The Fall of Babylon Proclaimed
1 The burden against the Wilderness of the Sea.
As whirlwinds in the South pass through,
So it comes from the desert, from a terrible land.
2 A distressing vision is declared to me;
The treacherous dealer deals treacherously,
And the plunderer plunders.
Go up, O Elam!
Besiege, O Media!
All its sighing I have made to cease.
3 Therefore my loins are filled with pain;
Pangs have taken hold of me, like the pangs of a woman in labor.
I was distressed when I heard it;
I was dismayed when I saw it.
4 My heart wavered, fearfulness frightened me;
The night for which I longed He turned into fear for me.
5 Prepare the table,
Set a watchman in the tower,
Eat and drink.
Arise, you princes,
Anoint the shield!
6 For thus has the Lord said to me:
“Go, set a watchman,
Let him declare what he sees.”
7 And he saw a chariot with a pair of horsemen,
A chariot of donkeys, and a chariot of camels,
And he listened earnestly with great care.
8 Then he cried, “A lion, my Lord!
I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime;
I have sat at my post every night.
9 And look, here comes a chariot of men with a pair of horsemen!”
Then he answered and said,
“Babylon is fallen, is fallen!
And all the carved images of her gods
He has broken to the ground.”
10 Oh, my threshing and the grain of my floor!
That which I have heard from the LORD of hosts,
The God of Israel,
I have declared to you.
Thus far, Isaiah primarily has dealt with the time at hand [or in the very immediate future] and the nations proximately surrounding Judah. He has spoken of Israel, Syria, Assyria, Cush, Philistia and the like. On the other hand, the nation of Babylon was on the "last frontier" of peoples, a nation about as far off from Judah as was known at the time. Additionally, Babylon was not viewed as a threat or a world power with which to be reckoned as Isaiah writes Chapter 21.
Yet, here it is. After briefly mentioning Babylon as a "jewel of kingdoms" in Chapter 13, Isaiah, in Chapter 21, now sets out events that would happen 200 years in the future! Assyria, the great world power, would fall to Babylon [Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, fell in 612 B.C.]. Interestingly, Isaiah is setting forth the fall of Babylon even before the rise of Babylon. The "Medes" ["Besiege, O Media!"] were used by God to destroy Babylon and the "Persians" ["Go up, O Elam!"] quickly became the new world power instead of the Medes [the conquering and dispersal of Israel was by Assyria; of Judah was by Babylon; and the Persians then ruled over the dispersed Jews]. Both the Medes and the Persians are mentioned here, which no doubt had people scratching their head at the time. Daniel 5, written centuries later, recounts the fall of Babylon in great detail, as the words of Isaiah the prophet became reality [indeed, became the "handwriting on the wall."]
The fall of Babylon has great significance. The Bible treats it as if representative of the fall of everything that is evil. The Book of Revelation represents the destruction of the powers of evil in terms of the fall of Babylon [Rev. 14:8, citing Isa. 21:9; also Rev. 17:5, 18:2,10,21]. The rod in God's hand may be Assyria, or Babylon, or Persia, or Rome, or hidden in the hills of Afghanistan. Yet, while the rod is used and discarded, the impact of the discipline is not without certainty - it is to further His kingdom, it is to collect His remnant, it is to send His laborers into the fields of absolute truth. Evil has not prevailed, for it has fallen. It fell at the foot of the cross of the One that has conquered. [“Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.”]