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This chapter Isaiah 14:0 is a continuation of the prophecy respecting Babylon, which was commenced in the previous chapter. The prophecy is concluded at Isaiah 14:27. A considerable portion of the chapter is a poem of unequalled beauty and sublimity. It is to be remembered that this prophecy was uttered at least 174 years before they were carried into captivity; and the design of the prophet is, to declare the certainty of their release after they should be subjected to this bondage. He, doubtless, intended that this prophecy should be borne with them, in memory at least, to Babylon, and that it should comfort and sustain them when there (see the Introduction to Isaiah 13:0). He, therefore, opens the vision by a summary statement of the certainty of their deliverance Isaiah 13:1-3. This general declaration respecting the deliverance of the Jews, is followed by a triumphant song on that subject, that is singularly beautiful in its imagery, and sublime in its conception. ‘It moves in lengthened elegiac measure, like a song of lamentation for the dead, and is full of lofty scorn and contumely from beginning to the end.’ - (Herder’s “Spirit of Hebrew Poetry,” by Marsh, vol. ii. p. 206.) It may be called the triumphal song of the Jews when delivered from their long and oppressive bondage. The parts and design of this poem may be thus expressed:

I. A chorus of Jews is introduced, expressing their surprise at the sudden and entire downfall of Babylon, and the complete destruction of the proud and haughty city. The whole earth is full of joy and rejoicing that the city, so long distinguished for oppressions and arrogance, is laid low; and even “the cedars” of Lebanon are introduced as uttering a most severe taunt over the fallen tyrant, and expressing their security now that he is no more Isaiah 14:4-8.

II. The scene is immediately changed from earth to hell. Hades, or the region of the dead, is represented as moved at the descent of the haughty king of Babylon to those abodes. Departed monarchs rise from their thrones, and insult him on being reduced from his pride and magnificence to the same low state as themselves Isaiah 14:9-11. This portion of the ode is one of the boldest personifications ever attempted in poetry: and is executed with remarkable brevity and force - so much so that we almost seem to “see” the illustrious shades of the dead rise from their couches to meet the descending king of Babylon.

III. The Jews now resume the speech Isaiah 14:12-17. They address the king of Babylon as fallen from heaven - like the bright star of the morning. They speak of him as the most magnificent and proud of the monarchs of the earth. They introduce him as expressing the most extravagant purposes of ambition; as designing to ascend to heaven, and to make his throne above the stars; and as aiming at equality with God. They then speak of him as cast down to hell, and as the object of reproach by all those who shall behold him.

IV. The scene is again changed. Certain persons are introduced who are represented as seeing the fallen king of Babylon - as looking narrowly upon him, to make themselves sure that it was he - and as taunting him with his proud designs and his purposes to make the world a wilderness Isaiah 14:15-20. They see him cast out and naked; lying among the undistinguished dead, and trodden under feet; and contrast his condition with that of monarchs who are usually deposited in a splendid mausoleum. But the once haughty king of Babylon is represented as denied even a common burial, and as lying undistinguished in the streets.

V. The whole scene of the poem is closed by introducing God as purposing the certain ruin of Babylon; as designing to cut off the whole of the royal family, and to convert the whole city into pools of water, and a habitation for the bittern Isaiah 14:21-23. This is declared to be the purpose of Yahweh; and a solemn declaration is made, that when “he” makes a purpose none can disannul it.

VI. A confirmation of this is added Isaiah 14:24-27 in a fragment respecting the destruction of the army of the Assyrian under Sennacherib, by which the exiles in Babylon would be comforted with the assurance, that he who had destroyed the Assyrian host with such ease could also effect his purposes respecting Babylon (see the remarks introductory to Isaiah 14:24).

‘I believe it may be affirmed,’ says Lowth, that there is no poem of its kind extant in any language, in which the subject is so well laid out, and so happily conducted, with such a richness of invention, with such a variety of images, persons, and distinct actions, with such rapidity and ease of transition in so small a compass, as in this ode of Isaiah. For beauty of disposition, strength of coloring, greatness of sentiment, brevity, perspicuity, and force of expression, it stands, among all the monuments of antiquity, unrivaled.’

The king of Babylon, who was the subject of this prediction, and who reigned when Babylon was taken, was Belshazzar (see Daniel 5:0; and the notes at Isaiah 14:22).

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