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Isaiah 14:4-26

Context
14:4 you will taunt the king of Babylon with these words: 1 

“Look how the oppressor has met his end!

Hostility 2  has ceased!

14:5 The Lord has broken the club of the wicked,

the scepter of rulers.

14:6 It 3  furiously struck down nations

with unceasing blows. 4 

It angrily ruled over nations,

oppressing them without restraint. 5 

14:7 The whole earth rests and is quiet;

they break into song.

14:8 The evergreens also rejoice over your demise, 6 

as do the cedars of Lebanon, singing, 7 

‘Since you fell asleep, 8 

no woodsman comes up to chop us down!’ 9 

14:9 Sheol 10  below is stirred up about you,

ready to meet you when you arrive.

It rouses 11  the spirits of the dead for you,

all the former leaders of the earth; 12 

it makes all the former kings of the nations

rise from their thrones. 13 

14:10 All of them respond to you, saying:

‘You too have become weak like us!

You have become just like us!

14:11 Your splendor 14  has been brought down to Sheol,

as well as the sound of your stringed instruments. 15 

You lie on a bed of maggots,

with a blanket of worms over you. 16 

14:12 Look how you have fallen from the sky,

O shining one, son of the dawn! 17 

You have been cut down to the ground,

O conqueror 18  of the nations! 19 

14:13 You said to yourself, 20 

“I will climb up to the sky.

Above the stars of El 21 

I will set up my throne.

I will rule on the mountain of assembly

on the remote slopes of Zaphon. 22 

14:14 I will climb up to the tops 23  of the clouds;

I will make myself like the Most High!” 24 

14:15 But you were brought down 25  to Sheol,

to the remote slopes of the pit. 26 

14:16 Those who see you stare at you,

they look at you carefully, thinking: 27 

“Is this the man who shook the earth,

the one who made kingdoms tremble?

14:17 Is this the one who made the world like a desert,

who ruined its 28  cities,

and refused to free his prisoners so they could return home?”’ 29 

14:18 30 As for all the kings of the nations,

all of them 31  lie down in splendor, 32 

each in his own tomb. 33 

14:19 But you have been thrown out of your grave

like a shoot that is thrown away. 34 

You lie among 35  the slain,

among those who have been slashed by the sword,

among those headed for 36  the stones of the pit, 37 

as if you were a mangled corpse. 38 

14:20 You will not be buried with them, 39 

because you destroyed your land

and killed your people.

The offspring of the wicked

will never be mentioned again.

14:21 Prepare to execute 40  his sons

for the sins their ancestors have committed. 41 

They must not rise up and take possession of the earth,

or fill the surface of the world with cities.” 42 

14:22 “I will rise up against them,”

says the Lord who commands armies.

“I will blot out all remembrance of Babylon and destroy all her people, 43 

including the offspring she produces,” 44 

says the Lord.

14:23 “I will turn her into a place that is overrun with wild animals 45 

and covered with pools of stagnant water.

I will get rid of her, just as one sweeps away dirt with a broom,” 46 

says the Lord who commands armies.

14:24 47 The Lord who commands armies makes this solemn vow:

“Be sure of this:

Just as I have intended, so it will be;

just as I have planned, it will happen.

14:25 I will break Assyria 48  in my land,

I will trample them 49  underfoot on my hills.

Their yoke will be removed from my people,

the burden will be lifted from their shoulders. 50 

14:26 This is the plan I have devised for the whole earth;

my hand is ready to strike all the nations.” 51 

1 tn Heb “you will lift up this taunt over the king of Babylon, saying.”

2 tc The word in the Hebrew text (מַדְהֵבָה, madhevah) is unattested elsewhere and of uncertain meaning. Many (following the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa) assume a dalet-resh (ד-ר) confusion and emend the form to מַרְהֵבָה (marhevah, “onslaught”). See HALOT 548 s.v. II *מִדָּה and HALOT 633 s.v. *מַרְהֵבָה.

