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The book of Isaiah is a crucial foundation for both Jewish and Christian theology.

No Old

Testament book is quoted as frequently by New Testament writers. Its content is broad and

sweeping. Its focus is Jewish, specifically on the Southern Kingdom, but its words also cover

almost the entire known world. As Andrew Hill and John Walton write, “Some of the richest

Hebrew literature known is found here as well as a bold and forthright presentation of the

trustworthiness and sovereign power of the God of Israel.”1

The book of Isaiah provides the most significant contribution of all Old Testament

prophetic writings. The Hebrew Old Testament lists it as the first and primary of the prophetic

writings. Its importance is based upon the breadth of its focus. Isaiah focuses on Israel’s present

situation, the future exile community, and the predictive future of the Messiah’s appearance.

Because it is a collection of prophecies, most of which are difficult to date, it can be a daunting

task to bring some semblance of theological organization and application for the modern day

reader. The passage of focus in this essay, Isaiah 14:3-23, is no exception.

Although its theological importance really cannot be overstated, Isaiah is also the center

of great controversy and debate. Most of this controversy centers around two issues, the unity of

composition and predictive prophecy. Both of these issues drive to heart of the reliability and

applicability of this book. Any attempt to exegete Isaiah must make certain conclusions

regarding these issues. Although they do not directly affect the passage of Scripture that this

essay focuses on, they never the less do affect the overall authority of the book.

The very first verse of Isaiah sates that the author is Isaiah the son of Amoz. This verse

seems to imply that the following writings are the visions that Isaiah received from God. In 2:1;

Andrew E. Hill and John H. Walton, A Survey of the Old Testament,(Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 2000), 415.


7:3; 13:1; 20:2; 37:6, 21; and 38:1 the authorship of Isaiah is reaffirmed. It is in this area that the

first challenge to Isaiah’s authorship is found. The most widely held critical hypotheses

concerning the authorship of Isaiah is that large portions of the book were not written by the

named author.

This theory, first developed in the modern period by J.C. Doderlein, steadily gained
ground during the nineteenth century until it was developed into its classical form by
Duhm in his commentary of 1892. According to Duhm, not only are the three major
division of Isaiah to be ascribed to authors of three different historical periods, so that it
has become customary to speak of Proto-, Deutero-, and Trito-Isaiah (chapters 1-39, 40-
55, and 56-66 respectively), but even within these major divisions later material is also to
be separated out.2

The reasons for this critical hypotheses center on two issues. One is the significant change in the

literary style in chapters 40 -66. As Walton and Hill state,

Even a casual reading of the book of Isaiah in English we can detect a major shift
occurring at chapter 40. The style becomes more poetic and theoretical. The tone
becomes conciliatory rather than condemning. Indictment and judgment oracles that
make up a large part of the first thirty-nine chapters become much rarer. The historical
situation seems to have changed dramatically.3

Even more recent computer analysis of the writing style supports the view that multiple authors

wrote the book.4But for as many arguments that exist for supporting multiple authorship, there

seem to be just as many arguments against it. The most compelling of all reason for single

authorship is the striking unity of composition. One example of this is the title “the Holy of One

of Israel” which appears twelve times in chapters 1-39 and fourteen times in chapters 40-66. Yet

elsewhere in the entire Old Testament this title is only used four times (Ps. 71:22; 89:18 and Jer.

50:29; 51:5). As Gleason Archer writes,

H. G. M. Williamson, The Book Called Isaiah: Deutero-Isaiah’s Role in Composition

and Redaction, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 1-2.

Hill and Walton, 416.

John N. Oswalt, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of

Isaiah 1-39,(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 26.


Thus it furnishes very strong evidence of the unity of the entire production. The only
alternative possible to advocates of the Deutero-Isaiah theory is to assert that the
unknown prophet or prophets who contributed to chapters 40-66 were so dominated by
the influence and message of the eighth-century Isaiah that they felt constrained to
employ his favorite title of God with even greater frequency than he did himself…
Conservative scholars have pointed out at least forty or fifty sentences or phrases which
appear in both parts of Isaiah, and indicate its common authorship.5

Another compelling evidence for unity of composition is the present form of the book. If the

multiple author view is correct, it is very difficult to explain how all the portions ended up

existing as one unity.6 In addition, there are no outside historical evidences to support a multiple

author view. Only internal literary criticism can account for multiple authors.

