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C. Oracles Against the Foreign Nations[a]

Chapter 13

Babylon.[b] An oracle[c] concerning Babylon; a vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz.

Upon the bare mountains set up a signal;
    cry out to them,[d]
Beckon for them to enter
    the gates of the nobles.(A)
I have commanded my consecrated ones,[e]
    I have summoned my warriors,
    eager and bold to carry out my anger.(B)
Listen! the rumble on the mountains:
    that of an immense throng!
Listen! the noise of kingdoms, nations assembled!
The Lord of hosts is mustering
    an army for battle.(C)
They come from a far-off country,
    and from the end of the heavens,
The Lord and the instruments of his wrath,
    to destroy all the land.
Howl, for the day of the Lord[f] is near;
    as destruction from the Almighty it comes.(D)
Therefore all hands fall helpless,(E)
    every human heart melts,
    and they are terrified,
Pangs and sorrows take hold of them,
    like a woman in labor they writhe;
They look aghast at each other,
    their faces aflame.(F)
Indeed, the day of the Lord comes,
    cruel, with wrath and burning anger;
To lay waste the land
    and destroy the sinners within it!(G)
10 The stars of the heavens and their constellations
    will send forth no light;
The sun will be dark at its rising,
    and the moon will not give its light.(H)
11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil
    and the wicked for their guilt.
I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant,
    the insolence of tyrants I will humble.(I)
12 I will make mortals more rare than pure gold,
    human beings, than the gold of Ophir.[g](J)
13 For this I will make the heavens tremble
    and the earth shall be shaken from its place,
At the wrath of the Lord of hosts
    on the day of his burning anger.(K)
14 Like a hunted gazelle,
    or a flock that no one gathers,
They shall turn each to their own people
    and flee each to their own land.(L)
15 Everyone who is taken shall be run through;
    and everyone who is caught shall fall by the sword.
16 Their infants shall be dashed to pieces in their sight;
    their houses shall be plundered
    and their wives ravished.(M)
17 I am stirring up against them the Medes,
    who think nothing of silver
    and take no delight in gold.(N)
18 With their bows they shall shatter the young men,
And the fruit of the womb they shall not spare,
    nor shall their eye take pity on children.
19 And Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms,
    the glory and pride of the Chaldeans,
Shall become like Sodom and Gomorrah,
    overthrown by God.(O)
20 It shall never be inhabited,
    nor dwelt in, from age to age;
Arabians shall not pitch their tents there,
    nor shepherds rest their flocks there.(P)
21 But desert demons shall rest there
    and owls shall fill the houses;
There ostriches shall dwell,
    and satyrs[h] shall dance.(Q)
22 Wild dogs shall dwell in its castles,
    and jackals in its luxurious palaces.
Its time is near at hand
    and its days shall not be prolonged.(R)


  1. 13:1–23:18 These chapters, which probably existed at one time as an independent collection, consist primarily of oracles from various sources against foreign nations. While some of the material is Isaianic, in many cases it has been reworked by later editors or writers.
  2. 13:1–22 Although attributed to Isaiah (v. 1), this oracle does not reflect conditions of Isaiah’s time. Babylon did not achieve imperial status until a century later, after its victory over Assyria in 609 B.C. The mention of the Medes (v. 17) rather than Persia suggests a date prior to 550 B.C., when the Median empire of Astyages fell to Cyrus the Persian. Tension is created in that the attackers are not named until v. 17 and the foe to be attacked until v. 19.
  3. 13:1 Oracle: Heb. massa’; used eight more times in this collection.
  4. 13:2 To them: the Medes (v. 17), who are being summoned to destroy Babylon. Gates of the nobles: the reference is apparently to the gates of Babylon and involves a wordplay on the city name (Babylon = bab ilani, “gate of the gods”).
  5. 13:3 Consecrated ones: in the sense that they will wage a “holy war” and carry out God’s plan.
  6. 13:6–8 Day of the Lord: described often in prophetic writings, it generally signified the coming of the Lord in power and majesty to destroy his enemies. The figures used convey the idea of horror and destruction (Am 5:18–20). The Almighty: Heb. shaddai; there is a play on words between destruction (shod) and Shaddai, a title for God traditionally rendered as “the Almighty” (cf. Gn 17:1; Ex 6:3).
  7. 13:12 Ophir: cf. note on Ps 45:10.
  8. 13:21 Satyrs: in the popular mind, demons of goatlike form dwelling in ruins, symbols of immorality; cf. Lv 17:7; Is 34:14.