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Isaiah 34


God's Wrath Against Nations Judgment on the Nations The Terrible End of God's Enemies God Will Punish His Enemies The Sentence on Edom
34:1-4 34:1-17
(5-7) 34:5-8 (5-8)
      34:9-15 (9-11)

READING CYCLE THREE (see introduction)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Isaiah 34 and 35 are very similar to chapters 24-27. Both of these are combinations of judgment and blessing sections which are conclusions to a much longer literary unit.

1. Isaiah 34 speaks of universal judgment in graphic terms.

2. Isaiah 35 speaks of universal restoration in beautiful, idealistic terms.


B. Because there is a double space between chapter 33 and chapter 34 in the Dead Sea Scrolls copy of Isaiah, it is possible that this literary unit (chapters 34-35 and 38-39) should go with 40-66 (as far as literary setting). Chapter 35 is a discussion of the new age, the days of restoration. They describe what YHWH wanted to do with mankind before the Fall of Genesis 3 and the disobedience of Abraham's seed.



1Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples!
Let the earth and all it contains hear, and the world and all that springs from it.
2For the Lord's indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;
He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter.
3So their slain will be thrown out,
And their corpses will give off their stench,
And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
4And all the host of heaven will wear away,
And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll;
All their hosts will also wither away
As a leaf withers from the vine,
Or as one withers from the fig tree.
5For My sword is satiated in heaven,
Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom
And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.
6The sword of the Lord is filled with blood,
It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats,
With the fat of the kidneys of rams.
For the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7Wild oxen will also fall with them
And young bulls with strong ones;
Thus their land will be soaked with blood,
And their dust become greasy with fat.
8For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9Its streams will be turned into pitch,
And its loose earth into brimstone,
And its land will become burning pitch.
10It will not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke will go up forever.
From generation to generation it will be desolate;
None will pass through it forever and ever.
11But pelican and hedgehog will possess it,
And owl and raven will dwell in it;
And He will stretch over it the line of desolation
And the plumb line of emptiness.
12Its nobles - there is no one there
Whom they may proclaim king -
And all its princes will be nothing.
13Thorns will come up in its fortified towers,
Nettles and thistles in its fortified cities;
It will also be a haunt of jackals
And an abode of ostriches.
14The desert creatures will meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also will cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster will settle there
And will find herself a resting place.
15The tree snake will make its nest and lay eggs there,
And it will hatch and gather them under its protection.
Yes, the hawks will be gathered there,
Every one with its kind.

34:1 There are several commands in this verse.

1. draw near, BDB 897 I, KB 1132, Qal imperative

2. listen, BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

3. hear, BDB 1033, KB 1570, Qal jussive

The Sovereign of the universe is addressing His creation and announcing its judgment.

1. "O nations," BDB 156, cf. v. 2; 43:9

2. O peoples, BDB 522, cf. 17:12; 43:9

3. the earth, BDB 75, cf. 37:16,20; Gen. 18:18; 22:18; Micah 1:2

4. all it contains, BDB 571, cf. 6:3

5. the world, BDB 385, cf. 13:11; 24:4

6. all that springs from it, BDB 481 construct BDB 425

Obviously this refers to the known world of Isaiah's day, but the language is universal.

34:2 "For the Lord's indignation is against all the nations. . .He has utterly destroyed them" The idea of "utterly destroyed" (BDB 355 I, KB 353, Hiphil perfect) refers to the concept of "holy war." In Joshua this concept in relation to Jericho is translated "under the ban" (i.e., dedicated to YHWH for destruction, cf. Josh. 6:17,18 [thrice]; 7:1 [twice], 12 [twice], 13 [twice], 15).

34:3 This verse expands the thought of v. 2, with graphic metaphors of warfare.

1. their slain thrown out, BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hophal imperfect

2. their corpses will give off (lit. "go up") their stench, BDB 748, KB 828, Qal imperfect, cf. Amos 4:10

3. the mountains will be drenched (lit. "dissolve") with their blood, BDB 587, KB 606, Niphal perfect

This reflects a battle scene where the bodies of the dead have remained for an extended period of time. In the ANE improper burial was a horror and disgrace and might affect one's afterlife. It represented a total defeat, physically and spiritually.

