Isaiah 13

The Word Made Fresh

1Isaiah son of Amoz saw this, and proclaimed an oracle:
2Send a signal from a bare hill, and shout aloud;
wave your hand for them to enter the gates
of the high-ranking officials.
3I have ordered those I have set apart.
I have called forth my warriors who celebrate proudly
so as to carry out my wrath.

4Listen! Hear the sound of the great multitude on the mountains!
Listen! Hear the noise of kingdoms and nations gathering.
The LORD of hosts is mustering an army for war.
5They are gathering from a land afar, the very end of the sky,
they are the LORD’s, they are the weapons
God will use to destroy the whole region.

6Weep and wail, for the day of the LORD is near,
and it will come like destruction from Shaddai, the Almighty!
7Every arm will be weak, then,
and every heart will melt,
8and they will be completely alarmed.
Seized with panic and pangs of agony
they will languish like a woman in labor.
They will look helplessly at one another;
their faces aflame with the realization of defeat.
9See, the day of the LORD is coming,
and it will be a cruel day filled with wrath and terrible anger,
for it will make the whole world desolate
and destroy all the sinful people there.
10Then the stars and constellations in the sky will not shine;
the sun will rise darkly, and the moon will have no light.
11Then I will punish the evil world
and the wicked because of their wrongdoing.
I will take away the pride of the arrogant,
and flatten the insolence of tyrants.
12I will make mortals rarer than fine gold,
more rare even than the fine gold of Ophir.
13Then the heavens will tremble
and the earth shaken out of its orbit,
because of the wrath of the LORD of hosts
on the day of God’s terrible anger.
14Like a gazelle in the hunt, or sheep with no shepherd,
they will all return to their own people
and flee to their own lands.
15Whoever is found will be pierced through,
and whoever is captured will be killed by the sword.
16Their babies will be dashed to bits before their very eyes;
their houses plundered, their wives seized and violently taken.
17Do you see? I am gathering the Medes against them,
those who think nothing of silver nor take pleasure in gold.
18Your young men will be slaughtered with their bows,
and they will have no mercy on newborn children.
There will be no pity in their eyes.
19And Babylon, the most glorious of the kingdoms,
the splendor and the pride of the Chaldeans,
will end up like Sodom and Gomorrah
  when God destroyed them.
 20Babylon will never be inhabited again;
generations will pass, but Arabs will never again
pitch their tents there,
and shepherds will not rest their flocks there.
21Wild animals will reside there, however,
and the abandoned houses will be filled with howling beasts.
Ostriches will live there, and wild goats will dance as demons.
22Hyenas will howl in its towers, and jackals in their beautiful palaces.
Her time is near. Her days will not be prolonged.


1: This chapter is styled “an oracle concerning Babylon.” It consists of pronouncements made by God, interspersed with an on-looker’s descriptions of the calamity as it is occurring.

2-3: Although we were told this is an oracle concerning Babylon, the name doesn’t actually occur until verse 19. It begins with this announcement from God that the holy army has been summoned.

4-5: Now another voice echoes the announcement — the speaker imagines the sound of a great army being mustered.

6-9: The “day of the LORD” is announced. It will be a cruel day of destruction.

10-22: God speaks again, describing the awful plan of battle. Although the oracle concerns Babylon, verses 11-12 indicate a broader battlefield, as if the punishment of Babylon represents God’s judgment on the whole world. Verses 15-18 give a vivid description of soldiers torturing their hapless victims, and in verse 17 we learn that the Medes will be the actual instrument God uses to punish Babylon. Compare verses 16 and 18 with Psalm 137:8-9. Verses 19-22 give a description of a once glorious city reverting to nature.


Israel’s glorious future was simply handed to them. God knew what would happen – that the people would forsake their faith, that their unfaithfulness would result in their being prey to other nations, and that they would suffer unimaginable punishment. But always in the scripture Israel’s punishment serves a purpose; they are being prepared for a glorious time at some point in the future when they finally succumb to God’s will. That’s the case for us as well, isn’t it?