Isaiah 14 – The Armies of God’s Wrath & Who are the Chaldeans

I’m sure glad that I’m not You, I mean, remember, I’m only 12 years old, I wouldn’t know what to do when people misbehaved like these guys do.  I know You really shook them all up so what are You going to do now?  If they continue to be wicked and evil, like most people are, are You really going to destroy them for good (Rev 21:8)?  But if they stop being that way You’ll forgive them, right? (Jn 3:16; Rev 21:7).  Like I said, I’m sure glad I’m not You, I couldn’t handle all the stress.

Who Were the Ancient Chaldeans?
The Chaldeans were an ethnic group that lived in Mesopotamia in the first millennium B.C. The Chaldean tribes started to migrate—from exactly where scholars aren’t sure—into the south of Mesopotamia in the ninth century B.C.

At this time, they began to take over the areas around Babylon, notes scholar Marc van de Mieroop in his “A History of the Ancient Near East,” along with another people called the Arameans. They were divided into three main tribes, the Bit-Dakkuri, the Bit-Amukani, and the Bit-Jakin, against whom the Assyrians waged war in the ninth century B.C.

1 For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land: and the strangers shall be joined with them, and they shall cleave to the house of Jacob.

“Will have mercy…and set them” – Babylon’s fall will be linked with Israel’s restoration.  God’s compassion on His people is the theme of characters. 40-66 (see 40:1-2).

2 And the people shall take them, and bring them to their place: and the house of Israel shall possess them 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.

3 And it shall come to pass in the day that the LORD shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve,

“Sorrow…made to serve” – the Babylonian captivity was much like Israel’s experience in Egypt (see Ex 1:14).

14:3-21 – however exalted the king of Babylon may have thought himself to be (see vv 12-14) he will go the way of all world rulers – down to the grave (cf 1 Jn 2:15-17).

4 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased!  The golden city ceased!

“Proverb” – a taunt.  Cf. the taunts against Babylon in Rev 18.

5 The LORD hath broken the staff of the wicked, and the scepter of the rulers.

6 He who smote the people in wrath with a continual stroke, he that ruled the nations in anger, is persecuted, and none hindereth.

7 The whole earth is at rest, and is quiet: they break forth into singing.

“Break forth into singing” – the nations are celebrating the death of the king of Babylon.

8 Yea, the fir trees rejoice at thee, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, Since thou art laid down, no feller is come up against us.

Ur of the Chaldees
The Chaldeans may be best known from the Bible. There, they are associated with the city of Ur and the Biblical patriarch Abraham, who was born in Ur.

When Abraham left Ur with his family, the Bible says, “They went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan…” (Genesis 11:31). The Chaldeans pop up in the Bible again and again; for example, they are part of the army Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, uses to surround Jerusalem (2 Kings 25).

In fact, Nebuchadnezzar may have been of partial Chaldean descent himself. Along with several other groups, like the Kassites and Arameans, the Chaldeans kicked off a dynasty that would create the Neo-Babylonian Empire; it ruled Babylonia from about 625 B.C. until 538 B.C., when the Persian King Cyrus the Great invaded.

“Fir trees…cedars” – Isaiah often personified mature.  The trees along with the mountains burst into song in 44:23 (cf 55:12).

“Cedars of Lebanon” – these highly prized timbers were hauled away by the kings of Assyria and Babylon for centuries.

9 Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations.

“Chief ones” – Lit. “goats,” a goat often led a flock of sheep (see Jer 50:8).  In Zech 10:3 the term is parallel to “shepherds.”

“Raised up from their thrones” – conditions among the dead are described in terms of their roles on earth.

10 All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we?  Art thou become like unto us?

11 Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

“Noise of thy viols” – the music of their harms.  Music is sometimes a sign of luxury and pleasure (see Amos 6:5-6).

“Worm…cover thee” – the king of Babylon is pictured as a rotting corpse covered with maggots.

12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!  How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

Ancient Chaldeans in Biblical Archaeology. 
This painting depicts an ancient inhabitant of Chaldea, an official who was being presented with a land grant by Merodach-baladan II (according to the black marble inscription).

The Chaldeans were descendants of Arphaxad, the third of the five sons of Shem (See the Table of Nations in Genesis 10). Chaldea also spelled Chaldaea, Assyrian Kaldu, Babylonian Kasdu, Hebrew Kasddim, Aramaic Kasdaye. Chaldea is mentioned frequently in the Old Testament.

