PRESUMPTUOUS PRIDE BROUGHT LOW
We are all familiar with the expressions:
“Pride goeth before a fall” Prov. 16:18
“The bigger they are the harder they fall” – we are not as familiar with the source of this quote = boxer Robert Fitzsimmons, prior to a fight c 1900
Isaiah’s continuation in Chapter 14 of God’s judgment against Babylon fleshes out these quotes in graphic reality. No nation is more prideful than Babylon. Remember the lessons that Nebuchadnezzar learned as God reduced him to a beast of the field. But those lessons were not internalized by the rulers to come. In fact in the end days, Babylon will represent the world-wide domination of the Anti-Christ who opposes with futility the final end game program of the kingdom of God.
“God opposes the proud but He gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 Isn’t grace what each of us needs every day? Hopefully our study today can be the channel for us humbling ourselves, submitting to God, resisting the devil and drawing near to God. James’ admonition to us who desperately need God’s grace moment by moment is “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your heart, you double-minded.”
Constable: The whole point of this poem is the futility and folly of self-exalting pride,which this idealized Babylonian king modeled (cf. Dan. 4:25).
(:1-2) PROLOGUE — REVERSAL OF FORTUNES FOR ISRAEL – FROM JUDGMENT TO BLESSING
A. Covenant God Responding in Compassion and Blessing
“When the LORD will have compassion on Jacob, and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land,”
Borgman: better translation of conjunctive “When” would be “For” as explanational – the reason for the judgment against Babylon detailed in Chap. 13
Young: Babylon must perish because it was the purpose of God to raise and exalt His people.
Oswalt: Thus, God’s wrath is not only negative as against sin but also positive as against that which blocks the path of blessing.
Covenant Commitment to Compassion and Election – speaking in terms of how things appear in our experience
Does God ever take away His compassion and unelect His people? 9:17 But look at how these promises played out in the experience of the nation. Sometimes they experienced blessing and sometimes judgment in relation to their obedience to the covenant.
When election is applied to individual believers, there can never be any doubt that God will never leave us or forsake us.
Van Parunak: Isaiah recapitulates the steps through which he deals with his elect, the same steps that led to Israel’s earlier history as his chosen people, and that are now applied to us, cf. Rom 8:29-30; 2 Thes 2:13-14; 1 Pet 1:2,3.
• “Mercy” describes his unmotivated, fundamental love for some people. The word appears for the first time in Exo 33:19, “I … will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” It is analogous in Rom 8:29 to the step, “whom he foreknew,” or in the parallel in 2 Thes 2:13, “beloved of the Lord.”
• “Choose” is his action of distinguishing them from others as a result of this underlying love.
• “Set them” is the blessing that results from their special position in his favor, and corresponds to the glorification that is promised in the NT passages. . .
This restoration of Israel is anticipated in the return under Cyrus. Yet that was only a foreshadowing of the ultimate Millennial restoration, as Zechariah himself recognized at the time when he prophesied an intervening dispersion before the ultimate restoration:
Zec 1:16-17 Therefore thus saith the LORD;
[538 BC] I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies [ רחמים , cf. Isa 14:1 √ רחם ]: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
[AD 70] 17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through [better, “from”] prosperity shall yet be spread abroad [“scattered”; everywhere else the verb has negative connotation];
[Millennium] and the LORD shall yet [again] comfort Zion, and shall yet [again] choose Jerusalem.
B. Gentiles Promoting Regathering of the Jews
“then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the peoples will take them along and bring them to their place,”
Amill perspective: church incorporating Gentiles; Christocentric focus; but how do you have Gentiles submitting to Jews here? At the end times you still need to make an important distinction between Gentiles and Jews – a distinction that does not fit the amill perspective.
Van Parunak: This relation is markedly different from that in the church age, when “there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek” (Rom 10:12; cf. Gal 3:28 “there is neither Jew nor Greek,” Col 3:18 “there is neither Greek nor Jew”).
Cyrus encouraged the Jews under Ezra and Zerubbabel to return to the promised land and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple structure – just a foretaste of the ultimate regathering of the Jews to their land in preparation for the Millennial kingdom.
C. Gentiles Submitting to Jewish-Based Rule in the Millennial Kingdom
“and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the LORD as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive, and will rule over their oppressors.”
Slavery issue: — is the Lord advocating form of slavery here? Here the Messianic King is beneficent ruler who administers peace and justice and righteousness; it is a blessing to submit to such rule
You see that salvation is of the Jews and the Gentiles participate in the promises made to Abraham and the fathers which speak of worldwide blessing that will incorporate the Gentiles
(:3-21) TAUNT AGAINST THE PROUD KING OF BABYLON – FOUR STROPHES
Van Parunak: The taunt has two parts, each beginning with “how” איך . Each of these is divided in turn into an earthly scene (4b-8, 16-20) and an other-earthly scene (9-11, 12-15), arranged chiastically.
