The NIGHT is FAR SPENT and the DAY is AT HAND: The burden against Dumah. He calls to me out of Seir, "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night?" The watchman said, "The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; Return! Come back!" (Isaiah 21:11-12)
In the above two terse verses Isaiah announced that the “night” of Assyrian occupation for Edom might eventually be followed by a “morning” of freedom. Dumah refers to Edom, which was south of Moab near the mountain of Seir, and was inhabited by the descendants of Esau. Isaiah is called a watchman and he warns that both morning and also the night are coming.
In this brief oracle against Dumah, a question is asked by sleepless Edom to Isaiah about how much of the “night” is left (v. 11), and Isaiah’s enigmatic response that “night” accompanies the new day (v. 12). “Night” is symbolic of evil, death, judgment, and hell or eternal punishment (John 13:30). Isaiah warns them of impending judgment unless they return (repent).
Isaiah’s message is one of impending judgment which can be averted by Edom’s willingness to return. Edom is pictured here as hiding in Seir, wondering if it is safe to come out; and the prophet calls back to them that they should return unto the Lord in whom alone they can find safety.
While the prophet was anxiously watching so he could warn the people, the nation’s leaders were carelessly feasting and thinking only of themselves (v. 5). The watchman sees both night (trouble) and morning (blessing), and that is how it will be until Jesus comes. The most important thing is that the watchman be faithful to warn when danger is coming (Ezek. 25:12–14). We too can be watchmen for God’s kingdom. The Vine's commentary - Isaiah - explains the following:
“The watchman is one who stands in God’s counsels, knows what is coming and looks out for the event. So now, he who learns from the completed Scriptures what God has foretold, discerning His purposes, not by speculative interpretation, but by comparing Scripture with Scripture, and accepting what is therein made plain, is able to warn and exhort others. He stands upon the watch-tower in fellowship with God.”
Victor Buksbazen in his classic book, The Prophet Isaiah, has applied this passage to our present life with the following words:
The night of your present turmoil will end, and a new day will follow, but soon another night will come. If you seek a comforting answer to your anxious inquiries, you must first “return,” a word which also means “repent.” Only then will the answer be such as you hoped for; the night of your suffering will end, and a new bright morning of deliverance will dawn upon you.
Let us remember that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. It is high time that we awake out of our sleep, throw away all our ungodly activities, and renew our commitment to daily live and walk in a way that pleases God. One day, we will have to answer to God for all that we have done in our lives.