I’m going to assume that most individuals take issue with Isaiah 13:18 not for its prophetic implications but rather for the brutality which is expressed. Previous posts in this series have dealt specifically with the Bible and the sometimes harsh language and events it records. Yet, it seems that many people either have short memories or do not read past what immediately strikes their interest or seemingly supports their cause. In other words, many people have an agenda and often times that agenda is biased according to their preconceived notions or their particular world view. I am not excluding myself from this either. The difficulty in being objective goes both ways. However, my objectivity as a believer in the Bible is not one of defense of any particular idea because I’m already a believer. It matters less to me why the Bible says what it says but rather that the content is indeed inspired by the Holy Spirit and good for teaching and reproof. The following analysis, therefore, is one that I think makes the most common sense regardless of my “belief” in it.
Isaiah 13:18 states, “And their bows will mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will their eye pity children.” I suppose the reason that people take issue with this verse is that they somehow assume that God commanded such actions. Just because something is written in a book does not mean that the author actually did it, advocated for it, or rewarded it. In many instances, the Bible is recording history or prophecy. Isaiah 13:18 is a prophetic statement about what will happen in Babylon. Nowhere in the text does it say God himself slew pregnant women. Nowhere in the text does it say God commanded anyone to “mow down the young men.” It is in fact saying that this is what will become of Babylon. This is what MEN will do – not God. If anything, this text reaffirms why mankind needs a loving and forgiving God because left to their own devices men are wicked beings.
Nonetheless, let me take this analysis a step further. Let’s assume that the text specifically told each warrior to kill women and children. Why would that be the least bit acceptable by a supposed loving and righteous God? I’ll address this in two contexts; first in a historical context and second in the context of assuming God might actually be the creator of the universe.
Historically we know the Babylonians were one of the most brutal societies to ever have populated the planet. The Babylonians routinely sacrificed children to Moloch. They murdered with reckless abandon. Diseases ran rampant, especially those of a sexual nature. Humans have free choice to do as they will, after all. The Israelites were held captive by the Babylonians and we know through historical accounts both inside and outside of the Bible that the Babylonians did not treat their captives well. They were ruthless. Even considering this fact, Isaiah 13:18 is not even stating that God commanded the Israelites to retaliate, but rather it is stating that the Medes and Persians will overtake the Babylonians.
I’m going to take this commentary a step further. Please note that the following has nothing to do with the Biblical text in question and it is not an analysis or interpretation of Isaiah 13:18, but rather a more broad consideration of the plethora of possibilities. I assume that some might erroneously think Isaiah 13:18 was a command from God to “….mow down the young men, They will not even have compassion on the fruit of the womb, Nor will their eye pity children.” We have already established that this was not the case at all, but let’s assume it was. I also assume that many of the people who misinterpret this verse do not believe in an all powerful and all knowing creator God. But try to imagine that such a being existed. If such a God existed, one that created the very ground you walk on, the eyes you see through, and every single atom in the universe; would that God not know the what, when, where, and how of every element of existence?
God gave us free choice to believe in Him or not. Romans 1:20 states “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” You can choose not to like the choices God makes. You can second guess the creator of the universe. You have a wide range of choices in how you choose to view God. But deep in your heart you know He is real and He is Just. So when God chooses to obliterate a reprobate society such as Sodom and Gomorrah ,we can strive to understand why, simply accept that God knows best, or we can choose to accuse God of being bad or wrong.
After twenty plus years of studying the major world religions I have come to find the Bible to be the only credible, testable, and provable Holy book that reveals a loving and forgiving God full of second chances and grace for the people that He created. I hope that you will continue to challenge and ask the hard questions because the Bible is the only Holy book that states: ” …but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” Thessalonians 5:21.