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Book of Isaiah
Chapter 21

This chapter contains prophecies against Babylon, Edom and Arabia. The prophecy against Babylon is called the burden of the desert of the sea; whose enemies are described by the fierce way that they came, and by the land from where they came. This vision shown to the prophet, is called a grievous one.  What made it grievous was the treachery among themselves; and that the Medes and Persians are invited to besiege them. The terror and distress upon it are represented by the pains of a woman in childbirth. The prophet was so deeply moved by the coming destruction of Babylon that he had the feelings of a woman in travail.

The methods they took to defend themselves, alarmed the prophet. They thought they were very secure, which is illustrated by the vision of the watchman, who saw the Medes and Persians on the march, signified by a chariot and a couple of horsemen, who declare the fall of Babylon, and the destruction of its idolatrous gods.

Then follows the prophecy against Edom (Idumea), which consists of a question put to the watchman, and his answer to it; to which an appeal is added. The chapter closes with yet another prophecy against Arabia. The calamities there threatened are lodging in a forest, thirst, famine and fleeing from the sword, and the time is fixed when all this would happen, by which their grandeur and glory would fail, and the number of their archers and mighty men would be decreased; for the Lord has spoken it!

THEME: Three burdens: Babylon the desert of the sea, Edom, Dumah and Arabia.
Isaiah records eleven burdens or judgments in Isaiah Chapters 13-23. In this chapter we are going to see burdens 7, 6, and 9, which are against Babylon, Edom, and Arabia. These burdens are set forth by intense symbols, and in the day they were given, I feel certain that these symbols were as clear to the people as the noonday sun.

The symbols in this chapter are not quite as clear to us today, and as a result there has been some disagreement among Bible commentators about their meaning. They can be identified as Babylon, Edom and Arabia, and each one will be considered separately as we go through this chapter. All these nations were enemies or possible enemies of Israel. Each nation brought a specific kind of misery upon God's people, and each has been judged in their time.

This chapter is a very neglected part of the Word of God, by pastors, teachers and believers in general!  When was the last time you heard a sermon or Bible study on this chapter? When was the last time you opened the Book to this chapter?

I believe that this chapter, along with many in this section (Isaiah 13-23), confirms that there shall be a Great Tribulation and a Millennial Period. It is the only interpretation which would truly satisfy a Passage like this. The unusual thing in this chapter is that symbols are used. I do believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture, BUT . . . when symbols are used, they always portray reality. That is an important thing to remember. My friend, let's study this chapter to see what God is saying, because this speaks to us today in some respect.

The Burden of Babylon (21:1-10)

Isaiah 21:1 The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land. (KJV) 

The burden of the desert of the sea . . . the desert of the sea is Babylon. She seems to be called desert prophetically, meaning that although she was now a large populated city and kingdom, it would be very soon that she should be turned into a desolate wilderness, as was before  threatened (Isa.13:19). But the word desert sometimes means a plain, and so it does agree to Babylon, for the land was a very plain country, without any large mountains in it. It is called the desert of the sea, because it is situated by the sea. And as the isles of the sea (Est.10:1), means those countries which were beside the sea. And the title of the sea might also be given because of the waters of Babylon, because of the great abundance and multitude of them, the great channel of Euphrates, and the several lesser channels cut out, and the vast lakes of water; in which respects it is said to sit upon many waters (Jer.51:13). The name of sea is given by the Hebrews to every great collection of waters. The desert of the sea is a strange expression. It is like saying the dryness of the water or how dry the water is. This should not be too odd to us though, since we have dry ice and cold heat.
As whirlwinds in the south pass through . . . and nothing can hinder them, such is their force and power; they bear all before them, come suddenly, blow so strongly, that there is no resisting them. Whirlwinds are spoken of in the Bible as coming from the south (Job 37:9; Zec.9:14); and the north (Eze.1:4).
So it cometh from the desert . . . or he (Cyrus); or it, the army under him, would come with the same irresistible force and power as the southern whirlwinds do. Cometh from the desert, from Media and Persia; so stated, either because those countries were full of deserts, or because a great desert lay between them and Chaldea.
From a terrible land . . . a land of serpents and scorpions, as one says; or a land afar off, as another says.  From a terrible land; from the Medes, a warlike and formidable people, as appears both from sacred and historic writers. The army that destroyed Babylon came out of the desert and mountain country of the Medes and Elamites or Persians (vs.1-2).