34:4 This hyperbolic language relating to the sun and moon cycles of nature is a recurrent theme in the Bible.

1. Isaiah 13:13; 34:4; 51:6

2. Ezekiel 32:7,8

3. Joel 2:31

4. Matthew 24:29

5. II Peter 3:10

6. Revelation 6:12-14; 20:11

The phrase "host of heaven" can refer to

1. astral deities (sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, etc.) usually associated with Babylon

2. the angelic army (cf. 24:21-22; Josh. 5:14-15, based on Deut. 32:8 in the LXX and illustrated in Daniel 10)

In this context it refers to the objects of light in the sky. These objects are affected and thrown into disarray by the approach of their creator! These physical objects, often viewed as deities, are subject to YHWH!

▣ "rolled up like a scroll" This imagery is used by John in Rev. 6:14. The sky in the ANE was thought to be (1) tightly stretched skin over the earth like a bowl (cf. Isa. 40:22) or (2) a set up tent (cf. Ps. 104:2). The old order will be replaced by the new (cf. Rev. 21:1).

NASB, NRSV"wither"
NKJV, TEV"fall"

This verb (BDB 615, KB 663) occurs three times in this verse.

1. Qal imperfect

2. Qal infinitive construct

3. Qal active participle

It also occurs in the parallel literary unit of chapters 24-27 (cf. 24:4 [twice]). Agriculture also shakes at the coming of the creator! We could say heaven and earth both fall apart at the approach of the Creator/Judge because they, too, have been affected by mankind's sin (cf. Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-22).

34:5 "for judgment upon Edom" Edom is singled out for judgment in this literary unit just as Moab was singled out in Isa. 25:10-12. Here Edom (like Moab earlier) is symbolic of all the arrogant nations who rebel against God.

34:6-7 These verses use the metaphor of sacrifice (cf. BDB 830, f, cf. Jer. 50:27; 51:40; Ezek. 39:17-20) to describe YHWH's judgment

1. the blood of lambs and goats, v. 6

2. the fat of the kidneys of rams, v. 6

3. young bulls, v. 7

Not only are domestic animals going to be sacrificed, but also wild oxen (BDB 910).

The imagery of YHWH's sword is also found in Deut. 32:41-42 and Ezek. 21:28-32.

NASB"is sated with fat"
NKJV"made overflowing with fatness"
LXX"is gorged with fat"
NJB"is greasy with fat"

This verb (BDB 206, KB 234, Hothpael perfect) is found only here in this rare stem. It denotes a reflexive concept, "YHWH's sword has fattened itself." The Pual imperfect of the same verb is found in v. 7, "became greasy with fat." Both speak of a huge number of sacrificial victims slain (metaphor for the dead of the enemies' army). The fat of the lower organs was that part of the animal placed on the altar.

34:8 We as modern interpreters must remember the essence of Hebrew poetry is

1. its abbreviated form

2. its sound plays

3. its parallelism

Westerners tend to be Greek-thinking, logical literalists! However, this is ancient eastern poetic literature. See G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, chapter 5, "Hebrew Idiom and Hebrew Thought," pp. 107-117. This is also true of Genesis 1-2. See John L. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis 1.

This verse is a good example, "day," line 1 is parallel to "year," line 2. This is not meant to be a temporal, historical comment, but the recognition that a time of judgment and accountability to God is coming! How long it will last is not an issue.

34:9 "pitch. . .brimstone. . .burning pitch" These (BDB 278, 172, 278/128) are allusions to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Gen. 19:24. Also, see the significant parallel of Jer. 49:17-18. Sodom and Gomorrah are in the northern area of Edom (i.e., southern end of the Dead Sea).

34:10 This is hyperbolic language which denotes a complete destruction that lasts into the indefinite future (cf. 1:31; 13:20; 66:24).

There are two terms for "forever" used.

