This installment of the End Times According To Isaiah is all about Babylon. The fact that I’ve included Isaiah 13-14:23 in this series demonstrates my belief that Babylon has never been destroyed in the manner Isaiah will describe for us here, and that there is a major role in the end times for this ancient city. In all the Bible, the only city mentioned more often is Jerusalem. In fact some have gone so far as to characterize the Bible as “A Tale Of Two Cities,” Babylon, the city of Satan, versus Jerusalem, the city of God. Not surprisingly the two are always in contention.
Babylon is the origin of every counterfeit religion and mythology, every attempt to deny and defeat the truth of God’s word. It’s the place where man rebelled against God at the beginning of the Age. Why then is it so difficult for people to believe that Babylon will rise to prominence again for man’s rebellion at the end of the Age? Is not Satan the motivating force behind man’s rebellion? Those who want to allegorize the End Times references to Babylon simply don’t understand the spiritual significance of this great city. Just like the one whose city it is, Babylon was, now is not, but will come again and go to its destruction. (Rev. 17:8)
Isaiah 13 … A Prophecy Against Babylon
An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw:
Raise a banner on a bare hilltop, shout to them; beckon to them to enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my holy ones; I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath—those who rejoice in my triumph.
Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The LORD Almighty is mustering an army for war.
They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens—the LORD and the weapons of his wrath— to destroy the whole country.
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame.
See, the day of the LORD is coming —a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless. I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir. (Isaiah 13:1-12)
Isaiah begins with a general statement identifying when Babylon’s ultimate destruction will come. It will be during the time when the Lord judges the world for its evil, a time often called The Day Of The Lord, or the Great Tribulation. To make sure we understand this, we see the same reference to the sun, moon, and stars in Matt. 24:29 where they signal the end of the Great Tribulation.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.
Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, each will return to his own people, each will flee to his native land. Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. (Isaiah 13:13-18)
The Medes were partners with the Persians who conquered Babylon in 539 BC. But nothing like what’s described here happened at that time. As foretold in Isaiah 45, the Medes and Persians took Babylon with out a battle. In fact it was several days before all the residents discovered they had become a Persian City. The Medes, called Kurds today, are a fiercely independent people whose homeland straddles the borders of Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Having been persecuted by all three countries, and particularly by Iraq, it won’t take any special incentive for them to settle their score with Babylon when the time comes.
Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there.
But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged. (Isaiah 13:19-22)
The ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t discovered until centuries after they disappeared in a fiery blaze that turned everything to ash. Evidence shows that balls of sulfur up to 9000 degrees F (5000 C.) rained down from heaven burning everything in sight and melting the sand into glass. The entire ecosystem perished and the land became a barren wasteland, never again inhabited.
In contrast Babylon was continuously inhabited after its capture, first by the Persians, who made it a provincial capitol, and then by the Greeks when they conquered the Persians. Alexander the Great died there after conquering the known world. Babylon remained a province of the various iterations of the Persian Empire until 650AD, almost 1200 years after it was first conquered. Today a small town called Al-Hillah stands among the ancient ruins.
In the mid 1980’s Saddam Hussein spent millions in a restoration project, turning Babylon into a ceremonial city for weddings and other special events. Today’s Iraqi leaders have plans for completing Babylon’s restoration, making it into a cultural center complete with shopping malls, hotels, and perhaps a theme park. The US government recently donated $700K to fund studies on the renovation. The plan is that one day soon millions of people will visit Babylon again.
The original language of this passage contained words that are believed to be the names of demons. The animal names are said to have been substituted to make the passage understandable to western minds.
Isaiah 14 … The King of Babylon
The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again he will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite with the house of Jacob.
Nations will take them and bring them to their own place. And the house of Israel will possess the nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors.(Isaiah 14:1-2)
In those days, at that time,” declares the LORD, “search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare. (Jeremiah 50:20)
Judah will be inhabited forever and Jerusalem through all generations. Their bloodguilt, which I have not pardoned, I will pardon.” The LORD dwells in Zion! (Joel 3:20-21)
Isaiah 14 opens with a reminder that at the End of the Age God would remember His people and bring them back to the Land He promised would be theirs forever. Many settlers would be converts to Judaism from among the Gentiles of Europe, working alongside descendants of the 12 tribes to build their country anew. We’ve already seen how Gentile nations like England and the US have helped make this happen. Soon, the enemies who oppress them today will be their subjects, even their servants.
Other prophecies yet to be fulfilled tell of a day when the Lord will so completely forgive Israel that even those who search for an accusation to hurl will find nothing. It’s hard to imagine how such a change could come about. Zechariah explains what will make it possible.
“And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zech. 12:10)
Once the nation’s eyes are opened to the Messiah, It’s like a new day dawning. They’ll find that His blood has covered even the sin of shedding it, and He’ll once again be pleased to dwell among them, and this time it’ll be forever. (Ezek 43:7). And now, back to Babylon.
