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Isaiah 21:12

ESV The watchman says: “Morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; come back again.”
NIV The watchman replies, 'Morning is coming, but also the night. If you would ask, then ask; and come back yet again.'
NASB The watchman says, 'Morning comes but also night. If you would inquire, inquire; Come back again.'
CSB The watchman said, "Morning has come, and also night. If you want to ask, ask! Come back again."
NLT The watchman replies, 'Morning is coming, but night will soon return. If you wish to ask again, then come back and ask.'
KJV The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night: if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come.

What does Isaiah 21:12 mean?

In this tiny oracle, an Edomite has come to Isaiah from the hill country of Seir. This person has come to ask the prophet the question that must have been on the minds of many during the time of the Assyrian Empire. They want to know how much longer will this oppression and suffering continue (Isaiah 21:11)?

Isaiah responds, but his answer is not satisfying. He assures the person that "morning will come." But he also indicates that the night is not finished: it will either continue or come again. In other words, Isaiah offers no specific information beyond the vague idea that morning will eventually come. The dark time will ultimately end.

Still, Isaiah invites the Edomite to come back and ask again if he wants to. This may mean that Isaiah expects to know a more specific answer later. Perhaps he is also commending the asker for his humility in reaching out to a prophet of the Lord God of Israel for insight. "Don't stop asking," Isaiah says, in a sense. This person had come to the best source of truth.
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