1 Draw near, O nations, to hear,
and give attention, O peoples!
Let the earth hear, and all that fills it;
the world, and all that comes from it.
2 For the Lord is enraged against all the nations,
and furious against all their host;
he has devoted them to destruction, has given them over for slaughter.
3 Their slain shall be cast out,
and the stench of their corpses shall rise;
the mountains shall flow with their blood.
4 All the host of heaven shall rot away,
and the skies roll up like a scroll.
All their host shall fall,
as leaves fall from the vine,
like leaves falling from the fig tree.
5 For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens;
behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom,
upon the people I have devoted to destruction.
6 The Lord has a sword; it is sated with blood;
it is gorged 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,
a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
7 Wild oxen shall fall with them,
and young steers with the mighty bulls.
Their land shall drink its fill of blood,
and their soil shall be gorged with fat.
8 For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
9 And the streams of Edom shall be turned into pitch,
and her soil into sulfur;
her land shall become burning pitch.
10 Night and day it shall not be quenched;
its smoke shall go up forever.
From generation to generation it shall lie waste;
none shall pass through it forever and ever.
11 But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it,
the owl and the raven shall dwell in it.
He shall stretch the line of confusion over it,
and the plumb line of emptiness.
12 Its nobles—there is no one there to call it a kingdom,
and all its princes shall be nothing.
13 Thorns shall grow over its strongholds,
nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the haunt of jackals,
an abode for ostriches.
14 And wild animals shall meet with hyenas;
the wild goat shall cry to his fellow;
indeed, there the night bird settles
and finds for herself a resting place.
15 There the owl nests and lays
and hatches and gathers her young in her shadow;
indeed, there the hawks are gathered,
each one with her mate.
16 Seek and read from the book of the Lord:
Not one of these shall be missing;
none shall be without her mate.
For the mouth of the Lord has commanded,
and his Spirit has gathered them.
17 He has cast the lot for them;
his hand has portioned it out to them with the line;
they shall possess it forever;
from generation to generation they shall dwell in it. – Isaiah 34:1-17 ESV
Destruction, slaughter, judgment, blood, vengeance, confusion, and emptiness.
Not exactly words of comfort, are they? And while they may create in us a sense of unease and discomfort because of the way they portray our God, they provide a much-needed reminder of the comprehensiveness God’s divine nature. In an age when we prefer to focus all our attention on the love of God, the 34th chapter of Isaiah is a stark reminder of His hatred for sin and the wrath He expresses toward those who willingly flaunt their sin in His face.
This entire chapter is a universal message directed at all the nations of the world. It is God’s indictment against any and all who refuse to acknowledge Him as the one and only God. While they may enjoy their season of rebellion against Him, the day is coming when judgment will fall on each and every one of them.
For the Lord is enraged against the nations.
His fury is against all their armies.
He will completely destroy them,
dooming them to slaughter. – Isaiah 34:2 NLT
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this very same day of pending judgment.
“His cry of judgment will reach the ends of the earth,
for the Lord will bring his case against all the nations.
He will judge all the people of the earth,
slaughtering the wicked with the sword.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”
This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says:
“Look! Disaster will fall upon nation after nation!
A great whirlwind of fury is rising
from the most distant corners of the earth!” – Jeremiah 25:31-32 NLT
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah speak of a battle of epic proportions and a slaughter so great that the bodies of the dead will remain unburied.
Their dead will be left unburied,
and the stench of rotting bodies will fill the land… – Isaiah 34:3 NLT
In that day those the Lord has slaughtered will fill the earth from one end to the other. No one will mourn for them or gather up their bodies to bury them. They will be scattered on the ground like manure. – Jeremiah 25:33 NLT
Obviously, this will be a battle like nothing the world has ever witnessed. It does not depict a war between nations, as were the first two world wars. This will be a conflict between the nations of the world and God Almighty. Ultimately, it will be a spiritual battle played out between the forces of Satan and the Son of God. But that does not mean it will be metaphorical or allegorical in nature. No, this end-times showdown between God and the self-exalted nations of the world will involve actual armies, intent on defeating God and displacing Him as the ruler of the world.
