Your Questions Answered -- By: Anonymous
BSP 5:1 (Winter 1976) p. 28
Your Questions Answered
We are grateful to Paul McCoy of East Windsor, N.J. for the following question:
Isaiah 13:17–19 indicates that the Medes would slaughter the Babylonians and that Babylon would meet the same violent overthrow as Sodom and Gomorrah. How can this prophecy be reconciled with the known historical facts that the capture of Babylon by the Medes and Persians under Cyrus in 539 B.C. was a peaceful takeover and that Babylon continued as a prosperous city for several hundred more years?
The problem we have to deal with here is twofold. On the one hand we must determine what is the proper interpretation of the prophecy and on the other hand we must ascertain what are the true historical facts. Let us begin by examining the prophecy itself.
The entire 13th chapter of Isaiah, written in the 8th century B.C., is concerned with Babylon as indicated in verse 1: “The burden of Babylon, which Isaiah the son of Amoz did see.” In verses 2–16 it appears that a great final judgement is being described, with Babylon being symbolic of the world in general. (Note such phrases as “the day of the Lord” in verses 6 and 9, “the world” in verse 11, and the heavenly disturbances described in verses 10 and 13.) Opinion on the interpretation of these first 16 verses, however, varies among Bible scholars.
It seems quite clear that verses 17–22 refer to the literal city of Babylon. This section can be divided into two parts: verses 17 and 18, which refer to the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and
BSP 5:1 (Winter 1976) p. 29
Persians under Cyrus in 539 B.C.; and verses 19–22, which refer to a future state of the city sometime after 539 B.C.
First, let us consider the overthrow of Babylon:
- Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it.
- Their bows shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children.
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