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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Isaiah 34

Verses 1-17

Isaiah 34:1-2 . Come near ye nations to hear for the indignation of the Lord is upon all the kingdoms of western Asia. Those nations are named in Jeremiah 25:0. They comprise Jerusalem, Egypt, Tyre, Edom, Moab, Philistia, Arabia, Elam, and Media. Five years after the fall of Jerusalem, and while the siege of Tyre was conducting, Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Edom in his bloody career. At the fall of Jerusalem, Edom had not concealed her wanton joy. She had joined the Chaldeans in cruel wars against the Jews, and cried against Jerusalem, down with it, down with it, even to the ground. Psalms 137:7. Ezekiel 35:15. But her joys were short. She had before been scourged with war, now she must drink “the cup of red wine” from the hand of an angry God.

Isaiah 34:3 . The mountains shall melt with their blood, which congeals with the cold of night on the hills, and melts in the day with the warmer sun. The Edomites acting on the defensive, would occupy positions on their chain of mountains, which runs through their country.

Isaiah 34:4 . The heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll of parchment, which, when opened from the staff to read, on letting it slip from the fingers, it rolls spontaneously to a scroll. So the political heavens, as a dense cloud, should lour on all the nations abovenamed.

Sir Isaac Newton, on the figurative style of the prophets, remarks, that it is taken from the analogy which subsists between the natural and the political world. The heavens and their orbs designate thrones and dignities, and the earth the mass of its inhabitants. Great earthquakes, and the shaking of heaven and earth, are equivalent to the overthrow of states and nations. The creation of new heavens, and a new earth, indicate a brighter order of affairs, and stability of government. The obscuration of the sun, the bloody aspects of the full-orbed moon when seen through dense vapours, and the falling of the stars, are figurative of the utter destruction of an empire.

Isaiah 34:7 . The unicorns shall come down with them. See on Numbers 23:22. It appears from the Chaldaic, that the worthies of David’s army, and afterwards other heroic men, were surnamed lions. Some of the Chaldean chiefs might therefore, on account of their strength, like Memnon, be called unicorns. But others turn this to the wild goats, some species of which have, like the unicorn, but one horn. The unicorn, as found in the interior of Africa, is very destructive to husbandry.

Isaiah 34:8 . It is the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion. The heaviest curse therefore shall rest on Edom for the innocent blood she has shed, for she knew the moral wrong she was doing better than the Chaldean. Pitch, sulphur, dust or sand, shall oppose fertility; yea, travellers in future years, shall have difficulty in finding the ruins of her once flourishing cities. Wild beasts shall invade her hills, and birds of less gracious note shall build in her ruins.

Isaiah 34:16 . Seek ye out of the book of the Lord no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate. In the first creation of living beings, God made them male and female; and when he destroyed the world by water, he brought them in pairs to Noah. His gracious care and tender mercies are over all his works.


How are thy characters here displayed, oh Most Holy! The severity of thine arm seems to correspond with that of men engaged in revengeful wars. The ear tingles at the prophet’s voice, and the heart palpitates while we read. Thou callest the nations to attend the tragedy of Idumea, and other similar offenders; to look on, while they are drenched with the cup of red wine from thine awful hand.

But severity in this case inculcates humanity on us. We must not rejoice when others are chastened for their sins, for we also are sinners. The calamities of famine, pestilence and war, sport abroad; but surely not on greater sinners than ourselves. The prophet warns Jerusalem by the fall of her sister Samaria.

The curse on Edom is in similar words of desolation to that on Babylon, because, like the Chaldeans, she had fought against Zion, and exulted at her fall. That was not wise. Had Jerusalem flourished, Edom might have attended her feasts, and received instruction. The unhallowed joys and immeasurable cruelties of a wicked age are highly displeasing to the Lord. Thus the sins of men accumulate like clouds, till at length the tempest bursts upon their own heads.

This chapter sounds an alarm to all guilty nations, slumbering in their sins. Those who abused life with the grossest of immoralities, should live no longer. Their rich and fruitful land, stained with crimes, should now be stained with the blood of a guilty people. It had long been the cry, hush! God seeth not. Now he awoke as an angry man.

The very ground itself is cursed for the sake of the people. The lands where devils had been so long worshipped, should be in perpetual desolation; for the dancing of satyrs has a striking coincidence with that of the devil- worshipper in Ceylon, when he is called to attend a dying man. The Wesleyan missionaries have exposed those depths of Satan to open shame. All these birds of mournful note, and serpents, designate the eternal oblivion of Babylon the great, to which the prophet silently slides; for he says, the ransomed of the Lord shall return: Isaiah 35:10. Where then are the souls of those guilty cities and nations? These strokes are for the instruction of all future generations.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Isaiah 34". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.