In our study of Isaiah chapter thirteen, we look at the judgment of God on Babylon. We will see that this chapter contained a prophecy for the people of Isaiah's time as well as a prophecy for us and the last days.
An oracle concerning Babylon that Isaiah son of Amoz saw:
The word "oracle" means burden or judgment and we see, here, that God is going to use the prophet to proclaim judgment on the Babylonian kingdom. This kingdom was based in what is the country of Iraq today.
Raise a banner on a bare hilltop, shout to them; beckon to them to enter the gates of the nobles. I have commanded my holy ones; I have summoned my warriors to carry out my wrath - those who rejoice in my triumph.
We have seen where the Assyrians were used to judge Israel and Babylon was used to judge Assyria. Now, we see that God is calling an army to overthrow the kingdom of Babylon. We must remember that the word "Holy" refers to something or someone that is set apart for God's service and not necessarily His people. We must also remember that Isaiah was sent to comfort God's people and we saw them rejoicing in this promise (chapter 12). Daniel shared this same prophecy with the Babylonian king (see Daniel 2).
Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The Lord Almighty is mustering an army for war. They come from faraway lands, from the ends of the heavens - the Lord and the weapons of his wrath - to destroy the whole country.
The prophet assures God's people that He is assembling a coalition of nations (speaking of the Media-Persian empire) to bring down Babylon. This prophecy has both happened and yet is to happen again. The Babylon of Isaiah's day was defeated by the Medes and the Persians. The new Babylon will be dealt with in the future as described by John in Revelation 17.
Wail, for the day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.
The "day of the Lord" refers to the return of Jesus and so we see that the focus has shifted to the Babylon that is to come.
Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man's heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them; they will writhe like a woman in labor.
The events described here are much like the things described in Revelation chapters 6 & 9.
See, the day of the Lord is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger - to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light.
These same events are described by John with the sounding of the fourth trumpet. (see Revelation 8)
I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.
As we see, this day is a day of judgment. It is interesting to note that, out of all the evil that is going on, God speaks here of the arrogance. That arrogance is man insisting that they do not need the Creator of the universe.
I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir.
Ophir is probably located in the country that is known today as Yemen. This is the place where King Solomon sent ships to get gold (see 1 Kings 9:28). This verse speaks to the fact that there are billions of people on the earth but comparatively few will escape the coming judgment. The Babylon system described in Revelation becomes worldwide but, at the judgment, its followers are removed.
Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the Lord Almighty, in the day of his burning anger.
Even the earth itself will fear the Lord and be judged on this day. Everything that has been touched by sin will be removed to prepare for the new heaven and the new earth.
Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, each will return to his own people, each will flee to his native land.
Now, the focus shifts back to the Babylon of Isaiah's day as we see that they will flee to their own land.
Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished.
This passage describes the destruction of everything that the men hold dear as the entire family will be judged. Sometimes, it is hard for us to accept the fact that God's judgment is so total but we have to accept the fact that God is just and He knows all things.
See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children.
Babylon was a commercial center but, here, we see that God is going to judge this commercial system by bringing against it a nation that does not care about commercial wealth. This has happened but is also going to happen again as we see in Revelation 18 where the commercial system of the entire earth is judged.
Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there.
This has already happened as the city of Isaiah's day is not inhabited anymore. It was left in ruins never to be rebuilt again.
But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged.
This passage has been fulfilled in that the ancient city of Babylon is not inhabited by men but by the desert animals. There is an effort underway to rebuild the city but it is in a slightly different location.