*****The expression, desert of the sea, is a conflicting phrase. Babylon was geographically located on a great desert plain beside the Euphrates River. It was irrigated by canals from the river. Jeremiah describes Babylon: Jeremiah 51:13 O thou that dwellest upon many waters, abundant in treasures, thine end is come, and the measure of thy covetousness. (KJV)  
The desert and the sea form an odd union here. This same blend of desert and sea is made by John in Revelation. Revelation 17:1 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: (KJV) . . . It was in the desert that John saw the many waters. These verses are symbolic, but they both carry the same pattern.

Babylon, with its glitter and glamour was the fountainhead of idolatry and false religion, and was like a mirage in the desert. Desert of the sea . . . what an image! Babylon was not a wonderful place. It was a mirage in the desert. It was NOT a spring or an oasis, but a place filled with idols and false religion. There was no life-giving water there for the souls of men. This is something that every pastor, every teacher, every church, and every church member should keep firm in their minds! Are YOU a life-giving fountain, or are you just a mirage upon the desert of life?

The burden of the desert of the sea . . . Predictions . . . Fulfilled:

  • Destruction of Babylon would come from the desert and a terrible land like the whirlwind passing through from the south.
  • Judgment upon Babylon was to come from the Elamites and the Medes.
  • The destruction was to be so terrible that the prophet felt pains like a woman in childbirth. He was distressed and filled with fear at the seeing of it.
  • The King of Babylon would make a feast, setting watchmen in the watchtower to make the people feel secure in their celebrating; but while they were eating and drinking the attack would come. This was fulfilled exactly this way (Dan.5).
  • Babylon would fall by the coming invader.
  • All the graven images of Babylon were to be destroyed.
  • Babylon was to be trodden down like wheat on a threshing floor.

Isaiah 21:2 A grievous vision is declared unto me; the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media; all the sighing thereof have I made to cease. (KJV)

A grievous vision is declared unto me . . . the vision delivered to the prophet; meaning the vision of Babylon's destruction, which was hard, as the word grievous means, and might seem harsh and cruel; not to him, nor to the Jews, but to the Chaldeans. Isaiah felt the pain of their suffering. A grievous vision; a vision or prophecy that contained dreadful calamities which were to fall upon Babylon.
The treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth . . . this is spoken either, #1. Of the Chaldeans and their sin, for which God sends the following judgment, but they still persist in the practice of treachery and rapine, to which they have been so long accustomed. Or, #2. Of the Medes and Persians, who are here noted to pay the Babylonians in their own coin, and to use the same treachery and violence towards them which they had done to others (Isa.33:1). There is no doubt that the Medes and Persians used treachery as well as force against Babylon.
Go up, O Elam . . . or Elamites (Acts 2:9). Elam was the name of the country originally possessed by the Persians . . . so-called from Elam, son of Shem (Gen.10:22). It was east of the river Euphrates and the Persian Gulf. It was one of the earliest powers (Gen.14:1,9). Shushan was its capital (Neh.1:1; Est.1:2-5; 2:3-8; 3:15; 4:8, 16; 8:14-15; 9:6-18; Dan.8:2). Elam is mentioned in prophecy (Isa.21:2; 22:2; 11:11; Jer.25:25; 49:34-39; Eze.32:24; Dan.8:2).
History tells us that Gobrias and Gadates, two noblemen of the king of Babylon, were treated badly by him, revolted from him and joined Cyrus. When the river Euphrates was drained, they went at the head of his army and guided them into the city, and took it (Dan.5:30-31).
Besiege, O Media . . . Media was located north of Persia, east of the Euphrates, and south of the Caspian Sea and Armenia. It got its name from Madai, son of Japheth (Gen.10:2). It had been long under the Assyrians, until Cyrus the Great (about 556 B.C.) who united Media and Persia, forming the Medo-Persian Empire (Est.1:3,14,18; 10:2; Dan.6:8,12 15; 9:1). The Medes are mentioned in prophecy (Isa.21:2; 13:17; Jer.25:25; 51:11,28; Dan.5:28-31; 8:20)..
All the sighing thereof have I made to cease . . . some think this means the army of the Medes and Persians, who by reason of long and tedious marches, frequent battles, and hard sieges, groaned and sighed; but now it would be over with them, when Babylon was taken; while others say it means the Lord's people the Jews, who had been in captivity for the space of seventy years, during which they had sighed and groaned, because of the hardships they endured; but now sighing would be at an end, and they would have deliverance, as they did, by Cyrus the Persian.

