Isaiah 14:3-23 – Taunt Song against the King of Babylon


Isaiah 14:3-23


The king of Babylon, like all oppressors, will finally be brought down by a just God. Their arrogance will be their downfall.


This text makes clear the sense of the oracles against the nations in chapters 13-23. The point is not hostility to the outsider, but rather God’s unwavering opposition to tyranny and injustice. The nations are not rejected because they are foreign, but only when they oppress others and claim to act with the power of God (14:13-14). Indeed, Isaiah’s broader message is clear: God desires the salvation of all nations, not just of Israel (45:22; 56:6-7).

The text is a taunt song, filled with the kind of mockery and derision one might hear from children celebrating that a playground bully has finally found his or her comeuppance. Babylon saw itself as master of all it surveyed, which was largely true from a human perspective. But Babylon used its power tyrannically, so all rejoice when God assures them of its eventual downfall.

In another of Isaiah’s oracles that include the impact of God’s actions on the entire creation, the hearer overhears the rejoicing of the cypresses and the cedars of Lebanon over Babylon’s collapse (v. 8). Lebanon was renowned in the ancient Near East for the glory of its cedars, which were exploited rapaciously by rulers for their arrogant building projects, especially Babylon (here) and Assyria (2 Kings 19:23). But Israel was not immune; Solomon, too, used the cedars for the building of the temple of Jerusalem (1 Kings 5:6). This text might be an implied rebuke of Solomon’s grandeur as well, the cost of which contributed to the breakup of the monarchy (2 Kings 12:1-19).

The passage uses a well-known Canaanite myth when it describes the king as the “Day Star, son of Dawn”–a would-be god who falls from heaven. This mythic connection remains as the Latin version of the passage renders “Day Star” as “Lucifer,” thus making a connection with the image of Satan falling from heaven described by Jesus (Luke 10:18).