Isaiah 21

Chapter 21

The Defeat of Babylon[a]

1 An oracle concerning the wilderness of the sea:

Like whirlwinds sweeping over the Negeb,[b]
there comes from the desert,
from a land that inspires terror,
2 a harsh vision that is shown to me:
the traitor betrays
and the despoiler despoils.
Go forth, O Elam;[c]
lay siege, O Media.
I will bring to an end
all the pain she has inflicted.
3 Therefore, my loins are filled with anguish;
pangs have seized me
like those of a woman in labor.
I am so distraught that I cannot hear;
I am too frightened even to look.
4 My mind reels,
and I am overcome with dread;
the twilight I yearned for
has become horrifying to me.
5 They set the table;
they spread out the rugs;
they eat and they drink.
Rise up, O princes;
oil your shields.
6 For this is what the Lord has said to me:
Go forth and post a lookout;
let him report what he sees.
7 If he should see cavalry,
horsemen riding in pairs,
men mounted on donkeys,
men mounted on camels,
instruct him to watch closely
and to listen diligently.
8 Then the lookout shouted,
“I stand on the watchtower, O Lord,
all day long,
and I remain stationed at my post
throughout the night.
9 Behold, here come the cavalry now,
horsemen riding in pairs.”
Then the Lord responded:
Fallen, fallen is Babylon,
and all the images of her gods
have been smashed to the ground.
10 O my people,
you who have been trodden
upon the threshing floor,
what I have heard from the Lord of hosts,
from the God of Israel,
I have proclaimed to you.


11 An oracle concerning Edom:

Someone is calling to me from Seir,
“Watchman, when will the night end?
Watchman, when will it end?”
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning will come, and so will the night.
If you wish to ask, do so;
come back again.”


13 An oracle concerning Arabia:

In the thickets of the desert you will encamp,
you caravans of Dedanites.
14 Bring water to the thirsty
and greet the fugitives with bread,
you inhabitants of the land of Tema.[d]
15 For they have fled from the sword,
from the sharp edge of the drawn sword,
from the bent bow,
and from the stress of battles.

16 For these are the words spoken to me by the Lord: Within a year, as a hired worker reckons time, all the glory of Kedar[e] will come to an end. 17 Hardly any of Kedar’s valiant warriors will be left, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.


  1. Isaiah 21:1 Proud Babylon has fallen. The reference is either to 710 B.C., when Babylon was attacked by the Assyrian, Sargon, who put down the rebellion of Merodach-baladan (see 2 Ki 20:10; Jer 39:1-8), or to its fall in 539 B.C. under the attack of Cyrus. Tradition has it that the city was taken by the allied Medes and Persians during the night, while the ruler and his men were feasting in the assurance that the walls were impregnable (v. 5; see Dan 5).
  2. Isaiah 21:1 The desert: the plain of Babylonia. The Negeb: the vast southern wilderness of Palestine.
  3. Isaiah 21:2 Elam: an ancient people dwelling in the area from which the Persians would come. For the Medes, see 13:17.
  4. Isaiah 21:14 Tema: an oasis in the northeastern Arabian peninsula.
  5. Isaiah 21:16 Kedar: a powerful tribe in southern Arabia.

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