Isaiah 13:10: The Heavens are Dark (publ. 2023-12-19)

For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not flash forth their light;
The sun will be dark when it rises
And the moon will not shed its light.
— Isaiah 13:10 (NASB 1995)


Isaiah chapter 13 begins as an "oracle concerning Babylon" and deals with God's judgment and destruction of Babylon. But in the middle of the chapter are verses that appear to concern more than just Babylon, speaking of a world-wide judgment against sinners. Verse 9 speaks of "the day of the LORD" coming, "cruel, with fury and burning anger". And God promises in verse 11 that he "will punish the world for its evil", putting an end to "the arrogance of the proud" and abasing the "haughtiness of the ruthless". Verse 10, our focus here, prophecies a darkening of all the heavenly bodies, evidently on a world-wide scale.

Hebrew features

This is a nice verse for those interested in astronomy, as it contains the common Hebrew words for the stars, the sun, and the moon. Respectively they are כּוֹכׇב (star), שָׁמֶשׁ (sun), and יָרֵחַ (moon).

There is an interesting but complicated study to be done for the expression וּכְסִ֣ילֵיהֶ֔ם, translated "and their constellations" in the NASB 1995. "Constellations" seems to be the safest translation, having such wide support among the many English translations. However the Hebrew word, in its more common singular form (כְּסִיל) is used to refer to a specific star or constellation, variously understood to be Hesperus, Orion, or Arcturus, depending on the passage and whether we are looking at the Greek (LXX) translation or the Latin (Vulgate).

My Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta gives, for the first phrase, οι γαρ αστερες του ουρανου και ο ´Ωριων και πας ο κοσμος του ουρανου το φως ου δωσουσιν. The apparatus indicates a variant reading οικος (house, abode) instead of κοσμος. Brenton Septuagint Translation (1851, gives "For the stars of heaven, and Orion, and all the host of heaven, shall not give their light; and it shall be dark at sunrise, and the moon shall not give her light."

The Targum Jonathan, an ancient Aramaic translation, understands כסיל as "giant" where Isaiah 13:10 could be rendered "the stars of heavens and their titans". Also worth noting is that a few early English translations, namely Geneva, the Bishops Bible, and Coverdale, but not the KJV, gives "planets" instead of "constellations" in Isaiah 13:10.

See HALOT and TWOT for more details and references on this subject.


In interior Alaska, where I live, we have long and dark winters, with daylight hours shrinking down to about three hours per day at the worst of it. And we are also at a collision point of cold and warm weather patterns, so that the skies are often cloudy at night, and we often go several weeks at a time without having a good, clear view of the night sky. Those conditions can become quite gloomy and depressing, so that one longs for the warmth of the sun during the day and the glittering of the stars at night.

In this coming day of wrath, verse 10 speaks of a coming darkening of the heavenly bodies — a suitable backdrop for judgment and misery. These beautiful things which the Creator has given us, which we take for granted as essential components of our daily existence, suddenly become either invisible or only barely visible, and humanity will walk in darkness. But that darkness is also a picture of the spiritual darkness that already engulfs the world, a world that has embraced evil and cut itself off from communion with God.

If you feel only darkness today in your own life and heart, flee today to Christ, the Messiah, who is our morning star. Yeshua (Jesus) declared, in John 8:12,

I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.

This work © 2023 by Christopher Howard is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International.

CC BY-NC 4.0 Deed

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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