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Verses 11-17 are definitely related to the earlier oracle against Babylon in the first half of chapter 21 because Edom and Arabia are some of the allied countries that would have taken Babylon’s side against the threat of Assyria. It is the invading force of Assyria that all of these nations fear in the short term. It will be the subsequent power of the Babylonian empire that will be prominent down the road. Ultimately, the Day of the Lord will bring its own fearsome and cataclysmic judgments before the dawning of the Millennial Kingdom.

We need to remember some of the common themes that we have seen throughout this section of judgment against the nations (chapters 13-23):

– God is in control of the destinies of all nations – not just concerned with His covenant people Israel – so we know that God is in control of the details of our lives – to say nothing of the turmoil that we see in the warring nations in our day

– What God has planned, He will faithfully carry out in accordance with His timetable; so whether it looks like He is actively working or not, we can be assured that He is accomplishing His gameplan

– There will be both near term impacts in terms of judgment and long term related to the Day of the Lord [and as we saw last week and will be true also in this passage – intermediate impact as well]

– These messages serve as a warning to the pagan nations that they are accountable to the God of Israel, and as an encouragement to God’s people that their enemies will be judged

– God does offer a Light to the Gentiles in terms of His mercy and His willingness to graft outsiders into the blessings of His protection and provision

– Main Point: It would be folly to trust in any of these other nations or their gods; You must trust in the Holy One of Israel alone, the Lord of Hosts

But then we need to ask ourselves, “What is distinctive about these two oracles? Why did God include them here? What do they contribute to this section on God’s judgment against the nations?” What we see here is a contrast in these two short oracles regarding how specific or how precise God makes His revelation of prophetic judgment. For Edom, God does not give any timetable – despite the desire of the inquirer to know How Long?? But for Arabia, the judgment will be swift and be carried out within one year’s time. Significance???

But whether the timeframe is indeterminate or of relatively short and defined duration (one year), the impact and certainty of judgment against the nations is the same. The issue is not one of duration. It is whether you will repent and return to the Lord and trust in Him alone. Certainly God’s people cannot trust in any of these faltering nations who will be defeated and reduced to refugee status themselves. Don’t think that God will ease off and take it easy on anybody.


In our system of justice, there is always hope of a stay of execution; we put people on death row, but they keep getting 3 squares a day for decades because we can’t pull the lever; or in some cases the governor issues a pardon; now there is a huge political movement to abolish the death penalty all together

Mankind always seeks a stay of execution – can you let me off the hook?


The Revelation of Silence (Dumah) Introduced

“The oracle concerning Edom.” Or Dumah

Probably not a place name here (we will find about the locality from the later designation of Seir) – change around one letter and move it from the front to the back of the word and instead of Edom, you have Dumah = Silence or Stillness – this is the type of silence associated with the dead in the Psalms

Brian Borgman: Silence that accompanies death:

– Ps. 94:17 “I would have been a goner, in the place of the dead” = place of deadly silence; “If the Lord had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence.”

– Ps. 115:17 “The dead do not praise the Lord nor do any who go down into silence” — sometimes silence can be eerie; not here the silence of peaceful communion with God; but devastation and destruction have settled and all is done;

W. Fitch: Perhaps it might be said that the very indefiniteness is the message.

God is not showing His whole hand here – He wants man to seek out His revelation – encourages the inquirer to come back time and again and continue to inquire – however, much we can get of God’s Word, we need to digest and act upon – but God is not obligated to share all of the details of His timeline – has no bearing on the certainty of fulfillment and the urgency laid upon us to respond now in repentance and faith

Chiastic structure

A1. The Incessant Inquiry from Edom (Seir)

“One keeps calling to me from Seir,”

Look at how this one from Edom keeps on calling continually – emphasis on the incessant nature of the inquiry – like kids who ask the same question over and over because they have not been satisfied

Martin: Seir is an alternate name for Edom because the mountains of Seir were given as a possession to Esau and his descendants (Josh. 24:4). The name Dumah may be a wordplay on “Edom” since Dumah means silence or stillness. . . More likely, however, Dumah is a transliteration of Udumu or Udumai, the Akkadian designation for Edom. . . It did not look like the situation would change soon.