3 tn Or perhaps, “he” (cf. KJV; NCV “the king of Babylon”). The present translation understands the referent of the pronoun (“it”) to be the “club/scepter” of the preceding line.

4 tn Heb “it was striking down nations in fury [with] a blow without ceasing.” The participle (“striking down”) suggests repeated or continuous action in past time.

5 tn Heb “it was ruling in anger nations [with] oppression without restraint.” The participle (“ruling”) suggests repeated or continuous action in past time.

6 tn Heb “concerning you.”

7 tn The word “singing” is supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons. Note that the personified trees speak in the second half of the verse.

8 tn Heb “lay down” (in death); cf. NAB “laid to rest.”

9 tn Heb “the [wood]cutter does not come up against us.”

10 sn Sheol is the proper name of the subterranean world which was regarded as the land of the dead.

11 tn Heb “arousing.” The form is probably a Polel infinitive absolute, rather than a third masculine singular perfect, for Sheol is grammatically feminine (note “stirred up”). See GKC 466 §145.t.

12 tn Heb “all the rams of the earth.” The animal epithet is used metaphorically here for leaders. See HALOT 903 s.v. *עַתּוּד.

13 tn Heb “lifting from their thrones all the kings of the nations.” הֵקִים (heqim, a Hiphil perfect third masculine singular) should be emended to an infinitive absolute (הָקֵים, haqem). See the note on “rouses” earlier in the verse.

14 tn Or “pride” (NCV, CEV); KJV, NIV, NRSV “pomp.”

15 tn Or “harps” (NAB, NIV, NRSV).

16 tn Heb “under you maggots are spread out, and worms are your cover.”

17 tn The Hebrew text has הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר (helel ben-shakhar, “Helel son of Shachar”), which is probably a name for the morning star (Venus) or the crescent moon. See HALOT 245 s.v. הֵילֵל.

sn What is the background for the imagery in vv. 12-15? This whole section (vv. 4b-21) is directed to the king of Babylon, who is clearly depicted as a human ruler. Other kings of the earth address him in vv. 9ff., he is called “the man” in v. 16, and, according to vv. 19-20, he possesses a physical body. Nevertheless the language of vv. 12-15 has led some to see a dual referent in the taunt song. These verses, which appear to be spoken by other pagan kings to a pagan king (cf. vv. 9-11), contain several titles and motifs that resemble those of Canaanite mythology, including references to Helel son of Shachar, the stars of El, the mountain of assembly, the recesses of Zaphon, and the divine title Most High. Apparently these verses allude to a mythological story about a minor god (Helel son of Shachar) who tried to take over Zaphon, the mountain of the gods. His attempted coup failed and he was hurled down to the underworld. The king of Babylon is taunted for having similar unrealized delusions of grandeur. Some Christians have seen an allusion to the fall of Satan here, but this seems contextually unwarranted (see J. Martin, “Isaiah,” BKCOT, 1061).

18 tn Some understand the verb to from חָלַשׁ (khalash, “to weaken”), but HALOT 324 s.v. II חלשׁ proposes a homonym here, meaning “to defeat.”

19 sn In this line the taunting kings hint at the literal identity of the king, after likening him to the god Helel and a tree. The verb גָדַע (gada’, “cut down”) is used of chopping down trees in 9:10 and 10:33.

20 tn Heb “you, you said in your heart.”

21 sn In Canaanite mythology the stars of El were astral deities under the authority of the high god El.

22 sn Zaphon, the Canaanite version of Olympus, was the “mountain of assembly” where the gods met.

23 tn Heb “the high places.” This word often refers to the high places where pagan worship was conducted, but here it probably refers to the “backs” or tops of the clouds. See HALOT 136 s.v. בָּמָה.

24 sn Normally in the OT the title “Most High” belongs to the God of Israel, but in this context, where the mythological overtones are so strong, it probably refers to the Canaanite high god El.

25 tn The prefixed verb form is taken as a preterite. Note the use of perfects in v. 12 to describe the king’s downfall.

