Isaiah 34
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.

Isa 34:1-17. Judgment on Idumea.

The thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth chapters form one prophecy, the former part of which denounces God's judgment against His people's enemies, of whom Edom is the representative; the second part, of the flourishing state of the Church consequent on those judgments. This forms the termination of the prophecies of the first part of Isaiah (the thirty-sixth through thirty-ninth chapters being historical) and is a kind of summary of what went before, setting forth the one main truth, Israel shall be delivered from all its foes, and happier times shall succeed under Messiah.

1. All creation is summoned to hear God's judgments (Eze 6:3; De 32:1; Ps 50:4; Mic 6:1, 2), for they set forth His glory, which is the end of creation (Re 15:3; 4:11).

that come forth of it—answering to "all that is therein"; or Hebrew, "all whatever fills it," Margin.

For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.
2. utterly destroyed—rather, "doomed them to an utter curse" [Horsley].

delivered—rather, "appointed."

Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.
3. cast out—unburied (Isa 14:19).

melted—washed away as with a descending torrent.

And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.
4. (Ps 102:26; Joe 2:31; 3:15; Mt 24:29).

dissolved—(2Pe 3:10-12). Violent convulsions of nature are in Scripture made the images of great changes in the human world (Isa 24:19-21), and shall literally accompany them at the winding up of the present dispensation.

scroll—Books were in those days sheets of parchment rolled together (Re 6:14).

fall down—The stars shall fall when the heavens in which they are fixed pass away.

fig tree—(Re 6:13).

For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.
5. sword—(Jer 46:10). Or else, knife for sacrifice for God does not here appear as a warrior with His sword, but as one about to sacrifice victims doomed to slaughter [Vitringa]. (Eze 39:17).

bathed—rather "intoxicated," namely, with anger (so De 32:42). "In heaven" implies the place where God's purpose of wrath is formed in antithesis to its "coming down" in the next clause.

Idumea—originally extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea; afterwards they obtained possession of the country east of Moab, of which Bozrah was capital. Petra or Selah, called Joktheel (2Ki 14:7), was capital of South Edom (see on [754]Isa 16:1). David subjugated Edom (2Sa 8:13, 14). Under Jehoram they regained independence (2Ch 21:8). Under Amaziah they were again subdued, and Selah taken (2Ki 14:7). When Judah was captive in Babylon, Edom, in every way, insulted over her fallen mistress, killed many of those Jews whom the Chaldeans had left, and hence was held guilty of fratricide by God (Esau, their ancestor, having been brother to Jacob): this was the cause of the denunciations of the prophets against Edom (Isa 63:1, &c.; Jer 49:7; Eze 25:12-14; 35:3-15; Joe 3:19; Am 1:11, 12; Ob 8, 10, 12-18; Mal 1:3,4). Nebuchadnezzar humbled Idumea accordingly (Jer 25:15-21).

of my curse—that is, doomed to it.

to judgment—that is, to execute it.

The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.
6. filled—glutted. The image of a sacrifice is continued.

blood … fat—the parts especially devoted to God in a sacrifice (2Sa 1:22).

lambs … goats—sacrificial animals: the Idumeans, of all classes, doomed to slaughter, are meant (Zep 1:7).

Bozrah—called Bostra by the Romans, &c., assigned in Jer 48:24 to Moab, so that it seems to have been at one time in the dominion of Edom, and at another in that of Moab (Isa 63:1; Jer 49:13, 20, 22); it was strictly not in Edom, but the capital of Auranitis (the Houran). Edom seems to have extended its dominion so as to include it (compare La 4:21).

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.
7. unicorns—Hebrew, reem: conveying the idea of loftiness, power, and pre-eminence (see on [755]Job 39:9), in the Bible. At one time the image in the term answers to a reality in nature; at another it symbolizes an abstraction. The rhinoceros was the original type. The Arab rim is two-horned: it was the oryx (the leucoryx, antelope, bold and pugnacious); but when accident or artifice deprived it of one horn, the notion of the unicorn arose. Here is meant the portion of the Edomites which was strong and warlike.

come down—rather, "fall down," slain [Lowth].

with them—with the "lambs and goats," the less powerful Edomites (Isa 34:6).

bullocks … bulls—the young and old Edomites: all classes.


