The Watchman Said: “She Has Fallen!”
1. Why should we steel ourselves to examine the “vision” that Isaiah has to tell us?
THE vision of what is coming in the rapidly nearing future is a hard one. That is the way the matter was worded for us by the prophet Isaiah even during the days of the Assyrian Empire that then dominated the world. Is the “vision” too “hard” for us to examine today? Yet, let us steel ourselves to hear what Isaiah says: “There is a hard vision that has been told to me: The treacherous dealer is dealing treacherously, and the despoiler is despoiling.”—Isa. 21:2.
2. (a) What is identified as “the despoiler,” and how? (b) Toward whom was the “dealer” especially a “treacherous” one, and why?
2 The one that was outstandingly “the treacherous dealer,” although not named, is identifiable. This was ancient Babylon, which became the Third World Power. It became despicably notorious for despoiling the city of Jerusalem, even despoiling the Most Holy of the temple of Jehovah there. True, Jehovah used Babylon’s emperor, Nebuchadnezzar, as his “servant” to discipline the kingdom of Judah, yet Babylon acted treacherously toward Jehovah’s covenant people. She never loosed the Jewish exiles to return to their God-given homeland, even though the time was going onto 70 years. (Isa. 14:3-17) It took the conqueror of the Babylonian Empire to open the way homeward for those “prisoners” in the year 537 B.C.E. Justly, then, the “vision” that was told to the watchman Isaiah was “hard” upon Babylon, the despoiler of nations, particularly the despoiler of the people of Isaiah’s God.
3. What about Babylon’s modern counterpart as respects being a “treacherous dealer” and a “despoiler”?
3 What about the modern counterpart of ancient Babylon? In her dealings with those Christians who are in covenant relationship with Jehovah God, she has been no less treacherous as respects the teachings of Christianity. Heartlessly she has despoiled such Christians because they keep the commandments of Jehovah God and carry out the work of bearing witness to his enthroned King, Jesus Christ. (Rev. 12:17) Christendom has been foremost in this program of dealing treacherously and despoiling, notably from the days of World War I. She especially will feel the force of the “hard vision” when it is fulfilled upon the modern world empire of false religion, Babylon the Great. But whom will Jehovah use in making that “hard vision” a reality shortly?
4. In Isaiah 21:2 who are the ones called to attack Babylon, and why are the Persians not there mentioned?
4 Isaiah lays the basis for the answer when he goes on to say: “Go up, O Elam! Lay siege, O Media! All sighing due to her I have caused to cease.” (Isa. 21:2) Elam lay to the east of the Tigris River and became part of what was called Persia, whereas today Iran holds that territory.* Media was the larger area to the east of the Mesopotamian valley. About 200 years after Isaiah’s prophecy Cyrus (II) the Great conquered the Medes to give the kingdom of Persia the ascendancy over Media. However, his mother was a Mede, and most of the soldiers in his army proved to be Medes. This Cyrus is the Cyrus, or Kohresh, foretold by Isaiah under divine inspiration. (Isa. 44:28 through 45:7) At the time of Isaiah’s prophecy the Medo-Persian Empire had not yet emerged, and so the Persians were not to the fore. So just Elam and Media were the ones whom Jehovah called by name to attack Babylon.
5. How did Jehovah cause “all sighing due to her” to cease, and was the “prisoner” set free to go home?
5 Were those attackers to succeed and change matters in southwest Asia and the Middle East? Yes! This was indicated by Isaiah’s next words: “All sighing due to her I have caused to cease.” These are really the words of “Jehovah of armies,” the Sovereign Lord of the universe. By his use of Elam and Media as his agencies he caused “all sighing” due to oppressive Babylon to cease. In an appeal to Jehovah God for deliverance from captors who cared little if the Israelites rotted away in their prison state, the inspired psalmist said: “May the sighing of the prisoner come in even before you. According to the greatness of your arm preserve those appointed to death.” (Ps. 79:11-13; Isa. 14:17) This prayer was answered in the 70th year of the exile of the Jews in Babylon by royal decree of Cyrus the Great.—Isa. 35:8-10.