The second primary reason for the Proto-, Deutero-, and Trito-Isaiah view is the change

in audience from the present to the future. This issue also directly affects the dating of the book.

It is certainly unique among other Old Testament literature. S. R. Driver states that,

In the present prophecy there is no prediction of exile: the exile is not announced as
something still future; it is presupposed, and only the release from it is predicted. By
analogy, therefore, [that is, with Jeremiah and Ezekiel] the author will have lived in the
situation which he thus presuppose, and to which he continually alludes.7

Even Oswalt, who is strong supporter of Proto-Isaiah, acknowledges, “that the other prophets,

while predicting the future, do not seem to address their words to people in the future as seems to

be the case with chs. 40-55 (550 B.C., some 150 years later than Isaiah) and chs. 56-66 (500

B.C.? some 200 years later than Isaiah).”8 But a greater issue appears to be at the foundation of

this argument. The issue of predictive prophecy provides a fairly clear division between

conservative and liberal thought on this issue. Although Professor Williamson in his book on
Gleason L. Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction,(Chicago: Moody, 1994),
Oswalt, 19.
Williamson, 3.
Oswalt, 23-24.

Deutero-Isaiah states that, “It should be emphasized that this opinion (that there are multiple

authors of Isaiah) is not necessarily motivated by a wish to circumvent the possibility of

predictive prophecy. Indeed, there remains plenty of ‘prediction’, both general and specific,

within Deutero-Isaiah itself.”9 It seems fairly clear that as Oswalt comments; one of the

underlying reasons for the multiple authorship views is the assumption that specific prediction of

the future is not possible. When such prediction does appear it is always either contemporary

with or after the fact.10 There is one common theme in the discussion of Deutero-, and Trito-

Isaiah. It is that none of its proponents can seem to agree about who wrote what. It appears to

this author that in the absence of greater evidence, there is no compelling need to assign multiple

authors to the writing of Isaiah. Although many questions remain to be answered about Isaiah’s

authorship, it is safe to assume that the traditional understanding of Isaiah, as being written by

the historical Isaiah mentioned in 1:1, is the source of the material included in the entire book.

The process of questioning and dividing up the authorship of the book certainly diminishes if not

undermines the historical and theological contribution of its writing.

One of the most important first steps in exegeting a passage of Scripture is to recognize

its literary form. Understanding the literary form provides insight to the original intent of the

author. Ideally, the original intent is clearly demonstrated, but in most ancient writings this is not

the case. It is therefore the responsibility of the reader to make a decision about the literary form.

The literary form will provide the foundation for the recreation of the author’s intention. The

Bible is no exception to this rule. Any authentic attempt to understand, interpret, and apply the

Scriptures must first make a literary determination of the passage being studied. As Douglas

Stuart says,

Williamson, 2.
Oswalt, 24.

The Bible is a unique book; there is nothing like it. There are, however, many individual
literary works preserved from the ancient world that are remarkably similar to parts of the
Bible. To ignore the valuable parallels where they exist is to impoverish an exegesis.11

Once the literary form of Isaiah 14:3-23 is recognized, the reader can begin the process of

accurately understanding it.

A straightforward reading of the book of Isaiah quickly demonstrates that it is a collection

of prophecies of judgment on Israel (chapters 1 – 12), prophecies of judgment on other nations

(chapters 13 – 23), promises of grace and redemption (chapters 24 -27), warnings against certain

behaviors (chapters 28 – 35), historical narratives (chapters 36 – 39), and promises of future

restoration which include Messianic prophecies (chapters 40 – 66).12 As a whole, the book of

Israel creates numerous questions when discussing literary form. What is the connection between

the different portions? Is the arrangement of the sections based on importance or time? Is the

arrangement completely random and unimportant? It appears that regardless of the date of

original writing, the book of Isaiah was compiled in such a way to build an undeniable case for

Israel to return to the covenant relationship with Yahweh. Each portion of Isaiah and sometimes

portions of portions could be categorized as a different literary genre. As D.F. Murray states,

Moreover, any given text need not necessarily manifest just one genre. A letter, for
example, may also be a legal document of some kind, or a narrative, or a poem. Social
reality, being complex, gives rise to complexity of forms.13

This is definitely the case in Isaiah. Most of the prophetic writings appear to be in a form of

poetry or song, although many of them differ in structure and rhetoric.

Douglas Stuart, Old Testament Exegesis,(Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001),
John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: World Publishing, 1997),
Introduction to the Book of Joshua, 954.
D.F. Murray, “The Rhetoric of Disputation: Re-examination of a Prophetic Genre,”
Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 38, (1987): 96.