For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.
8. recompenses for the controversy of Zion—that is, the year when God will retaliate on those who have contended with Zion. Her controversy is His. Edom had thought to extend its borders by laying hold of its neighbor's lands and has instigated Babylon to cruelty towards fallen Judah (Ps 137:7; Eze 36:5); therefore Edom shall suffer the same herself (La 4:21, 22). The final winding up of the controversy between God and all enemies of Him and His people is also foreshadowed (Isa 61:2; 63:4; 66:14-16; Mal 4:1, 3; 2Th 1:7, 8, 9; Re 11:18; 18:20; 19:2).
And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.
9. Images from the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (Ge 19:24-28; so De 29:23; Jer 49:17, 18).
It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.
10. It—The burning pitch, &c. (Isa 34:9).

smoke … for ever—(Re 14:11; 18:18; 19:3).

generation to generation—(Mal 1:4).

none … pass through—Edom's original offense was: they would not let Israel pass through their land in peace to Canaan: God recompenses them in kind, no traveller shall pass through Edom. Volney, the infidel, was forced to confirm the truth of this prophecy: "From the reports of the Arabs, southeast of the Dead Sea, within three days' journey are upwards of thirty ruined towns, absolutely deserted."

But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.
11. cormorant—The Hebrew is rendered, in Ps 102:6, "pelican," which is a seafowl, and cannot be meant here: some waterfowl (katta, according to Burckhardt) that tenants desert places is intended.

bittern—rather, "the hedgehog," or "porcupine" [Gesenius] (Isa 14:23).

owl—from its being enumerated among water birds in Le 11:17; De 14:16. Maurer thinks rather the heron or crane is meant; from a Hebrew root, "to blow," as it utters a sound like the blowing of a horn (Re 18:2).


line … stones—metaphor from an architect with line and plummet-stone (see on [756]Isa 18:2; [757]Isa 28:17); God will render to it the exact measure of justice without mercy (Jas 2:13; 2Ki 21:13; La 2:8; Am 7:7, 8).

emptiness—desolation. Edom is now a waste of "stones."

They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing.
12. Rather, "As to her nobles, there shall be none there who shall declare a kingdom," that is, a king [Maurer]; or else, "There shall be no one there whom they shall call to the kingdom" [Rosenmuller] (Isa 3:6, &c.). Idumea was at first governed by dukes (Ge 36:15); out of them the king wan chosen when the constitution became a monarchy.
And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.
13. dragons—(See on [758]Isa 13:21; [759]Isa 13:22).

court for owls—rather, "a dwelling for ostriches."

The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.
14. wild beasts of the desert … island—rather, "wild cats … jackals" (Isa 13:21).

screech owl—rather, "the night specter"; in Jewish superstition a female, elegantly dressed, that carried off children by night. The text does not assert the existence of such objects of superstition, but describes the place as one which superstition would people with such beings.

There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.
15. great owl—rather, "the arrow snake," so called from its darting on its prey [Gesenius].

lay—namely, eggs.

gather under her shadow—rather, "cherishes" her young under, &c. (Jer 17:11).

Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.
16. book of the Lord—the volume in which the various prophecies and other parts of Scripture began henceforward to be collected together (Isa 30:8; Da 9:2).

Seek—(so Isa 8:16, 20; Joh 5:39; 7:52).

no one … fail—of these prophecies (Mt 5:18).

none shall want … mate—image from pairing of animals mentioned, Isa 34:15 ("mate"); no prediction shall want a fulfilment as its companion. Or rather, "none of these wild animals (just spoken of) shall be wanting: none shall be without its mate" to pair and breed with, in desolate Idumea.

my … his—Such changes of person are frequent in Hebrew poetry.

them—the wild beasts.

And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein.
17. cast … lot—As conquerors apportion lands by lot, so Jehovah has appointed and marked out ("divided") Edom for the wild beasts (Nu 26:55, 56; Jos 18:4-6).
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

Isaiah 33
Top of Page
Top of Page