Isa 21:1-10. Repetition of
the Assurance Given in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Chapters to the
Jews About to Be Captives in Babylon, that Their Enemy Should Be
Destroyed and They Be
He does not narrate the event, but graphically
supposes himself a watchman in Babylon, beholding the events as they
1. desert—the champaign between Babylon
and Persia; it was once a desert, and it was to become so
of the sea—The plain was covered with
the water of the Euphrates like a "sea" (Jer 51:13, 36; so Isa 11:15, the Nile), until Semiramis raised great
dams against it. Cyrus removed these dykes, and so converted the whole
country again into a vast desert marsh.
whirlwinds in the south—(Job 37:9; Zec
9:14). The south wind comes
upon Babylon from the deserts of Arabia, and its violence is the
greater from its course being unbroken along the plain (Job 1:19).
desert—the plain between Babylon and
terrible land—Media; to guard against
which was the object of Nitocris' great works [Herodotus, 1.185]. Compare as to "terrible" applied
to a wilderness, as being full of unknown dangers, De 1:29.
2. dealeth treacherously—referring to
the military stratagem employed by Cyrus in taking Babylon. It
may be translated, "is repaid with treachery"; then the subject of the
verb is Babylon. She is repaid in her own coin; Isa 33:1; Hab
2:8, favor this.
Go up—Isaiah abruptly recites the
order which he hears God giving to the Persians, the instruments of His
vengeance (Isa 13:3, 17).
Elam—a province of Persia, the
original place of their settlement (Ge 10:22), east of the Euphrates. The name
"Persia" was not in use until the captivity; it means a "horseman";
Cyrus first trained the Persians in horsemanship. It is a mark of
authenticity that the name is not found before Daniel and Ezekiel
thereof—the "sighing" caused by
Babylon (Isa 14:7, 8).
3. Isaiah imagines himself among the exiles in
Babylon and cannot help feeling moved by the calamities which come on
it. So for Moab (Isa 15:5; 16:11).
13:8; Eze 30:4, 19; Na 2:10).
at the hearing—The Hebrew may
mean, "I was so bowed down that I could not hear; I was so
dismayed that I could not see" (Ge 16:2; Ps 69:23) [Maurer].
4. panted—"is bewildered" [Barnes].
night of my pleasure—The prophet
supposes himself one of the banqueters at Belshazzar's feast, on the
night that Babylon was about to be taken by surprise; hence his
expression, "my pleasure" (Isa 14:11; Jer 51:39;
5. Prepare the table—namely, the feast
in Babylon; during which Cyrus opened the dykes made by Semiramis to
confine the Euphrates to one channel and suffered them to overflow the
country, so that he could enter Babylon by the channel of the river.
Isaiah first represents the king ordering the feast to be got ready.
The suddenness of the irruption of the foe is graphically expressed by
the rapid turn in the language to an alarm addressed to the Babylonian
princes, "Arise," &c. (compare Isa 22:13). Maurer
translates, "They prepare the table," &c. But see Isa 8:9.
watch in … watchtower—rather,
"set the watch." This done, they thought they might feast in entire
security. Babylon had many watchtowers on its walls.
anoint … shield—This was done to
prevent the leather of the shield becoming hard and liable to crack.
"Make ready for defense"; the mention of the "shield" alone
implies that it is the Babylonian revellers who are called on to
prepare for instant self-defense. Horsley translates, "Grip the oiled shield."
6. Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he
seeth—God's direction to Isaiah to set a watchman to
"declare" what he sees. But as in Isa 21:10, Isaiah himself is represented as the
one who "declared." Horsley makes
him the "watchman," and translates, "Come, let him who standeth
on the watchtower report what he seeth."
7. chariot, &c.—rather, "a body of
riders," namely, some riding in pairs on horses (literally, "pairs of
horsemen," that is, two abreast), others on asses, others on camels
(compare Isa 21:9; Isa 22:6). "Chariot" is not appropriate to be
joined, as English Version translates, with "asses"; the
Hebrew means plainly in Isa 21:7, as in Isa 21:9, "a body of men riding." The Persians
used asses and camels for war [Maurer].
Horsley translates, "One drawn in a car,
with a pair of riders, drawn by an ass, drawn by a camel"; Cyrus is the
man; the car drawn by a camel and ass yoked together and driven by two
postilions, one on each, is the joint army of Medes and Persians under
their respective leaders. He thinks the more ancient military cars were
driven by men riding on the beasts that drew them; Isa 21:9 favors this.
8. A lion—rather, "(The watchman) cried,
I am as a lion"; so as is understood (Isa 62:5; Ps
11:1). The point of
comparison to "a lion" is in Re 10:3, the
loudness of the cry. But here it is rather his vigilance.
The lion's eyelids are short, so that, even when asleep, he seems to be
on the watch, awake; hence he was painted on doors of temples as the
symbol of watchfulness, guarding the place (Hor. Apollo) [Horsley].
