Selected Prophecies from the Book of Isaiah, Part 4
by Karl Kemp
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We continue with the discussion of Isaiah chapter 14 under Isa. 14:4 here in Part 4.
Judah (the southern kingdom) had some temporary "rest" when the Medes and Persians (under Cyrus) overthrew the Babylonians, and some of the Jews returned from captivity and rebuilt the temple, but they still were under the Medo-Persian "world" kingdom, and they did not have much true rest. True rest can only come through Messiah and His reign, which is pictured, for example, in Isaiah chapters 9, 11.]] (5) The LORD [Yahweh] has broken the staff of the wicked, The scepter of rulers (6) Which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, Which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution. [The "world" kingdoms like the Assyrians, Babylonians, and (especially) the revived Roman Empire under Antichrist subdued the nations and struck the peoples.] (7) The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; They break forth into shouts of joy. [[After God is done judging the world in the last days, the remnant of the peoples/nations will "break forth into shouts of joy" along with the end-time remnant of Israel. Compare, for example, Isa. 24:13-16a; Psalms 47, 98.]] (8) 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." [The leaders of the "world" kingdoms frequently claimed much of this choice lumber for themselves.] (9) 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. (10) They will all respond and say to you, "Even you have been made weak as we, You have become like us. (11) Your pomp and the music of your harps Have been brought down to Sheol; Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you And worms are your covering." [[These words of verses 9-11, which are spoken to "the king of Babylon" (Isa. 14:4), are clearly intended to greatly humiliate this ruler who is so full of pride. These words are spoken, at least for the most part, to the last ruler of the "world" kingdom(s), Antichrist.]] (12) How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning [[The Hebrew noun translated "O star of the morning" is "helel," which means "shining one." It refers to Venus, the bright morning star. The following words "the son of the dawn" also refer to the morning star. In Job 38:7 the angels are called "the morning stars" and "the sons of God" (cf. Job 1:6). (In the book of Revelation, stars frequently symbolize angels.) The king of Babylon (a pagan king), in his great pride, is charged with likening himself with the angels of God and the gods of the nations. And as we will see in the following verses, he is also charged with going far beyond that manifestation of pride. Some of the kings of the "world" kingdoms are noted for their great pride, and especially the last king/ruler, Antichrist ((cf., e.g., Dan. 4:30; 8:10, 11 [these verses in Daniel chapter 8 refer to both Antiochus IV (a type of Antichrist) and Antichrist; Daniel chapter 8 is discussed in chapter 7 of my book, "The Mid-Week Rapture"]; Dan. 11:36; and 2 Thess. 2:4 [these last two verses speak of Antichrist])).
The Old Testament translated into Latin has the word "Lucifer" (which means "light-bearer" in Latin) for "helel." 'Lucifer" "was the Latin name for the planet Venus, the brightest object in the sky apart from the sun and moon, appearing sometimes as the evening, sometimes as the morning star. ... [This name] is applied tauntingly as a title for the king of Babylon, who in his glory and pomp had set himself among the gods." (D. H. Wheaton, "Lucifer," "New Bible Dictionary," second edition [Tyndale House, 1962], page 713.) The KJV and NKJV have "Lucifer" here; this is the only place the word is used in the KJV. The name "Lucifer" for Satan was derived from this verse in that some Christians thought that this verse was addressed to him and that it speaks of his pride and fall (cf. Luke 10:18; 1 Tim. 3:6; Rev. 9:1-11; and 12:7-9). As I mentioned, I agree with the majority that this verse does not directly address Satan. We undoubtedly can and should say, however, that the pride and fall of the king of Babylon fits the pattern of the pride and fall of Satan, the god of this world, the one behind the evil rulers of this world (cf., e.g., 2 Cor. 4:4; Rev. 13:2).]], son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! ["you who once laid low the nations!" (NIV)] (13) But you said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven [[These words, which fit a proud king living on the earth (cf. Ezek. 28:1, 2), don't fit Satan very well in that he started out in heaven; in our day he still has access to heavenly places, but he will be thrown down to the earth in the middle of