On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended! The LORD has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers, which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued nations with relentless aggression.
All the lands are at rest and at peace; they break into singing. Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon exult over you and say, “Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes to cut us down.” (Isaiah 14:3-8)
In chapter 13 we saw the destruction of the city. Now the Lord has Isaiah turn to the one who has caused all the world’s problems. As we’ll see, He isn’t talking about Nebuchadnezzar, or even the anti-Christ.
The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming; it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you— all those who were leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones—all those who were kings over the nations.
They will all respond, they will say to you, “You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us.”
All your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. (Isaiah 14:9-11)
The King of Babylon will join those who have foolishly chosen to follow him down through the ages. All the world’s mighty men will finally see that he was no better then they. Though he promised them great things, even “all the Kingdoms of the World”, in the end he can’t even save himself from the wrath of God, and will share their miserable fate.
How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!
You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” (Isaiah 14:12-14)
The King James reads “Lucifer, son of the morning” in verse 12 rather than “morning star, son of the dawn.” Lucifer is a word that means “light bearer” and comes from the Latin translation of verse 12. The Hebrew phrase is “Heylel ben Shakar” and is possibly the devil’s real name. Heylel is from a root word that means “to shine” in the sense of foolish boasting or making a show of oneself. It’s the source of the title “the shining one”. Ben means “son” and shakar means “dawn.” So Heylel ben Shakar means “shining one, son of the dawn”.
When he translated the Bible into Latin in 382-384AD, Jerome used the word Lucifer for heylel in Isaiah 14:12, giving the devil a new name. Some later translations incorrectly use morning star instead, perhaps to avoid personifying him. But the real Morning Star is Jesus, as Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:19 and as Jesus Himself said in Rev. 22:16. (Being a Latin word, Lucifer is not found in the Hebrew Scripture. The name Satan comes straight from the Hebrew haSatan which means “the adversary”, so it’s not really his name either, but is part of his job description.)
Having established that the Lord really had Satan in view, not the earthly king of Babylon, Isaiah then disclosed the basis for his rebellion. Satan set out to ascend to heaven and raise his throne (seat of power) above all other angels, to sit there on the mount of assembly, on its utmost heights. That means he wanted to be officially recognized as superior to all the angelic host and be the object of their worship and praise, and even beyond that to make himself equal to God, at least in one respect.
Like The Most High
I believe Isaiah’s use of the title Most High in referring to God was intended to show that Satan didn’t delude himself into thinking he could ever be recognized as the Creator. The first use of the phrase Most High in connection with God appears in Genesis 14:18. Then, in verse 19 Melchizedek blessed Abraham in the name of the Most High God, calling Him the possessor of Heaven and Earth. Satan wasn’t trying to replace God as Earth’s Creator. He wanted to possess it, and everyone in it.
When he couldn’t get it legitimately, he stole it by getting Adam and Eve to disobey God. We know this because in the wilderness temptation he offered all the kingdoms of the world to the Lord, saying they had all been given to Him. (Luke 4:6) While the Lord rejected his offer, He did not dispute his claim. This is why Jesus called Satan “ the prince of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30,16:11), why Paul said he is “the god of this age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and why John wrote, “the whole world is under the control of the evil one” (1 John 5:19) It’s also why Paul wrote about the Lord redeeming the creation, not just you and me. (Romans 8:19-21) With His blood He redeemed everything Adam had lost.
But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate: “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?”
All the kings of the nations lie in state, each in his own tomb. But you are cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch; you are covered with the slain, with those pierced by the sword, those who descend to the stones of the pit.
Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will not join them in burial, for you have destroyed your land and killed your people. The offspring of the wicked will never be mentioned again. Prepare a place to slaughter his sons for the sins of their forefathers; they are not to rise to inherit the land and cover the earth with their cities. (Isaiah 14:15-21)
In middle Eastern thinking, killing a man is not the worst you can do to him. The worst thing is to deny him a decent burial afterward. Satan will spend the 1000 years of the Kingdom Age amid the rotting corpses of his followers, denied the courtesy of his own tomb. In contrast to the Righteous Branch, he has become the rejected branch. By deceit he gained the Earth and its inhabitants, but he destroyed one and killed the other. At the end of the 1000 years, he and his followers will be raised, but to slaughter not inheritance. (Rev. 20:7-15)
“I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD Almighty. “I will cut off from Babylon her name and survivors, her offspring and descendants,” declares the LORD.
“I will turn her into a place for owls and into swampland; I will sweep her with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD Almighty. (Isaiah14:22-23)
The passage comes to a close with a repeat of its initial message. Babylon will be destroyed, but after seeing the extent of it’s destruction, we know it hasn’t happened yet. Jeremiah 50-51 tell the same story in even greater detail, confirming Isaiah’s account. And for his version of Babylon’s destruction (Rev. 18) John borrowed language from both these prophets. It’s clear they were all talking about the same event. By the testimony of two or three witnesses a thing will be established. (Deut. 19:15) More next time.