Most scholars agree that chapters 13 through 23 were intended to form one complete

section. These writings focus almost entirely on the nations and kingdoms of the known world.

Although these chapters are addressed to the nations of Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab,

Damascus, Cush/Egypt, Edom, Arabia, and Tyre, it is highly unlikely that the leaders or residents

of these countries ever read the prophecies. Obviously, the intended audience was the Southern

Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah addresses these various nations because of their present day and

figurative importance to the Jewish people. The first nation that Isaiah addresses is the

Babylonian empire in chapters 13 and 14, and more specifically the king of Babylon in chapter

14. There is some debate related to the identity of Babylon. Some feel that Isaiah is predicting

the rise and fall of the Babylonian empire.14 Others understand Babylon to be a representation of

the pride and power of the ancient Near East.15 This last theory would be supported by the

inclusion of the city of Tyre in the list of nations. Tyre was certainly not a strong military power

during this period in history, but was still a major cosmopolitan city. By beginning the list with a

figurative city (Babylon) and ending it with a figurative city (Tyre), Isaiah could have been

illustrating the entirety of the known world and all its prestige, power, and pride.16

Each prophetic judgment is introduced with the same word burden. The Hebrew word is

ָ ַ‫מ‬. It literally means a load or something to be carried.17 It can also be translated as oracle or

utterance. Regardless of the translation, the meaning is clear. Isaiah understood these prophetic

pronouncements as his responsibility to proclaim publicly. Of course these pronouncements

Bryan E. Beyer, Encountering the Book of Isaiah: A Historical and Theological Survey,
(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), 97.
Oswalt, 299.
Ibid, 299.
R. L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries,
(Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc. 1998, 1981).

would certainly have not been received in a positive manner by the people of Judah. The passage

in focus, Isaiah 14:3-23, is introduced with a word that is unique in this series of oracles. The

word used in verse four is proverb, “that you will take up this proverb against the king of

Babylon, and say:” (KJV). Other translations use the term taunt. The Hebrew word is ‫של‬
ָ ָ‫מ‬

(māšāl). It means proverb, but with far greater meaning as demonstrated in this article in the

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.

To translate māšāl simply as “proverb” misses the wide sweep of the word, suggested
by the many suggested translations. We are accustomed to think of a proverb as a short,
pithy, epigrammatic saying which assumes the status of gnomic truth. In the Old
Testament, however, the word māšāl may be synonymous with an extended parable
(and hence the frequent LXX translation parabolē) (Ezk 17:2 and vv. 2–24:20:49 [H
21:5] and vv. 45–49 [H 21:1–5]; 24:3 and vv. 3–14). It may refer to an extended didactic
discourse (Prov 1:8–19 for example). A person (Saul, I Sam 10:12: Job. Job 17:6) or a
group of persons (Israel, Ps 44:14 [H 15], may function as a māšāl.18

Analogous to these are the three times prophets are told to lift a māšāl, Isaiah against
the king of Babylon (Isa 14:4f.): Micah against his own people (Mic 2:4) and similarly
Habakkuk (Hab 2:6). One might also add the passages in the Balaam narratives, “And
Balaam took up his māšāl” (KJV discourse) (Num 23:7, 18:24; 3, 15, 20, 21, 23). In
each of these instances there is an object lesson painted. The haughty are humbled. Those
to be cursed are blessed and vice versa. The first are last.19

In essence, this Hebrew word is used to introduce a vivid object lesson written in poetic form.

Understanding the proper use of māšāl is critical to accurately recognizing the literary form of

the passage. Although this passage could also be considered a song, for purposes of this essay it

will be referred to as poetry. Isaiah 14:1-3 seems to suggest that this poetry will take place in the

future. It is introduced with the words, “It shall come to pass in the day.” From the reading of the

passage, it is clear that the writer is rejoicing in the future downfall of the king of Babylon. So in

one regard this is a prophetic passage because it is describing a state of events that has not yet

been fulfilled.
R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer, and B. K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old
Testament (electronic ed), (Chicago: Moody, 1999) 533.

