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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Isaiah 21

 

 

Verse 1

Isaiah 21:1 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.

Ver. 1. The burden of the desert of the sea,] i.e., Of Babylon, [Isaiah 21:9] which is here called a sea, because situated by many waters, [Jeremiah 51:13; Jeremiah 51:36] and the desert or plain of the sea, because it stood in a plain, [Genesis 11:2] or was to be turned into a desert. See Isaiah 13:1-22; Isaiah 14:1-32, Jeremiah 51:1-64. It is so often prophesied against; (1.) For the comfort of God’s people, who were to suffer hard and heavy things from this city; (2.) For a caution to them not to trust in such a tottering state. A Lapide saith, that about the time of this prophecy, Hezekiah was making a league and amity with Merodach, king of Babylon, to whose ambassadors he had showed all his treasures, and was well shent for it. [2 Kings 20:12] To take him off which design, the ruin of Babylon is here before prophesied.

As whirlwinds in the south (a) pass through.] Patentibus campis, ac locis arenosis, vehementissimo impetu cuncta prosternentes, without stop or stay, bearing down all before them, covering whole armies with sand sometimes, and destroying theirs.

So it cometh.] Or, So he cometh, that is, Cyrus with his armies; Vastator Babyloniae, he cometh fiercely and furiously.

From the wilderness.] From Persia, which is desert in many places, especially toward Babylon.

From a terrible land.] From Media, the people whereof were barbarous and brutish, skilful to destroy. Nitocris, queen of Babylon, feared a hostile irruption from this land, did her utmost to prevent it, but that would not be. (b)


Verse 2

Isaiah 21:2 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.

Ver. 2. A grievous vision.] Heb., Hard, harsh, tyrannorum speculum: here is hard for hard; God loveth to retaliate. Babylon had been the "maul of the earth"; [Jeremiah 51:20] now a hard messenger is sent, a harsh vision is declared against her. They who do what they should not, shall hear what they would not; a burdenous prophecy, a grievous vision. This "treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and this spoiler spoileth," for so some read the next words.

The treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously.] Or, O thou treacherous dealer and notable spoiler: thou Elam, I mean; go up, thou Media, besiege. God oft maketh use of one tyrant to punish another; as here he stirreth up the Persians to plunder and waste the Babylonians. So the Persians were afterwards in like sort punished by the Macedonians, the Macedonians by the Romans, those Romans by the Huns, Vandals, Lombards, Saracens, Turks; all whom Christ shall destroy at his last coming.

Go up, O Elam,] i.e., Thou Persian. Elymais is properly that part of Persia that lieth towards Media. Here they are appointed their work 170 years before it was done; and Cyrus afterwards named as the chief doer.

All the sighing thereof have I made to cease.] Thereof, or of her, that is, of Babylon, not of Judea, which the prophet ever had in his heart, as some sense it; the sighing, quo ipsa, sua tyrannide et oppressione, cogebat alios flere et gemere, (a) that she forced from others, specially from God’s oppressed people. Or, they shall not have long to sigh, for I will soon put an end to their lives.


Verse 3

Isaiah 21:3 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].

Ver. 3. Therefore are my loins filled with pains.] I, Babylon, or I, Belshazzar, am in a woe case. This is here set forth by a notable hypotyposis, ac si res ipsa iam tum gereretur, persona regis in se per mimesin assumpta, (a) acting Belshazzar’s part. (as Daniel 5:5-6, where we may read this prophecy punctually fulfilled)

I was bowed down at the hearing of it.] Belshazzar’s senses were sorely afflicted: how much more shall it be so in hell? The prophet here elegantly imitateth his groans and outcries, O dolorem lumborum! O torsiones! O cordis amissionem! O tremorem et terrorem! (b) Oh the doleful woe and "alas" of the damned spirits!


Verse 4

Isaiah 21:4 My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me.

Ver. 4. My heart panted.] Or, Fluttereth to and fro, as not able to keep in its place. Viro impio calamitatibus presso nihil desperatius est. Nothing is more hopeless and crest fallen than a wicked man in distress: for what reason? his life and hopes end together.

