Structure in Isaiah 13

Structure in Isaiah 13 May 5, 2011

Isaiah 13 is framed by explicit references to Babylon (vv. 1, 19), but the structure extends into chapter 14. A new section begins in 14:4, with another reference to “Babylon” and the introduction to the taunt song over the king of Babylon.

When we include 14:1-3, we get a neat sevenfold structure. Several sections are marked out by references to the Lord’s day:

1. v 1: Babel

2. vv 2-6: Yah musters army for His day

3. vv 7-9: everyone terrified of the day

4. vv 10-13: heavens and earth tremble in that day

5. vv 14-18: framed by references to children

6. vv 19-22: Babylon again, “days not prolonged”

7. 14:1-3: rest from pain

There are some elements of chiastic structure.

1 & 7 don’t match real clearly. 2 & 6 do in several respects. In 2, Yahweh musters the army that will descend on Babylon, while in 6 the desolated city is inhabited by “hosts” of unclean beasts. In 2, Yahweh assembles an army for His day, and that ensures the result in 6 – Babylon’s days not prolonged. The terrified reaction described in 3 is explained in 5; everyone is astonished (3) because the Medes spare no one, not even the child of the womb (5). They have no compassion (wombliness, racham ) on the fruit of the womb. At the center of the passage is the shaking of heavens, the silencing of the stars and the darkening of sun and moon.

More clearly, there are some important links with the days of creation. Section 2 forms a firmament army, and breaks through the firmament gate of Babel. On “Day 4,” the heavens are shaken, and perhaps the children of section 5 link to the swarms of Day 5. Section 6 describes a depopulation – an un-humaning of the city, and section 7 is clearly a Sabbatical vision.


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