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Isaiah 13:1–5 The LORD of Hosts Calls Forth His Hosts
Isaiah 13:2–5, an introduction to Isaiah’s prophecy against Babylon (13:1, 6–22), has two fulfilments—ancient Babylon and its inhabitants will be devastated; wickedness and worldliness in the last days (called “spiritual Babylon”) will be destroyed at the Lord’s Second Coming. The Lord commands His “sanctified ones” to symbolically: (1) raise a banner on a mountain, (2) call out with loud voices, and (3) wave the hand as a signal. Some terms in this section refer to a battle—“mighty ones,” “mustering the host for the battle,” “weapons,” “destroy,” and so forth. But the terms refer to the great spiritual battle between the Lord’s people and the forces of evil. The scriptures, in fact, refer to the Lord’s church as an “army”—“the coming forth of my church out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners” (Doctrine and Covenants 5:14; 105:30–31; 109:73). Note also that several passages in the Doctrine and Covenants utilize military language when referring to God’s covenant people, for example, “Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thresh the nations by the power of my Spirit; And their arm shall be my arm, and I will be their shield and their buckler; and I will gird up their loins, and they shall fight manfully for me; and their enemies shall be under their feet; and I will let fall the sword in their behalf, and by the fire of mine indignation will I preserve them” (Doctrine and Covenants 35:13–14; emphasis added; see also 133:58–59).
Prophecy against. The Hebrew masa’ (translated here as “prophecy against”) introduces a prophetic judgment against a people or nation (for other examples, see 14:28, 15:1; 17:1; 19:1; 21:1; 21:11, 13; 22:1; 23:1; 30:6). Isaiah . . . saw. The Hebrew verb here (chzh) means “see in a vision; Isaiah saw in vision many of the things that are written in his book. Babylon. This term refers to an ancient city in Mesopotamia, but Babylon is also a symbol of the world and wickedness: “Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (Doctrine and Covenants 133:14).
Lift up an ensign/exalt the voice/wave the hand. The Lord gives three commands to His sanctified ones: (1) “Lift up an ensign on a high mountain,” or raise the gospel flag as a rallying point and signal for people of the earth; “high mountain” symbolizes the temple, which is a focal place for His sanctified ones; (2) “Exalt [My] voice,” unto the people; the “voice of warning shall be unto all people, by the mouths of my disciples” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:4; see also Doctrine and Covenants 38:41); and (3) “Wave the hand,” meaning, extend an invitation or beckon to others with your hand to gather around the flag. It is possible that these three actions were based on ancient practices, in which a tribal leader would invite members of his clan to rally around the tribal flag (compare Numbers 2:2). Similarly members of God’s kingdom of this dispensation figuratively lift up the gospel banner upon the mountain (18:2; 30:17), which symbolizes the temple, and earth’s nations seek after it. ensign. The ensign is variously given in the scriptures as the “root of Jesse” (11:10), the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 29:2–3), the great Zion of the last days (Doctrine and Covenants 64:41–43), and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Doctrine and Covenants 115:4–5).
gates of the nobles. The gates of Zion, or, the portals of the temple.
My sanctified ones/My mighty ones. God uses these affirmative expressions to refer to His Saints. “My” indicates that they belong to Him. “Sanctified ones” speaks of temple worshippers, or, the pure in heart. “Mighty ones” refers to those with spiritual power as well as the priesthood power with which His Saints conduct the gathering, order His ordinances, and more. [is not upon] (= JST, 2 Nephi 23:3).
multitude in the mountains. This has partial fulfillment in the gathering of the Saints in the Rocky Mountains (see Teachings, 255). Lord of Hosts is mustering the host for the battle. The Hebrew word translated “hosts” (tzeva’ot) can also be translated “armies.” (1) Jehovah, our “captain” (2 Chronicles 13:12) and “man of war” (Exodus 15:3), is mustering His host of angels to battle against evil forces that are assaulting His Saints; (2) The Lord is also mustering His host of Saints, the “army of Israel” (Doctrine and Covenants 105:26, 30–31; 109:73).
from the end of the heavens. Angels, “from the end of the heavens” will assist in this great battle against Babylon (JS—Matthew 1:37; Revelation 14:6; Doctrine and Covenants 110:11; Moses 5:58). weapons of His indignation. A reference to the Lord’s heavenly powers: “The Lord hath opened his armory, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation” (Jeremiah 50:25). to destroy the whole land. Isaiah seems to be saying that the Lord’s weapons will destroy the earth, meaning the wicked inhabitants.
