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The thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth chapters make one distinct and beautiful prophecy, consisting of two parts; the first containing a denunciation of judgment on the enemies of the Jews, particularly Edom Isaiah 34:0; and the second a most beautiful description of the flourishing state of the people of God which would follow these judgments Isaiah 35:1-10)
At what time the prophecy was delivered it is uncertain, and, indeed, can be determined by nothing in the prophecy itself. It is observable, however, that it is the close of the first part of the prophecies of Isaiah, the remaining chapters to the fortieth, which commences the second part of the prophecies, being occupied with an historical description of the invasion of Sennacherib and his army. It has been supposed (see the Introduction, Sections 2, 3,) that between the delivery of the prophecies in the first and second portion of Isaiah, an interval of some years elapsed, and that fire second part was delivered for his own consolation, and the consolation of the people, near the close of his life.
A somewhat similar purpose, as I apprehend, led to the composition and publication of the prophecy before us. The general strain of his prophecies thus far has been, that however numerous and mighty were the enemies of the Jews, the people of God would be delivered from them all. Such was the case in regard to the allied armies of Syria and Samaria Isaiah 7:0; Isaiah 8:0; of the Assyrian Isaiah 10:0; of Babylon Isaiah 13:0; Isaiah 14:0; of Moab Isaiah 15:1-9; Isaiah 16:1-14; of Damascus and Ethiopia Isaiah 17:1-14; Isaiah 18:1-7; of Egypt Isaiah 19:0; Isaiah 20:1-6; and more particularly of the Assyrians under Sennacherib Isaiah 25:1-12; 29–33 The prophecy before us I regard as a kind of summing up, or recapitulation of all that he had delivered; and the general idea is, that the people of God would be delivered from all their foes, and that happier times under the Messiah would succeed all their calamities. This he had expressed often in the particular prophecies; he here expresses it in a summary and condensed manner.
Keeping this general design of the prophecy in view, we may observe that it consists of the following parts:
I. A general statement that all the enemies of the people of God would be destroyed Isaiah 34:1-4.
1. The nations of the earth are summoned to see this, and to become acquainted with the purpose of God thus to destroy all his enemies Isaiah 34:1.
2. The destruction of the enemies of God described under the image of a great slaughter Isaiah 34:2-3.
3. The same destruction described under the image of the heavens rolled together as a scroll Isaiah 34:4.
II. This general truth particularly applied to Edom or Idumea as among the most virulent of their enemies Isaiah 34:5-17.
1. Yahweh’s vengeance would come upon the land of Idumea, and the land would be covered with the slain, and soaked in blood Isaiah 34:5-8.
2. The entire and utter desolation of the land of Idumea is foretold. The kingdom should be destroyed, the land laid waste, and the whole country become a dwelling place of wild beasts Isaiah 34:9-17.
III. The happy times that would succeed - the times of the Messiah - are exhibited Isaiah 35:1-10 in language of great beauty and sublimity. This is the substance of all that the prophet had predicted, and all his visions terminate there. The wilderness shall blossom; and the sick and afflicted shall be healed; the desolate lands shall be fertile; there shall be no enemy to annoy, and the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads.
As so large a part of this prophecy relates to Edom, or Idumea, it may be proper to preface the exposition of the chapter with a brief notice of the history of that country, and of the causes for which God denounced vengeance upon it.
Idumea was the name given by the Greeks to the land of Edom, the country which was settled by Esau. The territory which they occupied extended originally from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. Their territory, however, they extended considerably by conquest, and carried their anna to the east and northeast of Moab, and obtained possession of tile country of which Bozrah was the chief city. To this they had access through the intervening desert without crossing the country of the Moabites or Ammonites. The capital of East Idumea was Bozrah; the capital of South Edom was Petra or Selah, called, in 2 Kings 14:7, Joktheel (see the notes at Isaiah 16:1).
This country received its name from Esau, the son of Isaac, and the twin brother of Jacob. He was called Edom, which signifies red, from the color of the red pottage which he obtained from Jacob by the sale of his birthright Genesis 25:30. After his marriage, he removed to mount Seir, and made that his permanent abode, and the country adjacent to it received the name of Edom. Mount Seir had been occupied by a people called Horites, who were displaced by Esau, when he took possession of their country and made it his own Deuteronomy 2:12. The Edomites were at first governed by princes, improperly translated ‘dukes’ in Genesis 36:9-31. They were an independent people until the time of David. They seem to have continued under the government of separate princes, until the apprehension of foreign invasion compelled them to unite under one leader, and to submit them. selves to a king, When the children of Israel were passing through the wilderness, as the land of Edom lay between them and Canaan, Moses sent ambassadors to the king of Edom soliciting the privilege of a peaceful passage through their country, on the ground that they were descended from the same ancestor, and promising that the property of the Edomites should not be injured, and offering to pay for all that they should consume Numbers 20:14-19.
