In chapter 34, Isaiah begins a new book, his sixth, the Book of Judgment. In a sense, this two-chapter book provides a fitting conclusion to the previous "Book of Woes." It will occupy two chapters and what begins here is nothing less than eerie and disconcerting.
The previous prophecies concerning the judgment of Assyria (30:27–33; 31:8–9; 33:1, 18–19) have given way in these chapters to the prophecy of judgment on nations hostile to Yahweh's purposes.
In chapter 34, we find Isaiah predicting Yahweh's judgment on the nations. However, the only nation mentioned by name in these verses is Edom (the representative nation for those hostile to Israel) which is the land occupied by the descendants of Esau, who was the twin brother of Jacob.
The language used is that of treating the nations as a sacrificial animal offered for the sins of the nations. The imagery is dark, gory, and morbid. It focuses on the judgment of the inhabitants of the nations and their coming destruction and leaves no room for hope.
The world was to listen to Yahweh through Isaiah (1). He was enraged with the nations and proclaimed over them doom and slaughter (2).
The purpose of these verses was to bring the creation story of Genesis into the reader’s mind in order for God to show His reversal of it all.
Rotting bodies, streams of blood (3), heavens rolling up, vegetation shriveling (4)—all of this is the general picture of judgment on the earth and the reversing of the creative order.
Specific Description of Judgment (5-15)
Edom becomes the representative nation for all nations. When Yahweh had removed world leaders, which He defines as His heavenly work, then the nations would be marked for destruction (5). The nations are seen as sacrificed so that the world could be saved. Bozrah, a place south of the Dead Sea where all kinds of animals were sacrificed, is used as a metaphor (6). During judgment, there would be no partiality shown. As in war, the great and the young would die together (7). The nations would all be paid back for their hostile deeds against what Yahweh wanted to do in and with Israel (8).
Edom, thus with the nations of the earth bent on opposing Yahweh and His will, would be set on fire and that judgment would never end but leave the greed and ambition of godless nations ultimately deserted (9-10). Edom and the nations Edom represented would fall prey to the beasts and would become what only the name "Nothing" could accurately describe.
The elite class would be gone from these nations represented by Edom. Weeds and thistles would occupy the land in which the beasts and wild animals would become the occupying force (11-15).
The Deed Transferred (16-17)
It’s tough to read these chapters concerning the slaughter of nations; hard to imagine God's love and God's vengeance being able to reside in such a gracious being.
Our vantage point does not allow us to see the connection between humanity's overt greed and ambition and the planet's destruction. Human sin destroys the earth more than we can ever imagine. No doubt if humanity and, by extension, nations were not stopped and even sacrificed, the entire world, planet earth, would be destroyed.
Yahweh has promised an eternal world and non-ending New Heaven and New Earth. Judgment is not Yahweh's way to destroy; it is Yahweh's way to save the planet that human wickedness destroys.
Isaiah calls everyone to search the Book of Covenant, the Book of Yahweh, and learn what He has spoken to understand what He will do. He would give the nations as represented in Edom to the beasts, and they would re-inherit the land and these fallen nations would be inhabited by the beasts for some time (16-17).
The Remnant Rejoice
The Glory of Yahweh (1-2)
Within every nation is a remnant of faithful people and the outlook on their future, according to Yahweh, can be bright and glorious. In this chapter, Isaiah contrasts the future of world nations who are hostile to Israel being destroyed with the future of the remnant who rejoice in Yahweh's salvation.
Isaiah predicts there will be cause for joy as Yahweh would cause dry places in tough seasons to bloom and flourish at the rejoicing of those being preserved in such time of national difficulty. There would be hidden desert places on the earth which Yahweh would so flourish that it would be like looking directly at the glory of Yahweh (1-2).
The Work of Yahweh (3-7)
The work of Yahweh was to spread the Good News to those spiritually weak and feeble. They were to encourage strength in the weak as they explained Yahweh's salvation of the remnant taking place simultaneously with the day of vengeance (3-4).
Those who believed in and gave allegiance to Yahweh and His Good News to save during times of vengeance would have their eyes opened, their ears unstopped (5); they would regain strength in their legs to leap, and their mute tongue would be tuned to worship. As the Good News was spoken to them, they would begin to see the wilderness stream with water and flourish unimaginably. Here you have the faith in the Good News being that which opens eyes to see the wilderness flourish even before it began to flourish (5-7).
The Way of God (8-10)
This Good News would become like a huge highway, leading right to Yahweh. Those opposed to Yahweh would not pass that way; those not sympathetic to the Good News never venture onto the road (8). Neither would this Good News highway be for predators and for those who abuse.
This Highway of Holiness was for those redeemed and those returning to Yahweh.
During the time of vengeance, they would come with joyous singing into Yahweh's presence. They would be given great joy, and they would find their sorrows being chased away by Yahweh's love (9-10).