Notes for Isa 13:1LEB

Isa 13–23 contains a series of judgment oracles against various nations. It is likely that Israel, not the nations mentioned, actually heard these oracles. The oracles probably had a twofold purpose. For those leaders who insisted on getting embroiled in international politics, these oracles were a reminder that Judah need not fear foreign nations or seek international alliances for security reasons. For the righteous remnant within the nation, these oracles were a reminder that Israel’s Yahweh was indeed the sovereign ruler of the earth, worthy of his people’s trust.


"The message [traditionally, "burden"] [about] Babylon which Isaiah son of Amoz saw."


Notes for Isa 13:2LEB

The Yahweh is speaking here (see v. 3).


Notes for Isa 13:3LEB

"my consecrated ones," i.e., those who have been set apart by Yahweh for the special task of carrying out his judgment.


"my warriors with respect to my anger."


"the boasting ones of my pride"; cf. ASV, NASB, NRSV "my proudly exulting ones."


Notes for Isa 13:4LEB

In vv. 4–10 the prophet appears to be speaking, since the Yahweh is referred to in the third person. However, since the Yahweh refers to himself in the third person later in this chapter (see v. 13), it is possible that he speaks throughout the chapter.


"a sound, a roar [is] on the mountains, like many people."


"a sound, tumult of kingdoms."


Notes for Isa 13:5LEB

"from the end of the sky."


Or "anger"; cf. KJV, ASV "the weapons of his indignation."


Or perhaps, "land" (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NLT). Even though the heading and subsequent context (see v. 17) indicate Babylon’s judgment is in view, the chapter has a cosmic flavor that suggests that the coming judgment is universal in scope. Perhaps Babylon’s downfall occurs in conjunction with a wider judgment, or the cosmic style is poetic hyperbole used to emphasize the magnitude and importance of the coming event.


Notes for Isa 13:6LEB

"the day of the Yahweh" (so KJV, NAB).


"like destruction from the sovereign judge it comes." The comparative preposition (ךְּ, ) has here the rhetorical nuance, "in every way like." The point is that the destruction unleashed will have all the earmarks of divine judgment. One could paraphrase, "it comes as only destructive divine judgment can." On this use of the preposition in general, see GKC 376 §118.x.


