Monday, November 24, 2014

Isaiah 13, Part 2: The Oppressor is Oppressed

Isaiah 13, Part 2: The Oppressor is Oppressed

What has gone before...

God has suddenly brought to Isaiah a prophecy regarding the faraway nation of Babylon, the ancient site at which a tall tower had been built. The tower had been an attempt at "making a name for themselves", and God had intervened and confused their language, dispersing them throughout the world.

Moving on...

Isaiah 13:4-5 (ESV) The LORD of hosts is mustering a host 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 land.

Isaiah implies that Babylon will be attacked by a nation "from a distant land", with the LORD using another nation as the "weapons of his indignation".

The LORD's anger will bring desolation and destruction:

Isaiah 13:9 (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.

Isaiah 13:11 (ESV) 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.

Isaiah 13:19-20 (ESV) And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them. It will never be inhabited or lived in for all generations.

Who were the Chaldeans?

Chesed was a nephew of Abraham:

Genesis 22:20-22 (ESV) Now after these things it was told to Abraham, "Behold, Milcah also has borne children to your brother Nahor: Uz his firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel the father of Aram, Chesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph, and Bethuel."

The region in which Chesed lived became known as the land of the Chaldees, or Chaldeans. It was located near Abraham's birthplace, Ur, located near the Persian Gulf, near present-day Basra. By the time of Isaiah, the Chaldean dynasty had spread its control northward to include the land of Shinar.

How was Babylon connected with the judgement and punishment of Israel?

The nation of Israel had committed spiritual adultery against God, their Creator and LORD and experienced a repeating cycle of sin, oppression and rescue.

Israel --> Syria --> Assyria --> Babylon

Isaiah 1:4 (ESV) Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.

North Israel, or "Ephraim", joined with Syria in attempting to conquer South Israel, or "Judah and the house of David":

Isaiah 7:1 (ESV) In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it.

Isaiah 7:5-6 (ESV) Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, "Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,"

God used the nation of Assyria as a tool of judgement against his people:

Isaiah 7:18 (ESV) In that day the LORD will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Isaiah 7:20 (ESV) In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River-with the king of Assyria - the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.

Isaiah 8:4 (ESV) Before the boy knows how to cry 'My father' or 'My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria."

Isaiah 9:12 (ESV) The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.

Isaiah 10:5-6 (ESV) Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! Against a godless nation I send him, and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets.

But Assyria would in turn be judged by God:

Isaiah 10:12 (ESV) When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.

Babylon would then become the LORD's tool of judgement against the arrogance of the Assyrians, only to become herself the focus of God's wrath:

Isaiah 13:17 (ESV) Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them.

Isaiah 13:18-19 (ESV) Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.

Madai was a grandson of Noah (Genesis 10). The civil war between north and south Israel had allowed Assyria to invade and carry away much of the population, many of them ending up in the cities founded by Madai:

2 Kings 17:6 (ESV) In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

The cities of the Medes, or "Media", was a province stretching east of the Zagros Mountains, and north to the Caspian Sea and the Elbur mountain-chain, which runs parallel to its southern shore (Bible History Old Testament).

The Zagros Mountains lie between Iraq and Iran, and the Elbur (Elburz) mountain-chain lines the southern edge of the Caspian Sea, near Tehran, Iran.

Another prophet also described Babylon as having been ruthlessly oppressive and being judged by God as a result:

Jeremiah 50:33-35 (ESV) Thus says the LORD of hosts: The people of Israel are oppressed, and the people of Judah with them. All who took them captive have held them fast; they refuse to let them go. Their Redeemer is strong; the LORD of hosts is his name. He will surely plead their cause, that he may give rest to the earth, but unrest to the inhabitants of Babylon. A sword against the Chaldeans, declares the LORD!

A "nation from the north" would administer punishment against Babylon:

Jeremiah 50:41-43 (ESV) "Behold, a people comes from the north; a mighty nation and many kings are stirring from the farthest parts of the earth. They lay hold of bow and spear; they are cruel and have no mercy. The sound of them is like the roaring of the sea; they ride on horses, arrayed as a man for battle against you, O daughter of Babylon! The king of Babylon heard the report of them, and his hands fell helpless; anguish seized him, pain as of a woman in labor.

Daniel describes the day in which Babylon fell:

Daniel 5:25-28 (ESV) And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."

Daniel 5:30-31 (ESV) That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.

Historical writings of Herodotus and Xenophon confirm the sudden fall of Babylon:

"Cyrus diverted the Euphrates into a new channel and, guided by two deserters, marched by the dry bed into the city, while the Babylonians were carousing at an annual feast to the gods." (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)

Judah, Ephraim, Syria, Assyria, and Babylon...a string of nations embroiled in war, conquest and oppression, each rising and falling in a succession of glorious power and gory defeat.

