As I read through all the judgment oracles at the beginning of Isaiah today, it struck me how the world was forever changed with the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylon. All the countries that you take for granted in ancient Palestine, the Middle East, and northern Africa...Philistia, Moab, Edom, Israel, Nubia, Egypt...they were forever changed after Assyria and Babylon spread south. An earthquake of socio-political upheaval came, and the landscape was never the same.
Caught in the middle of much greater powers wrestling for supremacy sat the tiny nation of Judah. Judah would have been a wealthy nation, or at least the rich among Judah would have been wealthy, sitting on the only north/south trade route through Palestine, so it makes sense that both the Assyrians and the Babylonians would want control of the area. I can only image what it would have been like for the Judeans to watch unstoppable armies march through their lands, or for the kings who were about to lose their thrones. What would it have been like to see nation after nation disappear. Here in Kentucky, it would be like watching all the states around us slowly be destroyed, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, and knowing that you were next. That is the atmosphere the prophets lived and spoke in. That is the context of Isaiah. I'm glad I wasn't born then and there, but I find it fascinating now. The list of events when the world truly changes is a small one, and the rise and fall of Assyria and Babylon are pretty much the first on that list.
Stopping point: Isaiah 22