This chapter talks about the fall of three nations: Babylon, Edom and Arabia. This continues the theme in Isaiah of nations being punished for their godlessness.
Verses 1-10 describe the fall of Babylon. This is not the first instance of Isaiah prophesying about the ill fate of Babylon (Isaiah 13 addressed it as well). These ten verses describe the fear of a watchman as he witnesses enemies coming to Babylon to overtake and overthrow it. The donkeys and camels mentioned in verse seven are thought to represent the Medes and the Persians, who would overthrow Babylon. Babylon’s idols would not do it any good and would be broken to the ground. Also, the mention in verse ten of a threshing floor imparts the idea of God as the thresher, separating the valuable wheat (the faithful remnant of Israel) from the worthless chaff and straw (idolatrous and hypocritical nations like Babylon).
The two verses (11, 12) that address Dumah, or Edom, concern themselves with the role of the prophet and the admonition the prophet gives for people to return to God. The people look to the watchman, or the prophet, of what is coming on the road as the watchman or in the future as the prophet. The watchman/prophet tells the people that the morning comes, but the night also. The night represents a grim future so the prophecy is for the people to return to God before it is too late.
Verses 13-17 close out the chapter and describe more negative consequences for ungodly people. Despite their might, the Arabians would be forced to flee to the forest where there would be hunger and thirst. They would be running in fear for their life, from the threat of drawn swords. God using nations against nations to carry out the consequences of sin is a recurring theme.
By now these themes of punishment in Isaiah are familiar but they are not tiresome. God’s authority and power over the fate of nations was beyond question. Indeed, He allowed times of idolatry and sin to exist for some time, but He ultimately exacted judgment and penalty on those that ignored or denied Him.
Today in our personal lives, God has given us that free will that allows us to choose sin or righteousness daily. We may choose either, but just like these nations of old, we will pay for our transgressions, sooner or later.
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James 1:12