1. line 2, עולם (BDB 761, see Special Topic at 32:14)

2. line 4, נצח (BDB 664, cf. II Sam. 2:26; Isa. 13:20; 25:8; 28:28; 33:20; 57:16)

The phrase "its smoke shall go up forever" is used in Rev. 14:11 and 19:3. It seems probable that (1) "Moab" in 25:10-12; (2) Edom in this context; and (3) "Babylon" in Revelation all stand for "human society organized and functioning apart from God or even in rebellion against God."

For a good discussion of the biblical uses of "forever" see D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks, pp. 98-101.

34:11-15 There are many animals (mostly birds) mentioned in this section. All of them are unclean according to Leviticus 11. These same unclean animals are seen in the ruins of the city of Babylon (cf. 13:19-22). There are two possible interpretations for this: (1) these ruins are symbolic of fallen human efforts judged and destroyed by God so that nothing but the animals lived there or (2) these cities are now inhabited by the demonic (cf. Matt. 12:43). Modern translations such as the NEB have shown clear archaeological evidence that these animals may refer to the demonic (cf. particularly v. 14).

1. NASB "hairy goat"

NKJV "wild goat"

NRSV "goat-demons"

TEV "demons"

NJB "satyr"


This term (BDB 972 III) refers to

a. idols (cf. II Chr. 11:15)

b. demons (cf. Lev. 17:7)

c. wild animals (cf. Isa. 13:21)

2. NASB, TEV "night monster"

NKJV "night creature"

NRSV, NJB "Lilith"


This term (BDB 535) in later Judaism became the name for a female night tempter. The origin of the term and concept may be the three night demons of Akkadian mythology (KB 528). The Peshitta identifies it as a "screech owl." The night with all its "nature-sounds" was terrifying to ancient people.


34:11 The terms translated "desolation" (BDB 1062, cf. 24:10) and "emptiness" (BDB 96) are used in Gen. 1:2 to describe the initial chaos of the planet. Edom (i.e., all rebellious nations) will be reduced to original void and chaos(i.e., 13:9-11; Jer. 4:23-26).

16Seek from the book of the Lord, and read:
Not one of these will be missing;
None will lack its mate.
For His mouth has commanded,
And His Spirit has gathered them.
17He has cast the lot for them,
And His hand has divided it to them by line.
They shall possess it forever;
From generation to generation they will dwell in it.

34:16 "Seek from the book of the Lord, and read" Except for v. 1, there are no imperatives in this chapter before this verse. YHWH's calling them to approach and to listen in v. 1 (two imperatives) is matched by the two imperatives which close the chapter (a common Semitic literary technique).

1. seek, BDB 205, KB 233, Qal imperative

2. read, BDB 894, KB 1128, Qal imperative

The nations have abrogated the dominion given to mankind in Genesis 2, so the animals are divinely allotted the land!

There have been many opinions about this book (BDB 706). Some see it as the judgment scroll (cf. 29:11,12; 30:8). Others see it as an allusion to the two books mentioned in Dan. 7:10; 12:1 and Rev. 20:4-15, which are metaphorical for the memory of God.

1. "the book of life"

a. Exod. 32:32

b. Ps. 69:28

c. Isa. 4:3

d. Dan. 7:10; 12:1

e. Luke 10:20

f. Phil. 4:3

g. Heb. 12:23

h. Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12,15; 21:27

2. the book of deeds/remembrances

a. Ps. 56:8; 139:16

b. Isa. 65:6

c. Dan. 7:10

d. Mal. 3:16

e. Rev. 20:12-13


▣ "Not one of these will be missing;

None will lack its mate.

For His mouth has commanded" Here we have two metaphors that refer to the power of God's word. The first is a military metaphor, while the second is a domestic one. When God speaks, it can be counted on (cf. 24:3; 25:8; 55:10-11).

▣ "His Spirit has gathered them" See the notes and the Special Topics at 11:2; 32:15-20.

God gathers the animals/demons listed in vv. 11-15.

34:17 This is an allusion to the dividing of the land by lot (i.e., Urim and Thummim) in Joshua 12-19. It is an archaic way of asserting that the covenant is renewed and permanent!


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