on Isaiah 21 :11
The burden of Dumah "The oracle concerning Dumah" - Pro דומה Dumah, Codex R. Meiri habet אדום Edom; and so the Septuagint, Vid. Kimchi ad h. 50. Biblia Michaelis, Halae, 1720, not. ad 50. See also De Rossi. Bishop Lowth translates the prophecy thus: -
11. The Oracle Concerning Dumah.
A voice crieth to me from Seir:
Watchman, what from the night?
Watchman, what from the night?
12. The watchman replieth: -
The morning cometh, and also the night.
If ye will inquire, inquire ye: come again.
This differs very little from our common Version. One of Kennicott's MSS., and one of my own, omit the repetition, "Watchman, what from the night?"
This prophecy, from the uncertainty of the occasion on which it was uttered, and from the brevity of the expression, is extremely obscure. The Edomites as well as the Jews were subdued by the Babylonians. They inquire of the prophet how long their subjection is to last: he intimates that the Jews should be delivered from their captivity; not so the Edomites. Thus far the interpretation seems to carry with it some degree of probability. What the meaning of the last line may be, I cannot pretend to divine. In this difficulty the Hebrew MSS. give no assistance. The MSS. of the Septuagint, and the fragments of the other Greek Versions, give some variations, but no light. This being the case, I thought it best to give an exact literal translation of the whole two verses, which may serve to enable the English reader to judge in some measure of the foundation of the various interpretations that have been given of them.
The burden of Dumah. - R. D. Kimchi says, "His father understood this of the destruction of Dumah (one of the cities of the Ishmaelites) by the inhabitants of Seir; and that they inquired of the prophet to know the particular time in which God had given them a commission against it. The prophet answered: The morning - the time of success to you, cometh, is just at hand; and the night - the time of utter destruction to the inhabitants of Dumah, is also ready." I have heard the words applied in the way of general exhortation.
1. Every minister of God is a watchman. He is continually watching for the safety and interests of his people, and looking for the counsel of God that he may be properly qualified to warn and to comfort.
2. Such are often called to denounce heavy judgments; they have the burden of the word of the Lord to denounce against the impenitent, the backslider, the lukewarm, and the careless.
3. When the watchman threatens judgments, some are awakened, and some mock: Watchman, what of the night? "What are the judgments thou threatenest, and when are they to take place?"
on Isaiah 21 :11
Analysis of Isaiah 21:11, Isaiah 21:12. - VISION 17. Dumah, or Idumea.
This prophecy is very obscure. It comprises but two verses. When it was delivered, or on what occasion, or what was its design, it is not easy to determine. Its brevity has contributed much to its obscurity; nor, amidst the variety of interpretations which have been proposed, is it possible to ascertain with entire certainty the true explanation. Perhaps no portion of the Scriptures, of equal length, has been subjected to a greater variety of exposition. It is not the design of these Notes to go at length into a detail of opinions which have been proposed, but to state as accurately as possible the sense of the prophet. Those who wish to see at length the opinions which have been entertained on this prophecy, will find them detailed in Vitringa and others.
The prophecy relates evidently to Idumea. It stands in connection with that immediately preceding respecting Babylon, and it is probable that it was delivered at that time. It has the appearance of being a reply by the prophet to language of "insult or taunting" from the Idumeans, and to have been spoken when calamities were coming rapidly on the Jews. But it is not certain that that was the time or the occasion. It is certain only that it is a prediction of calamity succeeding to prosperity - perhaps prosperity coming to the afflicted Hebrews in Babylon, and of calamity to the taunting Idumeans, who had exulted over their downfall and captivity, and who are represented as sneeringly inquiring of the prophet what was the prospect in regard to the Jews. This is substantially the view given by Vitringa, Rosenmuller, and Gesenius.
