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!

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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).