Isaiah 14

Isaiah 14:1 For the Lord will have mercy on Jacob

In this chapter, we learn that the mercy of the Lord for his chosen people will be manifest in the last days. This great mercy is in contrast to the destructions on the wicked which have been prophesied in the preceding chapter.  Lest we get too depressed, it is the great millennial news which Isaiah is faithful to remind us of.

Isaiah 14:1 strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob

In the Old Testament, the term strangers means Gentiles. In the Book of Mormon, the Gentiles often refers to the Americas (1 Ne. 13:14-15). Therefore, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Isaiah’s prophecy refers to the political alliance of the United States and Israel prior to the Millenium. After the Millenium, the Gentiles will continue to look to Jerusalem and Zion for spiritual guidance. In that day, ‘many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob’ (Isa 2:3). In that day shall the Gentiles ‘cleave to the house of Jacob.’

Bruce R. McConkie

“Such spiritual blessings as come to the Gentiles shall be theirs because they cleave unto Israel. ‘And the people’—the Gentiles—‘shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them’—the Gentiles—in the land of the Lord for servants and handmaids: and they shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors.’ ("Isa. 14:1"Isa. 14:2"Isa. 14:3"Isa. 14:4"Isa. 14:5"Isa. 14:6"Isa. 14:7Isa. 14:1-7.) Israel shall rule; the Gentiles shall serve; the kingdom is the Lord's. His people are the governing ones—such is the meaning of Isaiah's imagery.” (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 316)

Isaiah 14:2 they shall return to their lands of promise

One of the most repeated themes of Isaiah is the return of Israel in the last days. This great gathering takes on many forms—the return of the Jews to Jerusalem, the gathering of the descendants of Joseph to Zion, the preaching of the gospel to the descendants of the Lamanites and Nephites, the great missionary effort to spiritually gather scattered Israel into the fold of God. Isaiah often concentrates on how the Lord will bless the house of Israel in the last days. This is in contrast to the wicked ways of the people during Isaiah’s time. He knew that shortly the northern kingdom would be captured by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom would be eventually captured by the Babylonians. How beautiful the thought of an Israel that was once again favored of the Lord? The promises truly are great to the house of Israel in the last days. Their history has been a history of pain, persecution, and prejudice. But in the last days, all those who afflicted them with impunity will be oppressed, ‘they shall take them captives unto whom they were captives; and they shall rule over their oppressors.’

Isaiah 14:4 proverb against the king of Babylon

The next section describes the downfall of the king of Babylon. Again, Isaiah uses prophetic dualism—a prophetic form which should be familiar to the student by now. In this instance, the king of Babylon symbolizes the king of spiritual Babylon—Satan. Isaiah explains that both the king of literal Babylon and the king of spiritual Babylon will be humbled by the Lord.

Isaiah seems to be describing the destruction of wicked Babylon prior to the establishment of millennial peace.  John the Revelator saw the same thing:

   I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:

With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication…

   (Babylon) which reigneth over the kings of the earth.

   And after these things I saw another angel… and he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.

   For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies…

   Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her. 

   And the kings of the earth, who have committed fornication and lived deliciously with her, shall bewail her, and lament for her, when they shall see the smoke of her burning. (Rev. 17:1-2, 18; 18:1-3, 8-9)

Isaiah will continue with the theme of the relationship between Satan, his fallen city, and the kings of the earth who mourn her loss, asking Lucifer after he is humbled, “Art thou also become weak as we?  Art thou become like unto us?” (v. 10)

Isaiah 14:8 the cedars of Lebanon, saying: since thou art laid down no feller is come up against us

If trees could talk, what would they say?  Like Ents in Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring series, they would lament the evil men of the world whose deforestation practices have no bounds.  In “The Two Towers,” Treebeard cries, “they come with fire; they come with axes… destroyers and usurpers! Curse them!” 

The best timber for building in the ancient world was the cedars of Lebanon. Therefore, once wicked Babylon is destroyed by the Lord, the deforestation will cease and the land will have peace. So much of popular movies draws from themes that come from the great spiritual battle between good and evil, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are just two examples.

