Babylon falls so that Israel can rise
Following destruction of Babylon, God will show mercy to His chosen people ethno-religious Israel and return her to her land, prospering her in peace and subduing her oppressors so that Israel will rule over those who had taken her captive.
This chapter contains prophecies of the restoration of the Jews, of the fall of the king of Babylon, and the destruction of the Assyrian empire, and the ruin of the Pilishtiym (immigrants). Proselytes will join the dispersed Jews and even aid their return to the land of Israel. Subsequently those who join themselves to Israel will serve her in the land and in many cases they will be the descendants of her oppressors. Thus Israel will rule over her captors. Israel will find rest in God and freedom from the fear and suffering she experienced under bondage.
As a result of her redemption and security in God, Israel will take up a song, share a parable, make a proclamation; concerning the fall of the king of Babylon. Israel’s song will echo throughout the nations and others will rejoice at hearing it. For the tyrant that once oppressed Israel and the nations will be brought down to Sheol, the holding place of the departed.
Following the parable spoken against the king of Babylon, prophecies of destruction are issued against Assyria and the Pilishtiym (immigrants) who have come against the people of Israel and their land. It is as if, with the seat of confusion (Babylon) destroyed, the progeny of her wickedness (Assyria and Philistia) are without sustenance from the root of confusion and therefore, perish.
Finally, those who ask how all this has come about are given the answer, “HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has founded Tziyon (Zion: parched land), and the humble of His people will seek refuge in it.”
Isa 14:1 For yeracheim mercy born of love HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) will show to Yaakov (Follower), u-vachar and will decide for, elect, choose od (perpetually going round) be’Yisrael on Israel (Overcomes in God), ve-hiniycham and rest them upon their own ad’matah soil: and join to them ha-geir (foreigners in Israel) the sojourners, and they shall cleave (attach themselves) to the house of Yaakov (Follower).
Mercy will show loving mercy to the follower and will choose him perpetually, living in the one who overcomes through God: the follower will rest securely in his own land and people from other tribes will join themselves to his tribe because of what Mercy has done.
The Holy Name denotes mercy. Therefore, it is Mercy Himself Who shows mercy to Yaakov the follower. The text doesn’t just say that God will “choose Yaakov” but that He will “perpetually choose Yaakov”. Rather than replace or supersede Yaakov, God will continually choose him throughout time and if other nations wish to be delivered by being chosen, they must attach themselves to Yaakov. It is attachment to and not replacement of Israel, that is the essence of the writings of Rav Shaul in his letter to the Roman believers of the first century CE.
Numerous English translations render the Hebrew “od” as “again”, which conveys only a derivative attribute of the word. In fact the Hebrew “od” literally means to go round continually. In short, it is best represented in English by the word “perpetually”. Therefore, while it is true that God chooses Israel again, the greater illumination of that truth is that He consistently and perpetually chooses her.
The Hebrew “geir” refers specifically to resident aliens. Meaning those who choose to live peacefully in the land among the community of Israel. Many of the instructions of the Torah make allowances for those who are not ethnically Jewish but live among the Jewish people. There is an important distinction to be made here between those who favour Israel from afar and those who live in the land as aliens who love and support her. The present text is referring to the latter.
Jewish commentators such as Kimchi and Ben Melech apply these verses to the times of the Messiah; and Yarchi to the Olam Haba (world to come), when Israel is to be redeemed with a perfect redemption.
Isa 14:2 And the amiym peoples shall take hold of them, ve-heviyum and enter together to mekomam their place: and the house of Yisrael (Overcomes in God) will possess them in adamat the land of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) for servants and handmaids: and it comes to pass that the captives will capture their captors; and they shall rule over their oppressors.
In this verse Isaiah further illuminates his former prophecy regarding the Messianic age when people from the nations will flock to the mountain of the Lord in order to learn to walk in His ways (Isa. 2:2-4).
