What does Isaiah 21:8 mean?
ESV: Then he who saw cried out: “Upon a watchtower I stand, O Lord, continually by day, and at my post I am stationed whole nights.
NIV: And the lookout shouted, 'Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post.
NASB: Then the lookout called, 'Lord, I stand continually by day on the watchtower, And I am stationed every night at my guard post.
CSB: Then the lookout reported, "Lord, I stand on the watchtower all day, and I stay at my post all night.
NLT: Then the watchman called out, 'Day after day I have stood on the watchtower, my lord. Night after night I have remained at my post.
KJV: And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
NKJV: Then he cried, “A lion, my Lord! I stand continually on the watchtower in the daytime; I have sat at my post every night.
Verse Commentary:
Isaiah has answered the Lord's call, in the context of a vision, to set a watchman who will look for riders approaching the city. It seems most likely that he is watching, within his oracle, from the walls of Babylon. In this vision he is looking for the enemy riders to come attack the city and destroy it. The prophet may also picture himself on the wall of Jerusalem, looking for riders to come from Babylon with news of the battle (Isaiah 21:6–7).

In either case, he reports to the Lord that he is faithfully carrying out the duty to stand guard at the watchtower. He says that he stands and watches by day and remains at his post every night. Isaiah is faithful to his calling. He is watching for the fulfillment of the terrible vision the Lord has given to him to pass on to the people of Judah (Isaiah 21:2).
Verse Context:
Chapter 21:1–10 contains Isaiah's prophecy against Babylon. God sends Isaiah a fierce vision which causes him great physical suffering and emotional terror. His heart falters, and his body trembles at what he witnesses. Isaiah calls the leaders to prepare for battle. He obeys the Lord's call for a watchman, taking his post on the tower until the riders come. When they arrive, the prophet announces that Babylon is fallen and her gods have all been smashed.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter delivers oracles against three people groups. Isaiah is terrified to the point of physical pain by the vision he sees. God reveals the terrible things coming for Babylon. Isaiah answers the Lord's call to be a watchman. When he sees the arrival of riders approaching the city, he announces that Babylon has fallen. The oracle against Dumah presents a question from an Edomite with an unsatisfying answer. The oracle against Arabia pictures starving refugees that must be fed and declares that the warriors of Kedar will be nearly wiped out within a year.
Chapter Context:
Earlier chapters included prophecies about nations such as Aram, Egypt, and Cush. Chapter 21 presents three more oracles against Israel's regional neighbors. What Isaiah sees is so horrific that he suffers intense physical pain just from watching. He answers the call to be a watchman, eventually announcing that Babylon has fallen. An oracle against Dumah provides no real answer to the question of how long the night of suffering will continue for Edom. Arabia, too, will suffer at the hand of powerful regional forces. Next is a prophecy about Jerusalem.
Book Summary:
Isaiah is among the most important prophetic books in the entire Bible. The first segment details God's impending judgment against ancient peoples for sin and idolatry (Isaiah 1—35). The second part of Isaiah briefly explains a failed assault on Jerusalem during the rule of Hezekiah (Isaiah 36—39). The final chapters predict Israel's rescue from Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 40—48), the promised Messiah (Isaiah 49—57), and the final glory of Jerusalem and God's people (Isaiah 58—66).
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