To this reasonable request the king of Edom sent a positive refusal, and came out with a strong army to resist them Numbers 20:20. This refusal was long remembered by the Jews, and was one cause of the hostile feeling which was cherished against them. The kingdom of Edom seems to have risen to a considerable degree of prosperity. There is, indeed, no direct mention made of it after this until the time of David; but it seems to have then risen into so much importance as to have attracted his attention. David carried his arms there after having obtained a victory over the Syrians, Moabites, and Ammonites. It is not known, indeed, what was the cause of this war, but it is known that he killed eighteen thousand Edomites in the valley of Salt 2 Samuel 8:13; 1 Chronicles 18:12, and the rest of them were either brought into subjection under Joab, or forced to fly into foreign countries. Hadad, their young king, fled to Egypt and was favorably received by Pharaoh, and was highly honored at his court.
He was married to the sister of Tahpanes, who was the queen of Egypt 1 Kings 11:15-20. Yet though he lived at the court of Pharaoh, he waited only for an opportunity to recover his kingdom, and when David and Joab were dead, he proposed to the king of Egypt to make an effort to accomplish it. He returned to Idumea, but was unsuccessful in his attempts to overcome the garrisons which David had stationed to guard and secure the country (Joe. Ant. viii. 2). The kingdom of Edom continued under the house of David until the time of Jehoshaphat, and was probably governed by deputies or viceroys appointed by the kings of Judah. In the reign of Jehoshaphat they joined the Moabites and Ammonites in an attempt to recover their freedom, but they were unsuccessful. In the reign of Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat, however, they rose in a body, and though they suffered great slaughter, yet they regained their liberty 2 Chronicles 21:8-10.
After this, no attempts were made to subdue them for more than sixty years. In the reign of Amaziah, king of Judah, however, they were attacked, and ten thousand of them fell in battle in the valley of Salt, and many were made prisoners; their capital, Selah, was taken by storm, and the two thousand captives were by Amaziah’s orders thrown down the ragged precipices near the city, and dashed in pieces (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:12; Universal History, vol. i. p. 380; Ed. Lond. 1779, 8vo). When the Jews were subdued by the Babylonians, and carried captive, they seem to have regarded it as a favorable opportunity to avenge all the injustice which they had suffered from the hands of the Jews. They joined the Babylonians in their attempts to subdue Jerusalem, and exulted in the fall and ruin of the city.
Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom
In the day of Jerusalem; who said
Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.
They seem to have resolved to take full vengeance for the fact that their nation had been so long subjected by David and his successors; to have cut off such of the Jews as attempted to escape; to have endeavored to level the whole city with the ground; to have rejoiced in the success of the Babylonians, and to have imbrued their hands in the blood of those whom the Chaldeans had left - and were thus held to be guilty of the crime of fratricide by God (see particularly Obadiah 1:10-12, Obadiah 1:18; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:3-15). It was for this especially that they were denounced and threatened by the prophets with heavy judgment, and with the utter destruction of the nation Isaiah 34:5, Isaiah 34:10-17; Jeremiah 49:7-10, Jeremiah 49:12-18; Ezekiel 25:12-15; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11; Obadiah 1:2-3, Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:17-18; Malachi 1:3-4). This refusing to aid their brethren the Jews, and joining with the enemies of the people of God, and exulting in their success, was the great crime in their history which was to call down the divine vengeance, and terminate in their complete and utter ruin.
But their exultation does not long continue, and their cruelty to the Jews did not long remain unpunished. Five years after the taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar humbled all the states around Judea, and particularly Idumea Jeremiah 25:15-26; Malachi 1:3-4.
During the Jewish exile, it would appear the Edomites pressed forward into the south of Palestine, of which they took possession as far as to Hebron. Here they were subsequently attacked and subdued by John Hyrcanus, and compelled to adopt the laws and customs of the Jews. The name Idumea was transferred to this part of the land of Judea which they occupied, arid this is the Idumea which is mentioned by Pliny, Ptolemy, Strabo, and other ancient writers. Indeed the name Idumea was sometimes given by the Roman writers to the whole of Palestine (Reland’s Palestine). Idumea, including the southern part of Judea, was henceforth governed by a succession of Jewish prefects. One of these, Antipater, an Idumean by birth, by the favor of Caesar, was made procurator of all Judea. He was the father of Herod the Great, who become king of Judea, including Idumea. While the Edomites had been extending themselves to the northwest, they had in in turn been driven out from the southern portion of their own territory, and from their chief city itself, by the Nabatheans, an Arabian tribe, the descendants of Nebaioth, the oldest son of Ishmael. This nomadic people had spread themselves over the whole of desert Arabia, from the Euphrates to the borders of Palestine, and finally to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. They thus grew up into the kingdom of Arabia Petrea, occupying very nearly the same territory which was comprised within the limits of ancient Edom. A king of this country, Aretas, is mentioned as cotemporary with Antiochus Epiphanes, about 166 b.c. From this time to the destruction of Jerusalem, the sovereigns of Arabia Petrea came into frequent contact with the Jews and Romans, both in war and peace.
