Against Babylon

Suddenly, Babylon is in the prophet's cross hairs.

Prophecies against the Nations: Isaiah 13-23 (1)

Pray Psalm 135.4.

How shall we sing the LORD’s song
In a foreign land?

Read Isaiah 13.


1. Babylon is at this time merely a faint glow on the eastern horizon. Israel and Syria are the looming threat to Judah and Jerusalem, with Assyria waiting in the wings. Why do you suppose Isaiah is prophesying against Babylon?

2. The destruction of Babylon, yet many years in the future, is a type of the destruction of the unbelieving world. How can you see that?

After a prayer of praise for the promised restoration of God’s people, Isaiah launches into a tirade against Babylon

Who? What’s with this sudden concern about a nation with which, to this point, Jerusalem has had no significant involvement?

The destruction of Babylon is called the “day of the LORD.” It is spoken of in terms of cosmic cataclysm (cf. v. 10) and universal judgment (vv. 10-16). The destruction will be complete, and Babylon will never be rebuilt or inhabited (vv. 20-22).

As we shall see, Babylon will feature large in Isaiah’s ministry, as he points the people of his day forward, beyond their lifetimes, beyond time itself, to future fulfillments and ultimate scenarios. But what God does at those times will seem like the world is turning upside-down. And when Isaiah’s words prove true, the faithful among God’s people will turn to Him in repentance and faith, and call upon Him to fulfill His promised restoration for His people.

Isaiah’s words should also have served to warn the rulers of Israel against becoming too cozy with Babylon – a warning Hezekiah would fail to heed.

1. There’s a lot of violence here, even a hint of Psalm 137 (v. 16). Nations are described as God’s “weapons.” Why do you suppose God used so much violence of one nation to judge another?

2. Verses 9 and 10 sound more like the final judgment of God than the downfall of Babylon. Explain. Does the rise and fall of nations like Babylon serve an eschatologicalpurpose for believers? 

3. It’s pretty clear that God hates sin (vv. 9, 11, 13). How should this warn those who believe in Him?

The day of the Lord comes suddenly, it says, and in an unexpected way like the pains of childbirth, which forestall all one’s efforts to hide them. Ambrose (333-397 AD), Letter 32 (8.56.12)

Lord, let me never forget that a day of wrath is coming, and so I need to…

Pray Psalm 137.

This is a difficult psalm to pray. To understand it, and the anger that seethes in it, we have to put ourselves in the place of those who were carried away forcefully to Babylon, and who saw their loved ones murdered and their city and God’s temple destroyed. To pray it today, we should think of the spiritual forces of wickedness which everywhere hold people captive to the lie, and which foment violent attacks on our fellow believers, and pray that God will restrain and even destroy them.

Sing to the Lord.
Psalm 137 (Gift of Love: Though I May Speak)
We sit beside the waters deep in broken pride, to mourn and weep
for Zion’s woes and all our sin: How great our foes, without, within!

No songs have we of joy to sing. Our enemy, to taunt and sting, 
bids us rejoice, as they oppress: We have no voice to praise or bless.

How can we sing, exalt Your Name, or praises bring amid our shame?
If we forget Your Church's fame, O Lord, then let our hands grow lame.

If ever praise forsake my tongue, if Zion's ways no more be sung, 
if greater joy by me be found, my lips destroy, no more to sound.

Remember, Lord Your boasting foes, who hate Your Word and visit woes
on your dear sheep that they may die: Cause them to weep and mourn and sigh.

How blessed are You, our sovereign Lord, Who judgment true shall soon accord
to all who seek Your sheep to kill. Preserve the meek who serve You still.

T. M. Moore

Where do the prophets fit with the rest of Scripture? How can I be a better student of God’s Word? Our course, Introduction to Biblical Theology, can help you gain a better approach to and understanding of the Scriptures. Watch this brief preview video, then register at The Ailbe Seminary and enroll in this free online course.

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006).All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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