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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 21

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Shall we turn to Isaiah, chapter 21.

Isaiah begins this particular prophecy and addresses it to Babylon which was referred to as,

The desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass ( Isaiah 21:1 )

Or in the Negev. We call them sun devils out in Arizona. You've seen those whirlwinds that have been created by the sun out there in the desert and they move along and pick up dust and weeds and trash. "As whirlwinds in the south pass,"

so it cometh from the desert, from an awesome land. 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. Therefore are my loins filled with pain ( Isaiah 21:1-3 ):

And he speaks of the response upon himself. So interestingly enough, 200 years before the event, when at this point in history, Media was just a small tribe and Persia was known as Elam by its tribal name, before Babylon has even become the first major world empire. While Assyria was in its period of ascendancy historically, he prophesies the destruction of Babylon by a combination of Media and Persia.

Now there is no way, absolutely no way, that any man in that day could foresee the two little tribal provinces of Media and Persia or Elam becoming a major world power that would destroy the tremendous empire of Babylon. This, of course, is just another one of those what we call internal proofs of inspiration. These fulfilled prophecies or these predictions that are made that are so unlikely at the time that they are made and yet was so completely fulfilled.

Now it is interesting the effect that this particular vision had upon Isaiah. And it was interesting that oftentimes when God would speak to a prophet that it would seem to have a physical effect upon him. Sometimes of just great weakness, just sort of a physically draining experience to have that kind of a close relationship with God. God speaking to you, showing you things and the effect would just be physically very draining.

Daniel speaks of how that after a set of visions that the Lord had given to him, how that on his bed his head was just sort of spinning and how he just felt that he was, "My beauty is turned into ugliness" ( Daniel 10:8 ). And just the presence of God and all, it had a very powerful adverse physical effect upon him. And Isaiah here describes that "my loins filled with pain."

pangs have taken hold upon me, the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear ( Isaiah 21:3-4 ).

And so this is the physical reaction that Isaiah had to seeing this vision of the Medo-Persian Empire conquering the Babylon Empire. He bowed over. He was in pain like a woman that was in labor and his heart panted. He began to have this... of course, he describes it; he was filled with fear, and it had a very adverse physical effect.

Now it is interesting here that he begins to describe a little bit of the circumstances by which Babylon is to be conquered. Now he expands this further in the forty-fifth, forty-fourth and forty-fifth chapters of Isaiah, he expands more on the destruction of Babylon, even there naming the conquering king or general. Calling him by name a hundred and fifty years before he's born. Telling how that the very method by which the city would be taken. How that the river Euphrates would be diverted and how that they would come in onto the banks of the river and through the levied gates that would be unlocked. And when we get to that forty-fifth chapter we will again take a little time to show you as you get into the historical record by Xenophon and you take a look at the conquering of Babylon by Cyrus. And it is exactly as Isaiah described a hundred and fifty years before Cyrus was born, naming him, and two hundred years before Babylon fell. Gives you details.

Now here he indicates that it is suddenly in the midst of their revelry. "The night of pleasure he has turned into fear." You remember the night that Babylon fell, Belshazzar was having this great feast with all of his lords. Actually, they were celebrating the invincibility of Babylon. Though the city was encircled by their enemies, because the walls were three hundred feet high, eighty feet thick, they figured that there was no way anybody could conquer Babylon. And thus, it was just sort of a smear to their enemies who were outside and they had this great feast. In that while they were drinking, while they were getting pretty drunk, he ordered the vessels that were taken by his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar in the siege of Jerusalem brought in and they drank the wine out of the vessels of gold and silver that had been sanctified to the service of God in the temple. And they began to praise the gods of gold and silver. And so he describes here, "The night of my pleasure," the banqueting and all, "he has turned into fear."

Prepare the table ( Isaiah 21:5 ),

The big feast that they had.

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

For suddenly in the midst of the banquet, the cry comes. Now, the anointing of the shield was the greasing of the shields so that the sword would glance off of it. It was harder to pierce through a greased shield. There is more of a tendency of the spear or sword to glance off of a greased shield. So that was the idea of the anointing of the shield. But suddenly the cry comes from the watchtower in the midst of the banquet. "Anoint your shields."

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he sees. 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: And he cried, A lion: My Lord ( Isaiah 21:6-8 ),

Now it is interesting that when Daniel had his vision of the world governing empires and he saw them as beasts, the lion was representative of Babylon. So he cried, "A lion: My Lord,"

I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights: 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. 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 ( Isaiah 21:8-10 ).

So Isaiah's declaring, "Hey, what I heard from God I've declared unto you. I saw this guy coming and he was crying, 'Babylon is fallen, is fallen!'" Of course, this reminds us over into the book of Revelation when the destruction of spiritual and commercial Babylon takes place. We read of these angels that declare, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen!" That great religious system that caused people to commit spiritual fornication, idolatry, and so forth. And so this one little aspect, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen" has a twofold fulfillment, at the fall at the time of the Medo-Persian invasion, but then also in the future as it is picked up by the angel in Revelation.

In verses Isaiah 21:11 , and Isaiah 21:12 I don't understand the vision that he had. It's concerning Dumah, which is Edom.

He calleth to me out of Seir ( Isaiah 21:11 ),

Mount Seir, which marked the borders of Edom.

Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning comes, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire: return, come ( Isaiah 21:11-12 ).

Now, I frankly don't understand what the watchman was saying. Or the, what he... what was he indicating? I don't know. So I'll just leave it.

