The Word Made Fresh
1But the LORD will feel sorry for Jacob. Once again Israel will be settled in their own lands. Other people will join them and unite with the family of Jacob.
2The nations will gather them and bring them to their place, and the people of Israel will own the nations and possess them as servants, men and women, in the land the LORD is giving them. They will take as captives those who had been their captors. They will rule over those who had ruled over them.
3When the LORD has freed you from your pain and turmoil and the hard labor with which you were made to serve, 4you will taunt the king of Babylon, saying, “Look how the oppressor has been stopped! Look how his contempt has been arrested. 5For the LORD has broken the will of the wicked and shattered the scepter of the rulers 6who struck down the people in anger, beating them over and over, ruling the nations in anger and persecuting them unrelentingly. 7And now the whole world is at rest and is quiet. The people join together in singing, 8“Look how the cypresses lord it over you, and the cedars of Lebanon. They are saying, “Since you have been defeated, no one comes anymore to cut us down.”
9The dead in their graves are stirred up and eager to meet you when you go there. The shadows of all who were leaders on the earth are roused to greet you. All those who were kings of the nations rise from their thrones. 10They will speak to you, and say, “You have also been made as weak as we! Now you are just like us!” 11Your glory is now brought down to the grave along with the sound of your harps. Maggots shape the bed you lie in and worms cover you.
12Look how far you have fallen, Day Star, son of the Dawn! You are the one who laid the nations low, but now how you are cut down to the ground. 13In your heart you thought, “I will rise to heaven; I will have my throne raised above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mountain where the people assemble at the top of Zaphon. 14I will rise to the cloud tops, and I will make myself as powerful as the Most High.”
15But you are being brought down to the place of the dead, to the depths of the grave. 16People will stare at you and wonder over you: “Isn’t this the man who made the world tremble; who shook whole kingdoms, 17and turned the earth into a desert, overthrowing its cities. Aren’t you the one who refused to allow his prisoners to go home.”
18All the kings of the nations lie gloriously, each in his own tomb. 19But you are cast out even from your grave like stupid beasts, where you join the dead who have been pierced with a sword and have gone down to their stony graves like corpses trampled underfoot. 20But you will not be joined with them in burial because you have destroyed your land and killed your own people. May the names of your descendants who do evil never be spoken! 21Arrange a slaughter for his sons because of their father’s guilt. May they never rise to possess the earth or cover the land with their cities.
22For I will rise against them, says the LORD of hosts. I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant of families, including offspring and descendants, says the LORD. 23I will give it to the hedgehogs with pools of water, and I will wipe it with a broom of destruction, says the LORD of hosts.
24The LORD of hosts has sworn this: “As I have promised this, so shall it be. As I have planned it, so shall it come to pass: 25I will break the Assyrian in my land. I will trample him underfoot. I will remove his yoke from the people and his burden from their shoulders. 26This is the future that has been prepared concerning the whole world. This is the hand stretched out over all the nations. 27The LORD of hosts has made this plan; who can stop it? God’s hand already is stretched out. Who can turn it back?”
28In the year King Uzziah died, this oracle was given:
29“Don’t celebrate, you Philistines, because the rod that struck you is broken. From the root of the snake will come a viper bringing its fruit – a flying, fiery serpent. 30The eldest of the poor will graze, and the needy will lie down in safety, but I will make your root die of famine, and I will kill your remnant. 31So, wail, gates. Cry, city. Melt with fear all of you Philistines! Smoke will come out of the north and there will be no straggler with it.
32What answer will the nations give to the messengers? “The LORD has established Zion and the needy among the LORD’s people will find safety there.”
1-2: Once Babylon is gone, Isaiah envisions the renewal of Israel as a place where everyone wants to live, and Israel’s former enemies become their servants.
3-11: He imagines them taunting the Babylonians. He sees the whole earth at peace, and the nations conquered by Babylon waiting in Sheol (the grave) to receive them.
12-20: The reference to Day Star, son of Dawn, is a taunt aimed at the king of Babylon, and at the religion of the Babylonians who worshiped the sun, moon, and stars of heaven. The “heights of Zaphon” can be translated “the far north.” The tyrant is imagined dreaming of becoming divine. But when God gets finished with him people will wonder if this could possibly be the same man who “made the earth tremble.” His fate will be utter rejection, even by those who preceded him in death.
21: A wish is expressed that the sons of the tyrant, heirs to his throne, may never come to power.
22-23: Babylon is fallen, never to rise.
24-27: The Assyrians came before the Babylonians. They conquered Samaria more than a hundred years before the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem. However, the oracles — curses, really – about the enemies of God’s people seems in this part of the book to be going back in time from the Babylonians through the Assyrians all the way back to the peoples with whom the Hebrews tussled when they first inhabited the land.
28-32: Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah. Unlike his son, he was a wicked king who introduced idol worship in a big way (see 2 Kings 16). There is no record of Ahaz defeating the Philistines, but Isaiah seems to think they will be happy that he is now dead. They have no cause to rejoice, he says, because the son of Ahaz (“the root of the snake”) will be even more dangerous to them.
Isaiah is telling Israel what will take place in the future. All the powers that made life unbearable for God’s people will be defeated by others and will completely cease to exist. Where is Babylon today? How about Assyria? He is pointing to a time in the future when God’s anger at Israel will finally be spent and Israel will be restored. Not only will they be restored, but will be masters of these other nations that damaged them in the past.