Isaiah 21:4
My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure has he turned into fear to me.
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(4) The night of my pleasure . . .—The words point to the prophet’s longing for the darkness of night, either as a time of rest from his labour, or, more probably, for contemplation and prayer (Psalm 119:148), and to the invasion of that rest by the vision of terror. The suggestion that the prophet speaks as identifying himself with the Babylonians, and refers to the capture of their city during a night of revelry (Daniel 5:1; Daniel 5:30; Herod., i. 121; Xenoph. Cyrop., vii. 23), is hardly tenable.

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.My heart panted - Margin, 'My mind wandered.' The Hebrew word rendered 'panted' (תעה tâ‛âh) means to wander about; to stagger; to be giddy; and is applied often to one that staggers by being intoxicated. Applied to the heart, it means that it is disquieted or troubled. The Hebrew word "heart" here is to be taken in the sense of "mind."

The night of my pleasure - There can be no doubt that the prophet here refers to the night of revelry and riot in which Babylon was taken. The prophet calls it the night of "his" pleasure, because he represents himself as being "in" Babylon when it should be taken, and, therefore, uses such language as an inhabitant of Babylon would use. "They" would call it the night of their pleasure, because it was set apart to feasting and revelry.

Hath he turned into fear - God has made it a night of consternation and alarm. The prophet here refers to the fact that Babylon would be taken by Cyrus during that night, and that consternation and alarm would suddenly pervade the affrighted and guilty city (see Daniel 5).

4. panted—"is bewildered" [Barnes].

night of my pleasure—The prophet supposes himself one of the banqueters at Belshazzar's feast, on the night that Babylon was about to be taken by surprise; hence his expression, "my pleasure" (Isa 14:11; Jer 51:39; Da 5:1-31).

The night of my pleasure; the night, in which I used to have a sweet repose and sleep. He seems to have had this vision in a night. But withal this horror of the prophet by night was typical, and did signify that grievous horror and destruction which should befall the Babylonians in a night of great feasting and jollity, as it did, Daniel 5:1,30.

Hath he, God, who showed him that vision,

turned into fear unto me; into a time and matter of fear. My heart panted,.... Fluttered about, and could hardly keep its place: or, "my mind wandered" (r); like a person in distraction and confusion, that knew not what to think say or do:

fearfulness affrighted me; the terror of Cyrus's army seized him, of its irruption into the city, and of his being destroyed by it; the writing on the wall threw him into a panic, and the news of the Medes and Persians being entered the city increased it:

the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me; in which he promised himself so much pleasure, at a feast he had made for his princes, wives, and concubines; either in honour of his god, as some think (s), being an annual one; or, as Josephus ben Gorion (t) says, on account of the victory he had obtained over the Medes and Persians; and so was quite secure, and never in the least thought of destruction being at hand; but in the midst of all his revelling, mirth, and jollity, the city was surprised and taken, and he slain, Daniel 5:1. So mystical Babylon, in the midst of her prosperity, while she is saying that she sits a queen, and knows no sorrow, her judgment and plagues shall come upon her, Revelation 18:7.

(r) "erravit cor meum", Montanus; "errat animus meus", Junius & Tremellius; "errat cor meum", Piscator. (s) Vid. Herodot. l. 1. c. 191. Xenophon. l. 7. c. 23. (t) L. 1. c. 5. p. 24. Ed. Braithaupt.

My heart panted, fearfulness terrified me: the night {g} of my pleasure hath he turned into fear to me.

(g) He prophecies the death of Belshazzar as in Dan 5:30 who in the midst of his pleasures was destroyed.

4. My heart panted] lit. strayeth; as we should say “my reason reels.” “Heart,” as often, is used of the intellect. fearfulness] R.V. horror.

the night of my pleasure] i.e. “my pleasant evening hours,” favourable for visionary communications and therefore dear to a prophet. (Job 4:13).

hath he turned] Better: “is turned”; or “it (the vision) turns.”

fear] trembling (as R.V.).Verse 4. - My heart panted; rather, my heart trembleth, or fluttereth. The night of my pleasure; i.e. "the night, wherein, I am wont to enjoy peaceful and pleasant slumbers." It is not till Isaiah has carried out the divine instructions, that he learns the reason for this command to strip himself, and the length of time that he is to continue so stripped. "And Jehovah said, As my servant Yesha'yahu goeth naked and barefooted, a sign and type for three years long over Egypt and over Ethiopia, so will the king of Asshur carry away the prisoners of Egypt and the exiles of Ethiopia, children and old men, naked and barefooted, and with their seat uncovered - a shame to Egypt." The expression "as he goeth" (ca'asher hâlac) stands here at the commencement of the symbolical action, but it is introduced as if with a retrospective glance at its duration for three years, unless indeed the preterite hâlac stands here, as it frequently does, to express what has already commenced, and is still continuing and customary (compare, for example, Job 1:4 and Psalm 1:1). The strange and unseemly dress of the prophet, whenever he appeared in his official capacity for three whole years, was a prediction of the fall of the Egypto-Ethiopian kingdom, which was to take place at the end of these three years. Egypt and Ethiopia are as closely connected here as Israel and Judah in Isaiah 11:12. They were at that time one kingdom, so that the shame of Egypt was the shame of Ethiopia also. ‛Ervâh is a shameful nakedness, and ‛ervath Mitzrayim is in apposition to all that precedes it in Isaiah 20:4. Shēth is the seat or hinder part, as in 2 Samuel 10:4, from shâthâh, to set or seat; it is a substantive form, like בּן, עץ, רע, שׁם, with the third radical letter dropt. Chashūphay has the same ay as the words in Isaiah 19:9; Judges 5:15; Jeremiah 22:14, which can hardly be regarded as constructive forms, as Ewald, Knobel, and Gesenius suppose (although ־י of the construct has arisen from ־י), but rather as a singular form with a collective signification. The emendations suggested, viz., chasūphē by Olshausen, and chasūphı̄ with a connecting i by Meier, are quite unnecessary.
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