According to this interpretation, the scene is laid in the time of the Babylonlsh captivity. The prophet is represented as having been placed on a watch-tower long and anxiously looking for the issue. It is night; that is, it is a time of calamity, darkness, and distress. In this state of darkness and obscurity, someone is represented as calling to the prophet from Idumea, and tauntingly inquiring, what of the night, or what the prospect was. He asks, whether there was any prospect of deliverance; or whether these calamities were to continue, and perhaps whether Idumea was also to be involved in them with the suffering Jews. To this the prophet answers, that the morning began to dawn - that there was a prospect of deliverance. But he adds that calamity was also coming; calamity probably to the nation that made the inquiry - to the land of Idumea - "perhaps" calamity that should follow the deliverance of the Hebrew captives, who would thus be enabled to inflict vengeance on Edom, and to overwhelm it in punishment. The morning dawns, says the watchman; but there is darkness still beyond. Light is coming - but there is night also: light for us - darkness for you. This interpretation is strengthened by a remarkable coincidence in an independent source, and which I have not seen noticed, in the 137th Psalm. The irritated and excited feelings of the captive Jews against Edom; their indignation at the course which Edom pursued when Jerusalem was destroyed; and their desire of vengeance, are all there strongly depicted, and accord with this interpretation, which supposes the prophet to say that the glad morning of the deliverance of the "Jews" would be succeeded by a dark night to the taunting Idumean. The feelings of the captured and exiled Jews were expressed in the following language in Babylon Psalm 137:7 :
Remember, O Jehovah, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem;
Who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation.
That is, we desire vengeance on Idumea, who joined with our enemies when Jerusalem was destroyed; and when Jerusalem shall be again rebuilt, we pray that they may be remembered, and that punishment may be inflicted on them for exulting over our calamities. The watchman adds, that if the Idumean was disposed to inquire further, he could. The result could be easily ascertained. It was clear, and the watchman would be disposed to give the information. But he adds, 'return, come;' perhaps meaning, 'repent; then come and receive an answer;' denoting that if the Idumeans "wished" a favorable answer, they should repent of their treatment of the Jews in their calamities, and that "then" a condition of safety and prosperity would be promised them.
As there is considerable variety in the ancient versions of this prophecy, and as it is brief, they may be presented to advantage at a single view. The Vulgate does not differ materially from the Hebrew. The following are some of the other versions:
Septuagint: "The vision of Idumea." Unto me he called out of Seir, Guard the fortresses - Φυλάσσετε ἐπάλξεις phulassete epalcheis). I guard morning and night. If you inquire, inquire, and dwell with me. In the grove (δρυμῷ drumō) thou shalt lie down, and in the way of Dedan (Δαιδάn Daidan).
Chaldee: "The burden of the cup of malediction which is coming upon Duma." - He cries to me from heaven, O prophet, prophesy; O prophet, prophesy to them of what is to come. The prophet said, There is a reward to the just, and revenge to the unjust. If you will be converted, be converted while you can be converted.
Syriac: "The burden of Duma." The nightly watchman calls to me out of Seir. And the watchman said, The morning cometh and also the night. If ye will inquire, inquire, and then at length come.
Arabic: "A prophecy respecting Edom and Seir, the sons of Esau." Call me from Seir. Keep the towers. Guard thyself morning and evening. If you inquire, inquire.
It is evident, from this variety of translation, that the ancient interpreters felt that the prophecy was enigmatical and difficult. It is not easy, in a prophecy so brief, and where there is scarcely any clue to lead us to the historical facts, to give an interpretation that shall be entirely satisfactory and unobjectionable. Perhaps the view given above may be as little liable to objection as any one of the numerous interpretations which have been proposed.
on Isaiah 21 :11
21:11 Dumah - Of Edom or Idumea. He - The people of Dumah, one of them in the name and by the appointment of the rest. Me - To the watchman: the prophet delivers his prophecy in the form of a dialogue between the people and the watchman. Seir - Out of Edom, which is frequently called Seir. Watchman - The watchman of Edom, whom they had set as people use to do in times of great danger. Night - The people are supposed to come to him very early in the morning, to enquire what had happened in the night; which shews a state of great perplexity and fear. Night - The repetition of the words, shew the greatness of their solicitude.