Isaiah 14:9 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming

After the crucifixion, the spirit of Jesus Christ went to the spirit world to enjoy a great reunion with the faithful saints, “they were filled with joy and gladness, and were rejoicing together because the day of their deliverance was at hand.  They were assembled awaiting the advent of the Son of God into the spirit world, to declare their redemption from the bands of death.” (D&C 138:15-16)

At the beginning of the Millennium, when Satan is bound and cast into the bottomless pit of hell (Rev. 20:2-3), he gets his own reunion.  In a rare glimpse into the world of spirit prison, we see that the once mighty but wicked men of the earth are interested to see the arrival of their king. They chide him, ‘Art thou also become weak as we?’ (v. 10) Rather than being overjoyed, they are unimpressed.  Rather than joy and glory, Satan’s party is a big downer, “are you really the one who terrorized the nations? Is this the man that made the earth to tremble and that did shake the kingdoms?” (v. 16)

“This section of the poem predicts Satan's being restricted to the spirit world of hell during the millennial years of peace on earth, and describes the reaction of hell's inhabitants when it is announced that he is assigned there. That he will have influence there is shown by the Prophet Joseph Smith's statement that ‘when we have power to put all enemies under our feet in this world, and a knowledge to triumph over all evil spirits in the world to come, then we are saved’ (TPJS, p. 297). Alma 34:34Alma 34:35Alma 34:34Alma 34:35Alma 34:34-35 also shows that the spirit of the devil will have power to possess the unrepentant in the spirit world. When he is bound in the spirit world, the chief ones of the earth’-those leaders who were influential in the devil's kingdom while they lived upon the earth—will assemble to greet him. When they see him, they will be amazed at his having lost his power.” (Monte S. Nyman, Great are the Words of Isaiah [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980], 85)

Isaiah 14:12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!

Elder Bruce R. McConkie explains the title ‘son of the morning’:

“…this name-title of Satan indicates he was one of the early born spirit children of the Father. Always used in association with the name Lucifer, son of the morning also apparently signifies son of light or son of prominence, meaning that Satan held a position of power and authority in [the] pre-existence.” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 744)

Lucifer fell from heaven for rebelling against God the Father and His plan of salvation. ‘He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him’ (Rev 12:9). ‘And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven’ (Rev 12:4).

In the very next phrase, ‘Art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations’, we understand that Isaiah is now referring to the time when Satan is cast out at the beginning of the Millennium. When Satan is finally stripped of all power, the people will look upon him and ‘say: Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?’ (v. 16) His power over the wicked of the world and the glory and majesty of the great whore will be destroyed just as the glory of the king of Babylon came to naught:

   ‘How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.

   Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine; and she shall be utterly burned with fire: for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her.’ (Rev 18:7-8)

Isaiah 14:13-15 For thou hast said…I will ascend into heaven…I will be like the Most High

“Isaiah delighted in the future binding of Satan for one thousand years and the eventual banishment of Satan to outer darkness following the Millennium.

“In teaching this concept Isaiah employed a satirical song. He portrayed the ancient king of Babylon as a type for Lucifer. Similar to the king of Babylon, Lucifer has ruled over an empire built upon tyranny and oppression. As Isaiah expressed concerning Lucifer, ‘For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: . . . I will be like the most High’ (Isa. 14:13Isa. 14:14Isa. 14:13-14). Isaiah prophesied that the day will come when Lucifer will ‘be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit’ (Isa. 14:15Isa. 14:15). John the Revelator was shown an angel who had the key of a bottomless pit. ‘He laid hold on . . . that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, and cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled’ (Rev. 20:2Rev. 20:3Rev. 20:2-3). Satan will be held in such low regard that people will mock him, saying, ‘Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms; . . . that opened not the house of his prisoners?’ (Isa. 14:16Isa. 14:17Isa. 14:16-17).” (Voices of Old Testament Prophets: The 26th Annual Sidney B. Sperry Symposium [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 75 – 76)

Isaiah 4:16-17 Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?

LeGrand Richards

“What a record could be written of Satan's activities to accomplish the very things Isaiah foretold! Lucifer is fallen from heaven; he has weakened the nations; he has decreed to exalt his throne above the stars of God and to be like the Most High; he has made the world as a wilderness and destroyed the cities thereof.

