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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Isaiah 34

Verse 1

Just as an earlier section of Isaiah is concluded by a graphic description of the eternal judgment in Isaiah 27, so here, having concluded his prophecies regarding the invasion of Sennacherib, the Lord here, through Isaiah, again made strong reference to the final judgment; and, in both instances, the Edomites are brought in especially as a people judged and condemned. It seems evident that Edom in both cases is singled out as a representative of all the wicked nations on earth, there being no evidence that the destruction of Edom on the last day will exceed in any manner the judgment that shall fall upon all the wicked.

Many scholars have discerned this:

"The theme here is judgment upon God's enemies generally; but the Edomites were selected as a typical specimen.[1] Edom is not merely a historical entity, but a symbol of all the nations that are hostile to God.[2] By a figure very common in the prophetic writings, any city, or people, remarkably distinguished as enemies of God is put for those enemies in general.[3] Most commentators agree that Edom represents all the nations hostile to God."[4]

As a matter of fact, no more appropriate representative of all the enemies of God could have been chosen. The ancestor of this people was Esau, the profane, adulterous, pagan brother of Jacob. He hated his brother continually. "He cast off all pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever" (Amos 1:11). The Edomites even aided Nebuchadnezzar in the destruction of Jerusalem (Obadiah 1:1:10ff); and they were relentless enemies of Israel throughout their history. When Israel desired to pass through their borders on the way to Palestine, they would not allow it; and they sold Israelites as slaves to Tyre, etc., etc. Nor did it end in the Old Testament. When the Son of God was born, who attempted to kill him? who slaughtered the innocents of Judaea? It was Herod the Great, the savage Idumean (and that word means Edomite). One of his Edomite descendants murdered the apostle James and intended to kill all of the apostles until God struck him dead; another presided over one of the mock trials of the Son of God; and his descendants filled the New Testament with their shameful names. One of them murdered John the Baptist; and two of Herod's posterity, the dissolute Drusilla and Bernice, were thoroughly evil. How fitting it was, therefore, that the Edomites should have been chosen here as a symbol for all the Gentile wickedness on earth.

Isaiah 34:1-7

"Come near ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye peoples: let the earth hear, and the fullness thereof; the world, and all things that come forth from it. For Jehovah hath indignation against all the nations, and wrath against all their host: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter. Their slain also shall be cast out, and the stench of their dead bodies shall come up; and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll; and all their host shall fade away, as the leaf fadeth from off the vine, and as a fading leaf from the fig-tree. For my sword hath drunk its fill in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Edom, and the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of Jehovah is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams; for Jehovah hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom. And the wild oxen shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls: and their land shall be drunken with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness."

"Come near, ye nations ... Let the earth hear ..." (Isaiah 34:1). Such words herald the worldwide importance of the final judgment God here announced. Every man who ever breathed has an interest, whether or not he knows it, in the doings of that Great Day when God will rise in righteous wrath and cast evil out of his universe.

Another important thing about this verse is that it, "reflects the language of the law courts,"[5] suggesting the old suzerain treaty so prominent in the Pentateuch, that being a legal device unknown in Isaiah's times outside of the Pentateuch or the minor prophets anywhere else upon earth. This, of course is proof, absolute, that Isaiah was familiar with the Pentateuch and with the prophets when these words were written.

"Jehovah hath indignation against all the nations ... he hath utterly destroyed them ... delivered them to the slaughter ..." (Isaiah 34:2). This speaks of the slaughter of "all nations" as something already done. This characteristic of Biblical prophecies is called the "prophetic certainty." When God prophesies anything, it is as certain to be fulfilled as if it had already occurred.


One of the six fundamentals of the Christian religion (Hebrews 6:2), the judgment is extensively mentioned throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It was promised in Genesis (Genesis 2:17) where God pronounced death upon the whole race of Adam if they ate of the forbidden fruit. The sentence will be executed "at the end of this dispensation," which still lies within the perimeter of "the day they ate of it," the same being the seventh day of creation which is still going on (Hebrews 4:4-11). The sentence was not repealed, commuted, or softened in any way. It will yet be executed upon Adam and Eve in the person of their total posterity, there being absolutely no exceptions, except "the redeemed of all ages."

Some of the metaphors under which that Great Day is mentioned in Scripture:

(1) It will be the day when God destroys the Flying Serpent (the Devil), the Crooked Serpent (Evil Human government), and the Winding Serpent (False Religion) (Isaiah 27 and Revelation 12-20), all of whom shall be destroyed in the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone.

(2) It will be the day when Christ separates the sheep from the goats, consigning the lost to "hell prepared for the devil and his angels" and welcoming the redeemed into the "joy of their Lord" (Matthew 25).

(3) In Isaiah 34, it is the day in which God will slaughter all of the rebellious nations on earth.

(4) It will be the day when the greatest earthquake ever known shall occur, the sun will become black, the moon like blood, the stars fall, the heavens disappear, rolled up like a scroll, every mountain and every island removed from their places, and the kings, princes, captains, rich, strong, every bondman, and every freeman shall cry for the rocks and the mountains to fall upon them and hide them from the wrath of the Lamb! (Revelation 6:12-17).

(5) It will be the treading of the winepress of the wrath of God against the great World City (Urban mankind in his rebellion against God); "And there came out blood from the winepress, even to the bridles of the horses, as far as a thousand and six hundred furlongs (some 200 miles!) (Revelation 14:20).

(6) It will be the day when Babylon the Great falls. "The cities of the nations fell: and Babylon the Great was remembered in the sight of God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath ... every island fled away, the mountains were not found ... great hail, every stone the weight of a talent (about 60 pounds) ... the plague thereof was exceeding great" (Revelation 16:19ff). Some associate this with the so-called "Battle of Armageddon" mentioned just previously in Revelation 16:16; but nowhere in Scripture is it ever referred to as a battle. It appears to us that God would need a human battle just like he would need a hole in his head!

(7) It is represented as total silence. "And a mighty angel took up a great millstone (weight: about 1,000 pounds or more) and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with a mighty fall shall Babylon, the great city, be cast down and SHALL BE FOUND NO MORE AT ALL ... The voice of harpers, minstrels, etc. ... SHALL BE HEARD NO MORE AT ALL IN THEE ... Craftsmen of whatever craft SHALL BE FOUND NO MORE AT ALL IN THEE ... The voice of a mill SHALL BE HEARD NO MORE AT ALL IN THEE ... The light of a lamp SHALL SHINE NO MORE AT ALL IN THEE ... The voice of the bridegroom and the bride SHALL BE HEARD NO MORE AT ALL IN THEE" (Revelation 18:21-24).

(8) It is spoken of as a great war between the kings of the earth, the beast, and all the forces of evil, against Christ who sat on the white horse (Revelation 19:16ff). The kings were slain; and the beast and all who worshipped him were "cast alive into the lake of fire that burneth with brimstone." Notice that there was no "battle." Note also that the "Great Supper of God" was celebrated in this instance by all of the fowls of the air which ate up the flesh of the dead men and horses! (Revelation 19:18).

(9) It is presented as an occasion when all the dead who ever lived shall be summoned before the Great White Throne; the books were opened, and the book of life; and the earth and the heavens fled away. "Death and Hades, and the devil that deceived the nations, were also, with the beast and the false prophet, "cast into the lake of fire and brimstone; and they shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." (Revelation 20).

(10) "Both soul and body will be destroyed in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

(11) "Hell is a place of unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43).

(12) "Hell: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark 10:48).

(13) Hell appears to be mentioned in this: "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; where there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 22:13).

It is apparent that many of these metaphors mention things that are not clearly understood. Darkness, fire, living worms, perpetual silence, weeping and gnashing of teeth, etc., when considered collectively do not give any sharp picture at all of what the final place of God's disposal of the condemned may actually be. The one overriding feature would appear to be the total undesirability of the place! All men should be cautioned against believing that they know exactly what it will be like in hell.

(14) Still other features of that Great Day are found here. The nations shall be slaughtered and their bodies left unburied; and there will be blood enough to melt the mountains; the host of heaven shall be dissolved; and the heavens themselves shall be rolled together like a scroll (Isaiah 34:2-4). The whole land of Edom, along with all animals, even the wild ones, together with all the inhabitants shall be, as it were, slaughtered upon the altar of God in that "great sacrifice at Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Edom" (Isaiah 34:5-7).

(15) The apostle Peter added that in those terminal events of the Great Judgment:

"The day of the Lord will come as a thief; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter 3:10),

The "great noise" is a feature of the final day that is frequently spoken of as "the sound of a great trumpet," as mentioned by Christ himself thus:

(16) "The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light; the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken, then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven ... And he shall send forth his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31).

There are some features of the Great Judgment mentioned here which are not found elsewhere, one of these being the mountains melted with blood, and another being the foul stench of the rotting carcasses of the dead. Still another is in the fact of God's sword having drunk heavily of blood in heaven. This latter statement is likely a metaphor of the long accumulated wrath of God so long stored up in heaven against the incorrigibly wicked. It is quite obvious that this language is undoubtedly metaphorical.

Verse 8

"For Jehovah hath a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion."

