I believe that Isaiah chapter 13 is a prophecy of the 1990-91 Gulf war against modern day country-Iraq, which is the same location as ancient Babylon. It was foreshadowed by the destruction of Babylon by Cyrus, king of Persia, in the ancient time. I believe that every word of Isaiah chapter 13:1-14 exactly matches what has happened in the Gulf war, and that the description of the Gulf War in Isaiah 13:1-14 is complete and in sequence. Verses 15-22 have not been fulfilled yet.
The following is notes on of Isaiah 13:1-22.
1. Today's Iraq occupies the physical location of the ancient Babylon.
2. Isaiah recorded what he saw. This differs from Jeremiah 50-51, which is the word that Jehovah spoke concerning Babylon. Jeremiah 50-51 is much more detailed, and although there are many striking resemblances between it and the Gulf war, every word does not fit to the Gulf War. Jeremiah 50-51 prophesies the destruction of Babylon by Cyrus only, which took place in approximately 538-450 BC.
1. A banner is raised up to rally supporters for a cause. Saddam Hussein's banner was his boast to destroy Israel. Compare to Jeremiah 50:2 in which the ancient banner of Cyrus is mentioned (Jer 51:12,27). Isaiah does not mention specifically say what the banner was so that this part of his prophecy would apply to both events.
2. It will be heard over the whole world. Saddam made the boast on international TV.
3. The striking feature of Saddam Hussein was his “exalting the voice.” That is all he was good at.
4. Saddam made false promises sealed by handshakes before invading Kuwait.
5. Nobles are the rich people, who don't have to work hard, i.e. the Kuwait people. (cf. Jer. 50:10)
1. The history of the U.S. is unique in that it was raised up by the Lord for religious freedom. Sanctified means separated unto the Lord. The U.S. was separated from the rest of the world by the 2 oceans until the time of the Reformation. The U.S. Christians enjoy rejoicing in the Lord's highness, which means that they know the Lord. They may be short in other things, but they do rejoice in the Lord's highness, and the Lord says that He appreciates that.
The similar verses in Jer. 50:21, 9 say that the Lord commanded the Persians and that they were mighty, but He does not call them sanctified nor rejoicing in His highness. This is because the U.S. Christians know the Lord, but the ancient Persians did not.
1. The war began at night from the air. The Iraqis could not see the attackers, but heard the noise from the sky.
2. The UN coalition.
3. KJV has the archaic word "hosts". I replaced it with the modern equivalent, "army".
1. The US is the opposite end of the world from Iraq. Many of the soldiers arrived by airplane, traveling through the heavens. Compare to. Jer 50:9, which was also an assemblage of nations, but not from "a far country, from the end of heaven", but from the north. (cf. Jer. 50:3)
2. This war was unique in that the most striking thing was the weapons. (cf. Jer 50:9, 14, 25, 29)
1. The day of the Lord is mentioned three times in this chapter (vv.6,9,13). From the destruction of the temple in AD 70 until the Gulf war, no event in world history was specifically prophesied in the Old Testament. i.e. not World War I nor II, nor Israel's War of Independence nor the 1967 6-day War. The age of grace is a gap not seen by the Old Testament saints (Dan. 9:23-27). If Isaiah 13 does prophesy concerning the Gulf war, then the 70th week of Daniel is to begin soon. I don't know what "soon" means exactly, but I suppose it means about 40 years, or about the time from the Lord's resurrection until the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, which was the last prophesied event in the Old Testament.
There is no mention of the day of the Lord in the detailed prophecy in Jer 50-51 because Cyrus' destruction of Babylon was not a sign that the day of the Lord comes soon.
1. The Iraqis' fighting back was very weak. The news reporters wondered where was the Iraqi defense. (Jer 50:43;51:30)
2. The King James translation of the second half of this verse was not very literal. KJV translated the Hebrew ish (man) as “they”. “They” would mean that the subject is the same as in verse 7 and the first part of verse 8 (the Babylonians), whereas “a man” could be someone different. KJV also translated the word “neighbor” as “each other”, which is not as specific.
3. The most memorable thing about Israel's experience of the war was the neighbors coming together in sealed rooms, looking at one another as though they were aliens because they all had gas masks on.