Isaiah 13:6–22 Judgment on Babylon: The Day of the Lord Will Come
This section is linked to the previous passage (see 13:1–5). A careful reading of this prophecy against Babylon (see 13:1) indicates that it has two fulfilments—ancient Babylon and its inhabitants will be devastated, and wickedness and worldliness in the last days (called “spiritual Babylon”) will be destroyed at the Lord’s Second Coming. Doctrine and Covenants 133:14 states, “Go ye out from among the nations, even from Babylon, from the midst of wickedness, which is spiritual Babylon” (see also Latter-day Saint Bible chapter heading, Isaiah 13).
day of the Lord. Indicates a time period of punishment upon the wicked, often referring to the last days and the Second Coming (see discussion about 2:12).
Wail . . . heart will melt. Isaiah describes the anguish and dismay of the wicked as the Almighty destroys them and makes their land desolate—“feeble hands,” “melting hearts,” “dismay,” “pangs,” “agonies, writhing like a “woman in labor,” “astonishment,” and “faces of flames” (bright-red, shameful, guilt-ridden faces).
2 Nephi 13:8 lacks the KJV phrase “they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth.” Isaiah often referred to different stages of childbirth (see also 21:3; 23:4; 26:17; 28:9; 33:11; 37:3; 42:14; 45:10; 49:15, 21–23; 54:1; 60:4, 16; 65:23: 66:7–14).
day of the Lord comes. Isaiah refers again to this day, and then he describes it: “cruel, wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate; and he will destroy its sinners from it.”
Isaiah 13:10, 12
stars of heaven. The “stars,” “constellations,” “sun,” and “moon” react to “the day of the Lord” by not allowing their light to shine. Further, the “heavens tremble” and the earth shakes. Several prophesies refer to the disturbances in the heavens at the time of the last days and Second Coming (see 34:4; Joel 2:10; Revelation 6:12–14).
I will punish the world for its evil. “World” (Hebrew tevel) sometimes refers to the inhabited world, including the Holy Land but also beyond its borders. Reference to tevel here presents another evidence that Isaiah was a prophet for the entire world, not just the house of Israel. The Lord’s punishments are always directed to sinners; thus note the language in this verse that describes the sinners: “evil,” “wicked,” “iniquity,” “arrogance,” “proud,” “haughtiness,” and “ruthless.”
men scarcer . . . pure gold of Ophir. Gold from Ophir (1 Kings 9:28; 22:48; Job 28:16) was particularly prized because it was the highest grade. After the Almighty’s destruction (13:6) of humans, people will be scarcer than pure gold.
like a gazelle/like sheep. At the day of the Lord, the wicked will flee like “gazelles” and “sheep” to their “own people” or their “own land.”
[who is proud] = JST, 2 Nephi 23:15.
Detailed description of what will happen to the wicked—“pierced,” “fall,” “dashed,” “plundered,” “ravished,” and so forth.
as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. These verses describe the outcome of Babylon’s destruction—it will never to be inhabited; Bedouin and shepherds will not dwell there, but various wild animals (ostriches, wild goats, hyenas, jackals, and so forth) will. Babylon’s destruction will be so complete that it will be like the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.
ostriches . . . jackals. The exact identification of some of these animals is uncertain.
I will be merciful unto my people. In contrast to the destruction of the wicked, the Lord promises mercy to His people. the day of the Lord. This phrase often refers to the events associated with the last days and Jesus Christ’s Second Coming. [For I destroy . . . will perish] = JST, 2 Nephi 23:22.
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