IMAGES OF SLAUGHTER AND DESOLATION FLESH OUT THE HORRIFYING PICTURE OF THE UNLEASHING OF THE WRATH OF GOD
I don’t know how much you have heard of the controversy over the new biblical epic movie “Noah” that has just hit the movie theaters. Apparently, some of the key truths of the Genesis narrative have been turned upside down in this rendition of the world-wide judgment flood. The most significant aberration to me is that the major sin which stirs up God’s judgment is not portrayed as lust or wickedness or idolatry or sensual indulgence … rather, God is upset over man’s failure to be good environmentalists – a very politically correct twist on the biblical plot.
In our passage today, as we reach the culmination of chapters 28-33 in terms of God’s judgments against the nations, the Creator God unleashes His pent up wrath in graphic images of slaughter and desolation that impact not only the wicked nations but the lands they inhabit. God does not function here as some modern politically correct environmentalist. He wreaks havoc with His creation in preparation for the blessings of the millennial kingdom. In chapter 34 we are going to see the horrifying picture of a once productive land devastated by slaughter and destined to desolation; while in chapter 35 in summary fashion we will see the reverse: the desolate land being rescued and restored to unprecedented productivity and fertility.
IMAGES OF SLAUGHTER AND DESOLATION FLESH OUT THE HORRIFYING PICTURE OF THE UNLEASHING OF THE WRATH OF GOD
A picture is worth a 1000 words; not an analytical presentation here; but visceral; designed to appeal to the emotions; making a connection to the heart
R-rated graphics – for violent content
(1:) CALL TO ATTENTION: BOTH NATIONS AND LAND
“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.”
Universal Significance and Scope
Not something the nations wanted to hear – judgment is being executed against them;
This message has relevancy; but world wants to shut its ears to God’s warnings
I. (:2-7) IMAGES OF SLAUGHTER OF THE NATIONS
A. (:2-4) Overview
1. (:2a) Divine Indignation Against the Nations
“For the LORD’s indignation is against all the nations,
And His wrath against all their armies;”
God has had enough; His patience and forbearance exhausted; acting now in anger and wrath;
Not a respecter of nations – All nations fall under His judgment; Not going to be a pretty picture;
Armies are powerless to mount any type of defense
Parunak: This section is marked by the fourfold repetition (in Hebrew) of “for … the Lord has X.” His four fearsome possessions are indignation (v. 2), a sword (vv. 5-6a,), a sacrifice (6b), and a day of vengeance (8). The first and last focus on his motive, and are universal in scope; the second and third focus on the means, and are described in terms of Edom.
2. (:2b) Description of Complete Slaughter
“He has utterly destroyed them,
He has given them over to slaughter.”
Not a time for mercy
Constable: He has determined to devote them to destruction, to put them under the ban (Heb. herem; cf. 11:15; Josh. 6:21; 1 Sam. 15:3).
3. (:3-4) Permanent Decaying Slaughter
a. (:3) Image of Rotting Corpses on Earth
“So their slain will be thrown out,
And their corpses will give off their stench,
And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.”
Constable: Unburied corpses were, and still are, shameful things (cf. Ezek. 39:17-20; Rev. 19:17-18).
Beall: corpses will be openly exposed, and there will be so much blood that the mountains will melt (as the soil can wash away with excess water).
[cf. images this week of huge mountain flowing into destructive mud slide in Washington state]
b. (:4) Image of Dissolution of Hosts of Heaven –
cf. Rev. 6:13, 14; Ephes. 6:12 (principalities and powers)
“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.”
Parunak: At first glance, this seems to associate the destruction of the physical world with that of the nations. But careful attention to usage of the expression “host of heaven” (see notes) shows that we should understand it personally. There is only one passage in the Bible (Jer 33:22) where it refers only to the physical heavenly bodies, and that is later than Isaiah. Everywhere else, it refers either to righteous angels (1 Kings 22:19 = 2 Chr 18:18; Neh 9:6) or to objects of false worship, often personifications of the heavenly bodies. According to Dan 10:13-21; 12:1, earthly nations have their angelic counterparts, and when the nations are judged, their spiritual overseers must fall as well. Against this background, Isaiah is saying that not only will the nations fall, but in addition the false gods whom they served will be cast down. The physical darkening of the heavenly bodies associated with the Lord’s return (24:23; Joel 2:31: 3:15) is emblematic of this spiritual conquest.