The nominal independence of this kingdom continued for some thirty years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Under the reign of Trajan, about 105 a.d., it was overrun and conquered by Cornelius Palma, then governor of Syria, and formally annexed to the Roman empire (Dio. Cass. lxviii. 14; Atom. Marcell. xiv. 8). The kingdom of Edom was thus blotted out, and their name was lost. In their own land they ceased to be a separate people, and mingled with the other descendants of Ishmael; in Judea they became, under John Hyrcanus, converts to the Jewish faith; received the rite of circumcision; and were incorporated with the Jews. Very interesting remains of cities and towns of Idumea, and particularly of Petrea, have been recently discovered by the travelers Burckhardt, and Seetsen (see Universal History, vol. i. pp. 370-383; Amer. Bib. Repository, vol. iii. pp. 247-270; Gesenius’ Introduction to his Com. on this chapter; the Travels of Burckhardt, Legh, Laborde, and Stephens; Keith, On Prophecy, pp. 135-168; and Robinson’s Bib. Researches, vol. ii. p. 551ff)
Come near, ye nations, to hear - That is, to hear of the judgments which God was about to execute, and the great purposes which he was about to accomplish. If the supposition be correct, that this and the following chapter contain a summing up of all that the prophet had thus far uttered; a declaration that all the enemies of the people of God would be destroyed - the most violent and bitter of whom was Idumea; and that this was to be succeeded by the happy times of the Messiah, then we see a plain reason why all the nations are summoned to hear and attend. The events pertain to them all; the truths communicated are of universal interest. “And all that is therein.” Hebrew as in Margin, ‘fulness thereof;’ that is, all the inhabitants of the earth.
All things that come forth of it - All that proceed from it; that is, all the inhabitants that the world has produced. The Septuagint renders it: ‘The world and the people ὁ λαὸς ho laos) who are therein.’
For the indignation of the Lord - Yahweh is about to express his wrath against all the nations which are opposed to his people.
He hath utterly destroyed them - In his purpose, or intention. The prophet represents this as so certain that it may be exhibited as already done.
Their slain also shall be cast out - They would lie unburied. The slaughter Would be so extensive, and the desolation would be so entire, that there would not remain enough to bury the dead (compare the notes at Isaiah 14:19).
And the mountains shall be melted with their blood - The expression here is evidently hyperbolical, and means that as mountains and hills are wasted away by descending showers and impetuous torrents, so the hills would be washed away by the vast quantity of blood that would be shed by the anger of Yahweh.
And all the host of heaven - On the word ‘host’ (צבא tsâbâ'), see the note at Isaiah 1:9. The heavenly bodies often represent kings and princes (compare the note at Isaiah 24:21).
Shall be dissolved - (ינמקוּ venâmaqqû. This figure Vitringa supposes to be taken from the common prejudice by which the stars appear to be crystals, or gems, set in the azure vault of heaven, which may melt and flow down by the application of heat. The sense is, that the princes and nobles who had opposed God and his people would be destroyed, as if the sparkling stars, like gems, should melt in the heavens, and flow down to the earth.
And the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll - The word ‘scroll’ here (ספר sêpher) means a roll, or a book. Books were made of parchment, leaves, etc., and were rolled together instead of being bound, as they are with us. The figure here is taken from what strikes the eye, that the heaven above us is “an expanse” (רקיע râqı̂ya‛) Genesis 1:8; Psalms 104:2,) which is spread out; and which might be rolled together, and thus pass away. It is possible that there may be a reference also to the fact, that in a storm, when the sky is filled with dark rolling clouds, the heavens seem to be rolled together, and to be passing away. The sense is, that there would be great destruction among those high in office and in power - a destruction that would be well represented by the rolling up of the firmament, and the destruction of the visible heavens and their host, and by leaving the world to ruin and to night.
And all their host shall fall down - That is, their stars; either by being as it were melted, or by the fact that the expanse in which they are apparently located would be rolled up and removed, and there being no fixtures for them they would fall. The same image occurs in Revelation 6:13. One somewhat similar occurs in Virgil, Georg. i. 365ff.
As the leaf falleth off from the vine ... - That is, in a storm, or when violently shaken.
For my sword shall be bathed in heaven - A sword is an instrument of vengeance, and is often so used in the Scriptures, because it was often employed in capital punishments (see the note at Isaiah 27:1). This passage bas given much perplexity to commentators, on account of the apparent want of meaning of the expression that the sword would be bathed in heaven. Lowth reads it:
For my sword is made bare in the heavens;
Following in this the Chaldee which reads תתגלי tı̂thgallı̂y, ‘shall be revealed.’ But there is no authority from manuscripts for this change in the Hebrew text. The Vulgate renders it, Quoniam inebriatus est in coelo gladius meuse - ‘My sword is intoxicated in heaven.’ The Septuagint renders it in the same way, Ἐμεθύσθη ἡ μάχαιρά μον ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ Emethusthē hē machaira mou en tō ouranō; and the Syriac and Arabic in the same manner. The Hebrew word רוּתה rivetâh, from רוה râvâh, means properly to drink to the full; to be satisfied, or sated with drink; and then to be full or satiated with intoxicating liquor, to be drunk. It is applied to the sword, as satiated or made drunk with blood, in Jeremiah 46:10 :
And the sword shall devour,
And it shall be satiate, and made drunk with their blood.
