New American Bible (Revised Edition)
Fall of Babylon[a]
1 Oracle on the wastelands by the sea:[b]
Like whirlwinds sweeping through the Negeb,
it comes from the desert,
from the fearful land.(A)
2 A harsh vision has been announced to me:
“The traitor betrays,
the despoiler spoils.(B)
Go up, O Elam; besiege, O Media;[c]
put an end to all its groaning!”(C)
3 Therefore my loins are filled with anguish,
pangs have seized me like those of a woman in labor;
I am too bewildered to hear,
too dismayed to look.(D)
4 My mind reels,
shuddering assails me;
The twilight I yearned for
he has turned into dread.(E)
5 They set the table,
spread out the rugs;
they eat, they drink.[d](F)
Rise up, O princes,
oil the shield!
6 For thus my Lord said to me:
Go, station a watchman,
let him tell what he sees.
7 If he sees a chariot,
a pair of horses,
Someone riding a donkey,
someone riding a camel,
Then let him pay heed,
very close heed.
8 Then the watchman cried,
“On the watchtower, my Lord,
I stand constantly by day;
And I stay at my post
through all the watches of the night.(G)
9 Here he comes—
a single chariot,
a pair of horses—
He calls out and says,
‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon!
All the images of her gods
are smashed to the ground!’”(H)
10 To you, who have been threshed,
beaten on my threshing floor,
What I have heard
from the Lord of hosts,
The God of Israel,
I have announced to you.(I)
11 Oracle on Dumah:[e]
They call to me from Seir,
“Watchman, how much longer the night?
Watchman, how much longer the night?”
12 The watchman replies,
“Morning has come, and again night.
If you will ask, ask; come back again.”
In the Steppe
13 Oracle: in the steppe:[f]
In the thicket in the steppe you will spend the night,
caravans of Dedanites.
14 Meet the thirsty, bring them water,
inhabitants of the land of Tema,
greet the fugitives with bread.(J)
15 For they have fled from the sword,
from the drawn sword;
From the taut bow,
from the thick of battle.
16 For thus the Lord has said to me: In another year, like the years of a hired laborer,[g] all the glory of Kedar shall come to an end. 17 Few of Kedar’s stalwart archers shall remain, for the Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.
- 21:1–10 This oracle against Babylon is probably to be dated to the period just before the fall of Babylon to the Persians in 539 B.C. (v. 9).
- 21:1 Wastelands by the sea: Babylonia. Negeb: the wilderness south of Judah.
- 21:2 Elam…Media: nations which, under the leadership of Cyrus, captured Babylon in 539 B.C. End to all its groaning: those who were captive of Babylon will be freed.
- 21:5 Babylon is destroyed while its leaders are feasting; cf. Dn 5. Oil the shield: shields were oiled and greased so as to divert blows more easily; cf. 2 Sm 1:21.
- 21:11–12 Dumah: an oasis in north Arabia (cf. Gn 25:14 and 1 Chr 1:30), may be identified with the north Arabian Adummatu mentioned in Assyrian records of Sennacherib’s campaign against north Arabia. Seir: a site in Edom. The Edomites ask the prophet how much longer they must suffer (“the night” of suffering); he answers ambiguously: “Liberation (“morning”) and further suffering (“night”),” but perhaps they will later receive a more encouraging answer (“ask; come back again”).
- 21:13–14 In the steppe: the north Arabian steppe where the oases referred to were located. Dedanites: a north Arabian tribe associated with the oasis of Tema; cf. Gn 10:7; 25:3; Jer 25:23.
- 21:16 Year…of a hired laborer: see note on 16:13–14. Kedar: a nomadic tribe in Arabia; cf. 42:11; 60:7; Ps 120:5.