DIG: Since this is the Babylon of the Great Tribulation, what does this city symbolize that is timeless and bigger than itself (13:5, 9 and 11)? What characterizes this Babylon (13:11, 19; 14:13-14)? What should the Judeans have learned about God from this prophecy against such a powerful nation?
REFLECT: Where in our culture, and in your life, do you see the attitudes typified by Babylon? What do you learn about Ha'Shem’s response to these attitudes from this prophecy? Does this change your actions? Why or why not?
The first nation that he deals with, and the one he spends the most time on is Babylon. When we look at the entire book of Isaiah and his oracles against Babylon, sometimes he deals with the near historical Babylon of his own day (21:1-10), the one that was rising in power and would not reach it’s zenith for another hundred years. But sometimes he deals with the far eschatological Babylon of the end times, because the city of Babylon is to be rebuilt and become the capital of the antichrist. The Babylon that Isaiah writes about in 13:1 to 14:23 is the Babylon of the Great Tribulation.
How can we determine this? What criteria do we use in our interpretation? The most important criteria is the context. There are three rules of interpreting the Bible: context, context, and context. Therefore, what clues, what verses, in this section set the context? In 13:6 it says: Wail, for the Day of the LORD is near. In 13:9 we read: See, the day of the LORD is coming. In 13:13 Isaiah writes: Therefore I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of ADONAI-Tzva'ot, in the day of His burning anger. We have to ask ourselves, did these things happen about a hundred years after Isaiah had died, or in the last days during the Great Tribulation? The Day of the LORD clearly sets the context as the Great Tribulation.
But there is more evidence. In 13:19 God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that Babylon will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. And the very next verses, 13:20 through 22 describe a Babylon that will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations. This can only mean that Babylon will be destroyed at the end of the Great Tribulation and uninhabited during the thousand year millennial Kingdom. How can we say that? We can say that because the Medes and the Persians inhabited Babylon after its destruction. In fact, Babylon is inhabited today! But that is just in Chapter 13. There is another verse in Chapter 14 that helps us set the context as well. In 14:2 Isaiah tells us that the house of Isra'el will possess the Gentile nations as menservants and maidservants in the LORD’s land. They will make captives of their captors and rule over their oppressors. During the height of Solomon’s reign, Isra'el was a very powerful country, as powerful as any in the world at that time. But they never possessed the Gentile nations. Therefore, the context, especially the Day of the LORD, is clearly the Babylon of the Great Tribulation.
Other prophets that had messages against Babylon would include Lamentations 2:14; Jeremiah Chapters 50 and 51; and Nahum 1:1. Besides these two chapters that we will take a look at, Isaiah prophesies against Babylon in Isaiah 21:1-10 (there he deals with the Babylon of his own day); 43:14-15 (the Babylonians become fugitives); 46:1-2 (the gods of Babylon are judged); 47:1-15 (judgment against Babylonian occultism), and 48:15 and 20 (judgment on Babylon). Jeremiah also prophesies against Babylon in Chapters 50 and 51 (the totality of Babylon’s destruction). In Zechariah 5:5-11 the rebuilt Babylon will become the economic capital of the world. The remaining references are in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 14:8 and 16:19 there is rejoicing over the fall of Babylon. In Revelation17:1-18 the fall of religious Babylon is seen, whereas, in Revelation 18:1-24 the fall of political and economic Babylon is seen. But these and other prophecies require the rebuilding of the city of Babylon to become the capital city of the antichrist. So there are many prophecies against Babylon, but the context determines which Babylon the author is talking about.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017