Judgment (Isaiah 34): Listen, Look into the Scroll

"Come near, you nations, and listen: pay attention, you peoples! Let the earth hear, and all that is in it, the world, and all that comes out of it!" "Look in the scroll and read..." (Isa 34:1, 16a)

Isaiah 34-35 offer a conclusion not only to chs. 28-33, but more largely to all of chs. 13-33. Throughout chs. 7-39 (entitled, "Lessons in Trust") God through Isaiah has been showing the people of Israel why they should trust God and not the nations. Now in ch. 34-35 the alternatives are depicted in glaring contrast. To trust the nations is to become a desert (Isaiah 34), but God can be trusted so that even if we have chosen the nations, God can make the desert burst forth with flowers (Isaiah 35). The singular point is clear: Trust God!
Isaiah 34 is composed of two parts:
  1. A general announcement of judgment on the nations of the earth (1-4).
  2. Particularizing this announcement by applying it to Edom (5-17), which is three times as long as the general statement it illustrates.
I. General Announcement of Judgment (1-4)

34:1-4 sounds a good deal like the opening stanzas of Isaiah 13 and 24. The judgment does not merely involve the "earth." It affects the entire cosmos, with the "stars" being "dissolved" and the "sky rolled up" (Isa 34:4). God's anger is particularly directed against the "armies," which aptly symbolize the arrogance and pride of the "nations." He will devote them to complete destruction (Isa 34:2, 5). This speaks of ritual destruction of offenses (Jos 6:17; 1 Sam 15:3). It is the result of a conflict between the Creator and those who have rebelled against him, a conflict with cosmic consequences.

II. Edom As an Example (5-17)

Edom is singled out to represent the nations of the earth in their hostility to God and their eventual destruction. It is because as as early as the entry of Israel into Canaan, Edom opposed God's plan (Num 20:14-21). This hostility continued through the kings, with one king after another having to face warfare with the Edomites (Ps 60:9 uses Edom in a representative way), including their ultimate antagonism by assisting Babylon in sacking Jerusalem (Ps 137:7; Obad 10-14).
  1. Bloody destruction on Edom for Zion's sake (5-8).
  2. The desert that Edom will become (9-17).
Oswalt, John N. Isaiah: The New Application Commentary. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan. 2003. 384-390.