Isaiah 21:3 Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. (KJV)

Therefore are my loins filled with pain . . . my loins, which he mentions with respect to the following likeness of child-bearing, in which the loins are really pained. These words are spoken by the prophet, not with respect to himself, as if he was pained at heart at the prophecy and vision he had of the ruin of Babylon, these words are spoken by Isaiah because I think he felt the suffering of the Babylonians, and especially Belshazzar their king.
Pangs have taken hold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth . . . sharp and grievous pains which come on suddenly and at once, are very sharp and strong, and which you cannot get away from . . . so too would be the sudden destruction of the wicked, and particularly of Antichrist at the last day, and the terror that shall attend it. This is expressed by the same symbol in the New Testament: 1 Thes 5:2-3 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. (KJV) 2 Peter 3:10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (KJV)
I was bowed down at the hearing of it . . . the prophet at seeing and hearing the prophecy, of what would happen to Belshazzar, at hearing that Cyrus had entered the city, and was at the gates of his palace.
I was dismayed at the seeing of it . . . Isaiah knew what the writing on the wall meant (Dan.5:5,24-28), and he knew it would drastically change Belshazzar’s countenance. The prophet expresses his horror in hearing and seeing the things that were SURE to come! He states the dreadful horror which would seize Belshazzar and the people when it would come upon them.

Isaiah 21:4 My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. (KJV)

My heart panted . . . fluttered about, could hardly keep its place, like a person distracted and confused, that did not know what to say or do.
Fearfulness affrighted me . . . the prophet saw the terror of Belshazzar, when Cyrus's army seized him, of its charging into the city, and of his being destroyed by it. The writing on the wall (Dan.5:5) had thrown him into a panic, and the news that the Medes and Persians had entered the city increased it.
The night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me . . . the king had promised himself so much pleasure, and had made a feast for his princes, wives and concubines; most likely in honor of his god, because of the victory he had obtained over the Medes and Persians; and was quite secure, never once thinking that destruction was at hand . . . but in the midst of all his carousing, the city was taken, and he was killed. So too, mystical Babylon, in the midst of her prosperity, while she is saying that she sits a queen, and knows no sorrow, her judgment and plagues shall come upon her (Rev.18:7).

*****Isaiah was truly moved when he learns of the coming devastation. Dear one, this is the Heart of God revealed, as He really wants to show mercy to His people (both Jews and Gentiles) and hates to judge and condemn even a terrible enemy of His or His people. God's love is as plain here as were the tears of Jeremiah (Jer.9:1; Lam.2:11; 3:48). No one can rejoice in the judgment of God. God says that His judgment is His strange work (Isa.28:21). He does not want to judge and condemn you; He wants to save you, but He leaves the choice up to you. Neither does He want to judge nations, but that choice is up to them. The USA has been on a slippery slope for a long time . . . and that slope is getting steeper day by day. The nation must repent, or face God’s judgment! It starts with me and YOU!

The prophet was so moved by the coming destruction of Babylon that he described himself, as having the feelings of a woman in childbirth.
Isaiah's description of how he felt:

  • My loins are filled with pain (Isa. 21:3).
  • Pangs have taken hold of me, as the pangs of a woman in labor.
  • I was bowed down at hearing it.
  • I was dismayed at seeing it.
  • My heart panted (Isa. 21:4).
  • Fear terrified me.
  • My pleasure was turned into fear.

