2. They chose a snare instead of a sanctuary (Isa. 8:11–15).
3. They chose darkness instead of light (Isa. 8:16–22).
III. Israel and Judah Will Unite in the Kingdom (11–12)
Corrupt Leaders Corrupt Absolutely
perverted justice in contrast to Messiah’s (9:6-7). So Isaiah woe on them and those who emulate them.
They were guilty of six evils:
1. Making unjust laws
2. Issuing oppressive decrees. These actions were repulsive because the Israelites were supposed to care for each other as members of God’s people redeemed from Egyptian slavery by their God.
3. Depriving the poor (dal, ”feeble, weak, helpless“) of their rights
4. Taking away justice
5. Hurting widows
6. Robbing the fatherless. These actions, which involved taking advantage of people who could not defend their rights, violated God’s Law (Ex. 22:22; 23:6; Deut. 15:7-8; 24:17-18; cf Isa 1:17). Because of this behavior, the nation would go into captivity (10:3-4). In disaster... from (ie from Assyria) no one would help them, as they had refused to help those in need. In anger God’s judgment would fal
The Hammer Hammers And Gets Hammered
v 6 Assyria was commissioned by God to discipline Israel
v 7-11 Assyria became too big for his britches. List the indicators of his arrogance:
1. v 7 She sought to destroy instead of chasten
2. v 7 She sought to conquer the world instead of discipline Israel
3. v 8 She boasted in the superiority of her big shots
4. v 9-10 She boasted in the superiority of her Gods
5. v 11 She boasted that Judah’s God wouldn’t fair any better
v 12 God says He’ll use him, then punish him. List the qualities that seem to annoy God:
1. My hand
2. My wisdom
3. I have understanding
4. I removed boundaries
5. I plundered
6. I’m like a god
7. I brought them down
8. I’m the hunter, their
kings are birds & eggs
Assyria is to God as the…
1. Axe is to the axeman
2. Saw isto the sawyer
3. Club is to the clubber
4. Stick of wood is to its holder which sure isn’t wooden
v 16-19 So Assyria will get hammered. destruction by disease and fire (Isa 3t:36-7). 701BC & 609 BC). A child can count remainder. The “ forest” will be chopped down.
v 20-23 And a remnant of Israel will return
1. To trust in the Lord instead of Assyria (cf Hosea 5:13; 7:11; 8:9)
2. But only a few of the many
3. And the threat of Assyria will forever be history
v 24 So take heart
1. Assyria will smite Israel like Egypt did
2. But remember what happened to Egypt?! And Midian?! And rod of Moses?!
3. Israel’s prosperity will help bring the demise of Assyria (anoint=fat will break yoke)
Isa. 10:28–32 And finally the details. Isaiah wrote it app. 722 BC. It happened in 701BC.
According to ch 37, from which direction did Sennac. come from?
The account is designed to be a nail-biter, so facts about Lachish & Libnah are omitted.
The predictions in ch 11 foresee the fulfillment of prophecies given centuries before:
1. First, to Abram -- Gen 12:2-3 And I will make you a great nation…And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”
2. Then, about Isaac – Gen 1:12 … for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
3. Then, about Jacob -- Gen 25: 23 The Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb… And he older shall serve the younger.”
4. Then, about Judah’s authority -- Ge 49:10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.
5. BUT…Judah “blew it big time” (Gen 38:15)
a. Now in De 23:2 the Law said, “A bastard…his tenth generation…”
b. Judah’s son was born and named Pharez -- Gen 38:29 therefore his name was called Pharez.
c. Now jump a few hundred years to the days of Ruth (Ru 4:17-18) … There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Now these are the generations of Pharez:
One - Pharez begat Four - Amminadab begat Seven - Boaz begat
Two - Hezron begat Fve - Nahshon begat Eighth – Obed begat
Three - Ram begat Six - Salmon begat Nineth - Jesse
d. The choice of David -- I Sam 6
e. The Davidic Covenant -- 2Sa 7:16 And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.
