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Chapter 51

The Second Oracle Against Babylon

    Thus says the Lord:
See! I rouse against Babylon,
    and the inhabitants of Chaldea,
    a destroyer wind.[a]

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  1. 51:1 The destroyer wind is the fierce dry wind from the east (cf. 4:11).

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)

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  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.

Chapter 21

Fall of Babylon[a]

    Oracle on the wastelands by the sea:[b]
Like whirlwinds sweeping through the Negeb,
    it comes from the desert,
    from the fearful land.(A)
A harsh vision has been announced to me:
    “The traitor betrays,
    the despoiler spoils.(B)
Go up, O Elam; besiege, O Media;[c]
    put an end to all its groaning!”(C)
Therefore my loins are filled with anguish,
    pangs have seized me like those of a woman in labor;
I am too bewildered to hear,
    too dismayed to look.(D)
My mind reels,
    shuddering assails me;
The twilight I yearned for
    he has turned into dread.(E)
They set the table,
    spread out the rugs;
    they eat, they drink.[d](F)
Rise up, O princes,
    oil the shield!
For thus my Lord said to me:
    Go, station a watchman,
    let him tell what he sees.
If he sees a chariot,
    a pair of horses,
Someone riding a donkey,
    someone riding a camel,
Then let him pay heed,
    very close heed.
    Then the watchman cried,
“On the watchtower, my Lord,
    I stand constantly by day;
And I stay at my post
    through all the watches of the night.(G)
Here he comes—
    a single chariot,
    a pair of horses—
He calls out and says,
    ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon!
All the images of her gods
    are smashed to the ground!’”(H)
10 To you, who have been threshed,
    beaten on my threshing floor,
What I have heard
    from the Lord of hosts,
The God of Israel,
    I have announced to you.(I)

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  1. 21:1–10 This oracle against Babylon is probably to be dated to the period just before the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 B.C. (v. 9).
  2. 21:1 Wastelands by the sea: Babylonia. Negeb: the wilderness south of Judah.
  3. 21:2 Elam…Media: nations which, under the leadership of Cyrus, captured Babylon in 539 B.C. End to all its groaning: those who were captive of Babylon will be freed.
  4. 21:5 Babylon is destroyed while its leaders are feasting; cf. Dn 5. Oil the shield: shields were oiled and greased so as to divert blows more easily; cf. 2 Sm 1:21.

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