Daniel's 70th week (Rev. 12:6-17); at the end of Daniel's 70th week, he will be cast into the abyss and held there throughout the millennium (Rev. 20:1-3); then after a short release, he will be cast into the eternal lake of fire (Rev. 20:7-10).]]; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north ["I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain" (NIV]. [[The king of Babylon, being a man, is charged with not only trying to exalt himself to be among the angels of God and the gods of the nations, but with trying to be above them. The "mount of assembly/sacred mountain," speaking from a common point of view of the ancient world, referred to the mountain of the gods situated in the north. As the next verse shows, the king of Babylon is charged with wanting to be "like the Most High" (cf. Gen. 3:5).]] (14) I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." (15) Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol [[to the place where the spirits/souls of people go at death; in Old Testament days even the believers went to Sheol/Hades, but not as a place of torment (cf., e.g., Luke 16:19-31)]], To the recesses [[The NIV has "to the depths [of the pit]." The same Hebrew word translated "recesses" here and in verse 13 by the NASB is translated "utmost heights" by the NIV in verse 13 and "depths [of the pit]" here in verse 14. The king of Babylon aims at the utmost "heights," but God casts him down to the "depths" of the pit. Pride that is not abandoned through repentance always leads to a great fall.]] of the pit. (16) [The scene here is back on the earth.] 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, (17) Who made the world like a wilderness And overthrew its cities, Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?" (18) All the kings of the nations lie in glory, Each [speaking of their bodies; their spirits/souls are in Sheol/Hades] in his own tomb. (19) But you have been cast out of your tomb [[Most commentators agree that the idea here is that the king of Babylon is denied a burial in the first place. This manifests a tremendous disrespect for this great king; he suffers the ultimate disgrace; he is "like a rejected [literally, abhorred] branch," "like a trampled corpse."]] Like a rejected branch, Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword [[The NIV has, "you are covered with the slain." The idea seems to be that instead of being clothed with the honor and glory fitting such a great king, he is "clothed/covered" with the bodies of those who were killed around him - not a pretty picture.]], Who go down to the stones of the pit [[The "pit" here seems to refer to the pit of Sheol, as in Isa. 14:15. The spirits/souls of the fallen go down to Sheol/Hades. On going down to Sheol/the pit, cf., e.g., Isa. 38:18; Ezek. 26:20; and Psalm 28:1. Some think the pit here in verse 19 refers to a grave.]] Like a trampled corpse. (20) You will not be united with them in burial ["Them" here in verse 20 speaks of "the kings of the nations [who] lie in glory, each in his own tomb" mentioned in verse 18.], Because you have ruined your country, You have slain your people. May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever. (21) 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) 'I will rise up against them,' declares the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts, 'and will cut off from Babylon name and survivors, offspring and posterity,' declares the LORD. [[Compare Psalms 21:10; 37:28. The cities established by such people would be filled with iniquity. Before God's kingdom can be fully established, all those who are committed to evil (those who never will repent) must be removed by the judgment of God. "Babylon" is a symbol for the world here, as it is in the book of Revelation.]] (23) 'I will also make it a possession for the hedgehog [cf. Isa. 34:11] and swamps of water, and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction [cf. Isa. 13:6; 1 Kings 14:10],' declares the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts. [[The kingdom of Babylon/the kingdom of this world will be totally removed by God's end-time judgment (cf., e.g., Rev. 14:8; 19:2, 3). Ancient Babylon, by the way, was not destroyed when God judged that "world" city and kingdom through the Medes and Persians.]] (24) The LORD [Yahweh] of hosts has sworn saying, 'Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, (25) to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder. [[Compare Isa. 9:4; 10:27; and Nah. 1:13-15. Assyria was the "world" kingdom in the days of Isaiah. There was at least a partial fulfillment of these prophetic words in 701 BC (see 2 Kings 19:32-37; Isa. 37:33-38). Every partial fulfillment of God's prophetic word