And thus in Deuteronomy 32:42, a similar figure is used respecting arrows, the instruments also of war and vengeance:
I will make mine arrows drunk with blood;
And my sword shall devour flesh.
A similar figure is often used in Oriental writers, where the sword is represented as glutted, satiated, or made drunk with blood (see Rosenmuller on Deuteronomy 32:42). Thus Bohaddinus, in the lift of Saladin, in describing a battle in which there was a great slaughter, says, ‘The swords drank of their blood until they were intoxicated.’ The idea here is, however, not that the sword of the Lord was made drunk with blood in heaven, but that it was intoxicated, or made furious with wrath; it was excited as an intoxicated man is who is under ungovernable passions; it was in heaven that the wrath commenced, and the sword of divine justice rushed forth as if intoxicated, to destroy all before it. There are few figures, even in Isaiah, that are more bold than this.
It shall come down upon Idumea - (see the Analysis of the chapter for the situation of Idumea, and for the causes why it was to be devoted to destruction).
Upon the people of my curse - The people devoted to destruction.
The sword of the Lord is filled with blood - The idea here is taken from the notion of sacrifice, and is, that God would devote to sacrifice, or to destruction, the inhabitants of Idumea. With reference to that, he says, that his sword, the instrument of slaughter, would be satiated with blood. “It is made fat with fatness.” The allusion here is to the sacrifices which were made for sin, in which the blood. and the fat were devoted to God as an offering (see Leviticus 7:0)
With the blood of lambs and goats - These were the animals which were usually offered in sacrifice to God among the Jews. and to speak of a sacrifice was the same as to speak of the offering of rams, lambs, bullocks, etc. Yet it is evident that they denote here the people of Idumea, and that these terms are used to keep up the image of a sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice was always connected with that of slaughter, as the animals were slaughtered before they were offered. So here, the idea is, that there would be a great slaughter in Idumea; that it would be so far of the nature of a sacrifice that they would be devoted to God and to his cause. It is not probable that any particular classes of people are denoted by the different animals mentioned here, as the animals here mentioned include all, or nearly all those usually offered in sacrifice, the expressions denote simply that all classes of people in Idumea would be devoted to the slaughter. Grotius, however, supposes that the following classes are intended by the animals specified, to wit, by the lambs, the people in general; by the goats, the priests; by the rams, the opulent inhabitants.
For the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah - Bozrah is mentioned here as one of the chief cities of Idumea. It was a city of great antiquity, and was known among the Greeks and Romans by the name of Bostra. It is generally mentioned in the Scriptunes as a city of the Edomites Isaiah 63:1; Jeremiah 49:13, Jeremiah 49:22; Amos 1:12; but once it is mentioned as a city of Moab Jeremiah 48:24. It probably belonged at different periods to both nations, as in their wars the possession of cities often passed into different hands. Bozrah lay southeast of Edrei, one of the capitals of Bashan, and was thus not properly within the limits of the Edomites, but was north of the Ammonites, or in the region of Auranitis, or in what is now called tho Houran. It is evident, therefore, that in the time of Isaiah, the Edomites had extended their conquests to that region.
According to Burckhardt, who visited the Houran, and who went to Bozrah, it is at this day one of the most important cities there. ‘It is situated,’ says he, ‘in the open plain, and is at present the last inhabited place in the southeast extremity of the Houran; it was formerly the capital of the Arabia Provincia, and is now, including its ruins, the largest town in the Houran. It is of an oval shape, its greatest length being from east to west; its circumference is three quarters of an hour. It was anciently encompassed with a thick wall, which gave it the reputation of great strength Many parts of this wall, especially on the west side, remain; it was constructed of stones of moderate size, strongly cemented together. The south, and southeast quarters are covered with ruins of private dwellings, the walls Of many of which are still standing, but the roofs are fallen in. The style of building seems to have been similar to that observed in all the other ancient towns of the Houran. On the west side are springs of fresh water, of which I counted five beyond the precincts of the town, and six within the walls; their waters unite with a rivulet whose source is on the northwest side, within the town, and which loses itself in the southern plain at several hours’ distance; it is called by the Arabs, El Djeheir. The principal ruins of Bozrah are the following: A square building which within is circular, and has many arches and niches in the wall.
The diameter of the arounda is four paces; its roof has fallen in, but the walls are entire. It appears to have been a Greek church. An oblong square building, called by the natives Deir Boheiry, or the Monastery of the priest Boheiry. The gate of an ancient house com municating with the ruins of an edifice, the only remains of which is a large semicircular vault. The great mosque of Bozrah, which is certainly coeval with the first era of Mahometanism, and is commonly ascribed to Omar el Khattah. The walls of the mosque are covered with a fine coat of plaster, upon which are many Curie inscriptions in bas-relief, running all round the wall The remains of a temple, situated on the side of a long street which runs across the whole town, and terminates at the western gate,’ etc. Of these, and other magnificent ruins of temples, theaters, and palaces, all attesting its former importance, Burckhardt has given a copious description in his Travels in Syria, pp. 226-235, Quarto Ed. LoRd. 1822.
