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The Lord Will Judge Babylon

21 This is an oracle[a] about the wilderness by the Sea:[b]
Like strong winds blowing in the south,[c]
one invades from the wilderness,
from a land that is feared.
I have received a distressing message:[d]
“The deceiver deceives,
the destroyer destroys.
Attack, you Elamites!
Lay siege, you Medes!
I will put an end to all the groaning.”[e]
For this reason my stomach churns;[f]
cramps overwhelm me
like the contractions of a woman in labor.
I am disturbed[g] by what I hear,
horrified by what I see.
My heart palpitates,[h]
I shake in fear;[i]
the twilight I desired
has brought me terror.
Arrange the table,
lay out[j] the carpet,
eat and drink![k]
Get up, you officers,
smear oil on the shields![l]

For this is what the Lord[m] has told me:

“Go, post a guard!
He must report what he sees.
When he sees chariots,
teams of horses,[n]
riders on donkeys,
riders on camels,
he must be alert,
very alert.”
Then the guard[o] cries out:
“On the watchtower, O Lord,[p]
I stand all day long;
at my post
I am stationed every night.
Look what’s coming!
A charioteer,
a team of horses.”[q]
When questioned, he replies,[r]
“Babylon has fallen, fallen!
All the idols of her gods lie shattered on the ground!”
10 O my downtrodden people, crushed like stalks on the threshing floor,[s]
what I have heard
from the Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
the God of Israel,
I have reported to you.

Bad News for Seir

11 This is an oracle about Dumah:[t]
Someone calls to me from Seir,[u]
“Watchman, what is left of the night?
Watchman, what is left of the night?”[v]
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning is coming, but then night.[w]
If you want to ask, ask;
come back again.”[x]

The Lord Will Judge Arabia

13 This is an oracle about Arabia:
In the thicket of Arabia you spend the night,
you Dedanite caravans.
14 Bring out some water for the thirsty.
You who live in the land of Tema,
bring some food for the fugitives.
15 For they flee from the swords—
from the drawn sword,
and from the battle-ready bow,
and from the severity of the battle.

16 For this is what the Lord[y] has told me: “Within exactly one year[z] all the splendor of Kedar will come to an end. 17 Just a handful of archers, the warriors of Kedar, will be left.”[aa] Indeed,[ab] the Lord God of Israel has spoken.


  1. Isaiah 21:1 tn See note at Isa 13:1.
  2. Isaiah 21:1 sn The phrase is quite cryptic, at least to the modern reader. Verse 9 seems to indicate that this message pertains to Babylon. Southern Mesopotamia was known as the Sealand in ancient times, because of its proximity to the Persian Gulf. Perhaps the reference to Babylon as a “wilderness” foreshadows the destruction that would overtake the city, making it like an uninhabited wilderness.
  3. Isaiah 21:1 tn Or “in the Negev” (NASB).
  4. Isaiah 21:2 tn Heb “a severe revelation has been related to me.”
  5. Isaiah 21:2 sn This is often interpreted to mean “all the groaning” that Babylon has caused others.
  6. Isaiah 21:3 tn Heb “my waist is filled with shaking [or “anguish”].”
  7. Isaiah 21:3 tn Or perhaps, “bent over [in pain]”; cf. NRSV “I am bowed down.”
  8. Isaiah 21:4 tn Heb “wanders”; perhaps here, “is confused.”
  9. Isaiah 21:4 tn Heb “shuddering terrifies me.”
  10. Isaiah 21:5 tn The precise meaning of the verb in this line is debated. Some prefer to derive the form from the homonymic צָפֹה (tsafoh, “keep watch”) and translate “post a guard” (cf. KJV “watch in the watchtower”; ASV “set the watch”).
  11. Isaiah 21:5 tn The verbal forms in the first three lines are infinitives absolute, which are functioning here as finite verbs. It is uncertain if the forms should have an imperatival or indicative/descriptive force here.
  12. Isaiah 21:5 sn Smearing the shields with oil would make them more flexible and effective in battle. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:394.
  13. Isaiah 21:6 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here and in vv. 8, 16 is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
  14. Isaiah 21:7 tn Or “a pair of horsemen.”
  15. Isaiah 21:8 tn The Hebrew text has, “the lion,” but this makes little sense here. אַרְיֵה (ʾaryeh, “lion”) probably needs to be emended to an original הָרֹאֶה (haroʾeh, “the one who sees”), i.e., the guard mentioned previously in v. 6. The Dead Sea Scrolls (1Q Isaa) and the Syriac support an original הָרֹאֶה (haroʾeh, “the one who sees”).
  16. Isaiah 21:8 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay). Some translations take this to refer to the Lord (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV), while others take it to refer to the guard’s human master (“my lord”; cf. NIV, NLT).
  17. Isaiah 21:9 tn Or “[with] teams of horses,” or perhaps, “with a pair of horsemen.”
  18. Isaiah 21:9 tn Heb “and he answered and said” (so KJV, ASV).
  19. Isaiah 21:10 tn Heb “My trampled one, and the son of the threshing floor.”
  20. Isaiah 21:11 tn The noun דּוּמָה (dumah) means “silence,” but here it is a proper name, probably referring to a site in northern Arabia or to the nation of Edom. See BDB 189 s.v. II דּוּמָה. If Dumah was an area in northern Arabia, it would be of interest to the Edomites because of its strategic position on trade routes which they used. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:398.
  21. Isaiah 21:11 sn Seir is another name for Edom. See BDB 973 s.v. שֵׂעִיר.
  22. Isaiah 21:11 sn The “night” probably here symbolizes distress and difficult times. See BDB 539 s.v. לַיְלָה.
  23. Isaiah 21:12 sn Dumah will experience some relief, but it will be short-lived as night returns.
  24. Isaiah 21:12 sn The point of the watchman’s final instructions (“if you want to ask, ask; come again”) is unclear. Perhaps they are included to add realism to the dramatic portrayal. The watchman sends the questioner away with the words, “Feel free to come back and ask again.”
  25. Isaiah 21:16 tn The Hebrew term translated “Lord” here is אֲדֹנָי (ʾadonay).
  26. Isaiah 21:16 tn Heb “in still a year, like the years of a hired worker.” See the note at 16:14.
  27. Isaiah 21:17 tn Heb “and the remnant of the number of the bow, the mighty men of the sons of Kedar, will be few.”
  28. Isaiah 21:17 tn Or “for” (KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, NRSV).

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