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Chapters thirteen through twenty-three contain a series of prophecies against specific nations. Isaiah preached these from Israel, not in those foreign countries, for at least two reasons. First, Israel needed to remember that Jehovah was not just their tribal god; he is the God over all nations. Second, Israel needed to hear that these nations, some of whom they turned to for help, were all under God’s judgment for their own sin and rebellion against him.
The first message was against Babylon, which was a strong city within Assyria, but not yet an empire in its own right. Although Babylon can be traced back to the settlement at Babel (Genesis 11), it did not become the world empire until it finally overthrew Assyria in 612 B.C. Although this message is undated, it was approximately 100 years before Babylon came into its own. Babylon, like the other nations that will be mentioned, faced God’s judgment that would affect every part of their lives. His armies would take their people (Isaiah 13:9, 11-12, 14-15), their objects of worship (Isaiah 13:10), and their homes (Isaiah 13:16). As with Assyria in chapter ten, a major reason for this judgment was their wickedness, pride, and violence (Isaiah 13:11).
Not only did Isaiah prophesy that Babylon would be overthrown, 100 years before Babylon was worth overthrowing, he also prophesied who would do it – the Medes (Isaiah 13:17). Although they allied themselves with Babylon to overthrow Assyria, they would be God’s agent to take out Babylon, too. This took place in 539 B.C. (almost 200 years after Isaiah), when Cyrus executed a sneak attack during Belshazzar’s drunken party (Daniel 5). Not only would Babylon never again rebuild as a world empire, it will become a desolate land where only wild animals will live (Isaiah 13:18-22). Since Babylon will probably be an integral part of Satan’s reign in the Tribulation, this prophecy seems to have its final fulfillment in the Messianic Kingdom.