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Isaiah 21:5-12

Context

21:5 Arrange the table,

lay out 1  the carpet,

eat and drink! 2 

Get up, you officers,

smear oil on the shields! 3 

21:6 For this is what the sovereign master 4  has told me:

“Go, post a guard!

He must report what he sees.

21:7 When he sees chariots,

teams of horses, 5 

riders on donkeys,

riders on camels,

he must be alert,

very alert.”

21:8 Then the guard 6  cries out:

“On the watchtower, O sovereign master, 7 

I stand all day long;

at my post

I am stationed every night.

21:9 Look what’s coming!

A charioteer,

a team of horses.” 8 

When questioned, he replies, 9 

“Babylon has fallen, fallen!

All the idols of her gods lie shattered on the ground!”

21:10 O my downtrodden people, crushed like stalks on the threshing floor, 10 

what I have heard

from the Lord who commands armies,

the God of Israel,

I have reported to you.

Bad News for Seir

21:11 Here is a message about Dumah: 11 

Someone calls to me from Seir, 12 

“Watchman, what is left of the night?

Watchman, what is left of the night?” 13 

21:12 The watchman replies,

“Morning is coming, but then night. 14 

If you want to ask, ask;

come back again.” 15 

1 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”).

2 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.

3 sn Smearing the shields with oil would make them more flexible and effective in battle. See J. N. Oswalt, Isaiah (NICOT), 1:394.

4 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here and in vv. 8, 16 is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay).

5 tn Or “a pair of horsemen.”

6 tn The Hebrew text has, “the lion,” but this makes little sense here. אַרְיֵה (’aryeh, “lion”) is probably a corruption of an original הָרֹאֶה (haroeh, “the one who sees”), i.e., the guard mentioned previously in v. 6.

7 tn The Hebrew term translated “sovereign master” here is אֲדֹנָי (’adonay). 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).

8 tn Or “[with] teams of horses,” or perhaps, “with a pair of horsemen.”

9 tn Heb “and he answered and said” (so KJV, ASV).

10 tn Heb “My trampled one, and the son of the threshing floor.”

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.

12 sn Seir is another name for Edom. See BDB 973 s.v. שֵׂעִיר.

13 sn The “night” probably here symbolizes distress and difficult times. See BDB 539 s.v. לַיְלָה.

14 sn Dumah will experience some relief, but it will be short-lived as night returns.

15 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.”



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