Isaiah 14 – Babylon and Lucifer
A. The fall of the King of Babylon.
1. (1-2) Judgment on Babylon means mercy on Israel.
For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel, and settle them in their own land. The strangers will be joined with them, and they will cling to the house of Jacob. Then people will take them and bring them to their place, and the house of Israel will possess them for servants and maids in the land of the LORD; they will take them captive whose captives they were, and rule over their oppressors.
a. For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob: Isaiah 13 ended with the desolation and gloom that would come upon Babylon. Since Babylon was Judah’s great enemy, any judgment on Babylon was an expression of mercy to Israel. So, Isaiah followed the pronouncement of judgment on Babylon with the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will still choose Israel.
i. Will still choose Israel: Sometimes we feel that God chose us, but if He had to choose again, God would change His choice! We almost feel that God is “stuck” with us now and would choose differently if He could. Here, the LORD reminds His children that He does still choose us and would choose us all over again.
b. And settle them in their own land: The promise of restoration to their own land was also important. The Babylonians had forcibly exiled most of the population of Judah, so the promise of return to their own land was precious.
i. “This promise had a measure of fulfillment when Israel was brought back from Babylon; and still is it true that, when God’s people come to their worst, there is always something better before them. On the other hand, it is equally sure that, when sinners come to their best, there is always something terrible awaiting them.” (Spurgeon)
c. The strangers will be joined with them: The invitation to Gentiles was precious. The regathered and restored Israel would invite Gentiles to receive the goodness of God with them.
d. They will take them captive whose captives they were, and rule over their oppressors: In inviting the strangers to come and be joined with them, Israel would eliminate their enemies. The ultimate way to conquer an enemy is to make them your friend.
2. (3-8) The joy of the earth at the fall of the king of Babylon.
It shall come to pass in the day the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve, that you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say:
“How the oppressor has ceased,
The golden city ceased!
The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked,
The scepter of the rulers;
He who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke,
He who ruled the nations in anger,
Is persecuted and no one hinders.
The whole earth is at rest and quiet;
They break forth into singing.
Indeed the cypress trees rejoice over you,
And the cedars of Lebanon,
Saying, ‘Since you were cut down,
No woodsman has come up against us.’
a. In the day the LORD gives you rest from your sorrow, and from your fear and the hard bondage in which you were made to serve: The LORD announces a day when He will give real rest to believing Israel. They will have rest from sorrow, from fear, and from their hard bondage.
i. This rest is the birthright of every believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Do you have rest from sorrow? Do you have rest from fear? Do you have rest from hard bondage?
b. That you will take up this proverb against the king of Babylon: In the day of restoration, the defeat and weakness of the king of Babylon will be exposed, and Israel will rejoice.
i. As this prophecy continues from the context of Isaiah 13, it is important that we remember that Isaiah has two aspects of prophetic fulfillment in mind. First, there is the immediate and partial fulfillment regarding the empire of Babylon and its king. Second, there is the distant and ultimate fulfillment regarding the spiritual empire of Babylon – the world system – and its king, Satan.
ii. Some strongly disagree and see this passage as only referring to the king of literal Babylon and having no reference to Satan at all.
iii. John Calvin is an example of those who do not see any reference to Satan: “The exposition of this passage, which some have given, as if it referred to Satan, has arisen from ignorance; for the context plainly shows that these statements must be understood in reference to the king of the Babylonians. But when passages of Scripture are taken up at random, and no attention is paid to the context, we need to wonder that mistakes of this kind frequently arise… But as these inventions have no probability whatever, let us pass by them as useless fables.”
iv. Adam Clarke also did not see any reference to Satan here: “But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text… This chapter speaks not of the ambition and fall of Satan, but of the pride, arrogance, and fall of Nebuchadnezzar.” (Clarke)
v. Nevertheless, there is good reason to see this as both a reference to the ancient king of Babylon and the spiritual power behind that king. Biblical prophecy often has both a near and a distant fulfillment.
