The burden of Dumah. He calls to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?…
Dumah, meaning "silence," is probably a mystical prophetic name for Edom. It seems that Edom was at this time in a condition of humiliation and depression that is well represented by the nighttime. As the night passes, Edom calls to Isaiah, as the prophet-watchman, asking how much longer the darkness is to last. Isaiah cannot return a comfortable and satisfying answer; he can only say, "If this night of trouble passes, it will but give place to another." The prophet foresees a short day of prosperity followed by a new night of trouble. "The words sum up the whole future of Edom, subject as it was to one conqueror after another, rising now and then, as under Herod and the Romans, and then sinking to its present desolation."
I. NIGHT-TIMES OF LIFE HAVE THEIR MISSION. They stand, in private life, for the times in which we are put aside from active work, compelled to rest. In national life they stand for the times in which national enterprise is checked by calamities, invasions, plagues, famines, etc. It is found that night has an important and necessary place in the economy of nature. Isaac Taylor has, in a very interesting way, proved that one or two absolutely dark nights in a year are essential to the well being of vegetation. Resting-times are important for individual growth, and national calamities are found to bear directly on the conquest of national evils and the culture of national virtues. We may thank God that in our moral life he never gives continuous day, but relieves the overstrain by recurring nights.
II. NIGHT-TIMES OF LIFE HAVE THEIR BELIEFS, There are the moon and stars to shine in them; and they presently give place to the "garish day." Pain is never intense for more than a little while. The light of love and friendship and sympathy relieves the darkness of suffering. National calamities develop national unity and energy, that presently issue in national triumph and stability; as is well illustrated in Prussia's night-time when she was humiliated by Napoleon I. Out of that night-lime came German unity, and the recovery of German territory. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment."
III. NIGHT-TIMES OF LIFE HAVE THEIR RETURNS. They are like the tunnels on some of our railways. We are scarcely out of one, and enjoying the open sky, the free air, and the sunshine, before we rush screaming into another. "If there be a morning of youth and health, there will conic a night of sickness and old age; if a morning of prosperity in the family, in the public, yet we must look for changes." And such returns of trying experiences are so essential for our moral training, that it is the most serious calamity to an individual, or to a nation, that they should be spared then, "Because they have no changes, therefore they forget God." "Moab hath been at case from his youth, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity; therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent hath not changed." Only of the heavenly and the sinless world may it be said, "There is no night there." These two thoughts may suggest an effective conclusion. No explanations can avail for more than just the piece of life now over us. We cannot know God's meaning for us until the whole of life is before us, and we can fit together the missions of the darkness and the light. Well did our Lord quiet our restless desire to read the mystery of life by saying, "Ye shall know hereafter." And David turned away from the mystery, saying, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness." And nobody can ever know the meanings of a life if he fixes attention only on its nighttimes. They are the shades in the picture, necessary to bring out the picture, but they are not the picture. We must rise to the outlook of God, of whom it is said, "The darkness and the light are both alike to thee." - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?