Description
This chapter prophesies God's end-time judgment against the nations and their armies, especially those belonging to Edom which will be turned into a land of burning pitch. Dramatic cosmic signs are described, such as the sky rolling up and stars falling.
Commentary
This chapter prophesies God's end-time judgment against the nations and their armies. In particular focus is the destruction of Edom at Jesus’ Second Coming. Edom corresponds with southern Jordan, extending into Saudi Arabia at least as far south as Dedan, which is modern-day Al-Ula (Ezekiel 25:13). Arguably, Edom should be understood to represent all of Arabia, or possibly even as an archetype representing all of Israel's enemies. The destruction of Edom is also prophesied in Jeremiah 49:7-22, in Psalm 137:7-9, and in Isaiah 63:1-6 where Jesus is portrayed trampling and slaughtering the people of Edom.

Verse 2 says, "For the Lord is angry at all the nations and furious with all their armies. He will annihilate them and slaughter them". Today we have a very global worldview, and our natural tendency is to interpret this globally. However, from a 7th century BC perspective, it is possible we should understand this in a more regional sense. Daniel 6:25 says, "Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth" (KJV). Clearly he didn't write to every nation on the globe, but rather to all those within the region of the great Persian empire. In the end-times, the muslim world will fight against Israel and arouse God's wrath. However, Micah 5:5 tells us that when the Antichrist invades Israel, God will raise up seven shepherds, that is rulers of nations, to resist him. So on a global level, there will be nations supporting Israel in the end-time war. It is likely that the slaughter of the nations' armies portrayed here in verses 2 to 3 will be limited to Israel's enemies, and not include those of her allies.

Verse 4 describes the rolling up of the sky like a scroll, and the stars falling like withered leaves. Jesus also described this phenomenon occurring at his second coming, in Matthew 24:29-30, "Immediately after the suffering of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory" (NET). Revelation 6:12-17 also describes these events occurring at the sixth seal, "..the sun became as black as sackcloth made of hair, and the full moon became blood red; and the stars in the sky fell to the earth like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when shaken by a fierce wind. The sky was split apart like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved from its place".


It is difficult to understand what exactly is taking place here with the sun, moon and stars. If Arabia's oil fields are turned to burning pitch as in verse 9, it is possible there will be so much smoke in the atmosphere that light from the sun and moon will be greatly obscured. Verse 5 seems to imply that the appearance of stars falling from the sky and the heavenly bodies being shaken relates to Satan and his demonic angels being cast out of heaven onto the earth as in Revelation 12. In Luke 10:18, Jesus prophesied Satan being cast out of heaven and said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven". Here in Isaiah 34:5 God says his sword has slaughtered heavenly powers, which could refer to Jesus slaughtering demonic angels in the heavenly realm. Perhaps they then fall to earth in a visible manner. Despite the apocalyptic events in the sky, I don't think that Earth's destruction is in view here, as that doesn't happen until after the Millennium (Revelation 21:1). Also, the rest of this chapter implies continuity of the present earth into the millennial period, such that when Edom is destroyed it is left as a desolate wasteland. Another possible explanation for stars appearing to fall is that the earth's rotational axis is changed, in accordance with Isaiah 13:3 which says, "So I will shake the heavens, and the earth will shake loose from its foundation".

Verses 5 to 6 describe the sword of the Lord. Understanding that the Lord here who intervenes in earthly affairs is Jesus, this is the sword of Jesus. Revelation 19:15 says of Jesus, "From his mouth extends a sharp sword, so that with it he can strike the nations". This sword of Jesus seems to metaphorically describe the ways that he uses his voice as a weapon (search tags: Weapons of Jesus). After slaughtering heavenly powers, this sword will descend especially upon Edom, whose people God promises to totally annihilate (v5). The Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom (v6), leaving the land drenched with blood (v7). Bozrah was the capital city in Edom, located near Petra in southern Jordan. Given that today, Bozrah is no more than an ancient ruin, it is possible that it refers figuratively to Saudi Arabia's modern-day capital which is Riyadh, or to Mecca, its spiritual capital (see Isaiah 21). The young rams, goats, wild oxen, and strong bulls (v6-7) likely refer metaphorically to soldiers and officers of various ranks within Antichrist's armies, rather than to literal animals, for it is a slaughter of Edom's people that is in view here.

