Isaiah 13-14
(The Perennial Winner)
July 18th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,
    the scepter of rulers,
that struck down the peoples in wrath
    with unceasing blows,
that ruled the nations in anger
    with unrelenting persecution.

- Isaiah 14:5-6 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

This pair of chapters begins a new ten-chapter section titled "Oracles Against Foreign Nations," which is assumed to have been written by Isaiah during the middle years of his life. This section features prophesies about other nations.

In chapter 13, Isaiah issues a prophecy regarding Babylon, which had been an opponent of the Israeli kingdoms and Assyria. The Babylonians will carry the people of Judah into exile, but will eventually be defeated by another nation. Isaiah describes a large army that the LORD will gather and depicts the fear that the Babylonians will experience when they are attacked: “Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man's heart shall melt (Isa 13:7 - KJV).”

Isaiah declares that Babylon will be overthrown and the wild animals will take over the palaces, forts, and homes. “But strange and wild animals will like it just fine, filling the vacant houses with eerie night sounds. Skunks will make it their home, and unspeakable night hags will haunt it. Hyenas will curdle your blood with their laughing, and the howling of coyotes will give you the shivers (Isa 13:21-22-MSG).”

Isaiah continues the prophecy about Babylon in chapter 14, and then issues one regarding Assyria, which had defeated the Northern Kingdom, and one regarding the Philistines, which had been a constant thorn in the side of all of Israel. In the prophecy against the Philistines Isaiah warns them not to rejoice because other nations have fallen and notifies them that their time is coming:

Reflection and Application

At first glance, it might be hard to comprehend how all of the books of the Old Testament relate because they are not all in chronological order and often overlap. Moreover, in some cases, the text within each book is not in chronological order. We experienced that apparent disorder in the books of Wisdom, and can see it in the prophecies of Isaiah. In one chapter he prophesizes regarding a Messiah who will arrive in 700 years, then in the subsequent chapters he prophesizes about events that will occur during the lifetime of some of his contemporaries.

However, we cannot allow these staggered timelines to distract us from understanding the truths in these books. The Biblical scholar, Abraham Heschel noted that "While Assyria was at the height of her power, Isaiah proclaimed her downfall. His prediction was not the forecast of an isolated event, but part of a divine plan and purpose for Israel and other nations. (1)

Heschel also explains that Isaiah had visions from God that allowed him to see time from a divine perspective, whereas other humans had a narrow view of the current moment: "The prophet who saw history as the stage for God's work, where kingdoms and empires rise for a time and vanish, perceived a design beyond the mists and shadows of the moment (2)." This divine perspective is also one of the many reasons that we should trust God, who can see things we cannot see, beyond our limits of space and time.

With regard to study and interpretation, the bi-temporal presentation of events in the Bible should not seem that foreign to us. Think for a moment about how you learned other subject matters. You might have often consulted multiple sources, and perhaps began with the latest account of this subject and then worked backwards into earlier ones or gone back and forth. Enthusiasts of history or biographies or sports can probably relate to this pattern.

For example, I recently followed this pattern of studying non-contiguous time periods as I randomly selected different books about the history of one of my favorite sports teams, the New York Yankees. Apologies in advance to non-sports fans and to baseball fans for whom the Yankees is not their favorite, but please trust me on the applicability of the analogy.

First, I read a book regarding the 2001 team, and the so-called “End of the Dynasty." Then, a couple years later I read about the Yankee teams of the 1940s, which had been followed closely by fans of my parents’ generations. Subsequently I read a new biography of Mickey Mantle, spanning the baseball seasons in the 1950s and 1960s and revealing the strengths and flaws of a complete player who wore number 7 on his back. Each book was connected to the others because they are part of the spectrum of the history of this team. They may overlap, they may have uneven gaps, but the reader understands more about all of the eras of the team as he or she reads about other eras.

In a similar way, as we faithfully study the context of the entire Bible with an open mind and heart, then we begin to understand the relationships between the books and the message that is consistent throughout the books, even when the overlaps are not symmetrical and even when we bounce back and forth through different eras. Some people have observed that an understanding of the connections across different books helps to shrink the perceived size of the whole Bible. Through this discipline we see that the underlying message is the same, and the importance of it is infinitely more significant than anything else we read or study. God is the LORD forever and ever, and he always wins in the end.

After studying all the Books in the New Testament we will have a better understanding of the themes in each one of them because we will have read different perspectives and will have reflected on each one. The defeat of Babylon by Cyrus and the Persian army and the return of the remnant of Hebrews to Judah may seem like a repeat of the Exodus. However, this time, not everyone left the foreign country. Only the most faithful returned and they began anew. We also have opportunities to begin anew after we have strayed and end up captive in a foreign land. If we are ready in our hearts to return, then God will shake the earth to ensure it happens.

When we read of God’s plans to manage Babylon, Assyria and the Philistines it might remind us that we want to be on God’s team, because the other guys are always the underdogs and have no chance once God makes up his mind to teach them a lesson. Don’t pass up the invitation to be drafted onto his team.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

Related Questions
  1. What are some of your favorite topics to study?
  2. Why do you think some of the Israelites choose to stay in Babylon and not return to Judah?
  3. What are you willing to leave behind to accept God’s invitation?
Recommended Prayer
Father in heaven, we know that you win in the end. Help us to accept your offer to join the winning team.

Suggested Prayer Concerns
Chaplains and other Religious Advisors on Sports Teams


(1) Heschel, Abraham Joshua, The Prophets, Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2001, New York, p.93
(2) IBID, p.82

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 15-19 (Woe to the Enemies of the LORD)

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