vi. So, this proverb against the king of Babylon was, in a partial sense, in the mouth of the returning exiles when Babylon was finally conquered, and the people of Judah could return to the Promised Land. But in an ultimate sense, this proverb against the king of Babylon will be in the mouth of God’s people when the world system and her king, Satan, are each conquered and destroyed.
vii. Why does God tell His people – either in an immediate or an ultimate sense – the destiny of Babylon and her king? So that we can think and live now, knowing the ultimate fate of the world system and Satan. We often have said, “If I only knew then what I know now” once we see how things turn out. Here, God is allowing us the opportunity to know now what we will see then, and to allow it to affect our thinking and our actions.
viii. The literary form of this passage is important. “Its form is really that of the funeral dirge, with the characteristic limping rhythm of a Hebrew lament, so plaintive and yet ominous to the sensitive ear…. There is a considerable element of irony, so that the whole song becomes a taunt in the guise of a lament.” (Grogan) This is a funeral song that mocks and taunts the dead, who in fact receives no burial.
c. How the oppressor has ceased: God wants us to know now that He has numbered the days of the king of spiritual Babylon – Satan. There will come a day when his oppression has ceased, and when the LORD will break the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.
i. Sometimes we get so weary and discouraged from Satan’s attack, it is almost as if we think his day will last forever. If we remember that one reason Satan works so hard is because even he knows his time is short, this is an encouragement to us. We can remain steadfast; we can outlast him.
d. He who struck the people in wrath…who ruled the nations in anger: Both the king of literal Babylon and the king of spiritual Babylon were mighty, oppressive rulers over the people and the nations. But now, the one who once persecuted is himself persecuted and no one hinders, and as a result, the whole earth is at rest and quiet, and they even break forth into singing.
i. “The whole Near East rejoiced over Babylon’s fall because her rule was harsh and oppressive.” (Wolf)
ii. Even the trees rejoice over the fall of the king of Babylon. This is true of the king of literal Babylon because the attacking kings cut down thousands of trees for both fuel and lumber, leaving Israel and Lebanon deforested. “Since the twelfth century B.C. the kings of Mesopotamia had imported lumber from Lebanon. Nebuchadnezzar used large supplies of such choice timbers in his extensive building efforts in Babylon after 605 B.C.” (Wolf)
iii. The trees also rejoice at the fall of the king of spiritual Babylon, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)
3. (9-11) Hell receives the fallen king of Babylon.
“Hell from beneath is excited about you,
To meet you at your coming;
It stirs up the dead for you,
All the chief ones of the earth;
It has raised up from their thrones
All the kings of the nations.
They all shall speak and say to you:
‘Have you also become as weak as we?
Have you become like us?
Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,
And the sound of your stringed instruments;
The maggot is spread under you,
And worms cover you.’”
a. Hell from beneath is excited about you: Hell itself is excited to meet the king of Babylon because it can’t wait to be the place where the one who tortured so many is tortured himself. This was true both for the king of literal Babylon, and the king of spiritual Babylon.
i. God wants us to know now that Satan is destined for hell. He isn’t a winner, he is a loser, and he certainly isn’t the boss or lord of hell. Satan will go to hell as a victim, as the ultimate prisoner in the dungeon of darkness, and hell will be happy to receive him this way.
b. Have you also become as weak as we? Have you become like us? When he went to hell, the king of literal Babylon was exposed as a mere man, though he thought of himself as greater than that. As well, when the king of spiritual Babylon goes to hell, all will be amazed to see that he was only a creature.
i. We often – to his great delight – exaggerate Satan’s status and importance. We think of him as the opposite of God; as if God were light and Satan were darkness, as if God were hot and Satan were cold. Satan wishes he was the opposite of God, but God wants us to know now what everyone will know someday – that Satan is a mere creature and is in no way the opposite of God. If Satan has an opposite, it is not God the Father or God the Son, it would be a high-ranking angelic being such as Michael.
