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Isaiah 21:1

Isaiah 21:1

The burden of the desert of the sea
That 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 Isaiah 21:9 ) which, though prophesied of before, 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. Babylon is here called "the desert of the sea", not because it was a desert land, for it was a very fruitful one; or because it would be laid desolate, and become as a wilderness; but either because there was one between that and the countries of Media and Persia, as Kimchi, from whence its destroyers would come; or rather, because it was, as the word may be rendered, a "plain", for so the land of Chaldea was, and the city of Babylon particularly was built in a plain, ( Genesis 11:2 ) and because this country abounded with pools and lakes, which with the Hebrews are called seas; and especially since the city of Babylon was situated by the river Euphrates, which ran about it, and through it and which therefore is said to dwell upon many waters, ( Jeremiah 51:13 ) hence it has this name of the desert of the sea; besides, Abydenus F12, from Megasthenes, informs us, that all the places about Babylon were from the beginning water, and were called a sea; and it should be observed that mystical Babylon is represented by a woman in a desert, sitting on many waters, which are interpreted of a multitude of people and nations, ( Revelation 17:1 Revelation 17:3 Revelation 17:5 Revelation 17:15 ) and some here by "sea" understand the multitude of its riches, power, and people. The Targum is,

``the burden of the armies, which come from the wilderness, as the waters of the sea;''
understanding it not of Babylon, but of its enemies and invaders, as follows: 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 strongly, and there is no resisting them; see ( Zechariah 9:14 ) : [so] it cometh from the desert;
or "he", that is, Cyrus; or "it", the army under him, would come with like irresistible force and power as the southern whirlwinds do, which come from a desert country; at least that part of it in which their soldiers were trained up, and which in their march to Babylon must come through the desert, that lay, as before observed, between that and their country, and through which Cyrus did pass F13: from a terrible land;
a land of serpents and scorpions, as Jarchi; or a land afar off, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; whose power and usage, or customs, were not known, and so dreaded, as the Medes and Persians were by Nitocris queen of Babylon, who took care to preserve her people, and prevent their falling into their hands. The Targum is,
``from a land in which terrible things are done.''

FOOTNOTES:

F12 Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41.
F13 Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 5, 6.
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