And the unicorns - Margin, ‘Rhinoceros’ (ראמים re'ēmı̂ym from ראם re'êm). This was evidently an animal well known in Palestine, since it is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament (Numbers 23:22; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9-10; Psalms 22:21; Psalms 29:6; Psalms 92:10, in all which places it is translated unicorn, or unicorn). The derivation of the word is uncertain, and it has been regarded as doubtful what animal is intended. The corresponding Arabic word denotes the oryx, a large and fierce species of the antelope. Gesenius, Schultens, De Wette, and Rosenmuller suppose that the buffalo is intended by the word. Bochart regards it as denoting the gazelle, or a species of the antelope. It can hardly, however, be regarded as so small an animal as the gazelle. The gazelle is common in the neighborhood of mount Sinai; and when Laborde passed through that region his companions killed four, ‘the father and mother, and two little animals a fortnight old.’ He says of them: ‘These creatures, which are very lively in their movements, endeavored to bite when they were caught; their hair is a brown yellow, which becomes pale and long as the animals grows old.
In appearance they resemble the Guinea pig. Their legs are of the same height, but the form of their feet is unique; instead of nails and claws, they have three toes in front and four behind, and they walk. like rabbits, on the whole length of the foot. The Arabs call it El Oueber, and know no other name for it. It lives upon the scanty herbage with which the rain in the neighborhood of springs supplies it. It does not burrow in the earth, its feet not being calculated for that purpose; but it conceals itself in the natural holes or clefts which it finds in the rocks.’ (Journey through Arabia Petrea, pp. 106, 107. Lond. 8vo. 1836.) Taylor (Heb. Con.) supposes it means the rhinoceros; a fierce animal that has a single horn on the nose, which is very strong, and which sometimes grows to the height of thirty-seven inches. The ancient versions certainly regarded the word as denoting an animal with a single horn. It denotes here, evidently, some strong, fierce, and wild animal that was horned Psalms 22:21, but perhaps it is not possible to determine precisely what animal is meant. For a more full investigation in reference to the kind of animal denoted by the word reem, see the notes at Job 39:9. Here it represents that portion of the people which was strong, warlike, and hitherto unvanquished, and who regarded themselves as invincible.
Shall come down - Shall be subdued, humbled, destroyed.
With them - With the lambs and goats mentioned in Isaiah 34:6. All classes of the people shall be subdued and subjected to the slaughter.
And the bullocks with the bulls - The young bulls with the old. All shall come down together - the fierce and strong animals representing the fierce and strong people.
And their land shall be soaked with blood - Margin, ‘Drunken;’ the same word which is rendered ‘bathed’ in Isaiah 34:5.
Their dust made fat - Their land manured and made rich with the slain. A battlefield is usually distinguished afterward for its fertility. The field of Waterloo has thus been celebrated, since the great battle there, for producing rank and luxuriant harvests.
For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance - A time when Yahweh will take vengeance.
The year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion - The time when he will recompense, that is, punish those who have had a controversy with Zion.
And the streams thereof - The idea here is, that there would be as great and awful a destruction as if the streams everywhere should become pitch or resin, which would be set on fire, and which would fill the land with flame. This image is very striking, as we may see by supposing the rivers and streams in any land to flow not with water, but with heated pitch, turpentine, or tar, and that this was all suddenly kindled into a flame. It cannot be supposed that this is to be taken literally. The image is evidently taken from the destruction of Sodom and Gamorrah (Genesis 19:25-28), an image which is more fully used in reference to the same subject in Jeremiah 49:17-18 : ‘And Edom shall be a desolation;... as in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighbor cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it.’
And the dust thereof into brimstone - The ruin shall be as entire as if all the soil were turned into brimstone, which should be ignited and left burning.
It shall not be quenched night nor day - That is, the burning brimstone and pitch Isaiah 34:9, the emblem of perpetual and entire desolation, shall not be extinguished.
The smoke thereof shall go up for ever - Every river and rivulet is Supposed to be heated pitch, and every particle of dust sulphur, and a 1 on fire, sending up from an extended region dense columns of smoke to heaven. No idea of ruin could be more sublime; no idea of the vengeance of God more terrible. This image has been copied by John to describe the future woes of the wicked Revelation 14:11, and of mystical Babylon Revelation 18:9, Revelation 18:18; Revelation 19:2-3.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste - Full confirmation of this may be seen in the travels of Seetsen, of Burckhardt, of Volney, of Irby, and Mangles, extracts of which have been collected and arranged by Keith (Evidences of Prophecy, pp. 135-168). Thus Volney says, ‘From the reports of the Arabs as of Bakir, and the inhabitants of Gaza, who frequently go to Maan and Karak, on the road of the pilgrims, there are to the southeast of the lake Asphaltites (Dead Sea), within three days’ journey, upward of thirty ruined towns, absolutely deserted. Several of them have large edifices, with columns that may have belonged to the ancient temples, or at least to Greek churches. The Arabs sometimes make use of them to fold cattle in; but, in general, avoid them on account of the enormous scorpions with which they swarm.’ (Volney’s Travels, vol. ii. pp. 344-346.) It is remarkable that an infidel, as Volney was, should in this, as in numerous other instances, have given a minute confirmation of the ancient prophecies.
