Isaiah 34 Commentary

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Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the OT - used by permission
Isaiah Chart from Charles Swindoll
Another Isaiah Chart

Caveat: Some of the commentaries below have "jettisoned" a literal approach to the interpretation of Scripture and have "replaced" Israel with the Church, effectively taking God's promises given to the literal nation of Israel and "transferring" them to the Church. Be a Berean Acts 17:11-note!

("Jehovah is Salvation")

See Excellent Timeline for Isaiah - page 39
Judgment & Character

(Isaiah 1-39)
Comfort & Redemption

(Isaiah 40-66)




Salvation &








Judah &
Is 1:1-12:6
the Nations
& Promises
Prophetic Historic Messianic
Holiness, Righteousness & Justice of Jehovah Grace, Compassion & Glory of Jehovah
God's Government
"A throne" Is 6:1
God's Grace
"A Lamb" Is 53:7

Introduction to Isaiah by Dr John MacArthur: Title, Author, Date, Background, Setting, Historical, Theological Themes, Interpretive Challenges, Outline by Chapter/Verse. Excellent overview same intro as in MacArthur Study Bible.

Interpretive Challenges - Interpretive challenges in a long and significant book such as Isaiah are numerous. The most critical of them focuses on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church, so that there is no future for national Israel. On the latter issue, numerous portions of Isaiah support the position that God has not replaced ethnic Israel with an alleged “new Israel.” Isaiah has too much to say about God’s faithfulness to Israel, that He would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen (Isaiah 43:1). The nation is on the palms of His hands, and Jerusalem’s walls are ever before His eyes (Isaiah 49:16). He is bound by His own Word to fulfill the promises He has made to bring them back to Himself and bless them in that future day (Isaiah 55:10–12). On the former issue, literal fulfillment of many of Isaiah’s prophecies has already occurred, as illustrated in Introduction: Historical and Theological Themes. To contend that those yet unfulfilled will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless. This fact disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church. The future exaltation of Jerusalem will be on earth, not in heaven. Christ will reign personally on this earth as we know it, as well as in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 22:1,3). (Isaiah - John MacArthur)

Related Resources:

Halley's Bible Handbook (see context) calls Isaiah 34 - Like Isaiah 24, this chapter seems to be a vision of the end time. Edom is used as a typical example of God's wrath. Once populous and fertile, it is now one of the most desolate regions on earth, inhabited mainly by wild beasts, birds, and reptiles (Isa 34:10-15; see under Obadiah 16-17). Isaiah challenges future ages to note his words about Edom.

Isaiah 34:1   Draw 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.

KJV Isaiah 34:1 Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.

  • Draw near, O nations to hear; and listen, O peoples Isaiah 18:3; 33:13; 41:1; 43:9; 49:1; Judges 5:3,31; Ps 49:1,2; 50:1; 96:10; Mark 16:15,16; Revelation 2:7
  • Let the earth and all it contains hear Isa 1:2; Deuteronomy 4:26; 32:1; Jeremiah 22:29; Micah 6:1,2
  • and the world and all that springs from it Ps 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26


As you read this next section keep in mind that Isaiah 34 and Isaiah 35 are a unit, the first chapter speaking of judgment against the enemies of Israel (represented by Edom) and the second chapter describing the glories of the restored nation of Israel in the Millennium. To help you put these chapters in context, notice from the charts above that Isaiah 34-35 ends the section which focuses primarily on judgment and is followed by the historical chapters, Isaiah 36-39, which in turn are followed by "comfort and redemption" chapters, Isaiah 40-66.

The Moody Bible Commentary helps place Isaiah 34-35 into proper context -

"After beginning the book of Isaiah with an introduction itemizing the particulars of Israel’s disobedience (Isaiah 1–6), the first half of the book (Isaiah 7–35) emphasized judgment (although it does include promises of blessing as well). The first half began with the narrative found in the book of Immanuel (Isaiah 7–12), showing Ahaz’s rejection of the offer of a sign from God. As an outgrowth of that rejection of the sign, the sections that followed all emphasized that God would judge Israel and the nations (Isaiah 13–35). There are four sections emphasizing judgment: The oracles against the nations (Isaiah 13–23), the promise of end-time judgment and blessing (often called “The Little Apocalypse,” Isaiah 24–27), the book of Woes (Isaiah 28–33), and what follows now, the summary of end-time judgment and blessing (Isaiah 34–35). This section marks the end of the first half of the book, summarizing its overall message of judgment and blessing. The first part of this summary pertains to God’s judgment of the nations (Isaiah 34) and the second part highlights God future blessing of Israel (Isaiah 35). (Section on Isaiah written by Michael Rydelnik [Messianic Jew] and James Spencer)

The Berean reader (Acts 17:11-note) must realize that many other commentaries spiritualize or allegorize both chapters as God speaking about the church and not Israel.The definition of an allegory is...

...a story in which people, things or happenings have a symbolic meaning.

...a story that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning.

...a story in which the apparent meaning of the characters and events is used to symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning.

...a symbolic story that serves as a disguised representation for meanings other than those indicated on the surface. 

Do you see the common thread of these definitions of allegory from multiple sources? The predominant idea is reading something and interpreting it as having a symbolic, hidden, deeper moral or spiritual meaning. Do you see the danger when one reads a prophecy like Isaiah with "allegorical glasses," so to speak, seeing virtually everything the prophet wrote as having a meaning other than that intended by God when He inspired the Jewish prophet's words to Jews?

Recall how Isaiah opens his prophecies...

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (DESCRIBED IN THE FOLLOWING HISTORICAL SECTION - Isaiah 36-39), kings of Judah.  (Isaiah 1:1-commentary, cf Isaiah 2:1-commentary)

So from Isaiah's own words, to whom would you say Isaiah is writing this prophecy? To people in general? To the Church? If words mean anything, then clearly Isaiah is addressing his prophecy to Judah and Jerusalem. It is a Jewish prophet writing a Jewish Old Testament book to Jewish people! Could it be any clearer? And yet we come to Isaiah 34-35 and respected expositors such as Raymond Ortlund essentially disregard Isaiah's own words about who is his intended audience in the original historical setting. Some 15 times in Ortlund's introductory remarks he uses the word "US" (a "key word" in this section) and five times the word "OURSELVES", while using the word "ISRAEL" only five times. Ortlund's approach reminds me of a statement on Dr Michael Rydelnik's blog when he said "I once heard that every person is listening to the same radio station: WIIFM. That’s right, WIIFM. Those letters represent five words, What’s in it for me?

And so Dr Ortlund posits that in Isaiah 34-35 "Chapter 34 shows US what will become of everyone who buys into this world, and chapter 35 shows US what will become of everyone who banks everything on the promised salvation of God." While there is a ring of truth about what Ortlund says, it is clear from his introduction that he is skipping over the literal observation of the text and focusing primarily on application of the text to saints today. In so doing he completely misses the accurate interpretation of Isaiah's words, for as any good inductive Bible study student knows careful observation is critical to accurate interpretation. Beloved, there is only one valid interpretation of any text (and granted in a number of texts God's intended meaning can be very difficult to determine), but that same text can have many applications. Ortlund focuses on the latter, but does so without first gleaning an accurate interpretation. Paul instructed Timothy and all of us who handle God's Word to be "Be diligent to (aorist imperative - Command. Do this now! Don't delay! It is urgent so that you might) present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the Word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15-note). As someone has well said "Rightly dividing the Word multiplies our understanding!" Isaiah's radio station call letters instead of "WIIFM" are more accurately abbreviated "WIIFI," "What's In It For Israel?"

To further support my premise that Ortlund essentially ignores that these words were written to Jews by a Jewish prophet, notice his very nice outline which has not one mention of the Jews! 

    1.      Judgment: God, not this world, is the one to fear (34:1–17)
       A1 Listen to what God has planned! (34:1)
           B1 The resources of the Lord (34:2–10)
           B2 The unmaking of this world (34:11–15)
       A2 Read what God has determined! (34:16, 17)
    2.      Salvation: God, not this world, is the one to hope in (35:1–10)
       A1 The desert blossoms with joyful song (35:1, 2)
           B1 Encourage one another with this hope! (35:3, 4)
               C      God’s people will sing for joy (35:5, 6a)
           B2 God can do the impossible! (35:6b, 7)
       A2 The way home leads to joyful song (35:8–10)

Ortlund goes on to give an illustration from the life of Lance Armstrong "a great athlete...we all admire him," quoting him as saying " I believed I had a responsibility to be a good person, and that meant fair, honest, hardworking, and honorable. If I did that, if I was good to my family, true to my friends, if I gave back to my community or to some cause, if I wasn’t a liar, a cheat, or a thief, then I believed that should be enough. At the end of the day, if there was indeed some Body or presence standing there to judge me, I hope I would be judged on whether I had lived a true life, not on whether I believed in a certain book, or whether I’d been baptized. If there was indeed a God at the end of my days, I hoped he didn’t say, “But you were never a Christian, so you’re going the other way from heaven.” If so, I was going to reply, “You know what? You’re right. Fine.”" Clearly this was quoted before the truth came out that Armstrong was "a liar, a cheat...a thief." Ortlund then follows with his conclusion on Isaiah 34 - "Do we know who we are? Do we know who God is? Nobody will get the last word in on God.“The good life” turning into an eternally barren desert—that is where God-neglect takes us (Isaiah 34). But if you will put your trust in God, your desert will be transformed into a garden. That is what the grace of God can do (Isaiah 35). Each one of us is moving in one of these two directions, either into judgment or into salvation. What God wants is to save you." Beautifully written words, all true by way of application, but words that essentially jettison accurate interpretation!

In sum, Ortlund's comments might be helpful to a preacher in applying Isaiah 34-35 to the real lives of his congregation. But beloved, if you miss Israel in the OT, you miss one of God's keys to interpreting all of Biblical prophecy, for as someone has said "Israel is 'God's Timepiece.'" Keep your eye on Israel in the Bible and God's Plan for the Ages will beautifully unfold from Genesis to Revelation. Replace Israel with the Church and Biblical prophecy becomes hopelessly mired in confusion and is virtually uninterpretable! And what is one result of this confusion? Many churches shy away from preaching prophetic passages (Excuses I have heard include - "There's too much disagreement," "Prophecy is not practical or applicable to real life," "Who knows which interpretation is correct?", etc) which is tragic since 25% of Scripture was recorded originally as prophecy and 80% has been perfectly fulfilled leaving 20% which will be perfectly fulfilled! It follows that sadly many saints in the modern church are virtually completely ignorant concerning the remaining 20%! 