Constable: This implies also the destruction of the pantheon of gods that these heavenly bodies represented in the ancient world.
Oswalt: the point is that even the mysterious, unchanging stars, the seeming guarantors of the universe’s perpetuity, are in the hands of the God of Jerusalem.
B. (:5-7) Detailed Images
1. (:5-6) Image of the Sword of the Lord
a. Instrument for Slaughter in the Execution of Divine Judgment
“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.”
Parunak: the terrifying picture is that the One who dwells in heaven is thirsty and the sword descends to satisfy his thirst. “My sword satiates [someone] in heaven.” Judgment.–“Curse” is חרם , the ban to total destruction that Israel was required to exercise on the inhabitants of the land.
Motyer: Edom is introduced as a case in point and typical of the whole exercise of eschatological judgment. The sword is an instrument of person-to-person destruction, figuring the Lord’s direct action in judgment and the exaction of the individual penalty.
Oswalt: The figure is that when the divine sword has done all it can do to the heavenly host, the pantheon of national gods, then it will fall on the nations themselves as represented by Edom.
Constable: The prophet now introduced Edom, as a case in point, whose end would be typical of the whole earth (cf. 11:14; 63:1-6). . . But why Edom? The Old Testament consistently treats Edom as the antithesis of Israel (cf. Obad.). Isaac told Esau that he would live in an infertile area (Gen. 27:39-40).
Beall: Why is Edom singled out here? The Edomites were descendants of Esau, brother of Jacob. Edom was a perpetual enemy of Israel (and is especially singled out for judgment in Ezek 35:1-36:15; see also Gen 25:23; Num 20:14-21; Mal 1:2-3), apparently rejoicing and aiding the Babylonians when Judah fell (Obad 11-14; Ezek 35:15).
b. Immersed in Guts and Gore
“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.”
Sacrificial system is bloody and messy
Parunak: The repeated reference to blood and fat, and the naming of the sacrificial animals, reminds us that in the law, the blood and fat of the sacrifices was reserved to the Lord alone
(Lev 3:13-17; 7:22-27). He is claiming that which is his right.
c. Intended for Sacrifice and Slaughter of Rebel Nations
“For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.”
Constable: 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. . . Bozrah (“impenetrable,” modern Buseirah), the capital of Edom, stood about 25 miles south southeast of the Dead Sea.
Oswalt: The language here is of sacrifice, reminding the reader that unless someone provides a sacrifice for our sins, we must ourselves become that sacrifice. Ultimately, as the NT makes plain, it is only God himself who can offer that sacrifice for all (Rom. 5:5-10).
2. (:7) Image of Strong Animals Slaughtered
a. Death Overtakes the Strongest Animals
“Wild oxen shall also fall with them,
And young bulls with strong ones;”
Young: These were animals of strength and also of great rage. Possibly they symbolize the leaders of the nation, men strong and powerful, determined in their purpose, but nevertheless objects of the avenging sword of God.
b. Guts and Gore Poured Out
“Thus their land shall be soaked with blood,
And their dust become greasy with fat.”
II. (:8-15) IMAGES OF DESOLATION OF THE LAND
A. (:8-10) Overview
1. (:8) Divine Vengeance Against the Land
“For the LORD has a day of vengeance,
A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.”
2. (:9a) Description of Utter Desolation (cf. Sodom and Gomorrah)
“And its streams shall be turned into pitch,
And its loose earth into brimstone,”
Motyer: the blighted landscape shows again that the ultimate environmental threat is human sin, leaving in its wake a lasting pollution.
3. (:9b-10) Permanent Burning Desolation
a. Image of Unquenchable Fire and Smoke
“And its land shall become burning pitch
It shall not be quenched night or day;
Its smoke shall go up forever;”
Parunak: The duration of this judgment is emphasized with four statements of perpetual desolation. In Hebrew, in each case the time reference comes first, followed by the verb, imperfect in all but the last case.
night nor day It shall not be quenched;
forever the smoke thereof shall go up:
from generation to generation it shall lie waste;
forever and ever none shall pass through it.
Issue: When is there time for this long term duration if you take the judgments literally?? During the millennial kingdom??
b. Image of Enduring Desolation
“From generation to generation it shall be desolate;
None shall pass through it forever and ever.”