All this was centuries before Isaiah wrote. Now he foresees the fulfillment
a. He had said (10:33-34) the trees, Assyrian army, in Judah would be chopped down.
b. A little shoot would come up from a stump in a barren ground. This shoot would be:
1. Isa. 11:10 A root sheh’resh – permanent people
2. Isa 4:2; Jer 23:5 A tseh’makh – a sprouting growth
3. Rev 22:16 ridza – an offspring
c. This little branch is described in detail (700 years before He was born)
|His Character Foretold1-The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him 2-of wisdom and understanding 3-of counsel and strength 4-of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 5-He will delight in the fear of the Lord 6-He will not judge eyes see nor ears 7-With righteousness & fairness He judges 8-strike…with the rod…slay the wicked. 9-Also righteousness will be the belt…, And faithfulness the belt about His waist.||1-His baptism, Matt. 3:16-17 2- 3- 4- 5- 6- 7- 8- 9-|
The character of His administration vss 6-10
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the kid,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
As the waters cover the sea.
Then in that day
The nations will resort to the root of Jesse,
Who will stand as a signal for the peoples;
And His rest will be glorious
The King, His Kingdom and Israel’s salvation hymn.
I. The Person of the Messiah (11:1–16)
A. His ancestry (11:1) : Messiah will come from David
B. His anointing (11:2) : God’s Holy Spirit will rest on the Messiah, giving him unlimited power and wisdom.
C. His administration (11:3–5): His reign will be just and righteous as he defends the helpless and defeats the wicked.
D. His accomplishments (11:6–16)
1. The Messiah will usher in universal peace among mankind and perfect harmony among the animals (11:6–9
2. All nations will rally to him (11:10, 12a).
3. He will gather the outcasts of Israel from all over the world and will restore them to the land (11:11, 12b–14)
The jealousy between Israel and Judah will end, and they will join together to fight against their enemies.
a. This regathering is assured in other passages
27:12–13 49:22–23; 56:7–8 Matt. 24:31 Rom. 11:25–29
b. The “highway” is a favorite image.
A level and smooth road (Isa. 26:7–8).
A prepared road (40:3–4)
A safe road (42:16).
An easy and unobstructed road (49:11; 57:14; 62:10).
A road called “the Way of Holiness” (35:8).
c. A highway of peace from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River (11:15–16).
II. Messiah will be praised (12:1–6): Isaiah recites a song of praise that will be sung by God’s people when the Messiah accomplishes his mission.
The refrain in Isaiah 12:2—“The Lord, even Jehovah, is my strength and my song; He also is become my salvation”
Was sung at the Exodus (Ex. 15:2)
And at the rededication of the temple in Ezra’s day (Ps. 118:14).
It was sung by the Red Sea after the Jews had been delivered from Egypt by Moses, a prophet (Ex 15:2)
It will be most fitting the Jewish nation will have accepted Jesus Christ as its King and so will be literally true.
A. Their thanksgiving to the Lord (12:1–3)
1. For forgiveness (12:1)
2. For strength and deliverance (12:2–3B).
B. Their testimony to the world (12:4–6): Israel will become what it was meant to be: a testimony and a blessing to the nations while they behold God among them. God is best seen when in relation to His people. WE are to MAGNIFY Christ Phil 1:20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
1. babylon (13:1-14:27)
a. Introduction (13:1)
13:1. This section (13:1-14:27) is ascribed to Isaiah son of Amoz (cf. 1:1). This is significant in view of the fact that it is clearly prophecy spoken before the fall of Babylon. This is important for many believe that Isaiah 40-66 could not have been written by Isaiah son of Amoz because he could not have prophesied about something yet future. The passage in 13:1-14:27 shows that Isaiah’s writing about events before they happened was possible.