9. chariot of men—chariots with men in
them; or rather, the same body of riders, horsemen two abreast, as in
21:7 [Maurer]. But Horsley,
"The man drawn in a car with a pair of riders." The first half of this
verse describes what the watchman sees; the second half, what
the watchman says, in consequence of what he sees. In the
interval between Isa 21:7 and Isa 21:9, the overthrow of Babylon by the
horsemen, or man in the car, is accomplished. The overthrow needed to
be announced to the prophet by the watchman, owing to the great extent
of the city. Herodotus (1.131) says that
one part of the city was captured some time before the other received
the tidings of it.
answered—not to something said
previously, but in reference to the subject in the mind of the writer,
to be collected from the preceding discourse: proclaimeth (Job 3:2, Margin; Da 2:26; Ac
fallen … fallen—The repetition
expresses emphasis and certainty (Ps 92:9; 93:3; compare Jer 51:8; Re 18:2).
images—Bel, Merodach, &c. (Jer
50:2; 51:44, 52). The
Persians had no images, temples, or altars, and charged the makers of
such with madness [Herodotus 1.131];
therefore they dashed the Babylonian "images broken unto the
10. my threshing—that is, my people (the
Jews) trodden down by Babylon.
corn of my floor—Hebrew, "my
son of the floor," that is, my people, treated as corn laid on the
floor for threshing; implying, too, that by affliction, a remnant
(grain) would be separated from the ungodly (chaff) [Maurer]. Horsley
translates, "O thou object of my unremitting prophetic pains."
28:27, 28. Some, from Jer 51:33, make Babylon the object of the
threshing; but Isaiah is plainly addressing his countrymen, as the next
words show, not the Babylonians.
Isa 21:11, 12. A Prophecy to
the Idumeans Who Taunted the Afflicted Jews in the Babylonish
One out of Seir asks, What of the night? Is there a
hope of the dawn of deliverance? Isaiah replies, The morning is
beginning to dawn (to us); but night is also coming (to
you). Compare Ps 137:7.
The Hebrew captives would be delivered, and taunting Edom punished. If
the Idumean wish to ask again, he may do so; if he wishes an answer of
peace for his country, then let him "return (repent), come" [Barnes].
11. Dumah—a tribe and region of Ishmael
in Arabia (Ge 25:14; 1Ch 1:30); now called Dumah the Stony,
situated on the confines of Arabia and the Syrian desert; a part put
for the whole of Edom. Vitringa
thinks "Dumah," Hebrew, "silence," is here used for Idumea, to
imply that it was soon to be reduced to silence or
Seir—the principal mountain in Idumea,
south of the Dead Sea, in Arabia-Petræa. "He calleth" ought to be
rather, "There is a call from Seir."
to me—Isaiah. So the heathen Balak and
Ahaziah received oracles from a Hebrew prophet.
Watchman—the prophet (Isa 62:6; Jer
6:17), so called, because,
like a watchman on the lookout from a tower, he announces future events
which he sees in prophetic vision (Hab 2:1, 2).
what of the night—What tidings have
you to give as to the state of the night? Rather, "What remains
of the night?" How much of it is past? [Maurer]. "Night" means calamity (Job 35:10; Mic
3:6), which, then, in the
wars between Egypt and Assyria, pressed sore on Edom; or on Judah (if,
as Barnes thinks, the question is asked
in mockery of the suffering Jews in Babylon). The repetition of
the question marks, in the former view, the anxiety of the
12. Reply of the prophet, The morning
(prosperity) cometh, and (soon after follows) the night
(adversity). Though you, Idumeans, may have a gleam of prosperity, it
will soon be followed by adversity again. Otherwise, as Barnes, "Prosperity cometh (to the Jews) to be
quickly followed by adversity (to you, Idumeans, who exult in the fall
of Jerusalem, have seized on the southern part of their land in their
absence during the captivity, and now deride them by your question)"
34:5-7). This view is favored
if ye will inquire, inquire—If ye
choose to consult me again, do so (similar phrases occur in Ge 43:14; 2Ki 7:4; Es 4:16).
return, come—"Be converted to God (and
then), come" [Gesenius]; you will then
receive a more favorable answer.
Isa 21:13-17. Prophecy that
Arabia Would Be Overrun by a Foreign Foe within a Year.
Probably in the wars between Assyria and Egypt;
Idumea and Arabia lay somewhat on the intermediate line of march.
13. upon—that is, respecting.
forest—not a grove of trees, but a
region of thick underwood, rugged and inaccessible; for Arabia has no
forest of trees.
travelling companies—caravans: ye
shall be driven through fear of the foe to unfrequented routes (Isa 33:8; Jud 5:6; Jer 49:8 is parallel to this passage).
Dedanim—In North Arabia (Ge 25:3; Jer 25:23; Eze 25:13; 27:20; a different "Dedan" occurs Ge 10:7).
14. Tema—a kindred tribe: an oasis in
that region (Jer 25:23).
The Temeans give water to the faint and thirsting Dedanites; the
greatest act of hospitality in the burning lands of the East, where
water is so scarce.
prevented—that is, anticipated the
wants of the fugitive Dedanites by supplying bread (Ge 14:18).
their bread—rather, "his (the
fugitive's) bread"; the bread due to him, necessary for his
support; so "thy grave" (Isa 14:19), [Maurer].
15. they—the fugitive Dedanites and
16. years of … hireling—(See on Isa 16:14).
Kedar—a wandering tribe (Ps 120:5). North of Arabia-Petræa, and south
of Arabia-Deserta; put for Arabia in general.
17. residue … diminished—The
remnant of Arab warriors, famous in the bow, left after the invasion,
shall be small.