Prophetic Messages Against Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon (Isaiah 20; Isaiah 21)

Scripture reading – Isaiah 20; Isaiah 21

The volume of prophetic messages of judgment may be tiring, but I hope you will persevere with this “Heart of a Shepherd” devotional series. For some, the statements threatening God’s judgment might seem inconsequential (for they were stated in the 7th century BC); however, they are factual and archaeology has only amplified the veracity of the Scriptures.

Remembering God is immutable, and the nature of man has not changed, we can be confident the Old Testament Scriptures are relevant, and applicable for us in this century. Today’s Scripture reading will consider Isaiah 20-21.

Isaiah 20 – A Prophetic Message Concerning Egypt and Ethiopia

Isaiah 20:1 gives us the names of two prominent men: Tartan, who was the captain of Assyria’s army during the reigns of Sennacherib (2 Kings 18:17), and Sargon, his successor. The background setting was the siege of Ashdod, a Philistine seaport on the Mediterranean.

It was in the time of the siege of Ashdod (20:1) that the LORD commanded Isaiah to declare to Judah the judgment that would soon befall Egypt (20:2-3). Why Judah? The prophecies of Egypt’s doom were to serve as warning to Judah to not trust in man.

The LORD directed Isaiah to remove his outer robe (described as “the sackcloth”), and put off his sandals (20:2). We read, “he did so, walking naked and barefoot” (20:3). Isaiah’s message and his physical appearance certainly garnered the attention of God’s people (although he was not entirely without clothes, but would have worn his undergarments, and considered naked without his “sackcloth”).

Isaiah declared and interpreted his prophecy from the LORD, and stated how Assyria would overthrow Egypt and Ethiopia, and humiliate the captives of those nations. The proud citizens of those countries would be led away, “Young and old, naked and barefoot, Even with their buttocks uncovered, To the shame of Egypt” (20:4).

Judah should have reasoned, if Egypt would be unable to avoid a humiliating defeat, surely God’s people would have cause to turn to the LORD and not look to Egypt for help in her time of need (20:5).

The “isle” in Isaiah 20:6 is probably a reference to Judah, whose coastline was on the Mediterranean Sea. With the defeat and humiliation of Egypt, and the threat of Assyria, Judah would have been left asking, “Whither we flee for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria: And how shall we escape?” (20:6).

Isaiah 21 – A Prophecy of Doom for Babylon, Edom, and Arabia

Three nations are the objects of prophetic doom in Isaiah 21. Isaiah 21:1-9 describes the fall of Babylon (“the desert of the sea,” 21:1a), and identifies the conquerors of that great city: “Elam” (i.e., Persia) and “Media” (21:2).

The Scriptures record, and history concurs, how Babylon did loot Jerusalem, and stripped the Temple and palaces of their gold and silver. Isaiah prophesied Babylon would suffer what it had afflicted on other nations, and the spoiler would become the spoiled (21:2).

Isaiah was Pained by the Vision of Babylon’s Fall (21:3-5)

Foreseeing the downfall of Babylon, Isaiah was physically, and emotionally moved by the vision of carnage (20:3). The prophet’s heart raced, he became paralyzed with fear, and experienced sleepless nights (21:4).

Because we have the prophet Daniel’s record of the night Babylon fell to the Medes and Persians (Daniel 5), we understand the description of that city’s narcissistic pursuit of sin and drunkenness, leading to that fall of the Babylonian empire (21:5; note also 22:13).

Isaiah Declared Babylon’s Fall (21:6-10)

Though Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the people taken captive, God’s people had cause for hope as they looked to the future. The LORD commanded Isaiah to tell the nation to “set a watchman” in expectation of Babylon’s fall to be fulfilled (21:6-9). Isaiah prophesied, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen; And all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (21:9).

Prophesy Concerning Edom (21:11-12)

We are given a brief prophecy concerning the Arabian people of “Dumah” (21:11). Dumah was a son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:3). Apparently, the people of his lineage (a Bedouin people) would fall to Assyria, be delivered, only to fall to Babylon (21:12).

Prophecy Concerning Arabia (21:13-17)

Caravans generally cross the sands of the desert, but the Dedanim people were described as lodging in the forest (where they must have retreated in their flight from Assyria’s army, 21:13). The Dedanimite people would be shown compassion by “the inhabitants of the land of Tema” (21:14). Though they would escape the swords of Assyria, it was only temporary (21:15). In one year’s time, the Dedanimites would be all but annihilated as a people (21:17).

Closing thoughts – The whole region of the Middle East was in turmoil in Isaiah’s day, even as it is in our day. The LORD sent His prophets to Israel and Judah, who foretold God’s judgments against the nations, but His people did not turn from their sins and trust in the LORD.

The signs of God’s judgment were to be seen everywhere, but Israel and Judah continued in their sins until there was no hope. The people had the LORD’S Law and Commandments, and the word of His prophets, nevertheless, they rushed on to their own demise.

Are we any different?

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith