Isaiah 21:9
And, behold, here comes a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he has broken to the ground.
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(9) And, behold, here cometh . . .—Better, Behold, there came . . . The words narrate a second vision, not the watchman’s narrative of the first. He sees now, as it were, a part of the cavalcade which he had beheld before, and now it is no longer silent, but reports what has been accomplished. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen!” The words are applied to the destruction of the mystical Babylon in Revelation 14:8; Revelation 18:2. Stress is laid on the destruction of the idols of Babylon by the iconoclastic Persians.

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, behold ... a chariot of men - This place shows that the word 'chariot' (רכב rekeb) may denote something else than a wagon or carriage, as a chariot drawn by men cannot be intended. The sense can be expressed, perhaps, by the word "riding," 'I see a riding of men approach;' that is, I see "cavalry" drawing near, or men riding and hastening to the battle.

With a couple of horsemen - The word 'with' is not in the Hebrew. The meaning is, 'I see a riding of men, or cavalry; and they come in pairs, or two abreast.' A part of the sentence is to be supplied from Isaiah 21:7. He saw not only horsemen, but riders on donkeys and camels.

And he answered - That is, the watchman answered. The word 'answer,' in the Scriptures, means often merely to commence a discourse after an interval; to begin to speak Job 3:2; Daniel 2:26; Acts 5:8.

Babylon is fallen - That is, her ruin is certain. Such a mighty army is drawing near, and they approach so well prepared for battle, that the ruin of Babylon is inevitable. The "repetition" of this declaration that 'Babylon is fallen,' denotes emphasis and certainty. Compare Psalm 92:9 :

For lo, thine enemies, O Lord,

For lo, thine enemies shall perish.

9. chariot of men—chariots with men in them; or rather, the same body of riders, horsemen two abreast, as in Isa 21:7 [Maurer]. But Horsley, "The man drawn in a car with a pair of riders." The first half of this verse describes what the watchman sees; the second half, what the watchman says, in consequence of what he sees. In the interval between Isa 21:7 and Isa 21:9, the overthrow of Babylon by the horsemen, or man in the car, is accomplished. The overthrow needed to be announced to the prophet by the watchman, owing to the great extent of the city. Herodotus (1.131) says that one part of the city was captured some time before the other received the tidings of it.

answered—not to something said previously, but in reference to the subject in the mind of the writer, to be collected from the preceding discourse: proclaimeth (Job 3:2, Margin; Da 2:26; Ac 5:8).

fallen … fallen—The repetition expresses emphasis and certainty (Ps 92:9; 93:3; compare Jer 51:8; Re 18:2).

images—Bel, Merodach, &c. (Jer 50:2; 51:44, 52). The Persians had no images, temples, or altars, and charged the makers of such with madness [Herodotus 1.131]; therefore they dashed the Babylonian "images broken unto the ground."

Behold; the sum of what I have discovered is this.

A chariot of men; not filled with goods, as chariots of burden used to be; but provided with men, to fight from or with them.

With a couple of horsemen; understand, and a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; which is easily understood from Isaiah 21:7, where they are expressed.

He; the prophet Isaiah, who set the watchman or the Lord, by whose command he was set, Isaiah 21:6, who here gives an explication of the vision.

All the graven images of her gods; which is mentioned as an evidence that she was fully conquered, because otherwise they would not have suffered their idols to have been thrown to the ground.

He hath broken; God, by the hands of Cyrus, his instrument. Or it is an indefinite speech, he hath broken, &c., for they are broken, &c. And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men,.... Or "of a man" (x); a chariot with a man in it, Cyrus or Darius:

with a couple of horsemen; the army of the Medes and Persians, with their two leaders or generals, as before; only now seen nearer the city, just entering into it; for so the word may be rendered, "goeth", or "is gone in a chariot", &c.:

and he answered, and said; either the watchman, upon seeing the chariot and horsemen go into the city; or one of the horsemen that went in; so the Syriac and Arabic versions; or rather the prophet, and the Lord by him:

Babylon is fallen, is fallen: which is repeated to show the certainty of it. The same words are used of the fall of mystical Babylon, Revelation 14:8. The Targum is,

"it is fallen, and also it shall be, that Babylon shall fall;''

that is, a second time, and hereafter: and so Jarchi and Kimchi interpret it of two falls, one by the Medes and Persians, and the other by the hand of heaven, or God himself: literal Babylon fell by the former; mystical Babylon will fall by the latter, even by the breath of Christ's mouth, and the brightness of his coming:

and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground; either Cyrus or Darius, who might do this, not from any detestation of them, but for the sake of the gold, and silver, and riches, that were about them; or rather the Lord by them, and so put an end to idolatry; as will be, when mystical Babylon is destroyed.

