Isaiah is given a vision of a frightening event. It comes roaring at him like a sandstorm blowing across the Negev. The vision is harsh and violent, but very real. The prophet describes this vision and the others like it as “burdens,” for it is hard to bear such bad news. This particular vision is given to the “sea of Wilderness” or Babylon; it is the second prophecy predicting Babylon’s punishment (chapters 13–14). He addresses a series of burdensome messages to other cities, nations, and peoples. What is common to all of these prophecies is that God is angry with these nations for the harsh way they treat His covenant people, and He will not just let it go. So God has decided to punish them, and He warns his prophet ahead of time what is about to happen. This message is welcome news to the Judeans who suffered beneath the cruel tyranny of these foreign powers. On the one hand, God used Judah’s enemies to accomplish His purpose. On the other, they have overstepped the limit.
21 A message about the Sea of Wilderness (Babylon):
From the desert, from a frightening land it comes
like a raging tempest, a sandstorm in the Negev.
2 A vision most harsh came to me:
The deceiver deceives,
and the abuser abuses.
Get up and go, Elam;
and Media, cut off supplies!
All groaning will cease; I’ve put an end to the sounds of misery.
3 My stomach sinks. My gut churns with pain.
As a woman in labor wrenches and writhes, I can hardly bear the news.
I cannot hear because I’m bent over with agony.
I cannot see because I’m deep in the fog of depression.
4 My heart skips a beat; my mind is buzzing, terribly unsettled.
Horror and trembling rattle the serenity of the evening I longed for.
5 Meanwhile, the ones who are in charge
are spreading out a feast, eating and drinking just like normal.
I want to say to them:
“Get up, officers.
Oil your shields, and be prepared!”
6 Because the Eternal has told me,
Eternal One: Get someone to keep an eye on things.
Have him report whatever he sees.
7 Tell him to watch closely for riders on teams of horses, donkeys, and camels.
If he sees them, put him on full alert.
8 Sentinel: I stand guard at the watchtower, Lord, day after day.
I never leave my post during the night.
9 Look! They’re coming just as you said: a chariot driver and a team of horses.
The driver tells me “Babylon is fallen!
Our oppressor has fallen and all their idols,
worthless imposters of the one True God, are shattered on the ground.”
10 O, my people, who have been threshed and winnowed like wheat,
I am telling you what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, Israel’s God, said.
11 A message about Duma:
Someone is calling me from Seir.
Edomite (to a sentinel): How much remains of this night?
How long until morning?
12 Sentinel: Morning is coming, you can be sure of it.
But night will quickly follow.
If you want to know, then check back later.
13 A message about Arabia:
Spend the night in the forests of Arabia, off the beaten path,
O caravans from Dedan.
14 Hey, people of Tema, bring them supplies,
water for the thirsty and food for the refugees.
15 They’re on the run, refugees tired of war,
trying to escape the edge of the sword, the bent bow,
And the imminent threat of battle.
Eternal One (to Isaiah): 16 Within a year—as a hired hand might count it—Kedar will be finished. All that made it so impressive will crumble. 17 As for its archers and mighty warriors, they will all but disappear.
It will happen because the Eternal, the God of Israel, said so.