Then the sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great Euphrates River, and it dried up so that the kings from the east could march their armies toward the west without hindrance. And I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs leap from the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. They are demonic spirits who work miracles and go out to all the rulers of the world to gather them for battle against the Lord on that great judgment day of God the Almighty. – Revelation 16:12-14 NLT
And the demonic spirits gathered all the rulers and their armies to a place with the Hebrew name Armageddon. – Revelation 16:16 NLT
These nations will be demonically inspired to wage war against God Almighty and His people. And while their numbers will be great, their effort will end in failure. This gathering of the nations in opposition to God will usher in the Second Coming of Christ. And the apostle John describes Jesus as coming on the clouds, dressed in white, and prepared to “release the fierce wrath of God” (Revelation 19:15 NLT). And His arrival will spell doom for the enemies of God.
Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, shouting to the vultures flying high in the sky: “Come! Gather together for the great banquet God has prepared. Come and eat the flesh of kings, generals, and strong warriors; of horses and their riders; and of all humanity, both free and slave, small and great.” – Revelation 19:17-18 NLT
Isaiah goes on to describe the nature of the destruction. It will be widespread and complete. And Isaiah uses the Edomites, the descenants of Esau, as the representatives of all the nations of the world. Esau was the twin brother of Jacob, and both were born to Isaac. But God chose Jacob to be the one through whom His promise of a Messiah would come. And in the book of Malachi, God expressed His love for Jacob and His hatred for Esau.
“I have always loved you,” says the Lord.
But you retort, “Really? How have you loved us?”
And the Lord replies, “This is how I showed my love for you: I loved your ancestor Jacob, but I rejected his brother, Esau, and devastated his hill country. I turned Esau’s inheritance into a desert for jackals.”
Esau’s descendants in Edom may say, “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.” – Malachi 1:2-4 NLT
Esau’s descendants, angry at their rejection by God, displayed a stubborn determination to resist the will of God. And their challenge to God’s sovereignty and authority remains alive and well today. The Edomites are, in essence, the poster boy for all those who stand in opposition to God. And Isaiah makes it quite clear that allthose who stand opposed to God will ultimately fall.
He will make a mighty slaughter in Edom.
Even men as strong as wild oxen will die—
the young men alongside the veterans.
The land will be soaked with blood
and the soil enriched with fat. – Isaiah 34:6-7 NLT
But what is the purpose behind all of this slaughter? Why will God bring such devastation on the nations of the earth? Isaiah tells us.
For the Lord has a day of vengeance,
a year of recompense for the cause of Zion. – Isaiah 34:8 ESV
Part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham was that any nation who cursed his descendants would be cursed themselves.
“I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse.” – Genesis 12:3 ESV
And while there have been many nations which have persecuted the people of God over the centuries, the intensity of Israel’s persecution will reach its apex during the seven years of the Tribulation. Under the influence of the Antichrist, the nations of the earth will turn on the people of Israel with greater degree of hostility and intensity than has ever been seen before. And while many Jews and Christians will die as martyrs during the Tribulation, God will keep His promise to curse those who curse Israel.
Isaiah’s description of this coming day of God’s judgment is filled with imagery that conveys complete and utter destruction, but primarily of humanity. Notice that the animals are allowed to occupy the land once occupied by the nations.
The land will lie deserted from generation to generation.
No one will live there anymore. – Isaiah 34:10 NLT
This is meant to convey that God’s judgment is final and complete. It is not just a temporary setback for mankind. Remember what the Edomites said: “We have been shattered, but we will rebuild the ruins.” That will not be the case when God is done with His judgment of the nations of the earth.
God’s devastation of His creation sets the stage for His restoration and recreation of all that He has made. The sin-tarnished creation will be restored to its original luster by God. He will make all things new.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. – Isaiah 64:43:19 ESV
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” – Revelation 21:5 ESV
“For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.” – Isaiah 65:17 ESV
The day is coming when God “shall stretch the line of confusion…and the plumb line of emptiness” over the land. He will judge the world in righteousness. But He will also restore to it the peace and fruitfulness it had enjoyed in the days of creation. He will make all things new.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.