(1) The burden of the desert of the sea . . .--The title of the prophecy is obviously taken from the catch-word of "the desert" that follows. The "sea" has been explained (1) as the Euphrates, just as in Isaiah 18:2; Isaiah 19:5, it appears as used of the Nile (Cheyne). (2) As pointing to the surging flood of the mingled myriads of its population. (3) Xenophon's description of the whole plain of the Euphrates, intersected by marshes and lakes, as looking like a sea affords, perhaps, a better explanation.
As whirlwinds in the south . . .--The "South" (or Negeb) is here, as elsewhere, the special name of the country lying south of Judah. The tempests of the region seem to have been proverbial (Zechariah 9:14; Jeremiah 4:11; Jeremiah 13:24; Hosea 13:15).
So it cometh.--The absence of a subject to the verb gives the opening words a terrible vagueness. Something is coming "from the wilderness, a terrible land," beyond it. The "wilderness" in this case is clearly the Arabian desert, through part of which the Euphrates flows. The context determines the "terrible land" as that of Elam and Media.
"the burden of the armies, which come from the wilderness, as the waters of the sea;''
understanding it not of Babylon, but of its enemies and invaders, as follows:
as whirlwinds in the south pass through; and nothing can hinder them, such is their force and power; they bear all before them, come suddenly, blow strongly, and there is no resisting them; see Zechariah 9:14,
so it cometh from the desert; or "he", that is, Cyrus; or "it", the army under him, would come with like irresistible force and power as the southern whirlwinds do, which come from a desert country; at least that part of it in which their soldiers were trained up, and which in their march to Babylon must come through the desert, that lay, as before observed, between that and their country, and through which Cyrus did pass (m):
from a terrible land; a land of serpents and scorpions, as Jarchi; or a land afar off, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; whose power and usage, or customs, were not known, and so dreaded, as the Medes and Persians were by Nitocris queen of Babylon, who took care to preserve her people, and prevent their falling into their hands. The Targum is,
"from a land in which terrible things are done.''
(l) Apud Euseb. Prepar. Evangel. l. 9. c. 41. (m) Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 5. c. 5, 6.