Chaldea was a country in the ancient Near East in the fertile and swampy southern regions of Tigris and Euphrates Valley in ancient Mesopotamia. Its capital was Babylon, and Abraham is mentioned as having been called by God from Ur of the Chaldees. The boundaries of Chaldea were Mesopotamia on the north, the Arabian Desert on the west, the Persian Gulf on the south, and the Zagros mountains of Persia on the east. Its ancient name was Shinar because the LORD came down and changed their languages and shook the people out of the land to populate the rest of the world.

The ancient empires that arose out of the Tigris and Euphrates Valley were Assyria, Babylonia, and Persia. They were all very united in spite of their many rulers and spoke the ancient Akkadian language.

Most of the Chaldean buildings were made of brick, unlike the Egyptians who used stone.

Anything dating before 2000 BC are very shapeless ruins of temples and other buildings with their high platforms and winding staircases. At the top were altars for sacrifice and a place for the priests who observed the stars.

The excavations have been quite extensive around Babylon, although the area is near impossible to excavate due to the high water table. There are some rare Chaldean sculpture located at various museums including the Louvre.

14:12-15 – some believe that Isaiah is giving a description of the fall of Satan (cf Lk 10:18 – where, however, Jesus seems to be referring to an event contemporary with Himself).  But the context of the passage clearly refers to the king of Babylon.  While is not specifically in view here, the Bible teaches that evil world leaders are under Satanic and demonic control (Dan 10:13, 20).  The king of Babylon is also later used as a type of the “beast” who will lead the Babylon of the last days (see Rev 13:4, 17:3).  Cf, the description of the king of Tyre in Eze 28.

“Lucifer, son of the morning” – the name Lucifer comes from the translation of the Latin Vulgate.  The Hebrew for Lucifer is literally “shining one.”  The king of Babylon is compared to the morning star (Venus) that appears in the sky but then is extinguished by the sun before reaching its zenith.  The king of Babylon, like Satan, appears to be great but will have a sudden fall.

13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:

“Of the north’ – most likely referring to mount Zaphon, also called mount Casius, which was about 25 miles northeast of Ugarit in Syria.  The Canaanites considered it the home and meeting place of the gods, much like mount Olympus for the Greeks (see Ps 48:2 and cF Ps 82:1).  The king of Babylon committed the ultimate sin of thinking himself to be like God (cf Gen 3:5).

14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

“Shall narrowly look upon thee” – the people of earth will stare in amazement when the powerful king of Babylon goes down to the grave.

15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.

16 They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms;

14:16-20 – these verses seem to take place on earth, not in the realm of the dead (Sheol), probably also vv 9-10.

17 That made the world as a wilderness, and destroyed the cities thereof; that opened not the house of his prisoners?

“Opened not the house of his prisoners” – Babylon, like Assyria, deported large segments of defeated populations to subdue the rebellious among them (see 2 Kgs 24:14-16).

18 All the kings of the nations, even all of them, lie in glory, everyone in his own house.

19 But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcass trodden under feet.

“Cast out of thy grave” – a proper burial was considered important for an ordinary individual, and especially so for a king.  To have one’s body simply discarded was a terrible fate.

“Like an abominable branch” – Contrast the fate of the king of Babylon with the glory awaiting the Messianic “Branch” in 4:2, 1:1.

“Carcass trodden under feet” – a trampled corpse, see 5:25.

20 Thou shalt not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned.

21 Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers; that they do not rise, nor possess the land, nor fill the face of the world with cities.

“Prepare slaughter for his children” – a man’s children, as well as his tombstone, were his memorial (cf 2 Sam 18:18).  The king of Babylon would have neither (cf 47:9).

22 For I will rise up against them, saith the LORD of hosts, and cut off from Babylon the name, and remnant, and son, and nephew, saith the LORD.

14:22-23 – the taunt is extended to include Babylon itself; fulfilled, at least partially, through Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon in 689 B.C. – ultimately by the Medes and Persians after they took Babylon in 539.

“Remnant” – Israel will survive through a remnant (see 10:20-22, 11:11, 16) but Babylon will not.

23 I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water: and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the LORD of hosts.