PERSONAL REACTION TO BABYLON’S FALL
6, 7. How does Isaiah describe the effect of the fall of Babylon upon those adversely affected?
6 The fall of the mighty Third World Power in 539 B.C.E. with particular benefit to the small land of Israel was naturally something hard to imagine. It involved a vast change in the course of world history. Individuals adversely affected by the fall of the Empire that had its central location in the “wilderness of the sea” were bound to agonize. The effect upon such ones is pictured in Isaiah’s words telling about the “hard vision,” as follows:
7 “That is why my hips have become full of severe pains. Convulsions themselves have grabbed hold of me, like the convulsions of a woman that is giving birth. I have become disconcerted so that I do not hear; I have become disturbed so that I do not see. My heart has wandered about; a shuddering itself has terrified me. The twilight for which I had an attachment has been made for me a trembling.”—Isa. 21:3, 4.
8. What do Isaiah’s descriptive words illustrate as respects religious leaders in Christendom and pagandom at the fall of the world empire of false religion?
8 Those descriptive words having to do with the fall of the treacherous Third World Power illustrate the shock wave that will course through the frame of the world’s religious society when the modern-day counterpart of Babylon falls. This will hurt the religious feelings of the modern antitypical Babylonians far more than the hard-hitting message now delivered by Jehovah’s Witnesses during this “time of the end” since 1914. (Dan. 12:4) Priests and other officers of the religious bodies of Christendom and pagandom will be stunned, dumbfounded as if being unable to see or hear about what is taking place. Their hearts will have no stability, no rest, no ability to rely unwaveringly upon the gods once worshiped. A situation hideous enough to make one shudder terrifies them, particularly because their religious hypocrisy is exposed. The “twilight” such as comes with the promise of ease and relaxation at the close of a day’s work will be a darkening time of tremors for them. The day for them to misguide and oppress people in their religious organizations will end dreadfully. They will convulse like women holding their hips for pain at childbirth.
9. The state setting unveiled to Isaiah suddenly changes in view of what command from Jehovah?
9 Suddenly the stage setting unveiled to the prophet Isaiah changes like in a change of acts in a theater. He hears the command from Jehovah: “Let there be a setting of the table in order, an arranging of the location of seats, an eating, a drinking! Get up, you princes, anoint the shield. For this is what Jehovah has said to me.”—Isa. 21:5, 6.
10. What did the divine command portray, and when did the matter portrayed reach the height of contempt for Jehovah God?
10 This briefly portrays the scene at the palace in Babylon on the last night of her world domination. Graphically it sets forth the feast of Belshazzar, the son of the absent emperor Nabonidus. Then, indeed, there was an arranging of seats for the thousand grandees of Babylon. There was lighthearted eating and drinking. But this came to be with the height of contempt for Jehovah God, when they started eating and drinking with the use of the tableware that had belonged to his temple until the Babylonians took possession of Jerusalem and destroyed its temple.
11. What did Jehovah now miraculously do at this impious feast of Belshazzar, and how did Daniel serve as the interpreter for the occasion?
11 Belshazzar’s feast now becomes impious, for it brought Jehovah into the situation. He miraculously sent a hand to write upon the wall of the banquet hall, where the king could see it, the words: “Mene, mene, tekel and parsin.” To decipher those code words the exiled Jewish prophet Daniel had to be brought in. The final word of the handwriting, parsin, is the plural number of the Chaldaic word peres and means “divisions.” So, in his inspired interpretation, Daniel said: “PERES, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.”—Dan. 5:28.
12. What was the “shield” that was to be anointed by the princes, and what did the command to anoint such a “shield” indicate?
