The Book of Isaiah
GOD'S JUDGMENT UPON BABYLON
Text: ISAIAH 13
1. Isaiah 13—23 consists of “burdens” concerning the nations surrounding Israel. These messages of judgment come after the great Messianic prophecies of the earlier chapters of Isaiah.
2. “Burden” (13:1) means a heavy message, an oracle, a judgment.
3. Isaiah 13 deals with the judgment of Babylon, but the judgment extends far beyond the borders of Babylon. Verse 11 says, “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity…”
4. In the Bible, Babylon represents the world in all of its wickedness, arrogance, and pride (cf. Rev. 17 & 18). “Babylon” means “confusion” (cf. Scofield notes, pp. 724, 725).
I. THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BABYLON IN THE BIBLE
1. There are several other nations singled out for judgment in Isaiah 13—23. It is highly significant that Babylon should be listed first.
2. It should be noted that Babylon was not an important nation in Isaiah’s day. Babylon was an important nation in Daniel’s day but that was over 100 years later. In Daniel’s prophecy, King Nebuchadnezzar was the “head of gold” (Daniel 2:38).
3. In Isaiah 14:3, Babylon is referred to as “the golden city.”
4. But in Isaiah’s day, Babylon was a small, insignificant country, overshadowed by Assyria. And yet when Isaiah pronounced God’s destruction of Israel’s neighbors, Babylon is listed first.
5. In the Bible, Babylon is pictured as a nation controlled by Satan himself (cf. Isa. 14:4, 11—15).
6. The history of Babylon goes back to the rebelliousness that began with the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). Idolatry apparently originated in Babylon.
7. Throughout the Bible, Babylon represents everything God hates: idolatry, paganism, rebelliousness, witchcraft, pride, greed, covetousness, and unrestrained wantonness.
8. In Jeremiah 51:13, God says, “O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness.”
9. This is vividly seen in Revelation 17 & 18, where Babylon is pictured as the conglomeration of all apostate religion, political intrigue and power, and commercial greed and money-grubbing.
10. In Revelation 17 we read about the kings of the earth committing fornication with a whore, and this whore has written on her forehead: “MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”
11. This whore is drunk with the blood of the martyrs (Rev. 17:6), indicating her fierce hatred for true Christians.
12. She is sitting upon “a scarlet coloured beast” (Rev. 17:3), identifying her with Romanism and the antichrist.
13. Revelation 17 emphasizes ecclesiastical Babylon; and Rev. 18 emphasizes commercial Babylon. Both chapters stress Babylon’s political power (cf. Rev. 17:2; 18:3).
14. I believe Revelation 18:3 will be literally fulfilled very soon.
Radical proposals to reunite Anglicans with the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of the Pope are to be published this year, The Times has learnt.
The proposals have been agreed by senior bishops of both churches.
In a 42-page statement prepared by an international commission of both churches, Anglicans and Roman Catholics are urged to explore how they might reunite under the Pope. The statement, leaked to The Times, is being considered by the Vatican, where Catholic bishops are preparing a formal response.
It comes as the archbishops who lead the 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion meet in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in an attempt to avoid schism over gay ordination and other liberal doctrines that have taken hold in parts of the Western Church.
The 36 primates at the gathering will be aware that the Pope, while still a cardinal, sent a message of support to the orthodox wing of the Episcopal Church of the US as it struggled to cope with the fallout after the ordination of the gay bishop Gene Robinson.
Were this week’s discussions to lead to a split between liberals and conservatives, many of the former objections in Rome to a reunion with Anglican conservatives would disappear. Many of those Anglicans who object most strongly to gay ordination also oppose the ordination of women priests.
Rome has already shown itself willing to be flexible on the subject of celibacy when it received dozens of married priests from the Church of England into the Catholic priesthood after they left over the issue of women’s ordination.
There are about 78 million Anglicans, compared with a billion Roman Catholics, worldwide. In England and Wales, the Catholic Church is set to overtake Anglicanism as the predominant Christian denomination for the first time since the Reformation, thanks to immigration from Catholic countries.
As the Anglicans’ squabbles over the fundamentals of Christian doctrine continue — with seven of the conservative primates twice refusing to share Communion with the other Anglican leaders at their meeting in Tanzania — the Church’s credibility is being increasingly undermined in a world that is looking for strong witness from its international religious leaders.
The Anglicans will attempt to resolve their differences today by publishing a new Anglican Covenant, an attempt to provide a doctrinal statement under which they can unite. But many fear that the divisions have gone too far to be bridged and that, if they cannot even share Communion with each other, there is little hope that they will agree on a statement of common doctrine.
The latest Anglican-Catholic report could hardly come at a more sensitive time. It has been drawn up by the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, which is chaired by the Right Rev David Beetge, an Anglican bishop from South Africa, and the Most Rev John Bathersby, the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia. The commission was set up in 2000 by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey of Clifton, and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, then head of the Vatican’s Council for Christian Unity. Its aim was to find a way of moving towards unity through “common life and mission”.
The document leaked to The Times is the commission’s first statement, Growing Together in Unity and Mission. The report acknowledges the “imperfect communion” between the two churches but says that there is enough common ground to make its “call for action” about the Pope and other issues.
In one significant passage the report notes: “The Roman Catholic Church teaches that the ministry of the Bishop of Rome [the Pope] as universal primate is in accordance with Christ’s will for the Church and an essential element of maintaining it in unity and truth.” Anglicans rejected the Bishop of Rome as universal primate in the 16th century. Today, however, some Anglicans are beginning to see the potential value of a ministry of universal primacy, which would be exercised by the Bishop of Rome, as a sign and focus of unity within a reunited Church.