I want to emphasize that I have nothing personal against Dr Ortlund whose writing style is very poetic and beautiful and is filled with application. But because it is so excellent, one can read a prophecy like Isaiah 34-35 and pay more attention to Ortlund than to Isaiah and go home after the sermon or reading a chapter of his book and not have a clue about what Isaiah was actually talking about or to whom he was originally speaking! I have given such a lengthy critique of Ortlund's discussion (from his highly rated Preaching the Word: Isaiah - God Saves Sinners - 4.5 stars - see the reviews!) because he is representative of many of the commentaries on the Book of Isaiah that fail to read and interpret the text literally, but instead choose to spiritualize or allegorize the text and in so doing in essence replace Israel with the Church (See replacement theology / supersessionism a "doctrine" which smacks of subtle Anti-Semitism). For more on how this genre of "interpretation" has become very popular in our time, read Dr Anthony Garland's discussion on the Rise of Allegorical Interpretation

In contrast to Ortlund's spiritualized interpretation, H A Ironside interprets Isaiah 34-35 literally and as a result gives a markedly different assessment of Isaiah's prophecies - This chapter, and that which follows, link very closely with what we have already considered, the one setting forth the judgment that is to fall upon the enemies of God and His chosen people, Israel, and the other telling of the blessing which this long-despised people shall enjoy under Messiah’s benevolent despotism. We cannot read chapter thirty-four without thinking of many other passages of Scripture which clearly tell us of the same stupendous events. This prophecy is in perfect harmony with Revelation 19:19–21. In fact, these words of Isaiah might be looked upon as a commentary on, and explanation of, the vision found in the Apocalypse. It coincides also very closely with the first part of the 14th chapter of the book of Zechariah (Zech 14:1-5-commentary). When all nations shall be gathered together against Jerusalem, Jehovah will go forth and fight against them, we are told, as when He fought in the day of battle. In that day, the feet of our blessed Lord will stand upon the Mount of Olives when He returns to deliver His earthly people and to vindicate the promises of God made to them by all the prophets of old. (Isaiah 34 - The Day of Jehovah's Vengeance)

Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples!  - The nations of the world are called to "stand" before the bar of justice (so to speak) of the Judge of "the living and the dead" (2 Ti 4:1-note) and hear His verdict and the sentence they will receive in the verses that follow.  This is a prophecy of a terrifying future event and God is calling all mankind to listen to this message. You may say that this is future to me, so it does not apply to me. If you are not a believer in Messiah, than it applies to you. Yes, you may not be on earth when these terrifying events take place, but you will be judged by a far more terrifying event and that is the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15) and receive God's guilty verdict and incur His righteous indignation and wrath which will be meted out on you personally for all eternity in the Lake of fire (See discussion of eternal punishment). And so it is imperative that you draw near and that you listen to what Isaiah prophesies. 

David Thompson - When you look at Isaiah 34:1, it becomes very clear that God calls “all” the nations in the world to carefully listen to and understand the book of Isaiah. In this text, God transports the entire world into the future and gives them a glimpse of what will take place. There is a famous battle described in Revelation, called the battle (ED: BETTER = CAMPAIGN) of Armageddon (Revelation 19:11-21), in which God totally demolishes all world powers who have dared come against Israel. That very battle is seen here by Isaiah. 

Isaiah 34:2    For 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.

KJV Isaiah 34:2 For the indignation of the LORD is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies: he hath utterly destroyed them, he hath delivered them to the slaughter.

  • For the LORD'S indignation is against all the nations Isaiah 24:1-23; Jeremiah 25:15-29; Joel 3:9-14; Amos 1:1-2; Zephaniah 3:8; Zechariah 14:3,12-16; Romans 1:18; Revelation 6:12-17; 14:15-20; 19:15-21; 20:9,15
  • And His wrath against all their armies Isaiah 30:27-30; Nahum 1:2-6


For - This is a strategic  term of explanation -  Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit. What has Isaiah just commanded and to whom in Isaiah 34:2? Isaiah is giving the reason for the previous call to draw near and listen.

S. Lewis Johnson: And so here in the chapters that have preceded chapters 28 through 33 of the Prophecy of Isaiah have been woes upon the nation and upon the nations, and now these woes upon the nation and the nations that Isaiah knew merge into this grand apocalyptic finale of the end of all things, and so the prophet’s view point moves from the present and the background of his own time on to the end of the age and the second advent and kingdom of God. In other words, just as in the earlier section, messiah and the lineaments of his personal character form the promise section, so in the latter part it is the coming of the messiah to the earth that is designed to stir the hearts of Isaiah’s readers.

Oswalt: The text focuses on what God will do, not on why God will act in this way. God’s actions should not be interpreted as uncontrollable emotional outbursts of inappropriate rage, but as the natural response of a holy God to sin. By these acts he will justly punish wicked people and establish his righteous dominion over the world by removing the ungodly.

The LORD'S indignation is against all the nations - This clearly speaks of divine justice to be meted out in the Day of the LORD, especially during the horrible time of the tribulation when the "Bowl Judgments" of God will be poured out on the God-hating earth dwellers (not just those who live on the earth but specifically that subset that is intractably, irrevocably opposed to the rule of God in their lives). The Septuagint translates against twice with the preposition "epi-" which means upon, which gives us an apropos picture of God's wrath being poured out UPON the godless nations and their armies.

As Zephaniah says 

 “Therefore wait for Me,” declares the LORD, “For the day (the day of the LORD) when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out on them My indignation, all My burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured By the fire of My zeal.  (Zephaniah 3:8-note)

And His wrath against all their armies - When will this indignation and wrath be poured out? In the latter part of the Great Tribulation, the last of the last days of this present evil age (Gal 1:4-note), in the time referred to frequently in Scripture as the Day of the LORD.

God's wrath against the armies is elaborated upon by John in Revelation 16 which describes with the pouring out of the Sixth Bowl of God's judgment and the gathering of the armies at Har-Magedon (Armageddon)...

The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east. 13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. 15 (NOW A "BLESSED" INTERLUDE) (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) 16 And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon. (Rev 16:12-16-note)

God's prophet Joel also describes the preparation of the armies for the final global conflict in this present age...

Proclaim (bold red = commands) this among the nations (cf Isaiah 34:1): Prepare a war; rouse the mighty men! Let all the soldiers draw near, let them come up!  10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; Let the weak say, “I am a mighty man.”  11 Hasten and come, all you surrounding nations, And gather yourselves there. Bring down, O LORD, Your mighty ones.  12 Let the nations be aroused and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat, For (Why?) there I (YAHWEH) will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.  13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe. Come, tread, for the wine press is full; The vats overflow, for their wickedness is great.  14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.  (Joel 3:9-14-note)

Through His prophet Zechariah, Jehovah describes this gathering of all the nations of the world...

For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city. 3 Then (WHEN?) the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14:2-3-commentary)

Comment: Zechariah gives us a detail of these end time events not seen in Isaiah, Joel or Revelation and that detail is that at first the battle looks bad for the nation of Israel (and Jerusalem), but just when it looks like all is lost, Messiah will go forth and fight against those nations (see description of this battle below in Revelation 19:15-21).

The Campaign of Armageddon culminates in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ to defeat the armies of the world which are arrayed against Him...

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”  17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven (CONTRAST GOOD NEWS MADE AVAILABLE IN MIDHEAVEN - Rev 14:6-7-note), “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”  19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. 20 And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. 21 And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:11-21-note)

Wrath (anger, fury, venom, hot-tempered) (02534)(chemah from yacham = to be hot, Delitzsch says it is related to an Arabic word hamiy = to glow) is a noun which can refer to physical heat, but more often is used figuratively to convey the picture of inner, emotional "heat" which rises and is fanned to varying degrees. And thus chemah can mean hot displeasure, indignation, anger, wrath, and even poison (figuratively speaking). This type of anger is anger at its fever pitch so to speak.

He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter - Notice the use of the past tense not the future tense. So certain is the destruction of the armies of the nations of the world by Messiah, that Isaiah speaks as if it were already fulfilled. God's Word is a sure Word whether it be prophecy or promise and is sure to be fulfilled in His perfect timing! 

In his famous book the Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren wrote that "The greatest tragedy is not death, but life without purpose." That is not exactly correct. The greatest tragedy is to fail to realize the impending judgment on every person who has never run by grace through faith into the cleft in the Rock, the Messiah. To miss that purpose is to miss one's purpose eternally! Isaiah's graphic picture in Isaiah 34 is calculated to arrest every reader's attention (especially the lost), so that they might not have to face the Judge of all mankind without being covered by the blood of the Lamb! But these graphic descriptions should also arrest the attention of every genuine believer for as Peter wrote...

Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, (2 Peter 3:11-13, 2 Peter 3:14)

He has utterly destroyed them - He will dedicate them to destruction

Utterly destroyed (destroyed completely)(02763)(charam) mean to destroy, to doom, to devote or dedicate something. This word is most commonly associated with the Israelites destroying the Canaanites upon their entry into the Promised Land (Dt 7:2; Josh 11:20). Charam also describes the great wrath of the Antichrist who will "destroy and annihilate (charam) many." (Da 11:44-note)

Moody Bible Commentary - The term translated utterly destroyed is used in several places throughout the OT to refer to the “ban,” or the setting aside of something or someone for total destruction (Nu 21:2–3; Dt 2:34; 3:6; Josh 6:18, 21; 11:11–12, 20). The use in Isa 34:2 underscores the severity of God’s punishment of the nations.

Thompson on utterly destroy "means God has made a contract with Himself to totally, utterly and completely destroy the nations of the world. He has a sacred, consecrated plan that He will devote Himself to and that plan is the total and complete destruction of the nations."