Next we get:

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

Dedan, of course, is one of the tribes. The Dedanim, being plural, would be the peoples of the tribe of Dedan.

Now Saudi Arabia was originally made up of two major tribal families. Those of Sheba and those of Dedan. So when you move into the book of Ezekiel and you read the prophecies in Ezekiel of the coming invasion of Israel by Russia with her allies, it is important to note that though Iran does come with Russia in the invasion of Israel, Saudi Arabia does not.

So evidently, you know, right now... and to me this is very important, because one of the major concerns of our government today is the oil supply that comes to the United States from Saudi Arabia. We are dependent upon those oil supplies for our whole industry, economy and everything else. And so there's quite a bit to do right now in government circles on how much aid, military aid, we should give to Saudi Arabia. The F-15, shall we equip them? You know. Two thousand tow missiles for antitank missiles and so forth. And everytime we speak of aiding Saudi Arabia, Israel begins to lobby, because Israel is fearful that these weapons that we are giving to Saudi Arabia could very well be used against Israel. And thus, they seek to lobby against any aid that we might be giving to Saudi Arabia.

But there is concern, great concern, that Russia may seek to move into Saudi Arabia to take those oil supplies and thus to cut us off from our much-needed oil that we get from Saudi Arabia. Obviously, Russia does not take Saudi Arabia because Saudi Arabia is not. In fact, they are listed as not being with Russia in Russia's invasion of Israel. And so Israel really doesn't need to worry about an invasion from Saudi Arabia from the scriptures.

In fact, Saudi Arabia is listed with those nations, of which the United States is perhaps one, because it speaks of the "merchants of Tarsus" which are thought to be England, and "the young lions thereof" ( Ezekiel 38:13 ). Now the United States could conceivably be a young lion from England. Break off from England and one of the young lions. Canada, Australia. They say unto Russia, "What are you doing invading this little land of Israel? That isn't fair. That isn't right." But Saudi Arabia joins with the objection with the United States and with England and the break off nations of England.

So as we look at the major decisions that are being made today in the State Department and in our government that are dealing with these very issues and these very nations that have been predicted in the Bible, having a biblical background helps tremendously. I am really excited over the number of military officers that are now beginning to look to the Bible as sort of a guideline for these days. Somehow they've gotten hold of a lot of my tapes that deal with these subjects of the Middle East and so forth. They've been listening to them and they have been actually using the Word of God as sort of a guideline. I was told of this one commander in the Navy who used to just have no time for God, no time for the Bible. I mean, it's just so much stuff that he didn't need to get involved with and was very antagonistic. But got hold of a tape and God got hold of his heart and they said that on his desk there's always an open Bible. And as he's going over the plans and so forth and developing strategies, he's always looking now to the Bible and seeking guidance from the Bible. And this was shared by another military officer who is in a Bible study with him and there in Hawaii. There's just a big bunch of military officers that get together and study the Word of God now and are looking to the Bible as a guideline for these days. And that's very wise, because surely God has set things out.

He said to Amos, "I won't do anything unless I tell my prophets in advance" ( Amos 3:7 ). And God has told us in advance of the situations that would be existing today. So if Israel would read the Bible, they would realize they have no fears of Saudi Arabia. Because Saudi Arabia will take up their part when Russia invades. Russia's the thing that they need to be concerned about, not Saudi Arabia. Iran, yes.

Now at this particular time, Israel is not so worried about Iran. In fact, people have wondered how Iran was able to keep these phantom jets going. Because when they kicked out the United States they didn't have any more spare parts. And with this hostage situation and all, they... Iraq was surprised that Iran, they thought that Iran would crumble. That they would soon no longer be able to fly the phantoms because they didn't have the technicians to keep them in repair. They didn't have the spare parts to repair them and they figured the Iranian Air Force would be put out of commission very quickly and that they would then be able to just control the whole scene. What is happening, and what most people don't know, what is happening is that Israel is repairing. They're flying these jets to Israel. Israel is repairing all these phantoms for them.

So there is an underground kind of an alliance still between Iran. Israel feels a debt to Iran because during all of the oil crises and so forth, they supplied Israel with all of their oil needs. Now Israel is trading off the repair of the jets and all for oil needs and all. But Israel is keeping the Iranian Air Force going. And some of the Israeli officers were sharing that with me when we were over in Israel this last time, how that they're flying these jets in and out from Iran almost everyday and they're keeping them. And that's the big surprise of the war is how the Irani Air Force could keep going. And that's how they're doing it. And I trust I'm not revealing any great military secrets and get in trouble for it. But that's what's happening.

Now Israel, though still underground, is friendly toward Iran. If they would only read the Bible, they would realize that Iran is the one to watch, not Saudi Arabia. That in the end, when the conflict comes, Saudi Arabia will join in the protest-not in the fighting-just in the protest of Russia's invasion of Israel. So the fact that these things are all moving in that direction right now makes, of course, the Bible extremely relevant to our own world in which we live and the current decisions that are being made by the State Department and all of those guys that deal with world strategy. How much support shall we give to Saudi Arabia and all of this. And yet the Bible lays out the whole story of the future.

Now this burden that he has for Dedanim, one of the tribes of Arabia.

The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled. For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war ( Isaiah 21:14-15 ).

Now this prophecy of Isaiah had an immediate fulfillment.

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of a hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail: 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 ( Isaiah 21:16-17 ).

Within a year and within a year Sargon in 716 B.C. conquered Saudi Arabia. So that prophecy could be checked off as one that was fulfilled. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Isaiah 21". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/isaiah-21.html. 2014.
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