In Isaiah 13 we find an intriguing prophecy against Babylon, one of Israel’s oldest and most inveterate foes. The Bible describes a “multitude…of nations” invading Babylon, “to destroy the whole land.” In this battle, “Every one that is found shall be thrust through,” and they “shall not spare children.” That’s a major world event, isn’t it? I analyze this chapter fairly carefully and in context in my book, The Next Nuclear War (available from www.endtimesrecord.com). In this article, I want to guide the reader through a series of questions.
The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see. Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them, shake the hand, that they may go into the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness. The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle. They come from a far country, from the end of heaven, even the Lord, and the weapons of his indignation, to destroy the whole land. Howl ye; for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty (Isaiah 13:1–6).
The timeline for this battle is when “the day of the Lord is at hand”; in other words, the rapture (which begins the day of the Lord) is near. In a similar way, Ezekiel 30:3 describes the destruction of Egypt (covered in my last article, Chronology of the End Times) happening when “the day of the Lord is near,” again meaning that it is near. Therefore, the destruction of Babylon and of Egypt happens at roughly the same time. Could it be that this refers to our modern times?
Isaiah identifies a particular nation, described in verse 2 as “the high mountain,” as leading a coalition of nations against Babylon. In Bible prophecy, “mountain” often refers to a nation, “high mountain” to a great nation, and “the high mountain” to a particular great nation which is the leader of this coalition of nations against Babylon. Isaiah further describes this great nation in verse 3: “I have commanded my sanctified ones, I have also called my mighty ones for mine anger, even them that rejoice in my highness.”
The term “sanctified” means “to set apart for sacred use,” and God has called these “mighty ones” to execute his anger on Iraq, and finally describes this nation as “even them that rejoice in my highness.”
The first successful colony leading to the formation of the United States was founded in 1620 by Pilgrims who wanted the freedom to worship God in simplicity and purity, outside of the established traditions of the Church of England. Eventually—on July 4, 1776—the new nation declared independence from England and its oppressive laws and thereafter became a beacon of godliness, freedom, and liberty for the entire world. The US has sent out the vast majority of the world’s missionaries and is responsible for planting more churches in developing countries than any other nation on earth. We indeed have been “sanctified ones… even them that rejoice in my highness.” Could it be that this particular great nation in Isaiah refers to the United States?
These “mighty ones” come “from a far country, from the end of heaven.” Isaiah did not name this distant nation, implying that it was unknown in his day. Drawing a line north from “Babylon” (Iraq), we come to various nations: Turkey, Russia and…the United States. Turkey and Russia certainly have the military to invade Iraq, as well as the political motive, but both these nations were known to Isaiah who would have referred to them in terms of their ancestors, as the Bible does in Ezekiel 38. They also are not on the other side of the globe, as the phrase, “from the end of heaven” implies. Who is this particular great nation, leader of the coalition of nations against Iraq?
Perhaps somewhat confusingly, Isaiah 13 also parenthetically skips ahead to the “day of the Lord,” when Babylon ultimately will be destroyed at the end of the tribulation. Of course in order for Babylon to be destroyed at the end of the tribulation, it first must be partly rebuilt after the earlier coalition invasion. Isaiah 23:13 describes this: “Behold the land of the Chaldeans; this people was not, till the Assyrian founded it for them that dwell in the wilderness: they set up the towers thereof, they raised up the palaces thereof; and he brought it to ruin.” In this passage, the Antichrist is described as “the Assyrian.” His capital city eventually will become the seat of world government and commerce. It is this city—which the Bible calls “Babylon”—that will be destroyed at the end of the tribulation (Revelation 18). This is an example of Bible prophecy having both near and distant fulfillment, both of which are discussed in the same passage.
Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. I will make a man more precious than fine gold; even a man than the golden wedge of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger (Isaiah 13:9–13).
Isaiah describes the Lord as being fiercely angry during this period because of the world’s persistent sin; these include murders, sorceries, fornication, and thefts (Revelation 9:21). He also will judge the world for their worship of idols, money and power and will cause “the arrogancy of the proud to cease.” In particular, this seems to refer to the Antichrist. In this time the sun and moon will be darkened (cf. Joel 3:15; Revelation 8:12) and God will “shake the heavens and the earth” with the most severe, and entirely miraculous judgments the world has ever seen. At the end few men will be left alive (“I will make a man more precious than fine gold”). Isaiah 13 then skips back to the battle between the coalition of nations and Iraq.
And it shall be as the chased roe, and as a sheep that no man taketh up: they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land. Every one that is found shall be thrust through; and every one that is joined unto them shall fall by the sword. Their children also shall be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished. Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children (Isaiah 13:14–18).
Apparently quite a few foreigners will be working in Iraq at the time of this battle, and they are advised to flee for their lives: “they shall every man turn to his own people, and flee every one into his own land.” This battle will be characterized by rape and pillage (“their houses shall be spoiled, and their wives ravished”). Apparently no prisoners will be taken; the Iraqis will just be slaughtered, including women and children.
Iran (“the Medes”) is listed as part of this coalition of nations, and will attack Iraq with great fury, not having any desire for the riches of Iraq (“Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it”) nor even sparing children (“their eye shall not spare children”). Iran and Iraq are ancient enemies, going back to the Persian invasion of Babylon in 539 BC (Daniel 5) and more recently the 1980–88 war, and Iran’s purpose in this battle seems to be vengeance. If the US indeed is leader of this coalition, then the inclusion of Iran is somewhat surprising. This means that the present anti-American government of Iran must change into a more friendly type in the near future.
Our text passage concludes with an imprecation against Babylon; in particular, “It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation…” (Isaiah 13:20). Certainly this would apply to the capital city and kingdom of the Antichrist, when they are judged by God at the end of the tribulation. The impression I get from this chapter, the parallel passage in Jeremiah 50-51, and other chapters in the Bible, is that Babylon will be set aside as sort of a “national monument” during the millennial reign of Christ, and not be restored with the rest of the earth, as a perpetual reminder of God’s judgment upon the Antichrist and his satanic kingdom. Of course, parts of Babylon (Iraq) also could be rendered uninhabitable by the earlier coalition war.
Isaiah 13 certainly raises a lot of questions: first, what is the timeline? Is the US mentioned in this prophecy? And why does Isaiah skip around between near and distant fulfillment? Perhaps the answer is that God is outside of time, and sees all prophecy as happening simultaneously. This requires a student of the Bible to carefully dissect a passage such as ours like a surgeon, putting verses in their proper context. In addition, it is possible that some prophecy isn’t meant to be understood at present, but whose meaning will slowly be revealed in time. Perhaps the time when the meaning of Isaiah 13 will be revealed is—like the rapture—fast approaching.
Steve Ashburn firstname.lastname@example.org