He has given them over to slaughter - The Septuagint translates has given with the vivid Greek verb paradidomi which means to to give one over to someone, especially to give over to the power of another. Paradidomi is the verb used by Jesus Himself prophesying that "the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.” (Mt 26:2) That was the ultimate "slaughter" of the Lamb of God. In the present context the word slaughter is in a sense personified as the "one" to whom the nations of the world would be given over (given over to the power of slaughter). The picture is that there is no escape from this "person" referred to as slaughter! This will be an unprecedented slaughter, the "blood bath" of the ages for as John describes in the final battle in the Campaign of Armageddon (AT THE CLOSE OF THE Great Tribulation) "the wine press was trodden outside the city (JERUSALEM), and blood came out from the wine press, up to the horses' bridles, for a distance of two hundred miles." (Rev 14:20-note

Fruchtenbaum comments on a distance of 200 miles - The blood stretches for 1,600 furlongs, which is approximately two hundred miles. The two hundred miles may refer to the entire area from the Valley of Armageddon to Bozrah, which is about two hundred miles. Another possible explanation is that it refers to the round trip distance between Jerusalem and Bozrah (see map below). The fighting will begin in Jerusalem and move to Bozrah (100 miles), and with the Second Coming, will return back from Bozrah to the Valley of Jehoshaphat (another 100 miles). But the best explanation is based on Jeremiah 49:20-22 . . . In the context (see Jer. 49:13-14), this passage is dealing with the Campaign of Armageddon. The massive blood-letting that begins at Bozrah begins moving south down the Arabah until it empties in the Red Sea at the present-day cities of Eilat and Akaba. The distance from there to Jerusalem is about two hundred miles.

D G Barnhouse - Armageddon is in the north of Palestine [Rev. 16:14-16], the valley of Jehoshaphat is in the south. Bozrah is named by Isaiah as the place where the Lord treads the winepress [Isa. 63:1-6-note]. And the distance between the farthest points of this “front” is 1600 furlongs.

Walter Scott - What is signified is a vast destruction of human life over a circumscribed area. Certainly what is stated of the vast slaughter is beyond anything ever known.

Tony Garland - Although it is possible that this description is hyperbole, one must ask why then does Scripture mention this precise distance? Besides implicating the areas that might be involved (above), it would seem to indicate the magnitude of the final slaughter of all the ungodly. Attempts to understand the exact magnitude of the judgment are nearly impossible, but can provide some insight into the immensity of the slaughter:

Monty Mills - Let us consider the biblical portrayal of the size of this disaster: this river of blood is 184 miles long, and its depth is the height of a horse’s bit. Now, if a horse’s bit is four feet high, we can calculate the volume required to fill a blood stream of varying widths, and as we know that the typical quantity of blood in a person is six quarts, we can then calculate how many people it would take to supply the blood. The blood from one billion human beings would make a stream not even twenty yards wide over this length of 184 miles (a trough 4’ deep with radiused sides would average 53 feet in width to hold the blood from one billion humans). If these figures are taken literally—and surely, when we recognize the literality of fulfilled prophecy in Daniel, they must be—then it is clear that God portrays the slaying of all unregenerate mankind. Notably, as the width is not given, we cannot determine the population of the earth at this time.72

Joseph A Seiss writes in light of this indescribable slaughter - Child of Adam, hear, and be admonished now while salvation is so freely offered. Be not deceived, for God is not mocked. Those impieties of thine, those guilty sports and gaieties, will yet have to be confronted before the judgment seat. Those gatherings in the gaming-hells and drink-shops of Satan, those sneers and witty jests at sacred things, those fiery lusts burning on the altars of carnal pleasure, are all written down in the account-books of eternity to be brought forth in the great day. . . . Think, O man, O woman, how would you fare were He this night to strike! If not in the city, in reconciliation with the King, outside is only death and damnation, and nothing can make it different.73

Bozrah to Jerusalem
click to enlarge

Slaughter (02874)(tebach) is a noun which means slaughter. Baker writes that "Originally, the term referred to the actual slaughtering of animals for food (Gen. 43:16; Prov. 9:2); however, this term has also been used metaphorically. It describes the condition of a man seduced by an adulteress (Prov. 7:22), as well as the slaughter of the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53:7). Furthermore, it characterizes the destinies of Edom (Isa. 34:6); Moab (Jer. 48:15); Babylon (Jer. 50:27); and all those who forsake God (Isa. 34:2; 65:12). A parallel term is zeb̠aḥ, meaning slaughtering for a sacrifice." (Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament)

The Lxx translates tebach in this verse with sphage which is the same noun used in Lxx of Isaiah 53:7 "Like a lamb that is led to slaughter (Heb = tebach; Lxx = sphage).

Tebach - 12v - animal(1), food(1), slaughter(10).

Gen. 43:16; Prov. 7:22; 9:2; Isa. 34:2,6; 53:7; 65:12; Jer. 48:15; 50:27; Ezek. 21:10,15,28

Zechariah gives a vivid description of the utter destruction of the armies of the nations of the world in this final great global conflict writing... 

Now this will be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the peoples who have gone to war against Jerusalem (DESCRIBED IN Zech 14:2-note); their flesh will rot while they stand on their feet, and their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongue will rot in their mouth  (click for a short video that might depict this horrific scene!). 13 It will come about in that day that a great panic from the LORD will fall on them (WHO WOULD NOT BE PANICKED BY SEEING EYES ROT IN THEIR SOCKETS?!); and they will seize one another’s hand, and the hand of one will be lifted against the hand of another. 14 Judah also will fight at Jerusalem (NOT FIGHT AGAINST BUT WITH THEIR JEWISH BRETHREN); and the wealth of all the surrounding nations will be gathered, gold and silver and garments in great abundance (SPOILS AFTER THE OVERWHELMING VICTORY). 15 So also like this plague will be the plague on the horse, the mule, the camel, the donkey and all the cattle that will be in those camps. (Zechariah 14:12-15-commentary

John MacArthur comments that "The prophet, one final time, cycles back over the judgment that precedes the (ESTABLISHMENT OF THE MILLENNIAL) kingdom. God will strike the heathen forces gathered against Israel (Zech 14:1–3-note) with a supernatural plague similar to His judgment of the Assyrian army (Is 37:36), causing a panic so great that they begin to attack one another (cf. Jdg 7:22; 1Sa 14:15–20; 2Ch 20:23), aiding in the escape of the half (cf. Zech 14:2-note, Zech 14:5-note). God will enable His people to fight (cf. Isaiah 11:13, 14-note). Then He will send a widespread plague that even extends to their animals, preventing their use for military endeavors or escape. This depicts the thwarting of their efforts as God ultimately destroys them by the Messiah (Rev 19:11–16-note)." 

Isaiah 34:3  So their slain will be thrown out, And their corpses will give off their stench, And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.

KJV Isaiah 34:3 Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcases, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.

  • So their slain will be thrown out Isaiah 14:19,20; 2 Kings 9:35-37; Jeremiah 8:1,2; 22:19; Ezekiel 39:4,11; Joel 2:20
  • And the mountains will be drenched with their blood Isaiah 34:7; Ezekiel 32:5,6; Revelation 14:20; 16:3,4


So their slain will be thrown out, And their corpses will give off their stench - This is the ultimate affront to their dignity and a cause of great humiliation. (cf Isaiah 14:19) So many corpses that they cannot be properly buried resulting in decay which produces a stench. (see related note on slaughter)

Joel also mentions a stench in a passage that is considered by many to be not locusts but human bodies in the Day of the Lord and which would correlate well with the prophetic picture in Isaiah 34...

“But I will remove the northern army far from you, And I will drive it into a parched and desolate land, And its vanguard into the eastern sea, And its rear guard into the western sea. And its stench will arise and its foul smell will come up, For it has done great things.” (Joel 2:20-note)

Keil and Delitzsch - The nations that are hostile to Jehovah are slaughtered, the bodies remain unburied, and the streams of blood loosen the firm masses of the mountains, so that they melt away. On the stench of the corpses, compare Ezek. 39:11-note.

Oswalt - The sickening scene pictures death everywhere, the horrible stench of rotting flesh, and blood flowing like water all over the land. This is a ghastly picture of horror from the destruction of millions of people on the earth. 

Motyer - God does certainly hate the sin and love the sinner, but if the sinners refuse the ‘gospel call’ they suffer the penalty of their sin and the distinction between sin and sinner breaks down.

And the mountains will be drenched with their blood - Literally the text reads ""hills will dissolve from their blood." This is a difficult phrase. NET = " the hills will soak up their blood" ESV (NLT) = " the mountains shall flow with their blood. " 

Moody Bible Commentary - The translation the mountains will be drenched with their blood (v. 3) is somewhat misleading. The term translated drenched is used in other contexts to denote melting or dissolution. There are several figurative references to “hearts melting” (Dt 20:8; Jos 2:11; 5:1; 7:5; 2 Sam 17:10; Ps 22:14; Is 13:7; 19:1; Ezek 21:12), as well as several uses in which the melting of material is in view (Ex 16:21; Jdg 15:14; Ps 68:3). The term is also used to describe the melting away of the mountains in Ps 97:5 and Mic 1:4. While there is no reference to blood in either Ps 97:5 or Mic 1:4, it is clear in both passages that the mountains are “melting away.” As such, the translation of Is 34:3 should likely be understood as “the mountains will melt with the blood.” Oswalt suggests that the image is drawing on the erosion that takes place as water dissolves soil (Oswalt, Isaiah 1–39, 609). This understanding also fits well with the dissolution of the stars, or hosts, of heaven in Isaiah 34:4. In each case, it is clear that God is giving the nations an idea of His sovereign, cosmic reach.

Motyer on mountains drenched with their blood, says "drenched" is "literally ‘melted’ by a new and dreadful soil erosion through the torrential blood of the slain."

See preceding note on slaughter for John's description of this incredible end-time slaughter and blood-letting. 

Isaiah 34:4  And 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.

KJV Isaiah 34:4 And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll: and all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree.

ESV  Isaiah 34:4 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.

LXE (Septuagint)  Isaiah 34:4 And all the powers of the heavens shall melt, and the sky shall be rolled up like a scroll: and all the stars shall fall like leaves from a vine, and as leaves fall from a fig-tree.

NLT  Isaiah 34:4 The heavens above will melt away and disappear like a rolled-up scroll. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree. 

NIV  Isaiah 34:4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. 

  • And all the host of heaven will wear awa Isaiah 13:10; 14:12; Ps 102:25,26; Jeremiah 4:23,24; Ezekiel 32:7,8; Joel 2:30,31; Joel 3:15; Matthew 24:29,35; Mark 13:24,25; Acts 2:19,20; 2 Peter 3:7-12; Revelation 6:13,14; 8:12; 20:11


And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll - It is noteworthy that even the created heavens and heavenly bodies will be impacted by the indignation and wrath Jehovah pours out on earth for in a way we cannot now fully understand the whole cosmos has been infected with human sin.

The time alluded to by the cosmic signs could be at the time of the breaking of the Sixth Seal (which occurs in the first half of the 7 year tribulation) or it could be the cosmic disturbances that occur at the end of Daniel's Seventieth Week of 7 years ("The Tribulation," the Last 3.5 years specifically designated as the Great Tribulation.)