Isaiah 21:5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield. (KJV)

Prepare the table . . . furnish it with food and drinks; this still speaks of Belshazzar. The prophet foretells what the Babylonians would be doing when their enemies were at their doors. They would give up themselves over to disorderly feasting (Dan.5:1-4), and that is when the king saw the writing on the wall.  
Watch in the watchtower . . . the watchmen gave notice of any approaching danger, so that in the meantime the king could more securely indulge himself in celebrating and pleasures. Watch in the watchtower . . .  this is said to the king’s servants, his soldiers, and/or sentinels that were in watchtowers to observe the activity of the enemy. They were ordered to be on guard, so the king and his nobles might feast more securely. Watchmen: (Isa.21:6; 62:6-7,10-11; Jer.31:6; Eze.33:2-8).
Eat, drink . . . they all were encouraged to eat and drink abundantly, never considering the Medes and Persians, who were now surrounding the city.
Arise, ye princes . . . either, #1. the Medes and Persians; while your enemies the Babylonians are feasting securely, prepare to make your assault. Or, #2. the princes of Babylon; arise from the table and run to your arms. This sudden alarm and change of what they were doing resulted from reports from the watchtower.
And anoint the shield . . . many shields of that time were made of several layers of leather stretched over a metal rim, and strengthened and decorated with pieces of metal. These shields were often rubbed with oil, especially before a battle, to prevent the leather from becoming dry and cracked, and to keep the metal from rusting. They were told to prepare their weapons, get them ready for battle to defend your king, yourselves and your city.

*****This verse reads as if it were an eyewitness account of the destruction of Babylon as recorded by Daniel Chapter 5. BUT . . . this was recorded by Isaiah about 200 years BEFORE it happened. In the middle of the idolatrous and ungodly banquet of Belshazzar, the two lords, Gadatas and Gobrias, who had gone over to Cyrus, to avenge themselves of certain wrongs which Belshazzar had done to them, led Cyrus as he entered the city by the bed of the Euphrates, which he had emptied, by cutting a channel for the waters, and directing them into the marshy country. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/4828-cyrus
The Euphrates River that flowed through the city had been detoured and Cyrus marched his army on the dry river bed underneath the walls of the city. He took the city by complete surprise. This is something that God said would take place, and it did, just exactly as He said it would! . . . . . . . . . .http://www.godcannotlie.org/book_of_daniel_ch5.htm

Isaiah 21:6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. (KJV)

For thus hath the Lord said unto me . . . this is just a confirmation of the above prophecy from the Lord Himself . . . He showing to Isaiah, in a vision . . . the ruin of Babylon, and how He would accomplish it.
Go, set a watchman . . . not Habakkuk, as some say; not Urias, as others say; not Jeremiah, as still others think . . . but possibly Isaiah himself, who, by way of the vision, represented a watchman on the walls of Babylon; and which was not unsuitable to his character and office as a prophet.
Let him declare what he seeth . . . what he sees coming at a distance or close by, let him faithfully and publicly make it known. I do not think this is the words of the king of Babylon to one of his watchmen; but of the Lord of hosts to His prophet . . . although I do think the king did have watchmen on the walls at the time of the feast.

***** The Lord, in a vision, showed Isaiah the watchman set in his watch-tower, near the palace, as is usual in times of danger. The king ordered those about him to post a sentinel in the most advantageous place for discovery, and according to the duty of a watchman, let him declare what he sees. If the watchman was Isaiah, he most certainly did declare what he saw!

Isaiah 21:7 And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed: (KJV)

And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen . . . the drivers of it, or the riders in it; maybe meaning Cyrus and Darius. A couple of horsemen could mean horsemen followed (1 Sam.8:11; 2 Sam.1:6). This may describe the couple of riders along with the chariot, which could mean the whole army of the Medes and Persians.
A chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels . . . Chariots were greatly used in war. The chariot of asses may mean Cyrus, who was called a mule, supposedly because of his mixed descent, being a Persian by his father, and a Mede by his mother's side. A mule is a cross between a female horse and a male ass. The Persians, often used mules or asses; and the chariot of camels refers to theMedes for they had an abundance of camels.
And he hearkened diligently with much heed . . . the watchman that was to watch paid the utmost attention to what he saw, and listened carefully to the noise of this chariot and horsemen, as they came nearer.

