Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 21

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-10

“Fallen, Fallen Is Babylon” (21:1-10)

This oracle is generally believed to be an anonymous prophecy about the fall of Babylon in 539 b.c. to Cyrus the Persian and the troops of his empire to the north and east. An unknown prophet describes the meaning of the event, as the Lord had made it known to him in a vision (vs. 2). In an ecstatic state he sees the coming of horsemen and he hears the watchman cry, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods he has shattered to the ground” (vs. 9). The short prophecy was evidently preserved by the school of Isaiah and placed here among the prophecies against foreign nations, although we have no means of reconstructing the methods or the reason for inclusion.

Recently a strong argument has been advanced to date this oracle in the period of the revolt of Babylon against Sennacherib in 691-689 b.c., presumably with the aid of the Medes and Elamites (vs. 2). In this case the “plunderer” would be the Assyrian military power, and the Judeans would be those represented as urging on the Elamites and Medes in the hope of the successful defeat of Assyria. The terrible vision of the fall of Babylon to Sennacherib comes to the prophet, and with it a sense of deep disappointment, because it meant the continuation of Assyrian power. Baoylon did fall to Sennacherib in 689 b.c.; he sacked the city and took the statue of its chief god, Marduk, back with him to Assyria. If this interpretation is correct, then the prophecy could be a genuine oracle of Isaiah.

Verses 11-17

Disaster Coming to Arabian Tribes (21:11-17)

The second part of chapter 21 concerns localities in central Arabia, east and southeast of Palestine: Dumah, Dedan, Tema, and Kedar. The first oracle (vss. 11-12) is quite enigmatic, particularly as a voice is represented as calling to Dumah from Seir, which is Edom to the south of the Dead Sea. Nevertheless, the inquiry of the watchman suggests threatening danger. The following verses concerning other oases in central Arabia are quite clear; these localities have been attacked and are in great danger. The historical context of these brief prophecies is most probably the Assyrian attempt to gain control of the trade routes of central Arabia which passed through the oases in question. Such information as we have indicates that this was done both by Sennacherib (705-681 b.c.) and by his son and successor Esarhaddon (681-669 b.c.). It is quite possible, therefore, that these fragmentary pieces may have come initially from Isaiah himself in the time of Sennacherib.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Isaiah 21". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/isaiah-21.html.
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