Note that it is “amiym” rather than “goyim” that take hold of Yaakov and help him return to enter into the land of Israel and go up to “mekomam” their place. It is tribal groups from within the nations rather than the nation, who will cleave to Yaakov. More specifically, given the present context of the prophecy, these peoples are residents of Babylon who will help Jews escape and return to the land of Israel. A comparative edict from Cyrus of Persia was later made in fulfilment of what Jeremiah had spoken:
“And whosoever remains in any place where he sojourns, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” -Ezra 1:4
“Mekomam” their place, is a reference to the Temple mount “Makoom”.
This aspect of the prophecy has never been fully realized politically speaking. However, it is intrinsically linked to the Messianic theme of Isaiah and the other prophets of the Tanakh (Isa. 2:2-4; 52:10; 54:2-5; 55:5; Mic. 4:1-4; Zech. 8:2-23).
In the present chapter we see a concise revelation of what is prophesied in chapters 46-66. That is, “Babylon falls, that Israel may rise!” -Delitzsch
Isa 14:3 And it comes to pass beyom in that day, ha-niyach the rest (comfort) of HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) lecha will come to you meiatz’becha from your sorrow (pain, idol), and from ha-avdah your labour and hard bondage under which you were made to work.
The hard bondage of the Babylonian exile is likened to that of the bondage Israel suffered in Egypt. Once again the deliverance and rest of Israel rests on Hashem.
Notice that the comfort of Hashem will come to Israel both in compensation for and as a result of her bondage and suffering. The text says that the rest and mercy of Hashem will come to Israel “From” her suffering.
“…we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” -Romans 5:3
Our rest is born of Messiah’s suffering.
Isa 14:4 And all of you will nasa take up, carry, bear ha-mashal the parable, proverb, poem against the king of Bavel (Babylon: confusion), and say, “How has the oppressor ceased? Ceasing Madheivah his boisterous rage!
The Hebrew “nasa” carry or take up, is related to “neis” banner, miraculous sign. Thus, Israel is to take up and publically display this parable (mashal) of God’s goodness and redemption in His destruction of Babylon (figuratively, the seat of Satan’s power).
Though the text may refer to a specific Babylonian king (possibly Belshazzar), it none the less speaks against any and all satanic rulers of empire in history past, present and future. It is the seat of satanic power that is ultimately being spoken against.
We note that in a remez (hint) concerning the name of Bavel, that we read “And all of Israel will take up and proclaim this parable against the king of confusion.”
The rhetorical question, “How has the oppressor ceased?” is answered in the power and majesty of God Himself.
Isa 14:5 HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has broken in pieces mateih the staff, branch, tribe of the wicked ones, and sheivet the root, sceptre, tribe, rod of the rulers.
God will break the staff of the wicked and their oppressive rule (Specifically Babylon), the branch of their direct progeny and the entire tribe associated to them. He will also remove kingly authority from the seat of Satan’s power, never to allow rulers to come forth from it again.
Isa 14:6 He who struck the amiym peoples (tribes) in wrath with a continual striking, he that ruled the goyim nations in anger, is persecuted, and no one prevents it.
This verse describes the wicked actions of the king of Babylon and his open hatred for all the tribes (peoples) of the earth. He struck down tribes within nations and continued to strike nations in his unfounded anger. He persecuted many and few had the courage to stop him, nor were the courageous able to. This, though specific to the king of Babylon, is a description of every evil tyrant the world has or will know. It is ultimately a figure for Satan.
Isa 14:7 Nachah restful (comforting) shaktah tranquillity (quietness) is over all ha-aretz the land/earth: he breaks out with a ringing cry.
“Ha-aretz” can be translated either “Land” or “earth” here.” Land is acceptable because in the context of Israel’s parable against the king of Babylon it makes sense that they are thoughtful of their own land. On the other hand, tribes and nations are mentioned and the reign of the Babylonian Empire engulfed the entire middle east, therefore, it might just as well be translated “earth”.
Ultimately, the rest, peace, comfort, tranquillity and quietness over the earth, is the direct result of God’s destruction of the king of Babylon and his empire, both literally and figuratively.
“And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.” -revelation 19:20
Thus, the land/earth breaks out in song. This personification denotes the redemption and reconciliation of all things.
