Isaiah 21:14
The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled.
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(14) The inhabitants of . . . Tema . . .—Another element of suffering comes into the picture. The Dedanites, driven out of their usual route into the desert, find their provisions fail them, and the men of Tema, fearing to invite them to their tents, lest they too should be smitten by the invader, are compelled to take out bread and water stealthily. The name of Tema (now Taima), is found on the pilgrim route from Damascus to Mecca, and again on that between Palmyra and Petra, on the east of the Haurân mountains.

They prevented with their breadi.e., they went out to welcome him (the fugitive), without waiting till he came as a suppliant. Their very hospitality, in strange contrast with Arab usage, had to be practised in secret.

Isaiah 21:14-15. The inhabitants of the land of Tema — Another part of Arabia, (of which see Job 6:19; Jeremiah 25:23,) namely, the posterity of Tema, Ishmael’s son; brought water to him that was thirsty — To the Dedanites, who are here represented as being reduced to great straits, being forced to flee from the enemy without any provision for their subsistence. They prevented with bread him that fled — That is, that fled for his life from the sword of the enemy, as is more fully expressed in the next verse. “To bring forth bread and water, in such cases of distress, is an instance of common humanity; especially in these desert countries, in which the common necessaries of life, more particularly water, are not easily met with, or procured.” See Deuteronomy 23:4.21:13-17 The Arabians lived in tents, and kept cattle. A destroying army shall be brought upon them, and make them an easy prey. We know not what straits we may be brought into before we die. Those may know the want of necessary food who now eat bread to the full. Neither the skill of archers, nor the courage of mighty men, can protect from the judgments of God. That is poor glory, which will thus quickly come to nothing. Thus hath the Lord said to me; and no word of his shall fall to the ground. We may be sure the Strength of Israel will not lie. Happy are those only whose riches and glory are out of the reach of invaders; all other prosperity will speedily pass away.Of the land of Tema - Tema was one of the sons of Ishmael Genesis 25:15, and is supposed to have populated the city of Thema in Arabia Deserta. The word denotes hero one of the tribes of Ishmael, or of the Arabians. Job speaks Job 6:19 of 'the troops of Tema,' and Jeremiah Jer 25:23 connects Tema and Dedan together. Jerome and Eusebius say that the village of Theman (Θαιμάν Thaiman) existed in their time. It was, according to Jerome, five, and according to Eusebius, fifteen miles from Petra, and was then occupied as a Roman garrison (Onomas Urb. et Locor). Ptolemy speaks of a city called Themme (Θαιμάν Themmē) in Arabia Deserta. This city lies, according to D'Anville, in longitude 57 degrees East, and in latitude 27 degrees North. According to Seetsen, it is on the road usually pursued by caravans from Mecca to Damascus. Lowth renders it 'The southern country,' but without authority. The Septuagint renders it, Θαιμάν Thaiman - 'Thaiman.'

Brought water - Margin, 'Bring ye.' This might be rendered in the imperative, but the connection seems rather to require that it be read as a declaration that they did so. To bring water to the thirsty was an act of hospitality, and especially in eastern countries, where water was so scarce, and where it was of so much consequence to the traveler in the burning sands and deserts. The idea is, that the inhabitants of the land would be oppressed and pursued by an enemy; and that the Arabians, referred to by the prophet Isaiah 21:13, would be driven from their homes; and be dependent on others; that they would wander through the vast deserts, deprived of the necessaries of life; and that they would be dependent on the charity of the people of Tema for the supply of their needs. The following illustration of this passage has been kindly furnished me by the Rev. Eli Smith, missionary to Syria, showing that Isaiah, in mentioning "hospitality" as one of the virtues of the inhabitants of Tema, drew from the life. 'Even in Hebrew prophecy hospitality is distinctly recognized as a trait in the Arab character. Isaiah says, "the inhabitants of Tema," etc. Tema is known as an oasis in the heart of Arabia, between Syria and Mecca. And among the scraps of ante-Mahometan poetry that have reached us, is one by Samaciel, a prince of this same Tema. In extolling the virtues of his tribe he says -

"No fire of ours was ever extinguished at night without a guest, and of our guests never did one disparage us."