Scholars tend to agree that verses 3-23 form some type of poetry or song. Professor Shipp

suggests that this song was a form of funeral dirge.20 Funeral dirges were typically written to

lament the death of a fallen king and to detail his many accomplishments. Because of the close

connection between kings and deities, the funeral ceremonies were intrinsically connected with

cultic worship.21 What makes this approach incredibly interesting, is that the writer uses a literary

form that would normally be used to praise and honor the dead, but instead is used is mock or

ridicule the dead. The irony of this would certainly not be missed by its audience. It would also

help to capture the imagination of the audience as they picture the defeat of this great leader by


Most, if not all, theologians date the historical Isaiah to the latter part of the eighth

century B.C. More specifically, his lifespan would fall between 750 and 680 B.C. These dates

coincide with the Judean kingships of Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and Manasseh. Is. 6:1, suggests

that Isaiah was either just beginning or had already begun his prophetic ministry at the time of

King Uzziah’s death. It is estimated that King Uzziah died around 740 B.C.22 The book of Isaiah

also includes the details of the Assyrian King Sennacherib’s death in Is. 37:37-38. Sennacherib is

believed to have died around 681 B.C. From these details, a generous estimate of Isaiah’s

ministry would be around sixty years.23

The historical setting for Isaiah’s ministry is one of deep religious and political turmoil.

Both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel were involved in gross religious idolatry.

The language of the prophets who spoke at this time continually related the religious situation as

spiritual prostitution. God’s covenant people had turned away from Yahweh and were
Mark R. Shipp, Of Dead Kings and Dirges: Myth and Meaning in Isaiah 14:4b-21,
(Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002), 166.
Ibid, 71.
Hill and Walton, 233.
Ibid, 417.

worshipping other gods. Even the true temple worship that did take place was done out of a

duplicitous heart. Isaiah’s ministry primary took place during the reigns of Ahaz and his son

Hezekiah. During this time, the Assyrian empire conquered the Northern Kingdom. A

pronounced change in relationship with Assyrian took place in the kingship of Hezekiah. King

Ahaz had a decidedly pro-Assyrian political position, in that he appealed to them for help when

attacked by Israel and Syria. During Hezekiah’s reign this position changed to an anti-Assyrian

position. There are many suggested reasons for this change, but historically the prominent reason

would be the apparent weakening of the empire and death of Sargon II. It is during Hezekiah’s

reign that the miraculous rescue from Assyrian king Sennacherib in 701 B.C. is recorded in Is. 36

and 37. In contrast to his father, Hezekiah trusted God for deliverance. The Scriptures record that

God sent what appears to be a plague that decimated the Assyrian army.

The struggle for Judah during this time was the decision regarding whether to trust

Yahweh or other countries. Early Judean kings had trusted in the power of the Egyptian empire.

King Ahaz had placed his trust in the Assyrian empire. The probable present day King, Hezekiah,

was facing a very similar decision - Who would he trust? Isaiah speaks chapters 13 through 23

into this situation.

This taunt is introduced in verses 1-3 as a cause for hope. Isaiah states that one day the

Jewish people will be relieved of their suffering and subservience to Babylon. And on that day

they will sing this song of Babylon’s destruction. Although the taunt is directed at the king of

Babylon, it is likely that no particular person is in mind, although some have suggested Sargon II

fits best.24 Instead the personalization is used to give a more vivid description of the future

destruction of the world’s power before the might of Yahweh. By pitting the figurative head of

Ibid, 166.

the empire, the king, against the head of Judah, Yahweh, Isaiah creates a vivid word picture of a

mighty cosmic battle.

This song or poetry could be divided into four stanzas (4-8, 9-11, 12-15, and 16-21).

“There is general agreement that this is one of the finest of Hebrew poems. It manifests a balance

of terms, a forcefulness, and a power of imagery that is typical of the best of Hebrew poetry. The

total impact is unforgettable.”25 Isaiah describes a different scene in each stanza.

Each stanza describes a different scene or location for the defeat and humiliation of the

king of Babylon.
you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has ceased,
the insolent fury ceased! 5 The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of
rulers, 6 that struck the peoples in wrath with unceasing blows, that ruled the nations in
anger with unrelenting persecution. 7 The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth
into singing. 8 The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since you
were laid low, no woodcutter comes up against us.

The first stanza of the song describes how the people of the entire world and the land itself will

rejoice when the king of Babylon is destroyed. This kingdom has created devastation and

destruction through its rule and reign. This kingdom has slaughtered many people without cause.

