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Isaiah 21:11

ESV The oracle concerning Dumah. One is calling to me from Seir, “Watchman, what time of the night? Watchman, what time of the night?”
NIV A prophecy against Dumah: Someone calls to me from Seir, 'Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?'
NASB The pronouncement concerning Edom: One keeps calling to me from Seir, 'Watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?'
CSB A pronouncement concerning Dumah: One calls to me from Seir, "Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night? "
NLT This message came to me concerning Edom : Someone from Edom keeps calling to me, 'Watchman, how much longer until morning? When will the night be over?'
KJV The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?

What does Isaiah 21:11 mean?

Isaiah follows the oracle against Babylon with a short, two-verse oracle concerning Dumah. Some scholars believe Isaiah is referring to an oasis town in north central Saudi Arabia; this is known today as Dumet ej-Jendel. In Isaiah's era, it stood at an important intersection of two trade routes through the desert. It would have been an important spot to Babylon, the subject of the previous oracle (Isaiah 21:1–10), who was attempting to be independent of Assyria. This area's fate would also have mattered to Edom for trade to the east. Isaiah answers a question from Edom, also called Seir, in these verses (Isaiah 21:12).

Other scholars speculate that the mention of Dumah made have been wordplay more than a physical location. In Hebrew, dumāh means "stillness" or "silence" and rhymes with 'edom. The Edomites were descendants of Jacob's brother Esau (Genesis 36:9). Seir is another name for the land of Edom, which was a region south of the Dead Sea. Isaiah may be using poetic language here to describe a person from Seir, or Edom, coming to ask him a question. The same interpretation may apply if the word used here is the name for Edom in the Akkadian language of Assyria and Babylon.

The person calls him "watchman." This description is taken from the role Isaiah played in watching for riders in the previous oracle about Babylon (Isaiah 21:6–9). The Edomite asks the same question twice, revealing the deep importance of the question. The question is "what time of the night?" or "what is left of the night?"

In short, the Edomites want to know how long they must continue to suffer. This suffering is likely under the oppression of the Assyrians, who forced them to pay tribute to their king. The Assyrians also used their land to travel from Damascus in Syria to the Gulf of Aqaba. The Edomites asked the question many in the world at this time were likely asking: When will the darkness of the Assyrian Empire finally end?
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