Isaiah chapters 13 through 23 are a series of taunts, pronouncements, and oracles against the enemies of God’s people. However the chapter of interest to most theologians seems to be Isaiah 14. Theological emphasis is on the generally perceived typological reference to Satan in vs 12 of chapter 14. Historicists also see a typological reference here to the fall of Mystery Babylon. Fine! We do not wish to peel away all the probable layers that can be found in this chapter. Our goal here is to discuss what most teachers neglect woefully; the literal historical fulfillment of this prophecy. The fulfillment as seen in the ancient Babylonian history can teach volumes about God use of words and what they mean.
Isaiah explains Babylon’s doom before it has even risen onto the stage of the world Empires. At the time Isaiah starts writing, Babylon was only a small kingdom in the Tigress Euphrates valley that we now call Iraq. The Babylonian Empire was started by Nabonassar, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandfather. This is one of the few dates in antiquity that is on solid ground; Nabonassar was crowned king of Babylon on Feb. 26, 727 BC. His grandson Nebuchadnezzar II expanded the kingdom until it became an empire embracing much of southwest Asia.
Chapter 13 begins the description of the fall of Babylon with the falling of all the stars [13:10]. The devastation is to be so bad that the men of the land will be “as rare as gold” [vs 12]. Finally the Medes will come, and destroy it all till Babylon will be as Sodom and Gomorrah was, after their judgment, with only howling creatures creeping through its ruins. There is an interesting, if not strange, reference in verse 21:
“But wild beast will lie down there, and its houses will be full of howling creatures; there ostriches will dwell, and there satyrs will dance.” Is 13:21
This is a reference to the constellation we call the little dipper, the ancients called it the goat herd, and every night they dance around the North Star. So, the city will be a ruin with only the stars remaining the same, dancing endlessly till the end of time.
Chapter 14 starts with a promise that the LORD will not forget Jacob but then immediately returns to the taunt against the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar reigned c. 605 BC – 562 BC; he expanded the kingdom to become the first world empire extending his border and influence all the way into Egypt. He captured Jerusalem in 597 BC, deposing King Jeconiah. Then in 587 BC, due to rebellion, destroyed both the city and burned the temple on the ninth of Av. A sizable portion of the population was deported to Babylon. [Esth. 2:6 who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away.] His very name in Babylonian, Nabu-kudurri-usur, meaning the god Nabu has guarded the estate (succession). Daniel 4 explains just how arrogant and ambition this man was.
In verses 14:12 he is called Lucifer or Day Star, depending on your translation. This is just what the Babylonians called the planet Venus. It was considered the king’s star and was equated with Ishtar and as such was a portent
of the king’s life and successes. But his star was to be brought down. Because he said that he the king would set his throne on the mount of the assembly in the far north. This is a reference to the North Star. The ancients believed that the stars were placed on a giant mountain that was held up and turned on a pole at the point of the North Star. Making that star the most powerful in the night sky for it was the Most High. But Nebuchadnezzar is not the most high he is to be brought down to sheol, the place of the dead. Others will look and wonder at how such a kingdom could have been brought so low?
Is this the man who made the earthquake? Remember, earthquakes are not literal, they represent the fall of nations to the empire. When the Parthian Empire took over the region in 141 BC, Babylon was obscure and in complete desolated.
Today little remains of the once great Empire, there are no tombs, no one lives there. The tower of Babel is no more, having been torn down by Alexander the Great. It is just an archeological dig with some reconstruction done under Sadam Hussein.