Questions From Readers
● What is the application of the prophecy at Isaiah 21:11, 12, which reads: “The pronouncement against Dumah: To me there is one calling out from Seir: ‘Watchman, what about the night? Watchman, what about the night?’ The watchman said: ‘The morning has to come, and also the night. If you people would inquire, inquire. Come again!’”?
The prophecy is evidently a pronouncement against Edom. The word “Dumah” does not seem to refer to any cities or localities by the name of Dumah. It could hardly refer to the Ishmaelitish Dumah (named after a son of Ishmael [Gen. 25:14]), about midway between Palestine and southern Babylonia, nor to the Judean Dumah, situated in the isolated mountainous region. (Josh. 15:52) The reference to Seir immediately afterward also indicates that the prophecy was directed against that land. Seir was first occupied by Horites, but Esau’s sons dispossessed them, and both the names Edom and Seir came to be used to refer to the land.—Gen. 14:6; Deut. 2:12.
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah prophesied the utter desolation of Edom (Seir), the enemy of Jehovah and his people. (Isa. 34:5, 9-15; Jer. 49:7-22) “Dumah” means “silence,” and is so translated at Psalms 94:17; 115:17. The word “Dumah” used with reference to Edom would imply that Edom was to become silent, as in the silence of death, or nonexistence.
As in a visionary or symbolic way, the prophecy shows that someone of Edom is concerned about the fate of Edom. The inquiry “Watchman, what about the night?” is as from one who is wishfully waiting for a long night of sickness or tribulation to end, and is calling to the watchman on the wall, ‘How far is it into the night?’ ‘How much of it is past?’ ‘When will the morning come?’ The prophecy seems to refer first to the night of judgment that Edom suffered under the Assyrian World Power. The watchman’s answer: “The morning has to come, and also the night,” appears to mean that there would be a glimmer as of morning, but night would fall again quickly, as took place when the Assyrian Empire fell, only to be succeeded by the Babylonian Empire, which executed severe judgment on Edom, as foretold by Jeremiah. (Jer. 25:17, 21; 27:2-8) Then came Persian, Greek and Roman rule, keeping Edom in subjection.
There was a fairly bright gleam as of “morning” in Roman times during the rule of the Herods, who were Edomites, but this too faded out, the night came; and the passing away of the Herods is generally understood to mark the end of the Edomites. Edom became a “Dumah,” a silent place, its people disappearing from the history of the nations.
Some commentators think that the watchman’s words: “If you people would inquire, inquire. Come again!” mean that the prophet could not see any end to the nights for Edom, but that the questioner might ask later, in the event that more should be revealed as to the exact destiny of Edom. Others hold that it means that the Edomites, in order to get any favorable answer from God, would have to come back repentant, turning around from their wickedness and opposition to Jehovah and his people. They would have to return from their wicked ways and follow God’s commandments, just as Israel was later required to do before Jehovah restored the remnant of repentant ones to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. (Isa. 55:7) Otherwise no end of Edom’s nights and eventual deathlike silence was in view.