12 In reward Daniel was favored with royal apparel and was made “the third ruler” in the empire. But this was not the fulfillment of Jehovah’s command meant for the nobility of Babylon: “Get up, you princes, anoint the shield.” (Isa. 21:5) Neither was it a command for the princes to grease their military shields for doing battle with the besiegers of Babylon. Rather, the expression “the shield” applied to the royal head of the nation. (Compare Psalm 89:18.) What, then, does the command to “anoint the shield” mean? This: that King Belshazzar was about to be killed, this creating the need for another to assume the position of ‘second ruler’ in the Babylonian Empire. But this induction of a new symbolic “shield” by an anointing never did take place. Belshazzar’s violent death did not actually make room for a successor from the royal family.
13. So had the command given in Isaiah 21:2 been given in vain, and did Daniel’s newly bestowed position carry over into the new regime?
13 Daniel 5:30, 31 says: “In that very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed and Darius the Mede himself received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” What a lightning change in world politics that was! Not in vain had Jehovah given his command: “Go up, O Elam! Lay siege, O Media!” (Isa. 21:2) At Babylon’s fall to the Medes and the Persians, Darius the Mede took the place of a ‘second ruler’ in Babylon. Daniel’s newly bestowed position of the “third ruler” in Babylonia did not carry over into the Medo-Persian regime. Yet Daniel was not killed with Belshazzar.
14. What does ancient Babylon’s downfall presage, and how will those involved in that be affected?
14 Ancient Babylon’s surprising downfall presages the sudden downfall of her present-day counterpart, Babylon the Great. This will catch worldly religionists off guard. So if believers in the invincibility of the world empire of false religion do not expect its fall soon, their complacency is due to be rudely shocked!
WHAT THE WATCHMAN HAS TO REPORT
15. The command given after the prophetic description of Belshazzar’s feast indicates what concerning ancient Babylon and her counterpart?
15 Why, though, does Isaiah give us that advance look into Belshazzar’s feast on that painful night of 539 B.C.E.? It was because of what was to follow, namely, the reporting of that outstanding event of the century to Jehovah’s covenant people, who would rejoice over the fall of “the treacherous dealer.” Isaiah 21:5, 6 shows what would follow upon the heels of Babylon’s fall, saying: “Get up, you princes, anoint the shield. For this is what Jehovah has said to me: ‘Go, post a lookout that he may tell just what he sees.’” Aha, there was to be world publicity on the event! So, too, the fall of Babylon the Great must make the news headlines!
16. What can be said about the “lookout” posted in the case of ancient Babylon and the one posted in the case of Babylon the Great?
16 Isaiah was the one told to post the “lookout” to report on what he was due to see. Isaiah did not live on to be an eyewitness of what he foretold and of which he gave us a written account. So someone else from Isaiah’s own people would have to serve as the posted lookout. In the then far-off days of the impending fall of Babylon the Great a similar lookout has been posted. It proves to be the class anointed with Jehovah’s spirit, a class appropriately associated with the magazine that still bears the name Watchtower. The evidence is at hand to show that by means of Jesus Christ Jehovah God has appointed that “lookout” class. It has served in this capacity down to this portentous hour of the “night” that is casting its gloom over the whole world. (Matt. 24:45-47) What, now, may we expect this “lookout” to tell us at the due time?
17. What did the posted “lookout” see, and what did this represent?
17 Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the “lookout” goes on to say: “And he saw a war chariot with a span of steeds, a war chariot of asses, a war chariot of camels. And he paid strict attention, with much attentiveness.” (Isa. 21:7) Those chariots are evidently approaching with the speed of fast Persian post horses or steeds and are coming from “the [conquered] wilderness of the sea.” There are likely columns of war chariots. The column of chariots drawn by asses represents the Median forces under Darius the Mede. The column of chariots drawn by the larger animals, camels able to outrun horses, represents the Persian forces under Cyrus the Great.* This Persian was in fact in command of the combined forces of the Medes and the Persians. Not Darius the Mede, but Cyrus the Persian was the conqueror of whom Jehovah by means of Isaiah said that He would call him by his personal name. Before this Cyrus, Jehovah God would open the metallic gates and doors of Babylon for him to ascend up from the bed of the Euphrates River and break into the heavily walled city of Babylon.—Isa. 44:27 through 45:4; compare Daniel 8:1-4, 20.