This section is an oracle, sometimes translated ”burden, “ as it comes from the verb meaning ”to be lifted or carried.“ It was a weighty or burdensome kind of message to deliver. It is a common term in the prophetic writings (13:1; 14:28; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1, 11, 13; 22:1; 23:1; 30:6; Jer. 23:33-34, 36, 38; Ezek. 12:10; Nahum 1:1; Hab. 1:1; Zech. 9:1 [see comments there]; 12:1; Mal. 1:1). Isaiah’s oracle concerns Babylon. Babylon deserved God’s wrath, for that city had long been a rallying point of anti-God activity. From its very beginning (Gen. 11:1-9) it had been characterized by rebellion against God. Over the centuries, as various dynasties ruled over that city, it was viewed as a place of hatred against the God of Israel. Even in the Tribulation it will be a center of hatred against God (Rev. 17-18).
b. God’s army against Babylon (13:2-18)
(1) The forming of God’s army.
13:2-5. The army referred to in these verses is clearly God’s because He said He summoned His warriors to carry out His wrath against Babylon; that is, they would do His bidding. This army was a great multitude.... like an amassing of entire nations. Coming for war they would assemble from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens. This is not a specific geographical description as much as a way of saying that his great army would include soldiers from many places. Though Isaiah was writing about the military strife in his day, a similar mustering of vast armies will occur just before the millennial kingdom (Rev. 16:12-16).
(2) The nearness of the day of the Lord.
13:6-13. The day of the Lord refers to the time of the Lord’s judgment on the wicked world and/or deliverance of His people. (See comments on ”the day of the Lord“ under ”Major Interpretive Problems, “ in the Introduction to Joel.) In Isaiah’s day that judgment was coming because of the tremendous political turmoil of the next several decades that would culminate with the fall of Babylon to the Assyrians in 689 b.c. That political turmoil was similar to the judgment which will come on the whole world just before God establishes His millennial kingdom on the earth. This judgment from the Almighty would cause people to be in extreme distress, in pain like a woman’s labor pains (cf. Isa. 21:3; 26:17; Jer. 4:31; 6:24; 13:21; 22:23; 30:6; 48:41; 49:22, 24; 50:43; Micah 4:9-10). The day of the Lord, expressing His anger (Isa. 13:3, 13) against sin, will destroy... sinners (v. 9) and punish the world for its evil and its proud attitude toward God (v. 11; cf. v. 19; 10:6, 12-13). The statements in 13:10 about the heavenly bodies (stars. ...sun ...moon) no longer functioning may figuratively describe the total turnaround of the political structure of the Near East. The same would be true of the heavens trembling and the earth shaking (v. 13), figures of speech suggesting all-encompassing destruction. Again, all this is similar to the final judgment to come on the world. On the luminaries not shining, see 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:10, 30-31; 3:15; Zechariah 14:6-7; Matthew 24:29; and on the final shaking o-f the earth see Isaiah 24:18; Joel 2:10; 3:16; Haggai 2:6-7, 21-22. Because so many will die in battle, people will be scarcer than the rare and valuable gold of Ophir, a town probably located on the southwestern coast of Arabia (cf. Job 22:24; 28:16).
(3) The army’s unrelenting attack.
13:14-18. In the day of the Lord, described in verses 6-13, the army formed by God (vv. 1-5) would attack unrelentingly. The people attacked would be utterly powerless to stop the invasion. They would be like antelope and sheep, defenseless creatures that are easy prey for hunters. People within the Assyrian Empire from other countries would try to escape the coming destruction (they will flee to their native lands). Terrible things would happen, including death by the sword (v. 15), infanticide, plundering, and rape (v. 16). The destruction would be unrelenting in that the invaders would not be dissuaded by money (v. 17) and they will have no mercy on babies (cf. v. 16) or children (v. 18).
