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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Isaiah 34


The judgments wherewith God revengeth his church. The desolation of her enemies. The certainty of the prophesy.

Before Christ 713.

THE third discourse of the third part of Isaiah's prophesies, is contained in this and the subsequent chapter; which are connected with that preceding, and were delivered, probably, at the same time with it. The first section—contained in this chapter—exhibits the judgment upon the adversaries of the church, and particularly upon Edom; the latter—in chap. 35: the jubilee of the church, and its happy flourishing state. The first action resolves itself into two members; the former member contains a general prophesy against the nations which persecuted the church; wherein we have, first, a judicial convocation of all people to hear the sentence of the divine tribunal upon these nations, Isaiah 34:1.; secondly, the sentence itself set forth and illustrated from its cause and effects, Isaiah 34:2-4. The second member contains a special prophesy concerning Edom; wherein we have the sentence against Edom, Isa 34:5-15 and the confirmation of that sentence, Isaiah 34:16-17. The sentence itself is two-fold; first, concerning the terrible vengeance to be taken by God upon Edom, with the destruction of great and small, rich and poor, Isaiah 34:5-8.; secondly, concerning the full and everlasting desolation of that land, which is variously set forth, Isaiah 34:9-15. Vitringa is of opinion, that by all the nations and Edom, we are not to understand the nations and Edomites of antiquity, though the prophet's figure and ideas are drawn thence; but rather the nations which opposed or shall oppose the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and some particular people of those nations; namely, Rome, red or drunken with the blood of the saints and martyrs of Jesus.

Verse 1

Isaiah 34:1. Come near, &c.— Draw near, O ye nations, and hearken; and attend unto me, O ye peoples! Let the earth hear, and the fulness thereof; the world, and all that spring from it. Lowth. As the prophet here directs his discourse to all the inhabitants of the earth, properly speaking, and not figuratively, as elsewhere, (ch. Isaiah 1:2.) By the fulness of the earth, we must understand men, who replenish it; and their offspring by all that come forth of it.

Verses 2-4

Isaiah 34:2-4. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations For the wrath of JEHOVAH is kindled against all the nations; and his anger against all the orders thereof; he hath devoted them; he hath given them up to slaughter; and their slain shall be cast out; and from their carcases their stink shall ascend; and the mountains shall melt down with their blood. Lowth. This sentence upon the nations is sufficient to strike terror into every hearer. It exhibits a kind of general judgment, to be executed upon the enemies of the kingdom of God by the sword of God; that is to say, by the princes and heroes to be raised up by God for the destruction of the enemies of his church: this is repeated, Isaiah 34:5. But further the prophet sets before our eyes a horrid tempest, raging furiously; whereby the heavens contract blackness, the sun disappears, the stars seem to fall to the earth, as if the whole body of the heavens was about to be utterly dissolved. We have had occasion frequently to observe, that in the prophetic language the heavenly luminaries represent kings and empires. It is not improbable, that the prophet here refers to that destruction of the Jewish state and polity, which our Saviour foretold under the same figures. See Vitringa.

Verses 5-8

Isaiah 34:5-8. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven The meaning of this period is, that on a certain day of judgment, which is elsewhere called the great day of the Lord's vengeance, a mighty slaughter shall be made of the hardened enemies of the church, a long time oppressed and afflicted by them, with the effusion of much blood, and the destruction of many great, noble, and powerful men. The figure is taken from the master of a family, who, preparing a great feast, and a sacrifice, finds it necessary to slay many lambs, rams, and fatted animals, so that his knife may be said to be inebriated with the blood and fat of the slain. The passage is clear enough in this view. The meaning of the phrase, My sword shall be bathed, or inebriated in heaven, is, "It shall be sharpened or made ready in heaven, to bathe itself on earth." The verse may be rendered, When my sword in heaven is bathed, behold, it shall sink deep into Idumaea, into the people whom I have devoted to destruction. In Isa 34:7 instead of unicorns, Bishop Lowth reads wild goats, which, together with the bullocks, &c. should come down to be sacrificed in the land of Idumaea. The place of this sacrifice is said to be Bozrah, which was a city of Edom, (see ch. Isaiah 63:1.) and both Bozrah and Idumaea are, as the whole context shews, to be taken figuratively. See Revelation 6:15; Revelation 19:17-18. Vitringa is of opinion, as we before remarked, that Rome and the Roman power are here meant; and he observes, that Rome, which in the Hebrew signifies fortification, well answers to Bozrah, which signifies a fortified city. See Deu 3:5 in the Hebrew. Instead of, for the controversy of Zion, some read, for the avenging of, or to avenge Zion.

Verses 9-15

Isaiah 34:9-15. And the streams thereof, &c.— The prophet, whose copiousness of speaking is every where inexhausted, paints, in the most chosen figures, an image of the land and city desolated by war, wasted by fire, and devoted to eternal devastation, by the divine judgment; which should not only be deprived of its inhabitants, and left to impure beasts and birds, accustomed to dwell in desarts and desolate places, but also, by the desolation brought upon it, should be rendered uninhabitable, and present the appearance of the infernal flame, like another Sodom and Gomorrah, sending forth continually black smoke and horrid smells. This is the sense of the period, as must be plain to every one. See ch. Isaiah 13:19, &c. where the desolation of Babylon is set forth in similar terms. Though Rome pagan, and the Roman powers, have already suffered great desolation from the Goths and others, yet Vitringa is of opinion, that this prophesy has not yet had its full completion, but will hereafter have it in the destruction of papal Rome. The state of Italy, and the sulphureous soil in the vicinity of Rome, render the probability of this devastation greater.

