What does Isaiah 14:19 mean?
ESV: but you are cast out, away from your grave, like a loathed branch, clothed with the slain, those pierced by the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit, like a dead body trampled underfoot.
NIV: But you are cast out of your tomb like a rejected branch; you are covered with the slain, with those pierced by the sword, those who descend to the stones of the pit. Like a corpse trampled underfoot,
NASB: But you have been hurled out of your tomb Like a rejected branch, Clothed with those killed who have been pierced with a sword, Who go down to the stones of the pit Like a trampled corpse.
CSB: But you are thrown out without a grave, like a worthless branch, covered by those slain with the sword and dumped into a rocky pit like a trampled corpse.
NLT: but you will be thrown out of your grave like a worthless branch. Like a corpse trampled underfoot, you will be dumped into a mass grave with those killed in battle. You will descend to the pit.
KJV: But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet.
Some of the phrases in this passage are difficult to translate. Isaiah is using poetry and imagery, while also making a direct point. The overall message is clear: the fallen king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:12–15) will have no tomb or honorable burial in death. Unlike the kings he defeated and killed in life he will be cast out. This king of Babylon will not rest in the tomb that may have been reserved for him. His mutilated body may have been put on public display so that all could see that the hated and feared king had truly been killed (Isaiah 14:16–18).
It is unclear what exactly Isaiah means by the king being cast away like a "loathed," or rejected, branch. The picture may be of a branch, pruned from the tree, which is cast off in a pile to be burned. It is possible that the king's body is cast into a pile of the bodies of others killed in the attack on Babylon. Like the rest of those bodies, his body will be trampled underfoot and cast into a pit, perhaps a mass grave.
In other words, the body of most powerful man in the world will be treated as common trash, once he is dead. People in the ancient Near East would have seen this as a terrible end. Many in this era believed that the quality of a person's afterlife was related to how and with what they were buried. Important kings and dignitaries were buried in lavish tombs fully equipped with sustenance for the beginning of a journey through the afterlife. Those unburied, or buried without dignity, were believed by some to return as unsettled spirits.
Again, Isaiah is not teaching any of these ideas as woodenly literal predictions. He is portraying the king's impending doom using the worst imaginable scenario in the minds of the people of the time. This king will have no relief from his utter humiliation in death.
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.
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 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.
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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