The divine name used here is שַׁדַּי (shaddai, "Shaddai"). Shaddai (or El Shaddai) is the sovereign king/judge of the world who grants life/blesses and kills/judges. In Genesis he blesses the patriarchs with fertility and promises numerous descendants. Outside Genesis he both blesses/protects and takes away life/happiness. The patriarchs knew Yahweh primarily as El Shaddai (Exod 6:3LEB). While the origin and meaning of this name is uncertain (see discussion below) its significance is clear. The name is used in contexts where Yahweh appears as the source of fertility and life. In Gen 17:1–8LEB he appears to Abram, introduces himself as El Shaddai, and announces his intention to make the patriarch fruitful. In the role of El Shaddai Yahweh repeats these words (now elevated to the status of a decree) to Jacob 35:11LEB. Earlier Isaac had pronounced a blessing upon Jacob in which he asked El Shaddai to make Jacob fruitful (28:3). Jacob later prays that his sons will be treated with mercy when they return to Egypt with Benjamin (43:14). The fertility theme is not as apparent here, though one must remember that Jacob viewed Benjamin as the sole remaining son of the favored and once-barren Rachel (cf. 29:31; 30:22–24; 35:16–18). It is quite natural that he would appeal to El Shaddai to preserve Benjamin’s life, for it was El Shaddai’s miraculous power which made it possible for Rachel to give him sons in the first place. In 48:3 Jacob, prior to blessing Joseph’s sons, tells him how El Shaddai appeared to him at Bethel (cf. chapter 28) and promised to make him fruitful. When blessing Joseph on his deathbed Jacob refers to Shaddai (we should probably read "El Shaddai," along with a few Hebrew mss, the Samaritan Pentateuch, LXX, and Syriac) as the one who provides abundant blessings, including "blessings of the breast and womb" (49:25). (The direct association of the name with שָׁדַיִם [shadayim, "breasts"] suggests the name might mean "the one of the breast" [i.e., the one who gives fertility], but the juxtaposition is probably better explained as wordplay. Note the wordplay involving the name and the root שָׁדַד [shadad, "destroy"] here in Isa 13:6LEB and in Joel 1:15LEB.) Outside Genesis the name Shaddai (minus El, "Yahweh") is normally used when Yahweh is viewed as the sovereign king who blesses/protects or curses/brings judgment. The name appears in the introduction to two of Balaam’s oracles (Num 24:4LEB, 16) of blessing upon Israel. Naomi employs the name when accusing the Yahweh of treating her bitterly by taking the lives of her husband and sons (Ruth 1:20–21LEB). In Ps 68:14LEB; Isa 13:6LEB; and Joel 1:15LEB Shaddai judges his enemies through warfare, while Ps 91:1LEB depicts him as the protector of his people. (In Ezek 1:24LEB and 10:5 the sound of the cherubs’ wings is compared to Shaddai’s powerful voice. The reference may be to the mighty divine warrior’s battle cry which accompanies his angry judgment.) Last but not least, the name occurs 31 times in the Book of Job. Job and his "friends" assume that Shaddai is the sovereign king of the world (11:7; 37:23a) who is the source of life (33:4b) and is responsible for maintaining justice (8:3; 34:10–12; 37:23b). He provides abundant blessings, including children (22:17–18; 29:4–6), but can also discipline, punish, and destroy (5:17; 6:4; 21:20; 23:16). It is not surprising to see the name so often in this book, where the theme of Yahweh’s justice is primary and even called into question (24:1; 27:2). The most likely proposal is that the name means "Yahweh, the one of the mountain" (an Akkadian cognate means "mountain," to which Heb. שַׁד [shad, "breast"] is probably related). For a discussion of proposed derivations see T. N. D. Mettinger, In Search of Yahweh, 70–71. The name may originally depict Yahweh as the sovereign judge who, in Canaanite style, rules from a sacred mountain. Isa 14:13 and Ezek 28:14LEB, 16 associate such a mountain with Yahweh, while Ps 48:2LEB refers to Zion as "Zaphon," the Canaanite Olympus from which the high Yahweh El ruled. (In Isa 14 the Canaanite Yahweh El may be in view. Note that Isaiah pictures pagan kings as taunting the king of Babylon, suggesting that pagan mythology may provide the background for the language and imagery.)


Notes for Isa 13:7LEB

"drop"; KJV "be faint"; ASV "be feeble"; NAB "fall helpless."


"melts" (so NAB).


Notes for Isa 13:8LEB

"their faces are faces of flames." Their faces are flushed with fear and embarrassment.


Notes for Isa 13:9LEB

"the day of the Yahweh."


"[with] cruelty, and fury, and rage of anger." Three synonyms for "anger" are piled up at the end of the line to emphasize the extraordinary degree of divine anger that will be exhibited in this judgment.


"making desolate."


Or "land" (KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NLT).


Notes for Isa 13:10LEB

"do not flash forth their light."


"does not shed forth its light."


Notes for Isa 13:11LEB

The Yahweh is definitely speaking (again?) at this point. See the note at v. 4.


Or "I will bring disaster on the world." Hebrew רָעָה (raah) could refer to the judgment (i.e., disaster, calamity) or to the evil that prompts it. The structure of the parallel line favors the latter interpretation.


Or perhaps, "the violent"; cf. NASB, NIV "the ruthless."


Notes for Isa 13:12LEB

The verb is supplied in the translation from the first line. The verb in the first line ("I will make scarce") does double duty in the parallel structure of the verse.


Notes for Isa 13:13LEB

Or "the sky." The Hebrew term שָׁמַיִם (shamayim) may be translated "heavens" or "sky" depending on the context.


"from its place" (so NAB, NASB, NIV, NCV).


"and in the day of the raging of his anger."


Notes for Isa 13:14LEB

Or "like a gazelle being chased." The verb that introduces this verse serves as a discourse particle and is untranslated; see note on "in the future" in 2:2.


"his people" (cf. KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV) or "his nation" (cf. TEV "their own countries").


Notes for Isa 13:15LEB

"carried off," i.e., grabbed from the fleeing crowd. See HALOT 764 s.v. ספה.