The End of the Chaldean Dynasty
When the Babylonian Empire empire was absorbed into the Persian Achaemenid Empire, the name “Chaldean” lost its meaning as the name of a race of men, and came to be applied only to a social class.

The Persians found the Chaldeans masters of reading and writing, and especially versed in all forms of incantation, in sorcery, witchcraft, and the magical arts. They quite naturally spoke of astrologists and astronomers as Chaldeans. It therefore resulted that Chaldean came to mean astrologist. In this sense it is used in the Book of Daniel (Dan. i. 4, ii. 2 et seq.), and with the same meaning it is used by the classical writers.

“Pools of water” – Babylon will be turned into swamp land.  Southern Babylon, where the Chaldean tribes once lived, was a region of marshlands.

24 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

14:24-27 – See Zeph 2:13-15.

“So shall it stand” – see 8:10.  God’s sovereign purposes regarding Assyria and Babylon will be carried out.

25 That I will break the Assyrian in my land, and upon my mountains tread him under foot: then shall his yoke depart from off them, and his burden depart from off their shoulders.

26 This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.

“Hand…stretched out” – see 9:12, 12:1.  God’s hand was stretched out against Egypt as the Red Sea (see Ex 15:12).

27 For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it?  And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

Fall of Lucifer
Of all creatures in creation, Lucifer was once, quite possibly, the closest to God in heaven. The word “Lucifer,” comes from a Hebrew term that translates to “shining one”—he reflected the glory of God, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. Ezekiel 28:13-15 is addressed to the “King of Tyre,” but it is soon apparent that these verses are addressing the power behind the king, and reveal Satan’s former glory.

“‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.”

14:28-32 – see Jer 47, Eze 25:15-17; Amos 1:6-8; Zeph 2:4-7.

28 In the year that king Ahaz died was this burden.

“The year” – perhaps 715 B.C.  the occasion appears to be in the Philistine revolt against Assyria while King Sargon (see 20:1) was too preoccupied with serious revolts elsewhere to give much attention to Canaan.

29 Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the serpent’s root shall come forth a cockatrice and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent.

“Palestina” – the Philistines, which is the territory that was vulnerable to attack by the great empires (Egypt and Assyria) since it lay along the main route from Egypt to Mesopotamia.

“The rod” – probably Sargon of Assyria.

“Is broken” – if the rod was Sargon, reference is to the threats to his empire by a series of revolts in Babylonia and Asia Minor.

“Root…fruit” – a figure of speech that refers to the whole (tree) by speaking of its two extremes.  After Sargon will come other Assyrian kings: Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal.

“Cockatrice” – the kings that come after Sargon are going to bring even more severe devastation upon Israel.

30 And the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.

“Poor…needy” – Israelites (see v 32).

31 Howl, O gate; cry, O city; thou, whole Palestina, art dissolved: for there shall come from the north a smoke, and none shall be alone in his appointed times.

“Howl” – wailing in grief; cf the similar reaction in 13:6, 15:2, 16:7, 23:1.

“Smoke” – the dust raised by the marching feet and the chariots of the Assyrians – who always invaded Canaan from the north.

“None shall be alone…appointed times” – a powerful army with no stragglers in the ranks; cf the longer description in 5:26-29.

32 What shall one then answer the messengers of the nation? That the LORD hath founded Zion and the poor of his people shall trust in it.

“Hath founded Zion” – God will protect Jerusalem from the Assyrians (compare 31:4-5 with 2:2).

Who are the Chaldeans?

The Chaldeans of Beth Nahreen (Mesopotamia which is current days Iraq, east Syria, and south east Turkey) are a live continuation of all the indigenous people of Mesopotamia whether their tribal names were Sumerians, Akkadians, Amorites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, and Aramaeans.   

The Golden City
Babylon was once known as the Golden City and is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia whose ruins lie in modern-day Iraq 59 miles (94 kilometres) southwest of Baghdad.

The name is thought to derive from bav-il or bav-ilim which, in the Akkadian language of the time, meant ‘Gate of God’ or `Gate of the Gods’ and `Babylon’ coming from Greek.