In the process of building the empire, they have been needlessly cruel. This first stanza supplies

the necessity of Yahweh to rise up. Not only has Judah been affected but the entire earth,

including the land and trees, as been affected by Babylon. As Yahweh crushes the staff and

scepter of the nation, the land and trees burst out in song and rejoicing. This reminds the people

that God is not deaf to their cries. He is not blind to their pain. A sovereign, just God must

respond, and Yahweh is this type of God. He will not stand idly by, as Assyria destroys His


9 Sheol beneath is stirred up to meet you when you come; it rouses the shades to greet
you, all who were leaders of the earth; it raises from their thrones all who were kings of
the nations. 10 All of them will answer and say to you: You too have become as weak as
Oswalt, 315.

we! You have become like us! 11 Your pomp is brought down to Sheol, the sound of your
harps; maggots are laid as a bed beneath you, and worms are your covers.

Stanza two describes a scene that takes place in Sheol or hell. At first the dead kings and

inhabitants of hell arise as if to recognize and honor the fallen king of Babylon. Up to this point

in history no empire had been as strong or as far reaching as the Assyrian empire. Other powerful

nations had been helpless to prevent their expansion and cruelty. But the scene quickly changes

from a stately welcome to one of mockery. The dead kings of past nations remind the king of

Babylon that all are equal in death. In spite of life’s accomplishments, hell has no hierarchy. God

reminds Judah that death is the great equalizer. Just as Yahweh has maintained control of the

past, He is also in control of the future and even death itself.

12 How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to
the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, I will ascend to
heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of
assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High. 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far
reaches of the pit.

Stanza three is of special interest because of its common connection with Satan. “This

tradition…began in the early church by men like Tertullian, Origen, and Augustine and

eventually was popularized by Milton…”26 Many evangelicals today still find a basis in verses

12-15 for their development of the doctrine of Satan.27 They view this passage as a historical

description of Satan’s sin of pride that led to expulsion from heaven. The primary reason for this

connection was the faulty translation in Jerome’s Vulgate of ‫ הֵיל ֵל‬or helel as “Lucifer.” Then

during the translation of the King James Version the term “Lucifer” was retained. Then a

Gary Galeotti, Gary. “Satan’s Identity Reconsidered,” Faith and Mission 15, no.2
(Spring 1998): 78.
Robert P. Lightner, Handbook of Evangelical Theology, (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1995),

connection was made with New Testament passages such as Luke 10:18 and Revelation 12:8.

The word helel literally means, “light-bearing object in the sky.”28 Because of its brightness, this

is probably a reference to the planet Venus, which is visibly extinguished by the rising of the sun.

Most researchers agree that there is some connection to the planet Venus and pagan mythology,

although tracing an exact pagan deity is difficult.29 Simply put, there is no exegetical connection

between this passage and Satan. Clearly the author is describing the incredible pride of the king

of Babylon. He thought that he could become a god or replace gods because of his greatness, but

just like all men death has taken him. Although there are certainly similarities that could be made

between Satan and the king of Babylon, there is no basis in the text for this connection.

The focus of this third stanza shifts from hell to the heavens. It illustrates the incredible

pride of the creation desiring to overthrow the Creator. It depicts how far the king of Babylon has

come. His initial desire was to be exalted above all things, even Yahweh Himself, but now he has

been brought down to the hell. The author pictures a great battle taking place in the sky. The sky

was the setting for much of mystery in pagan religions. The sky was a distant unknown. This

scene changes the dynamics of the poetry from a physical confrontation to a spiritual one. This

audience would have understood this battle to be between Yahweh and the god behind the

Assyrian empire. Most ancient Near East cultures viewed all military conflicts in this way. The

army with the most powerful deity was the army that would win the battle. Since the Yahweh is

defeating this king in the sky, it certainly implies that Yahweh is more powerful than Assyrian

god. This stanza helps to recognize that the earthy conflicts that Judah was involved were

actually surface reminders of a far larger spiritual battle that was taking place behind the scenes.

Yahweh’s conquest was focused on a much larger field of battle than just earth itself. God is in

control of both the physical and spiritual worlds.

L. Harris, G. L. Archer, and B. K. Waltke, “helel.”
Shipp, 68-69.

16 Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: Is this the man who made
the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, 17 who made the world like a desert and
overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home? 18 All the kings of the nations
lie in glory, each in his own tomb; 19 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. 20 You will not be joined with
them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have slain your people. May
the offspring of evildoers nevermore be named! 21 Prepare slaughter for his sons because
of the guilt of their fathers, lest they rise and possess the earth, and fill the face of the
world with cities.”

