Isaiah 21

1 This is a message about Babylonia. Like a whirlwind sweeping across the desert, disaster will come from a terrifying land.
2 I have seen a vision of cruel events, a vision of betrayal and destruction. Army of Elam, attack! Army of Media, lay siege to the cities! God will put an end to the suffering which Babylon has caused.
3 What I saw and heard in the vision has filled me with terror and pain, pain like that of a woman in labor.
4 My head is spinning, and I am trembling with fear. I had been longing for evening to come, but it has brought me nothing but terror.
5 In the vision a banquet is ready; rugs are spread for the guests to sit on. They are eating and drinking. Suddenly the command rings out: "Officers! Prepare your shields!"
6 Then the Lord said to me, "Go and post a sentry, and tell him to report what he sees.
7 If he sees riders coming on horseback, two by two, and riders on donkeys and camels, he is to observe them carefully."
8 The sentry calls out, "Sir, I have been standing guard at my post day and night."
9 Suddenly, here they come! Riders on horseback, two by two. The sentry gives the news, "Babylon has fallen! All the idols they worshiped lie shattered on the ground." 1
10 My people Israel, you have been threshed like wheat, but now I have announced to you the good news that I have heard from the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel.
11 This is a message about Edom. Someone calls to me from Edom, "Sentry, how soon will the night be over? Tell me how soon it will end."
12 I answer, "Morning is coming, but night will come again. If you want to ask again, come back and ask."
13 This is a message about Arabia. People of Dedan, you whose caravans camp in the barren country of Arabia,
14 give water to the thirsty people who come to you. You people of the land of Tema, give food to the refugees.
15 People are fleeing to escape from swords that are ready to kill them, from bows that are ready to shoot, from all the dangers of war.
16 Then the Lord said to me, "In exactly one year the greatness of the tribes of Kedar will be at an end.
17 The archers are the bravest warriors of Kedar, but few of them will be left. I, the Lord God of Israel, have spoken."

Isaiah 21 Commentary

Chapter 21

The taking of Babylon. (1-10) Of the Edomites. (11,12) Of the Arabs. (13-17)

Verses 1-10 Babylon was a flat country, abundantly watered. The destruction of Babylon, so often prophesied of by Isaiah, was typical of the destruction of the great foe of the New Testament church, foretold in the Revelation. To the poor oppressed captives it would be welcome news; to the proud oppressors it would be grievous. Let this check vain mirth and sensual pleasures, that we know not in what heaviness the mirth may end. Here is the alarm given to Babylon, when forced by Cyrus. An ass and a camel seem to be the symbols of the Medes and Persians. Babylon's idols shall be so far from protecting her, that they shall be broken down. True believers are the corn of God's floor; hypocrites are but as chaff and straw, with which the wheat is now mixed, but from which it shall be separated. The corn of God's floor must expect to be threshed by afflictions and persecutions. God's Israel of old was afflicted. Even then God owns it is his still. In all events concerning the church, past, present, and to come, we must look to God, who has power to do any thing for his church, and grace to do every thing that is for her good.

Verses 11-12 God's prophets and ministers are as watchmen in the city in a time of peace, to see that all is safe. As watchmen in the camp in time of war, to warn of the motions of the enemy. After a long sleep in sin and security, it is time to rise, to awake out of sleep. We have a great deal of work to do, a long journey to go; it is time to be stirring. After a long dark night is there any hope of the day dawning? What tidings of the night? What happens to-night? We must never be secure. But many make curious inquiries of the watchmen. They would willingly have nice questions solved, or difficult prophecies interpreted; but they do not seek into the state of their own souls, about the way of salvation, and the path of duty. The watchman answers by way of prophecy. There comes first a morning of light, and peace, and opportunity; but afterward comes a night of trouble and calamity. If there be a morning of youth and health, there will come a night of sickness and old age; if a morning of prosperity in the family, in the public, yet we must look for changes. It is our wisdom to improve the present morning, in preparation for the night that is coming after it. Inquire, return, come. We are urged to do it quickly, for there is no time to trifle. Those that return and come to God, will find they have a great deal of work to do, and but little time to do it in.

Verses 13-17 The Arabians lived in tents, and kept cattle. A destroying army shall be brought upon them, and make them an easy prey. We know not what straits we may be brought into before we die. Those may know the want of necessary food who now eat bread to the full. Neither the skill of archers, nor the courage of mighty men, can protect from the judgments of God. That is poor glory, which will thus quickly come to nothing. Thus hath the Lord said to me; and no word of his shall fall to the ground. We may be sure the Strength of Israel will not lie. Happy are those only whose riches and glory are out of the reach of invaders; all other prosperity will speedily pass away.

Cross References 1

  • 1. 21.9Revelation 14.8; 18.2.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH 21

This chapter contains prophecies against Babylon, Idumea, and Arabia. The prophecy against Babylon is called "the burden of the desert of the sea"; whose enemies are described by the fierce manner of their coming, and by the land from whence they came, Isa 21:1 which vision being declared to the prophet, is called a grievous one; what made it so was treachery among themselves; and the Medes and Persians are invited to besiege them, Isa 21:2 their terror and distress upon it are represented by the pains of a woman in travail, whom the prophet personates, Isa 21:3,4 and by the methods they took to defend themselves, to which they were alarmed, when in the greatest security and jollity, Isa 21:5 all 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 declares the fall of Babylon, and the destruction of its gods, Isa 21:6-9 which would issue in the good and comfort of the church and people of God, Isa 21:10 then follows the prophecy against Idumea, which consists of a question put to the watchman, and his answer to it; to which an exhortation is added, Isa 21:11,12 and the chapter concludes with another prophecy against Arabia: the calamities threatened are lodging in a forest, thirst, famine, and fleeing from the sword Isa 21:13-15, and the time is fixed when all this should be, by which their glory would fail, and the number of their archers and mighty men be lessened; for the confirmation of which the divine testimony is annexed, Isa 21:16,17.

Isaiah 21 Commentaries