Verse 8 tells us the reason for this great slaughter - it is the God's day of revenge to repay Edom for her hostility towards Zion. At his first coming, Jesus proclaimed the 'year of the Lord's favour' (Luke 4:19). For the last 2,000 years, we have lived under this period of amnesty. God holds back from punishing sinners or taking revenge, hoping instead that they will repent and turn themselves in, to receive his no-quibble offer of forgiveness. But at the second coming, Jesus will proclaim 'the day when our God will seek vengeance' (Isaiah 61:2), and the amnesty will come to an end. Forgiveness will still be available to those who repent, but there will be no holding back of God's punishment against those who do not.

Verses 9 to 17 describe the utter destruction of Edom during the day of vengeance. Verses 9 to 10 tell us its streams will be turned to pitch and the land become blazing pitch. Given Edom's location in Arabia, this is surely a reference to burning oil fields. The streams are not water but oil which is set alight. In the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein set alight to Kuwait's oil fields, as shown in the photo below:
Stacks Image 4522
Verse 10 seems to indicate these fires will never be put out and the smoke will rise forever. This would surely be a huge environmental issue, so it is hard to imagine why they would be left to burn and pollute the atmosphere. Perhaps some will be put out and others left burning as a memorial to end-time events. The 'measuring line of ruin' (v11) perhaps implies destruction but within measured limits. The 'plumb line of destruction' is destruction by careful design, not by natural disaster.

Verse 12 says, "Her nobles will have nothing left to call a kingdom, all her officials will disappear". Saudi Arabia is known for its huge royal family, with roughly 15,000 princes and princesses, owing to the polygamy of its rulers. Its founder, Ibn Saud, had about 100 children, and one of his sons, Saud, has 115 children. Isaiah tells us all her princes will disappear.

Verses 11 and 13 to 17 describe the ruin of her fortresses and fortified cities, and the barren waste of her land after it is abandoned by people and left as a dwelling for wild animals. Verses 16 to 17 emphasise that it is given to the wild animals as their allotment for ever. As God says in Jeremiah 49:17-18, "Edom will become an object of horror. All who pass by it will be filled with horror; they will hiss out their scorn because of all the disasters that have happened to it. Edom will be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah and the towns that were around them. No one will live there. No human being will settle in it" (NET).

Tags
Places: Edom, Bozrah, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Arabia, Mecca, Mystery Babylon
Symbols: Sword of Jesus
Tags: Destruction of Edom, Destruction of Saudi Arabia, Edom becomes blazing pitch, Day of vengeance, Day of great slaughter, Day of Judgment, Sword of the Lord, Jesus slaughters demons, Wrath of God against all nations, End-time signs, Signs in the sky, Stars fall, Sky rolls up
The Lord Will Judge Edom
34 Come near, you nations, and listen! Pay attention, you people! The earth and everything it contains must listen, the world and everything that lives in it.
2 For the Lord is angry at all the nations and furious with all their armies. He will annihilate them and slaughter them.
3 Their slain will be left unburied, their corpses will stink; the hills will soak up their blood.
4 All the stars in the sky will fade away, the sky will roll up like a scroll; all its stars will wither, like a leaf withers and falls from a vine or a fig withers and falls from a tree.
5 He says, “Indeed, my sword has slaughtered heavenly powers. Look, it now descends on Edom, on the people I will annihilate in judgment.”
6 The Lord’s sword is dripping with blood, it is covered with fat; it drips with the blood of young rams and goats and is covered with the fat of rams’ kidneys. For the Lord is holding a sacrifice in Bozrah, a bloody slaughter in the land of Edom.
7 Wild oxen will be slaughtered along with them, as well as strong bulls. Their land is drenched with blood, their soil is covered with fat.
8 For the Lord has planned a day of revenge, a time when he will repay Edom for her hostility toward Zion.
9 Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch and her soil into brimstone; her land will become burning pitch.
10 Night and day it will burn; its smoke will ascend continually. Generation after generation it will be a wasteland and no one will ever pass through it again.
11 Owls and wild animals will live there, all kinds of wild birds will settle in it. The Lord will stretch out over her the measuring line of ruin and the plumb line of destruction.
12 Her nobles will have nothing left to call a kingdom and all her officials will disappear.
13 Her fortresses will be overgrown with thorns; thickets and weeds will grow in her fortified cities. Jackals will settle there; ostriches will live there.
14 Wild animals and wild dogs will congregate there; wild goats will bleat to one another. Yes, nocturnal animals will rest there and make for themselves a nest.
15 Owls will make nests and lay eggs there; they will hatch them and protect them. Yes, hawks will gather there, each with its mate.
16 Carefully read the scroll of the Lord! Not one of these creatures will be missing, none will lack a mate. For the Lord has issued the decree, and his own spirit gathers them.
17 He assigns them their allotment; he measures out their assigned place. They will live there permanently; they will settle in it through successive generations.
(NET)