Isaiah 21:11, 12
The burden of Dumah. He calls to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?…
I. THE CALL FROM SEIR. The Edomites are asking, "Will the light soon dawn? What hour is it?" Like the sick man tossing on his bed, they long for the first tidings that the night of tribulation is past.
II. THE ENIGMATIC ANSWER. "Morning cometh, and also night." There were "wise men" in Edom, and probably the answer is couched in the style they loved. What does it mean? We can but conjecture. It may mean that the coming light of prosperity and joy is soon to be quenched in the night of calamity again. Or, the dawn of joy to some will be the night of despair to others. "When the morning comes, it will still be night" (Luther). Even if morning dawns, it will be swallowed up again immediately by night. And in what follows, also obscure, seems to be a hint that only in case of Edom's conversion can there be an answer of consolation and of hope. The design may be -
(1) "to reprove them for the manner in which they had asked the question;
(2) to assure them that God was willing to direct humble and serious inquiries;
(3) to show in what way a favorable answer could be obtained, viz. by repentance."
1. Historical. "History was quite in accord with such an answer. The Assyrian period of judgment was followed by the Chaldean, the Chaldean by the Persian, the Persian by the Grecian, and the Grecian by the Roman. Again and again there was a glimmer of morning dawn for Edom (and what a glimmer in the Herodian age!); but it was swallowed up directly by another night, until Edom became an utter Dumah, and disappeared from the history of nations." Herod the Great, "King of the Jews," was son of Autipater of Edom, who became procurator of Judaea. Under the Mussulman rule in the seventh century A.D., the cities of Edom fell into ruin, and the laud became a desolation (comp. Ezekiel 35:3, 4, 7, 9, 14). The famed rock-built city of Petra was brought to light in our own time by Burckhardt, 1812.
2. General. The prophetic outlook upon the world at any epoch is of the same general character. Night struggles with morning in the conflicts and changes of nations, in the controversies of truth with error. In the closing chapters of St. Matthew's Gospel we do not find a prospect of unmingled brightness, very far from it. Christianity will call into existence vast organized hypocrisies; the shadow attends closely upon the light. At the conversion of the empire under Constantine, at the Reformation, etc., "the morning came, and also night." History pursues a spiral line; old errors return, decayed superstitions revive; then again the day breaks. And so with the individual; the light we gain at happy epochs must yield to fresh doubts or fears, again to be dispelled by redawning faith. Such is the condition of our life; we dwell in the chiaroscuro, the twilight of intuition; we "see as in a glass, enigmatically." But hope and endeavor remain to us; and the looking forward to the everlasting light of Jehovah, the glory of God, the rising of the sun that shall no more go down; the end of mourning; the "one day" that shall be neither day nor night; the evening time when it shall be light (Isaiah 60:19, 20; Zechariah 14:7). - J.
Parallel VersesKJV: The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?