Isaiah – Chapter 21

The Bible – Old Testament



Chapter 21


1 Oracle on the wastelands by the sea: Like whirlwinds sweeping in waves through the Negeb, there comes from the desert, from the fearful land,


2 A cruel sight, revealed to me: the traitor betrays, the despoiler spoils. «Go up, Elam; besiege, O Media; I will put an end to all groaning!»


Therefore my loins are filled with anguish, pangs have seized me like those of a woman in labor; I am too bewildered to hear, too dismayed to look.


My mind reels, shuddering assails me; My yearning for twilight has turned into dread.


3 They set the table, spread out the rugs; they eat, they drink. Rise up, O princes, oil the shield!


For thus says my Lord to me: Go, station a watchman, let him tell what he sees.


If he sees a chariot, a pair of horses, Someone riding an ass, someone riding a camel, Then let him pay heed, very close heed.


Then the watchman cried, «On the watchtower, O my Lord, I stand constantly by day; And I stay at my post through all the watches of the night.


Here he comes now: a single chariot, a pair of horses; He calls out and says, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon, And all the images of her gods are smashed to the ground.'»


O my people who have been threshed, beaten on my threshing floor! What I have heard from the LORD of hosts, The God of Israel, I have announced to you.


4 Oracle on Edom: They call to me from Seir, «Watchman, how much longer the night? Watchman, how much longer the night?»


The watchman replies, «Morning has come, and again night. If you will ask, ask; come back again.»


5 Oracle on Arabia: In the thicket in the nomad country spend the night, O caravans of Dedanites.


Meet the thirsty, bring them water; you who dwell in the land of Tema, greet the fugitives with bread.


They flee from the sword, from the whetted sword; From the taut bow, from the fury of battle.


6 For thus says the Lord to me: In another year, like those of a hireling, all the glory of Kedar shall come to an end.


Few of Kedar’s stalwart archers shall remain, for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken.


1 [1] Wastelands by the sea: Babylonia. Negeb: the desert south of Judah.

2 [2] Elam . . . Media: nations which, under the leadership of Cyrus, captured Babylon in 538 B.C. End to all groaning: those who were captive of Babylon shall be freed.

3 [5] Babylon is destroyed while its leaders are feasting; cf Daniel 5. Oil the shield: shields were oiled and greased so as to divert blows more easily.

4 [11-12] Seir: another name for Edom. The Edomites ask the prophet how much longer they must suffer (the night of suffering); he answers ambiguously: «Liberation (morning) and further suffering (night),» but perhaps they will later receive a more encouraging answer (ask, come back again).

5 [13-14] Arabia: that is, the nomad country. Dedanites: an Arab tribe associated with Edom and Tema, and living east of the Red Sea; cf ⇒ Genesis 10:7; ⇒ 25:3; ⇒ Jeremiah 25:23.

6 [16] Year . . . of a hireling: see note on ⇒ 16:14. Kedar: a nomad tribe in Arabia; cf ⇒ Isaiah 42:11; ⇒ 60:7; ⇒ Psalm 120:5.