Death of a Dynasty
“O HOW you have fallen from heaven, you shining one, son of the dawn! . . . you have said in your heart, ‘To the heavens I shall go up. Above the stars of God I shall lift up my throne, . . . I shall make myself resemble the Most High.” However, down to Sheol you will be brought, to the remotest parts of the pit.”—Isa. 14:12-15.
Who is this one who had such a self-exalting ambition and who would be brought down to such a debased, humiliated state? And why should we today want to know what this dramatic statement from the Scriptures means? Why, because of the importance of the participants in this dramatic action, for (1) the “shining one, son of the dawn,” represents the dynasty of kings of Babylon established by King Nebuchadnezzar and ending with Belshazzar; (2) the “stars of God” are the kings of Judah’s Davidic line sitting representatively on “Jehovah’s throne” at Jerusalem; (3) the Most High and the Speaker of the words to the “shining one” is Jehovah God, the Almighty.
BABYLONISH OR DAVIDIC DYNASTY—WHICH?
In addition to the worldwide effect of this action at the time, we recognize the infinitely more far-reaching effect on the world scene of our day when we reflect on the fact that the kings of the line of David were those who were in Jehovah’s covenant with David for the kingdom over His people and who were to produce the Messiah. The covenant for the kingdom and the posterity of the line of these kings must continue and not be cut off until the coming of the Messiah, whose throne is to be exalted alongside that of Jehovah. Would the dynasty of Babylon, with Satan as god, or would the dynasty of David prevail? Which would survive?
There is also a modern-day parallel that magnifies the importance of this prophecy. This “shining one” is spoken of as one “disabling the nations” (Isa. 14:12), as one making “the productive land like the wilderness” (Isa 14:17), and as one whose fall brings “the whole earth . . . to rest, . . . free of disturbance,” and causes people to “become cheerful with joyful cries” (Isa 14:7). Consider the record of modern-day Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion under its invisible ruler, Satan the Devil. The leaders of Babylon the Great have represented God as a three-headed trinitarian monstrosity, an eternal-torment fiend, and have led the peoples of the earth to worship other false gods. They have exalted themselves with high-sounding titles. They have put their trust in materialism and military might and not in God or his Word, the Bible. By Concordats with dictators, by wars prosecuted in the name of religion, especially of “Christian” religion, they have disabled the nations, destroyed the productiveness of land, slaughtered the flower of manhood of the nations and brought extreme misery and sadness. What happened to Babylon and its dynasty of kings is a sure-to-be-fulfilled pattern of the annihilation of Babylon the Great, to the relief and joy of people of all nations.
How did the situation come about, that the Babylonian dynasty of kings could entertain such ambitious visions? Well, the “king of Babylon” had enjoyed phenomenal success in defeating the nations. This projected him like a meteor to the position of Third World Power. As Isaiah tells us, he struck peoples “in fury with a stroke incessantly” and subdued nations “in sheer anger with a persecution without restraint” for not submitting voluntarily to world domination by Babylon. No earthly power was able to restrain him. He was like a woodcutter to the nations, cutting down their kings just like trees. He disabled the nations and put them in abject slavery to Babylon. He agitated the earth, making the kingdoms rock and bringing productive land to a wilderness, as, for example, when he finally destroyed Jerusalem and transported the people of Judah to Babylon, leaving the land desolate of man and domestic animal. He had no intention whatsoever of letting his prisoners go home, forever.—Isa. 14:6, 12, 16, 17.
