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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 21

Wesley's Explanatory NotesWesley's Notes

Verse 1

The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert, from a terrible land.

The plain — Of Babylon, which lay in a very plain country. And the title of the sea might well be given to the waters of Babylon, because of the great plenty and multitude of them.

South — In those parts which lay southward from Judea, where there were many and great deserts.

Pass through — As meeting with no opposition.

It — The burden or judgment.

Desert — From Media and Persia; a great desert lay between them and Chaldea.

A terrible land — From the Medes, a warlike and formidable people.

Verse 2

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.

A vision — A vision or prophecy, containing dreadful calamities which were to fall upon Babylon.

The spoiler — The Medes and Persians used treachery as well as force against Babylon.

Elam — Persia, so called, because Elam was an eminent province of Persia, bordering upon the Medes.

Besiege — Namely, Babylon, verse — 9.

The sighing — The sighing and groaning of God’s people, and other nations under the oppressions of that cruel empire.

Verse 3

Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken hold upon me, as 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 loins — Which he mentions with respect to the following similitude of child-bearing.

Pangs — Sharp and grievous pains.

Verse 4

My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.

The night — In which I used to have sweet repose. He seems to have had this vision in a night. But withal this signified that horror and destruction, which should befal the Babylonians in a night of feasting and jollity.

He — God, who shewed him that vision.

Verse 5

Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield.

Prepare — Furnish it with meats and drinks. The prophet foretells what the Babylonians would be doing when their enemies were at their doors.

Watch — To give us notice of any approaching danger, that in the meantime we may more securely indulge ourselves.

Princes — Of Babylon: arise from the table and run to your arms.

Shield — Prepare yourselves and your arms for the approaching battle. The shield is put for all their weapons of offence and defence. They used to anoint their shields with oil, to preserve and polish them, and to make them slippery.

Verse 6

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

Go set — This was now done only in a vision, but it signified what should be done really afterwards.

Verse 7

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:

A chariot — Hereby he signifies the variety and abundance of warlike provisions which the Medes and Persians should have for their expedition, and particularly of chariots, whereof some were for the carriage of necessary things, and others for the battle.

Verse 8

And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:

A lion — The watchmen cried out, I see also a lion marching before the horsemen and chariots: which they suppose to represent Cyrus or Darius marching in the head of their armies.

My lord — The watchman speaks to the prophet, who had set him in this station.

Whole nights — According to thy command I have stood, and do yet stand continually, both day and night, upon my watch-tower.

Verse 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.

Men — Not fitted with goods, but provided with men to fight.

He — The prophet, who here gives an explication of the vision.

He — God, by the hands of Cyrus.

Verse 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.

Threshing — Threshing is put for the corn threshed; and the corn threshed for people sorely afflicted. This is probably spoken of Babylon. The corn - Which I will cause to be threshed upon the floor.

You — Unto you my people; for all the prophecies, even concerning other nations, were published to them, and for their use and comfort.

Verse 11

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

Dumah — Of Edom or Idumea.

He — The people of Dumah, one of them in the name and by the appointment of the rest.

Me — To the watchman: the prophet delivers his prophecy in the form of a dialogue between the people and the watchman.

Seir — Out of Edom, which is frequently called Seir.

Watchman — The watchman of Edom, whom they had set as people use to do in times of great danger.

Night — The people are supposed to come to him very early in the morning, to enquire what had happened in the night; which shews a state of great perplexity and fear.

Night — The repetition of the words, shew the greatness of their solicitude.

Verse 12

The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.

The night — The night is past without any mischief, and the light of the morning is approaching; but tho’ the morning is coming, it will be gone, and the night will return, and your fears with it.

Come — If you will enquire, enquire: I perceive your danger is not past, and there will be occasion for farther enquiries. Therefore return, come - Come to me the next morning, and so from morning to morning.

Verse 13

The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye travelling companies of Dedanim.

Forest — Not as you used to do, in the houses or tents of the Arabians: whereby he implies, that that populous country should be a wilderness.

Companies — In those parts travellers then did, and still do, go together in companies.

Dedanim — These were merchants, who used to trade with Tyre, and their way lay thro’ Arabia.

Verse 14

The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.

Tema — A part of Arabia.

Fled — Whereby he implies, that those other Arabians, against whom this prophecy is principally directed, should be reduced to great scarcity, and forced to flee for their lives, from a bloody enemy.

Verse 16

For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail:

A year — From the time of this prophecy: an exact year.

Glory — Their power, and riches, and all things wherein they used to glory. This was executed by the Assyrians.

Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 21". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/isaiah-21.html. 1765.
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