Seetsen says (Travels, p. 46), that he was told, that, ‘at the distance of two days and a half from Hebron he would final considerable ruins of the ancient city of Abde, and that for all the rest of the journey be would see no place of habitation; he would meet only with a few tribes of wandering Arabs.’ Burckhardt has given the following description on of the eastern boundary of Edom, and of the adjoining part of Arabia Petrea: ‘It might with truth be called Petrea, not only on account of its rocky mountains, but also of the elevated plain already described (that is, Shera (Seir), the territory of the Edomites, Travels, pp. 410, 435), ‘which is so much covered with stones, especially flints, that it may with great propriety be called a stony desert, although susceptible of culture; in many places it is grown over with wild herbs, and must once have been thickly inhabited, for the traces of many towns and villages are met with on both sides of the Hadj road between Maan and Akaba, as well as between Mean and the plains of Houran, in which direction also are many springs.
At present all this country is a desert, and Maan is the only inhabited place in it.’ (Burckhardt’s Travels, p. 436.) Of the remains of ancient cities still exposed to view in different places throughout Idumea, Burckhardt describes the ruins of a large town, of which nothing remains but broken walls anti heaps of stones; the ruins of several villages in its vicinity (p. 418); the ruins of an ancient city, consisting of large heaps of hewn blocks of siliceous stone; and the extensive ruins of Arindela, an ancient town of Palestina Terria (p. 441). ‘The following ruined places are situated in Djebal Shera (Mount Seir), to the south and southwest of Wady Musa - Kalaat Beni Madha, Djerba, Basta, Eyl, Ferdakh, Anyk, Bir el Beytar, Shemakh, and Syk’ (p. 444). Burckhardt also gives a most interesting description of the ruins of the ancient Petra which he discovered, the ancient capital of Edom, but which is too long to be transcribed here (see his Travels, pp. 422-432; compare the note at Isaiah 16:1).
None shall pass through it forever and ever - That is, it shall not be a country through which caravans shall pass; there shrill be no roads, and it shall not be deemed safe to travel through it. It will be recollected that the original source of all their calamities, and the cause of all the judgments that came upon them, was the fact that they would not let the children of Israel pass peaceably through their land on their way to Canaan (see the Introduction to the chapter). As a punishment for this, God now says that their land shall not be passed through; it shall not be a thoroughfare; there shall be no travelers in it. God usually directs his punishment of individuals and of nations in the line of their offences, and thus his judgments become commonly a recompence in kind. Thus in 2 Samuel 22:26-27, it is said:
With the merciful, thou wilt show thyself merciful;
And with the upright man thou wilt show thyself upright.
With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure;
And with the froward thou wilt show thyself unsavory.
In accordance with this prediction that no one should pass through Edom, Volney (Travels, vol. ii. p. 344) says, ‘The country has not been visited by any traveler, but it well merits Such an attention.’ Thus Burckhardt (Travels, p. 421) says, after he had entered, on the northeast, the territories of the Edomites, that he ‘was without protection in the midst of a desert where no traveler had ever before been seen. It was then,’ he adds, ‘that for the first time he had ever felt fear during his travels in the desert, and his route thither was the most dangerous he had ever traveled’ (p. 400). ‘Seetsen, on a piece of paper pasted against the wall, notified his having penetrated the country in a direct line between the Dead Sea and Mount Sinai (through Idumea), a route never before accomplished.’ (Burckhardt’s Syria, p. 553.) Burckhardt had determined to attempt to pass the same way as being the shortest way to Jerusalem; but he was repeatedly told it was impossible; and the difficulty of the journey is illustrated in the Travels of Captains Irby and Mangles. They offered five hundred piastres to an Arab tribe if they would conduct them to Wady Musa, but nothing would induce them to consent. ‘They said they would not go if we would give them five thousand piastres, observing that money was of no use to a man if he lost his life’ (p. 349). So strikingly has this prediction been fulfilled.
But the cormorant - This and the following verses contain a description of the desolations of Edom in language remarkably similar to that employed in the account of the destruction of Babylon Isaiah 13:20-22; Isaiah 14:23. The word here translated ‘cormorant’ (קאת qâ'ath), occurs in this place and in Zephaniah 2:14, where it is rendered ‘cormorant,’ and in Leviticus 11:18; Deuteronomy 14:17; Psalms 102:6, where it is rendered ‘pelican.’ Bochart supposes it is the ardea stellaris, or bitourn, which frequents watery places in deserts, and makes a horrible noise. The pelican is a sea-fowl, and cannot be intended here. The cormorant or water raven is a large fowl of the pelican kind, which occupies the cliffs by the sea, feeds on fish, and which is extremely voracious, and which is the emblem of a glutton. It is not certain what fowl is intended here, but the word properly denotes a water-fowl, and evidently refers to some bird that inhabits desolate places.
