Isaiah 21:17
And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel has spoken it.
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(17) And the residue . . .—The Hebrew word is the same as the characteristic “remnant” of Isaiah’s earlier prophecies. The words point primarily to the subjugation of Arabia by Sargon and Sennacherib, who narrate their victories over the Arabian tribes (Records of the Past, vii. 34). In Jeremiah 49:28-29 we have an echo of the prediction, which, in that case, pointed to their conquest by Nebuchadnezzar.

21:13-17 The Arabians lived in tents, and kept cattle. A destroying army shall be brought upon them, and make them an easy prey. We know not what straits we may be brought into before we die. Those may know the want of necessary food who now eat bread to the full. Neither the skill of archers, nor the courage of mighty men, can protect from the judgments of God. That is poor glory, which will thus quickly come to nothing. Thus hath the Lord said to me; and no word of his shall fall to the ground. We may be sure the Strength of Israel will not lie. Happy are those only whose riches and glory are out of the reach of invaders; all other prosperity will speedily pass away.And the residue of the number - That is, those who shall be left in the invasion. Or perhaps it may be read, 'There shall be a renmant of the number of bowmen; the mighty people of Kedar shall be diminished.'

Of archers - Hebrew, 'Of the bow;' that is, of those who use bows in war. The bow was the common instrument in hunting and in war among the ancients.

Shall be diminished - Hebrew, 'Shall be made small;' they shall be reduced to a very small number. We cannot indeed determine the precise historical event to which this refers, but the whole connection and circumstances seem to make it probable that it referred to the invasion by the Assyrian when he went up against Judah, or when he was on his way to Egypt.

17. residue … diminished—The remnant of Arab warriors, famous in the bow, left after the invasion, shall be small. Archers; bows and arrows were their: chief weapons, and they were expert in the use of them, both against beasts and men, as occasion required. And the residue of the number of archers,.... Or of "bow" (g), for "bows": that is, of men that use the bow, or are expert at it, as the Kedarenes were, both for taking wild beasts, and fighting with men, in which they followed their original ancestor Ishmael, Genesis 21:20 the number of these archers it seems had been great, but would be lessened by the calamity threatened; and those that would escape that, and be preserved from it, should be lessened still, as follows:

the mighty men of the children of Kedar shall be diminished; their military men, the most expert at the use of the bow, and the most valiant and courageous; the few of those that were left, and did not fall by the sword of the Assyrians, should gradually diminish, and be fewer and fewer:

for the Lord God of Israel hath spoken it; who cannot lie, nor will repent, and whose word never fails, what he has said he will do, nor will he alter the thing that is gone out of his lips; and he is spoken of as the God of Israel, because it was to the Israelites that this was said, and for their sakes; either because these Arabians some way or other were injurious to them, or they had put some confidence in them. The Targum is,

"because by the word of the Lord God of Israel it is so decreed.''

(g) "numeri arcus", Montanus, Cocceius.

And the remainder of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of {x} Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.

(x) Which was the name of a people of Arabia: and by the horrible destruction of all these nations, he teaches the Jews that there is no place for refuge or to escape God's wrath, but only to remain in his Church, and to live in his fear.

17. the number of archers] Lit. “of the bows.” The bow was the chief weapon of the Northern Arabs, as of their progenitor Ishmael, Genesis 21:20.This oracle consists of a question, addressed to the prophet from Seir, and of the prophet's reply. Seir is the mountainous country to the south of Palestine, of which Edom took possession after the expulsion of the Horites. Consequently the Dumah of the heading cannot be either the Dūma of Eastern Hauran (by the side of which we find also a Tema and a Buzan); or the Duma in the high land of Arabia, on the great Nabataean line of traffic between the northern harbours of the Red Sea and Irak, which bore the cognomen of the rocky (el-gendel) or Syrian Duma (Genesis 25:14); or the Duma mentioned in the Onom., which was seventeen miles from Eleutheropolis (or according to Jerome on this passage, twenty) "in Daroma hoc est ad australem plagam," and was probably the same place as the Duma in the mountains of Judah - that is to say, judging from the ruins of Daume, to the south-east of Eleutheropolis (see the Com. on Joshua 15:52), a place out of which Jerome has made "a certain region of Idumaea, near which are the mountains of Seir." The name as it stands here is symbolical, and without any demonstrable topographical application. Dūmâh is deep, utter silence, and therefore the land of the dead (Psalm 94:17; Psalm 115:17). The name אדום is turned into an emblem of the future fate of Edom, by the removal of the a sound from the beginning of the word to the end. It becomes a land of deathlike stillness, deathlike sleep, deathlike darkness. "A cry comes to me out of Seir: Watchman, how far is it in the night? Watchman, how far in the night?" Luther translates the participle correctly, "they cry" (man ruft; compare the similar use of the participle in Isaiah 30:24; Isaiah 33:4). For the rest, however, we have deviated from Luther's excellent translation, for the purpose of giving to some extent the significant change from מלּילה and מלּיל. The more winged form of the second question is expressive of heightened, anxious urgency and haste. The wish is to hear that it is very late in the night, and that it will soon be past; min is partitive (Saad.), "What part of the night are we at now?" Just as a sick man longs for a sleepless night to come to an end, and is constantly asking what time it is, so do they inquire of the prophet out of Edom, whether the night of tribulation will not be soon over. We are not to understand, however, that messengers were really sent out of Edom to Isaiah; the process was purely a pneumatical one. The prophet stands there in Jerusalem, in the midst of the benighted world of nations, like a sentry upon the watch tower; he understands the anxious inquiries of the nations afar off, and answers them according to the word of Jehovah, which is the plan and chronological measure of the history of the nations, and the key to its interpretation. What, then, is the prophet's reply? He lets the inquirer "see through a glass darkly."
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