Isaiah chapter 21

Isaiah delivers a heavy message about the fall of Babylon. The message makes Isaiah ill. A heavy message about Edom. A heavy message about Arabia.





VERSE 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.

NLT translation. This message came to me concerning Babylon—the desert by the sea: Disaster is roaring down on you from the desert, like a whirlwind sweeping in from the Negev.

wilderness of the sea. That is, Babylon.

Babylon. This message is about Babylon.

it comes from the wilderness. There is an invader. The invader was probably Marduk-apal-iddina. He arose suddenly to revolt against Assyria.


VERSE 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.

BBE translation. A vision of fear comes before my eyes; the worker of deceit goes on in his false way, and the waster goes on making waste. Up! Elam; to the attack! Media; I have put an end to her sorrow.

the worker of deceit. That is, the betrayer.

The betrayer is on his way.

the waster. That is, the destroyer.

The destroyer is destroying.

Media. Media was located north of Elam.




VERSE 3. Therefore my thighs are filled with anguish. Pains have seized 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.

NLT translation. My stomach aches and burns with pain. Sharp pangs of anguish are upon me, like those of a woman in labor. I grow faint when I hear what God is planning; I am too afraid to look.

My stomach aches and burns with pain. Sometimes, knowing what the LORD God is planning to do can cause us discomfort.

It can be more than emotional distress. It can manifest as actual pain and nausea in our body.

The LORD God reveals his plans to very few of us. That is good, since most of us could not withstand such knowledge.

However, Isaiah was able to withstand it.

Pains have seized me. Isaiah is in a great deal of pain.


VERSE 4. My heart flutters. Horror has frightened me. The twilight that I desired has been turned into trembling for me.

NLT translation. My mind reels and my heart races. I longed for evening to come, but now I am terrified of the dark.


VERSE 5. They prepare the table. They set the watch. They eat. They drink. Rise up, you princes, oil the shield!

oil the shield. Shields made of animal skins needed to be rubbed with (olive) oil to prevent their cracking.


VERSE 6. For the Lord said to me, “Go, set a watchman. Let him declare what he sees.

watchman. In ancient times, the watchman stood on a high tower and scanned the horizon for developments, especially developments in the enemy camp, or signs of danger.

The king formulated his plans based on input from the watchman.

In our day, the Pentecostal preacher David Wilkerson popularized the idea of the preacher as God’s modern-day watchman, a spiritual watchman over society.

Modern-day watchmen climb the tower of prayer. They prayerfully scan the news for developments, and interpret the events like a prophet would. Then they preach their findings to their congregation.


VERSE 7. When he sees a troop, horsemen in pairs, a troop of donkeys, a troop of camels, he shall listen diligently with great attentiveness.”


VERSE 8. He cried like a lion: “Lord, I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime, and every night I stay at my post.

stand continually on the watchtower. The modern-day watchman sees his or her “post” as the watchtower of prayer.

every night I stay at my post. The modern-day watchman spends their nights in prayer.


VERSE 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.

Fallen, fallen is Babylon. The Jewish people hoped Babylon would be able to stop the Assyrian Empire.

But instead, they were defeated. This is a terrible moment.

images of her gods are broken. All her idols are destroyed.


VERSE 10. You are my threshing, and the grain of my floor!” That which I have heard from the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel, I have declared to you.

NLT translation. O my people, threshed and winnowed, I have told you everything the LORD of heaven’s Armies has said, everything the God of Israel has told me.

NAB translation. O my people who have been threshed, beaten on my threshing floor! What I have heard from the LORD of hosts, The God of Israel, I have announced to you.

the grain of my floor. The defeat of Babylon left Judah feeling crushed like grain on the threshing floor.

I have told you everything. This is the essence of the LORD’s calling on any of his messengers. They are to tell people everything the LORD has revealed.

A messenger of the LORD has a passion to deliver the message. It is unquenchable and all-consuming.




VERSE 11. The burden of Dumah. One calls to me out of Seir, “Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?”

Seir. That is an alternate name for Edom, because the mountains of Seir were given as a possession to Esau and his descendants.

Edom. Now the LORD directs his gaze to Edom.

what of the night? That is, how much longer must we suffer? Isaiah will answer their question in the next verse.


VERSE 12. The watchman said, “The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire. Come back again.”

The morning comes, and also the night. In the previous verse, people had asked how much longer they must suffer. In this verse, Isaiah gives an ambiguous reply.

Come back again. Isaiah tells them to come back later. Perhaps by then he will have an answer from the LORD God.




VERSE 13. The burden on Arabia. In the forest in Arabia you will lodge, you caravans of Dedanites.


VERSE 14. They brought water to him who was thirsty. The inhabitants of the land of Tema met the fugitives with their bread.

NLT translation. O people of Tema, bring water to these thirsty people, food to these weary refugees.

bring water to these thirsty people. This is the essence of Christian ministry. We bring spiritual “water” to those who are thirsty for it.

food to these weary refugees. We bring spiritual “food” to those who are hungry for it.


VERSE 15. For they fled away from the swords, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow, and from the heat of battle.


VERSE 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,


VERSE 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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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.