on Isaiah 13 :22
In their pleasant palaces "In their palaces" - באלמנותיו bealmenothaiv; a plain mistake, I presume, for בארמנתיו bearmenothaiv. It is so corrected in two MSS., the Syriac, Chaldee, and Vulgate.
Πουλυποδες δ' εν εμοι θαλαμας φωκαι τε μελαιναι
Οικα ποιησονται ακηδεα, χητεΐ λαων.
Hom. Hymn. in Apol. 77.
Of which the following passage of Milton may be taken for a translation, though not so designed: -
"And in their palaces,
Where luxury late reigned, sea monsters whelped,
Par. Lost, 11:750.
This image of desolation is handled with great propriety and force by some of the Persian poets: -
"The spider holds the veil in the palace of Caesar;
The owl stands centinel on the watch-tower of Afrasiab."
On this quotation Sir W. Jones observes, noubet is an Arabic word, signifying a turn, a change, a watch; hence noubet zudun in Persian signifies to relieve the guards by the sounds of drums and trumpets. Their office is given by the poet to the owl; as that of purdeh dar, or chamberlain, is elegantly assigned to the spider.
on Isaiah 13 :22
And the wild beasts of the islands - (איים 'ı̂yı̂ym); see the notes at Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 41:1, on the word rendered 'islands.' The word denotes islands, or coasts, and as those coasts and islands were unknown and unexplored, the word seems to have denoted unknown and uninhabited regions in general. Boehart supposes that by the word here used is denoted a species of wolves, the jackal, or the "thoes." It is known as a wild animal, exceedingly fierce, and is also distinguished by alternate howlings in the night ("see" Bochart's "Hieroz." i. 3. 12). The word wolf probably will not express an erroneous idea here. The Chaldee renders it, 'Cats.'
Shall cry - Hebrew, 'Shall answer, or respond to each other.' This is known to be the custom of wolves and some other wild animals, who send forth those dismal howls in alternate responses at night. This alternation of the howl or cry gives an additional impressiveness to the loneliness and desolation of forsaken Babylon.
And dragons - (תנין tannı̂yn). This word, in its various forms of "tannim, taninim, tannin, and tannoth," denotes sometimes "jackals or thoes," as in Job 30:29; Psalm 44:19; Micah 1:8; Malachi 1:3. But it also denotes a great fish, a whale, a sea monster, a dragon, a serpent. It is translated 'a whale' in Genesis 1:21; Job 7:12; Ezekiel 32:2; 'serpents,' Exodus 7:9-10, Exodus 7:12; 'dragons,' or 'dragon,' Deuteronomy 32:33; Nehemiah 2:13; Psalm 44:19; Psalm 74:13; Psalm 91:13; Psalm 148:7; Isaiah 27:1; Isaiah 51:9; Jeremiah 14:6; Jeremiah 51:34; Malachi 1:3, "et al.;" and once 'sea monsters,' Lamentations 4:3. A "dragon" properly means a kind of winged serpent much celebrated in the dark ages. Here it may not improperly be rendered "jackal" ("see" Bochart's "Hieroz." i. 1. 9, p. 69).
In their pleasant palaces - Hebrew, 'Their palaces of luxury and pleasure.' The following testimonies from travelers will show how minutely this was accomplished: 'There are many dens of wild beasts in various parts.' 'There are quantities of porcupine quills.' 'In most of the cavities are numberless bats and owls.' 'These caverns, over which the chambers of majesty may have been spread, are now the refuge of jackals and other savage animals. The mouths of their entrances are strewed with the bones of sheep and "goats;" and the loathsome smell that issues from most of them is sufficient warning not to proceed into the den.' - (Sir R. K. Porter's "Travels," vol. ii. p. 342.) 'The mound was full of large holes; we entered some of them, and found them strewed with the carcasses and skeletons of animals recently killed. The ordure of wild beasts was so strong, that prudence got the better of curiosity, for we had no doubt as to the savage nature of the inhabitants. Our guides, indeed, told us that all the ruins abounded in lions and other wild beasts; so literally has the divine prediction been fulfilled, that wild beasts of the deserts should lie there.' - (Keppel's "Narrative," vol. i. pp. 179, 180.)
And her time is near to come - This was spoken about 174 years before the destruction of Babylon. But we are to bear in mind that the prophet is to be supposed to be speaking to the captive Jews "in" Babylon, and speaking to them respecting their release (see Isaiah 14:1-2; compare remarks on the Analysis of this chapter). Thus considered, supposing the prophet to be addressing the Jews in captivity, or ministering consolation to them, the time was near. Or if we suppose him speaking as in his own time, the period when Babylon was to be destroyed was at no great distance.
On this whole prophecy, we may observe:
(1) That it was uttered at least 170 years before it was fulfilled. Of this there is all the proof that can be found in regard to any ancient writings.
(2) When uttered, there was the strongest improbability that it would be fulfilled. This improbability arose from the following circumstances:
(a) The Jews were secure in their own land, and they had no reason to dread the Babylonians; they had no wars with them, and it was improbable that they would be plucked up as a nation and carried there as captives. Such a thing had never occurred, and there were no circumstances that made it probable that it would occur.
(b) The great strength and security of Babylon rendered it improbable. It was the capital of the pagan world; and if there was any city that seemed impregnable, it was this.
(c) It was improbable that it would be overthrown by "the Medes." Media, at the time when the prophecy was uttered, was a dependent province of Assyria (note, Isaiah 13:17), and it was wholly improbable that the Medes would revolt; that they would subdue their masters; that they would be united to the Persians, and that thus a new kingdom would arise, that should overthrow the most mighty capital of the world.
(d) It was improbable that Babylon would become uninhabitable. It was in the midst of a most fertile country; and by no human sagacity could it have been seen that the capital would be removed to Susa, or that Seleucia would be founded, thus draining it of its inhabitants; or that by the inundation of waters it would become unhealthy. How could mere human sagacity have foreseen that there would not be a house in it in the sixteenth century; or that now, in 1839, it would be a wide and dreary waste? Can any man now tell what London, or Paris, or New York, or Philadelphia, will be two years hence? Yet a prediction that those cities shall be the residence of 'wild beasts of the desert,' of 'satyrs' and 'dragons,' would be as probable now as was the prediction respecting Babylon at the time when Isaiah uttered these remarkable prophecies.
(3) The prophecy is not vague conjecture. It is not a "general" statement. It is minute, and definite, and particular; and it has been as definitely, and minutely, and particularly fulfilled.
(4) This is one of the evidences of the divine origin of the Bible. How will the infidel account for this prophecy and its fulfillment? It will not do to say that it is accident. It is too minute, and too particular. It is not human sagacity. No human sagacity could have foretold it. It is not "fancied fulfillment." It is real, in the most minute particulars. And if so, then Isaiah was commissioned by Yahweh as he claimed to be - for none but the omniscient jehovah can foresee and describe future events as the destruction of Babylon was foreseen and described. And if "this" prophecy was inspired by God, by the same train of reasoning it can be proved that the whole Bible is a revelation from heaven. For a very interesting account of the present state of the ruins of Babylon, furnishing the most complete evidence of the fulfillment of the Prophecies in regard to it, the reader may consult an article in the "Amos Bib. Rep.," vol. viii. pp. 177-189. (See also the two "Memoirs on the Ruins of Babylon," by C. John Rich, Esq. London, 1816 and 1818.) The frontispiece to this volume, compiled from the sketches of recent travelers, gives accurate and interesting views of those ruins.
on Isaiah 13 :22
13:22 Prolonged - Beyond the time appointed by God.