'In the passage quoted from Isaiah, it is to the thirsty and hungry in flight, that the inhabitants of Tema are represented as bringing water and bread, as if hastening to afford them protection. The extent to which this protection is sometimes carried, is finely illustrated by a traditionary anecdote in the life of Samaciel, the prince and poet of Tema just mentioned. In some feud among the tribes in his neighborhood, a prince (Amru el-Keis) fled to Samaciel, left with him his treasures, and was conducted by him beyond the reach of his enemies. They assembled their forces, and marched upon Tema. On their way Samaciel's son fell into their hands. Presenting the young man before his castle, they proposed to the father the dreadful alternative, of delivering up to them what his guest had left, or seeing his son massacred. Samaciel's sense of honor dictated the reply -

"He honored me, and I'll honor him ... Treachery is a chain to the neck that never wears out." So he defended the rights of his guest, and his son was slain.'

They prevented - Our word 'prevent' usually means at present, to hinder, to obstruct. But in the Scriptures, and in the Old English sense of the word, it means to anticipate, to go before. That is the sense of the word קדמוּ qidemû here. They "anticipated" their needs by bread; that is, they supplied them. This was an ancient and an honorable rite of hospitality. Thus Melchizedek Genesis 14:17-18 is said to have come out and met Abraham, when returning victorious from the slaughter of Chedorlaomer, with bread and wine.

Him that fled - The inhabitant of the land of Arabia that fled before the invader, perhaps the inhabitants of Kedar Isaiah 21:16, or of some other part of Arabia. It is not meant that the "whole" land of Arabia would be desolate, but that the invasion would come upon certain parts of it; and the inhabitants of other portions - as of Tema - would supply the needs of the fugitives.

14. Tema—a kindred tribe: an oasis in that region (Jer 25:23). The Temeans give water to the faint and thirsting Dedanites; the greatest act of hospitality in the burning lands of the East, where water is so scarce.

prevented—that is, anticipated the wants of the fugitive Dedanites by supplying bread (Ge 14:18).

their bread—rather, "his (the fugitive's) bread"; the bread due to him, necessary for his support; so "thy grave" (Isa 14:19), [Maurer].

Tema; a part of Arabia; of which see Job 6:19 Jeremiah 25:23.

They prevented with their bread him that fled; whereby he implies that those other Arabians, against whom this prophecy is principally directed, should be reduced to great scarcity of all necessary provisions, and forced to flee for their lives from a bloody enemy, as is more fully expressed in the next verse. The inhabitants of the land of Tema,.... This country had its name from Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael, Genesis 25:15. The Targum calls it the land of the south, as if it was Teman. These people were Arabians, and are here said to assist their countrymen, the Dedanites, in distress:

brought water to him that was thirsty; as travellers are wont to be, especially in a desert land, and when fleeing from an enemy; in which circumstances the travelling companies of Dedanim now were:

they prevented with their bread him that fled; gave it to him, being hungry and necessitous, without asking for it. Now all this seems to show what calamities should come upon the inhabitants of some parts of Arabia; that they should lodge in a forest, be hungry and thirsty, and flee before their enemy, as follows.

The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought {s} water to him that was thirsty, they met with their bread him that fled.

(s) Signifying that for fear they will not tarry to eat or drink.

14. The caravans are reduced to the direst straits through having to shun the stations on the regular route where alone their stock of food and water could be replenished. The prophet calls on the inhabitants of Tema to supply their necessities. The verse should be rendered: To the thirsty bring water, O ye inhabitants of the land of Tema, meet the fugitive with bread (suitable) for him. (See R.V. marg.)

Tema (Genesis 25:14; Job 6:19) is the modern Teima in the northern highlands of Arabia, east of the great pilgrim route from Damascus to Mecca. In O.T. times it was the seat of an important commercial tribe, friendly therefore to the Dedanites.Verse 14. - The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water; rather, bring? water, O inhabitants. Tema is reasonably identified with the modern Taima, a village of the Hauran, on the caravan route between Palmyra and Peira. Its inhabitants are exhorted to bring water to the thirsty Dedanites, as they pass along this route with their "travelling companies." (For other mentions of Tome, which must not be confounded with Teman, see Job 6:19 and Jeremiah 25:23.) They prevented with their bread him that fled. Several commentators take this clause as imperative, like the last, and render, "With his bread meet the fugitive;" but the existing Hebrew text seems to require the rendering of the Authorized Version. Dr. Kay understands the prophet to mean that the men of Tema did not need exhortation; already of their own accord had they given of their bread to the fugitive Dedanites. At length the procession has vanished; he sees nothing and hears nothing, and is seized with impatience. "Then he cried with lion's voice, Upon the watch-tower, O Lord, I stand continually by day, and upon my watch I keep my stand all the nights." He loses all his patience, and growls as if he were a lion (compare Revelation 10:3), with the same dull, angry sound, the same long, deep breath out of full lungs, complaining to God that he has to stand so long at his post without seeing anything, except that inexplicable procession that has now vanished away.
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