serves to confirm that the complete fulfillment will follow at the right time, God's time; He is in control. Then in 609 BC, Assyria fell to the Babylonians. Quite a few end-time prophecies use "Assyria" as a symbol for the/a "world" power (cf., e.g., parts of Isaiah chapter 10; Isa. 11:16; 19:23-25; Mic. 5:5, 6; and Zech. 10:10, 11). I'll quote the footnote included in the "Scofield Reference Bible," which is attached to the words "whole earth" found in the next verse (Oxford University Press, copyright 1917. This KJV Bible is the first Bible I ever bought; I bought it about the time I became a born-again Christian in 1964). "This universality is significant and marks the whole passage as referring, not merely to a near judgment upon Assyria, but in a yet larger sense to the final crash of the present world-system at the end of the age. (See 'Times of the Gentiles,' Luke 21:24; Rev. 16:14; Dan. 2:44, 45; 'Armageddon,' Rev. 16:14; 19:17.) No other such universal catastrophe on the nations is known to Scripture."]] (26) This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. (27) For the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?' (28) In the year that King Ahaz died [[Compare Isa. 6:1. These last five verses of chapter 14 are rather difficult, and the interpretations of these verses vary substantially. For one thing, the year that King Ahaz (a king of Judah in the days of Isaiah) died is not known with certainty. Some put his death in 727 BC, but the most widely accepted date is 715 BC.]] this oracle came: (29) 'Do not rejoice, O Philistia, all of you, Because the rod that struck you is broken; For from the serpent's root a viper will come out, And its fruit will be a flying serpent. [[The most likely scenario is that Philistia was involved at this time in helping organize a revolt against Assyria. Envoys (messengers) from Philistia had apparently come to Jerusalem (see verse 32) to enlist the support of Judah in this revolt. ((I had a footnote: John N. Oswalt ("Book of Isaiah, chapters 1-39" [Eerdmans, 1986], page 330) mentions an "alliance of Moab, Edom, and the Philistines against Sargon [the Assyrian king at that time] in 714 BC." J. Alec Motyer ("Isaiah" [Inter-Varsity Press, 1999], pages 122, 123) says, "Throughout the Assyrian period Philistia was a ceaseless agitator for rebellion. In 734 BC Gath [one of the five key Philistine cities, along with Ashkelon, Gaza, Ashdod, and Ekron] refused tribute and was sacked; in 720 Philistia connived with Egypt to rebel, and Sargon II defeated Egypt at Gath and took Ashkelon and Gaza; in 711 Ashdod was somehow central to an unsuccessful west Palestinian revolt; in 705 Ashkelon rebelled and fell to Sennacherib [an Assyrian king] in his campaign of 701. The death of Ahaz in 715 could well have been the occasion of a Philistine approach to Hezekiah [who reigned in Judah after Ahaz] with a view to joint anti-Assyrian action. ....))" The fact that the rod that had struck the Philistines was broken probably just means that the Assyrians were in a (temporary) weakened position. Assyria was the primary rod that God was using to chasten the nations in those days (cf. Isa. 10:5), and He was not done with that rod yet. Assyria continued on as the "world" kingdom for another hundred years, until 609 BC. God also had other rods yet planned for the future, including the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the revived Roman Empire with Antichrist as its leader, and finally the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the world in the last days and establish God's worldwide kingdom of righteousness. God's rod was not really broken, and many of the judgments yet to come (including those through the Assyrians) would be more intense, as this verse prophesied.]] (30) Those who are most helpless will eat, And the needy will lie down in security [cf. Isa. 3:14, 15; 11:4, 10; and Psalm 72]; I will destroy your root with famine, And it will kill off your survivors. [[God has ways to take care of those who seek refuge in Him throughout the ages (cf. Isa. 3:10), but I believe the words of this verse look forward to the results of His end-time judgment of the world, which is so often mentioned in the passages we are studying in this paper. The humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Israel/Judah will be secure under the ultimate King, the Lord Jesus Christ. Philistia will cease to exist as a nation, but there is room to see a humbled, repentant remnant of the Philistines (the descendants of the Philistines and those living where the Philistines used to live) coming to God's city and kingdom seeking for and finding refuge as part of the remnant of the nations (see verse 32; cf. Isa. 11:14; Zech. 9:6, 7).
