What does Isaiah 14 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
Isaiah follows the oracle against Babylon from Chapter 13 with a brief explanation. He explains what this downfall will mean for the people of Judah and the house of Jacob. He then records a taunting song that future Israelites will sing to mock the fallen king of Babylon. This mockery is followed by oracles against Assyria and Philistia.

Following God's judgment against Babylon, the Lord will once more have compassion on His captive people. He will choose Israel again and return them to their own land. The Babylonian Gentiles who return with them will become their slaves, reversing Israel's status from captives to captors (Isaiah 14:1–3).

Once freed and returned to the land, Isaiah prophecies that the people of Judah will sing a mocking funeral dirge about the dead king of Babylon. Scholars call it a taunt-song. This song follows the normal pattern of a dirge for a fallen leader. But instead of praising the king's legacy, it celebrates his death and the end of his family line (Isaiah 14:4).

The song begins by noticing the peace and rest that have come on the earth. While alive, the king of Babylon was an unrelenting and cruel tyrant. Both humans and nature rejoice that he is gone (Isaiah 14:5–8).

In the afterlife of Sheol, the spirits of former kings, perhaps those this king defeated and killed, are roused to welcome the new king to the place of the dead. Instead of honoring him, they mock him for becoming as weak as they are. He is just another dead king with no pomp or ceremony sleeping on a bed of maggots with worms for his blanket (Isaiah 14:9–11).

The next segment of Isaiah's mocking song refers to the fallen king as "Day Star, son of Dawn." Many Christians see Satan's fall from heaven echoed in these words. The taunt song goes on to describe how short he has fallen from his ambition to reign in heaven like the Most High among the other gods. He has fallen so low that his body will not even be properly buried. Rather, his remains will be trampled on the ground, thrown in a pile of dead bodies tossed into a mass grave. Lastly, his sons will be slaughtered by his own people to keep his lineage from ever appearing again (Isaiah 14:12–23).

Next, Isaiah turns to the Assyrians of his own day. The oracle against them declares the Lord's decided purpose to break them in His land and break their oppression over His people. Nothing can interfere with the Lord's plans (Isaiah 14:24–27).

The chapter wraps up with an oracle against Philistia. The Philistine nation was settled along the Mediterranean coast west of the Dead Sea. Major cities included Ashdod and Gaza. Isaiah's prophecy against Philistia is thick with symbolism. He received it the year Judah's King Ahaz died, which was probably 715 BC. The Philistines had just scored a temporary victory over the Assyrians oppressing them in the region. Isaiah warns them not to rejoice, because an "adder will come from the serpent's root" and its "fruit will be a flying fire serpent." Most modern commentators read this as a prediction that the Assyrians will grow strong again and return to defeat Philistia. That's exactly what happened four years later in 711 BC. After a siege by Sargon II, Philistia became an official province of Assyria (Isaiah 14:28–31).

Chapter 14 ends with Isaiah's encouragement to the people of Judah that they can trust the Lord to protect them. He founded Zion, or Jerusalem, and the afflicted of His people can find refuge in her (Isaiah 14:32).
Verse Context:
Chapter 14:1–2 describes the fate of the Israelite people after the destruction of their captors, the nation of Babylon. The Lord will have compassion on Israel them and will choose them as His people once more. God will return the people of Israel to the Promised Land. Some Gentiles from Babylon will come with them and will become slaves to the Israelites. This will reverse the status of God's people from captives to captors over those who had previously oppressed them.
Chapter 14:3–23 contains a mocking, sarcastic dirge for the fallen king of Babylon. The song imitates the respects otherwise paid to honor a fallen king. Instead, this song describes celebration of both people and trees at his death. The fallen kings in Sheol rise to mock the man for his weakness. The king is sarcastically referred to as the "Day Star"—leading to speculation that this is also a description of Satan's fall from heaven. The fallen one had ambition to become like the Most High among the gods, but instead was cut down to nothing in his death.
Chapter 14:24–27 presents a brief prophecy against the Assyrians living in Isaiah's own time. The Lord openly declares His purpose to break the Assyrians in His land. He will break their oppression of His people. This likely happened in 701 BC when Assyrian King Sennacherib held Jerusalem in a siege. The angel of the Lord struck down massive numbers of Assyrians in a single night (2 Kings 19:35–36). Nobody can alter what the Lord has purposed or annul His plans. The Lord will do as He said He will do.
Chapter 14:28–32 contains Isaiah's short oracle from the Lord against Philistia. It is thick with symbolism. But the time of its writing is specific: the year Judah's King Ahaz died, probably 715 BC. Despite the temporary victory over Assyria, Isaiah warns the Philistines not to rejoice. He seems to describe the return of the Assyrians as an "adder branch" that bears fruit in the form of a flying fire serpent. The Lord declares He will kill the root of the Philistines with famine. This prediction would be fulfilled through the Assyrians and Sargon II four years later.
Chapter Summary:
After the oracle against Babylon in the previous chapter, Isaiah briefly describes what will follow for Judah. In compassion, the Lord will choose His people once more. He will return them to their homeland. They will sing a mocking taunt-song against the fallen king of Babylon. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. The Lord will break the Assyrians in His land. With heavy symbolism, Isaiah seems to prophecy that the Assyrians will defeat the Philistines with a siege four years before it happens. God's people will find refuge in Zion.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 14 follows the oracle about the destruction of Babylon with a brief encouragement to the people of Judah. The Lord will restore them to the land. They will taunt the fallen Babylonian king, using phrases many also associate with the fall of Satan. Isaiah pronounces oracles from the Lord against Assyria and Philistia. He declares that He will break the Assyrians in His land, freeing His people from their oppression. Philistia will fall at the Lord's hand to a famine inflicted on them by a power from the north. Next, Isaiah's prophecy will turn to Moab.
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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