And the bittern shall possess it - For a description of the bittern, see the note at Isaiah 14:23.
The owl also and the raven - Well known birds that occupy deserts, and old ruins of houses or towns. The image here is that of desolation and ruin; and the sense is, that the land would be reduced to a waste that would not be inhabited by man, but would be given up to wild animals. How well this agrees with Edom, may be seen in the Travels of Burckhardt, Seetsen, and others. In regard to the fact that the cormorant (קאת qâ'ath) should be found there, it may be proper to introduce a remark of Burckhardt, who seems to have had no reference to this prophecy. ‘The bird katta,’ says he, ‘is met with in immense numbers. They fly in such large flocks that the boys often kill two or three of them at a time, merely by throwing a stick among them.’ So also in regard to the fact that the owl and the raven shall dwell there, the following statements are made by travelers: Captain Mangles relates thatwhile he and his fellow-travelers were examining the ruins and contemplating the sublime scenery of Petra, ‘the screaming of the eagles, hawks, and owls, which were soaring above their heads in considerable numbers, seemingly annoyed at anyone approaching their lonely habitation, added much to the singularity of the scene.’ So says Burckhardt: ‘The fields of Tafyle (situated in the immediate vicinity of Edom) are frequented by an immense number of crows.’
And he shall stretch out upon it - This is an illusion to the fact that an architect uses a line, which is employed to lay out his work (see the note at Isaiah 28:17).
The line of confusion - A similar expression occurs in 2 Kings 21:13 : ‘I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab;’ that is, I will apply the same measure and rule of destruction to Jerusalem that has been applied to Samaria. So Edom would be marked out for desolation. It was the work which God had laid out, and which he intended to perform.
And the stones of emptiness - Probably the plummet which the architect commonly employed with his line (see the note at Isaiah 28:17). It is a fact, however, that Edom is at present an extended waste of stones and barren rocks. ‘We had before us an immense expanse of dreary country, entirely covered with black flints, with here and there some hilly chain rising from the plain.’ (Burckhardt’s Travels in Syria, p. 445.)
They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom - A more correct rendering of this would be, ‘As to the nobles, they shall call them, but there shall be there no kingdom.’ The idea is, that the kingdom would be desolate; there would be no people to rule. Or, there will be no nobles there who shall survive the destruction, and who can undertake the government of the state. The idea is taken from a government or constitution where the monarch is chosen from the ranks of the nobility. Idumea was formerly governed, as we have seen (see the Introduction to the chapter), by dukes or princes; and it is probable that when it became a monarchy it was a part of the constitution that the sovereign should be chosen from their ranks. The idea here is, that none would be left who could be called to the throne; or if any were left, they would be unwilling to undertake the government of a country where all was disorder and confusion.
And all her princes shall be nothing - Long since Idumea has ceased to be a kingdom, and there are neither nobles nor princes there, nor are there any remains of an organized and independent government.
And thorns ... - (see the note at Isaiah 5:6)
It shall be an habitation of dragons - On the meaning of the word ‘dragons,’ see the note at Isaiah 13:22.
Court for owls - A place of resort, a residence of owls. The word rendered ‘court’ (חציר châtsı̂yr) means a dwelling-place, a habitation, as well as an enclosure or court. The margin is, ‘Daughters of the owl,’ or ‘ostriches’ (see the note at Isaiah 13:21). ‘I would,’ says Stephens, when standing amidst the ruins of Petra, the capital of Idumea (see the note at Isaiah 16:1), and with this passage of Isaiah in his eye, ‘I would that the sceptic could stand as I did, among the ruins of this city among the rocks, and there open the sacred book, and read the words of the inspired penman, written when this desolate place was one of the greatest cities in the world. I see the scoff arrested, his cheek pale, his lip quivering, and his heart quaking with fear, as the ancient city cries out to him in a voice loud and powerful as one risen from the dead; though be would not believe Moses and the prophets, he believes the hand-writing of God himself, in the desolation and eternal ruin around him.’ (Incidents of Travel in Egypt, etc., vol. ii. p. 76.)
The wild beasts of the desert - There is in the original here a paronomasia, which cannot be conveyed in a translation. The word rendered, ‘wild beasts of the desert’ (ציים tsı̂yı̂ym), is rendered by the Septuagint, δαιμόνια daimonia, ‘demons.’ On the meaning of the word, see the note at Isaiah 13:21.
The wild beasts of the island - Margin, ‘Ijim.’ Hebrew, איּים 'ı̂yym (see the note at Isaiah 13:22). Probably the term denotes the jackal. Gesenius supposes it is so called from its howl, or nocturnal cry - from an Arabia word signifying to howl.
And the satyr - (see the note at Isaiah 13:21).
