Truth, Understanding, Insight

Ambassadors in Reed Boats

26th December 2016, hej


2) Isaiah's world

Isaiah lived from approx. 740 to 690BC. His death pre-dates the rise of Babylon as a superpower.

In the book of Isaiah chapters 7-12 inclusive are a section. Chapter 13 opens a new theme, which is the warfare and destruction of Babylon in general and absolute terms. In verse 17 the Medes are named as conquerors after which it was to never be inhabited. At the time Isaiah wrote that Babylon was under Assyrian control. It was destroyed in 690BC near the end of Isaiah's life by Sennacherib. However, it was not until after Isaiah's death that Babylon rose to be a great city. There is no reason to locate this chapter late in Isaiah's life, as the next chapter (14) has the same theme and is dated at the death of King Ahaz which was somewhere between 727-723BC.

The context of Isaiah's 'land shadowing with wings' gives us an understanding for the world at this time. Chapter 14 begins with a future image of mercy on Jacob & Israel where the strangers shall be joined with them, then speaks of the destruction of the king of Babylon. It is greater in scope than Chapter 13 indicating a latter day application. It goes on to speak of the Assyrian being broken in the land and Palestina suffering from 'a fiery flying serpent' power from the north that came out of the Assyrian.

At this time the Philistines (Palestina) were yet to suffer the onslaught of the Assyrians who would conquer them about 40 years later in 689BC. It was some time later that they rejoice at the Assyrian destruction which came after the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem (where Isaiah was in 701BC). Though Sennacherib is silent about the loss of his army in Israel, there are 2 pieces of evidence that confirm the Bible. He was murdered by his sons (about 681BC) and Greek historian Herodotus writes of a divinely-appointed disaster destroying an army of Sennacherib. The last great Assyrian was Asnappar dying about 627 BC.

Assyrian kings





Tiglath-Pileser III


Ch 18


Shalmaneser V



Sargon II




681 BC

681 BC


669 BC

Chapter's 15 and 16 focus on Moab's fate of being laid waste, soldiers fleeing, people mourning, crops failing and that their glory would end within 3 years. This dates the prophecy to about 725-727 BC just after Ahaz's death. Tiglath-pileser III began the Assyrian conquests in 732BC continuing to 727BC. There are records of Moabites being tributaries to Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 BC). Sennacherib's prism says the King of Moab brought tribute to Sargon II (722 – 705BC). In 711 BC an uprising in the Philistine city of Ashdod, supported by Judah, Moab, Edom and Egypt, was suppressed, and Ashdod became an Assyrian province and Samaria Israel was captured.

Chapter 17 speaks of Damascus, arguably the most ancient (nearly) continuously occupied city in the world. But Isaiah says Damascus would be a ruinous heap and its kingdom cease. From 1100BC Damascus had been the centre of Aramaean state named Aram Damascus. Tiglath-Pileser III the Assryian captured and destroyed the city in 732 BC. But the Assyrians did not retain it and they invaded Damascus again in 722/721BC. It is possible this prophecy was given about 722/721BC. In 720BC the year Sargon II gained again control of Damascus he rebuilt Samaria as an Assyrian City. Truly in 720BC Israel was 'very lean'.

Isaiah Chapter 18, introducing the land shadowing with wings, was written sometime after 727 to 721BC. The entire context leading up to Chapter 18 speaks of prophecy regarding Assyria, Babylon and the region about Israel to the North. We may take note of this as this area was also known in ancient times of Genesis as 'Cush'.

Previously from 745- 727BC the Assyrians under Tiglath-Pileser III had been expanding their control over the fertile crescent past Babylon down to the Persian Gulf and though Syria, Israel and then Judah towards Egypt. But the death of Tiglath-Pileser saw a challenge to the Assyrian rule backed by the southern power of that era, Egypt, in 725BC. As a result the next Assyrian ruler Shalmaneser V. invaded Syria and besieged Samaria (capital of Israel) for three years. He dies suddenly in 722BC and Sargon II takes over.

Sargon II ends the Northern kingdom of Israel and deports many placing most of the 10 tribes in diaspora. He re-conquers Babylon. Sargon also built his new capital at Dur Sharrukin (Korsabad) near Nineveh, with the tribute of the nations. Isaiah's prophecy in Chapter 18 of the 'nation shadowing with wings' is written as Assyria gains ascendency in Isaiah's world, just as Sargon II begins his conquests.

The symbol of Assyria was a winged bull with a man's head. Archaeology has established Sargon II had many huge images of this figure made at his new capital at Korsabad.

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