c. Your pomp is brought down…the maggot is spread under you, and worms cover you: In the end, it just won’t be a defeat for the king of Babylon. Both for the literal and spiritual kings of Babylon, their defeat in hell will be disgusting and degrading.
i. Knowing this now – how disgusting and degrading the end of Satan will be – why would any of us serve him or work for his cause, even for a minute? Who wants to end up with the maggots and the worms?
d. And the sound of your stringed instruments: Before his fall, Satan was associated with music in heaven. Ezekiel 28:13 says of Satan before his fall, the workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. Apparently, the musical career of Satan did not end with his fall, because the sound of his stringed instruments is only brought down when he is imprisoned in hell.
4. (12-15) The fall of Lucifer.
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened the nations!
For you have said in your heart:
‘I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit.”
a. How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning: Here, the prophet identified the king of Babylon as Lucifer, son of the morning. Some debate if Lucifer is a name or a title; the word means morning star or day star, referring to a brightly shining object in the heavens. Whether it is a title or a name makes little difference; this once brightly shining king of Babylon is now fallen from heaven.
i. In the prophetic habit of speaking to both a near and a distant fulfillment, the prophet will sometimes speak more to the near or more to the distant. Here is a good example of Isaiah speaking more to the distant, ultimate fulfillment. It is true that the king of literal Babylon shined brightly among the men of his day and fell as hard and as completely as if a man were to fall from heaven. But there was a far more brightly shining being who inhabited heaven and fell even more dramatically – the king of spiritual Babylon, Satan.
b. Fallen from heaven: In fact, there are four falls of Satan, and this passage refers to his final, fourth fall.
i. Satan fell from glorified to profane (Ezekiel 28:14-16). This is what Jesus spoke of in Luke 10:18 when He says He saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. This is the only fall of Satan that has already happened.
ii. Satan will fall from having access to heaven (Job 1:12, 1 Kings 22:21, Zechariah 3:1) to restriction on the earth (Revelation 12:9).
iii. Satan will fall from his place on the earth to bondage in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years (Revelation 20:1-3).
iv. Finally, as mentioned here in Isaiah 14:12, Satan will fall from the bottomless pit to the lake of fire, which we commonly know as hell (Revelation 20:10).
c. Son of the morning: This is a title of glory, beauty, and honor, which fit Lucifer well before his fall. The morning is glorious, and in Hebrew thinking, the son of “x” is characterized by “x.” So, before his fall, Lucifer was characterized by the glory of the morning.
i. Jesus Himself is called the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). Satan, though a created being, had some of these glorious qualities in himself. No wonder that Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), deceiving many with his apparent glory, beauty, and goodness.
d. How you are cut down to the ground: What a contrast! This being, once so high, once so shining, once so bright, is now cut down to the ground.
e. For you have said in your heart: Here, God tells us the reason behind the fall of both the literal and spiritual king of Babylon. The fall was prompted by something he said, even though he may have never said it with his lips – it was enough that he said it in his heart.
f. I will: The pride, the grasping selfish ambition, the self-will of the king of Babylon is powerfully expressed in five I will statements. This is the essence of the self-focused and self-obsessed life.
I will ascend into heaven: It was as if Satan said, “Heaven will be my home and my place of honor.”
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: “I will be enthroned and will be exalted above all other angelic beings.”
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation: “I will sit in the place of glory and honor and attention.”
I will ascend above the heights: “I will continue to rise, even in heaven, until all see me in my bright shining glory.”