“For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” -Romans 8:19
Isa 14:8 Also , the fir trees rejoice at you, the cedars of Le’vanon (witness) saying, “Since you are asleep (have been laid down), no one has ascended to cut us down to the ground.”
Since the destruction of Babylon and its allies, no armies have entered the land of Israel to besiege its cities. Therefore, the trees of Lebanon to the north have not been cut down for use as siege towers and battering rams etc.
Figuratively the towering trees unfelled represent abundance and health in the land. They prosper in times of peace and in personified form they rejoice at the coming redemption of all things. Isaiah is very fond of personifying trees and seems to have had a special love for creation (Isa. 1:29, 30; 2:13; 6:13; 9:10; 10:18; 17:7; 32:15; 41:19; 55:13).
The euphemism “laid down” refers to temporal death. Yeshua used this same euphemism to refer to death of the body.
“Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” -Yochanan (John) 11:11
Isa 14:9 Sheol (Holding place of the departed) from beneath quakes for you to meet you as you enter: it stirs up for you the raphaiym spirits, all the he goats (chief ones) of the aretz earth; it has raised up from their thrones all the kings of the goyim nations. Isa 14:10 All of them will speak and say to you, “Have you also become as weak as we are? Have you become like us?
The next three verses are an excellent example for distinguishing between the holding place of the departed and the grave, which in Hebrew are two entirely different things. Sheol, the holding place of the departed is far beneath, and is a spiritual place that is cut off from all ties to this world. Ha-kever, the grave, on the other hand is the physical resting place of the body, devoid of but intrinsically linked to, the spirit/soul. Ancient Jews, and in fact many Jewish communities still to this day, inter the bodies of their dead in above ground mausoleums and or box like stone or concrete coverings. There are many examples of this in Scripture, including the interment of Avraham in the cave of Machpelah (Gen. 50:13) and the interment of the bones of Elisha (2 Kings 13:21).
In ancient times kings were met by the royalty of the cities they entered, usually with celebration of alliance in the case of allies and with humility and subservience in the case of the conquered. Here however, the king of Babylon will be met in Sheol by the spirits of departed kings who he once ruled over as a tyrant. They will greet him with taunting and mock his mortal frailty.
The phrase “He goats” is a metaphor for a chief or tribal ruler, in the sense that the strongest male is usually head of the flock.
“Raphayim”, means “feeble ones” or “spirits” as in departed spirits who are no longer inhabiting their earthly bodies. These spirits are bound to the realm of Sheol. Thus, “raised up” is written in the context of Sheol. They are raised up within Sheol from their fallen thrones.
Isa 14:11 Descending to Sheol (not the grave [Kever] but the place of the dead) is your majesty, the noise of your nevaleycha skin bag, pitcher, instrument: beneath you is a bed of maggots, and covering you are scarlet female worms.
“For when he dies he shall carry nothing away;
His glory shall not descend after him.” -Tehillim (Psalm) 49:17
Isa 14:12 How have you fallen from the heavens, heiyleil Shinning one, self-praising one, ben shachar son of the dawn? Cut down la’aretz to the ground, earth, land: choleish prostrated in weakness al-goyim upon the nations!
In a literary sense this verse refers to the king of Babylon. The text is figurative and alludes to his pompous pride and arrogant claims. The Babylonians worshipped numerous gods, chief among them being in the heavens. The morning star, that is the brightest star in the morning sky (Venus) was an enviable position for the king of Babylon and in his pride he likened himself to it. However, in the figurative language of the text he is said to be brought down from his high horse and laid prostrate in weakness before the nations he had once ruled over.
There are some who see a remez (hint) in this text and make a comparison to Satan being like an angel of light. While this is not the p’shat (plain meaning), it does have some weight to it. Yeshua may be alluding to this text when He says:
“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” -Luke 10:18
Isa 14:13 For you have said vile’vavecha in your inner being, heart, “Into the heavens I will ascend, I will exalt my throne above the stars of El (God: Judge): I will sit also upon the mount of the moeid appointed place (place of convocation and gathering), in the sides of the north:
Once again with dramatic hyperbole the proud ranting of the king of Babylon sees him exalting himself even above the stars (symbolic of angels) of the Supreme God El-Elyon, the God of all things. The Har-moeid mount of appointed gatherings, is a reference to the Temple mount in Jerusalem. Thus the king of Babylon boasts with the vilest of blasphemes, that he is greater than the God of Israel, Creator of the heavens and the earth.
