Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Isaiah 13: 20-22

20 It will never be inhabited or lived in from generation to generation;
Nor will the Arab pitch his tent there,
Nor will shepherds make their flocks lie down there.
21 But desert creatures will lie down there,
And their houses will be full of owls;
Ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there.
22 Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers
And jackals in their luxurious palaces.
Her fateful time also will soon come
And her days will not be prolonged.

Today, we finish Chapter 13. Oh, guys, it's been a tough chapter. Hard to read this material, even though the final outcome is God's victory. Truly horrifying images. Isaiah's descriptions in these last three verses, though full of life literally, spell out the final death of the glorious nation of Babylon. (Note, the prophecy at the end of the chapter is about end-times Babylon.)

Death to the city comes in its being uninhabited. (vs. 20) My small group Bible study has been working through Kelly Minter's Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break [which I highly recommend!]. We just finished exploring how the exiles of Judah were returning from Babylon to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and to reestablish the heritage of the Jewish people through their residency in the city. She quotes Warren Wiersbe in The Bible Exposition Commentary: History as saying, "A city is much more than walls, gates and houses; a city is people."

Although the area in which Babylon was located would be lived in by various populations after the Medo-Persian conquest, at the time of the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy, no person will take residence here. No foreign visitors ("Arabs") to pay tribute nor wandering shepherds to bring their sheep to graze. "But desert creatures will lie down there...." (vs 21)

"And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, 'Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.'"
--Revelation 18:2

Whatever lush and beautiful nature remained of Babylon would cease to be. What an eclectic mix of animals to inhabit the city: owls, ostriches, goats, hyenas and jackals. (vs. 21 and 22) Owls and hyenas (see picture above) are known howlers in the animal world. In fact, the Amplified Bible uses 'wolves' instead of 'hyenas'. Rather than people bustling about their homes, the howlers will cry out. Ostriches and jackals ('dragons' in the King James Version) are desert-dwellers, the latter to take up residence in the "luxurious palaces" of the city.

Pulling out 'shaggy goats' from the list to highlight some word usage across translations. A more literal phrase used is "goat demons." Think "wild goats," which is used in the New International Version and the Amplified Bible, among other translations. The King James' translation of the end of verse 21 reads: "...satyrs shall dance there." Perhaps you recall what satyrs are from Greek mythology--the half man/half goat creatures. In general, the Hebrew word means "hairy one." In this passage, "...the meaning is that the place referred to shall become a desolate waste. Some render the Hebrew word 'baboon,' a species of which is found in Babylonia." (Easton's Bible Dictionary)

Isaiah stresses, in the last sentence, that Babylon's destruction would be coming soon. For those in Jerusalem hearing this prophecy--of Babylon's rise, their exile to the city, and its fall--the understanding and emotions must have run the gamut. Matthew Henry, in his commentary, makes an interesting observation about the value of this prophecy to the people:

"This prophecy of the destruction of Babylon was intended for the support and comfort of the people of God when they were captives there and grievously oppressed; and the accomplishment of the prophecy was nearly 200 years after the time when it was delivered; yet it followed soon after the time for which it was calculated."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Even though most of what we have talked about today has yet to occur, and God did not grant Isaiah a vision into the actual timeframe of events, we should take comfort--as did those in Jerusalem--that God's Word will come to pass and to complete fruition. That the time of our "groaning" on this earth by those who oppress us and those who would come to stand against our Lord and Savior "will not be prolonged." (vs. 22)

"Israel's Taunt"--Chapter 14 begins.... 'Til next Wednesday!

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Next week: Isaiah 14: 1-4
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).