Isaiah 21:8 And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights: (KJV)

And he cried, a lion: My lord . . . the watchman cried out that he saw a lion; not Uriah the priest, as some think; not Habakkuk, as some Jewish writers say; but Cyrus, at the head of the Persian and Median armies, compared to a lion for his fierceness, courage, and strength (2 Tim.4:17). Cyrus was a type of Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, by whom the Antichrist, or mystical Babylon, will be destroyed (Rev.5:5). One version says: as a lion, with a great voice; upon sight of the chariots and horsemen, he lifted up his voice, and roared like a lion, to express the terror he was in, and the greatness of the calamity that was coming upon the city.
My lord . . . the watchman gives the following account of what he saw.
I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime . . . so that nothing would escape my seeing.
And I am set in my ward whole nights . . . this expresses his diligence, loyalty and vigilance in the doing his duty, therefore what he said he saw could be depended on.

Isaiah 21:9 And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. (KJV)

And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men . . . a chariot with a man in it, Cyrus or Darius.
With a couple of horsemen . . . the army of the Medes and Persians, with their two leaders or generals, as before; only now they are entering the city.
And he answered, and said . . . this is either the watchman, when he saw the chariot and horsemen go into the city; or one of the horsemen that went in.
Babylon is fallen, is fallen . . . which is repeated to show the certainty of it. The exact SAME words are used in the fall of mystical Babylon (Rev.14:8). Literal Babylon has fallen! This has been fulfilled! Mystical Babylon, the anti-Christain state and the coming Roman rule, will fall in the last day by the Christ (Messiah), even by the breath of Christ's mouth (Rev.19:15-21), and the brightness of his coming (2 Thes.2:8).
And all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground . . . either Cyrus or Darius, who might do this, not from any hatred of them, but for the sake of the gold, silver and riches that were about the idols. So, the Lord by them, put an end to idolatry; as it shall be, when mystical Babylon is destroyed (Rev.18), sometime in the future, which I think is much closer that most people think. Keep your eyes on Israel! She is the key to when that will be.


Burden of Edom (21:11-12)

Isaiah 21:10 O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you. (KJV)

O my threshing, and the corn of my floor . . . threshing is here put for the corn threshed. The corn threshed here, is a symbol for people sorely afflicted and punished, which is often expressed by threshing (Isa.25:10; 41:15; Mic.4:13). This may be understood either of the Babylonians, now threshed or punished by the Lord, and by whom He had made use of as instruments for the punishment of others; or maybe the people of the Jews, whom the prophet calls his, as being his countrymen, to whom he was devoted, and for whom he had compassion.
That which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you . . . the preceding prophecy was not a dream of Isaiah, but a vision from the Lord of hosts. The prophecy was not planned by Isaiah, but told to him by the Lord, and that for the good and comfort of the people of Israel, whose Covenant God He was. The prophet did just as he was supposed to do, deliver the prophecy just as he received it.

The Burden of Dumah (21:11-12)

Isaiah 21:11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? (KJV)

The burden of Dumah . . . this prophecy refers to Dumah, a son of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13-14; 1 Chron. 1:29-30).
He calleth to me out of Seir . . . Seir was the name of a mountain range in Edom, so that this prophecy concerns Edom. This mountain was inhabited by the Edomites, the descendants of Esau (Gen.36:8-9). Calleth to me, to the watchman, as appears by the following words; for the prophet delivers his prophecy in the form of a conversation between the people and the watchman. Out of Seir out of Edom, which is often called Seir (Gen.32:3; 36:8).
Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night? . . . the question is repeated, as is usual with people in a panic, afraid that the watchman would not hear them the first time. Some think the watchman to be God Himself, who is Israel's Keeper (Ps.121:4), Others think Christ is meant, and to whom this character of a watchman agrees, as He is the Shepherd of His flock (Ps.23; Isa.40:11; Mk.14:27; Jn.10:11; 1 Pet.2:25; 5:4), and is the Keeper of His people; and who, as the omniscient God, knows all things that are, shall be and which will come to pass. http://hisservants.org/is_jesus_god_h_s.htm
Then some think that the watchman were the prophets of God, here Isaiah (Isa.21:6). Isaiah was the Lord’s watchman (vs.6,11), and inquiry was made to him out of Edom about the night, what time of night is it? How much of the night is gone, and what remains to come? It was the job of watchmen to give or tell the time of night: or, what of the night?

