ISAIAH CHAPTER 21.
Prophecies against Babylon, Edom, and Arabia.
THE ORACLE AGAINST BABYLON. — V. 1. The burden of the desert of the sea, the valley and plain of the Euphrates and Tigris, where the Babylonian nation had its home. This country had been alternately a desert and a sea, depending upon the season of the year. Great dikes and levees built by Semiramis had served to control the water and make it available for irrigation purposes, but the razing of these dikes again converted the plain into a swampy sea. Cp. Jer. 51, 13. 36. As whirlwinds in the south pass through, coming up with irresistible force, from the deserts of Arabia, so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land, said of the enemy forces which would conquer the land of Babylon. V. 2. A grievous vision is declared unto me, one which he could endure and record only with difficulty on account of its importance and consequences; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, the enemies of Babylon repaying her in her own coin, by a military stratagem overthrowing her, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam, a nation bordering on Persia on the west, and often named together with the latter country; besiege, O Media, the country which first conquered Babylon; all the sighing thereof, namely, that which was caused by the tyrannical Babylon, have I made to cease, by giving the victory to her adversaries. V. 3. Therefore, on account of the calamities which would come upon Babylon, are my loins filled with pain, with trepidation, as in the case of spasms; pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth; I was bowed down at the hearing of it, writhing in pain; I was dismayed at the seeing of it, prevented from seeing at the horror of it all. V. 4. My heart panted, beating wildly, fearfulness affrighted me, with a terrifying, numbing force; the night of my pleasure, the darkness of night, which ordinarily was pleasant to the prophet on account of the bodily rest and the conduciveness to quiet contemplation associated with it, hath He turned into fear unto me, namely, on account of the horrible vision connected with it in this instance. V. 5. Prepare the table, watch in the watch-tower, eat, drink, the prophet in the spirit witnessing and describing a carousal in Babylon. Arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield, to keep it from becoming rusty and to cause strokes of the enemy to glide off. Thus matters were going on in Babylon, and during all this time its destruction was imminent. V. 6. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth, this watchman being the prophet’s substitute in declaring the vision. V. 7. And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a whole army of mounted soldiers riding two abreast, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels, the various mounts thus being described, as the enemy rode forward to the attack, their pack-animals remaining behind with the baggage. And he hearkened diligently with much heed, with the closest application, his object being to get more information concerning the Persian invaders. V. 8. And he cried, in growing impatience, A lion, properly, “as a lion,” with a lion-like voice, My lord, I stand continually upon the watch-tower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights, in sleepless vigilance, in order to find out about the army which he saw passing on its way to attack the country of Babylon; v. 9. and, behold, even while he was voicing his complaint, he makes a discovery, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen, a small troop of men riding in pairs. And he answered and said, the watchman hearing the triumphant cry even from a distance as the little band rides for-word, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, the army which had gone down before having been victorious; and all the graven images of her gods He hath broken unto the ground, Jehovah Himself having proved His almighty power over against all idolatry. V. 10. O my threshing and the corn of my floor, literally, “son of my threshing-floor,” the reference being to Israel, as being subject to the severe punishment of Babylon, in which the love of the Lord, however, interferes and guides. That which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you. Israel, the object of divine punishment, which was administered to him through the exile, is here given the comfort that Jehovah Himself is concerned about His people’s welfare and will hold back the wrath in due time.
AGAINST EDOM AND ARABIA. — V. 11. The burden of Dumah, that is, Idumea, the land of Edom, the land of the night and stillness of death: He calleth to me out of Seir, which is the country of Edom, between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf of the Red Sea, Watchman, what of the night? Is there any hope for the dawn of deliverance? Watchman, what of the night? the repetition of the call showing the eagerness of the people of Idumea to be delivered from the night of their calamity which, as the text implies, has now come upon them. V. 12. The watchman, that is, the prophet to whom they turned in their affliction, said, The morning cometh and also the night, that is, no sooner would the morning dawn than it would be devoured once more by night and destruction; if ye will enquire, enquire ye, namely, in vain, as long as they continued in their enmity against the Lord. Return, come! For only by being converted to the God of Israel would they escape the threatened misfortune. This prophecy was exactly fulfilled, for Idumea was plunged from one affliction into the next, with barely a dawn of better days to relieve the night. The way of salvation for Edom as for all other people is that of repentance. V. 13. The burden upon Arabia, concerning the punishment which would strike this great country of many nomadic tribes: In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, in the thick undergrowth, or mesquite, of the wilderness, as in our own Southwest, O ye traveling companies of Dedanim, caravans of the nomadic tribes in the northwestern part of the peninsula. V. 14. The inhabitants of the land of Tema, a province with its capital city in this section of Arabia, brought water to him that was thirsty, to the fugitives of Dedan; they prevented with their bread him that fled, thus anticipating the wants of those who were in need and giving them the food which they needed for their support now that they were fugitives before the enemy. V. 15. For they fled from the swords, as the enemy advanced upon Dedan, from the drawn sword and from the bent bow and from the grievousness of war, which was rolling over them like a mighty giant. V. 16. For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, most carefully measured, chap. 16, 14, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail, the name here including all the tribes of Arabia, which represented a nation, but only in a loose federation; v. 17. and the residue of the number of archers, the remnant of the Arab warriors, noted for their skill with the bow, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, celebrated for their warlike nature, shall be diminished, only a very few of them remaining; for the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it. In His hands are the fortunes of all nations, and His Word is the eternal truth.