Friday, June 21, 2013

Isaiah 14: 20-23

20 “You will not be united with them in burial,
Because you have ruined your country,
You have slain your people.
May the offspring of evildoers not be mentioned forever.
21 “Prepare for his sons a place of slaughter
Because of the iniquity of their fathers.
They must not arise and take possession of the earth
And fill the face of the world with cities.”

22 “I will rise up against them,” declares the Lord of hosts, 
“and will cut off from Babylon name and survivors, 
offspring and posterity,” declares the Lord.
23 “I will also make it a possession for the hedgehog and swamps of water, 
and I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” declares the Lord of hosts.

[Next Wednesday is our official study break. But, as you can tell, I am having difficulty with the summer schedule. There is definitely a different rhythm at the homestead when the kids are around. It's been really tough to write with focus this week. A little late, but we're gettin' it done!....]

All songs have to end at some point, and this is the finish of the taunt-song of Babylon. But even as the people's verses close, God Himself picks up the themes, continuing to spell out the nation's doom.

As we pick up with verse 20, we recall that former kings of the nations, now in Sheol, are at first shocked and then mockingly critical of the king of Babylon, who has come to take up residence alongside them. But, as we read, "You will not be united with them...." Remember what we read last week, that as the "kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb (vs. 18) have been cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch." (vs. 19) This king is at a level that none have fathomed.

"...And what did he get by that, when the wealth of the land and the multitude of the people are the strength and honour of the prince, who never rules so safely, so gloriously, as in the hearts and affections of the people? But tyrants sacrifice their interests to their lusts and passions; and God will reckon with them for their barbarous usage of those who are under their power, whom they think they may use as they please."
 --Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

This is a king who had such little regard for the people defending and supporting him that he killed them and "ruined his (your) country." (vs. 20) Even the kings of Sheol received an appropriate burial--each to his own tomb. But not so this king, who will be laid to rest "like a trampled corpse." (vs. 19)

"To be denied decent burial is a disgrace, which, if it be inflicted for righteousness’ sake (as Ps. 79:2), may, as other similar reproaches, be rejoiced in (Matt. 5:12); it is the lot of the two witnesses, Rev. 11:9. But if, as here, it be the just punishment of iniquity, it is an intimation that evil pursues impenitent sinners beyond death, greater evil than that, and that they shall rise to everlasting shame and contempt."
--Matthew Henry

The shame of the king of Babylon will not be trampled out with his body; it will remain within his family. The NASB has the end of verse 20 and the beginning of verse 21 written in the plural--multiple kings and multiple sons, implying, to me that this is a general principle of the Word. As such, it is also applied to one as corrupt as the king of Babylon. We need only revisit the words of the Ten Commandments to remember God's direction on this:

"You shall not worship them [idols, graven images] or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me...."
--Exodus 20:5 (emphasis mine)

Bottom line is that sin is costly, especially without a Savior in the picture. The places we fall short are oftentimes those very same places that can be seen in our children. Not that we are responsible for the consequences of our children's sin, but if we aren't training them up in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6), we are in a position of contributing to the furtherance of our own sinful nature down through the generations. All of this designates the king of Babylon in the position of not being remembered and facing eternal life in "a place of slaughter." (vs. 21)

Another reason the family line is to come to an end is that evil sons in power breed evil cities with more evil people (vs. 21). Certainly we can see this modeled in Babylon through Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Had God not intervened and shut down Babylon at the Belshazzar dinner party, who knows how far awry things would have been, not only for Israel but for the rest of the world? Matthew Henry notes that it was Nimrod, great-grandson of Noah, who grew in stature through the acquisition of cities for his kingdom (beginning with Babel!). "Pharaoh oppressed Israel in Egypt by setting them to build cities, Exod. 1:11," he said. The sons of the king of Babylon will face a demise in which there is no ability to build an evil empire.

And with that, the taunt-song ends! No long-held high note or cymbal crash at the end of verse 21. Instead, God steps in, speaking with the beginning of verse 22, reiterating that He will not stand for a king of Babylon regime and will "cut off" any remembrance of that line, through offspring or note of posterity. Again, this is not an action unique to one of the king of Babylon, thus showing consistency in God's actions. The reigns of the Jeroboams in Israel met a similar fate:

"...Therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone."
--I Kings 14:10

God pulled the "broom of destruction" (vs. 23) from His closet in a wave of renewal. There will be not a Babylon dust bunny remaining! Unlike Israel, for which, as we know, a remnant will be preserved, even in the midst of God's cleansing.

