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Isaiah: Chapter 13

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1The oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw.2

On a bare hill raise a signal, cry aloud to them; wave the hand for them to enter the gates of the nobles. 3 I myself have commanded my consecrated ones, have summoned my warriors, my proudly exulting ones, to execute my anger.


Listen, a tumult on the mountains as of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering an army for battle.


They come from a distant land, from the end of the heavens, the LORD and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole earth.


Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty! a Or this is made known 7 Therefore all hands will be feeble, and every human heart will melt, 8 and they will be dismayed. Pangs and agony will seize them; they will be in anguish like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at one another; their faces will be aflame. 9 See, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the earth a desolation, and to destroy its sinners from it. 10 For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light. 11 I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and lay low the insolence of tyrants. 12 I will make mortals more rare than fine gold, and humans than the gold of Ophir. 13 Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, and the earth will be shaken out of its place,

at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger. 14 Like a hunted gazelle, or like sheep with no one to gather them, all will turn to their own people, and all will flee to their own lands. 15 Whoever is found will be thrust through, and whoever is caught will fall by the sword. 16 Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be plundered, and their wives ravished. 17 See, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. 18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pride of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. 20 It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations; Arabs will not pitch their tents there, shepherds will not make their flocks lie down there. 21 But wild animals will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will live, and there goat‐demons will dance. 22 Hyenas will cry in its towers, and jackals in the pleasant palaces; its time is close at hand, and its days will not be prolonged.


b Or this is made known

Text Commentary view alone

Chs 13–23 : Oracles against foreign nations.

The core of this section is a series of nine oracles against foreign peoples ( 13.1; 14.28; 15.1; 17.1; 19.1; 21.1,11; 22.1; 23.1 ), with many expansions and interspersed with the assurance of better times for Israel/Judah. The break with the eighth‐century context of chs 1–12 is not complete (see 14.24–27; 17.1–6 ), but the historical horizon extends far into the future.

13.1–22 : An oracle concerning Babylon.

Here, as throughout this section, judgment on individual nations is linked with scenes of universal and cosmic doom. The historical situation is unclear, but mention of the Medes (v. 17 ) points to the years immediately prior to the fall of Babylon in 539 BCE.

1–5 :

The scenario is of cosmic proportions, affecting even the heavenly bodies ( 23.10,13 ).

6 :

The poet makes use of the ancient motif of the “Day of the LORD,” see 2.12n.

12 :

Ophir, famous for gold, perhaps in the south of the Arabian peninsula (1 Kings 9.26–28; Job 22.24; 28.16; Ps 45.9 ).

17 :

Medes, a people northwest of Persia who took part in the conquest of Babylon, 539 BCE.

19 :

Chaldeans, Aramean tribe from southern Mesopotamia who dominated Babylon from the seventh century BCE on. Sodom, see 1.10n.

20–22 :

The reversion of cities to a primitive condition is a common theme in Isaiah, cf. 14.22; 17.2–3; 18.6; 25.2; 27.10–11; 32.13–14; 34.8–15 .

21 :

Goat‐demons, satyrs and demons, including Lilith ( 34.14 ), are at home in the wilderness.

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