Shall cry to his fellow - A most striking description of the desolation, when all that is heard among the ruins shall be the doleful cry of wild beasts.
The screech-owl - Margin, ‘Night-monster.’ The word לילית lı̂ylı̂yt (from ליל layil, night) properly denotes a night-spectre - a creature of Jewish superstition. The rabbis describe it in the form of a female elegantly dressed that lay in wait for children at night - either to carry them off, or to murder them. The Greeks had a similar idea respecting the female ἔμπουτα empouta, and this idea corresponds to the Roman fables respecting the Lamice, and Striges, and to the Arabic notions of the Ghules, whom they described as female monsters that dwell in deserts, and tear men to pieces (see Gesenius, Com. in loc; and Bochart, Hieroz. ii. 831). The margin in our version expresses the correct idea. All this is descriptive of utter and perpetual desolation - of a land that should be full of old ruins, and inhabited by the animals that usually make such ruins their abode.
There shall the great owl - (קפוז qı̂pôz). Gesenius supposes that this is the arrow-snake, so called from its darting or springing, in the manner of the rattle-snake - from an obsolete root to draw oneself together, to contract. Bochart (Hieroz. ii. 3. 11. 408-419) has examined the meaning of the word at length, and comes to the conclusion that it means the serpent which the Greeks called acontias, and the Latins, jaculus - the arrow-snake. The serpent is oviparous, and nourishes its young. The ancient versions, however, understand it in the same sense as the קפד qippôd in Isaiah 34:11 - the hedgehog or porcupine.
Under her shadow - This might be done by the serpent that should coil up and cherish her young.
The vultures ... - The black vulture, according to Bochart; according to Gesenius, the kite, or falcon so called from its swift flight. Either of them will suit the connection.
Also be gathered, every one with her mate - They shall make their nests there; that is, this shall be their secure, undisturbed retreat.
Seek ye out - Lock carefully at the prediction, and its fulfillment. This seems to be addressed to the inhabitants of that land, or to any who might doubt, or be disposed to examine. They were invited to compare the prediction with the fulfillment, and see how literally all would be fulfilled - an examination which may be made now, and the prediction will be seen to have been accomplished with most surprising particularity and accuracy.
The book of the Lord - The book of Yahweh, which he has caused to be written, referring, perhaps, especially to what Isaiah has here recorded; including also what had been uttered by the other prophets in regard to Edom. The main reference is, however, doubtless, to what Isaiah has written; and the invitation is to compare his predictions with the certain and remarkable evidence of the fulfillment. ‘The prophet evidently contemplated the insertion of his prophecy among the sacred books of the Jews, from which those that followed him might judge of the correctness of the prophecy’ (Noyes). That a collection of the various prophetic books was made, constituting one book or volume, and regarded as the work of inspiration, is well known, and is referred to during the captivity in Babylon by Daniel Isaiah 9:2. The direction to search that book accords with the command of the Saviour John 5:39, and the direction of Nicodemus John 7:32, to search the Scriptures.
No one of these shall fail - Not one of these predictions, or these things which have been spoken.
None shall want her mate - That is, none of the things which I have spoken shall want a fulfillment as its companion. The language is here evidently taken from the pairing of animals, and denotes that all that is spoken shall be entirely fulfilled. Some have understood tilts as referring to the wild animals of which he had spoken, and as meaning that in desolate Idumea they should be appropriately paired, and should breed and increase in abundance. But the more natural interpretation is to refer it to the predictions of the prophet, as meaning that no one thing which he had uttered should want a complete fulfillment.
For my mouth - The word ‘my’ is not in the Hebrew. The Hebrew phrase is הוא כי־פי kı̂y-pı̂y hû', ‘For the mouth, he hath commanded.’ The word הוא hû' stands for “He,” that is, Yahweh, and the phrase means the same as his mouth, that is, the mouth of God. The Septuagint renders it, ‘For the Lord hath commanded them.’ Lowth renders it, ‘For the mouth of Jehovah,’ changing הוא hû' into יהוה yehovâh in accordance with five manuscripts and the translation of the Septuagint.
And his spirit - The Spirit of God; that is, Yahweh himself.
Hath gathered them - Will collect, or assemble; that is, the wild beasts spoken of in the previous verses that shall occupy desolate Idumea. It shall be the agency of God that shall bring them up upon the land to occupy it forever.
And he hath cast the lot for them - He hath assigned to them the land of Edom to be occupied by them as their portion. This language is taken from the fact that countries were commonly apportioned, particularly among conquerors, by the lot. In this way Judea was divided among the tribes of Israel Numbers 26:55-56.
His hand hath divided it unto them by line - He has marked out, as a surveyor does, the land of Edom as the dwelling-place of the beasts of the forest. A land was usually surveyed and divided into proper parts or portions before the lot was cast Joshua 18:4-6.
They shall possess it - The wild beasts mentioned in the previous verses. The testimony of all travelers demonstrates that thus far this prediction has been strikingly fulfilled.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Isaiah 34". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13