B. (:11-15) Detailed Images
1. (:11) Images of Emptiness and Isolation
“But pelican and hedgehog shall possess it,
And owl and raven shall dwell in it;
And He shall stretch over it the line of desolation
And the plumb line of emptiness.”
Mainly animals classified as unclean
Constable: “Desolation” and “emptiness” (Heb. tohu and bohu, cf. Gen. 1:2) point to chaotic conditions that existed before Creation.
confusion – tohuw – formlessness, confusion, unreality, emptiness
emptiness – bohuw – emptiness, void, waste
The “measuring line” and “plumb line” (stones) are building terms. It’s a picture of what God is going to build for these people. He’s going to build confusion and emptiness for them.
Oswalt: ironic tone – Normally the line and the plumb bob would be tools of construction, not of destruction. But here God has compared the crooked and deformed structures of the world to his own righteousness and has decreed demolition (1:21-24; 28:17; 2 K. 21:13; Lam. 2:8; Amos 7:7-9).
2. (:12) Images of the Extinction of Royalty
“Its nobles– there is no one there Whom they may proclaim king—
And all its princes shall be nothing.”
Parunak: Man was created to have dominion over the earth, and even control freaks are a reflection, however distorted, of this divine purpose. But no human, no matter how strong-willed, can subdue this wilderness.
Young: Evidently the point of pride as far as Edom was concerned was in its rulers. Genesis 36:40-43 mentions the chiefs of Edom in which the aristocracy apparently culminated. The greatness of disgrace and humiliation for Edom would be to be deprived of her rulers, and it is just that humiliation which she will have to undergo. Her rulers will be cessation; they will no longer exist.
3. (:13-15) Images of Environmental Wasteland
a. Thorns and Thistles
“And thorns shall come up in its fortified towers,
Nettles and thistles in its fortified cities;”
Parunak: These three words for prickly weeds are uncommon. None of them is among the words used in the curse in Eden, but in the wisdom literature all three characterize the sluggard and the fool:
Ecc 7:6 For as the crackling of thorns רֶב לַיהוָ֞ה [the LORD has a sים _ סי _ ה_ under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.
Pro 24:30-31 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns נים _-. מש / ק_, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.
Pro 26:9 As a thorn ח_ חו + goeth up into the hand of a drunkard, so is a parable in the mouth of fools.
b. Jackals and ostriches
“It shall also be a haunt of jackals
And an abode of ostriches.”
c. Desert creatures and Wolves, Hairy Goat and Night Monster
“And the desert creatures shall meet with the wolves,
The hairy goat also shall cry to its kind;
Yes, the night monster shall settle there
And shall find herself a resting place.”
Constable: So devoid of human population will the earth be that animals that people have tried to control in the past will be safe enough to multiply. Even the goat demon and the night monster, representing the most detestable animals, will roam the land.
d. Tree Snake and Hawks
“The tree snake shall make its nest and lay eggs there,
And it will hatch and gather them under its protection.
Yes, the hawks shall be gathered there,
Every one with its kind.”
Ironside: It is difficult to identify with certainty all of the beasts, birds, and reptiles here mentioned. Scholars are not agreed as to the exact meaning of each of the Hebrew words employed, but even though we may not understand each term used, we can see the full meaning of the passage, namely, that the land of Edom, once a flourishing kingdom, will become utterly desolate and an habitation only for wild creatures of the wilderness.
(:16-17) CALL TO APPLICATION — CERTAINTY AND EVERLASTING DURATION OF JUDGMENT
A. Certainty of Judgment
“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.”
Parunak: The mention of their mates emphasizes that this is going to be an ongoing problem. They will breed and take over the land. . . this section is the origin of the NT teaching of the lake of fire.
B. Duration of Judgment
“And 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 shall dwell in it.”
Why did the Lord rise up in judgment in the days of Noah and destroy the whole earth and all of its inhabitants – men and animals – with a universal flood? Not because man was a poor steward of the environment; but because man rejected the authority and the law of God and chose to live in the depravity of his own wickedness. So in the last days, God will rise up once again and bring an even more severe judgment that will be the prelude to the inauguration of times of blessing in the millennial kingdom – which we will study next week in Chapter 35. Make sure that your sins have been forgiven by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. You do not want to experience the wrath of God poured out on you as God makes you a sacrifice for sin. God is a consuming fire. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us: “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (10:31)