Pride is the fruit of self-deification. Idolatry is the root of all sin. The boast of the king of Babylon is a satanic one. It is the very definition of anti-Messiah. Thus, figuratively speaking this text is alluding to the man of perdition, the anti-Messiah who will come in the latter days.
“Let no man deceive you by any means: for except there comes a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. Who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.” – 2 Thessalonians 2:5
In the Targum of Yonatan the last part of the verse reads:
"over the people of God I will put the throne of my kingdom;''
Isa 14:14 I will ascend upon the high place of the av dark clouds; I will be like le’Elyon the most High.
“I will ascend above all people… I will be higher than them all.” -Targum Yonatan
Isa 14:15 Surely to Sheol you will descend, to the extremity of the pit.
The plain meaning again refers to the king of Babylon and his literal death. The figure continues to show the demise of satanic power. In which case Sheol becomes a precursor to the second death.
“Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone.” -Revelation 19:20
“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” -Revelation 20:10
Isa 14:16 They that see you will gaze sharply at you, and with discernment say, “Is this ha-iysh the man that made ha-aretz the land, earth to tremble, that shook kingdoms?
The man is literally the king of Babylon and figuratively the anti-Messiah (man of perdition).
Isa 14:17 Who made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities within; refusing to open the house of his prisoners?”
This describes the horrific nature of the destruction that the king of Babylon brought to the cities of the earth. Those he imprisoned suffered a fate worse than death, never to see the light of day again.
Isa 14:18 All the kings of the goyim nations, all of them together, lie in glory, each one in his own house.
This means that the kings of these nations remained interred in their original burial places within their homelands awaiting the resurrection. “Glory” refers to their memory and their graves being honoured.
Isa 14:19 But you are cast out of your kever grave like a weed, and like the clothing of the slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
We notice that the king of Babylon is cast out of his grave (kever), not out of Sheol (Holding place of the departed). This means that his enemies will dig up his grave and desecrate his remains, treading him under foot. This is the ultimate act of desecration over the dead.
Isa 14:20 You will not be teichad joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, slain your people: do not recite the seed of evildoers.
The king of Babylon will not join the kings of the earth in honourable burial because unlike them he did not honour his own people. Thus his subjects took part in desecrating his body. One is reminded of modern history and the mockery and torture of Gadhafi when he was captured and subsequently killed and his body desecrated, all caught on film for the world to see.
The phrase, “Do not recite the seed of the evildoers” means, “Don’t recount the lineage of the wicked”.
Isa 14:21 Firmly established is the children’s matbeiach slaughtering place because of the iniquity of their fathers; they will not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.
This is an instruction to the Medes and Persians to prepare themselves for the slaughter of the whole royal family, Belshazzar and all his children.
In a figurative sense it means the slaughter of all wickedness born of the seat of Satan’s temporal earthly power.
Isa 14:22 “For I will rise up against them”, says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Who goes to war, of hosts), “and cut off from Bavel (Babylon: confusion) the name, and remnant, and offspring, and posterity”, says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy). Isa 14:23 “I will also appoint it a possession for the porcupine, ve-agmei mayim and troubled pools of water: and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction”, says HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Who goes to war, of hosts).
Here it is not the Medes who rise against Babylon but God Himself. This strengthens the figurative message that HaShem Tzevaot will go to war against evil and annihilate it, removing it forever from the eternal world of the righteous.
Isa 14:24 HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Who goes to war, of hosts) has sworn, saying, “Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand”:
What God has firmly established cannot be thwarted.
Isa 14:25 “I will break Ashur (a step) the Assyrian in be’artziy My land, and upon My mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders”.
Now, having destroyed the root, Hashem turns to the fruit of the seat of evil, the other nations who have come against Israel and her God. The Assyrians who have invaded Israel and sought her destruction will be stamped out on the very mountains they presumed to occupy and as a result the burden of oppression suffered by the Jewish people will be removed.