18. According to Isaiah 21:8, 9, what kind of watchman would the posted “lookout” be, and has it been so?
18 How faithful and dependable would the posted lookout be as a watchman? Isaiah 21:8, 9 indicates by saying: “And he proceeded to call out like a lion: ‘Upon the watchtower, O Jehovah, I am standing constantly by day, and at my guardpost I am stationed all the nights. And here, now, there is coming a war chariot of men, with a span of steeds!’” Wide awake, he stuck to his post until his piercing eyes saw the meaningful sight for which he had been tirelessly watching. Likewise the “watchman” class of today has roared forth loudly and fearlessly in discharge of its God-given mission by means of the Watchtower magazines and other theocratic publications and public lectures. By Jehovah’s unfailing power it will keep on doing so until it can make the long-desired announcement.
19. What shows whether the watchman grasped correctly the meaning of the approaching war chariots?
19 The watchman grasped the import of the war chariots that he saw coming within eyeshot of the watchtower on which he stood. According to the time set by Jehovah—70 years of desolation for the land of Judah—and according to the prophecies given by the exiled Daniel before Belshazzar’s impious feast in 539 B.C.E., the watchman could interpret correctly what the unhindered oncoming of the non-Babylonian chariots meant. “And,” says Isaiah 21:9b, “he began to speak up and say: ‘She has fallen! Babylon has fallen, and all the graven images of her gods he has broken to the earth!’”
20. Why was it not the exiled Jews in Babylon that broke down the graven images of her gods, and who was the image breaker?
20 The image breaker here spoken of is Jehovah, the one living and true God, the jealous God or “God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Ex. 20:5) By letting the Medes and the Persians who did not worship the gods of Babylon conquer her, Jehovah showed up the falsity of the idolatrous gods of the Third World Power, their nonexistence. It was not the exiled Jews in Babylon who rose up in some revolt and overthrew the Third World Power; Jehovah their God did not authorize or command them to do so. Instead, he used Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian to bring about the downfall of idolatrous Babylon as a world power. (Dan. 2:32, 36-38) So it was not the “watchman” that caused the fall of “the treacherous dealer,” Babylon. He merely bore witness to its downfall, to the vindication of Jehovah as the God of prophecy and as Sovereign Lord.
21. What announcement similar to that which the “watchman” of Isaiah’s prophecy called out is yet due to be made?
21 A universally important announcement like that of the “watchman” of Isaiah’s prophecy was foretold as due to be made in our own time. The Christian apostle John, who lived till the end of the first century, had a vision of the one making the announcement and wrote: “I saw another angel descending from heaven, with great authority; and the earth was lighted up from his glory. And he cried out with a strong voice, saying: ‘She has fallen! Babylon the Great has fallen, and she has become a dwelling place of demons and a lurking place of every unclean exhalation and a lurking place of every unclean and hated bird!’”—Rev. 18:1, 2.
22. Who is it that reduces Babylon the Great to a desolate ruin, and what agency will he use to that end?
22 The Greater Cyrus, the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, is the One who causes the coming literal fall of Babylon the Great, thus to become a desolate avoided place. Today the Christian witnesses of Jehovah could do all the preaching that they wanted to do throughout the world concerning Jehovah’s kingdom and the day of his vengeance, but this would never bring on the crash of the world empire of false religion. They eagerly await the time when they can take up the announcement that Babylon the Great has fallen. (Rev. 18:2) Since the Greater Cyrus does not use his peaceable disciples on earth to overthrow Babylon the Great, chapter 17 of Revelation shows that he will use a beastlike agency; it is depicted as a scarlet-colored, 10-horned wild beast. Its seven heads picture the seven world powers of Bible history. Upon this 20th-century symbolic beast that international harlot, Babylon the Great, mounted herself at the formation of the League of Nations after World War I.
