Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
REPETITION OF THE
GIVEN IN THE
CHAPTERS TO THE
He does not narrate the event, but graphically supposes himself a
watchman in Babylon, beholding the events as they pass.
1. desert--the champaign between Babylon and Persia; it was once a
desert, and it was to become so again.
of the sea--The plain was covered with the water of the Euphrates
like a "sea"
(Jer 51:13, 36; so
the Nile), until Semiramis raised great dams against it. Cyrus removed
these dykes, and so converted the whole country again into a vast
whirlwinds in the south--
The south wind comes upon Babylon from the deserts of Arabia, and its
violence is the greater from its course being unbroken along the plain
desert--the plain between Babylon and Persia.
terrible land--Media; to guard against which was the object of
Nitocris' great works [HERODOTUS, 1.185]. Compare
as to "terrible" applied to a wilderness, as being full of unknown
2. dealeth treacherously--referring to the military stratagem
employed by Cyrus in taking Babylon. It may be translated, "is repaid
with treachery"; then the subject of the verb is Babylon. She is
repaid in her own coin;
Go up--Isaiah abruptly recites the order which he hears God giving
to the Persians, the instruments of His vengeance
(Isa 13:3, 17).
Elam--a province of Persia, the original place of their settlement
east of the Euphrates. The name "Persia" was not in use until the
captivity; it means a "horseman"; Cyrus first trained the Persians in
horsemanship. It is a mark of authenticity that the name is not found
before Daniel and Ezekiel [BOCHART].
thereof--the "sighing" caused by Babylon
(Isa 14:7, 8).
3. Isaiah imagines himself among the exiles in Babylon and cannot
help feeling moved by the calamities which come on it. So for Moab
(Isa 15:5; 16:11).
Eze 30:4, 19;
at the hearing--The Hebrew may mean, "I was so bowed down that
I could not hear; I was so dismayed that I could not see"
4. panted--"is bewildered" [BARNES].
night of my pleasure--The prophet supposes himself one of the
banqueters at Belshazzar's feast, on the night that Babylon was about to
be taken by surprise; hence his expression, "my pleasure"
5. Prepare the table--namely, the feast in Babylon; during which
Cyrus opened the dykes made by Semiramis to confine the Euphrates to one
channel and suffered them to overflow the country, so that he could
enter Babylon by the channel of the river. Isaiah first represents the
king ordering the feast to be got ready. The suddenness of the irruption
of the foe is graphically expressed by the rapid turn in the language to
an alarm addressed to the Babylonian princes, "Arise," &c. (compare
MAURER translates, "They prepare the
table," &c. But see
watch in . . . watchtower--rather, "set the watch." This done, they
thought they might feast in entire security. Babylon had many
watchtowers on its walls.
anoint . . . shield--This was done to prevent the leather of the
shield becoming hard and liable to crack. "Make ready for defense";
the mention of the "shield" alone implies that it is the Babylonian
revellers who are called on to prepare for instant self-defense.
HORSLEY translates, "Grip the oiled shield."
6. Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth--God's direction
to Isaiah to set a watchman to "declare" what he sees. But as in
Isaiah himself is represented as the one who "declared." HORSLEY makes him the "watchman," and translates,
"Come, let him who standeth on the watchtower report what he
7. chariot, &c.--rather, "a body of riders," namely, some riding in
pairs on horses (literally, "pairs of horsemen," that is, two abreast),
others on asses, others on camels (compare
"Chariot" is not appropriate to be joined, as English Version
translates, with "asses"; the Hebrew means plainly in
"a body of men riding." The Persians used asses and camels for war
translates, "One drawn in a car, with a pair of riders, drawn by an
ass, drawn by a camel"; Cyrus is the man; the car drawn by a camel and
ass yoked together and driven by two postilions, one on each, is the
joint army of Medes and Persians under their respective leaders. He
thinks the more ancient military cars were driven by men riding on the
beasts that drew them;
8. A lion--rather, "(The watchman) cried, I am as a lion"; so
as is understood
The point of comparison to "a lion" is in
the loudness of the cry. But here it is rather his
vigilance. The lion's eyelids are short, so that, even when
asleep, he seems to be on the watch, awake; hence he was painted on
doors of temples as the symbol of watchfulness, guarding the place
(Hor. Apollo) [HORSLEY].