As Isaiah continues in chapters 15, 16, he deals with Moab (another immediate neighbor of Israel/Judah). In Isa. 16:1-5 we see the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Moab coming to true Israel for salvation; in 16:5 we see that the Lord Jesus Christ will be the King of true Israel at that time. In chapter 17 we see the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of the Arameans along with the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Israel turning to God. In chapter 18 it is the Ethiopians. In chapter 20 it is the humbled, repentant end-time remnants of Egypt and Assyria.]] (31) Wail, O gate; cry, O city; Melt away, O Philistia, all of you; For smoke comes from the north [The Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and Antichrist (and there are others) come against Israel and her immediate neighbors "from the north."], And there is no straggler in his ranks [The armies coming against them are organized, committed, and typically brutal]. [[The Philistines are to wail because the rod of God's judgment is not broken after all (cf. 14:29). The rod will continue its work with the Philistines until all the evil has been dealt with and removed (one way or another).]] (32) How then will one answer the messengers ["envoys" (NIV)] of the nation [Philistia]? That the LORD [Yahweh] has founded Zion [cf. Psalm 87 ((This important psalm, which includes the good news of the ultimate salvation of (the elect of) the nations, is discussed in section 2 of my paper, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations." Philistia is one of the nations specifically mentioned (Psalm 87:4).))], And the afflicted of His people will seek refuge in it [God always is a refuge, one way or another, for those who are faithful to Him (cf. Isa. 25:4; 57:13)].' " [[As I mentioned, these messengers/envoys apparently came from Philistia to urge Judah to join them in their rebellion against the Assyrians. Isaiah frequently railed against Judah's looking to the nations to try to solve their problems, and this verse undoubtedly includes that message for Judah. The only real refuge for any people (including the Philistines) is God Himself (the Creator, Savior, and Judge). The time will come when the humbled, repentant remnant of mankind left after God's end-time judgment of the world (including the remnant of Israel/Judah) will turn to Him - they will come to Zion (God's city/kingdom). (See sections 1 and 2 of my paper, "More Regarding God's Salvation Plans for the Nations.") Individuals from the nations didn't have to wait for God's rod of judgment or for the end of the age; they could turn to God (the God of Israel) in repentance and faith and become part of His true Israel, and some of them did. Today many turn to God through faith in Christ and become part of true Israel.
It is probably best to understand the words "the afflicted of His people" in the sense "the afflicted ones, His people," with "His people" being in apposition with "the afflicted [ones]." Both expressions apparently refer to the humbled, repentant remnant of mankind left after God's end-time judgment of the world (including the remnant of the Philistines [see under verse 30], or the modern day counterpart of the Philistines, and those of Israel/Judah). They will be ready to seek refuge in God and His city/kingdom under His terms and to be faithful to Him. Significantly, God calls the converted end-time remnant of Egypt "My people" in Isa. 19:25. (Isaiah 19:4, 16-25 are discussed in a verse-by-verse manner in this paper.) The fact that the remnant of the nations can be called "God's people" does not change the fact that many verses demonstrate that the nations will be subordinate to true Israel.
God (through foreknowledge) knew who His people were before the foundation of the world. Their names can be found in the Lamb's book of life; the names of the elect (whether part of God's true Israel or part of the nations) have been in the book of life since the foundation of the world (cf., e.g., Rev. 13:8; 17:8; and 21:27).]]