Revelation 6:12-14-note I looked when He (THE LAMB) broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became like blood; 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.

John Martin writes that "Catastrophic events in the sky will accompany the Messiah’s return to the earth to establish His millennial reign (cf. Joel 2:10, 30–31; Joel 3:15; Zech. 14:6–7; Matt. 24:29). However, Isaiah 34:4 may refer to the judgment of the sixth seal in the Tribulation (Rev. 6:12–13-note) (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Whether these cosmic disturbances occur earlier with the breaking of the Sixth Seal or later associated with the pouring out of Sixth Bowl (Rev 16:12-16) (or after this bowl which is associated with the gathering of the nations at Armageddon), the chaos in the creation will alert every person on earth that the Creator is in total control and fully able to fulfill the outpouring of indignation and wrath described in Isaiah 34:2-3. 

Oswalt adds that "The collapse of the heavenly world involves a reversal of God’s creative establishment of the heavens. At creation he spread out the heavens like a tent cloth (Isa 40:22), but in the future just the opposite will happen when God rolls it up like a scroll. He will reverse the creation by rolling his cloth back up and dimming the bright objects of light in the heavens. Instead of being a vital part of the world, the stars of the sky will fall from the heavens like dead leaves falling from a tree. When the power of God’s destructive wrath brings the mighty heavens and its hosts down to the realm of a puny dead leaf falling from a tree, one begins to glimpse the enormity of what God will do. Such comparisons should produce awe and amazement in the hearts of mankind. When people think about the stark reality of the sovereign power of God actively establishing his just rule over all the heavens and the earth, people should be humbled and thoroughly convinced that they do not want to arouse the power of God’s wrath or experience the destruction that he will accomplish."

In the prophecy of Joel the main theme is the Day of the LORD and he gives several descriptions of cosmic (divinely orchestrated) chaos associated with the Second Coming...

Joel 2:30; 31-note  “I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. 31 “The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome Day of the LORD comes. 

Joel 3:15-17-note (see this note for similar cross references to cosmic chaos in the end times)  The sun and moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness. 16 The LORD roars from Zion (cf His Second Coming in Revelation 19:11-21-note) And utters His voice from Jerusalem, And the heavens and the earth tremble. But the LORD is a refuge for His people And a stronghold to the sons of Israel.  17 Then (WHEN? WHEN HE RETURNS AND SLAUGHTERS ISRAEL'S ENEMIES - cf Zech 14:3-note) you (ISRAEL - THE REDEEMED REMNANT WHOSE EYES HAVE BEEN OPENED BY THE SPIRIT [cf Zech 12:10-note, Zech 13:1-note, Zech 13:8-9-note] TO SEE BY FAITH AND TRUTH KNOW BY EXPERIENCE THEIR MESSIAH) will know that I am the LORD your God, Dwelling in Zion, My holy mountain. So Jerusalem will be holy (cf the "highway of holiness" = Isaiah 35:8-note, cf Zech 14:20-21-note) , and strangers will pass through it no more. 

All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree. (ESV = All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree; NLT = The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves from a grapevine, or shriveled figs from a fig tree; NIV  = all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree. 

NET Note - the "host of the heaven" refers to the heavenly luminaries (stars and planets, see, among others, Deut 4:19; 17:3; 2 Kgs 17:16 ; 21:3, 5; 23:4–5; 2 Chr 33:3, 5) that populate the divine/heavenly assembly in mythological and prescientific Israelite thought (see Job 38:7; Isa 14:13). As in 24:21, they are viewed here as opposing God and being defeated in battle. 

Isaiah 34:5   For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.

KJV Isaiah 34:5 For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.

  • For My sword is satiated in heaven Deuteronomy 32:14,42; Ps 17:13; Jeremiah 46:10; 47:6; Ezekiel 21:3-5,9-11; Zephaniah 2:12; Revelation 1:16
  • Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom Isaiah 63:1; Ps 137:7; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Amos 1:11,12; Obadiah 1:1-9; Malachi 1:4
  • And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction. Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 29:18-21; Matthew 25:41; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 3:10; 2 Pe 2:14


For My sword is satiated in heaven - Satiated means saturated. NLT = when my sword has finished its work in the heavens; CSB = When My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens. 

John describes a sword from the mouth of Messiah

(Revelation 1:16-note) In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength.

(Revelation 19:15-note) (THE CONTEXT IS HIS SECOND COMING TO BRING JUDGMENT ON HIS ENEMIES)  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.

Oswalt on My sword is satiated in heaven - The idea of a sword that has “drunk its full” (Ed: The Lxx translates satiated with methusko = to cause to become intoxicated) is an image of an instrument of death saturated from killing its victims. After wielding its destructive power in the heavens, this sword will descend to earth on the representative nation of Edom.

McGee comments - God bathes that sword in heaven—that is important to see. When you and I take the sword down here, it is for vengeance or some ulterior motive. When God takes the sword, it is for justice and righteousness upon the earth. His sword is bathed in heaven, and it is going to fall in judgment. Idumea (Isa 34:5KJV) is Edom, and Edom is Esau, and Esau represents the flesh. Esau represents all in Adam who are rebellious against God and His people. God said, “…Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Ro 9:13). God will judge Edom because they are against God, against His people, against His Word, against everything that is right and good.


Bultema - 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.

Wolf - 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.

Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom - The sword of Yahweh will fall on Edom, who most interpreters feel is singled out as representative of all the nations of the world which were intractable enemies of God's people (e.g., look at the United Nations condemnation of President Trump's decision to move the U S Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem!). 

Judgment (justice) (04941)(mishpat/mispat from shaphat  = to judge, govern) is a masculine noun used over 400x in the OT and has general meanings including a judgment, a legal decision, a legal case, a claim, proper, rectitude. 

MacArthur notes that "The prophet selects Edom as a representative of the rest of the nations (cf. Isaiah 63:1; Ge 25:23; Nu 20:14–21; Eze 35:1–15; Ob 1–14; Mal 1:2, 3; cf. Isa 25:10)"

Ryrie helps understand why the judgment on the Edom writing that "The Edomites descendants of Esau, Jacob's twin, were in constant conflict with Israel, the descendants of Jacob. They rejected Moses' request to pass through their land (Nu 20:14-20), they opposed King Saul (1 Sa 14:47), they fought against David (1 Ki 11:14-17), opposed Solomon (1 Ki 11:14-25) and Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20:22), and rebelled against Jehoram (2 Chr 21:8). From the thirteenth to the sixth centuries B.C. they settled in Mount Seir, a mountainous region S of the Dead Sea, of which Sela (Petra) was the capital. So rugged is the terrain that the valley in which Petra is located can be reached only through a narrow canyon guarded by towering mountain walls 200-250 ft (61-76 m) high (see Obad 1:3-4). During the fifth century B.C., the Nabataeans dislodged the Edomites from their territory, causing them to withdraw to Idumea in southern Palestine. Herod the Great was an Edomite. (Ryrie Study Bible)

Oswalt: The Sovereign of the universe has commanded this desolation and he will bring it to pass. Just as he sovereignly apportioned Canaan to his people Israel, so he has apportioned the Edoms of this world to the birds of the desert. No nation or people are able to choose their destiny without regard to their own behavior. Rather, by its behavior it earns a destiny in keeping with God’s immutable character. So again Isaiah asks, “Why trust the nations? They are not masters of their own destiny. Rather, they belong to God who, like the landowner, can use a string to divide them into plots of his own choosing” (cf. Ps. 16:6; Mic. 2:5).

And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction - (NET Note = I will annihilate in judgment."; NIV - the people I have totally destroyed; CSB = on the people I have set apart for destruction) So in this passage we see the judgment is on Edom but also upon the people who God has set apart to be totally destroyed. There will "Multitudes, Multitudes in the Valley of Decision," millions and millions of earth dwellers who gather to battle Jehovah. There will be so many bodies, they cannot even be buried and thus the stench from their rotting corpses which Isaiah described earlier (Isaiah 34:3-note). 

See What did it mean to be devoted to destruction?

Isaiah 34:6   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the LORD hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.

  • The sword of the LORD is filled with blood Isaiah 63:3; Jeremiah 49:13; Ezekiel 21:4,5,10
  • the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah And a great slaughter in the land of Edom Isaiah 34:5; 63:1; Jeremiah 50:27; 51:40; Ezekiel 39:17-20; Zephaniah 1:7; Revelation 19:17,18

Wiersbe - In Isaiah 34:5–8, the prophet moves from the battlefield to the temple and sees this worldwide judgment as a great sacrifice that God offers. (See Jer. 46:10; 50:27; Ezek. 39:17–19.) The practice was for the people to kill the sacrifices and offer them to God, but now it is God who offers the wicked as sacrifices. (Be Comforted)

Constable adds that "Using sacrificial imagery, the Lord in judgment will seek what is peculiarly his. He will take what He alone has a right to take. Sin is a matter of life and death. All sin must be atoned for with sacrificial blood (cf. Lev. 4:1–12; Isa. 53). Those who repudiate the sacrifice of Christ for their sins will forfeit their own lives as sacrifices to God. A sacrifice is necessary, therefore, third, if the demands of divine holiness are to be met. No rebel would be spared."

Motyer on fat...blood - (These) were the parts of the slaughtered beast that belonged only to God (Lev. 3:16–17; 7:23–27). In judgment the Lord seeks what is peculiarly his, that to which he alone has a right.

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 - Using the language of Israel's sacrificial system, it pictures Jehovah slaughtering the animals (who stand for slaughtering of people beginning in Bozrah and Edom - see below for proposed sequence of Campaign of Armageddon). 

The phrase the sword of the LORD is filled with blood will find its fulfillment in the final battle of the Campaign of Armageddon when the blood will come up to the horses' bridles (Rev 14:20). 

For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah - Bozrah was 27 miles south of the Dead Sea and was the capital of Edom. 

Moody Bible Commentary on Bozrah - Others maintain that Bozrah should be located in the ancient Nabatean stronghold of Petra. This is an isolated area, accessible via a narrow canyon that opens into a wide space. This seems the more likely location because: (1) The name “Bozrah” means “sheepfold” and the city of Petra is located in a basin within Mt. Seir with surrounding mountains and cliffs, creating a natural “sheepfold.” (2) Right next to Petra is the Arab site of Butzeira, a name that more accurately retains the Hebrew form of Bozrah. Some have conjectured that Bozrah is the place to which Jewish people in the future tribulation will flee for safety from the pursuit of the Antichrist (see Rev 12:6-note). Therefore it would make sense for end-time judgment to begin with the Lord’s deliverance of the Jewish people there. 

Guzik comments that "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."

Keil and Delitzsch - Just as in Isa 63:1-6 Jehovah (JESUS) is represented as a treader of the wine-press, and the nations as the grapes; so here He is represented as offering sacrifice, and the nations as the animals offered (zebhach: cf., Zeph. 1:7; Jer. 46:10); Ezek. 39:17ff.: all three passages founded upon this). 

Sacrifice (02077)(zebah) from zabah - to slaughter for sacrifice) refers to an offering killed and presented by the worshiper to God as an act of devotion (to fill a special vow - Nu 15:3), thanksgiving (Lev 22:29, Ps 107:22, 116:17) or to meet the need for forgiveness (expiation, propitiation). 

ESV Study Bible on slaughter - The world becomes a bloody altar as God requires payment for sin (the only refuge for anyone is the sacrifice of Christ).

And a great slaughter in the land of Edom - Gary Smith writes that "God drops the sword images and focuses on analogies related to the killing of animals prepared for slaughter or sacrifice (cf. 25:6; 30:32; Jer 46:10; Ezek 39:17). Ideas of confession of sin, substitution, atonement, and forgiveness of sin that are associated with sacrifices in Leviticus are missing from this discussion, for the focus draws an analogy with the slaughter of animals, not the atonement of sins. The specification of Edom and Bozrah (the capital of Edom) is not because the Edomites were especially sinful or violent; they merely represent what God will destroy (cf. 63:1–6). Cities like Bozrah, a very secure Edomite fortification, will not stand. People who act like the Edomites will be destined for slaughter." 

Ironsides - God declared that He would cut off the people of Edom (Obadiah 18); and in the last days there will be a people in the land of Idumea where once the Dukes of Edom reigned, whose envy of and hatred toward the sons of Jacob will be as great as that of the Edomites of old. Upon these, unsparing judgment will fall. The sword of the Lord will be drawn out from its sheath and will not be returned to the scabbard until all the enemies of Israel will be blotted out. This will be the day of the Lord’s recompense for all the sufferings that have fallen upon Zion and the people represented by that city throughout the centuries that have gone since they were scattered among the Gentiles, because they knew not the time of their visitation.


Arnold Fruchtenbaum offers the following sequence of events in the Campaign of Armageddon - NOTE - the links labeled "note" are on site in depth commentary on the respective passage.

Proposed Sequence of Events
Campaign of Armageddon

(Click map to enlarge)

1. The Assembling of the Allies of Antichrist - When the sixth bowl is poured out, the Euphrates river is dried up and the kings of the earth are gathered to the valley of Jezreel (Rev. 16:12-16-note; Joel 3:9-11-note).

2  The Destruction of Babylon - Babylon is rebuilt on the banks of the Euphrates to become the world economic capital (Zec. 5:5-11). While the Antichrist is away at Megiddo, Babylon undergoes catastrophic destruction (Isa. 13-note, Isaiah 14; Jer. 50, 51; Rev. 15:8-note; Rev 17:18-note; Rev 18:1ff-note; Rev 19:2-note).

3. The Fall of Jerusalem - The Antichrist receives news that his capital city has been destroyed and moves south against Jerusalem (Zec. 12:1-3-note; Zech 14:1-9-note; Micah 4:11-5:1-note). The Jews will put up a mighty defense, but Jerusalem will eventually fall (Zec. 14:2-note).

4. The Armies of the Antichrist at Bozrah - The Jewish remnant flees to the mountains (Mt 24:15-note) and then to the wilderness in Edom (see Sheep in Bozrah). The armies under Antichrist will move against the Jews in Bozrah (Micah 2:12-note).

5. The National Regeneration of Israel - The Jews confess their national sin, the rejection and crucifixion of Messiah Jesus (Lev. 26:40-42-note; Jer. 3:11-18; Hos. 5:15). They then plead for His return (Ps. 79:1-13; Isa. 64:1-12; Hos. 6:1-3; Zec. 12:10-14-note; Zech 13:1-note; Zech 13:7-9-note; Mt. 23:39).

6. The Second Coming of Messiah - Christ returns to Bozrah, where the remnant have been preserved (Isa. 34:1-7; Isa. 63:1-6-note See in depth commentary; Mic. 2:12-13-note; Hab. 3:1-19-note; Zec. 12:7-note; Rev. 19:11-18-note).

7. The Battle from Bozrah to the Valley of Jehoshaphat - Christ fights the forces of Antichrist from Bozrah continuing all the way back to the eastern walls of Jerusalem, which overlook a section of the Kidron Valley, also known as the Valley of Jehoshaphat. Antichrist is destroyed. (Joel 3:2-note, Joel 3:12-13-note; 2Th. 2:8; Zec. 14:12-15-note; Rev. 14:19-20-note; Rev 19:20-note).

8. The Victory Ascent Up the Mount of Olives - This is not the initial return of Christ, for He will save the tents of Judah first (Zec. 12:7-note). Nor will his initial return be to the same place He ascended, the Mount of Olives, but merely in the same manner (Acts 1:11 = "will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven"). His ascent to the Mount is attended by cataclysmic events associated with the seventh bowl judgment (M 24:29-note; Zec 14:4-5-note; Rev. 16:17-21-note).

Dwight Pentecost suggests a less detailed sequence of events as follows focusing more on the prophecies in Daniel: 

1. Covenant with Antichrist - Prince of Roman empire [the Antichrist] makes a covenant with Israel for a seven year period (Da 9:26-27-note). (Although this covenant is broken three and one-half years later.) See Events of the 70th Week of Daniel.

2. Invasion of Palestine - The King of the North and the King of the South invade Palestine (Da 11:40-note).

3. Antichrist Responds - Because of his covenant with Israel, the Antichrist will come to Israel’s defense (Da 11:40-45-note).

4. News from East and North - News from the east and the north troubles the Antichrist (Da 11:44-note). Perhaps it is the approach of the kings of the east (Rev. 16:12+). (The troubling news may be the destruction of Babylon, although Pentecost does not mention this.)

5.Headquarters in Palestine - The Antichrist moves his headquarters into the land of Palestine and assembles his armies there (Da 11:45-note).

6. Christ Returns - Before he can engage the kings from the east, Christ returns. All the armies combine to fight against God (Rev. 19:19-note).

7.  Antichrist and Armies Overthrown - The armies and the Antichrist are destroyed without human means (Da 9:25-note; Da 11:45-note; Rev. 19:20-note).

Here is another proposed sequence of events related to the Campaign of Har-Magedon.

While this sequence can be "authenticated" from Scripture, it is merely a proposal and not a meant to be a definitive description of the cataclysmic end times events.

1). Gathering of the nations (Gentiles) in the valley of Megiddo against Jerusalem (Rev 16:16)

2). Babylon is destroyed (Rev 18:1-24)

3). The armies in #1 invade and conquer Jerusalem, but they know that there are still a remnant of Jews that have fled into the wilderness (Rev 12:6, 13-17 where the "woman" = Israel). (Zechariah 12:1-14:21 is a "unit" which describes the capturing of Jerusalem, but then the final triumph of the Messiah).

4). After conquering Jerusalem, the Antichrist moves with his armies south towards Edom seeking the Jewish remnant that had fled Jerusalem (cp Jesus' warning - Mt 24:15-21, describing the Great Tribulation, the last three and one half years when Antichrist rules the world seeking especially to destroy Israel.)

5). John describes Jesus' triumphant return in Rev 19:11-16. But to where does the Lord return? Isaiah 63:1-6 (See in depth commentary) supports the premise that Messiah returns first to the area of Edom whose capital city was Bozrah.

6). As Christ returns to Edom, the Antichrist's armies approach from Jerusalem. The Messiah victoriously treads down His foes and marches straight through them northward, His garments becoming soaked with their blood that rises as high as the bridle on the horses for 200 miles (Rev 14:20).

Note that several passages support the premise that when Christ returns, He first comes to the region of Edom.

(a) Isaiah 34:1-7

(b) Isaiah 63:1-6 (See in depth commentary)

(c) Habakkuk 3:3-note - God comes from Teman (Edom), and the Holy One from Mount Paran. Selah. His splendor covers the heavens, and the earth is full of His praise.

In addition Messiah makes a Highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8) on which the redeemed follow Him in His triumph.

7). Christ comes up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the Valley of Decision, where the nations have been gathered (Joel 3:2, 12-14) and He walks up to the Mount of Olives and stands on the Mount (Zechariah 14:1-4) as KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS AND VERY GOD OF VERY GOD. And when He does all the nations that are in the Valley of Jehoshaphat are judged by Christ, Who separates the sheep from the goats. All of those who have not received the MARK OF THE BEAST and have taken care of His brethren, the Jews, will enter into His kingdom, but the goats who have not will be cast directly, immediately into the Lake of Fire.

Isaiah 34:7 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.

KJV Isaiah 34:7 And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.

  • Wild oxen will also fall with them Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9,10; Ps 92:10
  • And young bulls with strong ones Ps 68:30; Jeremiah 46:21; 50:11,27

MacArthur has an interesting interpretation - Since the nations had not repented and obeyed God’s way of sacrifice for sins, they became the sacrificial penalty for their own sins.

Guzik on wild oxen (unicorns in KJV) - 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.”

Gotquestions on wild oxen translated in KJV as Unicorns - Hebrew word re'em, signifies a horned animal similar to the aurochs, a now-extinct ancestor of today’s domestic cattle. For some unknown reason, the translators of the KJV chose to substitute “unicorn” for the name of this horned animal each time it occurred: e.g., Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalm 22:21; and Isaiah 34:7. The Bible, in its original languages, never actually mentions unicorns.

Wild oxen will also fall with them And young bulls with strong ones - The meaning of this is not absolutely clear. Motyer observes that "Wild oxen were not used in the sacrifices. Possibly therefore Isaiah is using animal metaphors for the important people and leaders of Edom.”

Thus their land will be soaked with blood, And their dust become greasy with fat.

Isaiah 34:8   For the LORD has a day of vengeance, A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

KJV Isaiah 34:8 For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of Zion.

  • Isaiah 26:21; 35:4; 49:26; 59:17,18; 61:2; 63:4; Deuteronomy 32:35,41-43; Ps 94:1; Jeremiah 46:10; Micah 6:1; Luke 18:7; Romans 2:5,8,9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 6:10,11; Revelation 18:20; 19:2


For term of explanation

The LORD has a day of vengeance - Jehovah has a day on His calendar and it is the day of Jehovah's revenge. Vengeance means the act of taking revenge or inflicting harm on someone in retaliation for something harmful that they have done. 

In a parallel passage Jehovah says

“For the day of vengeance (naqam) was in My heart (THIS IS THE MESSIAH SPEAKING), and My year of redemption has come. (Isaiah 63:4-note)

Comment - The first clause (day of vengeance) parallels Isaiah 34, while the second clause (year of redemption) parallels the truths in Isaiah 35. 

Vengeance (05359)(naqam from the verb form naqam = to avenge or take vengeance) is the act of taking revenge (harming someone in retaliation for something harmful that they have done). It refers to punishment inflicted or retribution exacted for an injury or wrong and can refer to punishment beyond what is physical.

God says "Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’(Deut. 32:35)

MacArthur - God’s day of vengeance on Edom (Isa 63:4-note) will be the same as on the rest of the nations (Isa 59:17, 18; 61:2).

Wiersbe - God sees His enemies as animals: Rams, goats, lambs, oxen, and bulls are all sacrificed, along with the fat (Lev. 3:9–11). These nations sacrificed the Jews, so God used them for sacrifices.

A year of recompense for the cause of Zion - NLT = "the year when Edom will be paid back for all it did to Israel" CSB = "a time of paying back Edom for its hostility against Zion." As the NLT paraphrases it Zion is taken as representative of the entire nation of Israel. Recompense means the act of compensating for service, loss, or injury. 

We are reminded of God's promise in Genesis 12:3 "And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” 

This divine payback is stated to be specifically for those who have opposed the cause of Zion. In other words, those people who have mistreated the nation of Israel, the apple of God's eye, will have their evil come back on their own head. The Anti-Semitic Gentile powers are going to be repaid for what they have done against Israel! Beloved, let me ask you -- Do you harbor any germ of Anti-Semitism in your heart? If you do, you need to confess it and repent and bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance such as praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 122:6). 

McGee - This is the day of the Lord’s vengeance. We will see this again in Isaiah 63:1–6. You can’t do anything to stop it, just like there is nothing you can do to stop Niagara Falls from flowing. God says that things have to be made right upon this earth. To make them right He has to put down the evil and rebellious man upon this earth. Many people will not bow to God; but, since this is God’s universe, where will they go? He has only one place for them, which is called hell. You may have your own concept of it, but it undoubtedly is lots worse than a place of literal fire. God’s Word is inviolable and the Lord Jesus said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18). My friend, it is wise to read the weather report and when a storm is forecast to make arrangements to escape it.

Guzik - 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).

Isaiah 34:9   Its streams will be turned into pitch, And its loose earth into brimstone, And its land will become burning pitch.

KJV Isaiah 34:9 And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch.

  • Genesis 19:28; Deuteronomy 29:23; Job 18:15; Ps 11:6; Luke 17:29; Jude 1:7; Revelation 19:20; Revelation 21:8


 Its streams will be turned into pitch - Turning running water to sticky tar-like material is the result of divine judgment. 

Matthew Henry - The streams thereof, that both watered the land and pleased and refreshed the inhabitants, shall now be turned into pitch, shall be congealed, shall look black, and shall move slowly, or not at all. Their floods to lazy streams of pitch shall turn; so Sir R. Blackmore. The dust thereof shall be turned into brimstone; so combustible has sin made their land that it shall take fire at the first spark of God’s wrath struck upon it; and, when it has taken fire, it shall become burning pitch; the fire shall be universal, not a house, or town, on fire, but a whole country; and it shall not be in the power of any to suppress or extinguish it. It shall burn continually, burn perpetually, and shall not be quenched night nor day (Isa 34:10).

And its loose earth into brimstone - The former could be cultivated but not the latter. The language compares with that used to describe God's judgment and destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Ge 19:24; Jer 49:17–18).

And its land will become burning pitch - The picture here is a land like a smoldering volcanic wasteland.

Pitch (02203) is zepheth means tar or pitch, a viscid substance used twice in this verse and elsewhere only in Exodus 2:3 "But when she could hide him no longer, she got him a wicker basket and covered it over with tar and pitch. Then she put the child into it and set it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile."

Baker on zepheth - A feminine noun referring to tar, pitch. A bitumen, black, sticky substance used for waterproofing. The basket in which Moses was placed was waterproofed using this substance (Ex. 2:3). In figurative language, streams of Edom will be turned into pitch in a day of judgment (Isa. 34:9), indicating a hot flowing tar or pitch.

Wikipedia - Pitch is a name for any of a number of viscoelastic polymers. Pitch can be natural or manufactured, derived from petroleum, coal tar[1] or plants. Various forms of pitch may also be called tar, bitumen or asphalt. Pitch produced from plants is also known as resin. Some products made from plant resin are also known as rosin. Pitch was traditionally used to help caulk the seams of wooden sailing vessels (see shipbuilding). Pitch may also be used to waterproof wooden containers and in the making of torches. Petroleum-derived pitch is black in colour, hence the adjectival phrase, "pitch-black"

Constable - The prophet described Edom’s overthrow in terms reminiscent of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Gen. 19:24–28; Deut. 29:23; Ps. 11:6; Jer. 49:18; Rev. 14:10–11), which lay in the same general direction as Edom from Jerusalem. Edom’s actions brought on this destruction. The world’s end will be total, and its territory will be uninhabitable from then on (cf. Lev. 6:13). Human sin affects humanity’s environment.

Brimstone is the Hebrew word gophrith which is used on 7 times in the OT, but the first use is significant because it is in the context of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah...

Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven, (Ge 19:24)

ESV Study Bible feels that "Isaiah portrays hell (cf. Rev. 14:9–11) by means of expanding on the vision of the destruction of Jerusalem."

Ironside has an interesting comment on Isaiah 34:9-15 - Next are described the desolations of the land of Edom, which apparently will continue throughout the entire millennial age as a reminder of the judgment of God meted out to a rebellious people, and thus as a warning to any who, even in the day of Jehovah’s power, might contemplate turning away in rebellion against the King reigning in Zion.

Isaiah 34:10   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:10 It shall not be quenched night nor day; the smoke thereof shall go up for ever: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever.

  • It will not be quenched night or day Isaiah 1:31; 66:24; Jeremiah 7:20; Ezekiel 20:47,48; Mark 9:43-48
  • Its smoke will go up forever. Revelation 14:10,11; 18:18; 19:3
  • From generation to generation it will be desolate; None will pass through it forever and ever. Isaiah 13:20; Ezekiel 29:11; Malachi 1:3,4

Keil and Delitzsch - The one expression, “to contend for Zion,” is like a flash of lightning, throwing light upon the obscurity of prophecy, both backwards and forwards. A day and a year of judgment upon Edom (compare Isa. 61:2; 63:4) would do justice to Zion against its accusers and persecutors (rībh, vindicare, as in Isa. 51:22). The everlasting punishment which would fall upon it is depicted in figures and colours, suggested by the proximity of Edom to the Dead Sea, and the volcanic character of this mountainous country. The unquenchable fire (for which compare Isa. 66:24), and the eternally ascending smoke (cf., Rev. 19:3), prove that the end of all things is referred to. The prophet meant primarily, no doubt, that the punishment announced would fall upon the land of Edom, and within its geographical boundaries; but this particular punishment represented the punishment of all nations, and all men who were Edomitish in their feelings and conduct towards the congregation of Jehovah.

It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever. From generation to generation it will be desolate - Matthew Henry comments "so combustible has sin made their land that it shall take fire at the first spark of God’s wrath struck upon it; and, when it has taken fire, it shall become burning pitch; the fire shall be universal, not a house, or town, on fire, but a whole country; and it shall not be in the power of any to suppress or extinguish it. It shall burn continually, burn perpetually, and shall not be quenched night nor day. The torment of those in hell, or that have a hell within them in their own consciences, is without interruption; the smoke of this fire goes up for ever. As long as there are provoking sinners on earth, from one generation to another, an increase of sinful men, to augment the fierce anger of the Lord (Nu 32:14), there will be a righteous God in heaven to punish them for it. And as long as a people keep up a succession of sinners God will have a succession of plagues for them; nor will any that fall under the wrath of God be ever able to recover themselves. It will be found, how light soever men make of it, that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31-note).

None will pass through it forever and ever - Henry "If the land be doomed to destruction, none shall pass through it, but travelers will choose rather to go a great way about than come within the smell of it."

Jeremiah  writes that

Edom will become an object of horror; everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss at all its wounds. 18 “Like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah with its neighbors,” says the LORD, “no one will live there, nor will a son of man reside in it.(Jer 49:17-18)

A similar description is given of the fall of Babylon in the end time 

Revelation 14:10-note he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”

Rev 18:18-note and were crying out as they saw the smoke of her burning, saying, ‘What city is like the great city?’

Rev 19:3-note And a second time they said, “Hallelujah! HER (BABYLON) SMOKE RISES UP FOREVER AND EVER.”

Isaiah 34:11   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 And the plumb line of emptiness.

KJV Isaiah 34:11 But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness.

ESV  Isaiah 34:11 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.

  • But pelican and hedgehog will possess it. Isaiah 13:20-22; 14:23; Zephaniah 2:14; Revelation 18:2,21-23
  • And He will stretch over it the line of desolation And the plumb line of emptiness. 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Kings 21:13; Lamentations 2:8; Malachi 1:3,4


Keil and Delitzsch - The description of the ruin, which commences in verse 11a with a list of animals that frequent marshy and solitary regions, is similar to the one in Isa. 13:20–22; 14:23 (compare Zeph. 2:14, which is founded upon this). Isaiah’s was the original of all such pictures of ruin which we meet with in the later prophets. 

But pelican and hedgehog will possess it, And owl and raven will dwell in it - These were ceremonially unclean birds (cf. Dt 14:14–17), also associated with the ruins of Babylon (Isa 13:2) and Nineveh (Zeph 2:14).

MacArthur adds that "The presence of unclean birds was a sign of desolation and wilderness. Similar symbolism portrays the final state of Babylon in the future (Rev 18:2; cf. 13:21; Jer 50:39; Zep 2:13, 14)."