Isaiah's prophecy of Babylon's fall at the hands of the Medes came 174 years before it happened (Jamieson-fausset-Brown Bible Commentary).

What do you think?

Map image of Madai by WORDsearch Basic,

Peter Paul Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, November 17, 2014

Isaiah 13, Part 1: A Mark of Individuality

Isaiah 13, Part 1: A Mark of Individuality

What has gone before...

Following the promise of a Divine Judge Who would restore earth to Eden's perfect beginning, Isaiah assured Israel that there would come a day of joy, a time of singing. God would be praised as their Strength and Salvation, the Holy One of Israel.

To this point Isaiah's visions have concerned Israel, Syria and Assyria, with only slight mention of surrounding people groups. Now, in Chapter 13, Isaiah's perspective shifts to Babylon.

Moving on...

Isaiah 13:1 (ESV) The oracle concerning Babylon which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw.

What, or who, was Babylon?

The first reference in the Bible to Babylon is found in the Book of Genesis:

Genesis 10:6-11 (ESV) The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca. The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan. Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Babylon was the capitol of a kingdom called the land of Shinar, which was pivotal in world history.

Genesis 11:1-2 (ESV) Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.

Genesis 11:4 (ESV) Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth."

The people built "with its top in the heavens" in order to "make a name for ourselves". The LORD halted the people's desire for honor and authority.

NAME: shem "shame" (a mark or memorial of individuality; honor, authority or character)

Genesis 11:6-9 (ESV) And the LORD said, "Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another's speech." So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth. And from there the LORD dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

What do you think?

Images modified and combined:

photo credit: mugley via photopin cc

photo credit: kevin dooley via photopin cc

Monday, November 10, 2014

Isaiah 12, Part 2: God Draws Near

Isaiah 12, Part 2: God Draws Near

Isaiah makes an abrupt change in tone midway through this chapter. Verse one began with "You", translated from a Hebrew word that is singular, suggesting a feeling of isolation.

But the subject of verse three is a word that is plural, suggesting fellowship or gathering together.

Isaiah 12:3 (ESV) With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Further supporting the notion of plurality, the song encourages the listeners to "make known his deeds among the peoples...let this be made known in all the earth."

Perhaps the change in number points to the unity experienced between an individual and God:

Isaiah 12:6 (ESV) Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

"Your" in verse six is singular, but describes God as being in the midst of that singular person, as if Isaiah is speaking of an person indwelt by the Spirit of God.

What do you think?

photo credit: Luigi_Alesi via photopin cc

Monday, November 3, 2014

Isaiah 12, Part 1: Anger Turns to Comfort

Isaiah 12, Part 1: Anger Turns to Comfort

What has gone before...

The LORD promised a divine Judge who would end oppression and wickedness on earth.

Isaiah 11:4 (ESV) With righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.

The dispersed tribes of Israel will be regathered and restored to the land around Jerusalem.

Isaiah 11:12 (ESV) He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

All nations on earth will turn to Jerusalem in worship of the LORD.

Isaiah 11:10 (ESV) In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.

Moving on...

Now, in Chapter 12, Isaiah breaks into song, calling all the earth to join in worship of the One Who will judge, restore and redeem His creation.

Isaiah 12, Part 1: Anger Turns to Comfort

Isaiah 12:1 (ESV) You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O LORD, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me.

"In that day" connects Isaiah's song to the previous chapter:

Isaiah 11:11 (ESV) In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people, from Assyria, from Egypt, from Pathros, from Cush, from Elam, from Shinar, from Hamath, and from the coastlands of the sea.

The restoration of Israel to their promised homeland will lift the people's heart in thankfulness and praise. God's anger will change to comfort when the Righteous Judge stands as a signal to all nations as borders and barriers break down over the earth and Israel returns home.

The LORD's anger will turn away, to be replaced by the LORD's comfort.

"Comfort" can convey a feeling of relief at a burden lifted, or at least hope of that relief. Lamech named his son, "Comfort" in the hope of relief from painful toil (Genesis 5:29).

Isaac was "comforted" after his mother's death by Rebekah, his wife (Genesis 24:67).

After the fury and wrath of Assyria's invasion, Isaiah predicts that the remnant of Israel will breathe a deep sigh of relief and sing a song of trust and thankfulness for their salvation.

Isaiah 12:2 (ESV) Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

"Succor" means assistance and support in times of hardship and distress, from Latin succurrere (run to the help of)

These two words offer a wonderful picture of God running to the help of those who are running to Him for refuge.

What do you think?

photo credit: Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via photopin cc