Isaiah 21:11

11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

Isaiah 21:11 Meaning and Commentary

Isaiah 21:11

The burden of Dumah
Whether this prophecy concerns the Edomites or Idumeans, or whether the Arabians, particularly the Dumean Arabians, is a question, since Dumah was a son of Ishmael, ( Genesis 25:14 ) and there was a place in Arabia called Dumatha F25; and Aben Ezra and Kimchi interpret it here of Dumah the son of Ishmael; but inasmuch as mention is made of Seir, a mountain, which belonged to the Edomites, ( Genesis 36:8 Genesis 36:9 ) and a distinct prophecy afterwards follows concerning Arabia, it is more generally thought that Dumah signifies Edom or Idumea; the Septuagint version renders it, the vision of Idumea; and the Arabic version calls it, a prophecy concerning Edom and Seir; and Jarchi, by Dumah, understands Edom; and Kimchi himself observes, that in a book of R. Meir's, it was found written,

``the burden of Duma, the burden of Edom.''
Jerom says, Duma is not the whole province of Idumea, but a certain country in it, that lay to the south, twenty miles distant from a city of Palestine, in his days called Eleutheropolis; and further observes, that some of the Hebrews read "Roma" for "Duma", and suppose that the Roman empire is designed; and certain it is, that nothing is more common with them than to call the Roman empire, and Rome itself, by the name of Edom, and the Romans, or Christians, Edomites F26: he calleth to me out of Seir;
a mountain inhabited by the Edomites, the posterity of Esau, so called from Seir the Horite, ( Genesis 36:8 Genesis 36:9 Genesis 36:20 ) . The Targum understands this of God calling from heaven to the prophet to prophesy; and Jarchi of an angel, or a prophet out of Seir, calling to God, who he supposes is meant by the watchman; but it seems best to interpret it of an Edomite, or an inhabitant of Mount Seir, calling to the watchman, and saying, as follows: watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night?
what time of night is it? what o'clock is it? how much of the night is gone, and what remains to come? it is the business of watchmen to give or tell the time of night: or, "what from the night?" F1 what has happened since it was night? hast thou observed nothing? is not the enemy nigh, or danger at hand? or, "what" sayest thou "concerning the night?" the night of darkness, affliction, and distress, in which we are, when will it be over? the question is repeated, as is usual with persons in a panic, and fearing the watchman should not hear them the first time; or it may denote one coming after another in a fright, asking the same question. Some, by the watchman, understand God himself, as Jarchi and Abarbinel, who is Israel's keeper, ( Psalms 121:4 Psalms 121:5 ) where the same word is used as here; and well agrees with God, who is the keeper and preserver of all men in a way of providence; and of his own people in a way of grace; and who, as he watches over the evil of sin, to bring the evil of affliction or punishment for it; so he watches over his, to do good unto them; and, as the times and seasons are in his power only, and are known by him, it is most proper to apply unto him. Others think Christ is meant, as Cocceius; and so the Jews say F2, this is Metatron the keeper of Israel, which with them is one of the names of the Messiah; and to whom this character of a watchman agrees, as he is the shepherd of his flock, and the keeper of his people; and who, as the omniscient God, knows all things that are, and shall be, and which will quickly come to pass: though it may be best of all to understand it of a prophet or prophets, who were called watchmen under the Old Testament, ( Isaiah 21:6 Isaiah 21:8 ) ( Ezekiel 3:17 ) as ministers of the word are under the New, in allusion to shepherds and watchmen of cities; and whose business it is, as to show sinners the danger of their ways, and to arouse sleepy saints, so to give the time of night, that the churches of Christ may know whereabout they are. Now let it be observed, that this prophecy may refer to the times when Dumah, Edom, or Idumea, was possessed by the Jews, according to the prophecy in ( Numbers 24:18 Numbers 24:19 ) as it was before the coming of Christ; Herod, an Idumean, was upon the throne of Judea when he came, at which time the Jews and Idumeans were mixed together; and the latter, at least many of them, embraced the Jewish religion F3, and so had knowledge of the Messiah and his coming, after which they may be thought to be inquiring here. The Mosaic dispensation was a night season, there was much obscurity in it, the shadows of darkness were stretched out on it; and though there was the moon of the ceremonial law, and there were the stars the prophets, yet the sun of righteousness was not risen; and it was a time of gross darkness with the Gentile world: now one or more of these proselyted Idumeans, or of the Jews among them, may be supposed to be inquiring of the prophet or prophets of the Lord in their time, how much of this night was gone, when it would be over, or the Messiah would appear, and bring in the morning, and make the bright day of the Gospel dispensation. And again, as Edom and Seir were typical of Rome Papal, or the Romish antichrist, the person calling out to the watchman may design such of the people of God in the midst of them, for which see ( Revelation 18:4 ) who, sensible of the night of darkness they are in, are looking for and inquiring after latter day light and glory. The Targum of the whole verse is,
``the burden of the cup of curse, to give Dumah to drink: to me he calls out of heaven, prophet, declare unto them the prophecy; prophet, declare unto them what shall hereafter come to pass.''


F25 Vid. Hiller. Onomasticon Sacr. p. 797.
F26 Vid. Buxtorf. Lexic. Talmud. col. 30, 31
F1 (lylm hm) "quid accidit ex quo nox est?" Vatablus.
F2 Zohar in Exod. fol. 54. 2.
F3 Joseph. Antiqu. l. 13. c. 9. sect. 1. Ed. Hudson.

Isaiah 21:11 In-Context

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.
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.
11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?
12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.
13 The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.
The King James Version is in the public domain.