Exploration of this passage comes at the same time my daughter and I have been in discussions over the nature of God. She is often frustrated that God's grace and merciful spirit are highlighted in teaching and materials more so than His wrath and fury, as if those didn't exist any more. I appreciate that she has this view, because God is an all-consuming fire! But my daughter doesn't fully understand the how's and why's of His use of wrath [as if anybody truly does? Uh uh....]. She doesn't see it as particularly fair that some people receive this punishment while others get off, seemingly, scot-free. I found Matthew Henry's commentary noteworthy:
"The providence of God consults the welfare of nations more than we are aware of by cutting off some who, if they had lived, would have done mischief. Justly may the enemies cut off the children: For I will rise up against them, saith the Lord of hosts (Isa. 14:22), and if God reveal it as his mind that he will have it done, as none can hinder it, so none need scruple to further it."
--Matthew Henry

Not necessarily a satisfactory answer for a young teenager, but something to ponder all the same. [Because Mama doesn't have an answer for everything!]

Final note concerning verse 23:
"I will also make it a possession for the hedgehog and swamps of water...."

There seems to be a translation issue with 'hedgehog.' I was wondering what the significance of the hedgehog might have been in this passage. You never know what you'll find when you start exploring word choices. So, I find that the passage probably doesn't refer to a hedge-scouring mammal but to a water bird. The King James Version uses 'bittern' for 'hedgehog'. A bittern is "a solitary bird, frequenting marshy ground," according to Easton's Bible Dictionary. "The Hebrew word (kippod) thus rendered in the Authorized Version [bittern] is rendered 'porcupine' in the Revised Version."

So why is bittern better, perhaps? There's a note in my study Bible about what happened the night Belshazzar was killed:

"One ancient account alleged that Persia's General Ugbaru had troops dig a trench to divert and thus lower the waters of the Euphrates River. Since the river flowed through the city of Babylon, the lowered water enabled besiegers to unexpectedly invade via the waterway under the thick walls and reach the palace before the city was aware."

Notes in the Amplified Bible support this account, saying that the area around Babylon became flooded, allowing for the development of marshy areas and, thus, creatures that would support a marshy environment, like bitterns. Verse 23 might well relate to that picture of Babylon post-Belshazzar, though we know that, ultimately, the "broom of destruction" will be a permanent clean sweep.

An official study break next week (and a renewed focus on the schedule, let's hope!).... 'Til next Wednesday a week from now!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 14: 24-27
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Isaiah 14: 16-19

16 “Those who see you will gaze at you,
They will ponder over you, saying,
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
17 Who made the world like a wilderness
And overthrew its cities,
Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?’
18 “All the kings of the nations lie in glory,
Each in his own tomb.
19 “But you have been cast out of your tomb
Like a rejected branch,

Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,
Who go down to the stones of the pit
Like a trampled corpse.

The Sheol serenade continues this week, its residents dumbfounded at the appearance of the King of Babylon. Even though they are surprised, the chant they sing takes a mocking turn. They recognize that, even though in Sheol, they received a king's burial. Not so this newcomer, who is "cast out of your tomb" and buried "like a trampled corpse." (vs 19) [More on the significance of this final treatment next post.]

Our text today isn't particularly challenging from a study standpoint. What makes this so interesting for me, though, is something my Canadian bloggy friend intimated in comments after last week's post. This week in particular--see if you agree with me, Carmen--contrast this description of the King of Babylon with what Scripture says about God or Jesus Christ. Pretty remarkable contrast....

King of Babylon:
"'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms...." (vs. 16)
Jesus Christ: 
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)

King of Babylon:
"Who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities...." (vs. 17)
"You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years...." (Deuteronomy 8:2a)

King of Babylon:
"Who did not allow his prisoners to go home?'...." (vs. 17)
Jesus Christ: 
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed...." (Luke 4:18, Jesus speaking from Isaiah 61) 

King of Babylon:
“All the kings of the nations lie in glory, each in his own tomb." (vs. 18)
Jesus Christ:
"Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.... 'They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him....' Jesus said to her, 'Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God."'" (John 20: 1 and 2; 17)

King of Babylon:
"But you have been cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch...." (vs. 19)
Jesus Christ:
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." (John 15: 5 and 6)

King of Babylon:
"Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword...." (vs. 19)
Jesus Christ:
"To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen." (Revelation 1: 5b-7)

King of Babylon:
"Who go down to the stones of the pit like a trampled corpse." (vs. 19)
"Bless the Lord, O my soul....":

"Who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion...." (Psalm 103:4)

For me, regardless of to whom "King of Babylon" refers, the text makes no doubt that he is as far from Jesus as one could be.


The dirge is done in a couple more verses, but the Chapter continues.... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 14: 16-19
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Isaiah 14: 10-15

10 “They will all respond and say to you,
‘Even you have been made weak as we,
You have become like us.
11 ‘Your pomp and the music of your harps
Have been brought down to Sheol;
Maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you
And worms are your covering.’
12 “How you have fallen from heaven,
O star of the morning, son of the dawn!
You have been cut down to the earth,
You who have weakened the nations!
13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God,
And I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 "Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol,
To the recesses of the pit."

