The oracles of Isaiah began with Babylon and now we have returned to Babylon. This is an Oracle concerning the desert by the sea. There are a couple of thoughts on what this means. Some see this as Isaiah saying Babylon was physically lush but spiritually desolate. Others believe this may be a sarcastic parody of Babylon whose southern region on the Persian Gulf was called the land of the sea. Whatever you believe this wasn’t really a good picture of Babylon. The disaster coming from the desert is literally the disaster from the terrifying land. Isaiah is personalizing Babylon’s experience here and the Elamites lived northeast of Babylon along with the Medes. They were arch rivals of the Babylonians. Isaiah reminded the Babylonians that they had caused groaning by attacking and enslaving many nations. It is quite likely the Elamites and the Medes played a vital role in the overthrow of Babylon in 539 B.C. Isaiah is commanded to post a lookout, meaning he was to post a lookout on command in a station on Jerusalem’s wall. Persians rode both camels and donkeys and the watchmen were looking for the. As well as Assyrians and Babylonians.
Babylon fell twice, once in 689 and again in 539 B.C. The defeat of a kingdom also signaled the defeat of that nations deities. In scripture Babylon typically represents all the ungodly power structures in the world, including nations and kingdoms that do not submit to God and His Word. The fact that all their idols lay broken on the ground shows that false gods can save no one. From verses 11-17 there are two short oracles, against Edom and Arabia. These two nations were located in the territory between Babylon and Israel. These outlying regions suffered under Assyrian domination, and like Judah, they would not be able to rest under Babylon’s oppressive regime. Dumah means silence or stillness. It was an area located at the intersection of the east-west trade route between Babylon and Edom and the north-south trade route between Palmyra and Edom. Dumah played a vital military and economic role in the relationship between Mesopotamia and Edom, and it’s fate greatly affected Edom. Seir is another name for Edom. The watchman referred to here is the night patrol who kept watch over the city. The metaphor refers to the prophet Isaiah, who as a guard on the walls could see the dawn…the light of salvation…in the east before others. The question asked, how much longer until morning, means Edom’s suffering would be a long ordeal. The Assyrians were dominant in the Near East during the 700’s and 600’s B.C. Dumah’s future was grim. There would be relief from the Assyrian domination but it would be quickly followed by domination from Babylon.
Both Dedan and Tema were located in an area of northwestern Arabia known as Kedar. The Dedanites were merchants who used the thickets along side roads and pathways to hide their caravans from invaders who made their living by robbing caravans. They were attacked by both the Assyrians and the Babylonians. The weapons the desert tribes used were primitive compared to those of the Assyrians who used drawn swords and bent bows. Again we see disaster prophecies, this time for the tribes of Arabia. Many would be killed but there would be a small remnant that remained.
The message for Jerusalem addressed the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. and perhaps the people’s preparation for the subsequent Babylonian siege in 588-586 B.C. This message for Jerusalem has five parts. First there is a contrast between Jerusalem’s blind revelry and Isaiah’s appealing vision of itsselfishness rulers having fled the city, leaving it undefended . Isaiah has a detailed vision of the city’s fall. Isaiah indicts Jerusalem for her misplaced confidence in its defenses instead ofin the Lord. Isaiah indicts Jerusalem for her response of merrymaking instead of repenting. And last, there is a final vision confirming that this last apostasy sealed Jerusalem’s doom. Some associate Jerusalem with the valley of vision which is ironic. Jerusalem sits atop a hill, and visions were not typically thought to originate in a valley. Jerusalem was proud of her self perceived religious vision but her inhabitants were spiritually blind. Instead of partying on their rooftops the people should have been in their prayer closets. The reveling city was full of feasting and drinking, probably in response to Assyrian retreat. But a new threat is approaching; the Babylonian siege. The people did not die in battle so much then as they died of famine and disease. Siege warfare left the inhabitants of the city cut off from agricultural resources and in a terrible sanitation and health crisis. And the rulers were not slain or captured by defending their city but instead they are captured while fleeing the city to save their own skins. See 2 Kings 25:4-6.
Leaders were thought to be like fathers to their people and Shebna was concerned only for himself. The people of Judah added sin upon sin to the point that God would justly condemn them. This foreshadowed their exile in Babylon. Shebna and Eliakim were two royal officials in Hezekiah’s court. It seems that they assumed death at the hands of the Assyrians was inevitable so Shebna planned for an ostentatious burial place. Shebna may well have been a foreigner, perhaps an Egyptian and was second only to the king in position. The location of a persons burial site was considered to be of great importance and Shebna desired a tomb worthy of a king. In Shebna we see anexample of the people’s lack of confidence in God’s ability to rescue Jerusalem from Assyrian attack. The key to the house of David represents a position of high honor in the royal court. When the key holder opened the doors they stayed open and when he closed them they stayed closed. The officer with the highest position has sole authority in giving access to the king. This is the peg, one who is firmly in place and a reliable person.
The Oracle against Tyre ends today’s reading. Tyre was a prosperous seaport northwest of Israel. The relationship between Judah and Tyre went back to the time of David and Solomon. Think about King Hiram who provided both David and Solomon with cedar for their building projects. Tyre, with its proximity to plentiful forests and to the Mediterranean Sea was one of the commercial centers of the ancient Near East. It’s fleets were renowned, and its colonies brought it great prestige and riches. Tyre came under repeated attacks by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Macedonians. Tyre fell to Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Isaiah not only prophesied the end of Tyre but by implication warned all those whose wealth and earthly securitiesled to pride instead of dependence on God. Cyprus had close connections to Tyre and was the last port of call for sailors coming home from Spain before the final leg of their journey to Tyre. As Isaiah prophesies, we see the major role Tyre played in worldwide trade. When Tyre was ruined, many other nations would be as well. Isaiah is very specific about this. Isaiah makes it clear that the Lord has brought this disaster upon Tyre. She had created great wealth for herself and her trading partners. In a sense she was quite adept at creating kingdoms. Metaphorically Tyre was a harlot or prostitute. She was willing to sell anything to anyone for a cost. Isaiah ends by prophesying that in the end, even though Tyre’s profits came from unrighteous commerce , the profits would be given to the Lord rather than being squandered. There would be good food for the priests and fine clothing as well. The theme of the wealth of the nations being brought to the Lord in Jerusalem is more fully developed in 60:5-11; 61:6. Tyre would be forgotten for 70 years, a full measure of years…a lifetime. In other words, a generation would pass before Tyre would come to the forefront once again.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W