Our next portion is Isaiah 21:1-10
Most scholars see the prophecy in this chapter as relating primarily to Babylon and the region around Babylon. Although this has been fulfilled in the past, it still has relevance and contains instructions for the last days. Babylon is synonymous with being the punishers of Israel – specifically Judah. They are the ones who took Judah into exile and inflicted great suffering on them. In the last days, the empire of the antichrist, like Babylon, is going to exert great pressure and cause great suffering and pain for the Jewish people. Many are going to go into exile. However, a future deliverance and restoration is promised. When Yeshua returns, for His second coming, the enemies of Israel are going to be judged and He is going to deliver and restore His people. In the book of Revelation, the term (Mystery) ‘Babylon’ is used in a symbolic way as the name of the antichrist empire (Revelation 17 and 18).
v1: Burden: A message of destruction, punishment and, oftentimes, annihilation.
- Wilderness: A desert.
- Sea: Babylon was built on the Euphrates Rivers. This river was a great asset to Babylon and turned it into a great power. This river was so vast and influential that it was as though they had a sea within their borders. Hence the reference to a ‘sea’.
- Whirlwinds: Tornadoes. Very strong winds that cause great destruction – leaving rubble and ruin in its path.
- Terrible: Awesome
Note: What G-d is saying here is that there are going to be strong winds (turbulent tornadoes) that are going to bring about destruction. Most scholars, however, do not see these tornadoes as being weather phenomena. They see this as the dust that rises up because of a vast army marching through the land. When an army marches to war with their chariots and horses they kick up dust so that a kind of whirlwind is created. The scholars see this as a strong military invasion that was going to come against Babylon.
v2: Distressing: Hard. This is a word which speaks of something which is powerful but in a destructive or harsh way.
- Declared to me: Isaiah received this vision, and he said it was a hard or difficult vision to receive.
- Treacherous dealer: The one who is the traitor (betrayer). Those who are faithless, or practice disloyalty. Those who betray are going to find themselves betrayed. Those who plundered were themselves going to be plundered.
- Elam: (Southwestern Iran) An empire very close geographically to Babylon (Iraq).
- Elam…Media (Northwestern Iran): Two empires that were going to come together in order to lay siege and bring destruction to Babylon. G-d was faithful to bring judgment upon Babylon in the past. We can anticipate G-d doing this again in the last days.
- All its sighing I have made to cease: G-d is going to make an end of these groanings that were caused by the Babylonians upon His people. Babylon came to an end under the leadership of the Medes and Persians. Cyrus allowed the people who were in exile in Babylon to go back to the land of Israel.
v3: My loins are filled with pain (anguish): Some commentators say when Isaiah looked at the harsh judgment that was coming upon Babylon it elicited some compassion from him. Others translate this as Isaiah quoting the king of Babylon – who is going to be dethroned and brought to an end.
- Distressed…dismayed: Many scholars say that Isaiah saw what was going to happen to ancient Babylon (+-2500 years ago), but that he was also shown how G-d’s judgment is going to be poured out upon the antichrist empire.
v4: Note: It is unclear if this is Isaiah looking at this and not comprehending (‘heart wavered’…ie confused by what he has seen), or whether it is the king of Babylon that Isaiah is speaking for.
- Fearfulness: Literally: Fear and trembling. He was extremely afraid.
- The night for which I longed: In modern Hebrew this is a word that is used for an evening ball/a prom/a dance (a nighttime party).
- Turned into fear: The word used here is a word that speaks of extreme fear. In modern Hebrew it is a word used for going into shock. He desired a celebration, but what he got was a shock (If this is referring to the king of Babylon then this fulfilment could have taken place in Daniel 5:1-6).
v5: Note: The idea here is that Isaiah is either seeing a vision of what is going to go on in the king’s palace in Babylon just before they are devastated, or he is quoting the thoughts of the king concerning the fact that the destruction of his empire came about so unexpectedly and so swiftly (Dan 5:30-31). Isaiah prophesied that Babylon was going to end very suddenly and very unexpectedly. This is also how it is going to be for the antichrist empire. He is going to think that he has established himself and that everything is going to plan but then suddenly, quickly and unexpectedly he is going to be defeated (1 Thess 5:2-3).
- Eat and drink: This is referring to the king and his cabinet officials eating and drinking.
- Princes: The cabinet officials or the king’s leading officials.
- Anoint: They put oil on their shields so that the arrows would just glance off them and not hit as hard.
Note: The king of Babylon was having a party when he received the news of the devastation that was coming.
v7: Listened diligently with great care: There was much to hear and much to take in. This prophecy had a great implication in the past, but it also has a far-reaching conclusion beyond the time of the literal judgment of Babylon (+-2500 years ago).
v8: A lion: For many scholars this is a strong hermeneutical clue that this is indeed talking about Babylon. The symbol for Babylon was a lion.
- Stand continually…in the daytime… every night: The prophet, all day and all night, was looking for revelation concerning this event. It was of the utmost importance to Isaiah that he tried to understand what G-d was revealing to him.
v9: He (answered): The man on the chariot. He called out to Isaiah (the watchman who was observing what is going on).
- Babylon is fallen, is fallen!: This verse is quoted in Rev 18:2. G-d, who was faithful in the past to judge the enemies of Israel, will be faithful in the future to judge His enemies. This judgment in the past (the fall of Babylon) allowed the children of Jacob to return to the land of Israel. In the future we can expect G-d to bring about destruction upon the antichrist kingdom. This kingdom will seek to make the covenantal promises of G-d null and void, but G-d (like He judged Babylon) will also judge the antichrist and his empire. In Revelation it is after Babylon falls (the final Babylon, the antichrist empire) that Messiah returns for His second coming (Rev19)
- All the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground: This is reminiscent of Dagon in 1 Sam 5:1-4. The enemies of G-d are going to find their idolatrous worship, that was based in falsehood and in their selfish desires, is going to be consumed by G-d’s wrath. It will be brought to the ground and will be no more.
v10: Grain (gleanings): After the harvest, the grain is taken to the threshing floor, and it is threshed. The chaff is removed and destroyed (a picture of judgment) but the grain is stored for future use. The grain is the valuable part of the harvest and is the blessing that is received (the promises of G-d are related to blessings).
- G-d of Israel: This phrase usually gives a passage a last day context.
- I have declared: Declaration is the outcome of the Word (the promises) of G-d.