Honestly, I feel like I'm reliving some of my earliest days in reading the verses of this taunt-song in Isaiah 14. The tone and thoughts are not unlike things I may have said to my sisters at one time. I was never that poetic about it, nor do I recall using 'maggots.' You just never know what you will uncover in the Bible. (And, no, young readers, this is not an invitation to offer this song up on a sibling!) Moving on....

Recall from the last post that the leaders of the nations who have brought destruction and oppression upon God's people are now welcoming the "King of Babylon" into their home in Sheol, the place of death. We left with the thought that these leaders were shell-shocked by the appearance of this mightiest of the mighty ones in their midst. Verse 10 delivers what could be the ultimate of non-compliments: "You have become like us." [shudder!]
Everything that surrounded this "king," from the exquisite music of his harps to his palatial arrogance finds itself in the depths. Remember, this "king" could represent anyone from the Nebuchadnezzar/Belshazzar days to the Antichrist, and everyone in between. Though the current kingly residents of Sheol have thrones (vs. 9), the new king has a specially prepared bed, with a maggot mattress and worm covers. Do not remove tag under penalty of...oh, nevermind!

Verse 12 is the challenging verse in its interpretation. Perhaps it was made more challenging this week as I waded through commentary.

"How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn!"
--vs. 12

The slightly troublesome phrase is "O star of the morning." In Hebrew, it is translated "shining one" or "light-bringer." My first thought in seeing all of that is Jesus, who called Himself "the bright morning star" in Revelation 22:16. Jesus came from Heaven, but the Bible doesn't refer to His coming as having "fallen from Heaven." That expression is usually reserved for Satan and other "fallen" angels. This is how Jesus turned the phrase in encouraging the disciples whom He sent out on mission in Luke 10:

"The seventy returned with joy, saying, 'Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.' And He said to them, 'I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.'"
--Luke 10: 17 and 18

What makes this all the more fun is looking at the Latin. "The Hebrew for this expression—“light-bringer” or “shining one”—is translated "Lucifer" in The Latin Vulgate, and is thus translated in the King James Version." (from the footnotes in the Amplified Bible) Whoa! But isn't Lucifer another word for....!!!? Exactly! And the same word in Greek, which is phosphoros, is what Jesus uses in Revelation 22 about Himself. Messy, huh? Check out this entry from Smith's Bible Names Dictionary:

"Lucifer--(light-bearer), found in (Isaiah 14:12) coupled with the epithet 'son of the morning,' clearly signifies a 'bright star,' and probably what we call the morning star. In this passage it is a symbolical representation of the king of Babylon in his splendor and in his fall. Its application, from St. Jerome downward, to Satan in his fall from heaven arises probably from the fact that the Babylonian empire is in Scripture represented as the type of tyrannical and self idolizing power, and especially connected with the empire of the Evil One in the Apocalypse.
--Smith's Bible Names Dictionary

That was helpful for me. There is another line of thinking that the phrase speaks of the planet Venus, which delves into the mythology of the Babylonians a bit. Interesting, but it pulls me away from getting a grasp on the message of the entire passage. As you might guess, I rather like Matthew Henry's thought, as he pulls it all together, simply:

"Here is the language of his [King of Babylon's] vainglory, borrowed perhaps from that of the angels who fell, who not content with their first estate, the post assigned them, would vie with God, and become not only independent of him, but equal with him."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

My study Bible invites readers to catch the five "I will's" over verses 13 and 14. Confidence is one thing, but what this "king" is suggesting of himself was not only beyond the possible but was outright foolishness. A throne "above the stars of God...."! Who, but the vainest, speaks like that? The "mount of assembly in the recesses of the north" may refer, again, to stories of mythology:

"According to Canaanite myths, the god El presided over an assembly of gods on a mountain in Syria. Babylon was ready to claim this honor for itself.... Psalm 48:1, 2 mentions “the far north” as belonging to the Lord alone."
--Reformation Study Bible

Truly, all of these realms and claims offered up here belong only to God. Yet this was the beat that drove the heart (vs 13) of the "king."

"It is a gracious ambition to covet to be like the Most Holy, for he has said, Be you holy, for I am holy; but it is a sinful ambition to aim to be like the Most High, for he has said, He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and the devil drew our first parents in to eat forbidden fruit by promising them that they should be as gods."
--Matthew Henry
But the last word belongs to the Most High--whose "You will" trumps infinite "I will's"--who condemns the "king" to the "recesses of the pit" (vs. 15)

Still aghast over the state of the "King of Babylon".... 'Til next Wednesday!

* * *

Next week: Isaiah 14: 16-19
Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).