Sermon on the Mount, The Emmaus View

Appendix L: Isaiah 13:6-22 and 34:1-14 compared (Version 1.3)

There are some striking similarities between the prophetic image of the destruction of Samarian ‘Babel’ (Isa 13:6-22) and the predicted fate of Judah and Edom in the days of Hezekiah (Isa 34:1-14). Both commence by describing the merciless and bloody slaughter that will mark a day of fierce anger/recompense (Isa 13:9-18, 34:2-8). At that time, both predict astronomical phenomena that render the heavenly host ineffective (Isa 13:10, 34:4). The thematic correspondence continues as both are left, like Sodom and Gomorrah, places of pitch and brimstone (Isa 13:19, 34:9, cf. Gen 11:3, Deut 29:23). Both will then remain uninhabited ‘from generation to generation’, whilst people shun their ruins (Isa 13:20, 34:10). Jeremiah would later predict that a similar uninhabited fate would await the Babel of his day (Jer 50:39). In both cases the ruins are occupied by a strikingly similar list of animals (Isa 13:21-22, 23, 34:11-14)1, a few of which spill over into Jeremiah’s word (Jer 50:39). Both Isaiah passages mention porcupines, ostriches, wild goats, wild beasts of the desert, ’iy (hyena in Isa 13:22, but jackal in 34:14) and owls (for which the Hebrew differs in the two chapters). The Hebrew Bible only mentions the porcupine, qippod, in these two passages. Similarly, the howling ’iy is only mentioned in them and in Jeremiah’s copycat prediction (Jer 50:39). They and Jeremiah (Jer 50:39) all mention the ‘wild beasts of the desert’, tsiyiy, which elsewhere are mentioned only in a couple of Psalms (Ps 72:9, 74:14) and when Isaiah reflects on the fate that Assyria has metered out to the Chaldeans (Isa 23:13). Chaldeans being an ancient name (cf. Gen 11:28) then used for the occupants of Babylon.

The striking points of similarity between Isaiah 13:19-22 and 34:1-14 argue that they are attempting to portray a similar process. The difference being that, in the former, the attempts to birth a remnant result in red faces (Isa 13:9), whilst in the latter the outcome is a new Eden (Isa 35:1-2).

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1 Animal names can vary considerably between translations. Here I use those from the NKJV.