In another paragraph the report goes even further: “We urge Anglicans and Roman Catholics to explore together how the ministry of the Bishop of Rome might be offered and received in order to assist our Communions to grow towards full, ecclesial communion.” The report adds that special “protocols” should also be drawn up to handle the movement of clergy from one Church to the other. Other proposals include common teaching resources for children in Sunday schools and attendance at each other’s services, pilgrimages and processions. In today’s Anglican Church, it is unlikely that a majority of parishioners would wish to heal the centuries-old rift and return to Rome.
However, the stance of the Archbishop of Canterbury over the present dispute dividing his Church gives an indication of how priorities could be changing in light of the gospel imperative towards church unity.
Dr Rowan Williams, who as Primate of the Church of England is its “focus for unity”, has in the past supported a liberal interpretation of Scripture on the gay issue. But he has made it clear that church unity must come before provincial autonomy. A logical extension of that, once this crisis is overcome either by agreement or schism, would be to seek reunion with the Church of England's own mother Church.
15. Next will come the Lutherans, then the Methodists, then the Pentecostals, and soon all of the various denominations will fill up the devil’s cage of unclean and hateful birds (Rev. 18:2).
16. But God says, “Come out” (Rev. 18:4. 5; II Cor. 6:14—7:1); not “Come in.”
II. THE PAST JUDGMENT OF BABYLON
1. The LORD Himself “mustered the host of the battle” (Isa. 13:4).
2. Babylon’s enemies would “come from a far country” (13:5), i.e., Media and Persia (13:17). The Medes and Persians were “sanctified” (13:3), i.e. set apart by God to punish Babylon.
3. In Isaiah 44:28, the LORD calls Cyrus, the king of Persia, “my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure.” This was predicted about 175 years beforehand.
4. In Isaiah 45:1, the LORD calls Cyrus “His anointed.”
5. Ancient Babylon fell in 539 BC, when it was captured by Cyrus, the king of Persia, and Darius the Mede. The Persians diverted the Euphrates River into a canal so that the water level dropped, allowing the invading forces to enter the city at night through the riverbed.
6. This too was prophesied ahead of time by the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote, “A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols” (Jeremiah 50:38).
III. THE FUTURE JUDGMENT OF BABYLON
1. The destruction of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians (cf. Daniel 5) prefigures the final destruction of Babylon at the second coming of Christ (cf. Rev. 19:1-6).
2. The imagery of a woman travailing in labor is seen a number of times in the Bible (Isa. 13:7, 8). Isaiah uses the same terminology in 21:3 and 26:17. It is also used in Jeremiah 6:24 and Micah 4:9, 10.
3. It is found in the NT also. “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape” (I Thess. 5:3).
4. In His Olivet Discourse, our Lord spoke of religious deception, false messiahs, wars and rumours of wars, famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. And then He said in Matthew 24:8, “All these are the beginning of sorrows (literally, “birth pains”).
5. By comparing Isaiah 13:10 with other prophecies such as Joel 2:31, Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12, we know these prophecies describe the coming tribulation period – “the day of the LORD” (13:6, 9).
6. Babylon was the greatest kingdom that ever existed upon this earth. It was the head of gold, far superior to the breast and arms of silver; far superior to the belly and thighs of brass; and far superior to the legs of iron, with feet part of iron and part of clay.
7. Babylon truly is “the glory of kingdoms” and “the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency” (Isa. 13:19), but God will overthrow Babylon like He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.
8. Jeremiah 51:41 says, “And how is the praise of the whole earth surprised! How is Babylon become an astonishment among the nations!”
9. Babylon was overthrown but it’s overthrow was not like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. This prophecy awaits a future fulfillment (Rev. 18).
10. There is some debate over whether or not the literal city of Babylon will be rebuilt, only to be totally destroyed when Christ returns (Isa. 13:20-22).
11. Saddam Hussein tried to rebuild the city of Babylon but was unsuccessful. The US Marines took over Saddam’s huge, gaudy Babylonian palace in April of 2003. (Our troops discovered Saddam hiding in a hole in the ground in December of 2003.)
12. Revelation 17:5 refers to “MYSTERY BABYLON,” suggesting that literal ancient Babylon may not be rebuilt.
13. Rev. 17:9 refers to a city on seven mountains (Rome). And Rev. 17:18 refers to “that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.” John wrote that about 96 AD. That could only be Rome.
14. Alexander the Great considered rebuilding Babylon, but instead he died there at the age of 32. In 20 BC, the Greek historian Strabo described Babylon as a “vast desolation” (cf. Isaiah 13:20).
15. It is possible that the literal city of Babylon could be rebuilt in the future, between now and the tribulation.
16. “It is not at all unlikely that part of the Antichristian policy of defiance of God, will be the resuscitation of the great city, and that the prophecy of this passage in Isaiah will then have its complete fulfillment. See also Revelation 18” (W. E. Vine, Isaiah).
1. Isaiah prophesied that Babylon would be inhabited by wild beasts, doleful creatures, owls, and dragons (13:21, 22).
2. That sounds desolate and rather spooky, but he also says, “And satyrs (literally, “demonic goat-men”) shall dance there” (Isa. 13:21b).
3. J. Vernon McGee wrote, “several archaeologists of the past who have excavated Babylon say that they were never able to get the Arabians to stay in the camp besides the ruins. The Arabians would always go outside the area and stay” (Thru the Bible, cf. Isa. 13:20).
4. The same Hebrew word is translated “devils” in Leviticus 17:7 and II Chronicles 11:15. This corresponds with Revelation 18:2.
5. “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”