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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 34

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The Indignation of the Lord against All Nations

A. The indignation of the LORD against the peoples of the nations.

1. (Isa 34:1-4) The fury and the completeness of the judgment of the LORD.

Come near, you nations, to hear; and heed, you people! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world and all things that come forth from it. For the indignation of the LORD is against all nations, and His fury against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to the slaughter. Also their slain shall be thrown out; their stench shall rise from their corpses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood. All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; all their host shall fall down as the leaf falls from the vine, and as fruit falling from a fig tree.

a. The indignation of the LORD: In the immediate context, Isaiah continues the thought of the coming judgment against the Assyrians. But in the larger context, we can see this passage as an announcement of the judgment to come upon the nations during the Great Tribulation.

i. Jesus, and many Old Testament prophets, plainly told us of a coming time He called great tribulation (Matthew 24:21), when because of the judgment of God, conditions on earth would be the worst human history had ever seen. Revelation chapters 6, 8-9, and 16-18 describe this horrific time, when there will be widespread ecological, economic, cosmic, and human catastrophe on a level never before known in history.

ii. The idea that this chapter relates to the very end times goes back a long way among Christian teachers. "Eusebius, with many other ancients, will have this chapter to be understood of the end of the world and the last judgment." (Trapp)

b. No wonder Isaiah pleads with the nations: Come near, you nations, to hear; and heed, you people! In light of how terrible the great tribulation will be, when we consider how prophecy has been fulfilled, and how the stage is set for even more fulfilled prophecy, we should hear and take heed!

i. The stage is set for a rebuilt temple that will come in the last days, necessary to fulfill the prophecies of the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). The stage is set for the sort of world-dominating confederation of nations, heir to the Roman Empire to arise (Daniel 2:36-45; Revelation 13:1-8; 17:10-14). The stage is set for a political and economic "superman" to arise, the sort of single political leader who will lead this world-dominating confederation of nations (2 Thessalonians 2:3-12; Revelation 13:4-7). The stage is set for the kind of false religion the Bible says will characterize the very last days (2 Thessalonians 2:4, 9-12; Revelation 13:11-15; 17:1-6). The stage is set for the kind of economic system predicted for the very last days (Revelation 13:15-17). The stage is set for the end-times scenario the Bible says will happen between Russia and Israel in Ezekiel 38-39.

c. The warning regarding this time of the indignation of the LORD is directed not to God's people, but to the nations. This is because God's people will escape the terrors of the great tribulation, though they may experience great hardship in the time leading up to it. Jesus said we should pray that we would be counted worthy to escape that time of terrors (Luke 21:36), and be taken to heaven in the great catching away of the church (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

2. (Isa 34:5-7) The great bloodshed at the judgment of the LORD.

"For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; indeed it shall come down on Edom, and on the people of My curse, for judgment. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made overflowing with fatness, 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. The wild oxen shall come down with them, and the young bulls with the mighty bulls; their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust saturated with fatness."

a. Indeed it shall come down on Edom: The Edomites were near neighbors to Israel, and often bitter rivals. The Edomites rejoiced whenever the people of Judah or Israel were afflicted, so Isaiah focuses on the judgment that will come against Edom, using them as a single example of the large judgment that will come upon all the nations (as in Isaiah 34:1-2).

i. "Edom was a sister nation to Israel, but it hated Israel more than any other nation. Throughout all of history we see a burning hatred of Edom against Israel. It is for this reason that Edom is frequently presented as a representative of all the nations that hated the Jews." (Bultema)

ii. "Edom had derided and attacked Judah for centuries, but now God would avenge this hateful attitude that is so characteristic of the world's ways." (Wolf)

b. The sword of the LORD is filled with blood … their land shall be soaked with blood: The indignation of the LORD finds its final fulfillment in the battle of Armageddon, which will be a terribly bloody affair (Revelation 14:20).

c. Overflowing with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams, for the LORD has a great sacrifice … and a great slaughter: In associating this time of judgment with the image of sacrifice, Isaiah tells us that this is payment for the penalty of sin. Even as a sacrificial victim paid for the sin of the one bringing the sacrifice, so the bloody judgment of sin at Armageddon will be a payment for the penalty of sin. It will be an imperfect, incomplete payment, but it will be a payment of some kind.

i. "The mention of sacrificial animals is primarily intended to refer to the slaughter of people." (Wolf)

d. The King James Version translates wild oxen as unicorns. Bultema writes, "There used to be quite a difference of opinion regarding the word unicorns, but today the general opinion is that it does not mean rhinoceros but aurochs, or wild bison. According to Deuteronomy 33:17, this animal did not have one but two horns."

i. "Wild oxen were not used in the sacrifices. Possibly therefore Isaiah is using animal metaphors for the important people and leaders of Edom." (Motyer)

B. The indignation of the LORD against the land of the nations.

1. (Isa 34:8-10) The land is made desolate.

For it is the day of the Lord's vengeance, the year of recompense for the cause of Zion. Its streams shall be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone; its land shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night or day; its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; no one shall pass through it forever and ever.

a. Its streams will be turned into pitch, and its dust into brimstone: In this day of the Lord's vengeance known as the great tribulation, there will be unparalleled ecological disaster. Before Jesus Christ returns at the end of the great tribulation, one-third of the earth's vegetation, one-third of the oceans, and one-third of fresh waters will be destroyed and unusable (Revelation 8 and 16).

2. (Isa 34:11-15) The land is inhabited only by animals of the wilderness.

But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. And He shall stretch out over it the line of confusion and the stones of emptiness. They shall call its nobles to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all its princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in its palaces, nettles and brambles in its fortresses; it shall be a habitation of jackals, a courtyard for ostriches. The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the jackals, and the wild goat shall bleat to its companion; also the night creature shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There the arrow snake shall make her nest and lay eggs and hatch, and gather them under her shadow; there also shall the hawks be gathered, every one with her mate.

a. But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it: Much of the earth will be so destroyed that in many places, only wild animals will be able to live.

b. The King James Version translates wild goat as satyr, which was a mythical demonic creature. The Hebrew word here is sair, which as an adjective means hairy (Genesis 27:11) and as a noun refers to a male goat (Genesis 37:31 and Leviticus 4:23). It is possible that Isaiah means that wild goats will inhabit the desolate regions of Edom, or he may mean that it will be the haunt of demonic spirits. Bultema thinks the best translation "is satyrs, demons, or field devils."

c. The Hebrew word for night creature is lilith, which is the feminine form of the word "night." Old Jewish superstitions make Lilith a beautiful demon of the night, who seduced men and killed children. It is possible that Isaiah uses the term to describe the demonic habitation of Edom after God's judgment.

3. (Isa 34:16-17) The surety of the judgments of the LORD.

"Search from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these shall fail; not one shall lack her mate. For My mouth has commanded it, and His Spirit has gathered them. He has cast the lot for them, and His hand has divided it among them with a measuring line. They shall possess it forever; from generation to generation they shall dwell in it."

a. Search from the book of the LORD, and read: not one of these shall fail. This remarkable statement tells us that Isaiah understood that his words were the words of the LORD. It also tells us that Isaiah meant that his prophecy should be understood literally - poetically, but literally. It also means that Isaiah clearly challenged doubters to "look it up" once the prophecy was fulfilled.

i. "After Edom has become a wasteland, men will take out the scroll and verify that Isaiah's predictions came true." (Wolf)

b. Search from the book of the LORD, and read: not one of these shall fail: This time of great tribulation is certainly coming upon the earth. This is beyond all doubt; our part isn't to bring it or to prevent it, but simply to be ready, and to pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36).

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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