Isaiah 21


‘A prophecy against the Desert by the Sea: Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland, an invader comes from the desert, from a land of terror. A dire vision has been shown to me: The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot. Elam, attack! Media, lay siege! I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused. At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labour; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see. My heart falters, fear makes me tremble; the twilight I longed for has become a horror to me. They set the tables, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink! Get up, you officers, oil the shields! This is what the Lord says to me: “Go, post a lookout and have him report what he sees. When he sees chariots with teams of horses, riders on donkeys or riders on camels, let him be alert, fully alert.” And the lookout shouted, “Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post. Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: ‘Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground!’” My people who are crushed on the threshing floor, I tell you what I have heard from the LORD Almighty, from the God of Israel.’ Isaiah 21:1-10

A Prophecy Against Babylon

This chapter begins with a prophecy concerning the fall of the ‘Desert by the Sea’, that is, Babylon.

We must note that some commentators suggest these verses are speaking about the Medes and the Persians, while others suggest they are speaking about the Assyrians.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The prophecy which commences this chapter occupies the first ten verses. That it relates to Babylon is apparent from Isaiah 21:2 / Isaiah 21:9. The object is to foretell the destruction of that city by the Medes and Persians, and the design is the same as in the more extended and minute description of the same event in Isaiah 13:1-10 / Isaiah 14:1-10. Whether it was delivered at the same, or at another time, cannot be determined from the prophecy. The purpose, however, of the prophecy is the same as there, to give consolation to the Jews who should be carried captive to that city, to assure them that Babylon would be destroyed, and that they would be delivered from their long and severe bondage. This is indicated in a brief and graphic manner in Isaiah 21:10.’

Isaiah saw the destruction of Babylon like a whirlwind passing through, Isaiah 8:8 / Habakkuk 1:11, that is, he saw the Medes and Persians passing through, possibly Cyrus or an army under him.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This is a prophecy of the destruction of Babylon is clear from the express mention both of the Medes and Persians, by whom it should be, and of Babylon itself, and its fall, Isaiah 21:2, which though prophesied of before, it is here repeated, partly for the certainty of it, and partly for the comfort of the people of the Jews, who would be captives in it, and so break off and prevent their confidence in a nation that would be ruined and perhaps this prophecy might be delivered out about the time or on account of Merodach king of Babylon sending letters and a present to Hezekiah, who showed to his messengers all his treasures.’

When they ought to have been watching and preparing to do battle they were eating and drinking, hence, why many believe Isaiah is speaking about the Medes and the Persians, not the Assyrians, Daniel 5:1-30.

The grim revelation that Isaiah saw was the Medes and Persians coming off the desert like a whirlwind. As the plunderer of nations, she was still doing the same, she would see the plunder of Babylon. The vision which he saw filled him with pain, it was like a nightmare to Isaiah, Daniel 5:6.

The word ‘lion’, is a figure of speech meaning we are in great danger, Revelation 10:3. The roar of a lion demands attention, Revelation 14:8 / Revelation 17:5, and so, the watchman didn’t leave his post.

The sounds that were heard were those of a city that was fallen. The words, ‘Babylon is fallen’, are repeated to show the certainty of it, Revelation 14:8.

The word ‘threshing’, is also a figure of speech, Jeremiah 51:33, to indicate the crushing of Babylon that is taking place.

A Prophecy Against Edom

‘A prophecy against Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, “Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?” The watchman replies, “Morning is coming, but also the night. If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.” Isaiah 21:11-12

Here we read of a prophecy concerning Dumah, that is, Edom.

The word ‘Dumah’ means ‘silence’. Dumah was one of the twelve sons of Ishmael who settled in Arabia, but he may have moved into Edom, Genesis 25:14.

We read of a series of questions addressed to Isaiah from someone in Seir, Genesis 36:8. When the morning gets here, it will still be night, in other words, there will be morning and an end to the long night for Judah, but for Edom, there will continue to be night and darkness. If Seir would really have relief, let them turn to the Lord, let them repent and return to the God of their fathers.

Isaiah basically says, when the night of the Assyrians had gone, there would come the Babylonians who would eventually succeed the Assyrians. After them would come the Medo-Persians and other world empires such as the Greeks and Romans. All the hope Edom had would disappear, Obadiah 8-21.

A Prophecy Against Arabia

‘A prophecy against Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the heat of battle. This is what the Lord says to me: “Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the splendour of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be few.” The LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.’ Isaiah 21:13-17

Here we read the prophecy concerning the disruption of affairs in Arabia.

The Dedanites were an Arabian tribe who descended from Abraham and Keturah, Genesis 25:1-3. They were a trading people but they were forced to camp in the wilderness while on trading missions because of war going on the caravan road.

The country Tema had its name from Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael, Genesis 25:15. Isaiah sees the fugitives fleeing from the land-hungry and thirsty.

‘Kedar’ is a collective name of the Arabic tribe, Genesis 25:13-15. Within the space of a year, the strength of ‘Kedar’ will all disappear. The prophecy is that the nomadic warriors of Arabia would be wiped out within the time that Isaiah revealed, within a year.

Go To Isaiah 22


"I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."