4. KJV has “shall be as flames.” Darby gives the literal as “their faces, faces of flames.” The Hebrew word translated as “flames” is found two other places in the Bible (Genesis 10:13 & 1 Chronicles 1:11) where it is transliterated in both places as “Lehabim”, which is the name of a nation. Flames do not have faces, but Lehabim have faces. The Lehabim were the original inhabitants of Libya, today called the Tuariks. (Bible Encyclopaedia and Dictionary by A. R. Fausset). According to any secular encyclopedia and Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, the Tuariks are known as “the people of the veil.” The men, since ancient times, wear a veil over their face 24 hours a day. Even their wives do not see their husbands' faces. (Land of Veiled Men. by Peter Fuchs) The Israelis' faces looked like faces of Lehabim because of the gas masks. Spiritually, this signifies that Israel still has a veil over their face because they do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 3:14-15). This item concerning Israel is hidden in the prophecy because this is still the time of the Gentiles, shortly before Israel's 70th week is about to begin.
1. See note for v6. This is concerning the day of the Lord, not the Iraq war.
1. Due to the oil well fires, the stars and the moon did not give any light at all. The sun was darkened; i.e. its light was greatly reduced. This verse directly is about the Day of the Lord, but it is foreshadowed in the Iraq war also.
1. “Terrible” can also be translated as tyrant, despot or dictator. I think this verse also refers to the day of the Lord, foreshadowed by the Iraq war.
1. It is the Lord who will make this man so precious, not the man's doing. So the man should not be proud.
2. In the ancient time, this verse referred to Cyrus, king of Persia (The Works of Flauvius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI, p1, translator's note), who was very precious to God (Isaiah 41:2,25;45:1-4; 46:11;48:14-15; Jeremiah 50:44). Cyrus accomplished God's judgment on Babylon, released the Jewish captives to return to Israel (Isaiah 45:13), and commanded that the temple should be rebuilt in Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28; Ezra 1:1-4,7-8).
In 1991 this man was President George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush's father. His prevailingness and uprightness in the war were more amazing than the war itself. He defeated Babylon and released the Jewish captives from the communist and most of the Arab countries.
3. KJV has “even”. The literal translation is “and”. The word “and” indicates that it may be a second precious man, different from President George H. W. Bush, who makes the way for the temple to be rebuilt.
The Hebrew word translated “man” here is “adam”, which could also refer to a woman (Ezekiel 44:25). In the ancient foreshadowing, this man was also Cyrus. In the modern fulfillment this is a different man than the man mentioned in the beginning of the verse. The first man mentioned in Hebrew is “enosh”, a gentle man. The second man mentioned is “adam”, an earthy man.
KJV has “golden wedge”, but the word “wedge” is not there in Hebrew. I think the precious man here is a man from African descent because of the word “Ophir”. Ophir is Africa; the Hebrew letters correspond to the English letters AFR. Add the “ica” suffix to make it a continent. Ophir is mentioned 13 times in the Bible, always as the place where there is much gold, and was reachable by ship from the southern Israeli port of Eilat on the Red Sea (1 Kings 9:26-28). 60% of the world's known gold reserves are in South Africa.
Most modern OT translations, even NKJV, translate the word "more precious" as "rarer". The word is used 64 times in the OT, and always means something precious or costly. In 1 instance, maybe 2, it would be better to translate it as "rare" (1Sam 3:1; Prov 25:17), but the meaning "precious" also holds true. However, in this verse, due to the context, "rare" is not an option, because it is "more precious than the gold of Ophir." Ophir is the place where there is the most gold. It does not make sense to say rarer than the gold of Ophir. If the meaning was "rarer", then it would just say "rarer than gold", not "rarer than the gold of Ophir, where 60% of the world's gold is". The meaning is that God will make this man more precious than all the gold of Ophir.
1. See note for verse 6. This refers to the day of the Lord, and was foreshadowed by the bombings in the Iraq war.
1. After the bombings in v13, the ground war began. When the ground war started, the Iraqi officers fled. The soldiers were literally left as sheep that no man takes up. It is incredible that the Iraqi soldiers became meek and obedient sheep since that is not their culture. They surrendered to cameramen and were praising George Bush when captured.
