Babylon has fallen
End of Babylon1This is a message about Babylon of the Desert. 2This is a frightening vision,
Hard to look at.
A traitor betrays.
A killer destroys.
Go on, Elam.
Go on, Media.
Go on and lay siege to Babylon.
Put an end to the misery Babylon causes.
3My body is trembling.
My stomach’s in knots.
I’m as terrified as a woman about to have a baby.
I can’t concentrate.
I can’t listen or focus on anything else.
4My head is spinning
I expected an enjoyable night.
But it’s a chilling night, instead.
5Soldiers spread a rug,
Setting up a spot to eat.
They eat and drink.
Officers, it’s time to oil your shields.
6The LORD told me:
“Go and station a guard in the tower.
Tell him to yell out whatever he sees.
7He’s going to see a cavalry coming,
Mounted animals walking in pairs.
Cavalry on donkeys.
Cavalry on camels.
Tell the guard to stay focused,
To keep his eye on what’s happening.”
8The guard spoke:
“Lord, I’ve been doing my job,
Standing guard on this tower.
I’ve been at it day and night,
One day after another.
9Look, I see a chariot coming
Pulled by a team of horses.”
Then he said,
“Babylon has fallen.
Their idols are crushed,
Broken to pieces, lying in the dirt.”
You’ve been cut and sifted like grain.
But everything I told you
Is from the LORD of all, The God of Israel.
A word about Edom11This is a message about Edom.
The guard says he’s getting a message
And it’s from Edom.
“Guard, how much longer until dawn?
Guard, please, how much longer?”
“Morning is coming soon.
Night will follow.
Thanks for asking.
Ask any time.”
Desert tribes in trouble13This is a message about Arabia.
You live in the brush of the badlands.
Caravans of the Dedanites,
People in Tema,
Bring food to hungry fugitives.
15They’re people on the run from warriors
With sharpened swords,
And bows raised and drawn. 16The Lord told me, “Before the year is over, all the pride and glory of Kedar will disappear. Set the date like it’s a contract with a hired worker. It’s going to happen. 17Kedar won’t have many archers left after that. This is coming from the LORD, God of Israel.
The title is a mystery. It’s more literally translated “Burden of the desert of the sea.” Huh? That’s pretty much the response. Some translate it “From the Desert.” The first part of the chapter is about the fall of Babylon (21:9), which was a small kingdom in Isaiah’s day. It was a city surrounded by deserts but was located on fertile land between two large rivers, the Euphrates about 10 miles (16 km) west and the Tigris, 35 miles (55 km) to the east. This was part of the Fertile Crescent, where civilization began in that part of the world.
The Negev is a mostly dry area in southwestern Israel. A lot of it is desert wasteland with some of it resembling the Badlands National Park in South Dakota.
This appears to be a prophecy about the fall of Babylon. In Isaiah’s day, Assyrians ran the Babylon king out of town and into exile in 710 BC and 703 BC. See the note for 21:2. A century and a half later, Persians and Medes and others from what are now Iran and parts of Iraq will sweep in from the deserts surrounding the riverside capital city of Babylon. Babylon surrendered without a fight in 539 BC to what scholars call the Achaemenid Empire. It’s more commonly known as the Persian Empire. The formal name comes from Achaemenes, a ruler in what is now southwestern Iran in the 600s BC.
Elam and Media were kingdoms in what is now northern Iran. They were allies with Babylon, fighting side by side with them in the 600s BC. But here, a century earlier, they may have helped Assyrians fight against Babylon and crush the attempt of Babylon and other coalition rebels to overthrow the Assyrian Empire. Babylon got a beat-down in 710 BC and 703 BC. In 710, Assyrians ran off the Babylonian king, Merodach-Baladin II. He came back and took the throne again for nine months in 703 BC and got run off again. He died in exile.
It’s unclear who is frightened. This could reflect Babylonians. But it could also represent the Israelite nation of Judah. There’s no telling what an angry Assyrian king might do after crushing a widespread revolt.
Some carried lightweight leather shields. Dry shields became brittle and were easier to pierce with an arrow. People put olive oil on their shields, much like baseball players oil their gloves with lanolin, Vaseline, saddle soap, or some other product to soften the leather.
The name in Hebrew is Dumah. Dumah, perhaps like Seir, is an alternate name for Edom. The ancient kingdom of Edom was south of the Dead Sea, in what is now the Arab country of Jordan. This was the homeland of Esau, brother of Jacob.
Scholars called this short message an obscure oracle. If the “night” represents enemy attacks and “dawn” represent peace, this could sound like a metaphorical prediction about the defeat of Edom. But reading it more than 2,500 years after the fact, some might have preferred a poem that makes more sense. This one is vexing enough that it might take a fiction writer to fix it. Not that it’s fictional, but that at the moment, it takes a creative guess to explain it.
This prophecy may point to Assyria’s defeat of Arabian tribes that joined Babylon and others in what became a failed revolt.
Nomadic desert tribes in northern Arabia.
The land of Tema is in what is now northern Saudi Arabia. It’s where one of Ishmael’s sons settled. Ishmael was Abraham’s first son.
Kedar was another nomadic tribe, descended from another son of Ishmael. They lived in the far north of Arabia. They traded with people of Edom and others east of the Jordan River and west of the Euphrates in Iraq.
- Sorry, there are currently no questions for this chapter.