Why would God judge Babylon with Assyria? Why would God bring the entire cosmos to a final Day of Judgment that will shake the earth and cause the heavens to shudder?
Why will God do all this?
Judgment of Babylon
Near-term, as God had done before, the Lord was going to free God’s people from the captivity they would find themselves in, in Babylonian exile, in about a hundred years.
The Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel …Isaiah 14:1 (NRSV)
God was once again going to lead them to their promised land.
… and will settle them in their own land, and aliens will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. And the nations will take them and bring them to their place …Isaiah 14:1-2 (NRSV)
As before, when other people groups and Egyptians had left with the Hebrews in Exodus, God would bring in believers from every kind of people. As before, the Israelites would own the land, and rule over the people.
The Hebrews broke out in song when they reached the other side of the Red Sea. Now God would give them this song to sing in Isaiah 14:3:21, written in the form of a funeral dirge.
God allowed Babylon to have power for a temporary time, with a purpose of chastising God’s own people. But when that purpose ended, so would Babylon’s power.
The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked,Isaiah 14:5 (NRSV)
the scepter of rulers,
The Lord is the one who installs rulers and also removes leaders from power. The Babylonians had been barbarous. All the peoples of the known world would be overjoyed at Babylon’s downfall.
The whole earth is at rest and quiet;Isaiah 14:7 (NRSV)
they break forth into singing.
Even the trees would rejoice.
The cypresses exult over you,Isaiah 14:8 (NRSV)
the cedars of Lebanon, saying,
“Since you were laid low,
no one comes to cut us down.”
In actuality, without a care for the environment, Babylon had denuded whole districts of their forests—Lebanon in particular was wasted of one of its magnificent resources.
And then, in poetical allegory, the King of Babylon has an uncomfortable reunion in the land of the dead, Sheol.
Even in Sheol …
Sheol beneath is stirred upIsaiah 14:9-10 (NRSV)
to meet you when you come;
it rouses the shades to greet you,
all who were leaders of the earth;
it raises from their thrones
all who were kings of the nations.
All of them will speak
and say to you:
“You, too, have become as weak as we!
You have become like us!”
The rulers the king of Babylon had oppressed, murdered, and otherwise brutalized would all be there. No more harp music in the grand palace halls, no more plush carpeting and fine furnishings. All the luxuries of earth would now be gone.
Your pomp is brought down to Sheol,Isaiah 14:11 (NRSV)
and the sound of your harps;
maggots are the bed beneath you,
and worms are your covering.
Babylon, embodied in their kings and rulers, had promoted themselves, and their own power, above God, positioning themselves as God’s opponents. But all they had sought to acquire in this life was lost in eternity to come.
In the center of Israel’s future song of deliverance is a stanza theologians have for centuries seen as an illustration of Satan.
O Morning Star
How you are fallen from heaven,Isaiah 14:12-15 (NRSV)
O Morning Star, son of Dawn!
How you are cut down to the ground,
you who laid the nations low!
You said to yourself,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne
above the stars of God;
I will sit on the mount of assembly
on the heights of Zaphon;
I will ascend to the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High.”
But you are brought down to Sheol,
to the depths of the Pit.
These verses are seen to describe the thoughts that went on, not just in the king of Babylon’s mind, but, as many commentators read it, in Satan’s mind as well.
Satan’s story begins in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, where he appears as a wily serpent enticing the first man and woman away from God with the same lofty desires as those in the passage above.
“You will not die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”The Serpent to the man and woman, Genesis 3:4-5 (NRSV)
Though not mentioned often in the Hebrew scriptures, it is clear he is opposed to God and to the people of God.
More comes to light in the Greek scriptures, where Jesus corroborated Isaiah’s oracle when He told His disciples,
“I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning.”Jesus to the Seventy, Luke 10:18 (NRSV)
This event is furthered described in John’s Revelation.
And war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.Revelation 12:7-9 (NRSV)
The apostle Peter also gave details, again corroborating Isaiah’s oracle.
God did not spare the angels when they sinned but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment.2 Peter 2:4 (NRSV)
Satan aspired to be like God in that he wanted to possess all of heaven and all of earth. He wanted to rule it, he wanted to take over the universe. Unwilling to serve God, intent on overthrowing God, he was cast out of heaven, accompanied by a large angelic force, after a failed rebellion against God.
- Jesus characterized Satan as the father of lies, and a murderer.
- In heaven Satan is called the accuser of the brothers and sisters.
- The apostle Paul portrayed Satan as a cunning deceiver.
- The apostle Peter depicted Satan in the roaring lion on the prowl for someone to devour.
The apostle Paul warned the assemblies in his care about the strategies and very real dangers presented by Satan. The spiritual realm is as real and active as is the physical realm, and both realms occupy the same space, though the spiritual is often unseen.
Yet, as Isaiah prophesied, Satan is already a defeated foe, having been conquered at the Cross.
The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:8 (NRSV)