Woe to him that builds a town with blood, and establishes a city by iniquity!
Reference is made in these verses to two kingdoms - the kingdom of Babylon and the kingdom of God; and this association serves to indicate several points of contrast.
I. THE GLORY OF THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD IS MATERIAL; THE GLORY OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS SPIRITUAL. The glory of Chaldea centred in its magnificent city of Babylon, so grand in its situation, its edifices, it defences, and in the stores of treasure it contained, its greatness consisting thus in its material resources; but the glory of the kingdom of God is spiritual. It is "the glory of the Lord" that constitutes its excellence - all moral beauty and spiritual grace abounding therein.
II. THE KINGDOMS OF THIS WORLD HAVE OFTEN BEEN FOUNDED AND ESTABLISHED BY MEANS OF WRONG DOING; THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS FOUNDED AND ESTABLISHED IN PURE RIGHTEOUSNESS AND TRUE HOLINESS. The Chaldeans, by their superior might and powers, conquered other tribes, and with the spoils of war and the forced labour of the conquered they reared their cities. They "built a town with blood, and established a city by iniquity" (ver. 12); but "a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of God's kingdom."
III. HUMAN TOIL IS INVOLVED IN THE INTERESTS OF BOTH; yet notice, by way of contrast;
1. Toil in the interests of earthly kingdoms is often compulsory and is rendered reluctantly - aliens who had fallen as captives into the power of the Chaldeans were made to labour and serve; but toil in the interests of God's kingdom is ever voluntary and is rendered lovingly and without constraint.
2. Toil in the interests of earthly kingdoms is often toil for that which shall be destroyed, and which shall come to nought. "The people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity" (ver. 13), i.e. they should labour in erecting edifices which should be consumed by fire, and thus their toil prove in vain; but toil in the interests of God's kingdom shall prove abiding and eternal in its results.
3. The workers of iniquity, no matter how earnest their toil, should be covered eventually with dishonour and shame - "Woe to him!" etc. (ver. 12) - but all true toilers for God and righteousness shall be divinely approved and honoured.
IV. THE PROSPERITY OF MATERIAL KINGDOMS IS UNCERTAIN; WHEREAS THE TRIUMPH OF GOD'S SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS ASSURED. "The knowledge of the glory of the Lord shall cover the earth."
V. EARTHLY KINGDOMS ARE LIMITED IN EXTENT; BUT THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM OF OUR GOD SHALL ATTAIN UNTO UNIVERSAL DOMINION. "The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. - S.D.H.
Parallel VersesKJV: Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity!