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Isaiah: Prophet of Salvation Book 5

Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Isaiah 32-35: The Glorious Future

Chapter 16: The Controversy of Zion

In Isaiah 34:5 God says, “My sword is satiated from heaven.” The metaphor pictures a comet, whose tail was said to be a sword. Hence, it is likely that we may see a comet in the sky as a heavenly sign that the prophecy against Edom is about to be fulfilled. How far in advance this might take place is unknown, but the same sign took place in 70 A.D. when the Romans laid siege to Jerusalem.

God’s Sacrifice

Isaiah 34:6 says,

6 The 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.

In other words, we are to view this in terms of a great sacrifice. In those days short swords (or knives) were used to kill the animals and to cut them up, separate the entrails, and even cut open the bones to expose the marrow (Heb. 4:12).

Bozrah was the capital city of Edom, located just southeast of the Dead Sea. Its name means “a fold,” that is, an enclosure for sheep or goats, and so Isaiah uses the name to reinforce the idea of sacrifice. When we think in terms of the distinction between sheep and goats and understand that Edom had taken over Mount Seir (“Goat Mountain”), we see that Bozrah was pictured as an enclosure for a goat herd.

Both sheep and goats were clean animals in the law and were eligible for sacrifice, but in prophecy, they represent different kinds of believers. Goats were more aggressive, picturing carnal believers who think their “free will” can overrule God’s will.

Isaiah’s word picture shows God sacrificing a goat. Most think of this only in terms of a violent overthrow of Edom, but God does nothing without a good purpose. A sacrifice, by definition, must involve offering something that is of value. Otherwise, it is not really a sacrifice. This presents the underlying idea that God values Edomites and that God’s sacrifice serves a good purpose in the end.

Likewise, since sacrifice is always redemptive, the prophecy suggests that God will restore Edom, though it is by blood.

Isaiah 34:7 continues,

7 Wild 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.

There were certain occasions when multiple sacrifices were done, such as when Solomon dedicated his temple by sacrificing “22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep” (1 Kings 8:63). So also in the case of this final sacrifice at Jerusalem, “wild oxen” and “young bulls” will be other nations that are sacrificed along with the goats of Edom.

The Cause of Zion

Isaiah 34:8 says,

8 For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

This is perhaps the heart of Isaiah’s message. The Lord’s “sacrifice” is essentially the result of His verdict or ruling in the divine court. In other words, Edom will lose its case. The “cause” (NASB) or “controversy” (KJV) is Esau’s legal case against Jacob in regard to the birthright.

Why will Esau lose his case? After all, Esau’s controversy with Jacob had a level of validity, because Jacob had committed fraud and identity theft. He had obtained the birthright in an unlawful manner without giving Esau time to prove his unworthiness. In fact, when Esau appealed to his father, Isaac told him in Gen. 27:39-41,

39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, “Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. 40 By your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless [rud, “break loose, wander, to enquire after, to seek”], that you will break his yoke from your neck.” 41 So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob…

Isaac’s answer to Esau’s appeal did not satisfy him, for he continued to bear a grudge against Jacob, contrary to the law (Lev. 19:18). The law commands men to accept the verdict of the judges and to change their own opinions rather than remaining in disagreement. While there are certainly carnally-minded judges whose verdicts are unjust, Esau should not have dismissed or disagreed with Isaac’s verdict, for it came by divine inspiration.

Hence, the controversy or legal “cause” was to continue to the end of the age. But why would this case drag on for so long?

The answer is found in the fact that Jacob had indeed deceived his father to get the birthright (Gen. 27:35). This shows that he was not yet ready or worthy to receive the birthright. Jacob still needed some divine discipline so he would not misuse his authority.

For Jacob himself, this meant that he was go into bondage in Haran for 20-21 years. Haran was part of the territory of Syria in those days. This was a pattern for a greater time of bondage many years later, when the house of Israel was taken captive to Assyria. This Assyrian captivity was the start of “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7).

In my book, Secrets of Time, I showed how the number 21 means “distress” and that the national application of this principle was in terms of 210 years. The broadest application was that Israel was to be distressed for 12 x 210 years, or 2,520 years.

We are now in the time of release, comparable to when Jacob returned to Canaan after his own time of distress. Though he had left Canaan as Jacob, he returned as Israel (a new man) and immediately settled at Succoth (“booths”), suggesting the fulfillment of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles).

Jacob-Israel’s return to Canaan prophesied of our own time at the end of the long time of distress, or tribulation. (The KJV calls it “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”) The carnally-minded Jacobites went into captivity, but in the end, only Israelites will be found worthy to inherit the birthright. Being found worthy is not a matter of race but character, for Jacob himself was not born an Israelite. To become an Israelite should be the goal of all believers, for it indicates a change of nature which manifests primarily in the revelation of God’s sovereignty.

Israel literally means “God rules,” that is, God is sovereign. That was the lesson that Jacob had to learn, because he had previously thought that God was weak and needed his help to fulfill prophecy. Such is the nature of the carnal believers who do not yet have the law written on their hearts.

True Israelites are overcomers who are indeed qualified to inherit the birthright. It has taken thousands of years to produce a body of overcomers who have proven their worthiness to rule with Christ in His Kingdom. For this reason “the cause of Zion” was a lengthy court case. God would not issue His verdict in the divine court until the time came when the full allotment of overcomers had been gathered.

This has taken many generations, for God has chosen a few in each generation to make up this body of rulers.

The Shift in Dominion

Isaac’s verdict showed that Esau was to break loose (rud) from his brother’s yoke, even as an ox might break free and wander away. Using metaphoric language, Isaac was telling Esau that he would break free at some point in history. The KJV captures the meaning of this Hebrew word, rendering it, “when thou shalt have the dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck” (Gen. 27:41 KJV).

In other words, it was obvious to Isaac that Esau had a valid complaint against his brother. For this reason, Jacob would have to pay a price for his unlawful deception. At some point, Esau would break free and “have the dominion” long enough for him to prove his unworthiness to hold the birthright. Only then could he be disinherited, for the law protected the right of the firstborn.

Another example of a firstborn son being disinherited was when Jacob himself disinherited Reuben for defiling his father’s bed (1 Chron. 5:1, 2). Though it was Jacob’s desire and revelation to give the birthright to Joseph, he could not do so until Reuben was disqualified. Hence, prophecy is subject to the law, for the law states the path to prophetic fulfillment.

So when did Esau-Edom break loose and “have the dominion”? Considering the fact that the Edomites were incorporated into the nation of Judah in 126 B.C., we must look to world Jewry to see the fulfillment of all end-time prophecies about Edom. We see that Isaac’s prophetic verdict was fulfilled in 1948, when the Jews established their “State of Israel” after the British government transferred the dominion to the Jews.

Britain, which is a Hebrew name meaning Covenant Land, lowered its flag at midnight of May 13/14, 1948. The flag is called Union Jack. Jack is short for Jacob. Hence, Jacob gave the dominion back to Esau to fulfill the words of Isaac. Esau-Edom was then given time to prove himself unworthy. Would the nation repent and accept the Messiah? Would they continue their carnal ways in rebellion against Christ?

The Final Verdict

In Luke 19:14 Jesus’ parable prophesies about this court case,

14 But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, “We do not want this man to reign over us.”

The parable was about Christ’s return to “a distant country to receive a kingdom for Himself and then return” (Luke 19:12). The distant country was heaven, and He was to await the divine verdict that would authorize Him to rule the Kingdom of God. But the verdict had to wait for Esau’s case to be ruled upon in the divine court. That ruling, in turn, could not be rendered until Esau had had sufficient time to prove whether or not his complaint (“cause”) was valid. And that would depend on how he handled the “dominion” and the birthright after breaking loose from Jacob’s yoke.

Hence, the Jews, representing (in part) the nation of Edom, began their allotted time in 1948. While many prophecy teachers believed that the Jews would repent and accept the Messiah within 7 years (i.e., by 1955), this did not happen. Neither has the nation accepted Jesus as the King-Messiah to this day. While thankfully there are some individual Israeli Jews who have come to accept Jesus and to back His claim to the throne, these do not represent the nation as a whole. In the end, Jesus’ final verdict is seen at the end of Jesus’ parable in Luke 19:27,

27 But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.

So Jesus confirms the prophecy in Isaiah 34:5 that Edom would be sacrificed at Jerusalem in the “year of recompense for the cause of Zion” (Isaiah 34:8). Jesus’ prophecy also confirms the destruction of God’s enemies in Jerusalem in Isaiah 29:1-6, where the prophet appears to be describing a nuclear strike.

To this we must also note Paul’s statement in Gal. 4:30, where he says that the bondwoman must be “cast out.” That bondwoman is the earthly Jerusalem, Paul says, whose children cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. When the city is destroyed fully, as prophesied in Jer. 19:10, 11, then all will know that “Hagar” and her children of the flesh have been cast out and that Jerusalem will not be the mother of the inheritors of the birthright.

Piecing Together the Prophecies

No single passage of Scripture provides a complete picture in itself. Revelation is progressive, and the prophets received pieces of revelation at various times, which required them (and us) to put them together in order to acquire a more complete picture. Sometimes the big picture is not clearly understood until centuries later when another prophet is shown another angle of the same prophetic event.

In the case of the fate of Jerusalem, Isaiah 29 tells us that God Himself will lead foreign nations to attack the “enemies” who occupy Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:3). The attacking nations, however, will not actually inherit the land, because it will be like a dream, where a hungry man eats, but when he awakens, he is still hungry (Isaiah 29:8). Nonetheless, Jerusalem will be destroyed suddenly by a great consuming fire, tempest, and earthquake (Isaiah 29:6).

In Jer. 19:10, 11 we are given confirmation that Jerusalem’s destruction will be so complete that it will never again be “repaired.” The city will be like an old earthen jar which will be broken to pieces and cast into Gehenna. This word is translated “hell” in the New Testament, but it is literally the city dump. Prophetically, it is the place of Jerusalem’s destruction.

In Isaiah 34 we learn something new. The nation specifically singled out for destruction is Edom. Here the text seems to imply that Edom is the enemy in Jerusalem. The enemies of “Ariel” (Jerusalem) in Isaiah 29 were occupying Jerusalem, and for this reason God had raised up foreign armies to destroy the city.

Hence, it should be understood that Edom, God’s enemy had already occupied the city. The other nations were raised up against Edom. This would be consistent with the prophecy in Isaiah 29.

Likewise, when we consider what actually occurred in 70 A.D., which partially fulfilled these prophecies, we know from history that the Edomites had joined with other radical Jews from the school of Shammai to fight the Romans.

Hence, God had raised up the Romans to bring judgment upon Edom that had already merged with Jewry more than a century earlier. The destruction in 70 A.D. did not fully exhaust the prophecy of Jer. 19:10, 11, because the city was rebuilt later and still stands today. So it is clear that the city must again be destroyed, this time in such a way that it will never again be rebuilt. And today it is again occupied by the Jews, who are fulfilling prophecies of both Judah and Edom.

Blood and Fire

Isaiah 34 speaks of Edom’s destruction as a great sacrifice of goats. Bozrah means “a fold” or enclosure for animals such as goats. Mount Seir, the inheritance of Edom, means “Mountain of Goats.” The sacrifice is a bloody scene. In Isaiah 34:6 the prophet says, “The sword of the Lord is filled with blood.” The Hebrew word for blood is dam.

Dam means “blood.”

Adama means “earth.”

Adam means “ruddy” or “earthy,” i.e., reddish soil.

Edom means “red.”

These names are derived from blood and are references to the color red as well. So the prophet paints a vivid picture—using a great deal of red paint—of the destruction of Edom. Ezekiel paints a similar picture in his description of the judgment upon Edom. Ezekiel 35:6, 7 says,

6 “Therefore, as I live,” declares the Lord God, “I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you; since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you. 7 I will make Mount Seir a waste and a desolation and I will cut it off from the one who passes through and returns.”

In every case above, “bloodshed” is from dam, “blood.” This is how the KJV renders it. The judgment upon Edom is based upon the law prohibiting blood consumption. Lev. 17:12 says,

12 Therefore I said to the sons of Israel, “No person among you may eat blood, nor may any alien who sojourns among you eat blood.”

Edomites were obviously non-Israelite aliens, but the law of God applied equally to all men (Num. 15:29). Hence, Edom was not to consume blood, and because “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14), the prophet interpreted this law to mean that Edom should not be bloodthirsty.

Fire is usually red, and so we are told that this destruction will occur in “a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.”

Edom’s Land Becomes Burning Pitch

Ezekiel then compares the reddish earth with the red fire and with red blood. Such comparisons are common in the writings of the prophets, and so this gives us a better understanding of Isaiah 34 as well. Isaiah 34:9, 10 says,

9 Its streams will be turned into pitch, and its loose earth into brimstone, and its land will become burning pitch [gophriyth, “sulphur, brimstone”]. 10 It 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 [netsach, “constantly”].

This is the prophesied judgment against Edom when God resolves “the cause of Zion.” As I have shown previously, this divine court case between Jacob and Esau-Edom is not to be resolved until the end of the present age. While Isaiah identifies the legal controversy as that between Jacob and Esau, along with the verdict, we must compare this to other passages to get a fuller picture.

First, we must compare this to Isaiah 30:33, where we find a similar description of fire and brimstone that the prophet associated with Tophet, “burning,” in the valley of Ben-hinnom (Greek: gehenna). Brimstone, or sulfur, was used to create a hotter fire, and Topheth was the furnace where the people of Jerusalem sacrificed their children in the fire (Jer. 19:5).

Hence also, God was to cast Jerusalem itself into gehenna, even as the prophet cast the earthen jar into gehenna “so as to make this city like Topheth” (Jer. 19:12).

It is clear, then, that the judgment of God was to treat both Jerusalem and Edom in the same metaphorical way. Both were to be judged by fire and brimstone (sulfur). In addition, Isaiah 29:6 describes the destruction of Jerusalem in terms of “the flame of a consuming fire.”

Isaiah 34:10 tells us that “it will not be quenched night or day,” much like the continual fires seen in gehenna, which also served as Jerusalem’s city dump. The prophets use gehenna as a metaphor for divine judgment upon the nations, including Jerusalem itself. So we read in Isaiah 66:24,

24 Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; and they will be an abhorrence to all mankind.

Many Christians are taught that this is a picture of “hell,” where (as they say) men are tortured in an unquenchable fire. They seldom make a distinction between hades, gehenna, and the lake of fire. However, I explain the differences in my book, The Judgments of the Divine Law. Gehenna is a prophetic place for the judgment of nations, including Jerusalem itself. Yet when Jesus uses the term gehenna in Matt. 5:22, 29, and 30, both the KJV and NASB render it as “hell.”

In the end, fire itself is a metaphor for the “fiery law” (Deut. 33:2 KJV) and its righteous verdicts that proceed out of the nature of God, who is pictured as the all-consuming fire. Gehenna is just one application of the many judgments of God. A beating (up to forty lashes) was also pictured as a “fire” in Luke 12:48, 49.

Isaiah 66:24 (above) does not picture immortal men being tortured in the fire of gehenna but rather “the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me.” The bodies of dead criminals were often cast into gehenna unclaimed. They were not tortured there but their bodies were disposed of without an honorable burial. The worms were not immortal but, like the fire, were always ready to eat that which was decaying.

Gehenna was a vivid metaphor of divine judgment. Jerusalem was necessarily a part of this, because gehenna was the city dump and also (because of its location) the place where attackers might gather to lay siege to the city. Its meaning, however, was treated metaphorically by the prophets, because it is plain that the nations could not all fit into such a small valley.

Neither are we to think of this judgment as being directed solely against foreign nations, because the prophets include Jerusalem itself in this judgment. In fact, Jesus warns the Jews of His day that they too might be in danger of being cast into gehenna (Matt. 5:22, 29, 30). Hence, no unrighteous person is exempt on account of their genealogy or nationality. But Isaiah 34 focuses upon the judgment upon the land of Edom.

In times past, the land of Edom was in Mount Seir that was located south of Judah. But when Edom was conquered by the Judeans in 126 B.C. and when the Edomites converted to Judaism and became Jews, as the historians affirm without question, the fulfillment of this prophecy shifted somewhat.

In the New Testament, King Herod was half Edomite and half Judahite (Judean), and he was chosen by Rome to rule both territories. Hence, Edom and Judea were united as one country. In fact, Herod himself, though he was hated by virtually all of the people, actually represented a unified Judah and Edom. That unification had occurred in 126 B.C. when Edom was absorbed by Judah.

The merger between these two nations, then, must be taken into account when we discern how the gehenna prophecies are to be fulfilled at the end of the age. Jeremiah makes it clear that Jerusalem will not be spared, while Ezekiel, Isaiah, and other prophets make it equally clear that the nations as a whole will be judged in gehenna also. No ungodly nation is exempt.

In the case of Jerusalem, if we piece together the various prophesies in the light of history, it appears that the enemies of “Ariel” who are seen to be occupying the city in Isaiah 29:2, 5, are synonymous with Edom in Isaiah 34:5. One can no longer distinguish between Jerusalem and the “land” of Edom. As Edomite converts to Judaism, filled with the Zionist desire to lay claim to the birthright and to “return and build up the ruins” (Malachi 1:4), they have taken over the city, causing God to lead foreign armies to lay siege to the city (Isaiah 29:3) and ultimately to destroy it “with whirlwind and tempest and the flame of a consuming fire” (Isaiah 29:6).

By piecing the prophecies together, it appears that Jerusalem will be destroyed by some form of nuclear “fire,” which is pictured metaphorically as casting the city into gehenna. All nations will be affected in different ways, as is the case with many wars. However, the nations will continue to exist afterward, for many of their kings will recognize Jesus Christ as the King of Kings.

Christ will reign from the New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2, 23-26), not the earthly city. “The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” (vs. 24). This is not the same city that will be destroyed in gehenna. The nations as a whole will survive and join God’s Universal Empire, whose King is Jesus Christ. But Jeremiah does not extend any hope for the survival of the earthly Jerusalem.

Hence, while all nations will certainly be affected by the destruction of Jerusalem, it does not appear that this will be a world-wide destruction as is often pictured.

The controversy between Jacob and Esau will be resolved “instantly, suddenly” (Isaiah 29:5), and in the end, no one will possess that land, not even those foreigners that desire to displace the Edomite Jews and to occupy the land for themselves (Isaiah 29:7, 8). A nuclear strike, spreading fallout throughout the land, could resolve this controversy quickly and make the ownership of that land moot.

Edom’s Desolation

The destruction of Edom in Isaiah 34 is accompanied by a metaphorical description of a desolate and unpopulated land. The prophet enlarges upon his statement in Isaiah 34:10, “From generation to generation it will be desolate; none will pass through it forever and ever” (netsach, “continually”).

When Israel wanted to pass through Edom on the way to the land of Canaan, Edom refused to allow them to pass through their land (Num. 20:20, 21). This forced Israel into a lengthy detour around Edom, which set the prophetic pattern of our own detour on the way to the Kingdom which began in 1948.

Essentially, Edom became a roadblock to the Kingdom because they refused to be neighborly and to treat their brother with love and respect.

So later the prophet tells us that no one was to “pass through” Edom in another sense. The judgment was to fit the crime in the final judgment upon Edom, which has occupied Jerusalem while claiming the birthright and the birthright name, Israel.

Yet during the time allotted to them to prove themselves unworthy, we are not to treat them badly but are called to show them love and respect as a brother. Hence the law says in Deut. 23:7, “You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother.” Though Edom refused to treat Israel as a brother in violation of the law, we are not to do the same to them.

Note that the Israelites traveled around Edom to get to the Promised Land, giving respect to Edom as a brother. In the past century God blinded the church so that Esau-Edom would succeed in its identity theft, not only to bring judgment upon Jacob for his own act of stealing Esau’s identity, but also to ensure that the church would love and honor their brother.

This has resulted in the church believing that Edom is indeed chosen as the birthright holder. God is indeed righteous in all His judgments.

Isaiah 34:11 continues,

11 But pelican and hedgehog will possess it, and owl and raven will dwell in it; and He will stretch over it the line of desolation [tohu, “formless”] and the plumb line of emptiness [bohu, “empty, void”].

The words tohu and bohu were used first in Gen. 1:2, “the earth was formless and void.” Further, a plumb line was normally used to determine the true vertical edge while constructing a building, so that it would not lean to one side (Amos 7:7). Hence, a plumb line, showing “true vertical,” is a biblical metaphor for Truth.

Isaiah tells us that God will use “the plumb line of emptiness” with Edom. In other words, Edom’s Zionist project will not be built upon Truth. So Mal. 1:4 says, “They may build, but I will tear down.”

Edom’s Unique Government

Isaiah 34:12 says,

12 Its nobles—there is no one there whom they may proclaim king—and all its princes will be nothing.

In other words, they will not have a kingdom because they will lack both kings and princes. This refers to Edom’s unusual practice of being ruled by “dukes” (Gen. 36:15 KJV). The NASB calls them “chiefs.” The book of Jasher explains this in greater detail. Jasher 57:39, 40 says,

39 And all the children of Esau swore, saying that none of their brethren should ever reign over them, but a strange man who is not of their brethren, for the souls of all the children of Esau were embittered every man against his son, brother and friend, on account of the evil they sustained from their brethren when they fought with the children of Seir. 40 Therefore the sons of Esau swore, saying, from that day forward they would not choose a king from their brethren, but one from a strange land unto this day.

Their first king was Bela, the son of Beor, who was from Dinhabah, who then reigned in Edom for thirty years.

When Moses gave the law to Israel, he said in Deut. 17:14, 15,

14 When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, and you possess it and live in it, and say, “I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around me,” 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses, one from among your countrymen you shall set as king over yourselves; you may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your countryman.

In other words, do not follow Edom’s example of crowning foreigners as kings. This law was applicable in the time that the people wanted a king, when God chose Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to rule over them. David was of the tribe of Judah. Later, Jesus Christ came of the tribe of Judah, for this was the lawful requirement.

The ultimate fulfillment, we know, is that Christ in His second coming must be of the tribe of Joseph in order to rule over all His brethren (Gen. 37:10) and inherit the birthright (1 Chron. 5:1, 2).

Getting back to Isaiah 34:12, it appears that Edom’s original form of government was to be perpetuated in 1948 when they again formed an independent nation toward the end of the captivity to Mystery Babylon. It appears that the State of Israel was to be ruled by a foreign king of a hidden government, a “mystery” or “secret” government ruling the world.

This is suggested by the fact that it was the United Nations that authorized the formation of the State of Israel when it passed the Palestinian Resolution on November 29, 1947. That UN ruling has been used ever since to prove the legitimacy of the Jewish state when encountering opposition from various Arab states which denied its “right to exist.” Hence, the United Nations’ resolution is the main legal defense of the Israeli government proving its legitimacy.

Isaiah 34:12 is vague. However, when we understand Edom’s original form of government and how it has played out in ancient and modern history, we can interpret current events with greater clarity.

The Curse

Isaiah 34:13 continues,

13 Thorns 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.

No doubt the prophet was again prophesying on two levels. First, we find Edom being desolate and uninhabited (nationally speaking) after being absorbed into Jewry in 126 B.C. Secondly, the scene of thorns and thistles suggests that Edom’s land was under the curse for Adam’s sin, for we read in Gen. 3:17, 18,

17 … Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field.

Of course, we are also aware of the connection between Adam (“ruddy”) and Edom (“red”). God’s curse upon the ground was a universal judgment upon all, but Scripture tells us that Edom was specifically cursed, along with a few others such as Canaan, Amalek, and later Jerusalem itself. Jer. 26:4-6 says,

4 And you will say to them, “Thus says the Lord, ‘If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you, 5 to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city [Jerusalem] I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth’.”

Edom’s land became desolate, but when the nation was forcibly absorbed into Judah without a genuine heart conversion, the curse upon Edom was not cancelled. Instead, the curse was brought into Judah and Jerusalem, in order to fulfill the prophecies of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was the prophet who was told to smash an earthen vessel in the valley of Ben-hinnom, signifying the utter destruction of Jerusalem (Jer. 19:10, 11).

Other Creatures

Isaiah 34:14, 15 says,

14 The 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. 15 The 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.

The desert creatures meeting (or joining forces with) the wolves is supported by the parallel idea of the hairy goat crying to its kind. The metaphor shows that the desert creatures have come in league with the wolves, even as the hairy goat is in league with “its kind.” Wolves, of course, are a metaphor for predators and violent men. The hairy goat is of particular interest, because of the name Mount Seir (“Goat Mountain”), the home of the Edomites. Note also that Esau himself was “hairy” (Gen. 25:25).

This suggests that Edom would “cry to its kind;” that is, Edom would appeal to others having the same carnal nature. It suggests an alliance of the carnally-minded. The “tree snake” suggests the scene in the Garden of Eden, where the serpent tempted Eve at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this case, the tree snake lays eggs in the protection of the tree, so that it can breed and spread its evil to other generations.

The main idea is that the curse on the ground was to be spread and enhanced by Edom and its ungodly allies, who are pictured as “mates” that breed evil in the earth. The alliances made evil more powerful.

The Book of the Lord

Isaiah 34:16, 17 concludes,

16 Seek 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. 17 He 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.

The prophet points to prophecies already written in the past in a book known as “the Book of the Lord.” In essence, Isaiah was proving the validity of his own prophecy, because the Book of the Lord had already said something similar. It appears that the prophet was quoting directly from this Book.

The Book of the Lord may have been a book that is now lost, or it may have been a book or books that were already known to be Scripture. If so, this certainly included the book of Genesis, which says in Gen. 1:24,

24 Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so.

Isaiah’s main point was that God had created the animals to reproduce after its kind. This command is then treated as a prophecy, not only of physical reproduction but also of spiritual reproduction. Righteousness breeds righteousness; unrighteousness breeds unrighteousness. Both do so without fail, for “none will lack its mate.”

Hence, Abraham’s faith is reproduced in His spiritual children (Gal. 3:7); Edom’s lack of faith also has mates who reproduce his faithlessness. The Book of the Lord says so, according to Isaiah, and it explains the spiritual law of reproduction.

The “lot” being cast is a binary lot to determine yes or no, good or evil, light or darkness. In this case it is righteousness or unrighteousness in the story of Jacob and Esau, whom God chose by His own sovereign will, dividing them by “lot,” as it were, before the boys were even born (Rom. 9:11-13).