*****And as Edom and Seir were symbols of the coming Roman Papal rule, and/or the Roman Antichrist; the person calling out to the watchman may mean the people of God in the midst of them (Rev.18:4), who realize the night of darkness that they are in, and look for and inquire about the last day light and glory. What of the night? the night is taken to be a symbol for a time of the Great Tribulation, and the main time in which the watchman's care is most needed, because then their enemies will have opportunity to do them most harm.

Isaiah 21:12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come. (KJV)

The watchman said, the morning cometh, and also the night . . . not only a morning, but a night. As sure as the morning comes, so shall there come another night. There will be a constant succession of mornings and nights. Even though the night is past without any great trouble, and the comforting light of morning approaches, the morning will again be gone, and the night will return, and your fears with it. The night seems to be here taken literally as the morning is; yet he seems to refer to the symbolic meaning of the word night, which is darkness and trouble, and indicates that the night of affliction was coming upon them.
If ye will inquire, inquire ye . . . if this watchman is the prophet Isaiah, then the logic of these words is . . . If you will inquire, inquire sincerely and seriously, diligently and constantly, with all humility and reverence, by prayer to God and by searching the Scriptures.
Return, come . . . return by repentance, and come to God, who receives backsliders, heals their backslidings, and loves them freely and unconditionally. IF we have turned away from God, we should come again to the Lord, and renew our inquiries until we get satisfaction.

*****The prophet said that daylight would soon come, but it would also be followed by another night, meaning another calamity. The night possibly refers to the invasion of the land of Judah by the great Assyrian people who were then conquering one nation after another, including Syria, Ephraim, Philistia, Moab, Edom and much of Judea. They were about to take Jerusalem, but this would soon pass like the night. There would be another morning, another day and then another night . . . which would be the coming Babylonian invasion of all these same nations, when they would be taken into captivity. Both morning and night are coming in the last day, and what will be glory for some will be utter doom for others. What will be morning for God's people will be night for Edomites, the men of the flesh who have rejected God (Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11-12).

The Burden of Arabia (21:13-16)

Isaiah 21:13 The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim. (KJV)

The burden upon Arabia . . . which lay heavy upon it, as a burden upon a beast. Some say that these are the Arabians that dwell in the wilderness.
In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge . . . not in their tents and huts, which they had used to carry with them, and set up where they pleased; since now in their terror, they would flee and leave them behind them, and be forced to live in forests; possibly the desert of Arabia, Petraea is meant.
O ye travelling companies of Dedanim . . . the Dedanites were Arabians that descended from Jokshan, a son of Abraham by Keturah (Gen.25:1-2), who were either shepherds, who went in companies together with their flocks, and moved from place to place to find pasture; or maybe they were merchants, who went in caravans and troops with their merchandise from one country to another (Eze.27:15), and who, because of the devastations of the enemy, would be glad to have a lodging in the woods for security. Travelling companies . . . in those parts, travelers then did and still do go together in companies (Gen.37:25, 28; Job 6:19). Dedanim or Dedamites (Jer.25:23; 49:8), were merchants, and used to trade with Tyre (Eze.27:15; 20, 22-23,25; 38:13), and their way lay through the same parts of Arabia.
Two predictions . . . fulfilled:

  • The inhabitants of Dedanim were to flee the invading Assyrians and be protected and fed by other Arabian tribes (Isa.21:13-15. Hospitality was an outstanding Arabian traits.
  • Within a year the other parts of Arabia would also suffer from the same invasion ((Isa.21:16-17).

