Isaiah 13-23 is a distinct section of Isaiah’s prophecy, dealing particularly with the nations who had caused Israel to suffer in the past. In these chapters are “burdens”—that is, prophetic messages—relating particularly to Babylon (13-14); Moab (15-16); Damascus, the capital of Syria (17); some unnamed maritime power west of Ethiopia (18); Egypt (19); Egypt and Ethiopia (20); Edom and Arabia (21); and Tyre (23). Some of these nations will appear on the scene in the last days, still manifesting their old enmity toward the chosen race. Chapter 22 refers definitely to Palestine in connection with the attacks of their enemies.
In Isaiah 13-14 the prophet predicted the future destruction that would come upon Babylon as a result of the Medo-Persian invasion of Chaldea. It may seem strange that Babylon occupies the place it does in these prophetic visions inasmuch as it was an insignificant power completely overshadowed by Assyria in Isaiah’s day. But the spirit of prophecy enabled Isaiah to look ahead to the time when Babylon and Assyria would be combined in one great dominion, of which the city of Babylon would be the capital. Babylon was the power destined to carry out the judgments of God against Judah because of its rebellion and idolatry.
As you read Isaiah 13-14 you will see that behind the literal rulers of Babylon was a sinister spirit-personality named Lucifer, the “son of the morning” (14:12). That this evil angel is identical with Satan himself seems to be perfectly clear.
The prophecy regarding Babylon was to have a double fulfillment: first, Babylon’s destruction by the armies of Cyrus and Cyaxares (who is probably the same as the Darius of Daniel 5); and second, the final destruction of the Assyrian of the last days. In eloquent and dramatic language Isaiah pictured the downfall of the future oppressor of the people of God.
The picture presented goes far beyond that of the literal destruction of Babylon on the Euphrates in the days of the Medo-Persian conquest. Reflected here are the conditions that will prevail not only among the nations of central and western Asia, but among all Gentile powers in the day of the Lord’s indignation. In other words, the doom that fell upon Babylon of old was an illustration of the terrible fate that awaits the godless Gentile powers who will be taken in red-handed rebellion against the Lord and His Anointed in the last days.
Note that many of the expressions used in these verses are practically identical with those in other prophecies concerning the day of the Lord and with those describing the events to follow the breaking of the sixth seal in the book of Revelation.
If you compare this passage with Haggai 2:6-7, Hebrews 12:25-29, Zechariah 14:4-5, and other passages relating to the day of the Lord, you will learn that the kingdoms of the world will be broken to pieces, but that is not all. There will also be tremendous natural convulsions that will shake the earth and cause disorder even among the heavenly bodies. The people of the world will be in abject terror because of the judgments of the Lord.
Such a large portion of the human race will be destroyed in the conflicts and natural catastrophes of those days that a man will be more precious than gold. Fear will take hold of all the inhabitants of the earth who do not know and wait for the Lord in that day of His power.
Here the prophet reverted to the literal destruction of Babylon that began with its siege and overthrow by the Medes and Persians. Its destruction was fully consummated some centuries later when at last that one-time proud city was leveled to the dust. Its palaces were demolished and its hanging gardens ruined. In all the centuries since, Babylon has never been able to rise again, for God has decreed, “It shall never be inhabited.” It is true mat from time to time small villages have been built near the site of the ancient city, but even to this day Arabians refuse to pitch their tents on the site. They think that demons prowl by night among the ruins where owls, lizards (“dragons” in 13:22), and other nocturnal creatures abound. The ruins of Babylon uncovered by archeologists show how completely the prophet’s words were fulfilled.
The Babylon of the Apocalypse is a symbolic picture of the great religious-commercial organization that will become fully developed in the last days after the true church has been caught up to be with the Lord. The doom of that organization, like that of the ancient city, will soon be consummated and it too will fall, never to lift itself up again against God and His people.