The city owes its fame (or infamy) to the many references the Bible makes to it; all of which are unfavourable. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 11, Babylon is featured in the story of The Tower of Babel and the Hebrews claimed the city was named for the confusion which ensued after God caused the people to begin speaking in different languages so they would not be able to complete their great tower to the heavens (the Hebrew word bavel means `confusion’).

Babylon also appears prominently in the biblical books of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, among others, and, most notably, The Book of Revelation. It was these biblical references which sparked interest in Mesopotamian archaeology and the expedition by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey who first excavated the ruins of Babylon in 1899 CE.

Outside of the sinful reputation given it by the Bible, the city is known for its impressive walls and buildings, its reputation as a great seat of learning and culture, the formation of a code of law which pre-dates the Mosaic Law, and for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which were man-made terraces of flora and fauna, watered by machinery, which were cited by Herodotus as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The language of the Chaldean people is Syriac, which is essentially Aramaic (a different dialect than that spoken by Jesus Christ) with a dose of Akkadian, the original language of the Assyrian, Babylonian and Chaldean tribes.

By the fall of the Assyrian Empire (612 B.C.) and Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire (539 B.C.), Mesopotamia and the lower valley of the Tigris-Euphrates were still predominantly pagan. 

With the advent of Christianity, most of the nation gradually converted, largely through the missionary works of Saints Addai and Mari.  It is also historically accepted that St. Thomas the Apostle had a hand in the matter during this passage to India. 

Most of Iraq remained Christian, until the advent of Islam in the mid-7th century A.D.  But even in those early years, not everyone converted to Islam.  There were sizable numbers of Christians and pagans, as well as Jews.

One of the contributing factors to the presence of several religions may very well have been the Koran itself.  The Koran speaks reverently of the Torah and the Gospel, as well as the religious significance of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

In Iraq, a turning point in Christianity took place in 431 A.D., when the patriarch of Constantinople, Nestorius, differed with the rest of the Roman Catholic Church over specific dogmas concerning Christ’s personhood.  (As a Western parallel, the reader may refer to the example of Martin Luther versus Catholicism.)  

The Eastern sector was divided as a result of this split over church principles.  Some continued to follow the Nestorian thought, while others elected, in 1552 (more than eleven centuries later), to abide by the teachings of Rome.

Today, there are still thousands among the Assyrians who are Christians but not Roman Catholics.  Those who are Catholics belong to what is commonly known as the “Chaldean” Church.

Let us consider the historical perspective to better understand the use of the designation “Chaldean” for the Catholics of Iraq.  In Babylon, and the Babylonian Empire, different tribes ruled at various times.  Regardless of who ascended the throne, Babylon always remained the capital, also, as an empire, the term “Babylonian” remained intact.

The Assyrian Empire, especially under Sennacherib, stood indestructible for centuries.  Sennacherib won every single battle he engaged in; a veritable military genius whom no one could destroy — except Babylon.  He was killed there in one of the Babylonian temples.

As history would have it, this Chaldean regime was the last to rule in Babylon.  The last name of this empire was not eternally attached to the Chaldeans, therefore whoever spoke of the final state of Babylon found himself simultaneously speaking of the Chaldeans.  The name “Chaldean”, in this final stage, included both Babylon and Nineveh (Assyria).

It is not unusual, therefore, to think of the last vestiges of the two fallen empires as “Chaldeans” collectively, since at the final collapse, Babylon included both the lower valley and upper Mesopotamia.

The Chaldeans and Assyrians of the old were ethnically, culturally, and linguistically the same people divided along political and religious allegiances.  Those tribes lived together under the last Mesopotamian national regime, that of the Chaldeans.  They were now, perforce, all “Chaldeans” in the sense that the Chaldean Empire was their final name under one nation.

Many races came and went with the shifts of political rule.  The Chaldeans were the natives and the original people of the Mesopotamian lands that were non-intruders.  

Those who came into the country to rule and establish a new homeland cannot be properly described as Chaldeans.  Current days Chaldeans/Assyrians only know Iraq, that compromises the majority of Mesopotamia as their homeland, while other ethnic groups living in Iraq such as Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen tend to trace their origins to other lands.  An unfortunate reality that feeds the partial allegiance to the country that’s behind many of the political problems facing today’s Iraq. 