I will be like the Most High: “I will be glorious, and be set equal to God, far above all other created beings.”
i. We see in these statements not so much a desire to exalt one’s self above God, but the desire to exalt one’s self above one’s peers. From this passage, it seems that Satan’s desire was not so much to be above God, but to be honored and regarded as the highest angel, above the [other] stars of God, receiving the glory and attention one would receive being next to God, equal with God, like the Most High. We don’t have to want to be exalted higher than God to be like Satan. It is enough to want to be exalted above other people.
ii. Lucifer was certainly a glorious angel (day star, son of the morning, and also called the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty…the anointed cherub who covers in Ezekiel 28:12 and 14). Yet, there came a time when despite all his beauty and glory, he departed from the heart of God by wanting to exalt himself above his peers. Instead, the heart of Jesus says, “The status of equality with God is not something to hang on to. I will let it go. I will give up My reputation, be a servant, live humbly among men, and even die an excruciating and humiliating death.” (Philippians 2:5-8) When Lucifer departed from this heart, he fell from glory.
iii. “It is a strange paradox that nothing makes a being less like God than the urge to be his equal, for he who was God stepped down from the throne of his glory to display to the wondering eyes of men the humility of God.” (Grogan)
g. I will be like the Most High: What prompted Satan’s desire to exalt himself above all other creatures? What prompted these five I will statements?
i. Why did Lucifer rebel? Perhaps because he rejected God’s plan to create an order of beings made in His image (Genesis 1:26), who would be beneath the angels in dignity (Hebrews 2:6-7a; 2 Peter 2:11) yet would be served by angels in the present (Hebrews 1:14; 2:7-8; Psalm 91:11-12) and would one day be lifted in honor and status above the angels (1 Corinthians 6:3; 1 John 3:2). Satan wanted to be the highest among all creatures, equal to God in glory and honor, and the plan to create man would eventually put men above angels. He was apparently able to persuade one-third of the angelic beings to join him in his rebellion (Revelation 12:3-4, 7, and 9).
ii. If this is the case, it explains well Satan’s present strategy against man: to obscure the image of God in man through encouraging sin and rebellion, to cause man to serve him, and to prevent the ultimate glorification of man.
h. Yet you shall be brought down: Despite Satan’s desire to exalt himself, he will not be exalted at all. Certainly, there is a sense in which he is exalted right now, but this is but an eye-blink in the scope of eternity. Satan, like all those who desire to exalt themselves, shall be brought down.
i. 1 Peter 5:6 expresses the true path to being exalted: Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time. In Mark 9:35, Jesus said If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.
5. (16-17) The nations are amazed at the fall of the king of Babylon.
“Those who see you will gaze at you,
And consider you, saying:
‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble,
Who shook kingdoms,
Who made the world as a wilderness
And destroyed its cities,
Who did not open the house of his prisoners?’
a. Those who see you will gaze at you…“Is this the man who made the earth tremble…Who did not open the house of his prisoners?” When the king of literal Babylon fell, his weakness was exposed, and others were amazed that at one time he had so much power, and so many feared him. The same will happen when the king of spiritual Babylon falls. People will see him for what he really is and be amazed at how much power he actually had.
6. (18-23) The amazing and bloody destruction of Babylon.
“All the kings of the nations,
All of them, sleep in glory,
Everyone in his own house;
But you are cast out of your grave
Like an abominable branch,
Like the garment of those who are slain,
Thrust through with a sword,
Who go down to the stones of the pit,
Like a corpse trodden underfoot.
You will not be joined with them in burial,
Because you have destroyed your land
And slain your people.
The brood of evildoers shall never be named.
Prepare slaughter for his children
Because of the iniquity of their fathers,
Lest they rise up and possess the land,
And fill the face of the world with cities.”
“For I will rise up against them,” says the LORD of hosts,
“And cut off from Babylon the name and remnant,
And offspring and posterity,” says the LORD.