The night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear.] That dreadful and dismal night, [Daniel 5:1-31] intended for a revelling night, and dedicated to the honour of Shac: but the handwriting on the wall and the irruption of the Persians marred the mirth.


Verse 5

Isaiah 21:5 Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, [and] anoint the shield.

Ver. 5. Prepare the table.] Insultat regi Balthasari, ac irridendo voces illius memorat. (a) Prepare the table, said Belshazzar. But more need he had to have said, Prepare the battle; set the army in array, &c. But this secure sot thought of no such matter. His destruction, though at hand, was hid from his eyes by the Lord, who

Auferre mentem talibus primum solet,

Caliginemque, affundit, ut ruant suas

Furenter in clades, sibi quas noxii

Accersierunt ultro, consiliis malis. ”

Watch in the watchtower.] That we may revel the more securely.

Eat, drink.] Etiamsi Hannibal sit ad portas; Even if Hannabal is by the gates. Feed without fear, notwithstanding the siege.

Arise, ye princes, anoint the shield,] q.d., It would better become you, O Babylonian princes, so to do - viz., to stand to your arms - to furbish your shields, for your better defence against the Medes and Persians. (b) Some make these words to be the watchman’s warning, given upon the Persians entering the city.


Verse 6

Isaiah 21:6 For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

Ver. 6. For thus hath the Lord said unto me.] Confirming, by a prophetic vision, what I had foretold concerning the calamity of the Chaldees.


Verse 7

Isaiah 21:7 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:

Ver. 7. And he saw,] scil., In a vision.

A chariot with a couple of horsemen.] Darius and Cyrus.

A chariot of asses and a chariot of camels.] Beasts of both sorts - both for burden and service - great store of them.

And he hearkened diligently, with much heed.] Attendit attente, attentissime, the watchman did who was set to watch in the vision.


Verse 8

Isaiah 21:8 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:

Ver. 8. And he cried, A lion,] i.e., A stout and cruel enemy is upon us. Or, He cried as a lion, so some render it - that is, the watchman cried aloud, professing his utmost vigilance in performance of his duty.


Verse 9

Isaiah 21:9 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.

Ver. 9. And, behold, here cometh a chariot o men.] Or, Behold, even now are gone in - that is Cyrus and Darius {as Isaiah 21:7} have broken into the town, and surprised it.

And he answered and said.] He - that is, the watchman - numinis quodam afflatu commotus, by a divine instinct. or rather God himself.

Babylon is fallen, is fallen.] That is, Shall fall, certo, cito, penitus, certainly, speedily, utterly - ruit alto a culmine Troia. So shall shortly mystical Babylon, [Revelation 18:8-19] as the Jesuits themselves, Ribera and A Lapide, confess; only they say this shall be toward the end of the world, when Rome shall become idolatrous, as though it were not so now. But what said Petrarch long since? There yet standeth near at hand a second Babylon, cito itidem casura, si vos essetis viri, which would soon be down, would you but stand up as men.


Verse 10

Isaiah 21:10 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.

Ver. 10. O my threshing, and the corn of my floor.] That is, O my church and people, whom by so many tribulations I have hitherto been threshing, that I might sunder thee from the chaff, and make thee the "corn of the floor," or, as the Hebrew here hath it, "my son of the floor," and may lay thee up as pure grain in my garner. (a) See Isaiah 28:27.

That which I have heard from the Lord of hosts,] viz., That you, my poor countrymen, shall be threshed for a while, and winnowed by Babylon. See Isaiah 25:10; Isaiah 41:15, Jeremiah 51:33, Micah 4:13. Ut cum triturando e gluma, et follibus suis utriculisque, triticum educitur, and that you shall at length be delivered from this grievous affliction; all this you may write upon as certain and infallible. I have herein told you not the dreams of mine own heart, but the very undoubted words of God himself.


