Isaiah 13:21-22. “But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there: and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant places, and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.”
“Wild beasts of the desert.” For me, that phrase conjures up some scary things. Snakes, spiders, weird creatures. The once beautiful city, a center of culture, trade, and idol worship, will be nothing more than a place for desert creatures to dwell.
Doleful creatures. Doleful, sorrowful, miserable. The Hebrew word for doleful would indicate a howler, a lonesome creature; the sounds that these creatures make are yells, and don’t refer to specific animals in this verse.
The owls in verse 21 could also be a reference to ostriches. Owls give a rather plaintive call, and I understand that the call of the ostrich is quite hideous, and that it can groan as if in great pain.
Satyrs were supposed to be half man and half goat, with horns on the man’s head; the body was all hairy, with feet and tails like a goat. The Edomites worshiped images like those described. The word probably refers to any rough, hairy animal that tends to be solitary and wild.
In verse 22, the wild beasts of the islands, or coastal lands, are beasts that are unknown and maintain a very superstitious reputation, something like the Loch Ness Monster.
The dragons? That word has been variously translated. My Dake’s Study Bible took me to Exodus 7:9, and the miracle of Moses’ rod becoming a serpent. It’s the same word used in our passage today, and would seem more likely to indicate some type of marine/land animal, perhaps the crocodiles that were ubiquitous in Egypt along the Nile. We don’t know for sure. It’s the entire picture we’re interested in, which in my mind ranks right up there with a really ugly horror movie.
And the time would not be prolonged before the fall of Babylon took place.
A friend reminded me of a song yesterday that includes these words: “Kings and kingdoms shall all pass away.” And they have. What has remained is the Name of Jesus.