The two names, “Chaldean” and “Assyrian”, are still widely used to indicate same nation and people.  In the area of religion, “Chaldean” still applies to all Chaldean Catholics of Iraq who use the Syriac language and follow the teachings of Rome.  The term “Assyrian” is used to identify the followers of the Church of the East, and has been employed as a name for the Church since 1986.

Nestorian Church
The Nestorian church is top be found in the north west quarter of Famagusta, where most middle east Christians settled.

The Nestorians mainly arrived after the fall of Acre in 1291. They were mainly merchants, and extremely wealthy. This church was reputedly built in 1359 by Francis Lakhas, who is said to be so rich that he once ground up a diamond to spread on his food, just to show that he could afford to do it.

In spite of his great wealth, the church he built was simple, although there is a rather attractive rose window above the entrance. It was originally single aisled with a half-domed apse. At a later stage, two more aisles were added, and two pointed arches were opened in the north and south walls so that the aisles could communicate. It is thought that the belfry to the west is a later addition.

The interior once contained rich and diverse frescoes and inscriptions in Syriac script. Most have disappeared, but those that remain are in good condition, depicting saints.

During Ottoman times, the church became redundant, as was used as a camel stable. In the mid 19th century, the church was converted to Greek Orthodox to serve the small Greek Cypriot community in Famagusta.

The Greeks dedicated the church to Ayios Yeoryios Exorinos (St George the Exiler). Legend has it that if you swept up some dust from the floor of this church and put it in your enemy’s house, it would cause their death or exile within a year. The church continued to serve the Greek Cypriots till 1963.

In 1445, the then-Nestorian Church in Cyprus indicated her wishes to join Rome; the pope accepted the letter of conversion from Bishop Timothawes of the Chaldeans in Tarshish and Cyprus who wrote Pope Eugene IV identifying himself as “Bishop Timothaeus of the Chaldeans.” 

On September 7, 1445, Pope Eugene IV accepted the conversion of the Chaldean community in Cyprus into Catholicism, and from then on the word “Chaldean” became the official term used to identify Chaldean Catholics by the Roman Church.  

Today, the Archbishop of Iraq’s Chaldean Catholics goes by the official name of “The Patriarch of Babylon over the Chaldeans”.

In conclusion, when in 1552 the major split in the Church of the East took place with many, in the church’s homeland of Mesopotamia, converting to Catholicism, Rome simply extended the name of the Chaldean Church of Cyprus to cover all those new Catholic converts in Mesopotamia proper.  

That is, it followed the name used by the Nestorian Christians (descendants of the Babylonians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia) to identify themselves.  Chaldean was the name of the last Mesopotamian regime, and the name used by the inhabitants of Mesopotamia to identify themselves, as well the name used by their neighbors to identify them.  

Assyrian continued to be used widely just as well by the people.  History books speak of the usage of both Assyrian and Chaldean names to refer to the same people of Mesopotamia.  The Armenians, the neighbors to the north, always used “Assyrians” to refer to the Mesopotamians, while Arabs, the neighbors to the south, used Chaldeans and Syriacs to refer to them.  

The Chaldean people also used the name “Suraya” which views differ to its origin.  Some believing it to be a variation of Assyrian, while others believe it means Christians.  In historical terms, Assyria ruled Mesopotamia for over 1,000 years while the Chaldean regime lasted only 70 years.

The Chaldean Church consists of Middle Eastern Christians who use Syriac as their mother tongue.  It is one of the eighteen Eastern Rites recognized by the Holy See in Rome.  

The head of the Chaldean Church today is Patriarch Mar Emanuel Delly, Patriarch of Babylon, who resides in Baghdad.  Throughout the world, Chaldeans number more than one million.  The greatest concentration of Chaldean Catholics today is in Mesopotamia – Iraq.

Chaldean Population in the United States

There are approximately 150,000 Chaldeans in the US, in addition to another 100,000 who go by Assyrians, in addition to approximately 30,000 who go by Syriacs (Suryoyo).  The centers of the Chaldeans are Metropolitan Detroit, MI (where the majority of the Chaldeans are) in addition to San Diego, CA, and a smaller population in Phoenix, AZ and Chicago, IL.  

While the Assyrians have their biggest concentration in Chicago, IL, with sizable population in San Francisco Bay Area and Turlok-Modesto (around Sacramento area) of California.  The Syriacs are found more in Los Angeles area with sizable concentrations in Chicago and Detroit.