Isaiah 21:7
And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
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(7) A chariot with a couple of horsemen.—Better, a troop, a couple. Both asses and camels were employed in the Persian army (Herod., i. 80, iv. 129). They probably indicate, the former an Arab, the latter a Carmanian contingent. Both are named (11,173 asses, 5,230 camels) among the spoil taken by Sennacherib on the defeat of Merôdach-baladan (Bellino Tablet in Records of the Past, i. 26).

He hearkened diligently with much heed.—Literally, he listened sharply, listened sharply, with the iteration of intensity. What had met the watchman’s eye in his vision had passed by in silence, and had left him in doubt as to its meaning. Was it the symbol of a Babylonian army marching out against rebels, or of a rebel army on the way to attack Babylon? He listened, but no voice came out of the darkness to interpret the vision for him.

Isaiah 21:7. And he saw a chariot with two riders, &c. — “This passage,” says Bishop Lowth, “is extremely obscure from the ambiguity of the term רכב,” (here rendered chariot,) “which is used three times; and which signifies a chariot, or any other vehicle, or the rider in it; or a rider on a horse, or any other animal; or a company of chariots or riders. The prophet may possibly mean a cavalry in two parts, with two sorts of riders; riders on asses, or mules, and riders on camels: or led on by two riders, one on an ass, and one on a camel.” Or, as some think, the verse may be rendered, He saw a cavalcade, two file of horse, (צמד פרשׁים,) with ass-carriages, and carriages of camels; and he attended with very close attention. According to this translation, the meaning is, that the watchman saw the army of the Medes and Persians, with their usual cavalcade of horse, (attended by those beasts of burden, asses and camels, which accompanied armies,) moving toward Babylon; upon which he gave the greatest attention possible. Or, according to the common reading, Darius and Cyrus, leading the Medes and Persians, are intended to be distinguished by the two riders, or the two sorts of cattle. The baggage of Cyrus’s army, Herodotus tells us, was carried on camels.

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.And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen - This passage is very obscure from the ambiguity of the word רכב rekeb - 'chariot.' Gesenius contends that it should be rendered 'cavalry,' and that it refers to cavalry two abreast hastening to the destruction of the city. The word רכב rekeb denotes properly a chariot or wagon Judges 5:28; a collection of wagons 2 Chronicles 1:14; 2 Chronicles 8:6; 2 Chronicles 9:25; and sometimes refers to the "horses or men" attached to a chariot. 'David houghed all the chariots' 2 Samuel 8:4; that is, all the "horses" belonging to them. 'David killed of the Syrians seven hundred chariots' 2 Samuel 10:18; that is, all "the men" belonging to seven hundred chariots. According to the present Masoretic pointing, the word רכב rekeb does not mean, perhaps, anything else than a chariot strictly, but other forms of the word with the same letters denote "riders or cavalry." Thus, the word רכב rakâb denotes a horseman 2 Kings 9:17; a charioteer or driver of a chariot 1 Kings 22:34; Jeremiah 51:21. The verb רבב râbab means "to ride," and is usually applied to riding on the backs of horses or camels; and the sense here is, that the watchman saw "a riding," or persons riding two abreast; that is, "cavalry," or men borne on horses, and camels, and asses, and hastening to attack the city.

With a couple of horsemen - The word 'couple' (צמד tsemed) means properly a "yoke or pair;" and it means here that the cavalry was seen "in pairs, that is," two abreast.

A chariot of asses - Or rather, as above, "a riding" on donkeys - an approach of men in this manner to battle. Asses were formerly used in war where horses could not be procured. Thus Strabo (xv. 2, 14) says of the inhabitants of Caramania, 'Many use donkeys for war in the want of horses.' And Herodotus (iv. 129) says expressly that Darius Hystaspes employed donkeys in a battle with the Scythians.

And a chariot of camels - A "riding" on camels. Camels also were used in war, perhaps usually to carry the baggage (see Diod. ii. 54; iii. 44; Livy, xxxvii. 40; Strabo, xvi. 3). They are used for all purposes of burden in the East, and particularly in Arabia.

7. chariot, &c.—rather, "a body of riders," namely, some riding in pairs on horses (literally, "pairs of horsemen," that is, two abreast), others on asses, others on camels (compare Isa 21:9; Isa 22:6). "Chariot" is not appropriate to be joined, as English Version translates, with "asses"; the Hebrew means plainly in Isa 21:7, as in Isa 21:9, "a body of men riding." The Persians used asses and camels for war [Maurer]. Horsley translates, "One drawn in a car, with a pair of riders, drawn by an ass, drawn by a camel"; Cyrus is the man; the car drawn by a camel and ass yoked together and driven by two postilions, one on each, is the joint army of Medes and Persians under their respective leaders. He thinks the more ancient military cars were driven by men riding on the beasts that drew them; Isa 21:9 favors this. And he saw; a short speech for he told me that he saw.