Arabia was a large country south of Syria and Trans-Jordan, west of Euphrates and the Persian Gulf, north of the Red Sea and east of Palestine (1 Ki.10:15; 2 Chron.9:14; Jer.25:24; Eze.27:21; Gal.1:17; 4:25). Forests in Arabia . . . there are no great forests in Arabia, but the thick underbrush makes some places very rugged and inaccessible. Travelling companies are caravans or roving tribes of Arabs. Dedanim are descendants of Dedan, son of Abraham by Keturah.

*****Arabia was the land of the Ishmaelites, the Bedouin tribes of the desert . . . the modern Arabs. It is interesting that God speaks of them. Abraham's sons, Ishmael and Isaac, never got along. Their descendants still don't get along. The Arabs and the Jews still hate each other. If Abraham could see what is going on now, I wonder if he would think the sin he committed was a small sin. My friend, sin never stops working itself out in the human story, and NO sin is a small sin to God.

Isaiah 21:14 The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled. (KJV)

The inhabitants of the land of Tema . . . this country had its name from Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael (Gen.25:13-15). These people were Arabians, and are here said to assist their countrymen, the Dedanites, in distress. Tema was a descendant of Abraham through Hagar and Ishmael (Gen.25:13-15; 1 Chron.1:29-30).
Brought water to him that was thirsty . . . as travelers are accustomed to doing, especially in a desert land, and when fleeing from an enemy; in which circumstances the travelling companies of Dedanim now were.
They prevented with their bread him that fled . . . gave him food without their asking for it, for they were hungry. All this seems to show what calamities would come upon the inhabitants of some parts of Arabia; that they would lodge in a forest, be hungry and thirsty and flee before their enemy.

Isaiah 21:15 For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. (KJV)

For they fled from the swords . . . of their enemy, whom they could not withstand; possibly the Assyrian army.
From the drawn sword . . . ready to kill them.
And from the bent bow . . . ready to let the arrow fly at them.
And from the grievousness of war . . . all of which was too heavy for them to bear.

Isaiah 21:16 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail: (KJV)

For thus hath the Lord said unto me . . . to the prophet; which confirms what is before said, as well as assuring the success of what follows.
Within a year, according to the years of an hireling . . . meaning exactly and precisely, just as soon as the year is ended . . . for a hireling, when his year is up, demands instant dismissal from his service, or his wages, or both. The time is to be counted from the delivery of this prophecy; and so the calamity predicted was brought upon them by the Assyrians, perhaps under Sennacherib, when he invaded the cities of Judah, and might take Arabia in his way. Less time is allowed than was the Moabites, who suffered by the same hand (Isa.16:14).
And all the glory of Kedar shall fail . . . these were another kind, or class of Arabians. Kedarwas another descendant of Abraham through Hagar and Ishmael (Gen.25:12-13; 1 Chron.1:29).
Their glory was their multitude, their riches and substance, and which chiefly lay in their flocks
(Eze.27:21); for the sake of these, they moved from place to place for pasture, and dwelled in tents, which they carried with them, and pitched where it was most suitable for them (Ps.120:5).

*****Verses 14-16 show a coming judgment upon this land and its people. This chapter of poetic beauty and heart filled sorrow should not end here. It may be evening here, but God's day is figured the evening and the morning . . .  the evening and the morning were the first day  (Gen.1:5). The morning is coming; the night of weeping will soon be over, and the new day will dawn. Man's evening of failure, sin and darkness will one day end, and God's morning will be ushered in by the coming of the Sun of Righteousness (Mal.4:2). http://www.godcannotlie.org/malachi_ch4.htm

Isaiah 21:17 And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it. (KJV)

And the residue of the number of archers . . . the Kedarenes were expert archers, both for taking wild beasts, and fighting men, in which they followed their ancestor Ishmael (Gen.21:20). The number of these archers seems to have been many, but would be greatly lessened by the calamity threatened; and those that would escape that, and be preserved from it, would be lessened still, as follows:
The mighty men of the children of Kedar shall be diminished . . . their military men, the most expert at the use of the bow, and the most valiant and courageous would be greatly reduced. The few of those that were left, and did not fall by the sword of the Assyrians, would gradually become fewer and fewer.