“I will also make it a possession for the porcupine,
And marshes of muddy water;
I will sweep it with the broom of destruction,” says the LORD of hosts.
a. All the kings of the nations: In this brief section, Isaiah brings his focus back more upon the king of literal Babylon. He notes the comfort and ease the other kings of the earth enjoy, but not the fallen king of Babylon, who is instead cast out of your grave like an abominable branch.
i. “But now a terrible thing has happened; he was not given the honorable burial deemed so important for monarchs. Even the common man regarded proper burial as essential.” (Wolf) Instead of a proper burial, the king of Babylon gets a bed of maggots and a blanket of worms! (Isaiah 14:11).
ii. “The corpse of the king of Babylon would be thrown out like a rejected branch (neser). What a contrast to the Branch from the stump of Jesse that would bear abundant fruit! (Isaiah 11:1)” (Wolf)
b. I will sweep it with the broom of destruction: The destruction of Babylon – both literal and spiritual – will be complete. The LORD will cut off from Babylon the name and remnant. There will not even be a remnant of Babylon left.
i. “Rubbish fit only for the broom of judgment – this was God’s verdict on mighty Babylon!” (Grogan)
ii. “If God’s enemies have a bright day or two, it shall soon be showery weather with them. They may for the moment exult over God’s people, but he knows that their day of reckoning is coming.” (Spurgeon)
B. Judgment to come on Assyria and the Philistines.
1. (24-27) The coming judgment on Assyria.
The LORD of hosts has sworn, saying,
“Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass,
And as I have purposed, so it shall stand:
That I will break the Assyrian in My land,
And on My mountains tread him underfoot.
Then his yoke shall be removed from them,
And his burden removed from their shoulders.
This is the purpose that is purposed against the whole earth,
And this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations.
For the LORD of hosts has purposed,
And who will annul it?
His hand is stretched out,
And who will turn it back?”
a. Surely, as I have thought, so it shall come to pass: God’s thoughts are as good as actions. All God has to do is think a thought, and worlds can be created. What a comfort to know that God thinks good thoughts towards His people: I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
b. I will break the Assyrian in My land: God did this powerfully when the Assyrians invaded Judah. 2 Kings 19:35 describes how God simply sent the angel of the LORD and killed 185,000 Assyrians in one night. When the people woke up, there were 185,000 dead Assyrian soldiers.
c. For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? God always accomplishes His purpose! His plan is never frustrated! Even when we have no trust at all in our own plan, we can fully trust God’s purpose.
2. (28-31) The coming judgment on the Philistines.
This is the burden which came in the year that King Ahaz died.
“Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia,
Because the rod that struck you is broken;
For out of the serpent’s roots will come forth a viper,
And its offspring will be a fiery flying serpent.
The firstborn of the poor will feed,
And the needy will lie down in safety;
I will kill your roots with famine,
And it will slay your remnant.
Wail, O gate! Cry, O city!
All you of Philistia are dissolved;
For smoke will come from the north,
And no one will be alone in his appointed times.”
a. Do not rejoice, all you of Philistia, because the rod that struck you is broken: There was constant warfare between Israel and the Philistines, and so on many occasions, Israel was the rod that struck the Philistines. Now, when Israel and Judah would be humbled, God did not want the Philistines to glory in it.
b. All you of Philistia are dissolved: God’s judgment would come against the Philistines also. They should not think that just because God was judging the Israelites, that they had somehow escaped.
3. (32) A word for the messengers of the nation.
What will they answer the messengers of the nation?
That the LORD has founded Zion,
And the poor of His people shall take refuge in it.
a. What will one then answer the messengers of the nation?In the midst of the judgment of the nations, what does God have to say to His people and to all the nations, when nations are being judged?
i. “No doubt the ‘envoys’ were Philistine diplomats sent to Jerusalem to encourage solidarity against the common Assyrian foe. As elsewhere, Isaiah’s message encouraged trust in God, not in alliances.” (Grogan)
b. The LORD has founded Zion: This was God’s simple answer. When judgment comes, what is founded on the LORD is made evident. The storm comes and beats against the house and tests its foundation. When the LORD has founded something, it is evident to everyone in the midst of judgment.
c. The poor of His people shall take refuge in it: This was the second part of God’s answer. God’s place of security is not for the rich and self-sufficient. It is for the poor of His people. It is the poor in spirit who find refuge in God’s city.
(c) 2021 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org