The earlier successes of the “king of Babylon” did not satisfy him. He could have no rest until he overthrew the kings of Judah, since these sat on “Jehovah’s throne” at Jerusalem as the earthly representatives of God’s theocratic rule. As long as the throne at Jerusalem existed, the king of Babylon could not fully exalt his god Marduk. Ah, if he could but dethrone these kings of Judah, put them under his feet, then he would indeed be exalted to the heavens, above the stars, for in Bible prophecy the kings of the royal line of David were likened to stars. Representing Jehovah, they had a brilliance, a royal glory. (Num. 24:17) Psalm forty-eight speaks of the temple located in the city of Zion, on an elevated place near the palace of the Judean kings. To this place Jehovah commanded all Israel to come up three times a year. Thus it became the “mountain of meeting.” The psalmist says: “Jehovah is great and much to be praised in the city of our God, in his holy mountain. Pretty for loftiness, the exultation of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the remote sides of the north, the town of the grand King [Jehovah].” (Ps 48:1, 2) If Babylon’s king could only displace these “stars,” then he would, in his own eyes and the eyes of the Babylonians, occupy a position “upon the mountain of meeting, in the remotest parts of the north,” comparable to that of Jehovah, who established these kings on Zion.
To the ancient pagan world, the king of Babylon would make himself resemble the Most High. In effect, the Babylonian stargazers could see, as it were, a new star sparkling in the heavens with a brightness surpassing that of other stars. He would outshine the “stars of God.” When he took Zedekiah off the throne and destroyed Jerusalem with its temple of Jehovah, he felt he had reached this heavenly pinnacle.—2 Ki. 25:1-7.
BABYLON’S DYNASTY THE “SHINING ONE” (LUCIFER)
At this point it is well to discuss the meaning of the Hebrew word heilēlʹ, translated “shining one.” It also means “brightness” and, according to some Hebrew-English Lexicons, the entire expression “shining one, son of the dawn” means “morning star,” which was the brightest star in the heavens. The English Authorized Version uses the name Lucifer, as does also the Roman Catholic Douay Version of the Bible. Both were following the Latin Vulgate translation, which uses Lucifer, meaning “Light Bearer.” Lucifer, however, is not the name of the king of Babylon. Lucifer, as a name, was applied to Satan the Devil by early uninspired religious writers of our Common Era. Notice that the Latin Vulgate uses the word lucifer again, in 2 Peter 1:19, and there applies it, not to Satan the Devil, but to the “day star” that was to arise for Christian hearts. So this term heilēlʹ, or lucifer, applies to Satan the Devil only as the earthly king of Babylon symbolizes that wicked spirit or reflects him. Of course, Satan the Devil was Babylon’s real god and invisible king, as well as being ruler over modern-day Babylon the Great.
The first application of Isaiah 14:12-14, then, is to the human king of Babylon. That is why certain expressions, such as Sheol, are used in it. Satan the Devil was never in Sheol, hell, the grave, and never will be in it, for he is a spirit in the invisible heavens, whereas Sheol, hell, the grave is in the earth. It is where the visible, material, human dead are laid. Even Jesus Christ, after dying, was in Sheol, hell or the grave for parts of three days, as the apostle Peter himself said.—Acts 2:27-32; Ps. 16:10.
A DEAD CARCASS WITHOUT BURIAL OR SUCCESSORS
Accordingly, it is the self-exalted human “king of Babylon” of whom Isaiah 14:15 says: “However, down to Sheol [hell, AV; Dy] you will be brought, to the remotest parts of the pit.” This expression indicates how far the “king of Babylon” fell from such heaven-high glory and power. It was as low as any human could fall. But the prophecy shows that he is not laid to rest in Sheol, the common grave of dead mankind. The expression “king of Babylon” does not mean the individual kings of Babylon, but the dynasty of the kings of Babylon, for most, if not all, of the kings of Babylon were buried with honor in Sheol. But the imperial dynasty of kings of Babylon, who destroyed Jehovah’s temple, was disgraced. This dynasty was not given a place with other kings of the nations down in Sheol, but was thrown away, without a respectable burial place for it. It was like a “detested sprout,” which, not being desired on a plant, was cut off and thrown away. It was like a carcass over which lay the bodies of other soldiers dead from sword stabs, like a carcass trampled underfoot. Left lying on the field, it could be eaten by scavenger animals—a disgraceful end with no honorable memory, no memorial tomb, a name held in reproach and dying out. The goatlike leaders and the kings of the nations buried in state on their thrones are pictured as being awakened from their sleep of death in Sheol, so astounding is the “king of Babylon’s” fall. (Isa. 14:9, 10) The ones who observe this fall express their amazement at how Jehovah God has brought this “shining one” down to his annihilation. As they do so they call attention to the crimes that the “king of Babylon” has committed, as voiced at Isaiah 14:16-21. Yes, moreover, the liberated Israelites are to take up this theme as a taunt song against the “king of Babylon.”—Isa. 14:3, 4.*