*****For the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it; who cannot lie (Tit.1:2), nor will repent (1 Sam.15:29), and whose Word never fails (Josh.21:45), what He has said He will do, nor will he alter the thing that is gone out of his lips (Pro.30:5). He is spoken of as the God of Israel (Ex.5:1; Ps.68:8,35), because it was to the Israelites that this was said, and for their sakes.

Special Comments

The burden of the desert of the sea . . . Predictions . . . Fulfilled:

  • Destruction of Babylon would come from the desert and a terrible land like the whirlwind passing through from the south.
  • Judgment upon Babylon was to come from the Elamites and the Medes.
  • The destruction was to be so terrible that the prophet felt pains like a woman travailing. He was dismayed and filled with fear at seeing it.
  • The King of Babylon would make a feast, setting watchmen in the watchtower to make the people feel secure in their celebrating; but while they were eating and drinking the attack would come. This was fulfilled exactly this way (Dan.5).
  • Babylon would fall by the coming invader.
  • All the graven images of Babylon were to be destroyed.
  • Babylon was to be trodden down like wheat on a threshing floor.

Commentaries on Old Testament Books

Book of Isaiah . . Isaiah's Mini-Bible

Isaiah Ch.1 . . Isaiah Ch.2 . . Isaiah Ch.3 . . Isaiah Ch.4 . . Isaiah Ch.5 . . Isaiah Ch.6 . . Isaiah Ch.7 . . Isaiah Ch.8 . . Isaiah Ch.9 . . Isa.Ch.10 . . Isa.Ch.11 . . Isa.Ch12 . . Home Page

JUDGMENT ON THE NATIONS . . . . . Isaiah Ch.13 . . Isaiah Ch.14 . . Isaiah Ch.15 . . Isaiah Ch.16 . . Isaiah Ch.17 . . Isaiah Ch.18 . . Isaiah Ch.19 . . Isaiah Ch.20 . . Isaiah Ch.21 . . Isaiah Ch.22 . . Isaiah Ch.23 . . Home Page

ISAIAH’S APOCALYPSE . . . . . Isaiah Ch.24 . . Isaiah Ch.25 . . Isaiah Ch.26 . . Isaiah Ch.27 . . Home Page

ISAIAH'S SIX WOES . . . Isaiah Ch.28 . . Isaiah Ch.29 . . Isaiah Ch.30 . . Isaiah Ch.31 . . Isaiah Ch.32 . . Isaiah Ch.33 . . Isaiah Ch.34 . . Isaiah Ch.35 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Historic Part . . Isaiah Ch.36 . . Isaiah Ch.37 . . Isaiah Ch.38 . . Isaiah Ch.39 . . Home Page

Isaiah Speaks of Messiah's Incarnation. . Isaiah Ch.40 . . Isaiah Ch.41 . . Isaiah Ch.42 . . Isaiah Ch.43 . . Isaiah Ch.44 . . Isaiah Ch.45 . . Isaiah Ch.46 . . Isaiah Ch.47 . . Isaiah Ch.48 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Introduction to the Suffering Servant

Isaiah's Suffering Servant Prophecy. . . Isaiah 52:13-53:12

Isaiah's Redemption Through the Suffering Servant . . . Isaiah Ch.49 . . Isaiah Ch.50 . . Isaiah Ch.51 . . Isaiah Ch.52 . . Isaiah Ch.53 . . Isaiah Ch.54 . . Isaiah Ch.55 . . Isaiah Ch.56 . . Isaiah Ch.57 . . Home Page

Isaiah's Vision of the Dispersion . . . Isaiah Ch.58 . . Isaiah Ch59 . . Isaiah Ch.60 . . Isaiah Ch.61 . . Isaiah Ch.62 . . Isaiah Ch.63 . . Isaiah Ch.64 . . Isaiah Ch.65 . . Isaiah Ch.66 . . Home Page



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