"will fall" (so KJV, NIV, NRSV); NLT "will be run through with a sword."


Notes for Isa 13:17LEB

"against them"; NLT "against Babylon."


They cannot be bought off, for they have a lust for bloodshed.


Notes for Isa 13:18LEB

"and bows cut to bits young men." "Bows" stands by metonymy for arrows.


"the fruit of the womb."


"their eye does not." Here "eye" is a metonymy for the whole person.


Notes for Isa 13:19LEB

Or "most beautiful" (NCV, TEV).


"the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans."


The Chaldeans were a group of tribes who lived in southern Mesopotamia. The established the so-called neo-Babylonian empire in the late seventh century b.c. Their most famous king, Nebuchadnezzar, conquered Judah in 605 b.c. and destroyed Jerusalem in 586 b.c.


"and Babylon…will be like the overthrow by Yahweh of Sodom and Gomorrah." On מַהְפֵּכַת (mahpekhat, "overthrow") see the note on the word "destruction" in 1:7.


Notes for Isa 13:20LEB

"she will not be inhabited forever, and she will not be dwelt in to generation and generation (i.e., forever)." The Yahweh declares that Babylon, personified as a woman, will not be inhabited. In other words, her people will be destroyed and the Chaldean empire will come to a permanent end.


Or "Arab" (NAB, NASB, NIV); cf. CEV, NLT "nomads."



יַהֵל (yahel) is probably a corrupted form of יֶאֱהַל (yeehal). See GKC 186 §68.k.


The words "their flocks" are supplied in the translation for clarification. The Hebrew text does not supply the object here, but see Jer 33:12.


Notes for Isa 13:21LEB

The word "ruined" is supplied in the translation for clarification.


The precise referent of this word in uncertain. See HALOT 29 s.v. *אֹחַ. Various English versions translate as "owls" (e.g., NAB, NASB), "wild dogs" (NCV); "jackals" (NIV); "howling creatures" (NRSV, NLT).


"will skip there."


Notes for Isa 13:22LEB

The Hebrew text reads literally, "wild dogs will yip among his widows, and jackals in the palaces of pleasure." The verb "yip" is supplied in the second line; it does double duty in the parallel structure. "His widows" makes little sense in this context; many emend the form (אַלְמנוֹתָיו, ’almnotayv) to the graphically similar אַרְמְנוֹתֶיהָ (’arménoteha, "her fortresses"), a reading that is assumed in the present translation. The use of "widows" may represent an intentional wordplay on "fortresses," indicating that the fortresses are like dejected widows (J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah [NICOT], 1:308, n. 1).


"near to come is her time."


When was the prophecy of Babylon’s fall fulfilled? Some argue that the prophecy was fulfilled in 689 b.c. when the Assyrians under Sennacherib sacked and desecrated the city (this event is alluded to in 23:13). This may have been an initial phase in the fulfillment of the prophecy, but the reference to the involvement of the Medes (v. 17) and the suggestion that Babylon’s demise will bring about the restoration of Israel (14:1–2) indicate that the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians in 538 b.c. is the primary focus of the prophecy. (After all, the Yahweh did reveal to Isaiah that the Chaldeans [not the Assyrians] would someday conquer Jerusalem and take the people into exile [see 39:5–7].) However, the vivid picture of destruction in vv. 15–22 raises a problem. The Medes and Persians did not destroy the city; in fact Cyrus’ takeover of Babylon, though preceded by a military campaign, was relatively peaceful and even welcomed by some Babylonian religious officials. How then does one explain the prophecy’s description of the city’s violent fall? As noted above, the events of 689 b.c. and 538 b.c. may have been merged in the prophecy. However, it is more likely that the language is stylized and exaggerated for rhetorical effect. See Isa 34:11–15LEB; Jer 50:39–40LEB (describing Babylon’s fall in 538 b.c.); 51:36–37 (describing Babylon’s fall in 538 b.c.); Zeph 2:13–15LEB; the extra-biblical Sefire treaty curses; and Ashurbanipal’s description of the destruction of Elam in his royal annals. In other words, the events of 538 b.c. essentially, though not necessarily literally, fulfill the prophecy.