Jehovah says: “And I will cut off from Babylon name and remnant and progeny and posterity.” (Isa. 14:22) While there were later Chaldean kings who rose up to try to reestablish Babylon, such as Nidintu-Bel, who took the royal name Nebuchadnezzar III, he was not of the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar and was not able to restore Babylon to power, his rule lasting for less than a year. A Nebuchadnezzar IV rose up in revolt against King Darius I, but was soon put down. So no “sons” or successors of the “king of Babylon” could make a comeback. (Isa. 14:21) The imperial dynasty, symbolized by the “king of Babylon,” was to be wiped out, root and branch, to have no survivors. Chaldeans and Babylonians are no more today, having been annihilated during the succeeding centuries, according to the divine will. However, by Jehovah’s providence, Jehoiachin, of the line of David, had offspring while captive in Babylon, to preserve the Davidic line, to provide Jesus Christ the legal claim to the throne as the “son of David.”—Matt. 1:6, 12,16; Luke 3:23, 27, 31.
Babylon’s complete blotting out is described at Isaiah 14:23, where she is condemned to be swept with “the broom of annihilation,” cleaning out every trace of her, and her location made unfit for human occupancy. Overthrowing a world power was not too great an act for Jehovah to perform. He foretells here through Isaiah the fall of the Second World Power, Assyria. After her fall would come Babylon’s, just as surely. (Isa. 14:24, 25) History now recounts how Jehovah destroyed 185,000 soldiers of King Sennacherib of Assyria in one night and finally let Assyria be overthrown and taken into subjugation to the Babylonians. (Isa. 36:1 to 37:38) History also bears testimony as to Babylon’s fall and final desolation.
JOYFUL RESULT OF “KING OF BABYLON’S” FALL
So God’s judgment upon Babylon brought joy to all the nations, who now came under the more considerate rule of the Aryan world power of the Persians under Cyrus. As for the Israelites, they were restored to their own land, and the prophecy came true: “He will actually give them rest upon their soil, and the alien resident must be joined to them . . . And peoples will actually take them and bring them to their own place, and the house of Israel must take them to themselves as a possession . . . as menservants and as maidservants; and they must become the captors of those holding them captive, and they must have in subjection those who were driving them to work.” (Isa. 14:1, 2) Cyrus the Persian, an outsider, restored the sons of Israel. There were thousands of non-Israelites who went back to Palestine with them, to serve under the Israelites as temple servants. Also, the aged Daniel was made one of the three high officials under Darius to whom the one hundred and twenty satraps of the Medo-Persian Empire reported. (Dan. 6:1-3, 28) About sixty years afterward the Israelitess Esther was made the queen of King Ahasuerus the Persian, and her older cousin Mordecai was elevated to be prime minister of the empire, the Fourth World Power. (Esther 2:5-18; 8:1-15; 10:2, 3) Thus the Babylonians were no longer able to hold the Israelites captive, but they themselves, who had driven the Israelites to work, were put in subjection to their former slave laborers.
In view of this prophetic illustration, let Babylon the Great, who has ruled as a mistress over the empires of the world, committing spiritual fornication by mixing religion with politics and military conquest, give special notice to Jehovah’s words at Isaiah 14:26, 27: “This is the counsel that is counseled against all the earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For Jehovah of armies himself has counseled, and who can break it up? And his hand is the one stretched out, and who can turn it back?” Though Babylon of ancient times is gone, this prophecy assures that the Babylon of the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, will soon suffer a like fate, being cut off without name or progeny, suffering complete humiliation and abasement, never to rise again.
For a more detailed discussion of Sheol and of Isaiah, chapter 14, see the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, New York.