This speaks of the absolute certainty of the final judgment. Yes, men can count on it; there will be a Day of the Lord.

Verse 9

"And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up forever; from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it forever and ever. But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it; and the owl and the raven shall dwell therein: and he will stretch over it the line of confusion, and the plummet of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there; and all its princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in its palaces, nettles and thistles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of jackals, a court for ostriches. And the wild beasts of the desert shall meet with the wolves, and the wild goat shall cry to his fellow; yea, the night-monster shall settle there, and shall find her a place of rest. There shall the dart-snake make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shade; yea, there shall the kites be gathered, everyone with her mate."

"Streams into pitch ... dust into brimstone ..." (Isaiah 34:9). "These words, along with the haunted ruins of Isaiah 34:11ff bring both Sodom and Babylon to mind";[6] and they provide part of the evidence here that the final judgment is the theme. However, it is evident that both the earthly judgments against Edom and that of the Final Day are mingled in the description. This is true because other pictures of the final destruction of Adam's race declare that "no living thing whatever" will be left (Zephaniah 1:1-3).

The judgments against Sodom and Gomorrah and that of Babylon are both typical of the Final Day; and for that reason, the comparison suggested here enables us to classify the judgment against Edom in the same way. Like Babylon, Edom will be nothing but a waste land generation after generation. This, of course, has already happened.

The word rendered "night-monster" in Isaiah 34:14 comes from a proper name in the Hebrew, Lilith, which is of uncertain interpretation.[7] There is some possibility that it might refer to a demon. Peake believed that all of the creatures mentioned here as dwelling in deserted and wasted Edom were "Satyrs,"[8] that is, "gods, or gods that looked like goats, demonic creatures."[9]

"Isaiah 34:15, then is meant to mirror the total absence of any human beings."[10] And, in view of the first three verses of Zephaniah, where God promised to destroy every living creature, it could be that only spiritual beings such as demons in the service of the devil would inhabit places such as Babylon and Edom were doomed to be.

Verse 16

"Seek ye out of the book of Jehovah, and read: no one of these shall be missing, none shall want her mate, for my mouth, it hath commanded, and his Spirit, it hath gathered them. And he hath cast lots for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it forever; from generation to generation shall they dwell therein."

What is this "book of Jehovah" that Isaiah here invited his audience to seek out and read? It can be none other than the book of the sacred Old Testament, including such things as the writings of Moses in the Pentateuch and that of any of the minor prophets who had preceded Isaiah, and also such other of the sacred writings that then existed; and this line here in Isaiah 34:16 shows that Isaiah knew that his own writings would be attached to that "book" and become a part of it. We do not believe that when Isaiah wrote this that he was, in any sense, suggesting that his prophecy alone was "the book of Jehovah."

"Jehovah himself has cast the lot determining that this land shall belong to the wild animals (or demons). "They shall possess it forever" (Isaiah 34:17). For lo these two thousand years the land of Edom has been the possession of creatures that inhabit the desert and ruins left by man."[11]

The great theme here has been the final judgment, due to fall eventually upon Adam's rebellious and headstrong race. God's indignation has not diminished, and the eternal justice of this was commented upon thus by Payne:

"Every foe of God will one day be utterly banished from the scene. God's children cannot be forever at the mercy of their enemies, here epitomized as Edom. Those who have hounded and harassed them cannot remain forever unpunished. The day of recompense and vengeance is sure to come."[12]

God also has a score to settle with men who fully deserve the indignation and vengeance of our Heavenly Father. He created us in harmonious fellowship with himself in the Paradise of Eden; but man decided to become a servant of Satan, lost his estate and his glorious inheritance, and then set about to take away even the knowledge of God's existence from his posterity. That resulted in a world filled with violence, which God terminated in the Great Deluge.

Beginning over again in the family of Noah, the very knowledge of God was once more in danger of disappearing from the earth, as indicated by the Tower of Babel, which situation God terminated again by confounding the languages of men and by the selection of a "chosen people" who were commissioned to keep alive the name and knowledge of the Heavenly Father until the Messiah would be born.

But the Jews failed to live up to their assignment, and proved to be no better than the Gentiles, from whom God had separated them. As Paul wrote in the first two chapters of Romans they were in no way superior morally to the Gentiles; and when the promised Messiah finally came, they hated him and arranged his murder.

In the current dispensation, the "fullness of the Gentiles" is in the process of having come in; and then the great calamities of that awful period preceding the final judgment will come to pass according to the prophecies; and then will appear that "Day which God has appointed, upon which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has appointed, whereof he hath given assurance unto all men in that he raised him from the dead!" (Acts 17:31).

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Isaiah 34". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.