(x) "currus viri", Pagninus, Montanus.

And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And {m} he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken to the ground.

(m) The watchman whom Isaiah set up, told him who came toward Babylon, and the angel declared that it would be destroyed: all this was done in a vision.

9. Hardly has he spoken when the appointed vision appears: And, behold, here cometh a troop of men, horsemen in pairs (see Isaiah 21:7). And in the same breath the watchman declares its significance: Babylon is fallen, &c. (proph. perf.). Cf. Revelation 18:1 f.Verse 9. - And, behold, here cometh, etc. Our translators make the words those of the watchman. But they are better taken as the prophet's statement of a fact, "And behold, just then there cometh a troop of men, riding two and two" - the sign for which he was to watch (ver. 7), or rather the first part of it. We must suppose the rest of the sign to follow, and the watchman then to listen awhile attentively. Suddenly he hears the sound of a sacked town, and he exclaims, Babylon is fallen, is fallen, etc. All the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. Recent documents, belonging to the time of Cyrus, and treating of his capture of Babylon, show that this expression is not to be understood literally. Cyrus was not an iconoclast; he did not break into pieces, or in any way destroy or insult the Babylonian idols. On the contrary, he maintained them in their several shrines, or restored them where they had been displaced; he professed himself a worshipper of the chief Babylonian gods - Bel, Nebo, and Merodach - he repaired the temple of Merodach; he prayed to Bel and Nebo to lengthen his days; he caused his son, Cambyses, to take part in the great religious ceremony wherewith the Babylonians opened the new year. Thus his conquest of Babylon did not bring upon its gods a physical, but only a moral, destruction. The Persian victory discredited and degraded them. It proclaimed to Western Asia that the idolatrous system so long prevalent in the region between Mount Zagros and the Mediterranean was no longer in the ascendant, but lay at the mercy of another quite different religion, which condescended to accord it toleration. Such was the permanent result. No doubt there was also, in the sack of the city, much damage done to many of the idols by a greedy soldiery, who may have carried off many images of gold or silver, and broken up others that were not portable, and stripped off the plates of precious metal from the idols of "brass, and iron, and wood, and stone" (Daniel 5:6). Here again, as in the case of the prophecy concerning Moab, what the prophet has given to him to see does not pass without exciting his feelings of humanity, but works upon him like a horrible dream. "Therefore are my loins full of cramp: pangs have taken hold of me, as the pangs of a travailing woman: I twist myself, so that I do not hear; I am brought down with fear, so that I do not see. My heart beats wildly; horror hath troubled me: the darkness of night that I love, he hath turned for me into quaking." The prophet does not describe in detail what he saw; but the violent agitation produced by the impression leads us to conclude how horrible it must have been. Chalchâlâh is the contortion produced by cramp, as in Nahum 2:11; tzirim is the word properly applied to the pains of childbirth; na‛avâh means to bend, or bow one's self, and is also used to denote a convulsive utterance of pain; tâ‛âh, which is used in a different sense from Psalm 95:10 (compare, however, Psalm 38:11), denotes a feverish and irregular beating of the pulse. The darkness of evening and night, which the prophet loved so much (chēshek, a desire arising from inclination, 1 Kings 9:1, 1 Kings 9:19), and always longed for, either that he might give himself up to contemplation, or that he might rest from outward and inward labour, had bee changed into quaking by the horrible vision. It is quite impossible to imagine, as Umbreit suggests, that nesheph chishki (the darkness of my pleasure) refers to the nocturnal feast during which Babylon was stormed (Herod. i. 191, and Xenophon, Cyrop. vii. 23).
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