Isaiah Lesson 5: “The Devil In Babylon” Isaiah 13-14
A Prophecy Against Babylon Isaiah 13:1,3,9,11-12, 17-20
In Chapter 13 to 14:27 Isaiah is given a prophecy against Babylon . At the time of Isaiah’s prediction, Babylon was one of the largest and most important cities in the world, but God told him that great city would be completely destroyed. Hundreds of years later history played out exactly as Isaiah foretold in Babylon, and clearly, the reason for this destruction was to “destroy the sinners within it” (13:9) and to “punish the world for its evil”(13:11):
During Isaiah’s lifetime, the Assyrian Empire ruled most of the Middle East. The Assyrians controlled many foreign cities, including Babylon, but after Isaiah made his prediction, Babylon rebelled against the Assyrians several times. The Assyrian king captured the city in 689 B.C., and sought to destroy it, but Isaiah’s prophecy would not be fulfilled at that time because Isaiah predicted that the Medes would attack Babylon.
The Medes: When Isaiah wrote his prediction, the Medes were weak. Most of the Medes were ruled by other nations. It would have been impossible for them to capture or destroy the strong city of Babylon. After the death of the Assyrian King who sought to destroy Babylon his own son built it up once again and it became an important city in the Assyrian Empire like it had been before. In 626 B.C., Babylon rebelled against Assyria again. This time the Babylonians were successful. A local leader became the king. He was able to establish Babylonia as a separate kingdom and Babylon grew in strength. The Medes also grew in strength at this time. By 612 B.C. the king of Media and the king of Babylon formed an alliance which destroyed the Assyrians.
Babylon Prospers…Is Isaiah Wrong? In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon, and his Empire became the leading empire in the world. When Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 B.C., Babylon was called one of the most magnificent cities in the world. Was Isaiah’s prophecy wrong? Of course not! God is true and every man a liar. (Romans 3:3-4)
A few years later, in 559 B.C., Cyrus the Great became king over Persia, a region under the rule of Media. Cyrus overthrew his own grandfather and became the king of Media, therefore becoming both king of Media and Persia and In 539 B.C., Cyrus’ army came to fight against Babylon. Miraculously, Cyrus captured the city without a battle and Darius the Mede was put in charge (Daniel 5:31).
The Medes captured Babylon, just as Isaiah predicted (Isaiah 13:17). They captured the city without plundering it for its silver or gold; however, the other details of the prophecy would come to pass later. In about 482 B.C. Babylon rebelled against their Persian and Median rulers again and Xerxes the king sent his army to ruthlessly capture the city. From that day forward the city declined and largely laid in ruins. 150 years later, Alexander the Great (Greece) defeated the Persians and planned to rebuild Babylon but he died before he could accomplish his plan. About 250 years later the Roman writer Strabo wrote, “Babylon is so deserted that one would not hesitate to say…‘The Great City is a desert ”(Geography, 16.1.5, Loeb Classical Library). Before long Babylon was completely empty. In 1978, the president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein, began to rebuild some of the ancient buildings of Babylon hoping to restore the city to its greatness, but he was executed… Today, Babylon is still an empty city, inhabited only by “owls and jackals”, “never to be inhabited, or settled in from generation to generation” (Isaiah 13:20).
The Devil in Babylon Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-14, 17
As we learned in our last lesson and even in this prophecy, “the present, the future coming and the future far off are most often revealed together” by a prophet. It is also true that prophecy often reveals or addresses both the physical and spiritual dimensions in the same passage. Here, Isaiah shifts from a prophecy to his people about Babylon’s destruction to suddenly addressing the Devil (Isaiah 14:12: lit . Hebrew hêlêl (light bearer) translated “Lucifer” in the KJV/ “Morning Star” in NIV) who himself has instigated the whole affair. In a similar instance Ezekiel also addresses the Devil in his prophecy to the king of Tyre. These passages obviously go beyond addressing mere humans. Since it is actually God who is speaking through the prophets, we can assume that the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12/ Job 1:6) were also listening and therefore God addressed them too. Jesus attested to the fact that Satan was cast down to the earth like Isaiah stated here in Luke 10:17. Through these prophecies we develop our conceptual understanding of the origins of Satan who was created as an angel (Isaiah 14:12) of the highest order (cherub), became arrogant in his beauty and status and tried to elevate himself above God (Isaiah 14:13-14; Ezekiel 28:15), who’s pride and rebellion led to his and 1/3 of the angels of heaven being cast down to earth (Revelation 12:4) to became the ruler of this world (through man’s fall; Genesis 3). Even though he was cast out of heaven, he still seeks to elevate his throne above God. He counterfeits all that God does, seeking the worship of the world. Satan is the ultimate source behind every false religion and act of evil. Satan’s destiny is sealed—an eternity in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
Choices We make Isaiah 14:26-27, 1 Peter 5:8-10
Isaiah concludes his prophecy with the signature of God in a rhetorical question for any skeptic or the Devil for that matter: “Who can turn it back?” What God says will come to pass. Choices we make are for good or evil, God or the Devil. Our choices become our acts of worship to the One or the other and consequences have been established…”Who can turn it back?” The Devil was certainly in Babylon but it was the choice of her people that brought judgment. What is your choice today?