We noted that Isaiah chapter 13 began and ended prophesying about God's judgment of ancient Babylon through the Medes and Persians, but that verses 6-13 of that chapter prophesied about God's end-time judgment of the world. As we discussed, much of Isaiah chapter 14 also looks to the end of the age. The verses we are considering here (Isa. 15:9-16:5) prophesy about the end of the age (like Isa. 13:6-13), while the verses that precede 15:9 (15:1-8) and the verses that follow 16:5 (16:6-14) prophesy about God's judgment of Moab in the days of Isaiah through Assyria (the "world" kingdom in the days of Isaiah).
(15:9) "For the waters of Dimon are full of blood [[This first line (along with 15:1-8) prophesies regarding the overthrow of Moab by Assyria. The waters of Dimon are full of the blood of slain Moabites.]]; Surely I will bring added woes upon Dimon, A lion upon the fugitives of Moab and upon the remnant of the land. [[God's judgments against Moab would not be over then; "added woes" were yet to come. God's work will not be done until Moab ceases to exist and the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Moab (the end-time counterpart of ancient Moab) submits to the God of true Israel. Moab doesn't exist as a nation in our day, but the nation of Jordan occupies the territory of ancient Moab, and some of the descendants of the ancient Moabites are probably still around.]] (16:1) Send the tribute lamb [[The NIV has "lambs" (cf. 2 Kings 3:4).] to the ruler [Ruler] of the land, from Sela [There's widespread agreement that "Sela" refers to the city of Petra.] by way of the wilderness to the mountain of the daughter of Zion [cf., e.g., Isa. 2:2]. [[The humbled, repentant end-time remnant of Moab will be ready to submit to the Ruler of the land of Israel/Judah. The "tribute lamb(s)" is a sign of submission. (Isaiah 16:6, speaking of the great pride of Moab before they are humbled by God says, "We have heard of the pride of Moab, an excessive pride; Even of his arrogance, pride, and fury; His idle boasts are false.") Isaiah 16:5 helps confirm that the Ruler will be the Lord Jesus Christ. Isaiah 16:4 confirms that the time setting for these verses is at the end of this age, about the time of the end of Daniel's 70th week: At that time God will have established complete peace in the land of Israel that will expand to cover the earth. Some individual Moabites, like Ruth, submitted to God in Old Testament days and became part of His true Israel.]] (2) Then, like fleeing birds or scattered nestlings [The NIV has, "Like fluttering birds pushed from the nest."], the daughters [The NIV has "women."] of Moab will be at the fords of the Arnon. [Although the women of Moab are mentioned here, the end-time remnant of Moab will not be limited to women.] (3) 'Give us advice, make a decision [[The words of verses 3, 4 are spoken to true Israel. Israel will have already been saved through the Lord Jesus Christ at that time (about the end of Daniel's 70th week). If the word "us" is retained, which was added by the NASB in italics, these words are spoken by the Moabites. It's quite possible that Isaiah spoke all the words of verses 3, 4.]]; Cast your shadow like night at high noon [[Compare Isa. 25:4, 5; 32:2. Like a large rock (for example) casts a shadow and protects from the rays of the sun, the shadow cast by true Israel (with their God and His Son, the Christ and the Ruler of Israel) offers the only effective, lasting protection for any people.]]; hide the outcasts ["fugitives" (NIV)], do not betray the fugitive ["refugees" (NIV)]. (4) Let the outcasts ["fugitives" (NIV)] of Moab stay with you; be a hiding place to them from the destroyer [cf. 1 Kings 18:4].' For the extortioner has come to an end, destruction has ceased, Oppressors have completely disappeared from the land. [Compare Isa. 9:4; 14:4; 49:26; 51:13; and 54:14. The NIV has, "The oppressor will come to an end, and destruction will cease; the aggressor will vanish from the land."] (5) A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge [Judge] will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he [He] will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness." [[Compare Isa. 9:6, 7; 32:1; Dan. 7:14; Mic. 4:7; and Luke 1:33. The Lord Jesus Christ, who (as far as the flesh was concerned) was born in the lineage of King David, is the ultimate Ruler and Judge.]]