Grogan: Seir is the rocky, mountainous area in Edom’s heartland – often employed as a symbol for Edom itself (Num 24:18 – speaking of conquest by the Messiah; Judg 5:4).

B1. Key Question Asked: How Much Longer?

“Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?”

Edomites apparently feel that the length of their judgment and darkness has already gone way too long.

Kids asking Dad, “Are we there yet?” What type of trials in our lives have led us to cry out to God, “How long??” health issues, financial hardships – when will I be delivered?

Sense of urgency in asking the question twice

At least the inquirer is asking the right person = Watchman appointed by God

Examine the “How Long” Psalms

B2. Key Question Answered: Uncertain Timeline — No Permanent Relief Until After the Day of the Lord

“The watchman says, ‘Morning comes but also night.’”

Message of Ecclesiastes – futility of life apart from connectivity to the Sovereign God who controls all

Yes, morning is coming (I am not telling you how soon); but don’t get too excited or anticipate it too much because after that there will be even more severe hardship; you are not going to escape into some type of nirvana

Oswalt: The guard’s answer is enigmatic at best and is capable of at least three interpretations. He may be saying that while morning is coming, another night will follow. Or he may be saying that morning for some will be night for others. Or yet again, he may be saying that while morning will come, it is still dark. Each of these positions has strong advocates and the grammar does not rule out any. In any case, the seer cannot predict unequivocal hope. He can see some hope, but there is also impending doom. His invitation for them to inquire again suggests the last interpretation: although morning is surely coming, it is still night and too early to tell what the day portends for them. This would fit an eighth-century date, when the near and far events were yet intermingled in the prophet’s vision.

[you could combine position #1 and #3 in some form and that is what I would favor]

A2. The Incessant Inquiry Encouraged – Seek Out God’s Revelation from God’s Watchman

“If you would inquire, inquire;”

“Come back again.”

Orient yourself towards repentance and seeking the Lord???

More likely just a simple double statement encouraging them to come back to the watchman at a later date and inquire again

Van Parunak: The oracle consists of a single enquiry uttered during the night. A long, sleepless night could indeed be described as a “burden of silence,” particularly when the only one around to talk, the watchman, doesn’t say much. . .

Here, the promised fall of Babylon will be followed by further times of difficulty. Each mighty empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision will bring its own round of oppression and deliverance, all under the Lord’s guidance. Cf. Zech 1:17. The morning is coming, but night will again follow, and then morning, and then night, cycle after cycle of trouble until the final great Day of the Lord arrives.

Beall: The watchman theme is continued, as Isaiah speaks briefly against Dumah, i.e., probably Edom (note, however, that Oswalt thinks that the reference to Dumah is to the city in northern Arabia known by that name, 300 miles SE of Jerusalem; this view is quite possible [p. 398]–as Oswalt explains, Dumah’s fate would be of great interest to Edom [Seir] because if it fell, their eastern trade connections would be terminated).

Motyer: God’s program is carried forward not only in great dramatic acts (9) but also in long tracts of time when nothing seems to be happening. Isaiah imposed on his enquirer the bitterest medicine of all, the discipline of sticking it out.


(:17a) The Oracle about Arabia Introduced

“The oracle about Arabia.”

Matthew Henry: Arabia was a large country, that lay eastward and southward of the land of Canaan; much of it was possessed by the posterity of Abraham. The Dedanim here mentioned, (v.13) descended from Dedan, Abraham’s son by Keturah; the inhabitants of Tema and Kedar descended from Ishmael, Gen. xxv. 3, 13, 15. The Arabians generally lived in tents, and kept cattle, were a hardy people, inured to labour; probably the Jews depended upon them as a sort of a wall between them and the more warlike eastern nations; and therefore, to alarm them, they shall hear the burden of Arabia, and see it sinking under its own burden.

A. (:13b-15) The Plight of the Fleeing Refugees

1. (:13b) Caravans of Dedanites Seeking/Providing? Temporary Shelter

“In the thickets of Arabia you must spend the night, O caravans of Dedanites.”

W. Fitch: Dedanites = travelling merchants. The dislocations caused by war and the insecurity which follows to distant places are seen oppressing them. At the time of the Assyrian attacks the merchants have to leave the normal trading routes and lodge in the forests.

