Isaiah 13 appears to have a double application: it tells us it is an “oracle concerning Babylon” (verse 1), but much of it applies to the Babylon described in the book of Revelation. It is enlightening to note that the word ‘Babylon’ in the Hebrew is ‘Babel’; part of this chapter appears to be about the ‘Babel’ of the last days.

In the days of Isaiah Assyria was the enemy Israel feared. Babylon was not yet a nation to be feared. Isaiah writes of “The sound of the uproar of kingdoms, of nations gathering together! The LORD of hosts is mustering a host for battle … the weapons of his indignation to destroy the whole land” (verses 4,5). What land is to be destroyed? The same Hebrew word (eretz) is translated as “earth” in verse 13, “the earth will be shaken out of its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts in the day of his fierce anger”. To our way of thinking it should be understood as “earth” in both places.

We note the context in verses 9-11, “Behold, the day of the LORD comes, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger … the sun will be dark at its rising and the moon will not shed its light. I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity”. This describes a far greater calamity than when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and brought to an end the kingdom established under David and Solomon. We must consider how it describes the world today, with its world-wide ungodliness when “every way of man is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2) and there is no thought that an all-seeing Creator even exists.

Are we to expect physical signs – will the sun “be dark” and “the moon will not shed its light”? Jesus made some telling prophecies, that “there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven” (Luke 21:11). But he also said, “there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation … if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose …” (Mark 13:19,20).

Make sure you are among the elect, for “he will send out the angels and gather his elect … from the ends of the earth” (verse 27). That is an awesome divine forecast of events we close our eyes to at our peril.