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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 21

Dummelow's Commentary on the BibleDummelow on the Bible

Verses 1-10

Vision of Babylon’s Fall

The subject of this section is the siege of Babylon, and the dismay with which the prophet receives tidings of its fall. The siege referred to can scarcely be the one at the close of the exile, as is maintained by many scholars, because (a) the prophet is much depressed at the thought of Babylon’s fall, which he foresees will involve calamity for Judah (Isaiah 21:2-4, Isaiah 21:10); (b) distance from Babylon is presupposed (Isaiah 21:6-9); and (c) Assyrian researches have revealed three earlier sieges, in 710 by Sargon, and in 703 and 696 by Sennacherib. In 710 and 703 the king of Babylon was Merodach Baladan, who sent an embassy to Hezekiah (Isaiah 39:1), and whose immediate interests were identical with those of Hezekiah with whom he desired an alliance. This would account for the depression in this prophecy; in the capture of Babylon by the Assyrians, Isaiah sees a warning of the fate that may overtake Judah (Isaiah 21:10). The prophecy accordingly may be dated either after 710 or 703.

1-5. The prophet is filled with terror at a vision of the fall of Babylon.

6-9. To the expectant prophet tidings of its fall is brought by a travelling caravan.

10. His dismay because of the suffering involved for Judah.

1. Burden] see Isaiah 13:1. Desert of the sea] i.e. Babylonia: sea refers to the Euphrates, the word being used in Hebrew of a large river, as in Isaiah 19:5 of the Nile. South] the technical name for the S. of Judah, a region specially liable to tempests: Jeremiah 4:11-13; Hosea 13:15; Zechariah 9:14.

It cometh] i.e. the tidings conveyed in the prophet’s vision.

2. Treacherous dealer] i.e. the Assyrian (Isaiah 33:1). Go up, etc.] the command of the Assyrian to the tributaries serving in his army. Sighing thereof] i.e. caused by Babylon.

5. Prepare.. drink] read these verbs as present indicative, ’they prepare,’ etc.; the Babylonian feast is at its height when the cry to arms is raised. Anoint the shield] Leather shields were greased before going to battle that the weapons of the enemy might glide off.

6. The prophet himself is the watchman.

7. RV ’And when he seeth a troop, horsemen in pairs, a troop of asses, a troop of camels, he shall hearken,’ etc.

8. RV ’cried as a lion.’

9. Just as he groans aloud in impatience, he sees a company approaching, and recognises that they are the bearers of the expected tidings.

10. Referring to Judah which has suffered much from the Assyrian invader already (Isaiah 10:5). The news of this fresh Assyrian victory over Babylon is distasteful, but the prophet must deliver his message.

Verses 11-12

The Fate of Edom

An oracle concerning Edom, here symbolically called Dumah (’silence’), because of the silence and desolation in store for it. The prophecy, like that which follows, refers to a time when the peoples concerned were in danger, probably from the Assyrians; and, as Sargon was waging war in these districts both in 720 and 711 b.c., the two prophecies may be referred to either of these years.

11, 12. To the enquiring Edomites the prophet gives enigmatic answer—while the immediate future looks bright, calamity is impending.

11. Seir] another name for Edom (Genesis 36:8; Deuteronomy 2:12).

12. If ye will, etc.] suggesting the possibility of there being another answer at another time.

Verses 13-17

Judgment upon Arabia

This section concerns the N. Arabian tribes. For the occasion see prefatory note on Isaiah 21:11, Isaiah 21:12.

13-17. Owing to the incursions of the As Syrians the Dedanite caravans must take to flight, and other Arabian tribes shall share their fate.

13. In the forest, etc.] The trading caravans must turn from their route and hide themselves because of the invasion. Arabia] in OT. denotes the N. part of what we call Arabia.

Dedanim] a tribe dwelling near Edom (Ezekiel 27:15).

14. The Edomites (inhabitants of.. Tema) succour the fugitives. Prevented, etc.] RV ’did meet the fugitives with their bread.’

16. According to the years, etc.] see Isaiah 16:14. Kedar] a general name for the tribes of N. Arabia (Psalms 120:5).

17. The forecast was fulfilled in the victories over the Arabian tribes by Sargon and Sennacherib, as related in their inscriptions.

Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 21". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcb/isaiah-21.html. 1909.
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