Overview of Isaiah 13-27
In Isaiah 13-27, God reminds His people that He is sovereign over everything: all foreign nations (Isaiah 13-23) and in fact the whole world (Isaiah 24). His righteous rule comes with judgment of sin, however this wrath is followed by promises for peace and restoration (Isaiah 25-27).These proclamations of God’s wrath are called “judgment oracles.” They are prophetic statements against the nations of Isaiah’s day. The oracles were likely not actually presented to these wicked nations of the world, but were messages to Judah that God still reigned supreme even when the world political situation seemed daunting. God promised to liberate His oppressed people. Ultimately, these oracles can remind us that evil will not go unpunished, and though our world may seem out of control, God has the final word over everyone and everything.
Have you ever been in a situation where you felt completely helpless? Maybe sickness, instability with work,social exclusion, disability, or a severed relationship made you feel this helplessness. Perhaps you have grasped for options to help ease your situation. As the people of Isaiah’s day faced the daunting threat of the Assyrians, they felt totally helpless. Unfortunately, their leaders attempted to make alliances for protection with unrighteous nations. The people of Judah, and certainly most of their leaders, would have felt some security from a political alliance with a powerful nation like Babylon. They sought security not from God, but from evil, sinful tyrants. In their helplessness, Judah did not turn to the One who could help,but to a house of cards.
In this judgment oracle, and the ones that follow through Isaiah 24, God pronounces the temporality and impotence of the nations. Babylon, which must have seemed invincible in the eighth century, would be reduced to rubble. In fact, Isaiah 13:19 records that Babylon (the Chaldeans) would be made like Sodom and Gomorrah. The palaces would not be inhabited by princes, but by wild animals. People would die violent deaths.
It is not easy to read about the type of destruction that would befall these wicked people. However, we are reminded that God does not treat sin lightly. Babylon would be judged on the basis of her own wickedness.We often like to soften the “edges” of God, the parts that we are uncomfortable with. When I read phrases like “the wrath of the Lord of hosts” or “His fierce anger,” I quiver a bit. We must remember that we do not worship a god of our own making, but the one revealed in Scripture. The good news of our forgiveness is even greater when we grapple with the reality of the wrath that our sin deserves.
Isaiah 13:9-22 (ESV):
Behold, the day of the Lord comes,
cruel, with wrath and fierce anger,
to make the land 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 pomp of the arrogant,
and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.
12 I will make people more rare than fine gold,
and mankind 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 And like a hunted gazelle,
or like sheep with none to gather them,
each will turn to his own people,
and each will flee to his own land.
15 Whoever is found will be thrust through,
and whoever is caught will fall by the sword.
16 Their infants will be dashed in pieces
before their eyes;
their houses will be plundered
and their wives ravished.
17 Behold, 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 pomp 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;
no Arab will pitch his tent there;
no shepherds will make their flocks lie down there.
21 But wild animals will lie down there,
and their houses will be full of howling creatures;
there ostriches will dwell,
and there wild goats 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.