Oswalt: Translators are divided as to whether the parallelism dictates that the caravans of Dedan, like the inhabitants of Tema, are to care for the needy, or whether the caravans are the needy to whom the people of Tema bring both food and water . . . this indefiniteness is entirely in keeping with the general lack of specificity in the chapter as a whole.

2. (:14) Inhabitants of Tema Providing Basic Provisions – Water and Bread

“Bring water for the thirsty, O inhabitants of the land of Tema,”

“Meet the fugitive with bread.”

Grogan: Dumah, Tema, and Kedar all occur in Genesis 25:13-16, in the list of Ishmael’s descendents.

Martin: The Dedanites (21:13) were a tribe from southern Arabia. Tema (v.14; cf. Job 6:19; Jer. 25:23) was a well-known oasis in northwestern Arabia, and Kedar (Isa. 21:16-17; cf. 42:11) was in northern Arabia.

3. (:15) Fleeing Refugees Decimated by Battle

“For they have fled from the swords, From the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, And from the press of battle.”

Terrible weapons have been unleashed against these people; they have fled from the unrelenting battle that has decimated their numbers

B. (:16-17a) The Purging of the Fleeing Refugees

“For thus the Lord said to me,”

1. Precise Timeframe for Defeat

“In a year, as a hired man would count it, all the splendor of Kedar will terminate;”

cf. workers who punch a clock; very precise timing of their labor; they are ready to punch out at the appointed hour

how quickly God is able to blow away the glory of man:

Is. 40:8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.”

James 1:10-11 “like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away.”

James 4:14 “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”

Job 14:1-2 “Man, who is born of woman, is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers.”

Ps. 37:1-3 “Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good.”

By contrast, the person of God and the Word of God endures forever

2. Pitiful Remnant Left Standing

“and the remainder of the number of bowmen, the mighty men of the sons of Kedar, will be few;”

(:17b) The Oracle About Arabia Authenticated

“for the LORD God of Israel has spoken.”

Oswalt: The audacity of such a statement is lost on us today. What does Israel’s God have to do with Babylon or Edom or Arabia? They have their own gods to whom their destiny is committed. Yet the Israelite prophet dares to say that it is his God alone who holds the nations in his hand.

Constable: The preceding oracle promised prolonged recurring trouble for Edom, but this one warns that the Arabians would suffer defeat soon. . . The place that refugees from advancing Gentile armies would seek security, Arabia, would soon prove insecure. Israel should not trust in this neighbor but in her Lord.

Martin: In 715 Sargon II wrote that he had defeated a number of Arabian tribes and had them deported to Samaria.

Van Parunak: The other burdens concern the outer arc of the fertile crescent (Babylon, Damascus, Egypt, Jerusalem, Tyre, Philistia), or countries along the inner edge (Moab, Edom). Arabia covers everything in the middle. Their remoteness cannot protect them from the coming judgment. When God’s wrath falls, there is nowhere to hide.

Beall: This prophecy probably refers to 715 B.C., when Sargon defeated a number of Arabian tribes. Though v. 13 refers to a forest, there are not any forests in Arabia. Probably the idea is that the caravans must go far off the beaten path, in order not to be seen, because the enemy is about. Dedan is probably modern al-Ula, 90 miles SW of Tema (which, in turn is 200 miles SW of Dumah). Tema is an oasis where Nabonidus set up his capital during his self-imposed exile from Babylon (549-539 B.C.). vv. 14-15 seem to indicate that Tema will be giving aid to those fleeing the enemy (Sargon?) attacking from the north. According to vv. 16-17, the Lord has told Isaiah that within a year (“figured as precisely as an indentured servant would calculate his time of service” [Oswalt, p. 402]) the glory of Kedar (a region in the NW portion of the Arabian desert, containing the cities mentioned above) will be no more (the glory, v. 16] will have fallen under the weight [v. 15] of the battle; note too the paronomasia of the end of v. 16 [“and all the glory will fail”]). As both Oswalt and Young note, in v. 17 there is a long genitive construction describing the military leaders of Kedar, but it is abruptly halted by a single word: “they will be few.” God himself has declared this judgment upon Arabia.


Deut. 29:29 “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

The goal is not knowledge of the ways of God … but obedience

There needs to be a sense of urgency in seeking His wisdom and acting on it – regardless of whether His prophetic timeline is revealed in detail or just in generalities.