Isaiah 21:2 MEANING

Isaiah 21:2
(2) A grievous vision . . .--The verse contains, as it were, the three tableaux that came in succession before the prophet's gaze: (1) The treacherous dealer, the Assyro-Chaldaean power, spoiling and oppressing, breaking treaties, and, as its kings boasted (Habakkuk 2:5; Records of the Past, vii. 42, 44), "removing landmarks." (2) The summons to Elam and Media to put an end to this tyranny. (3) The oppressed peoples ceasing to sigh, and rejoicing in their liberation.

Elam appears here as combined with Media, which is named in Isaiah 13:17 as the only destroyer of Babylon, and this has been urged as evidence of a later date. As a matter of fact, however, Sargon at this very time was carrying on a fierce war against Elam (Records of the Past, cvii. 41-49) as well as against Media (ibid, p. 37). In Ezekiel 32:24, Elam is numbered among the extinct nations, but the name, at all events, re-appears as applied to the Persians, though they were of a distinct race. It was, even as a mere forecast, perfectly natural that the two should be associated together as the future destroyers of the Nineveh and Babel empires, which to the prophet's eye were identical in character and policy. The advance described as "from the wilderness" implies a march of part at least of the Medo-Persian army down the Choaspes and into the lowland of Chuzistan, bordering on the great Arabian desert.

Verse 2. - A grievous vision; literally, a hard vision; not, however, "hard of interpretation" (Kay), but rather "hard to be borne," "grievous," "calamitous." The treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously; rather, perhaps, the robber robs (Knobel); or, the violent man uses violence (Rosenmüller). The idea of faithlessness passes out of the Hebrew boged occasionally, and is unsuitable here, more especially if it is the army of Cyrus that is intended. Go up, O Elam. The discovery that Cyrus, at the time of his conquest of Babylon, Bore the title of "King of Ansan," not "King of Persia," coupled with the probability that "Ansan" was a part of Elam, lends a peculiar interest to these words. Isaiah could not describe Cyrus as "King of Persia," and at the same time be intelligible to his contemporaries, since Persia was a country utterly unknown to them. In using the term "Elam" instead, he uses that of a country known to the Hebrews (Genesis 14:1), adjoining Persia, and, at the time of his expedition against Babylon, subject to Cyrus. Besiege, O Media. Having given "Elam" the first place, the prophet assigns to Media the second. Eleven years before he attacked Babylon, Cyrus had made war upon Astyages (Istuvegu), King of the Medes, had captured him, and become king of the nation, with scarcely any opposition (see the 'Cylinder of Nabonidus'). Hence the Medes would naturally form an important portion of the force which he led against Babylon. All the sighing thereof have I made to cease. The "sighing" caused by Babylon to the nations, to the captives, and to the kings whose prison-doors were kept closed (Isaiah 14:17), God has in his counsels determined to bring to an end.

21:1-10 Babylon was a flat country, abundantly watered. The destruction of Babylon, so often prophesied of by Isaiah, was typical of the destruction of the great foe of the New Testament church, foretold in the Revelation. To the poor oppressed captives it would be welcome news; to the proud oppressors it would be grievous. Let this check vain mirth and sensual pleasures, that we know not in what heaviness the mirth may end. Here is the alarm given to Babylon, when forced by Cyrus. An ass and a camel seem to be the symbols of the Medes and Persians. Babylon's idols shall be so far from protecting her, that they shall be broken down. True believers are the corn of God's floor; hypocrites are but as chaff and straw, with which the wheat is now mixed, but from which it shall be separated. The corn of God's floor must expect to be threshed by afflictions and persecutions. God's Israel of old was afflicted. Even then God owns it is his still. In all events concerning the church, past, present, and to come, we must look to God, who has power to do any thing for his church, and grace to do every thing that is for her good.A grievous vision is declared unto me,.... The prophet; meaning the vision of Babylon's destruction, which was "hard", as the word signifies, and might seem harsh and cruel; not to him, nor to the Jews, but to the Chaldeans:

the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth; that is, according to Jarchi, one treacherous dealer deals treacherously with another, and one spoiler spoils another; the Medes and Persians deal treacherously with and spoil the Babylonians, who had dealt treacherously with and spoiled other nations: and to this sense some read the words, "the treacherous dealer hath found a treacherous dealer, and the spoiler one that spoileth" (n): some take it to be a compellation of the Medes and Persians, calling upon them, under these characters, to go up and besiege Babylon, as, "O treacherous dealer, O spoiler" (o); though the words may be understood of the perfidy and treachery of the Babylonians, of which they had been frequently guilty, and which is given as a reason of their fall and ruin; or rather they suggest the treacherous means by which they should be ruined, even by some from among themselves; particularly, history (p) informs us, that Gobrias and Gadates, two noblemen of the king of Babylon, being used ill by him, revolted from him, and joined with Cyrus; and when the river Euphrates was drained, went at the head of his army in two parties, and guided them into the city, and took it; or rather Belshazzar king of Babylon himself is meant, who acted, and continued to act, most impiously and wickedly: and therefore,

go up, O Elam; or Elamites, as the Targum and Septuagint; see Acts 2:9 these were Persians, so called from Elam, a province in Persia; who are here called upon by the Lord of armies, through the mouth of the prophet, to go up to war against Babylon; and these are mentioned first, because Cyrus, who commanded the whole army, was a Persian: or if Elam is taken for a province, which was indeed subject to Babylon, of which Shushan was the capital city, Daniel 8:2 the governor of it, Abradates, revolted from the Babylonians, and joined Cyrus, and fought with him (q):

besiege, O Media; or, O ye Medes, join with the Persians in the siege of Babylon; as they did:

all the sighing thereof have I made to cease; either of the army of the Medes and Persians, who, by reason of long and tedious marches, frequent battles, and hard sieges, groaned and sighed; but now it would be over with them, when Babylon was taken; or of the Babylonians themselves, who would have no mercy shown them, nor have any time for sighing, being cut off suddenly, and in a moment; or rather of other people oppressed by them, and particularly the Lord's people the Jews, who had been in captivity for the space of seventy years, during which they had sighed and groaned, because of the hardships they endured; but now sighing would be at an end, and they should have deliverance, as they had, by Cyrus the Persian. The sighing is not that with which they sighed, but which they caused in others.

(n) "praevaricator prevaricatorem et vastator, vastatorem sub. inveniet"; so some in Vatablus; also Gataker. (o) "O perfide, perfidus; O vastator, vastator", De Dieu. (p) Xenophon. Cyropaedia, l. 4. c. 24. l. 5. c. 11. & l. 7. c. 23. (q) Ib. l. 6. sect. 7, 8, 9, 26. & l. 7. sect. 4, 8.

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