A. Timeframe: Relief From Oppression
“And it will be in the day when the LORD gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved,”
Oswalt: In that day, he promises rest to his people in their own land (28:12; 32:18; Deut. 12:9; 2 Sam. 7:1; 1 K. 8:56; Ps. 95:1; Mic. 2:10).
“that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say,”
Motyer: Taunt does not convey the sense here. This is not an exercise in jeering or mocking. The word masal is the general Hebrew word for “proverb” or “parable”, a saying or a way of putting something whereby the inner truth comes to light. . . Hence, here, a better translation would be “you will bring to light the inner truth about the king.”
What does Babylon represent? Eschatological emphasis – Anti Christ
Beall: Who is this king of Babylon? Many commentators now see only an idealized figure here, with no particular person in mind (thus Oswalt, 314; Young, 1:435; similarly Motyer, TOTC, 118: “there is no point asking which king of Babylon Isaiah has in mind, If it had been essential to know, he would have told us”). Martin thinks Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, is in view, but this is highly unlikely, since Babylon is mentioned, not Assyria. Ridderbos believes that the grandeur of the king mentioned here is Nebuchadnezzar’s, but the death depicted is that of Belshazzar (p. 144). Perhaps the best view is to see this king as a yet future king of Babylon (Rev 17-18). [Oswalt: “None of the kings of the Neo-Babylonian empire (e.g., Nebuchadnezzar or Nabonidus) fits, nor do any of the Assyrian kings of Isaiah’s day”] [Motyer, Prophecy, 142, sees the poem as within the “day of the Lord” genre: “the general idea of a hostile world power is personalized into the imaginative portrayal of the end of the world king….The more we think of chapters 13-27 as a study of the principles of world history merging forward into eschatology, the easier it becomes to see that from the start Babylon carries overtones of the ‘city of emptiness’ (24:10) whose fall is the end of all that opposes the Lord’s rule”]
Will the city of Babylon be rebuilt? Prophecies about it suddenly being destroyed in a short span of time
Constable: After Yahweh gave Israel rest following her captivity, she would taunt (Heb. mashal, bring to light the truth about) Babylon’s proud ruler who had formerly taunted her (vv. 3-4a; cf. Rev. 18). His death would be an occasion for joy, not sorrow.
4 REACTIONS TO THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PROUD KING OF BABYLON
Beall: It is in the form of a lament, yet is really a hymn of rejoicing!
I. (:4b-8) REACTION OF THE EARTH [NATIONS]:
EARTH REJOICES AT THE TYRANT’S DEMISE –
NO MORE THREAT OF PERSECUTION
A. (:4b-6) Reign of Oppression Has Ended – Violence / Anger / Persecution
“How the oppressor has ceased, And how fury has ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, The scepter of rulers Which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, Which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution.”
Van Parunak: [staff and scepter] always reflecting chastisement and force.
B. (:7a) Reign of Peace and Security Now Dominates
“The whole earth is at rest and is quiet;”
What a contrast – like Lord Jesus calming the Sea of Galilee
C. (:7b-8) Rejoicing Overflows from Hearts that are Secure
:They break forth into shouts of joy. Even the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, ‘Since you were laid low, no tree cutter comes up against us.’”
Cypress trees could be symbolic of the nations here
Van Parunak: Recall the imagery of Assyria as his ax and saw (10:15), which views the nations they conquered as forests (Ephraim in 9:18; Assyria in 10:33-34). Now that the dominant ruler is subdued, the nations (like trees) rejoice in their safety.
Constable: Mesopotamian kings regularly took parties of lumberjacks to the forests of Lebanon to cut timber to build their palaces and public buildings. Such timber was unavailable in Mesopotamia and Palestine.
II. (:9-11) REACTION OF SHEOL:
SHEOL MOCKS AS SHE RECEIVES THE DEAD RULER –
DEATH = THE GREAT EQUALIZER
A. (:9) Communion of the Wicked Dead
“Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; It arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; It raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones.”
Analysis of Sheol – Place of departed dead; no developed theology here
Vine: This passage demonstrates the fact of the conscious state of the souls of the dead in Hades, their power to exchange thoughts, and their vivid recollection of their past circumstances on earth. There is no Scripture to support the supposition of the unconsciousness of the soul.
B. (:10) Common Impotence of the Wicked Dead – What a Shock!
“They will all respond and say to you, ‘Even you have been made weak as we, You have become like us.’”
C. (:11) Catastrophic Change in Circumstances
1. No More Lavish Festivities in Sheol
“Your pomp and the music of your harps Have been brought down to Sheol;”
Oswalt: This verse continues the mockery of the lament by contrasting two radically different pictures of a funeral. In the first we see the royal corpse being carried on its final journey with all the pomp and ceremony which can be mustered to show the power and importance of a person.
