Isaiah 21:1-17

Isa 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.


Chapter 21 contains prophecies against Babylon, Elam, and Arabia.   The “sea land” is what the Assyrians called the lower part of the Mediterranean region.  The “desert of the sea” is what Babylon would become because of the judgment of God upon it.  Just like the destructive winds that come in from the Negev desert to the south, it will be like the judgment that will come upon Babylon from a feared nation.


Isa 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.


The grievous vision that Isaiah receives is that of the destruction of Babylon.  The treacherous dealer and the spoiler are both descriptions of the Medes and Persians (Elam) who would come against Babylon and besiege it.  There were two traitors that rebelled against the king of Babylon, Gadates and Gobrias who joined forces with Cyrus and actually helped guide the Medes into the city of Babylon.  Elam was a province in Persia.  The Jews who were taken to Babylon would see the Medes and Persians as their deliverers and as a result they could go from sighing which would be a sign of distress to hope for deliverance when they would be allowed to return to their homeland when the seventy years was at an end.


Isa 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.


When Isaiah had seen the vision of the destruction of Babylon, it caused him much pain and anguish.  The vision caused him so much anguish it was equal to a woman in labor giving birth which causes excruciating pain.  Isaiah then speaks as if he is in the palace of Belshazzar as the vision is so vivid.  The other one who would have experienced such anguish at this prophecy would have been Belshazzar who was partying even while the Medes and Persians were outside his door.  He bowed down at the thought of being conquered.  Bowing down means he was so distraught that his body actually bowed or was contorted in torment.  Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. (Daniel 5:6)  This happened when he saw the writing on the wall.


Isa 21:4

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


His heart was so fearful it panted as if it was stopped for a season.  Belshazzar was in such fright that he lived those final few moments in fear.  The big feast he was throwing which should have been a good time, was turned into a feast of fear when the writing appeared on the wall.  Just like mystery Babylon which is the kingdom of Satan will receive her judgments in one day, so will the physical kingdom of Babylon.  How much she hath glorified herself, and lived deliciously, so much torment and sorrow give her: for she saith in her heart, I sit a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow. (Revelation 18:7)


Isa 21:5

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


Isaiah sees in the vision Babylon preparing the tables for the feasts they were about to partake in.  They were to set watchmen in the watch towers to observe any movement of the enemy and while they were in place, the feast was now ready and all the guests have arrived.  They were to anoint the shield which means they were to oil up their shield because their shields were made of polished brass and bull hide, sometimes two or three sheets thick and to prevent it from becoming dry and cracked, they would oil them up to keep them strong.


Isa 21:6

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


The Lord then says to Isaiah to set a watchman which was speaking about Isaiah who was seeing the visions so strongly as if he was right there.  Then he is to declare what he sees.  He was to declare it publicly to the people or to a certain few who would relay the message to others.


Isa 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:


Then he saw in the vision two horsemen which could have been Cyrus and Darius.  The Medes had used asses to pull their chariots and the Medes had used camels to pull their chariots.  So the vision was the approaching army of the Medes and Persians.  Then the watchman was to pay very close attention to what he was seeing.


Isa 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:


Then the prophet compares himself to a lion who roars with strength to make known the vision.  He stands like a lion who watches over his place in the daytime and in the night as a strong sentinel.  He continually watched so he would miss nothing.  Standing in the night shows his obedience and vigilance.


Isa 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.


Then he sees a chariot filled with men who were fighting with either Darius or Cyrus had now announced that Babylon has fallen and all their images of their false gods have fallen to the ground with them.  This is like the mystery Babylon which will be pronounced on the last day of having fallen, that is, the kingdom of Satan has met its final destruction.  And there followed another angel, saying, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication. (Revelation 14:8)  All the idols which have caused the world to go after it such as wealth, sex, power, etc. will be gone in one day.  The “he” that broke the idols would have been the Lord through the Medes and the Persians as he shows that false idols have no power at all.


Isa 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.


The threshing and the corn of my floor are not the Jews in captivity but these refer to the prophecies given by Isaiah and how he declared to the people all that the LORD showed him and now they could begin to have encouragement since their captors have been destroyed and the hope of the return to the land was soon upon them.  The threshing floor was the place where the grain was beat out as it was separated from the chaff.  The Israelites would have known this and realized that Babylon would suffer the effects of the threshing floor by the Lord through the prophecies of Isaiah.


Isa 21:11

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


Dumah was a place in Arabia and was one of the sons of Ishmael.  And Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, (Genesis 25:14)  Seir was a mountain range in the land of the Edomites.  The night could be speaking of the watchman who knows the hour of the night as he is on his watch and is being asked if he sees any activity by anyone in sight of his watch.  It could also be speaking of the night which could be symbolic of a time of judgment but joy comes in the morning.  For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)  All Christians are called to be watchmen on the wall as we are surrounded by evil everywhere in this world.


Isa 21:12

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


There will not always be a time of judgment but that time of judgment will end but not permanently as told to us that night will come after day.  The watchmen was to be inquisitive and to ask questions.  He was to be inquisitive concerning things which pertained to the captives and he was to ask the LORD and in turn was to relay that information to the captives from Judah.  Night means that even though they may have had rest during the day, night will return and all its accompanying fears but Isaiah is to ask about those things to quell the fears of the people.


Isa 21:13

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


Then the next burden is upon Arabia.  The Dedanim was descended from Dedan which was Abraham’s son by Keturah.  Now the sons of Keturah, Abraham's concubine: she bare Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah. And the sons of Jokshan; Sheba, and Dedan. (1 Chronicles 1:32)  To hide from the approaching Assyrian army, they will find refuge in the forests of Arabia.  Normally those in Arabia were nomads and dwelt in tents but now they will leave them behind and flee to the forests for protection.


Isa 21:14

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


The inhabitants of the land of Tema are mentioned as bringing water to the fleeing fugitives.  Tema was located between Damascus and Mecca.  They were no doubt neighbors of the Dedanim.  The fugitives would be those who have escaped or have left the intense battle meaning they were deserters and would be considered fugitives on the run.  Sennacherib had recorded that he had taken 1,000 camels in this battle from the queen of the Arabs.  They also brought them bread before they even asked for it because they knew the journey would be one that would take a lot of human strength to try and escape the sword of Assyria.


Isa 21:15

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


The Arabs had left their tents and flocks and did flee in a hurry and left their necessities behind.  The Assyrian army was too much for them so they had fled from the coming onslaught.  The war was too grievous for them which means they knew very well they were no match for the Assyrians so they fled for their lives.


Isa 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:


Then Isaiah gives a specific prophecy of the Kedar tribe which was located in Northern Arabia.  It would be destroyed by the Assyrian army and this was accomplished in 688 B.C.  Kedar was a descendant of Ishmael.  And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, (Genesis 25:13)  Their glory was their wealth which was basically found in their flocks which were moved to different places to get grazing lands for them. 


Isa 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.


Then the prophecy of doom continues with the destruction of their archers along with all the men, both those who would fight and those who did not would be diminished and all this would take place within one year.  The archers are named because they would be the most skilled at their profession.  Good archers could weaken the army of any that come against them but here they will be defeated and their archery will not be a threat to Assyria.  The mighty men would have been their frontline soldiers who could repel an advancing army but here many will be killed thus lessening their number.