Isaiah 21

1 The burden of the wilderness of the sea. As whirlwinds in the South sweep through, it comes from the wilderness, from an awesome land. 2 A grievous vision is declared to me. The treacherous man deals treacherously, and the destroyer destroys. Go up, Elam; attack! I have stopped all of Media’s sighing. 3 Therefore my thighs are filled with anguish. Pains have taken hold on me, like the pains of a woman in labor. I am in so much pain that I can’t hear. I so am dismayed that I can’t see. 4 My heart flutters. Horror has frightened me. The twilight that I desired has been turned into trembling for me. 5 They prepare the table. They set the watch. They eat. They drink. Rise up, you princes, oil the shield! 6 For the Lord said to me, “Go, set a watchman. Let him declare what he sees. 7 When he sees a troop, horsemen in pairs, a troop of donkeys, a troop of camels, he shall listen diligently with great attentiveness.” 8 He cried like a lion: “Lord, I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime, and every night I stay at my post. 9 Behold, here comes a troop of men, horsemen in pairs.” He answered, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the engraved images of her gods are broken to the ground. 10 You are my threshing, and the grain of my floor!” That which I have heard from the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, I have declared to you. 11 The burden of Dumah. One calls to me out of Seir, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?” 12 The watchman said, “The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire. Come back again.” 13 The burden on Arabia. In the forest in Arabia you will lodge, you caravans of Dedanites. 14 They brought water to him who was thirsty. The inhabitants of the land of Tema me the fugitives with their bread. 15 For they fled away from the swords, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow, and from the heat of battle. 16 For the Lord said to me, “Within a year, as a worker bound by contract would count it, all the glory of Kedar will fail, 17 and the residue of the number of the archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, will be few; for the LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken it.”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1-10

Babylon was a flat country, abundantly watered. The destruction of Babylon, so often prophesied of by Isaiah, was typical of the destruction of the great foe of the New Testament church, foretold in the Revelation. To the poor oppressed captives it would be welcome news; to the proud oppressors it would be grievous. Let this check vain mirth and sensual pleasures, that we know not in what heaviness the mirth may end. Here is the alarm given to Babylon, when forced by Cyrus. An ass and a camel seem to be the symbols of the Medes and Persians. Babylon’s idols shall be so far from protecting her, that they shall be broken down. True believers are the corn of God’s floor; hypocrites are but as chaff and straw, with which the wheat is now mixed, but from which it shall be separated. The corn of God’s floor must expect to be threshed by afflictions and persecutions. God’s Israel of old was afflicted. Even then God owns it is his still. In all events concerning the church, past, present, and to come, we must look to God, who has power to do any thing for his church, and grace to do every thing that is for her good.

Verses 11-12

God’s prophets and ministers are as watchmen in the city in a time of peace, to see that all is safe. As watchmen in the camp in time of war, to warn of the motions of the enemy. After a long sleep in sin and security, it is time to rise, to awake out of sleep. We have a great deal of work to do, a long journey to go; it is time to be stirring. After a long dark night is there any hope of the day dawning? What tidings of the night? What happens to-night? We must never be secure. But many make curious inquiries of the watchmen. They would willingly have nice questions solved, or difficult prophecies interpreted; but they do not seek into the state of their own souls, about the way of salvation, and the path of duty. The watchman answers by way of prophecy. There comes first a morning of light, and peace, and opportunity; but afterward comes a night of trouble and calamity. If there be a morning of youth and health, there will come a night of sickness and old age; if a morning of prosperity in the family, in the public, yet we must look for changes. It is our wisdom to improve the present morning, in preparation for the night that is coming after it. Inquire, return, come. We are urged to do it quickly, for there is no time to trifle. Those that return and come to God, will find they have a great deal of work to do, and but little time to do it in.

Verses 13-17

The Arabians lived in tents, and kept cattle. A destroying army shall be brought upon them, and make them an easy prey. We know not what straits we may be brought into before we die. Those may know the want of necessary food who now eat bread to the full. Neither the skill of archers, nor the courage of mighty men, can protect from the judgments of God. That is poor glory, which will thus quickly come to nothing. Thus hath the Lord said to me; and no word of his shall fall to the ground. We may be sure the Strength of Israel will not lie. Happy are those only whose riches and glory are out of the reach of invaders; all other prosperity will speedily pass away.

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