The statement I will stir up against them the Medes (v. 17) has caused much discussion among Bible students. Many interpreters, because of the mention of the fall of Babylon (v. 19), assume that Isaiah was (in vv. 17-18) prophesying Babylon’s fall in 539 (cf. Dan. 5:30-31) to the Medes and Persians. However, that view has some difficulties. In the Medo-Persian takeover in 539 there was very little change in the city; it was not destroyed so it continued on much as it had been. But Isaiah 13:19-22 speaks of the destruction of Babylon. Also the word ”them, “ against whom the Medes were stirred up (v. 17), were the Assyrians (referred to in vv. 14-16), not the Babylonians. It seems better, then, to understand this section as dealing with events pertaining to the Assyrians’ sack of Babylon in December 689 b.c. As Seth Erlandsson has noted, ”The histories of the Medes, Elamites, and Babylonians converge around the year 700 in the struggle against the Assyrian world power and... Babylon assumes a particularly central position in that great historical drama from the latter years of the 8th century down to the fall of Babylon in 689“ (The Burden of Babylon: A Study of Isaiah 13:2-14:23. Lund, Sweden: C.W.K. Glerrup, 1970, pp. 91-2).
c. God’s soon-coming destruction of Babylon (13:19-22)
13:19-22. The recipient of this destruction is Babylon the city, not the entire empire. Because of her pride (cf. v. 11) and godless idolatry Babylon would be overthrown by God. The overthrow, as already stated, was done by the Assyrians, God’s instrument of wrath under King Sennacherib. Just as God overthrew the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25), so He would overthrow the wicked city of Babylon. The destruction would be extensive, which was true of Sennacherib’s sack of the city. Isaiah’s description of the devastation of Babylon-no inhabitants for generations and no tents or flocks, but instead jackals... owls... wild goats, and hyenas-is typical of the way ancient Near Eastern cultures described the desolate condition of demolished cities (Erlandsson, The Burden of Babylon, p. 118). The Hebrew in Isaiah 13:20a can be translated, ”She will not be inhabited for a long time and she will not be lived in for generation after generation.“ A few years after this destruction, Babylon was rebuilt by Sennacherib’s son Esarhaddon (681-669 b.c.). All this preceded the rise of the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 626 and its fall to Medo-Persia in 539. Ultimately Babylon will again be rebuilt and then destroyed by God a final time (Rev. 18; cf. comments on Jer. 50:1-51:58). Isaiah was convinced that the destruction he wrote about would come quickly (her time is at hand). It came in 689 b.c. (see comments on Isa. 14:3-4a).
d. God’s compassion on Israel (14:1-2)
14:1-2. The fall of Babylon (and of other nations, 14:24-21:17; 23) would assure God’s people that He would work on their behalf. In spite of the destruction to come on the nation Israel, God will again have compassion. This contrasts with 9:17, where Isaiah said God in punishing His nation would not have compassion (”pity“ translates the same word as ”compassion“ in 14:1). Once again He will choose the nation to be His people, as He had done at Mount Sinai. Jacob and Israel here probably refer to all 12 tribes, as they do in Exodus 19:3. God’s choosing of Israel (and of Judah, Jerusalem, David, and Solomon) is an important Old Testament theme (cf. Deut. 7:6), especially in 1 and 2 Chronicles and the Psalms (1 Chron. 16:13; 28:4-5, 10; 29:1; 2 Chron. 6:6, 34, 38; 7:12; 12:13; 33:7; Pss. 33:12; 47:4; 78:68, 70; 89:3; 105:6, 43; 106:5; 132:13; 135:4). The fact that non-Israelites (aliens) will join Israel is also a recurring theme in Scripture (Isa. 56:6; 60:10; 61:5). Israel’s role will be reversed (14:2): rather than Israel being exiled as captives in other nations, other nations will serve Israel. Israel will be prominent.
e. A taunt against Babylon (14:3-21)
(1) The defeat of the tyrant (14:3-8).
14:3-4a. Verses 3-21 record a song or a taunt that will be sung by people freed from the fear of the king of Babylon. The song’s overall message is that people will be amazed that this great king is cast down like the monarchs of other cities. People will rejoice in his demise for they had lived in fear of him.
Who is this king of Babylon? Many expositors hold the view that he is Satan, the ultimate personification of pride. Tertullian (ca. a.d. 160-230) and Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) were the first to present this view, now widely accepted. Though verses 12-14 seem to support the view, little else in the chapter does. Though many hold that verses 12-14 refer to the entrance of sin into the cosmos by Satan’s fall, that subject seems a bit forced in this chapter. (However, Ezek. 28:12-19 does refer to Satan’s fall; see comments there.)
