God's vengeance against the enemies of his church. (1-8) Their desolation. (9-17)
Verses 1-8 Here is a prophecy of the wars of the Lord, all which are both righteous and successful. All nations are concerned. And as they have all had the benefit of his patience, so all must expect to feel his resentment. The description of bloodshed suggests tremendous ideas of the Divine judgments. Idumea here denotes the nations at enmity with the church; also the kingdom of antichrist. Our thoughts cannot reach the horrors of that awful season, to those found opposing the church of Christ. There is a time fixed in the Divine counsels for the deliverance of the church, and the destruction of her enemies. We must patiently wait till then, and judge nothing before the time. Through Christ, mercy is exercised to every believer, consistently with justice, and his name is glorified.
Verses 9-17 Those who aim to ruin the church, can never do that, but will ruin themselves. What dismal changes sin can make! It turns a fruitful land into barrenness, a crowded city into a wilderness. Let us compare all we discover in the book of the Lord, with the dealings of providence around us, that we may be more diligent in seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. What the mouth of the Lord has commanded, his Spirit will perform. And let us observe how the evidences of the truth continually increase, as one prophecy after another is fulfilled, until these awful scenes bring in more happy days. As Israel was a figure of the Christian church, so the Edomites, their bitter enemies, represent the enemies of the kingdom of Christ. God's Jerusalem may be laid in ruins for a time, but the enemies of the church shall be desolate for ever.
Isaiah 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 ( Ezekiel 6:3 , Deuteronomy 32:1 , Psalms 50:4 , Micah 6:1 Micah 6:2 ), for they set forth His glory, which is the end of creation ( Revelation 15:3 , 4:11 ).
that come forth of it--answering to "all that is therein"; or Hebrew, "all whatever fills it," Margin.
2. utterly destroyed--rather, "doomed them to an utter curse" [HORSLEY].
3. cast out--unburied ( Isaiah 14:19 ).
melted--washed away as with a descending torrent.
4. ( Psalms 102:26 , Joel 2:31 , 3:15 , Matthew 24:29 ).
dissolved--( 2 Peter 3:10-12 ) Violent convulsions of nature are in Scripture made the images of great changes in the human world ( Isaiah 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 ( Revelation 6:14 ).
fail down--The stars shall fall when the heavens in which they are fixed pass away.
fig tree--( Revelation 6:13 ).
5. sword--( Jeremiah 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], ( Ezekiel 39:17 ).
bathed--rather "intoxicated," namely, with anger (so Deuteronomy 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 ( 2 Kings 14:7 ), Edom ( 2 Samuel 8:13 2 Samuel 8:14 ). Under Jehoram they regained independence ( 2 Chronicles 21:8 ). Under Amaziah they were again subdued, and Selah taken ( 2 Kings 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 ( Isaiah 63:1 , &c.; Jeremiah 49:7 , Ezekiel 25:12-14 , 35:3-15 , Joel 3:19 , Amos 1:11 Amos 1:12 , Obadiah 1:8 Obadiah 1:10 Obadiah 1:12-18 Malachi 1:3 Malachi 1:4 ). Nebuchadnezzar humbled Idumea accordingly ( Jeremiah 25:15-21 ).
of my curse--that is, doomed to it.
to judgment--that is, to execute it.
6. filled--glutted. The image of a sacrifice is continued.
blood . . . fat--the parts especially devoted to God in a sacrifice ( 2 Samuel 1:22 ).
lambs . . . goats--sacrificial animals: the Idumeans, of all classes, doomed to slaughter, are meant ( Zephaniah 1:7 ).
Bozrah--called Bostra by the Romans, &c., assigned in Jeremiah 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 ( Isaiah 63:1 , Jeremiah 49:13 Jeremiah 49:20 Jeremiah 49:22 ); 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 Lamentations 4:21 ).
7. unicorns--Hebrew, reem: conveying the idea of loftiness, 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 ( Isaiah 34:6 ).
bullocks . . . bulls--the young and old Edomites: all classes.
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 ( Psalms 137:7 , Ezekiel 36:5 ); therefore Edom shall suffer the same herself ( Lamentations 4:21 Lamentations 4:22 ). The final winding up of the controversy between God and all enemies of Him and His people is also foreshadowed ( Isaiah 61:2 , 63:4 , 66:14-16 , Malachi 4:1 Malachi 4:3 , 2 Thessalonians 1:7 2 Thessalonians 1:8 2 Thessalonians 1:9 , Revelation 11:18 , 18:20 , 19:2 ).
9. Images from the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah ( Genesis 19:24-28 ; so Deuteronomy 29:23 , Jeremiah 49:17 Jeremiah 49:18 ).
10. It--The burning pitch, &c. ( Isaiah 34:9 ).
smoke . . . for ever--( Revelation 14:11 , 18:18:19:3 ).
generation to generation--( Malachi 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."
11. cormorant--The Hebrew is rendered, in Psalms 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] ( Isaiah 14:23 ).
owl--from its being enumerated among water birds in Leviticus 11:17 , Deuteronomy 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 ( Revelation 18:2 ).
line . . . stones--metaphor from an architect with line and exact measure of justice without mercy ( 2:13 , 2 Kings 21:13 , Lamentations 2:8 , Amos 7:7 Amos 7:8 ).
emptiness--desolation. Edom is now a waste of "stones."
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] ( Isaiah 3:6 , &c.). Idumea was at first governed by dukes ( Genesis 36:15 ); out of them the king wan chosen when the constitution became a monarchy. court for owls
--rather, "a dwelling for ostriches."
14. wild beasts of the desert . . . island--rather, "wild cats . . . jackals" ( Isaiah 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.
15. great owl--rather, "the arrow snake," so called from its darting on its prey [GESENIUS].
gather under her shadow--rather, "cherishes" her young under, &c. ( Jeremiah 17:11 ).
16. book of the Lord--the volume in which the various prophecies and other parts of Scripture began henceforward to be collected together ( Isaiah 30:8 , Daniel 9:2 ).
Seek--(so Isaiah 8:16 Isaiah 8:20 , John 5:39 , 7:52 ).
no one . . . fail--of these prophecies ( Matthew 5:18 ).
none shall want . . . mate--image from pairing of animals mentioned, Isaiah 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.
17. cast . . . lot--As conquerors apportion lands by lot, so Jehovah has appointed and marked out ("divided") Edom for the wild beasts ( Numbers 26:55 Numbers 26:56 , Joshua 18:4-6 ).