DIG: What is meant by the Day of the LORD (13:6,9; also 2:11, 17 and 20), and what will it be like for Babylon? What poetic and cosmic images in these verses graphically communicate its power to you? What should the Judeans have learned about God from this prophecy against such a powerful nation?
REFLECT: What does the Day of the LORD have to do with you? Is it something to be feared, or to look forward to? Why?
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near (13:6a). Here Isaiah deals with the issue of the day of the LORD, which refers to the time of God's judgment on the wicked world and the deliverance of His people during the Great Tribulation. It will come like destruction from Shaddai, the Almighty (136b). Here we see the terror of the LORD as He announces its approach. Again Isaiah is using his knowledge of Hebrew for alliteration. The translation (to bring out the sounds of the alliteration) in Hebrew is “the destruction of the destroyer.”
The immediate result of the attack of ADONAI and His holy ones (13:3) will be complete helplessness on the part of the proud. Isaiah lists seven results of the destruction: (1) all hands will go limp, or their courage will fail (Jeremiah 6:24), (2) every man’s heart will melt, (3) terror will seize them, (4) pain and anguish will grip them, (5) God’s judgment will cause people to be in extreme distress, they will writhe like a woman in labor, (6) they will look aghast at each other, and (7) their faces will be aflame from total disbelief (13:7-8). Human greatness will be reduced to nothing. Their nerve will leave them, and their weapons will fall from their limp hands. They will stare at each other in disbelief, because they will recognize that everything they trusted in was worthless to them as they stand defenseless before ADONAI's piercing gaze.
In the next three verses Isaiah deals with the destruction of humanity. 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 (13:9). ADONAI, expressing His anger (13:3 and 13) against sin, will destroy sinners, punish the world for its evil and its proud attitude toward God. The three purposes of the Great Tribulation are: first, to make an end to wickedness and wicked ones (13:9 and 24:19-20), secondly, to bring about a worldwide revival (Revelation 7:1-17 and Matthew 24:14), and thirdly, to break the power of the holy people (Daniel 12:7b and Ezekiel 20:34-38). The first of the three is emphasized here.
Isaiah deals with blackouts that will be a characteristic of the Great Tribulation. 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 (13:10). There are five blackouts mentioned in the Bible in the last days. The first one comes just before the Great Tribulation in Joel 2:31. The second one comes in the first quarter of that Day of God’s judgment in Revelation 6:12. The third one comes in the second quarter in Revelation 9:2. The fourth one comes in the second half of the Great Tribulation in Revelation 16:10-11, and the fifth one comes right after the Great Tribulation in Matthew 24:29. Here Isaiah merely summarizes that the Day of the LORD is characterized by blackouts.
Once again we see that the purpose is to punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their sins. The sin of pride is identified as the cause of God’s wrath. ADONAI said: I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless (13:11). It is ironic that man expects to take advantage of others without being taken advantage of by others (33:1). In the Day of the LORD the results will be opposite of what pride expects. A case in point would be the pride of Hitler’s thousand-year Reich that ended in complete destruction about ten years after he proclaimed it. Instead of the earth being full of the glory of man, mankind will be hard to find.
I will make man scarcer than pure gold, more rare than the gold of Ophir (13:12). The result is that men and women become more and more scarce because so many are destroyed in the course of God’s judgments in the Great Tribulation. The survivors will be so few that they will be rarer even than the rare precious metal (fine gold).
Isaiah deals with the destruction of Babylon in the Day of the LORD. There is interplay between the destruction caused by ADONAI and the devastation caused in the midst of the chaos of that Day. The magnitude of the destruction is seen. Therefore, I will make the heavens tremble; and the earth will shake from its place at the wrath of the LORD of heavens angelic armies (CJB) in the day of His burning anger (13:13). Altogether, four results follow. The LORD causes the first two and the last two perpetrated by men in the midst of anarchy, their sin unhindered.
First, we see the flight of all foreigners from the city to where they came from (Jeremiah 51:9). Like a hunted gazelle, like sheep without a shepherd, each will flee to his native land (13:14). The people attacked would be utterly powerless to stop the invasion. They would be like gazelle and sheep, defenseless creatures that are easy prey for hunters. Although Isaiah doesn’t emphasize this point here, he and other prophets tell us that any Jews in Babylon will also get out of the city before its destruction (Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 50:8 and 28; 51:6 and 45; Zechariah 2:6-7; and Revelation 18:4).
The second result is the violent death of Babylonians themselves. There will be no escape. Whoever is captured will be thrust through by God’s holy ones. All who are caught fleeing from the city will fall by the sword (13:15). Because their sin will be so great, their punishment will also be great. Truly, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a). Even their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes (13:16a).
Thirdly, with their sin unchecked in the chaos of that Day, their houses will be looted by the Babylonians themselves, their fury turned inward (13:16b). In so many ways the Day of the LORD is merely the withdrawing of God's hand to let the unrestrained sin nature of mankind run its dreadful course. The more people turn their backs on ADONAI, determined to "be themselves," to be masters of "their own world," the less human they become, and as a result, less humane.
And fourthly, their lust unleashed, they would rape each other’s wives in the resulting anarchy (13:16c). When the Day of the LORD comes, sin will take center stage as the total and complete destroyer it has always been from the Garden of Eden to this very day. Those who did not want want ADONAI will get what they wanted. They will be given up (Romans 1:24-28) to be themselves.
To many, the dashing of infants, does not seem to be anything that God would have a part in. But we need to remember that coming into the land of Canaan, Joshua was instructed by the LORD to kill every one of His enemies. Little Amalekites grow up to be big Amalekites. Saul was ordered to do the same thing in First Samuel 15: 1-3. He failed to obey ADONAI with tragic results for both the nation and himself. When God decrees a total destruction of a people, a cherem judgment (Joshua 6:21) that includes everyone – men, women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. Achin learned that lesson the hard way in Joshua 7. But some would respond, “Are we not to love one another, even our enemies (Luke 6:27)? And is this not because God is love? Can God be both loving and warlike?” A solution to this problem is required that will enable us to recognize the meaning of the conception of God the Warrior.
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or our enemies?’ ‘Neither, He replied, ‘but as commander of ADONAI’s army, I have now come.’ Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for His servant?’ The commander of the LORD’s army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so (Joshua 5:13-15).” Who was that warrior? It was a theophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. Who is the King of Glory? ADONAI, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle (Psalm 24:8). Once again we are told that God is a warrior, and when He returns to the earth a second time, with justice He judges and makes war (Revelation 19:11b), out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. . . He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of ADONAI, God of heaven’s angelic armies (Revelations 19:15 CJB).
Two points can be made. First, war appears to be an ever-present reality of historical experience, both ancient and modern. If God is King, the ultimate Ruler of human history, it is to be expected that He will stand in some kind of relationship to war. We perceive, though not always clearly, that war is a form of evil human activity in which God participates actively for the purposes of both redemption and judgment; in this participation, God is a Warrior.47 Secondly, we must be reminded that the Great Tribulation is a time of judgment. One of the purposes of it's purposes is to make an end to wickedness and wicked ones (13:9 and 24:19-20). By that future time all the opportunities for repentance will have passed. Untold millions will have accepted Christ during the Great Tribulation and been martyred (Revelation 6:9). The ones who are left will have chosen to be there. Men gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven, but they refused to repent of what they had done (Revelation 16:10-11). The results of the Day of the LORD will be clear.
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017