It seems more natural to view this proud tyrant as Sennacherib (705-681). There are interesting parallels between the description of the tyrant in Isaiah 14 and the curse against Sennacherib in 37:21-29. But wasn’t Sennacherib king of Assyria rather than Babylon? He was king of both because Babylon was a vassal of Assyria from the end of the 10th century b.c. Occasionally the vassal ruler over Babylon revolted against Assyria, but in 728 Tiglath-Pileser III, Assyria’s aggressive ruler from 745 to 727, was crowned king of Babylon. Nineveh was Assyria’s capital, but Babylon became the center of its cultural life. Because of this assimilation, the worship of Babylon’s god Marduk gained popularity in Assyria. Sargon II (722-705) and Sennacherib (705-681), later Assyrian monarchs, also called themselves kings of Babylon. After Sargon II died in 705 there was much rebellion in the Assyrian Empire. The Elamites put Mushezib-Marduk over Babylon (692-689); he made an alliance with several nations including the Medes. To subdue the rebellion in Babylon, Sennacherib marched there in 689 and destroyed it. He even released over the city’s ruins huge volumes of water to attempt to devastate the city (Erlandsson, The Burden of Babylon, p. 91). However, a few years later the city was rebuilt by Sennacherib’s son and successor Esar-haddon.
Sennacherib’s death by assassination (2 Kings 19:37) eight years after he destroyed Babylon would give great joy and comfort to the surrounding nations, especially Judah. (Sennacherib was the king who had failed in his attempt 12 years earlier, 701 b.c., to capture Jerusalem, Isa. 37; 2 Kings 18:13-19:36.)
14:4b-8. The one whose fury (v. 4; cf. v. 6) would end is the oppressor who had struck down peoples and aggressively subdued nations. His death would bring rest... peace and joy (singing) to the entire region. This rest is pictured symbolically by the great cedar trees of Lebanon saying that they were then safe. No longer would they be in danger of being cut... down to provide tribute to Sennacherib.
(2) The death of the tyrant.
14:9-11. The grave (še’ôl) is pictured as a great throne room where the leaders and kings of the earth go when they die. Spirits of the departed translates rep̱ā’îm, which is rendered ”departed spirits“ in 26:14 and ”dead“ in 26:19; Job 26:5 (see comments on Job 26:5). This tyrant (Sennacherib) is envisioned as having died and as being met by the kings already in the grave. Amazed at the fate of this glorious king, whose splendor had surpassed theirs, they were all astir. His coming would even make them rise from their thrones as if they sat on thrones in the grave) to greet him. They would act amazed that he had become weak and dead like them. Though he had lived in pomp with music (harps) he would now lie in corruption. Maggots and worms would decompose his body in the grave.
(3) The arrogance and fate of the tyrant.
14:12-15. In his military might this great king had laid low the nations, including Phoenicia, Philistia, Egypt, Moab, Edom, Cilicia, much of Judah, and northern Arabia. But he would fall like a morning star. The brilliance of a star in the early dawn suddenly vanishes when the sun rises. Sennacherib, because of his great power, thought himself godlike, but now by startling contrast he would be in the grave. In the ancient Near East, kings had supreme power; many were deified by their subjects. The people taunting this tyrant pictured him ascribing godlike characteristics to himself. Ascending to heaven... above the stars and being enthroned on... the sacred mountain recalls the belief of several Semitic peoples that the gods lived on Mount Zaphon. ”Sacred mountain“ translates ṣāp̱ôn (Lit.”the north“). By ascending the mountain above... the clouds, he was seeking to make himself like God, the Most High. (The language used here, of course, is hyperbolical.) Yet he would be brought low to the grave (pit is a synonym for grave). Nothing could save him from death and from decay in the grave.
(4) A lesson to be learned from the defeat of the tyrant.
