From the beginning of Isaiah, the LORD has been proclaiming the judgment against Israel and Judah. Now, together with Isa 13, the LORD begins proclaiming the fate of the nations surrounding Israel and Judah.
It is interesting that the first burden is against Babylon. During Isaiah’s lifetime, especially at the beginning of his ministry, Assyria was the dominant power. Babylon was subject to Assyria as all the other nations around about were. It was a vassal state.
However the prophecy against Babylon reads as if Babylon was the premier nation. This is an example of multiple layers of fulfillment contained in a single prophecy. I would say “dual fulfillment” but there might be more than two fulfillments. For example: God said of Israel, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son,” (Hos 11:1). The first fulfillment of this was of course, when God brought the nation of Israel out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses. But the prophecy had a dual fulfillment: for Matthew tells us that Messiah Yeshua also fulfilled this prophecy, when He returned to Israel from Egypt, where his father had taken Him to hide Him from the wrath of Herod (Mat 2:15). It is common for biblical prophecy to be layered in this way, for the same prophecy to be exactly fulfilled several times in several different ways.
I mean, that the LORD is great and majestic, in that He tells the end from the beginning, thousands of years in advance, and it comes to pass, is awesome; that He tells the end from the beginning, and it comes to pass, not once, but twice or thrice, each fulfillment separated by hundreds or thousands of years — He is glorious in wisdom, who can comprehend Him?
So, in Isa 13, the LORD begins the burden against Babylon, and soon we are reading about the day of the LORD, coming with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the whole earth desolate (Isa 13:9). We are reading about His great army that He musters for battle against Babylon, whom He calls from the end of heaven (Isa 13:4b-5). On that day the stars will not shine, nor will the sun or moon give its light (Isa 13:10), and the entire earth will be punished for its evil (Isa 13:11).
Clearly the LORD is talking about more than just the vassal nation of Babylon, which is subject to Assyria! For its first fulfillment, Babylon did muster its courage and overthrow Assyria, which we will soon read about as we continue through our Old Testament history, and then, in history, the nation of the Medes mustered its courage and overthrew Babylon (Isa 13:17). This was many years off when Isaiah delivered his prophecy.
But especially when coupled with Isa 14, and the prophecy against the king of Babylon, it sounds as if this king is more than a mere mortal man. It is Lucifer who is fallen from heaven, who sought to exalt his throne above the stars of God (Isa 14:13, which is symbolic prophetic language for angels). The king of Babylon is Satan, and here is the key to the whole puzzle —
When Scripture talks about Babylon, it is talking about more than just the mere city whose location is in the middle of Iraq. We have to remember that one of the key events of world history occurred at Babylon. Babylon is a Greek place name; the Hebrew place name is Babel. The king of Babel, was Nimrod (Gen 10:8-10), a name which in Hebrew means “rebel.” He who rebelled against God, was the king of Babel, and at Babel, all the nations of the world together rebelled against God and sought to throw off His authority and His commandment (Gen 11:1-9). And he who rebelled against God, was Satan, who sought to throw off God’s authority and His commandment. It was Satan who led Nimrod into rebellion at Babel. So history tells us that Nimrod was the king of Babel, and the history- prophecy here in Isaiah tells us that Satan was the spiritual king of Babel behind the human king.
At Babel, the nations gathered together against God. Therefore Babylon is a metaphor for the kingdoms of this world, which are opposed to the kingdom of our LORD and of His Messiah. The reason Satan could offer Jesus the throne of all the kingdoms of this world, when he was tempting Him (Mat 4:8-9), is because he is the king behind the kings and kingdoms of this world. They belong to him — for now. But when the day of the LORD fully comes, they will change ownership, and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdoms of our LORD and of His Messiah, and He will reign forever and ever (Rev 11:15)!
So the burden against Babylon is not just against the historical vassal nation, that rose up to overthrow Assyria and who was in turn overthrown by the Medes. It is a prophecy against the kingdoms of this world who have rebelled against God, and the king of those kingdoms, who has rebelled against God — Satan. This section of Isaiah is one of the early prophecies of end time events.