“John the Revelator declared that Satan's reign upon this earth should be practically universal:

   it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.’ (Revelation 13:7.)

“In order to be able to hold dominion over the kingdoms of the world, Satan's plan has been to destroy all who in any way can detract from his power. Hence, he has put it into the hearts of men to destroy the prophets and servants of the Lord, whose commands he must obey.” (A Marvelous Work and a Wonder [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1950], 395)

Isaiah 14:17 opened not the house of his prisoners

Spirit prison is just that—a prison. The doors of this prison were not opened prior to the atonement. Before then, Satan had power to keep the prison doors closed. The doors were “closed” in two different ways. First, before Christ was resurrected, none of the spirits, righteous or wicked, could be resurrected. Second, there was no interaction between those in spirit prison and those in spirit paradise. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus explains this principle. Certainly Satan would have rejoiced in the ‘great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence’ (Lu 16:26). This gulf was bridged by the ministry of Jesus Christ in the spirit world for he opened the doors to spirit prison so that the righteous missionaries could go forth among the wicked.

Isaiah 14:18-20 thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch

To paraphrase Isaiah, “The kings of the earth at least have majestic graves, their bodies laid down in regal splendor and glorious pageantry. But Lucifer has no glory when he is cast into prison. He has no grave, no tombstone, no monument for his followers to visit. He is not worthy of the same stately burial as even the wicked kings of the earth. He has no body for a gravesite and is cast out as an abominable branch. He will be as those wicked who are destroyed at the Second Coming—those whose bodies were never buried but rather left strewn upon the land as carcasses to be devoured by the birds and tread under foot of men. His wickedness excels all; his seed, or followers, are all evil-doers—wicked spirits that shall never be renowned.”

Isaiah 14:22-23 I will rise up against them…I will also make it a possession for the bittern

This prophecy is similar to those described in the preceding chapter. When the Lord finally destroyed Babylon, it was no longer inhabited. It became a wasteland for wild animals. This came about because the Lord had swept ‘it with the besom (a stiff broom made of twigs) of destruction’. See commentary for Isaiah 13:20.

Isaiah 14:25 I will bring the Assyrian in my land, and…tread him under foot

Verse 25 marks a breaking point. The subject changes to a new prophecy.  Isaiah speaks of a future invasion of the Assyrians.  This occurs about the same time the Northern Kingdom is captured (circa 720 BC) in the days of Hezekiah, king of Judah.  The Assyrians came from the north to conquer the Southern Kingdom as well.  They had been successful in taking almost all the cities and towns around Jerusalem but hadn’t taken the city itself.  Messengers came to the wall of Jerusalem and mocked Hezekiah and the guards.  Isaiah promised Hezekiah that the Lord would protect them, “For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake” (2 Kgs. 19:34). The next morning, the Assyrian army was gone!  The angel of the Lord had slain them—185,000 soldiers—dead!  “And when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.” (2 Kgs. 19:35)

Isaiah 14:26-27 this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations

Who can destroy an army of 185,000 in one night?  The Lord can.  It is prophesied in the last days that all nations shall come against Jerusalem to battle. (Zech. 14:2) The scene will be much like when the 185,000 Assyrian troops threatened the city.  What will happen?  Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” against the Assyrians (Zech. 14:3).

When the wicked are destroyed in preparation for millennial peace, the same Lord who killed the Assyrian army in one night will stretch his hand out upon all the nations to destroy them.  This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth,” means “My purpose is to destroy all nations of the earth which seek to conquer Jerusalem!”  If the Lord decides to destroy the wicked, who has power to stop him?

Isaiah 14:29-32 Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina… the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people shall trust in it

Over the centuries, the inhabitants of Palestine have rejoiced when things went badly for Israel.  In the near future, the inhabitants of Palestine will yet again rejoice when things go badly for Israel.  Isaiah warns not to get too excited when things look bleak for the inhabitants of Zion.  The weakest and poorest of Zion will fare better than the greatest of Palestine when the Lord redeems the land and saves his people.  Once this millennial reality settles in, the Palestinian will begrudgingly admit, “That the Lord hath founded Zion, and the poor of his people (were wise to) trust in it.