Verses 16-17

Isaiah 34:16-17. Seek ye out of the book, &c.— This period contains the confirmation of the preceding sentence; wherein the prophet, to convict the hypocrites, and confirm the pious, assures them of the certain completion of this prophesy. The scene of his discourse is so constructed, as if the prophesy was now fulfilled; when the prophet, supposing that his prophesy would still be extant at the time of the completion, invites all men of doubtful faith to seek into and consider this book or prophesy in all its parts, and to compare it with the completion. This is the sum of the period, which should be rendered, Search ye from the whole of the book of the Lord, and read; not one of these things shall fail: [no, not so much as the minutest circumstance, even respecting the impure beasts;] one shall not want the other; because the month of Jehovah hath commanded and his Spirit shall gather them.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, We have in this chapter,

1. The awful summons sent forth to the nations of the world; yea the earth and all things therein are called upon to hearken, as if the irrational inanimate creatures were more attentive than hardened sinners.
2. The universality of the approaching judgments of God is declared against all the nations and their armies who have committed fornication with the great whore. See Rev 18:3 and therefore are doomed to utter destruction, Revelation 19:21.

3. The execution of this terrible doom is displayed in the most awful colours: the carcases of the slain will be unburied, and send forth pestilential vapours; the very mountains are melted with blood, like rivers running down; the hosts of heaven, sun, moon, and stars, dropping as untimely figs, and the firmament wrapped up as a scroll, representing the utter ruin of the states and kingdoms of the followers of the man of sin, with their princes and mighty men (compare Revelation 19:17-18. Revelation 14:20. Revelation 6:13-17.). And this is effected by the sword of the Lord, bathed in heaven, well-tempered, and descending with fury irresistible on Idumaea, probably the Romish state, the implacable enemy of the church of Christ, as the Edomites were of the Jews, and therefore called the people of my curse, lying under it, and doomed to this dire judgment. Before this sword the armies of Antichrist, the common soldiers, as lambs and goats, like hecatombs at the altar, fall sacrifices to divine justice at Bozrah, representing Rome, the capital of the antichristian powers: and their chief captains, fierce as bulls and strong as unicorns, shall perish together, and the land be soaked with their blood and fattened, or made drunk, as with showers of rain, such vast quantities should be shed, see Revelation 16:6; Revelation 17:6; Revelation 14:20.

Note; (1.) Miserable, eternally miserable, are they who, by their sins provoking God's curse, awaken his sword of judgment. (2.) If it be terrible but to hear the report, sinner, how wilt thou endure when this great day of his wrath shall come? (3.) The sinners in hell are eternal sacrifices to God's justice; and therefore, when the smoke of their torment ascends, his saints adore him. (4.) However long triumphant, and cruelly oppressive, the enemies of God's people may have been, their doom is determined, and God will give them blood to drink.

4. The equity of the procedure is remarked; this day of vengeance is the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion, when the church of God, and every persecuted member of it, will find a righteous judge espousing their quarrel, and recompensing to the full the injuries they have endured. See Revelation 13:10; Revelation 11:18. Note; When we are suffering for the testimony of the truth and a good conscience, we should be comforted in patient hope that the year of recompence is at hand for Zion's friends and Zion's enemies.

2nd, Awful and most awakening are the images here used to display the utter ruin and desolations of the enemies of Christ and his people; and which seem to look forward to the fall of Antichrist, and may also be applied to that great and terrible day of the Lord, when the sinner's torment in body and soul will be completed.
1. Their land is described as the land of Sodom. Since sin hath rendered it as fuel for the flames, the wrath of God shall kindle the inextinguishable burnings; and their cities deserted, desolate, ruinous, shall become the abode of every unclean bird and ravenous beast; the elegance and dignity of which description cannot be equalled, and which every comment must debase. Only we may observe, [1.] The dreadful evil of sin, the cause of all those desolations. [2.] The folly and madness of attempting to fix our abode on earth, doomed so shortly, with all the works on it, to be burnt up. [3.] The terrible end of the ungodly, when wrath to the uttermost shall be poured out upon them, and they shall be cast into the lake of brimstone and fire which burneth for ever and ever.
2. An assurance is given of the most minute fulfilment of the prophesy. And when the destruction cometh, they are commanded to compare the event with the prediction, and not a tittle will be found to fail. Since God's word hath commanded, his Spirit will accomplish it; collecting in exact order, as at the deluge, these monsters with their mates to their appointed abode; and, according to the dictates of justice, dooming the place to everlasting ruin. There, with the correspondent prophesies in the book of Revelations, are yet in the womb of time; but shall as surely be accomplished in their season, as those which we have seen already fulfilled. And when we read in the book of the Lord, the sure expectation thereof should comfort and support the suffering saints of God.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Isaiah 34". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.