ISAIAH CHAPTER 17.
This chapter of Isaiah starts out (in 17:1-3) prophesying of God's intense judgment of the kingdom of Aram/the Arameans (with the capital city Damascus) and the northern kingdom of Israel (which is called "Ephraim" in 17:3; with the capital city Samaria). Isaiah 7:1-8:4 deal with an alliance by these two kingdoms against Judah in the days of the prophet Isaiah and King Ahaz of Judah (a king who was not faithful to God). Isaiah 7:5-9, 16; 8:4 prophesied (as it came to pass) that these two kingdoms would be overthrown and carried into captivity by the Assyrians.
The rest of Isaiah chapter 17 builds on the judgment of these two kingdoms and looks to the end of the age when God will greatly humble all the nations by His end-time judgment of the world. The humbled remnant of these kingdoms/nations will then submit to God.
"The oracle concerning Damascus. 'Behold, Damascus is about to be removed from being a city [The Hebrew does not have a word here corresponding with the word "about" of the NASB. I would not include this word in the translation; it is not included in the KJV, NKJV, or the NIV.] And will become a fallen ruin. [[Compare Isa. 25:2, which is a verse that prophesies about God's end-time judgment of the world. Although Damascus fell to the Assyrians in 732 BC, it did not cease being a city or become a fallen ruin at that time. As with the other prophecies concerning the nations that we are studying in this paper, the ultimate fulfillment will take place at the end of the age when God judges the world.
I'll quote part of what Harry Bultema said here ("Commentary on Isaiah" [Kregel, 1981; originally published in Dutch in 1923], page 184). "This prediction [concerning Damascus] has yet to be completely fulfilled, for in Jeremiah's day [Jeremiah's ministry was some one hundred years after Isaiah's] it was a flourishing city, and even today it is said to be the oldest city in the world (cf. Gen. 15:2 [and 14:15] where Damascus is already mentioned). (I had a footnote: Homer Hailey ("Commentary on Isaiah" [Baker, 1985], page 152) mentions that "Damascus is reported to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world.") According to 2 Kings 16:9 Tiglath-pileser [an Assyrian king] captured it and killed its king Rezin; but he did not make it a heap. This chapter also, however, points to the terrible end times of the Great Tribulation [I wouldn't use the words "the Great Tribulation" here, but I agree with Bultema that this prophecy of Isaiah points to God's end-time judgment of the world.] when all the cities of the Gentiles will fall including Damascus (Rev. 16:19)."]] (2) The cities of Aroer are forsaken [I'll quote what John A. Martin said here ("Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament" [Victor, 1985], page 1064). "Since Aroer was a city in Moab, the cities of Aroer are difficult to understand. Some Septuagint (Greek) manuscripts read that Damascus and her cities will be 'abandoned forever.' "]; They will be for flocks to lie down in, And there will be no one to frighten them. (3) The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim, And sovereignty from Damascus [cf. Isa. 7:8, 16; 8:4] And the remnant of Aram [[As with the remnant of the Philistines (Isa. 14:32) and the remnant of the Moabites (Isa. 16:1-5), the humbled, repentant end-time remnant of the Arameans will come to true Israel and the God of true Israel for refuge and salvation.]]; They [the remnant of the Arameans] will be like the glory of the sons of Israel [Israel here undoubtedly refers to Ephraim, the northern kingdom. Samaria, the capital city of Ephraim, fell to the Assyrians in 722/721 BC.],' Declares the LORD [Yahweh] of hosts.
We will continue this discussion under Isa. 17:3 in Part 5.
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