The Vision of Idumea and God’s Message to Arabia: Isaiah 21:11-17
Idumea was located to the south of Judea, south of the Dead Sea. It had been established by the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau (Genesis 32:8). It is also known as Seir, founded by the sons of Hor before Esau (Genesis 36:20-21).
All these place names refer to the same geographical area. Mt Hor is not identical to Mt Seir; these are distinct place names in Edom, or Idumea (LXX). Masoretic translations use the name Dumah for this same area. (Confused?)
This map shows the interesting feature of Judea’s location in the center of the area of interest to the Assyrian’s invading armies. Assyria attacked Damascus and Samaria from the north and Idumea (Edom) from the south. 2 Kings 18-19 records how God spared Jerusalem from the Assyrians, while nations surrounding them fell.
The details of Isaiah 21 continue to be difficult to decipher. One question from Isaiah 21:11-12 is: Does Idumea actually fall? Isaiah warns of trouble in Idumea, but the two verses are not historically specific. God’s “Oracle Concerning Arabia” is very specific.
“For thus the Lord said to me, ‘Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end.'” (Isaiah 21:16 ESV)
Kedar is located in the Arabian desert. The sons of Ishamel (Isaac’s brother from Abraham’s concubine) established it (Genesis 25:13).
Difficulties: The map of the Assyrian Empire reveals that the Assyrians did not conquer the Arabian Peninsula. Many maps I located show the same finding. However, the neo-Babylonian Empire did include Kedar, according to maps. Remember, it was the neo-Babylonians who led Judea into captivity.
However, Isaiah 21:16 states that Kedar would be overrun within a year of Isaiah’s prophesying. (Or, could it be one year from the time of fulfillment of the previous prophecies?) The difficulty with this is that neo-Babylonia became a superpower about 100 years after Isaiah.
Another possibility is that locations and maps are approximate. Perhaps Assyria did attack and overcome Kedar and Tema after all.
Main Point: The main point of Isaiah 21 is that God is not pleased. Babylon will fall, Idumea is in grave danger, and Kedar will endure great suffering and death. But God is always eager for people everywhere to repent and trust in him who is able to keep them safe.