A chariot, not for burden, but for war, in which chariots were then much used. With a couple of horsemen; attended with two horsemen. So there were both chariots and troops of horsemen. Or,

with a couple of horses, as this word is sometimes used, as 1 Samuel 8:11 2 Samuel 1:6. The chariot was drawn with two horses.

A chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; two chariots, one drawn by asses, (under which title some understand mules, as being engendered of asses,) and the other by camels; whereby he signifies the variety and abundance of warlike provisions which the Medes and Persians should have for this expedition, and particularly of chariots, whereof some were for the carriage of necessary things, and others for the battle.

He hearkened diligently; he carefully observed what he saw, and what he could further discover.

And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen,.... The drivers of it, or the riders in it; perhaps meaning Cyrus and Darius:

a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; by the former may be meant the Persians, who very much used mules or asses; and the Medes by the latter, who abounded in camels: the words are in the singular number, and may be rendered, "a rider of an ass, and a rider of a camel" (w); and so may describe the couple of riders along with the chariot, which may signify the whole army of the Medes and Persians, chariots being much used in war; and the rider of the ass or mule may design Cyrus, who was called a mule, because of his mixed descent, being a Persian by his father, and a Mede by his mother's side; so the oracle of Apollo told the Babylonians, that their city should stand, until a mule was king of the Medes; and the rider of the camel may point at Darius:

and he hearkened diligently with much heed; the watchman that was set to watch used the utmost attention to what he saw, and listened diligently to the noise of this chariot and horsemen, as they came nearer.

(w) , , Sept.; "ascensorem asini, et ascensorem cameli", V. L. "unum equitantium in asinis, alterum equitantium in camelis", Piscator.

And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of donkeys, and {k} a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:

(k) Meaning, chariots of men of war, and others that carried the baggage.

7. The verse reads: And if he see a troop, horsemen in pairs (1 Kings 9:25), a troop of asses, a troop of camels, then let him hearken, hearken hard. This apparently is the expected sign that great events are on foot; when the riders are seen the watchman is to listen intently to discover who they are and what they are doing. The word for “troop” means always “chariot” (usually collective); here it must be used in the sense of “riding train” like the Arab. rakb. The procession represents the Persian army. “Asses” and “camels” are probably introduced as beasts of burden, although both animals are reported to have been used by the Persians in actual battle.

Verse 7. - And he saw... he hearkened; rather, he shall see... he shall hearken (Kay). He is to wait and watch until he sees a certain sight; then he is to listen attentively, and he will hear the crash of the falling city. A chariot with a couple of horsemen; rather, a troop of horsemen riding two and two. This is exactly how a cavalry force was ordinarily represented by the Assyrians. Chariots are not intended either here or in ver. 9. They were not employed by the Persians until a late period of their history (see 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 4. pp. 113, 122). A chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; rather, men mounted on asses and on camels. It is well known that both animals were employed by the Persians in their expeditions to carry the baggage (Herod., 1:80; 4:129; Xen., 'Cyrop.,' 7:1, etc.). But neither animal was ever attached to a chariot. Isaiah 21:7What the man upon the watch-tower sees first of all, is a long, long procession, viz., the hostile army advancing quietly, like a caravan, in serried ranks, and with the most perfect self-reliance. "And he saw a procession of cavalry, pairs of horsemen, a procession of asses, a procession of camels; and listened sharply, as sharply as he could listen." Receb, both here and in Isaiah 21:9, signifies neither riding-animals nor war-chariots, but a troop seated upon animals - a procession of riders. In front there was a procession of riders arranged two and two, for Persians and Medes fought either on foot or on horseback (the latter, at any rate, from the time of Cyrus; vid., Cyrop. iv 3); and pârâsh signifies a rider on horseback (in Arabic it is used in distinction from râkib, the rider on camels). Then came lines of asses and camels, a large number of which were always taken with the Persian army for different purposes. They not only carried baggage and provisions, but were taken into battle to throw the enemy into confusion. Thus Cyrus gained the victory over the Lydians by means of the great number of his camels (Herod. i. 80), and Darius Hystaspis the victory over the Scythians by means of the number of asses that he employed (Herod. iv 129). Some of the subject tribes rode upon asses and camels instead of horses: the Arabs rode upon camels in the army of Xerxes, and the Caramanians rode upon asses. What the spy saw was therefore, no doubt, the Persian army. But he only saw and listened. It was indeed "listening, greatness of listening," i.e., he stretched his ear to the utmost (rab is a substantive, as in Isaiah 63:7; Psalm 145:7; and hikshib, according to its radical notion, signifies to stiffen, viz., the ear);

(Note: Bttcher has very correctly compared kâshab (kasuba) with kâshâh (kasa), and Fleischer with sarra (tzâr), which is applied in the kal and hiphil (asarra) to any animal (horse, ass, etc.) when it holds its ears straight and erect to listen to any noise (sarra udhneı̄h, or udhnahu bi-udhneı̄h, or bi-udhnı̄h iv., asarra bi-udhnı̄h, and also absolutely asarra, exactly like hikshib).)

but he heard nothing, because the long procession was moving with the stillness of death.

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