Prophecies about Babylon
The prophets used the word oracle or burden as a meaning of a heavy message. It is a message of weighty importance in the sense that it causes sorrow or grief. In the Hebrew, the word for burden is “Massa.” This word comes from the verb “Nasa” which means to carry or lift up the voice. From the first translation Massa comes the word burden or load and the second, Nasa comes the word oracle or utterance.
The end of Isaiah’s prophetic career was in 685 BC which was almost 100 years before Judah fell to the Babylonian Empire. (586 BC) When Isaiah wrote this prophecy Babylon was a significant nation but they were not as powerful as the Assyrians. The Lord God who knows the end of all things is able to speak of the judgment on the pride of the Babylonians many years before the judgment comes. The burden of Babylon will last until the end of Isaiah Chapter 14.
Babylon probably never heard this prophecy of Isaiah and we can only assume that it wasn’t a warning given to them. The purpose of the prophecy was then to help the people of God. It showed the people that God was a just God and would judge the wicked nations around them. Israel and Judah were feeling the pangs of God’s discipline and this prophecy is an assurance that God was not only singling them out. Also, Babylon and other nations had come against Israel and Judah, and God is showing His love for His people by announcing His vengeance against their enemies.
The Lord of Host will send His army against the Babylonians. This prophecy was spoken decades before the Babylonian Empire was a superpower on the world stage. We are given a vivid picture of this army with sights and sounds of the battle presented.
The Day of the Lord
On the Day of the Lord, God will manifest His awe-inspiring lordship over creation. When God comes in glory, humans will experience terror because all human support structures will come under His scrutiny, God alone will be exalted, while all merely human endeavors will be brought down.
The Day of the Lord is a time of retribution when God judges His enemies in wrath and fury, whether they come out of Israel< Judah, Syria, Assyria, or Babylon. The ungodly receive the punishment they deserve, while the righteous enter into their full salvation.
The full meaning of the Day of the Lord extends beyond a specific time and place. Even when the Prophet singles out a particular nation, that nation symbolizes something more significant. For example, Babylon stands for any power independent from God.
The Day of the Lord provides assurance to God’s people that God is sovereign in judging nations and people throughout human history until the last battle and the final judgment.
Judgment on the Day of the LORD
These prophetic words of Isaiah speak of the Day of Judgment against Babylon in the near future and the final judgment at the return of Jesus. The Day of the Lord is an important term in the Bible and is used 26 times in the Scriptures. It speaks not a day of judgment but a season of judgment. This is a time when the Lord will set all things right. It is as if this is man’s day but the Lord’s Day is coming.
We see several prophetic passages in the Scripture that speak of cosmic disturbances that will precede the return of Jesus. (Joel 2:10; Revelation 6:12-14; Isaiah 34:4) Jesus was probably quoting this passage from Isaiah in Mathew 24:29. “But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29(
In the near future when Babylon will be judged the people felt as if the whole world was coming apart. On the day of the return of Jesus, the whole world will be falling apart.
Babylon is identified with the world and it is not surprising that Isiah combined his vision of the judgment of Babylon with the judgment of the whole world. Babylon is mentioned 287 times in the Scriptures which is more than any other city except Jerusalem. Babylon was a real city along the banks of the Euphrates River. Babylon was the seat of civilization that has expressed organized hostility towards God. Babylon was the capital of the nation that conquered Judah. To the Judeans, Babylon was the essence of evil. “In the New Testament, the world’s system of the last days is characterized both religiously and commercially as Babylon (Revelation 17 and 18). Therefore, Babylon is a “Suitable representation . . . of the idolatrous, pagan world-system in opposition to God.” (Martin)
“Therefore I will make the heavens tremble, And the earth will be shaken from its place At the fury of the LORD of hosts In the day of His burning anger.” The Prophet Haggai and the writer of Hebrews also spoke to this thought. (Haggai 2:6; Hebrews 12:25-28) Since God can shake the earth and yet is unshakable it makes great sense to trust God even above the ground we stand upon.
The word pictures of Isaiah’s prophecy is graphic and describes the unrelenting judgment of God against Babylon and the world. There will be no escape from the unrelenting judgment of God.
Babylon Will Fall to the Medes
This prophecy of Isaiah was even more far-reaching than that of the Babylonians capture of Judah. The Babylonians had yet to conquer the Assyrians to become a world power and now their complete destruction is prophesized by the Medes. God would use the Medes as His instrument to judge Babylon. “The phrase ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’ suggests not only complete destruction but also its moral cause.” (Grogan)
Once Babylon is contoured that city of Babylon will never again be inhabited. “When Cyrus conquered Babylon, he did not devastate the city. The walls were left standing until 518 B.C., and general desolation did not set in until the third century B.C. Babylon gradually fell into decay, and the prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled. Babylon became completely depopulated by the time of the Muslim conquest in the seventh century A.D., and to this day it lies deserted.” (Wolf)
This also speaks of the ultimate fulfillment when Jesus returns to reign on earth for 1,000 years. Jesus will defeat the “world system,” (Babylon) in this sense the World System in opposition to God will never again exist.
There will be so much darkness and confusion that the animals will be affected. “Whenever therefore we behold the destruction of cities, the calamities of nations, and the overturning of kingdoms, let us call those predictions to remembrance that we may be humbled under God’s chastisements, may learn to gather wisdom from the affliction of others, and may pray for an alleviation of our own grief.” (Calvin)