2. No More Royal Comforts in Sheol
“Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you, And worms are your covering.”
Young: No longer, however, is there spread under the king a carpet of luxury, but in its stead only the worm. This is a picture of decomposing bodies in the grave. At one time there was a variety of coverings, rich and varied garments. Now there is only one – worms.
III. (:12-15) REACTION OF GOD:
GOD JUDGES RIGHTEOUSLY IN BRINGING DOWN BABYLON –
PRESUMPTUOUS PRIDE REDUCED TO THE DEPTHS OF SHEOL
A. (:12) Tragic Fall – Bright Beginnings
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!”
Why doesn’t this refer to Fall of Satan even though there are many parallels?
– Satan not confined at present; here he is confined to depths of Sheol
– Yet future fulfillment
Beall: If this king is the end-time king of Babylon, he might possibly be identified with the Antichrist, who issues similar statements against the Lord (see Dan 8:23-25; also, the man of sin in 2 Thess 2:4 who “opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God”).
B. (:13-14) Puffing Up — Presumptuous Pride – The Five “I Wills”
“But you said in your heart,” “I want” . . . “I can” . . . “I will”
1. “ I will ascend to heaven;”
2. “I will raise my throne above the stars of God,”
3. “And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.”
4. “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;”
5. “I will make myself like the Most High.”
Beall: many of the Babylonian kings viewed themselves as deity, taking the place of God.
Our pride is so pervasive – reminds me of the carnival game: Whac-A-Mole —
A typical Whac-A-Mole machine consists of a large, waist-level cabinet with five holes in its top and a large, soft, black mallet. Each hole contains a single plastic mole and the machinery necessary to move it up and down. Once the game starts, the moles will begin to pop up from their holes at random. The object of the game is to force the individual moles back into their holes by hitting them directly on the head with the mallet, thereby adding to the player’s score.
James 4:16 “But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.”
C. (:15) Hitting Bottom — Depths of Sheol
“Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit.
IV. (:16-21) REACTION OF THE PEOPLE:
PEOPLE OF THE WORLD MARVEL –
BRANDING BABYLON WITH A LEGACY OF SHAME
A. (:16-17) Denied the Fear Accorded to a Powerful Tyrant
“Those who see you will gaze at you, They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, Who shook kingdoms, Who made the world like a wilderness And overthrew its cities, Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’”
Doesn’t look so powerful now; stripped even of common dignity
B. (:18-20a) Denied the Dignity of a King’s Burial
“All the kings of the nations lie in glory, Each in his own tomb. But you have been cast out of your tomb Like a rejected branch, Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit, Like a trampled corpse. You will not be united with them in burial, Because you have ruined your country, You have slain your people.”
Van Parunak: Those who oppress other nations invariably abuse their own people. He has not only been a scourge to others (v. 6), but a tyrant at home, and in doing so has breached his responsibility as a monarch.
Grogan: We know from the Egyptian pyramids and other royal tombs how much stress was put on proper burial – with all the proper rites and ceremonies – in the Fertile Crescent in OT times. How horrifying to a great king of Babylon and to many of his contemporaries would be the prospect of his lying out in the open (v. 19), unburied, his royal body undistinguished and perhaps indistinguishable from those of his soldiers, to be thrown into a common burial pit!
C. (:20b-21) Denied the Normal Blessing of Offspring
“May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever. Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter Because of the iniquity of their fathers. They must not arise and take possession of the earth And fill the face of the world with cities.”
(:22-23) EPILOGUE – FINALITY OF GOD’S JUDGMENT AGAINST BABYLON
A. (:22a) Babylon Opposed by the Lord
“And I will rise up against them,” declares the LORD of hosts”
Van Parunak: For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts,–This was the theme of vv. 2-3. The next two summaries concern the human and physical consequences, respectively, of this divine opposition.
B. (:22b) Posterity Cut Off by the Lord
“and will cut off from Babylon name and survivors, offspring and posterity,” declares the LORD.”
C. (:23) Utterly Destroyed by the Lord
“I will also make it a possession for the hedgehog, and swamps of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the LORD of hosts.”
Image of sweeping with a broom – this is where baseball teams get their inspiration!
Motyer: The Lord’s broom is mighty enough to sweep the whole of great Babylon to destruction and oblivion.
Those enemies of God’s kingdom which seem the most powerful to us today will be the ones that fall the hardest as God rises up to render judgment and to establish His rule in peace and righteousness.
Just as the king of Babylon was destined for the depths of sheol, the Anti Christ will be cast into the lake of fire.
Need to read final chapters of the book of Rev:
18:9-10 “And the kings of the earth, who committed acts of immorality and lived sensuously with her, will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance because of the fear of her torment, saying, ‘Woe, woe, the great city, Babylon, the strong city! For in one hour your judgment has come.’”