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Simultaneously posted at: Idumea and Kedar: Isaiah Devotional Journal 41 – justonesmallvoice.com
The Vision of Idumea and God’s Message to Arabia: Isaiah 21:11-17
Idumea was located to the south of Judea, south of the Dead Sea. It had been established by the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Genesis 32:8). It is also known as Seir, founded by the sons of Hor before Esau (Genesis 36:20-21).
All these place names refer to the same geographical area. Mt Hor is not identical to Mt Seir; these are distinct place names in Edom, or Idumea (LXX). Masoretic translations use the name Dumah for this same area. (Confused?)
This map shows the interesting feature of Judea’s location in the center of the area of interest to the Assyrian’s invading armies. Assyria attacked Damascus and Samaria from the north and Idumea (Edom) from the south. 2 Kings 18-19 records how God spared Jerusalem from the Assyrians, while nations surrounding them fell.
The details of Isaiah 21 continue to be difficult to decipher. One question from Isaiah 21:11-12 is: Does Idumea actually fall? Isaiah warns of trouble in Idumea, but the two verses are not historically specific. God’s “Oracle Concerning Arabia” is very specific.
“For thus the Lord said to me, ‘Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.'” (Isaiah 21:16 ESV)
Kedar is located in the Arabian desert. The sons of Ishamel (Isaac’s brother from Abraham’s concubine) established it (Genesis 25:13).
Difficulties: The map of the Assyrian Empire reveals that the Assyrians did not conquer the Arabian Peninsula. Many maps I located show the same finding. However, the neo-Babylonian Empire did include Kedar, according to maps. Remember, it was the neo-Babylonians who led Judea into captivity.
However, Isaiah 21:16 states that Kedar would be overrun within a year of Isaiah’s prophesying. (Or, could it be one year from the time of fulfillment of the previous prophecies?) The difficulty with this is that neo-Babylonia became a superpower about 100 years after Isaiah.
Another possibility is that locations and maps are approximate. Perhaps Assyria did attack and overcome Kedar and Tema after all.
Main Point: The main point of Isaiah 21 is that God is not pleased. Babylon will fall, Idumea is in grave danger, and Kedar will endure great suffering and death. But God is always eager for people everywhere to repent and trust in him who is able to keep them safe.
By Christina Wilson on
Your Neighbors Can’t Help You
The Bible records Israel’s attempts at making alliances with various neighbors from time to time (Isaiah 7:1-9; 17:3). These neighbors also made alliances among themselves (Isaiah 19:4-6). Even the southern kingdom of Judah made an ill-fated alliance with Egypt for help when the Assyrians arrived with ill intent at their doorstep (Isaiah 30:1-7; 2 Kings 18:20-21). But Judah had previously allied itself with that same Assyria, when the empire was in its infancy (2 Kings 16:7-9). The point of Isaiah 21-23 is that your neighbors can’t help you; only God can.
The one thing God has always been after in creation is relationship with his people. We see this when he walked in the cool of the garden where he had placed the first man and woman (Genesis 3:8). We see God’s desire for fellowship again in Christ’s action of opening the veil (Hebrews 10:19-22). Isaiah also develops this theme explicitly in Isaiah 31:1. But in these oracles against the nations (13-23), as they are called, Isaiah demonstrates, rather than explain, the futility of looking anywhere but to the Lord.
And, if anyone doubts this, Isaiah continues in chapter 24 to prophesy the destruction of the whole world. In other words, there will be nowhere to hide. The choices will narrow to two: God or nothing; God or destruction.
One of the defining characteristics about the modern world, especially in America during my lifetime, is the growing irrelevance of God in the popular expressions of our culture, such as schools, government, and media. There are countless places in today’s world to hide from the face of God. There are countless avenues of seeming help that do not involve a confrontation with God. We have many “neighbors” we can turn to. However, these chapters of Isaiah bring out the futility of this approach.
First, who was the big superpower in Isaiah’s lifetime? Remember he lived during the reign of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. During the reign of Ahaz, Syria was the threat (Isaiah 7:1-9). But Hezekiah ruled for thirty years. During his days, Assyria became the hostile superpower of the entire region.
God used Assyria to punish the wickedness of Israel, Judah, and the surrounding nations. Assyria is the mighty army so often described throughout these chapters (for example, Isaiah 8:7-8).
But second, Babylon appears to be the subject of Isaiah 21:1-10. Verse 2 indicates that it will be the Medes and the Persians who attack and overcome Babylon, as in Isaiah 13. However, Isaiah 20 and then again Isaiah 21:11-17 appear to be describing the Assyrian invasion again. In other words, Isaiah’s prophesies appear to be out of order.
Complicating this is the long history of this area. At times Babylon had ascendancy over Assyria; at other times it was the other way round. Isaiah prophesied from 742 BCE to 686 BCE. The Babylonian captivity of Judah began in 586BCE. Although Isaiah mentions the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians (Isaiah 39:6-7), the bulk of his message concerned an earlier time. The Medo-Persians overcame Babylon while the Israelites were in captivity there. Therefore, if Isaiah 21:1-10 concerns this time frame, it would appear to be sorely out of context, not chronologically grouped.
However, even though the Neo-Babylonians devoured the Assyrian empire along with Jerusalem, prior to this event, the Assyrians overcame Babylon in 729 BCE. This fell within the earlier period of Isaiah’s prophecies.
Therefore, Isaiah 21:1-10 could possibly be predicting this earlier fall of Babylon to the Assyrians, rather than the later fall to the Persians. But then, what do we make of Isaiah 21:2, which mentions the Elamites and Persians? These areas were not part of the Assyrian empire.
To complicate matters even further, how does Isaiah 21:10 fit in? It doesn’t seem to belong with the section beginning in verse 11 about Edom. But neither does it seem to fit in with the prior section, verses 1-9.
Therefore, biblical scholars label this chapter “obscure.” Some argue for the later time period. Others argue for the earlier.
So What Is the Everyday Devotional Reader to Do?
The devotional reader heads straight for the gold. God’s message is clear: Babylon is fallen.
… 9 Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all her images and her idols have been crushed to the ground. 10 Hear, you that are left, and you that are in pain, hear what things I have heard of the Lord of hosts, which the God of Israel has declared to us. (CAB, LXE)
If ever anyone even thought of relying upon Babylon for anything, they had better not. Babylon is not worthy of trust–only the Lord is.