The focus of stanza four is on the finality and disgrace of this destruction. What would

make this poetry so powerful for its audience is the recognition and reality of how powerful

Assyria was. Judah was keenly aware of what Assyria had done to those who rebelled or stood in

their way. This poetry helped them to visualize the reality of an invisible God. Just as in modern

times, these people struggled to have faith in a Deity they could not see. How could an invisible

God destroy a visible army? But Isaiah uses comparative language to illustrate how amazing

Assyria’s destruction will be. Even though other kings are remembered by tombs, the destruction

of this empire will be so great that this will never happen. Death and destruction will come so

quickly they will not be able to provide a proper burial for this king. As in most cultures, there is

a great disgrace associated with not being buried properly. In the future, even the ruins of this

empire will not be remembered. Even the future descendants of this empire will be destroyed.

After the taunt song ends, God concludes his thoughts by emphasizing that He is the

power behind all that has happened. Verse 22 reads, “I will rise up against them, declares the

LORD Almighty.” God wants there to be no mistake as to the originator of this destruction.

The primary theological aspect of this passage is the sovereignty and power of God. For

centuries, the nation of Israel has struggled in their attempts to maintain the covenant that was

established at Mt. Sinai during Moses’ leadership. Over time, the nation’s commitment to

Yahweh has continued to wane. This lack of commitment and predisposition to idolatry has

caused the division of the nation, the destruction of the Northern Kingdom, and the present

deterioration of the Southern Kingdom. Isaiah is warning Judah through these oracles. He is

warning them that God is totally sovereign and powerful. No nation or god can stand against

Yahweh. The long list of nations is used to present a thorough realistic and figurative list of those

who have wronged Judah in the past and those who held world power in the present. Judah

longed for peace and stability, but their past attempts had only brought about more war and

instability. Isaiah is calling the Jewish people back to trust in Yahweh alone for protection. The

central purpose of chapters 13 through 23 is to demonstrate the power and might of God. No

person or nation can stand against Him. God wanted His people to trust him in spite of what they

could see. This passage demands faith of Judah, faith in the power and plan of God.

The theological implications of this passage were clearly understood by Isaiah’s

audience. They could place their trust in other kings and kingdoms but ultimately they would fail

them. Yahweh was mightier than all. The only hope they had was to repent and trust in Yahweh

alone. They could not afford to ride the fence. Yahweh would judge the other nations of the


The process of exegesis can be difficult, time consuming, and uncertain. Because good

theological application can only come through the understanding of literary and historical

context, it is a constant temptation to ignore the theological contribution of certain difficult and

obscure Old Testament passages. This temptation robs us of a fuller, complete view of God. The

exegesis of Isaiah 14:3-23 provides a great theological contribution to the modern day reader.

The struggles of Jewish people are very relevant to the struggles of modern day Christians. In the

past the Jewish people were tempted to trust in the power and might of what they could see. It

took faith to trust in Yahweh. Today, we are tempted in much the same way. We are tempted to

trust in what we can see: money, success, pleasure, ourselves, and others. We are tempted to

invest ourselves in what is seen, this world. But as followers of Christ we are called to exercise

faith in our covenant relationship with God.


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Barker, Kenneth ed. The NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984.

Beyer, Bryan E. Encountering the Book of Isaiah: A Historical and Theological Survey. Grand
Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

Childs, Brevard S. The Struggle to Understand Isaiah as Christian Scripture. Grand Rapids:
William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004.

Everson, A. Joseph. “Serving Notice on Babylon: The Canonical Function of Isaiah 13-14.”
Word and World 19, no. 2 (Spring 1999):133-140.

Feinberg, Charles Lee. “The Place That Isaiah Holds in Prophetic Truth.” Bibliotheca Sacra 93,
no. 369 (Oct 1936): 451-455

Galeotti, Gary. “Satan’s Identity Reconsidered.” Faith and Mission 15, no.2 (Spring 1998): 73-

Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament
(electronic ed.) (533). Chicago: Moody Press, 1999.

Hill, Andrew E. and Walton, John H. A Survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

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14.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61, (1999): 633-645.

Lightner, Robert P. Handbook of Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications,


MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible. Nashville: World Publishing, 1997.

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Foundation: 2004, accessed 26 February 2008; available from; Internet

Murray, D.F. “The Rhetoric of Disputation: Re-examination of a Prophetic Genre.” Journal for
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