The “yoke” can also refer to false teaching or the yoke of the teaching of foreign religions and spirituality. Thus, false gods and beliefs will be removed from Israel when Assyria is destroyed.
Isa 14:26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon col-ha-aretz the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all ha-goyim the nations.
All nations who act as Assyria has against Israel and against God will perish in like manner.
Isa 14:27 For HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) Tzevaot (Who goes to war, of hosts) has purposed, and who shall frustrate it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?
HaShem has perpetually purposed the redemption of Israel and the destruction of her enemies. No one can prevent what He has firmly established outside of time and space.
Isa 14:28 In the year that king Achaz (He has grasped) died was ha-masa this burden.
Achaz died approximately 715 BCE. The burden is the word against Philistia (immigrants) who dwell in the land of Israel.
Isa 14:29 Do not rejoice, you whole Peleshet (Land of immigrants), because the rod of him that struck you is broken: for out of the root of the nachash serpent shall come forth tzepa an adder, and his fruit saraph a fiery flying serpent.
The Pilishtiym, according to Genesis 10:14 (1 Chronicles 1:12) were a Hamitic people. Sometime during the second millennium BCE they came into Canaan from Caphtor (Crete) and settled along the southwestern coast of Israel below the territory of Judah.
Both historically and because this follows directly after the prophecy against Assyria, it is possible that the “rod of him that struck you” refers to the Assyrians. Another possibility is that it refers to Babylon, which makes more sense in light of the figurative language used regarding the serpent.
Whomever the enemy of the Pilishtiym may have been, the point is that from the remnant of that enemy an even deadlier foe will come against them and finally the deadliest of foes, as the progression of snake types shows.
Isa 14:30 And the firstborn of the poor will feed, and the needy will lie down in safety: and I will kill your root with famine, and he will slay your remnant.
The poor among the Jews who Philistia persecuted will receive food and Israel will lie down in peace while HaShem brings famine on the Pilishtiym and will wipe them out through the fiery serpent of the previous verse.
Isa 14:31 Heiliyliy Howl, O gate; cry, O city; you, whole Peleshet (Land of immigrants), dissolved: for there will come from the north a smoke, and there will be no straggler in his appointed times.
The confederacy of Philistia was made up of Ekron, Gath, Ashdod, Ashkelon and Gaza. Thus “the whole of Philistia” will be dissolved. The enemy coming from the north is unknown, but the description is similar to that of the Assyrian army as it approached to invade Israel (Isa. 5:26-27).
The Pilishtiym are mentioned for the last time by Zechariah (9:6). Thus Isaiah’s prophecy of their disappearance from history without a trace became a reality.
Isa 14:32 What answer will be given to malachiy-goy the messengers of the nation? That HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has founded Tziyon (Zion: parched land), and the humble of His people will seek refuge in it.
Nations will seek answers for the miraculous deliverance and prosperity of Israel. One answer will be given:
“HaShem (YHVH: Mercy) has yesad founded Tziyon (Zion: parched land), and the humble of His people will seek refuge in it.”
The Hebrew “yesad” is from the root “yasad”, meaning founded, fixed, established, foundation. It is used in numerous scriptures in reference to the establishing/founding of the earth itself (Psalm 78:69; 119:90; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 45:18; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15).
“The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;” -Proverbs 3:19
The founding of Zion (The Holy mountain, Land and people of Israel) rests in YHVH the LORD. The answer is, that the least of peoples (Israel) have been established and find refuge due to the pre-ordained and sacred choice of God. We are who we are because He has loved us with an everlasting love. The answer is that we always have a place of shelter and refuge to return to, He is the Rock of our refuge, the fierce warrior of our protection, the humble King of sacrifice and the resurrection of the dead.
But be warned, only “the humble among his people seek refuge in mount Zion”.
Without humility, no one can come to God.
Copyright 2018 Yaakov Brown
Spiritual leader of Beth Melekh Community, Auckland, Aotearoa, N.Z.