9. chariot of men--chariots with men in them; or rather, the same
body of riders, horsemen two abreast, as in
HORSLEY, "The man drawn in a car with a pair of riders." The first half
of this verse describes what the watchman sees; the second half,
what the watchman says, in consequence of what he sees. In the
and Isa 21:9,
the overthrow of Babylon by the horsemen, or man in the car, is
accomplished. The overthrow needed to be announced to the prophet by
the watchman, owing to the great extent of the city. HERODOTUS (1.131) says that one part of the city was
captured some time before the other received the tidings of it.
answered--not to something said previously, but in reference to
the subject in the mind of the writer, to be collected from the
preceding discourse: proclaimeth
fallen . . . fallen--The repetition expresses emphasis and certainty
(Ps 92:9; 93:3;
images--Bel, Merodach, &c.
(Jer 50:2; 51:44, 52).
The Persians had no images, temples, or altars, and charged the makers
of such with madness [HERODOTUS 1.131]; therefore
they dashed the Babylonian "images broken unto the ground."
10. my threshing--that is, my people (the Jews) trodden down by
corn of my floor--Hebrew, "my son of the floor," that is, my
people, treated as corn laid on the floor for threshing; implying, too,
that by affliction, a remnant (grain) would be separated from the
ungodly (chaff) [MAURER].
HORSLEY translates, "O thou object of my
unremitting prophetic pains." See
Isa 28:27, 28.
make Babylon the object of the threshing; but Isaiah is plainly
addressing his countrymen, as the next words show, not the
Isa 21:11, 12.
PROPHECY TO THE
JEWS IN THE
One out of Seir asks, What of the night? Is there a hope of the dawn of
deliverance? Isaiah replies, The morning is beginning to dawn (to us);
but night is also coming (to you). Compare
The Hebrew captives would be delivered, and taunting Edom punished. If
the Idumean wish to ask again, he may do so; if he wishes an answer of
peace for his country, then let him "return (repent), come" [BARNES].
11. Dumah--a tribe and region of Ishmael in Arabia
now called Dumah the Stony, situated on the confines of Arabia
and the Syrian desert; a part put for the whole of Edom. VITRINGA thinks "Dumah," Hebrew, "silence," is
here used for Idumea, to imply that it was soon to be reduced to
silence or destruction.
Seir--the principal mountain in Idumea, south of the Dead Sea, in
Arabia-Petræa. "He calleth" ought to be rather, "There is a call from Seir."
to me--Isaiah. So the heathen Balak and Ahaziah received oracles
from a Hebrew prophet.
so called, because, like a watchman on the lookout from a tower, he
announces future events which he sees in prophetic vision
(Hab 2:1, 2).
what of the night--What tidings have you to give as to the state of
the night? Rather, "What remains of the night?" How much of it is
past? [MAURER]. "Night" means calamity
which, then, in the wars between Egypt and Assyria, pressed sore on
Edom; or on Judah (if, as BARNES thinks, the
question is asked in mockery of the suffering Jews in Babylon). The
repetition of the question marks, in the former view, the
anxiety of the Idumeans.
12. Reply of the prophet, The morning (prosperity)
cometh, and (soon after follows) the night (adversity).
Though you, Idumeans, may have a gleam of prosperity, it will soon be
followed by adversity again. Otherwise, as BARNES,
"Prosperity cometh (to the Jews) to be quickly followed by adversity
(to you, Idumeans, who exult in the fall of Jerusalem, have seized on
the southern part of their land in their absence during the captivity,
and now deride them by your question)"
This view is favored by
if ye will inquire, inquire--If ye choose to consult me again, do so
(similar phrases occur in
return, come--"Be converted to God (and then), come"
will then receive a more favorable answer.
OVERRUN BY A
FOE WITHIN A
Probably in the wars between Assyria and Egypt; Idumea and Arabia lay
somewhat on the intermediate line of march.
13. upon--that is, respecting.
forest--not a grove of trees, but a region of thick underwood, rugged
and inaccessible; for Arabia has no forest of trees.
travelling companies--caravans: ye shall be driven through fear of
the foe to unfrequented routes
is parallel to this passage).
Dedanim--In North Arabia
Eze 25:13; 27:20;
a different "Dedan" occurs
14. Tema--a kindred tribe: an oasis in that region
The Temeans give water to the faint and thirsting Dedanites; the
greatest act of hospitality in the burning lands of the East, where
water is so scarce.
prevented--that is, anticipated the wants of the fugitive Dedanites
by supplying bread
their bread--rather, "his (the fugitive's) bread"; the bread
due to him, necessary for his support; so "thy grave"
15. they--the fugitive Dedanites and other Arabs.
16. years of . . . hireling--(See on
Kedar--a wandering tribe
North of Arabia-Petræa, and south of Arabia-Deserta; put for
Arabia in general.
17. residue . . . diminished--The remnant of Arab warriors, famous in
the bow, left after the invasion, shall be small.