Matthew Henry - The cities shall become like old decayed houses, which, being deserted by the owners, look very frightful, being commonly possessed by beasts of prey or birds of ill omen. See how dismally the palaces of the enemy look; the description is peculiarly elegant and fine....They shall become the residence and rendezvous of fearful frightful beasts and birds, which usually frequent such melancholy places, because there they may be undisturbed, and, when they are frightened thither, they help to frighten men thence (from that place). This circumstance of the desolation, being apt to strike a horror upon the mind, is much enlarged upon here

Matthew Henry on stretch over it the line of destruction - God shall mark them for ruin and destruction. He shall stretch out upon Bozrah the line of confusion with the stones or plummets of emptiness, v. 11. This intimates the equity of the sentence passed upon it; it is given according to the rules of justice and the exact agreeableness of the execution with the sentence; the destruction is not wrought at random, but by line and level. The confusion and emptiness that shall overspread the face of the whole country shall be like that of the whole earth when it was Tohu and Bohu (the very words here used)-without form and void. Gen. 1:2. Sin will soon turn a paradise into a chaos, and sully the beauty of the whole creation. When there is confusion there will soon be emptiness; but both are appointed by the Governor of the world, and in exact proportions.

And He will stretch over it the line of desolation (formlessness) - ESV =. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it. This speaks of a desolate, empty waste and in a sense is a reversal of God's bringing order out of chaos, for the same two words desolation (tohu) and emptiness (bohu) are used in the creation account in Genesis 1:2.

Line (06957)(qav) is a masculine noun which refers to a line for measuring and was literally a cord used in construction work (1 Ki 7:23). In the figurative sense qav refers to a measuring "line" or standard of justice (as applied to Jerusalem in 2 Ki 21:13). In David's psalm 19, qav refers to the "architectural plan" or line of the heavens reflecting the Master Craftman's handiwork (Ps 19:4). Qav can also refer to a word of instruction in prophetic or legal settings (Isa 28:10, 13). Finally, as in the present context qav can refer to God's judgments (Isa 34:11) and His sovereign distribution of power (Isa 34:17).

Qav - 20x in 14v - circumference*(1), line(16), measuring line(3).

2 Ki. 21:13; 2 Chr. 4:2; Job 38:5; Ps. 19:4; Isa. 28:10,13,17; 34:11,17; 44:13; Jer. 31:39; Lam. 2:8; Ezek. 47:3; Zech. 1:16

NIDOTT says "Stretching a measuring line over the land means that as an ownerless plot of ground, the land is to be resurveyed and reassigned, the threat of judgment against Jerusalem is that the measuring line of Samaria will be cast over it (2 Kgs 21:13), meaning that it will be taken over by foreigners.The same sense in variant wording is found in Mic 2:4; the inheritance of the people will be surveyed with a measuring line. However, in the case of Edom the force of the picture has been escalated. The land can no longer be redivided because of the total destruction. The measuring line is one of תֹּהוּ, i.e., one useful only for absolute wasteland." 

And the plumb line of emptiness - God's measure of justice is meted out with absolute precision and perfection. 

A plumb-line is a cord from which a metal weight is suspended pointing directly to the earth's center of gravity; used to determine the vertical from a given point

These words tohu (formless) and bohu (void) first appear in Gen. 1:2, describing the world before God ordered it and filled it with life and now they describe the disorder as a result of His judgment!

Gotquestions - A plumb line, also called a plummet, is a cord with a non-magnetic weight attached to one end. When the cord is held in such a way that the weight can dangle freely, an exact vertical can be determined. Painters and carpenters use plumb lines to keep their work straight. It is difficult, while in the middle of a project, to determine a true horizontal or vertical line without an objective measuring tool, so a plumb line is employed. A plumb line applies the law of gravity to find right angles, to indicate the most direct route from top to bottom, and to keep things plumb. A plumb line doesn’t change or move with the whims of the carpenter. It remains true, and all work must line up with it or risk being crooked. (What is a plumb line in the Bible?)

Desolation (08414)(tohu) means empty, formless, futile, waste, meaningless. Isaiah juxtaposes tohu and bohu (below) in the judgment against Edom to describe the total depopulation and destruction of the land so it is a waste fit only for desert animals.

A H Konkel - Jeremiah 4:23 depicts an universal and cosmic catastrophe. Jeremiah uses creation language to describe the judgment on the fruitful garden of creation as a reversal to precreation chaos. The term תֹּהוּ may simply indicate a waterless impassable or pathless desert (Ps 107:40; Job 12:24). However, it often signifies nothingness, void, or emptiness. Job testifies that God hangs the north (the traditional home of the gods and dangerous beings) upon תֹּהוּ and hangs the earth without anything (Job 26:7). He says that his friends are like the desert streams that evaporate, they vanish into nothing (Job 6:18; this v. does not speak of caravans, but of the paths of the streams). The latter is one of the four occurrences of תֹּהוּ with the article, all with the meaning “nothing”: Samuel exhorts the people not to turn after the nothings (1 Sa 12:21); the corrupt judges dismiss the case of the righteous for no reason, i.e., baseless counter arguments that free the guilty (Isa 29:21); God sets the rulers of the earth as if they were not (לְאָיִן), the judges of the earth as nothing (Isa 40:23). The last reference is one of several that make תֹּהוּ parallel with a word meaning “nothing.” The deeds of the gods are nothing (אֶפֶס), their libations a wind and tohu (Isa41:29); all the idols are tohu, they have no profit (Isa 44:9); in 59:4 those going to court trust in תֹּהוּ, their words are empty (שָׁוְא); the servant in 49:4 fears that he has spent his strength for nothing (תֹּהוּ) and in vain (הֶבֶל). The term תֹּהוּ is common in the vocabulary of creation. Its function is to indicate chaos in contrast to the order of creation. So Isaiah says that the world was not made a wasteland, God made it to be inhabited (Isa 45:18). The reversal of this creation is announced in the opening of the “little apocalypse” (Isa 24–27), in which the “city of chaos” is described as shattered (24:10). The devastation of the earth is described in terms reminiscent of those of the prophet Hosea over Israel (cf. 24:4; Hos 4:3). It is only natural that the material originally used to describe the judgment of Israel should be transferred, with little alteration, to that of universal judgment. This same type of terminology is found in Jer 4:28, in a passage that is a self-conscious reversal of the original description of creation (Jer 4:23–28). Both of these passages state that creation will return to the state of precreation chaos. (NIDOTT)

Baker - A masculine noun meaning formlessness, confusion. The exact meaning of this term is difficult at best since its study is limited to its relatively few Old Testament occurrences. It is used to describe primeval earth before the seven creative days (Gen. 1:2); a land reduced to primeval chaos and formlessness (Isa. 34:11; 45:18; Jer. 4:23); a destroyed city (Isa. 24:10); nothingness or empty space (Job 26:7); a barren wasteland (Deut. 32:10; Job 6:18; 12:24; Ps. 107:40); that which is vain and futile (1 Sam. 12:21; Isa. 45:19; 49:4); like idolatry (Isa. 41:29; 44:9); unfounded allegations (Isa. 29:21; 59:4); the nations compared to God (Isa. 40:17); or human rulers (Isa. 40:23). Although it is impossible to grasp the full import of this word, it is obvious that it has a negative and disparaging tone. It represents chaos, confusion, and disorder, all things that are opposed to the organization, direction, and order that God has demonstrated. Complete Word Study Dictionary – Old Testament.

Tohu - 20x in 19v - chaos(1), confusion(1), desolation(1), emptiness(1), empty space(1), formless(2), futile(2), futile things(1), meaningless(2), meaningless arguments(1), nothing(2), waste(3), waste place(2).

Gen. 1:2; Deut. 32:10; 1 Sam. 12:21; Job 6:18; 12:24; 26:7; Ps. 107:40; Isa. 24:10; 29:21; 34:11; 40:17,23; 41:29; 44:9; 45:18-19; 49:4; 59:4; Jer. 4:23

Emptiness (void)(0922)(bohu) means void or waste and depicts the state of matter after God had created it but before He had fashioned it for habitation (Gen. 1:2). It, therefore, describes the state of the land or earth after God judges it (Isa. 34:11; Jer. 4:23). It is used in combination with tōhû, without form, each time. 

Bohu - 3x in 3v - emptiness, void, waste 

Genesis 1:2 The earth was formless (tohu) and void (bohu), and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

Isaiah 34:11  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 And the plumb line of emptiness. 

Jeremiah 4:23  I looked on the earth, and behold, it was  formless (tohu) and void (bohu); And to the heavens, and they had no light.

Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. - It is probable that the descriptions in Isaiah of the desolations of Edom and those in Jeremiah of Israel borrow this phrase from the Genesis picture of a primordial chaos. 

Isaiah 34:12   Its nobles--there is no one there whom they may proclaim king-- and all its princes will be nothing.

KJV Isaiah 34:12 They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing.

  • Its nobles--there is no one there Whom they may proclaim king Isaiah 3:6-8; Ecclesiastes 10:16,17
  • And all its princes will be nothing. Isaiah 41:24; 1 Corinthians 8:4; 13:2; 2 Corinthians 12:11


This describes a place barren of human life. 

NET -  Her nobles will have nothing left to call a kingdom and all her officials will disappear. 

NLT - It will be called the Land of Nothing, and all its nobles will soon be gone.

Matthew Henry - Their great men shall be all cut off, and none of them shall dare to appear: They shall call the nobles of the kingdom to take care of the arduous affairs which lie before them, but none shall be there to take this ruin under their hand, and all her princes, having the sad tidings brought them, shall be nothing, shall be at their wits' end, and not be able to stand them in stead, to shelter them from destruction.

Isaiah 34:13   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:13 And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.

  • Thorns will come up in its fortified towers Isaiah 32:13,14; Hosea 9:6; Zephaniah 2:9
  • It will also be a haunt of jackals And an abode of ostriches. Isaiah 13:21,22; 35:7; Jeremiah 9:11; 10:22; 49:33; 50:39,40; 51:37; Malachi 1:3; Revelation 18:2,20-24


The "thorny" fate of Edom's fortified towers and cities reminds me of the striking contrast in Proverbs 18:10-11

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10-note

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own imagination. Proverbs 18:11-note

Beloved there is only one fortified tower and city which will stand forever. Are you safe in the Strong Tower of Jehovah Jesus by grace through faith?

Matthew Henry -  Even the houses of state, and those of strength, shall become as wildernesses (v. 13); not only grass shall grow, but thorns shall come up, in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof, and there shall be none to cut them up or tread them down. We sometimes see ruined buildings thus overgrown with rubbish. It intimates that the place shall not only be uninhabited and unfrequented where a full court used to be kept, but that it shall be under the curse of God; for thorns and thistles were the production of the curse, Gen. 3:18.