2. This 2nd part of the verse refers to the coalition. They will flee back to their own lands due to high costs of maintaining an army there and due to the terrorist attacks against them.
1. Verse 15 to the end of the chapter has not been fulfilled yet. This will happen to Iraq after the coalition forces leave.
1. As Iraq did to Kuwait, so it will be done to them.
1. Compare to Jeremiah 50:9 in which the Lord says He will “raise” up the Medes, and Jeremiah 51:11 where the Lord says He will “stir up the spirit” of the Medes. In the ancient fulfillment, God raised up the Medes to be strong and stirred up their spirit, the highest, noblest part of man. Isaiah is not as specific so that his prophecy can refer to both fulfillments. In the present fulfillment, God will not raise up Iran, but just stir up their flesh, the basest, sinful part of man.
2. The Medes are present day Iran.
3. What Iran will do to Iraq, will not profit Iran. It will not make sense. It will be destruction for the sake of destruction. This phrase also applied to the ancient Medes in that the Medes were noble. They could not be bribed or bought off.
1. Verses 19-22 are nearly identical to Jeremiah 50:39-40 except that the verses here in Isaiah say that not only will Babylon not be inhabited, but even nomads will not temporarily camp there. The current state of the city of Babylon is exactly as described in Jeremiah 50:39-40, but not to the extent described in Isaiah 13. On the site of the ancient city of Babylon today there are Arabians' tents and shepherds' flocks. Jer 50 has been fulfilled, but Isa 13:20 has not yet been fulfilled.
1. The utter destruction of Iraq in verses 19-22 will take place soon after the beginning of this prophecy is fulfilled. This phrase is not found in the nearly identical passage in Jeremiah 50:39-40, because the devastation described there occurred about 200 years after Cyrus captured the city.
2. Idols are not mentioned in Isaiah 13, yet idolatry was the salient characteristic of ancient Babylon (Jeremiah 50:2, 38; 51:17-18, 44, 52). This is another indication that Isaiah's prophecy refers to modern Iraq. Modern Iraq is a Moslem country, and Moslems, to their credit, hate idols. Also, Jeremiah 50:28 and 51:11 give the reason for the destruction of Babylon: Babylon's destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem. This is also not mentioned in Isaiah 13.
I expected Iran would invade Iraq shortly after the 1991 Gulf War as described in verses 15-18. When this did not happen, I prayed over every word in the section. It seemed at that time that the words became like the Urim and Thummim. A word would “turn black”, meaning it did not seem to fit exactly with the events of the Gulf war. Then I would tell the Lord that this verse did not seem to fit, and I felt that the Lord showed me how it did. This went on until verse 8, “they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth.” I said to the Lord that this verse seemed to be unnecessary, and the Lord said that, “it is spiritual.” That was the end of the Lord responding to my questions at that time.
Based on my understanding of verse 12, I expected President George H. W. Bush to be reelected. When this failed, I came back to examine the prophecy again from another angle. Previously I had examined every word of the prophecy to see if it fit with the events. This time I wrote down the striking events of the Gulf war independent of the prophecy, and then compared them to the prophecy to see if they were mentioned in the prophecy in the correct order. I found a major item missing from the prophecy. There seemed to be no mention of the scud attacks on Israel. I prayed, Lord, this must not be a prophecy of the Gulf war because surely You would consider attacks on Your people important. Immediately the first part of verse 13 came to me, “I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place.” I read the verse and its context over and over, but I said, “Lord, this is not specific enough.” Then, immediately part of verse 8 came to me, “A man will look at his neighbor and be amazed,” which I understood to refer to the Israelis in the shelters looking at their neighbors wearing gas masks. But I knew the second half of the verse said, (literal) “because their faces are the faces of flames,” which does not refer to masks. I said, “Lord, if this interpretation is true, then that word must not mean flames. I looked it up in a Hebrew concordance and found that the Hebrew word was Lehabim. In the two other places in the Bible in which it was used, Lehabim was translated simply as Lehabim, the name of a nation. But why would anyone be amazed if someone's face looked like a face of Lehabim? Then I found what I wrote in verse 8 note 3 above. This was the 1st time I had ever come up with my own translation of an Old Testament verse. Some time later I realized that verse 12 actually could refer to two different men.
Pictures of Lehabim from Land of Veiled Men: