Our reading today begins with an oracle against Babylon. Similarly to how God will bring Assyria against Israel and Babylon against Judah, so will He will summon Persia (the Medes of 13:17) against Babylon (13:2-3). In verse 4-5, He describes great kingdoms coming against each other in battle, both from the end of the heavens and the earth. Here is where Biblical prophecy holds a dual fulfillment. While this is talking about the Medo-Persian Empire coming against Babylon, history (and the Bible – see Daniel 5:30-31) tells us that there wasn’t much of a battle for Persia to overtake Babylon as the dominant world power.
So what is the ultimate fulfillment? It is the day of Christ’s return when He comes with His holy ones from heaven to defeat both wicked man and wicked angel (see Zech 14:5, Jude 14). This is evident from verse 6 where a discussion of “the Day of the Lord” is picked up. This refers to the final judgment and restoration (the “in that day” we have considered already). Here, judgment is in view. Man will be powerless to stand against this heavenly “army” (v. 7). The agony and anguish (v. 8). will be for sinners (v. 9). In verse 10, we see a common picture of judgment: the stars, sun, and moon being darkened (see Matt 24:29-31 and Rev 6:12-14), which may be a metaphor for the “end of time,” as the heavenly bodies mark off time (see Gen 1:14-19). This is the final judgment (vv. 11-12). In verse 13 we see another common metaphor for the final judgment: a great earthquake (see Like 21:11, Rev 6:12, 8:5, 11:13, 16:18). In verse 16, the idea of infants being dashed in pieces refers to the completeness of the destruction (see Ps 137:9).
Then, with no segue, the prophecy again turns to the Medo-Persian empire as agents of judgment against Babylon (who is often used as a general description of all wicked mankind – see Rev 18:10 and below). The Persians don’t want plunder, they want destruction (vv. 17-18). So thorough will the destruction of Babylon be that they will be as Sodom and Gomorrah (vv. 19), completely desolate (vv. 20-22).
Chapter 14 then focuses on the restoration. Note that this is about both Israel and Judah, to whom sojourners will attach themselves (14:1). This is, as we have seen, a reference to the church. This restoration is the final restoration when we rule with Christ in the New Heaven and the New Earth (v. 2). What is described in this verse never happened for physical Israel. The “taunt against Babylon” in verse 4 is speaking of the reprobate and the powers of darkness universally. Verses 4b-6 speak of their judgment. Verse 7 speaks of the restoration of the elect. The creation itself is said to taunt the wicked in verses 8-11.
However, there is more in view here. This is also a taunt against the prince of darkness, Satan. In that day, he will be judged along with all the fallen angels and wicked man (v. 10-11). He is the oppressor in verse 4, the ruler of the nations in verse 6, and the enemy of the world that rejoices in verses 8-9. Then it gets more specific in verse 121. He has “fallen from heaven.” He was expelled from the dwelling place of God, where heaven met earth, along with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (see Gen 3). And he was expelled from heaven permanently when Christ finished His work at His first advent (see John 12:31 and Rev 12:7-9).
In verses 13-14 we have a description of Satan’s sin against God2. He wanted to be worshiped instead of YHWH (which Adam and Eve fell for!). But it ended up being his destruction (v. 15). In that day, when he is judged along with the rest of the wicked, he will be brought so low that it will be hard to imagine that he is the oppressor that has held the kingdom of the world under his thumb (vv. 16-17). He will suffer in hell with the rest of the wicked (v. 19).
But there is overlap with the king of Babylon in this prophecy. Persia will overtake Babylon so easily that men will wonder what happened to Babylon’s power (vv. 16-17). The king will fall and not be buried like a king (vv. 18-20). His house will be cut off (v. 21). In verse 22, we see that Babylon is back in full view, and that the Persian victory is really the sovereign work of God (vv. 23-24).
Isaiah then offers an oracle against Assyria. He will sovereignly remove Assyria from power (vv. 24-25), like He will sovereignly judge the whole world (“all the nations”) in verse 26. Both are purposed by God, and His will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Isaiah then turns to the Philistines. They should not rejoice that Israel and Judah are going to be judged, for they will be judged (v. 29). And unlike God’s people, they will be left no remnant (v. 30). The promise of this remnant is restated in verse 32. Of all the nations He will judge, God will preserve only His people.
1 The Latin translation of “Day Star” from verse 12 is where we get the name “Lucifer” for Satan.
2 The “mount of assembly” in verse 13 refers to Eden, the first “mountain of God” – see Ezekiel 28:13-16.