Isaiah 34:14   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:14 The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.

  • The desert creatures will meet with the wolves Isaiah 13:21
  • the wolves Isaiah 13:22


NET Note - The precise meaning of לִּילִית (lilit) is unclear, though in this context the word certainly refers to some type of wild animal or bird. The word appears to be related to לַיְלָה (laylah, “night”). Some interpret it as the name of a female night demon, on the basis of an apparent Akkadian cognate used as the name of a demon. Later Jewish legends also identified Lilith as a demon. Cf. NRSV “Lilith.”

Leopards, and all the rav’ning brotherhoods
That range the plains, or lurk in woods,
Each other shall invite to come,
And make this wilder place their home.
Fierce beasts of every frightful shape and size
Shall settle here their bloody colonies.
—Sir R. Blackmore

We see a similar fate prophesied in Isaiah 13

But desert creatures will lie down there, And their houses will be full of owls; Ostriches also will live there, and shaggy goats will frolic there. Hyenas will howl in their fortified towers And jackals in their luxurious palaces. Her fateful time also will soon come And her days will not be prolonged. (Isaiah 13:21-22)

Guzik - 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.

Hairy Goat (KJV = satyr) (08163)(sa'yr) means shaggy or hairy ("hairy one") and can also refer to a "he goat." Some lexicons also associate it with the "goat-idol." In the present context it clearly is a literal goat, although in Isaiah 34:14 the KJV translates it “satyr”, while TEV and CEV; translate it “demon” and the NJPS uses “goat-demons.”

Guzik - 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.”

Gotquestions on Satyrs In Isaiah 13:21 and Isa 34:14, the KJV and RSV translate the Hebrew sa`iyr as “satyr.”...the word was also thought to imply demon-worship associated with goats, and so we find the word translated “devil” twice and “satyr” in the aforementioned verses. However, based on the context of each passage in Isaiah, it is almost certain that wild goats are intended by the Hebrew sa`iyr, not the goat-man creature of legend, and certainly not the faun of classical myth. (Gotquestions)

NAS uses sa'yr in KJV sense of sair only 5x where KJV translates it as satyr -  Gen. 27:11,23; Isa. 13:21; 34:14; Dan. 8:21

KJV uses sa'yr in 57v and has the following definition - adj 1) hairy n m 2) he-goat, buck 2a) as sacrificial animal 2b) satyr, may refer to a demon possessed goat like the swine of Gadara (Mt. 8:30-32) 

Gen. 27:11,23; 37:31; Lev. 4:23-24; 9:3,15; 10:16; 16:5,7-10,15,18,20-22,26-27; 17:7; 23:19; Num. 7:16,22,28,34,40,46,52,58,64,70,76,82,87; 15:24; 28:15,22,30; 29:5,11,16,19,22,25,28,31,34,38; 2 Chr. 11:15; 29:23; Isa. 13:21; 34:14; Ezek. 43:22,25; 45:23; Dan. 8:21

Night monster (03917)(lilith) is a feminine noun that describes a creature known for its main activity at night. KJV translates it here as "screech owl." Jamieson adds "in Jewish superstition a female, elegantly dressed, that carried off children by night. The text does not assert the existence of such objects of superstition, but describes the place as one which superstition would people with such beings."

Wikipedia on Lilith Lilith (Hebrew: לִילִית‎ Lîlîṯ) is a figure in Jewish mythology, developed earliest in the Babylonian Talmud (3rd to 5th centuries). Lilith is often envisioned as a dangerous demon of the night, who is sexually wanton, and who steals babies in the darkness The character is generally thought to derive in part from a historically far earlier class of female demons (lilītu) in ancient Mesopotamian religion, found in cuneiform texts of Sumer, the Akkadian Empire, Assyria, and Babylonia.

Matthew Henry - There shall the screech-owl rest, a night-bird and an ominous one.

Isaiah 34:15   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 tree snake  - This is a somewhat unusual translation and most versions interpret this as a reference to an owl's nest.

Matthew Henry - the owl, a melancholy bird, the raven, a bird of prey, invited by the dead carcases, shall dwell there (with all the ill-boding monsters of the air, Sir R. B.), all the unclean birds, which were not for the service of man, v. 13. It shall be a habitation for dragons, which are poisonous and hurtful. The great owl shall there make her nest (v. 15) and lay and hatch; the breed of them shall be kept up to provide heirs for this desolate place. The vultures which feast on carcasses, shall be gathered there, every one with his mate. Now observe, 1. How the places which men have deserted, and keep at a distance from, are proper receptacles for other animals, which the providence of God takes care of, and will not neglect. 2. Whom those resemble that are morose, unsociable, and unconversable, and affect a melancholy retirement; they are like these solitary creatures that take delight in desolations. 3. What a dismal change sin makes; it turns a fruitful land into barrenness, a frequented city into a wilderness.

And in their lofty rooms of state,
Where cringing sycophants did wait,
Dragons shall hiss and hungry wolves shall howl;
In courts before by mighty lords possess’d
The serpent shall erect his speckled crest,
Or fold his circling spires to rest.
—Sir R. Blackmore

KJV   There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate. 

NET  Owls will make nests and lay eggs there; they will hatch them and protect them. Yes, hawks will gather there, each with its mate. 

ESV 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. 

NLT   There the owl will make her nest and lay her eggs. She will hatch her young and cover them with her wings. And the buzzards will come, each one with its mate. 

Isaiah 34:16   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:16 Seek ye out of the book of the LORD, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them.

  • Seek from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these will be missing Isaiah 30:8; Deuteronomy 31:21; Joshua 1:8; Proverbs 23:12; Daniel 10:21; Amos 3:7; Malachi 3:16; John 5:39; 10:35; 2 Peter 1:19; Matthew 5:18; Luke 21:33
  • None will lack its mate. For His mouth has commanded, And His Spirit has gathered them. Genesis 6:17; Ps 33:6,9

Seek from the book of the LORD, and read:

Isaiah 30:8  (Now go, write it on a tablet before them And inscribe it on a scroll, That it may serve in the time to come As a witness forever. 

Deuteronomy 31:21  “Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”

Not one of these will be missing These events will certainly come about because the Lord has decreed it. Edom’s destruction is coming just as the word of the Lord has declared (vv. 16–17).

Matthew Henry - Here is an assurance given of the full accomplishment of this prediction, even to the most minute circumstance of it. When this destruction comes compare the event with the prediction, and you will find it to answer exactly.” Note, The book of the prophets is the book of the Lord, and we ought to consult it and converse with it as of divine origin and authority. We must not only read it, but see out of it, search into it, turn first to one text and then to another and compare them together. Abundance of useful knowledge might thus be extracted, by a diligent search, out of the scriptures, which cannot be got by a superficial reading of them. When you have read the prediction out of the book of the Lord then observe, 1. That according to what you have read so you see; not one of these shall fail (None will lack its mate For His mouth has commanded), either beast or fowl: and, it being foretold that they shall possess it from generation to generation, in order to that, that the species may be propagated ( And His Spirit has gathered them), none shall want her mate; these marks of desolation shall be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the land. 2. That God’s mouth having commanded this direful muster His Spirit shall gather them, as the creatures by instinct were gathered to Adam to be named (Ge 2:19-20) and to Noah to be housed (Ge 7:1-3, 8-9). What God’s word has appointed His Spirit will effect and bring about, for no word of God shall fall to the ground. The word of God’s promise shall in like manner be accomplished by the operations of the Spirit. 3. That there is an exact order and proportion observed in the accomplishment of this threatening: He has cast the lot for these birds and beasts, so that each one shall know his place as readily as if it were marked by line. See the like, Joel 2:7, 8-note, They shall not break their ranks, neither shall one thrust another.

For His mouth has commanded - What God commands, God completes (one way or another). What God command us as His Spirit filled children, God enables by His Spirit! Are you filled with the Spirit today (Eph 5:18-note)? One of the best ways is to be filled with His Word (and obey it cf James 1:22-note) (See Filled with His Spirit/Richly Indwelt with His Word). Then you will empowered to fight the good fight of faith and to keep His command to walk by the Spirit to successfully fight off the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16-17-note).

POSB - The Lord’s day of wrath is sure to come. It cannot be stopped. The time is set, fixed once and for all by the Lord. The book of the Lord declares it (vv.16-17). And every living person is commanded to read the warning of God in the book of the Lord. Not a single detail of His warning will be omitted in that day, not even one of the birds or animals mentioned in these verses will be missing or lack a mate in that day. The Lord Himself has spoken the Word concerning the coming day of wrath, and He will execute that day by His Spirit. God’s Spirit will carry out the orders, make everything happen just as God has declared  (The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Isaiah I)

Guzik - 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.. “After Edom has become a wasteland, men will take out the scroll and verify that Isaiah’s predictions came true.” (Wolf) 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).

Isaiah 34:17   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.

KJV Isaiah 34:17 And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line: they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein.

  • He has cast the lot for themJoshua 18:8; Ps 78:55; Acts 13:19; 17:26
  • They shall possess it forever; From generation to generation they will dwell in it. Isaiah 34:10; 13:20-22

They shall possess it  - They is the fauna and the flora described in the previous verses.

Forever from generation to generation they will dwell in it - The fauna and flora will have a perpetual presence in this desolated land.

Matthew Henry - The soothsayers among the heathen foretold events by the flight of birds, as if the fate of men depended on them. But here we find that the flight of birds is under the direction of the God of Israel: He has cast the lot for them. That the desolation shall be perpetual: They shall possess it for ever. 

Constable - How does this picture of devastation so thorough that no human beings remain alive harmonize with other revelation concerning the Tribulation? According to Revelation 6:8 and 9:18 half of the world’s population will have perished by the end of the sixth trumpet judgment. Many more devastating judgments will fall on earth-dwellers after the sixth trumpet judgment, specifically the seven bowl judgments, the worst ones of all in the Tribulation. Therefore what Isaiah pictured may be what the earth will look like at the very end of the Tribulation, just before Jesus Christ returns to the earth. There will be some people left alive on the earth then, but Isaiah’s description was perhaps hyperbolic to make the point that God will judge all the earth’s inhabitants.

MacArthur - God had partitioned off Edom just as He once did Canaan (Nu 26:55, 56; Jos 18:4–6) and allotted it to the wild animals listed in vv. 11–15.

Jamieson - As conquerors apportion lands by lot, so Jehovah has appointed and marked out (“divided”) Edom for the wild beasts (Nu 26:55, 56; Jos 18:4–6).