23. Against whom will the former backers of the symbolic beast then turn full force, and what will the Greater Cyrus do?
23 Till now Babylon the Great has ridden upon the League’s successor, the United Nations. But, shortly now, the political backers of the United Nations will tire of being dominated by the world empire of false religion and will dump her off and destroy her. Then, after the “watchman” calls out, “Babylon the Great has fallen,” they will turn, full force, against the surviving Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Here the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ, the “King of kings,” will step in and destroy the former backers of the U.N. in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. Jehovah’s anointed “watchman” class and the “great crowd” that has responded to the information shouted out by that composite “watchman” will survive that final war under divine protection, for the vindication of Jehovah God as Sovereign of all heaven and earth.
24. How was ancient Israel a “son” of Jehovah’s threshing floor, and today whose threshing of a similar kind will shortly be brought to its end, and how?
24 The Jews exiled in ancient Babylon for 70 years were thus disciplined as if by a “threshing.” Symbolically speaking, they made up the “son” of Jehovah’s threshing floor. After Babylon’s fall that disciplinary “threshing” was to come to an end. Referring to this, Isaiah 21:10 sympathetically and comfortingly says: “O my threshed ones and the son of my threshing floor, what I have heard from Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, I have reported to you people.” Similarly, Babylon the Great has been allowed to administer a threshing to Jehovah’s faithful witnesses. But after her fall into destruction all “threshing” by her will cease. Her former political paramours will try to prolong the threshing. As a retribution they themselves will be threshed to destruction in Jehovah’s symbolic threshing floor.—Rev. 14:14, 15; Joel 3:13-16; Mic. 4:12, 13.
25. In view of the impending fall of Babylon the Great, why more than ever before is it the time for Jehovah’s “people” to sound out his command, with what end in view?
25 In view of the impending fall of Babylon the Great, now more than ever before it is the time for the “watchman” class and the “great crowd” to sound out the divine command: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) Yes, “get out of her,” not to join her political paramours or the faithless anti-God forces of this world, but to become part of “my people,” Jehovah’s dedicated people. (Jer. 51:45) Act now upon Isaiah’s “pronouncement against the wilderness of the sea.”—Isa. 21:1-10.
26. For what do we owe thanks to “Jehovah of armies,” and what blessed hope do those heeding it have?
26 All thanks, then, to “Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel,” for raising up and posting a “watchman” class and for giving it such a marvelous report to sound out far and wide! All those heeding the God-given report have the blessed hope of surviving the horrifying “night” upon this world and of welcoming the glorious “morning” of the righteous new system of things under the reign of the Greater Cyrus, Jesus Christ the Liberator. This will be to the pleasing and praise of “Jehovah of armies,” our Sovereign Lord.
The Jerusalem Bible (French) says, on Isaiah 21:2: “Elam is the name for the ancient inhabitants of the high plateaux from which the Persians originated. The Medes had been vassals of Cyrus before the capture of Babylon.”
Concerning the use made by Cyrus the Great of camels in warfare, see The History of Herodotus, The First Book entitled “Clio,” page 29.
The French translation of the Holy Bible by M. L’Abbe, edition of 1884, comments on Isaiah 21:7 as follows: “These two horsemen carried on a chariot, are the two kings who had to take Babylon, Darius the Mede and Cyrus. As Menochius [an Italian Jesuit Bible commentator of the 17th century] explains it very well, their mounting represents the Medes and the Persians.”
See similar comments on Isaiah 21:7 made in Dr. Adam Clarke’s Commentary on The Old Testament, Volume 4, page 2724.
On Cyrus’ war strategy in using camels, see Chapter 20 entitled “The Greeks and the Persians,” of the book “The Outline of History” by H. G. Wells, page 257, paragraphs 2, 3, 1971 edition.
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Belshazzar’s impious feast led to Jehovah’s judgment of destruction on Babylon
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In retribution for their “threshing” of Jehovah’s Witnesses, first the world empire of false religion, then her political paramours, will themselves be “threshed” to destruction