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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Isaiah 34

Isaiah 34 and Isaiah 35 are an extension of the subjects of Isaiah 33, namely the judgment of the day of the LORD on the Assyrians (Isaiah 34) – that is, on his allies – and the subsequent millennial blessing of Israel and their land (Isaiah 35). There we find the two final destinations of not trusting the LORD (Isaiah 34) and of trusting the LORD (Isaiah 35). Every human being and every nation either falls under the judgment or inherits the blessing.

Isaiah 34 is about a day of vengeance in which a proud country is smitten with the ban to wasteland, forever. Isaiah 35 is about a day of redemption, when the wilderness is turned into fertile land and there will be eternal joy.

Verses 1-4

The LORD’s Indignation Against All the Nations

First the judgment is presented, this time not only on Assyria, but also on Edom and in fact on the “nations”, all peoples. It does, however, connect to the judgment on Assyria, because it is about its allies, the alliance of peoples who have gathered in Edom. Edom is also here the symbol of the peoples who hate Israel (Psa 83:5-8). The nations are summoned to draw near to hear and listen (Isa 34:1), for the LORD has a message for them. He involves all creation as a witness in what follows.

Under the satanic power of the dragon (Rev 12:12-17), the armies of the nations will gather to wipe out the nation of Israel in one great battle (Rev 16:12-16). However, they themselves will be impressively exterminated by the LORD, that is the Lord Jesus, in one great battle (Isa 34:2-3; Rev 19:19-21; Zec 14:3-4).

The judgment concerns not only the earth, but also the heavens and the celestial bodies (Isa 34:4; Mt 24:29; Rev 6:13-14; 2Pet 3:10). The effect of God’s actions is like the fall of dry leaves or an overripe fig from a tree. To the Creator in His overwhelming majesty, the nations represent nothing more than a barren leaf or a rotten fig. In the day of judgment He rolls up heaven like a scroll (Heb 1:12; Psa 102:26). That is the opposite of what God did in creation. There, in the power of creation, He “stretches out heaven like a [tent] curtain” (Psa 104:2).

Verses 5-15

The Sword of the LORD Descends Upon Edom

In the final judgment on all peoples, the judgment on Edom occupies a special place (Isa 34:5). But first comes the judgment of the LORD on heaven itself, that is, He will bring punishment on “the host of heaven on high” (Isa 24:21). Sin began in heaven through satan’s rebellion, and at the end satan will be “thrown down to earth” (Rev 12:9). Next comes the judgment on the nations gathered in Edom, the people whom the LORD calls: “The people whom I have devoted to destruction.” What has been devoted belongs to God. That it is devoted to destruction means for everything that lives, that it must be killed.

Edom is the brotherly nation and represents all those peoples who should have been closely associated with Israel, but who instead have distinguished themselves by expressing a deep hatred of Judah. That is why Edom is a counter picture of Israel (Gen 25:23; Mal 1:2-3). They have always watched with intense gloating the suffering that has been done to Israel, and they have even heightened that suffering with intense pleasure (Oba 1:10-15; Amos 1:11).

Edom is the representative of the hatred and gloating of the God-hostile world power. All hostile powers, such as Babylon and Moab, each represent a special form of enmity that is present in all powers, but is particularly prominent in a particular people.

The sword is the sword of God’s wrath. That it has become drunk in heaven, means that heaven is completely filled with God’s wrath and is purified by that wrath. Thus the sword descends upon Edom and causes a terrible slaughter (Isa 34:6-7; cf. Deu 32:41-43). Small, “lambs”, “goats”, “rams”, that is the common man, and big, “oxen”, “bulls”, that is the leaders, are killed in mass. The blood flows in enormous quantities (Rev 14:20).

The word “sacrifice” is in Hebrew zebah. Zebah is the name of one of the Midianite princes who was killed by the deliverer Gideon and his men after Midian oppressed Israel (Jdg 8:21). This word for ‘sacrifice’ occurs in the sense of God’s judgment only three times in the Old Testament. It occurs in connection with Israel (Zep 1:7-8), with Gog (Eze 39:17; 19; cf. Jer 46:10) and here with Edom.

Bozrah is like Teman one of the capitals of Edom. It is also a centrally located fortress in Edom. It is the place where the last massacre will take place before the realm of peace arrives (Isa 63:1). That is where the enemies of God’s people have gathered to fight against Israel. Their plan will not succeed because Christ Himself will intervene. The day of vengeance that the LORD will then hold is a retribution for all the injustice done to Zion (Isa 34:8). The LORD stands up for Zion.

With the destruction of the inhabitants, the land is also destroyed. Edom becomes by the judgment of the LORD an area reminiscent of hell with ever burning fire and smoke going up forever (Isa 34:9-10; Isa 66:24; Rev 14:11; Rev 19:3). It will also stink horribly there. Throughout the millennial realm of peace, it will be a monument, a warning, and a reminder of what sin means. There will be total desolation. No one will be there anymore. With absolute precision the vastness and the content of the area will be defined by the LORD, which is indicated by the use of the line and the plumb line (Isa 34:11).

All the glory of Edom is at an end (Isa 34:12). All the proud nobles are gone. A new king will not present himself. The places of his former splendor, the fortified towers or fortified cities, fade away and become abodes of all kinds of unclean and wild beasts and a location of all kinds of weeds (Isa 34:13-15). Just as Jerusalem is an eternal inheritance for the people of Israel, so Edom will be an eternal inheritance for the wild desert creatures.

In addition to a literal fulfillment of this prophecy of judgment, we can also discover here a symbolic description of the ferocity and corruption in which all the works of the flesh and human efforts end. There is also a play on words in Hebrew between Adam, which is ‘man’, ‘red earth’, and Edom, which is ‘red’.

Verses 16-17

The Book of the LORD

Isaiah tells his audience – and us who are reading this now – to seek all these things “from the book of the LORD, and read” in it (Isa 34:16). Isaiah is aware that what he writes is the word of the LORD. Anyone who reads in this book will discover that everything that His mouth has commanded has happened exactly as is said. This can already be seen in creation: “For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psa 33:9). Nothing is missing, nothing is lacking.

In exactly the same way His prophetic Word will be fulfilled. Each fulfillment will correspond to previous prophecies. He has determined by lot (Num 26:55-56) that His people will own the land and He has determined its division (Isa 34:17; cf. Deu 32:8). Again, He has determined by lot that the wild animals will receive Edom as hereditary property. So and no other way, they will own it and live there forever. He Who governs creation and cares for His creatures is the same Who will carry out every detail of the promise of His Word not to be thwarted.

The exhortation to search and read in the Word of God is also addressed to us. It shows that we must make an effort to learn the truth of God’s Word. It is not just reading, but seeking and reading. The Word must be studied. We must learn to discover its coherence. What applies to the prophetic word – which is not a part or verse in itself, but must be read and compared with other parts or verses (2Pet 1:20) – applies to every truth in the Bible. God’s Word forms a perfectly coherent whole.

The exhortation to seek and read should not be interpreted in such a way that it is intended only for intellectuals. The heart of every child of God will be touched by this, and will have a desire to seek and read, both personally and together with others (Jn 5:39; Acts 2:42; Acts 17:11; 2Tim 2:2).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 34". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.