Verse 11

Isaiah 21:11 The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

Ver. 11. The burden of Dumah,] i.e., Of Idumea, (a) or of the Edomites. For burden, see on Isaiah 13:1. This prophecy is the shorter the harder. The Jews apply this prophecy to Rome. They read for Dumah, Roma. The Romans they call the new Idumeans, and the Pope’s kingdom the wicked kingdom of Edom. Some of them say that Julius Caesar was an Idumean; others that Aeneas came out of Idumea into Egypt; from thence into Lybia; thence to Carthage; thence to Italy, and that there he built Alba, out of which sprang Rome. The rise of this fiction seemeth to have been the destruction of the Jewish state by Titus and his Romans, who were thereupon for their cruelty by those Jews called Edomites.

He calleth to me out of Seir.] Or, One is calling to me out of Seir, which was a mountain possessed by the Edomites.

Watchman, what of the night?] (b) Interrogatio ironica est argue sarcastica - a scoffing question whereby the prophet is derided and upbraided with false foretelling a night of misery to the Edomites, whenas they felt no change, but enjoyed rather a lightsome morning; a fine time, as we say, of liberty and prosperity.


Verse 12

Isaiah 21:12 The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will enquire, enquire ye: return, come.

Ver. 12. The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night.] This is a short and sharp answer - q.d., say it be yet morning with you and clear day; yet, as sure as the night followeth the day, a change will come such as whereof you shall have small comfort. (a)

If ye will inquire,] sc., Of the Lord by me, whom you call watchman, in disdain; but I profess myself to be so - that is, to be a prophet, and do take it for an honour.

Inquire ye.] Do it seriously, and not sarcastically. "Be not ye mockers, lest your bonds be increased." [Isaiah 28:22]

Return.] To God by true repentance.

Come.] Come over to us who are his people. And all this is delivered by an elegant Asyndeton (b) in short and quick terms, importing that haste must be made if the aforementioned danger shall be prevented. Habent aulae suum cito, cito; they must be nimble that shall find favour in the court of heaven. It is an unsafe thing always to begin to live. How many are taken away in their offers and essays before they have prepared their hearts to cleave to God! Castigemus ergo mores et moras. Up, therefore, and be doing, that the Lord may be with you.

b} A rhetorical figure which omits the conjunction.


Verse 13

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

Ver. 13. The burden upon Arabia.] As a burden upon a beast. These Arabians or Hagarens had assisted, likely, Tihakah the Ethiopian against Sennacherib, and are therefore set upon by him. Sure it is they were enemies to the Church. [Psalms 83:2-12]

In the forest shall ye lodge.] In the wide and wild woods, glad to lurk anywhere for safety - glad to quit your huts.

O ye travelling companies.] Ye troops of travellers.


Verse 14

Isaiah 21:14 The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.

Ver. 14. Brought water to the thirsty.] Or, Bring forth water wherewith to meet the thirsty; with your bread prevent those that flee; be speedy and spontaneous in your beneficence. "Blessed is the man that considereth the poor and needy"; [Psalms 41:1] qui praeoccupat vocem petitari - which preventeth the request of the poor beggar; so Augustine rendereth it.


Verse 15

Isaiah 21:15 For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war.

Ver. 15. For they fled from the swords, &c.] Swords, bows, battle to all the rest. Crosses seldom come single. See on James 1:2.


Verse 16

Isaiah 21:16 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:

Ver. 16. Within a year, after the years of an hireling.] See on Isaiah 16:14; before the year be come about.

All the glory of Kedar.] Whose tents [Psalms 120:5] were rude, but rich. [Song of Solomon 1:5] {See Trapp on "Song of Solomon 1:5"}


Verse 17

Isaiah 21:17 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].

Ver. 17. And the residue of the number of archers.] Heb., Of the bow, whereby these Kedarens lived much, as had also their ancestor Ishmael. [Genesis 21:20]

For the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it.] Who will surely see it done, and yet he loveth mercifulness, but can, less than Mithridates could, endure those who hate virtue forsaken of fortune, as they call it.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Isaiah 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/isaiah-21.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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