Introduction to Isaiah 13-23
These chapters (13-23) are distinctly set apart from the rest of the book. The introductory phrase of each section starts with the words the oracle of (other versions use the burden of). The phrase ends with the nations individual names. Sometimes the name of the nation or empire is not used, but some symbolical name. All of the nations included in the black list of nations are to some degree enemies of Israel except one, and that was Israel (Judah) itself.
Each of these chapters has its own distinctives. These chapters are not just dry condemnations of nation after nation. They have character and emotion. Sometimes a theme can be developed from these judgment sections.
Isaiah is not seen as a proud prophet but a sensitive man who cries at the destruction of his enemies. God not only has a special plan of destruction awaiting these nations but very often has a special word of hope or comfort, however little it may be. Sometimes it was an offer to change right away; other times the prophet predicted a renewal of that nation at some later date. Most importantly, we see different nations who would be supporting Gods work even though they were inherently His enemies.
God does not have a simple 'judge and save' plan but was working, threatening and counseling each nation to its part in His own plan. The future was unclear, but it did leave a word of hope.
Originally these sections or oracles were split up and whether they were sent to the nation addressed or as one has suggested that they were songs of war, we are not so sure. They seem to be addressed toward Israel (Judah) however, and assume at least Judah could have sung these songs. They were songs which brought hope at the darkest of times. They continued to give faith to a frail nation when Gods country seemed on the brink of disaster.
From reading them, one becomes confident that God indeed is in control and the land of Gods people will become the focus of the world (1). Each section has its own background but because they are placed out of any historical context then we can not accurately time these prophecies.
Besides the final arrangement of these prophecies and their common approach, we find no inherent unity in the messages of these chapters. Most often in an outline of Isaiah these chapters are uninterestingly lumped together as Gods judgment upon the nations. But we must discover each section is a special message and how this message relates to our world today. Each case is different. In ths time of a coming world government, it does us well to better understand how God deals with Israel and the other nations.
These 8 main sections can be divided into two smaller ones each with four subsections.
Chapters 13-18 deal straightforwardly with Gods righteousness. They address the nations:
- Babylon (13 14:27);
- Philistia (14:28-14:32);
- Moab (15-16); Syria (17);
- Ethiopia (18).
Chapters 19-23 primarily help us as individuals reflect more on the nations of the world. These nations include:
- Egypt (19-20);
- Babylon (21:1-10);
- Edom (21:11-12);
- Arabia (21:13-17);
- Jerusalem (22);
- Tyre (23).