26 tn The Hebrew term בּוּר (bor, “cistern”) is sometimes used metaphorically to refer to the place of the dead or the entrance to the underworld.

27 tn The word “thinking” is supplied in the translation in order to make it clear that the next line records their thoughts as they gaze at him.

28 tc The pronominal suffix is masculine, even though its antecedent appears to be the grammatically feminine noun “world.” Some have suggested that the form עָרָיו (’arayv, plural noun with third masculine singular suffix) should be emended to עָרֶיהָ (’areha, plural noun with third feminine singular suffix). This emendation may be unnecessary in light of other examples of lack of agreement a suffix and its antecedent noun.

29 tn Heb “and his prisoners did not let loose to [their] homes.” This really means, “he did not let loose his prisoners and send them back to their homes.’ On the elliptical style, see GKC 366 §117.o.

30 sn It is unclear where the quotation of the kings, begun in v. 10b, ends. However, the reference to the “kings of the nations” in v. 18 (see also v. 9) seems to indicate that the quotation has ended at this point and that Israel’s direct taunt (cf. vv. 4b-10a) has resumed. In fact the references to the “kings of the nations” may form a stylistic inclusio or frame around the quotation.

31 tc The phrase “all of them” does not appear in the Qumran scroll 1QIsaa.

32 sn This refers to the typically extravagant burial of kings.

33 tn Heb “house” (so KJV, ASV), but in this context a tomb is in view. Note the verb “lie down” in the preceding line and the reference to a “grave” in the next line.

34 tn Heb “like a shoot that is abhorred.” The simile seems a bit odd; apparently it refers to a small shoot that is trimmed from a plant and tossed away. Some prefer to emend נֵצֶר (netser, “shoot”); some propose נֵפֶל (nefel, “miscarriage”). In this case one might paraphrase: “like a horrible-looking fetus that is delivered when a woman miscarries.”

35 tn Heb “are clothed with.”

36 tn Heb “those going down to.”

37 tn בּוֹר (bor) literally means “cistern”; cisterns were constructed from stones. On the metaphorical use of “cistern” for the underworld, see the note at v. 15.

38 tn Heb “like a trampled corpse.” Some take this line with what follows.

39 tn Heb “you will not be united with them in burial” (so NASB).

40 tn Or “the place of slaughter for.”

41 tn Heb “for the sin of their fathers.”

42 sn J. N. Oswalt (Isaiah [NICOT], 1:320, n. 10) suggests that the garrison cities of the mighty empire are in view here.

43 tn Heb “I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant” (ASV, NAB, and NRSV all similar).

44 tn Heb “descendant and child.”

45 tn Heb “I will make her into a possession of wild animals.” It is uncertain what type of animal קִפֹּד (qippod) refers to. Some suggest a rodent (cf. NASB, NRSV “hedgehog”), others an owl (cf, NAB, NIV, TEV).

46 tn Heb “I will sweep her away with the broom of destruction.”

47 sn Having announced the downfall of the Chaldean empire, the Lord appends to this prophecy a solemn reminder that the Assyrians, the major Mesopotamian power of Isaiah’s day, would be annihilated, foreshadowing what would subsequently happen to Babylon and the other hostile nations.

48 tn Heb “to break Assyria.”

49 tn Heb “him.” This is a collective singular referring to the nation, or a reference to the king of Assyria who by metonymy stands for the entire nation.

50 tn Heb “and his [i.e., Assyria’s] yoke will be removed from them [the people?], and his [Assyria’s] burden from his [the nation’s?] shoulder will be removed.” There are no antecedents in this oracle for the suffixes in the phrases “from them” and “from his shoulder.” Since the Lord’s land and hills are referred to in the preceding line and the statement seems to echo 10:27, it is likely that God’s people are the referents of the suffixes; the translation uses “my people” to indicate this.

51 tn Heb “and this is the hand that is outstretched over all the nations.”



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