Tuesday, March 4, 2014

CCXLI – Isaiah Chapters 13 - 27

Today we’re going to be looking at chapters in Isaiah that deal with rather lengthy prophecies against nations in the region around Judah.  These nations are, in order of Isaiah’s mentioning of them, Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Syria, Ethiopia, and Egypt.  I will cover much of these chapters rather quickly but you will understand as you read them.

Chapter 13:1 – 14:23  -  Prophesy against Babylon

The entire thirteenth chapter describes in detail what God is going to do to Babylon.  It is clear that God is going to make it a priority to punish Babylon.  He is going to handle it Himself.  In verse 3 God’s wrath against Babylon is mentioned.  God will stir up the armies of foreign nations against Babylon.  He mentions the “Day of the Lord” several times, which further indicates how important this is to God that Babylon be destroyed in devastating fashion.  He mentions the Medes in verse 17, then goes on in verse 19 to compare the punishment to Babylon with that of Sodom and Gomorrah.  {You will notice in your reading of this book of Isaiah that he goes into much detail as in chapter 13 when prophesying, be it destruction or redemption.}

Chapter 14 opens with Isaiah prophesying that God will take care of His chosen people Israel and even refers to the Promised Land in the phrase “…sets them in their own land”.  Notice the word in NIV “compassion” in verse 1.  KJV says “mercy”.  This is to suggest that Israel will not deserve this, but rather their deliverance will be a gift from God.  Their apostasy has earned them punishment rather than reward.  The next few verses speak that Israel will rule over all of these nations, particularly Babylon.  God speaks out against the pompous way of life these nations have lived and vows to deal with it in a harsh manner.  In verses 12-23 we see Isaiah singling out the king of Babylon, and his words are scathing against this man.  He speaks of how this man was placing himself above all gods.  {The Lord will not stand for this attitude from Babylon’s king or anybody else.  The Roman Caesars were considered gods also.}

14:24-25 – This brief prophecy against Assyria begins with “The Lord Almighty has sworn”.  Sounds serious.  It is serious.  It means God is making a promise.  God is remembering the burdens that were placed on His people by the Assyrians and He will personally exact revenge.

He goes on to prophecy against other nations.  In the remaining verses of this chapter he speaks to the Philistines.  The Philistines occupied the land bordering the Mediterranean Sea directly west of Judah and have been a cruel aggressor against Israel since the days of Joshua.

Chapters 15 – 17 speak of God dealing with other nations that have been cruel against His people Israel, starting with Moab.  He says in chapter 15 that he will humiliate Moab when He says in verse 2 that every head will be shaved and every beard cut off.  {This was a sign of complete defeat and humiliation in those times.}  He continues his prophecy against Moab in chapter 16 as well, expounding on the punishment God has selected for them.  Chapter 17 moves to Syria, using Damascus as a reference to all of Syria.  He plans to destroy Damascus as a city, turning it into ruins that will astonish all who will see it.  If you look closely at this chapter you will see that Isaiah includes Ephraim in this prophecy of gloom, which was in response to Israel (the Northern Kingdom) allying itself with Syria against Judah in 735 BC.

In chapters 18-20 Isaiah extends his prophecy to include Ethiopia and Egypt.  There was an Ethiopian dynasty which ruled Egypt from 715 to 663 BC.  This explains Isaiah’s use of the interchanging terms for Egypt and Ethiopia.  He considered them the same, which at first reading can be confusing if one is not aware of this.  The circumstances setting the stage for these two chapters is when Egypt and Ethiopia tried to recruit Judah into their alliance against Assyria in 714 BC.  God (through Isaiah) dissuaded Ahaz from joining this alliance which fell to pieces in 663 BC when the Assyrians destroyed the city of Thebes.

Chapter 20 is a reflection back to when Isaiah made desperate appeals to king Ahaz to reject Egypt’s offer to be included in this alliance.  {Let me take this opportunity to say that joining that alliance made perfect sense at this time, which was why it took such extreme measures and so much time to dissuade him.}  It is in this chapter that tells of Isaiah being naked in the city of Jerusalem for three years, as directed by God.  That is the extreme measure I just spoke of.  This act of desperation was to display the severity of the situation and convince Ahaz that God would be his Defender against Assyria.

In the first ten verses of chapter 21 Isaiah speaks of Babylon which he refers to as the “Desert by the Sea”.  Babylon was a mighty empire but only lasted forty-seven years, which would barely be considered a dynasty.  They were defeated handily by Cyrus and his Persian in 539 BC.  But in those forty-seven short years Babylon utterly destroyed the entire nation of Judah.  The remaining verses in chapter 21 and the following two chapters tells of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning yet more nations.  Note that Isaiah mentions Israel throughout these prophecies, condemning them as being as bad in their apostasy as those nations around them.  He is trying to save Judah and the City of David.

Chapter 24 gets more general when it speaks of the whole earth becoming desolate.  But then notice in chapter 25 that Isaiah breaks out into praise for God and His power.  In chapter 26 he writes what has become considered a song of praise.  Then in chapter 27 he speaks of the deliverance of Israel in “the Day of the Lord”.

This seems to complete a major section of Isaiah’s prophecies with a fitting end being a song of praise and an announcement of deliverance.  But in the next post we’ll see his prophecies move from other nations to Judah itself, beginning in chapter 28.

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