14:16-21. One lesson to be learned from the death of this great one is that all kings, no matter how invincible they may seem, will pass from the scene. People would ponder Sennacherib’s fate, finding it hard to believe he was the same one who had made everyone tremble in fear by devastating cities and taking so many people captives (vv. 16-17). In his death he was not even given a decent burial as are most kings who lie in state (v. 18). He would be cut off completely, killed by the sword and trampled underfoot (v. 19). He was assassinated by his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer, who were then unable to rule in his place (they would not rise to inherit the land, v. 21) because they had to run for their lives (2 Kings 19:37).
f. Babylon’s destruction by Assyria (14:22-23)
What is most notable about Ezekiel’s prophecy is the accuracy of its fulfillment. Although secular records are not sufficiently complete to provide an independent confirmation of every detail, chapter 26 makes at least seven definite predictions that can be tested against historical data (see table below).
|1. Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon shall destroy the mainland (“field” KJV) portion of Tyre (Ezekiel 26:7-8).||1. Nebuchadnezzar II laid siege to Tyre for thirteen years beginning in 585-586 B.C. During this time, the inhabitants transferred most of their valuables to the island. The king seized Tyre’s mainland territories but returned to Babylon, finding himself unable to subdue the island fortress militarily (cf. 29:18). Tyre, weakened by the conflict, soon recognized Babylonian authority, which effectively ended the city’s autonomy and any aspirations for a greater Phoenicia.|
|2. Other nations are to participate in the fulfillment of the prophecy (vs. 3).||2. Following the Babylonian period, Tyre remained in subjection to Persia from 538-332 B.C. Alexander the Great besieged and captured the port in 332 B.C., and Ptolemies, Seleucids, Romans, and Muslim Arabs all had their turn at rule. After passing briefly into the hands of the Crusaders, the city was destroyed completely by the Mamluks (former Muslim soldier-slaves) in A.D. 1291.|
|3. The city is to be flattened, like the top of a rock (vss. 4,14).||3. Like Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander was stymied by Tyre’s natural moat. The brilliant Macedonian was not so quick to give up, however. He used the building materials of the mainland city, and any other rocks and soil in the immediate vicinity, to build a causeway to the island. His complete conquest of Tyre took only seven months.|
|4. It is to become a place for the spreading of nets (vss. 5,14).||4. The waters around Tyre were renowned in ancient times for their fishing (Liverani, 1988, 5:932). This was all the fame the city could claim after its complete decimation by Alexander.|
|5. Its stones and timbers are to be laid in the sea (vs. 12).||5. As noted in item 3 above, the building of the causeway came from the remains of the mainland city. Sands carried by currents have built up a spit or tombolo around the causeway, forming a permanent connection between the island and the mainland.|
|6. Other cities are to fear greatly at the fall of Tyre (vss. 15-18).||6. Many fortified cities in the region capitulated to Alexander after they saw the genius and relative ease with which he captured Tyre.|
|7. The city will not be inhabited or rebuilt (vss. 20-21).||7. Alexander sold almost all of Tyre’s inhabitants into slavery, and the city forever lost its importance on the world stage. Any vestiges of strength and power disappeared with the destruction of the Crusader fortress. Soûr, as it is known by Arabs today, is a small town in southern Lebanon with a population of about 14,000 (1990 estimate; refugees have inflated that number significantly in the last several years).|
Table comparing the prophecy of Tyre with available historical information
In their book, Science Speaks, Peter W. Stoner and Robert C. Newman attempt to attach some real-world, but conservative, probabilities to each of these seven predictions (1976, pp. 72-79). If, for a moment, we assume that Ezekiel made some guesses about Tyre’s fate, what would be the chance that he could get, not just one partially correct, but all correct in every detail? That chance turns out to be 1 in 75,000,000. To give a practical analogy, an individual is twice as likely to be killed on the ground by an airplane during his or her lifetime, than to make these seven predictions and have them all come true. Or, to take a less morbid approach, this probability would be on the same order as flipping a coin and getting heads 26 times in a row (“26” may not seem a big number, but just try it some time!). Truly, the divine judgment of Tyre, and the accuracy of Ezekiel’s prophecy, provide a great demonstration of God’s presence in human affairs.
cf. confer, compare
ca. circa, about