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Isaiah: Chapter 34

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1Approach, O nations, and listen, Give heed, O peoples! Let the earth and those in it hear; The world, and what it brings forth. 2For the LORD is angry at all the nations, Furious at all their host; He has doomed them, consigned them to slaughter. 3Their slain shall be left lying, And the stench of their corpses shall mount; And the hills shall be drenched with their blood, 4 d‐ 1QIsa reads “And the valleys shall be cleft, / And all the host of heaven shall wither.” All the host of heaven shall molder. ‐d 1QIsa reads “And the valleys shall be cleft, / And all the host of heaven shall wither.” The heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll, And all their host shall wither Like a leaf withering on the vine, Or shriveled fruit on a fig tree. 5For My sword shall a‐ 1QIsa reads “be seen”; cf. Targum. be drunk ‐a 1QIsa reads “be seen”; cf. Targum. in the sky; Lo, it shall come down upon Edom, Upon the people I have doomed, To wreak judgment. 6The LORD has a sword; it is sated with blood, It is gorged with fat— The blood of lambs and he‐goats, The kidney fat of rams. For the LORD holds a sacrifice in Bozrah, A great slaughter in the land of Edom. 7Wild oxen shall fall b‐ Emendation yields “with fatted calves.” with them, ‐b Emendation yields “with fatted calves.” Young bulls with mighty steers; And their land shall be drunk with blood, Their soil shall be saturated with fat. 8For it is the LORD's day of retribution, The year of vindication for Zion's cause. 9Its c I.e., Edom's. streams shall be turned to pitch And its soil to sulfur. Its land shall become burning pitch, 10Night and day it shall never go out; Its smoke shall rise for all time. Through the ages it shall lie in ruins; Through the aeons none shall traverse it. 11 d‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. Jackdaws and owls ‐d Meaning of Heb. uncertain. shall possess it; Great owls and ravens shall dwell there. He shall measure it with a line of chaos And with weights of emptiness. e I.e., He shall plan chaos and emptiness for it; cf. 28.17; Lam. 2.8. 12 d‐ Meaning of Heb. uncertain. It shall be called, “No kingdom is there,” ‐d Meaning of Heb. uncertain. Its nobles and all its lords shall be nothing. 13Thorns shall grow up in its palaces, Nettles and briers in its strongholds. It shall be a home of jackals, An abode of ostriches. 14 f Most of the creatures in vv. 14–15 cannot be identified with certainty. Wildcats shall meet hyenas, Goat‐demons shall greet each other; There too the lilith g A kind of demon. shall repose And find herself a resting place. 15There the arrow‐snake shall nest and lay eggs, And shall brood and hatch in its shade. There too the buzzards shall gather With one another. 16Search and read it in the scroll of the LORD: Not one of these shall be absent, Not one shall miss its fellow. For His a Heb. “My.” mouth has spoken, It is His spirit that has assembled them, 17And it is He who apportioned it to them by lot, Whose hand divided it for them with the line. They shall possess it for all time, They shall dwell there through the ages.

Notes:

d‐d 1QIsa reads “And the valleys shall be cleft, / And all the host of heaven shall wither.”

a‐a 1QIsa reads “be seen”; cf. Targum.

b‐b Emendation yields “with fatted calves.”

c I.e., Edom's.

d‐d Meaning of Heb. uncertain.

e I.e., He shall plan chaos and emptiness for it; cf. 28.17; Lam. 2.8.

f Most of the creatures in vv. 14–15 cannot be identified with certainty.

g A kind of demon.

a Heb. “My.”

Text Commentary view alone

Chs 34–35 :

Vengeance on Edom and the restoration of Israel. According to most modern scholars, these chs were written after the Babylonian exile, which ended in 538 BCE, probably by the same author responsible for chs 40–66 or 54–66 . (On the authorship of Isa. chs 40–66 and 34–35 , see intro.) Alternatively, these chs may have been written in the postexilic period as a bridge linking the prophecies of Isaiah in chs 1–33 with the exilic and postexilic prophecies in chs 40–66 .

34.1–17 :

Judgment against the nations and against the Edomites in particular. A disturbing ch, full of bitterness and anger, this text portrays the LORD as wreaking vengeance against the nations, apparently because they opposed Zion. It focuses in particular on Edom, a nation located southeast of Judah between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba or Eilat. Relations between Edom and Judah during the preexilic period were often hostile (e.g, 2 Sam. 8.13–14 ). This hostility had deep roots: According to Genesis, the Edomites were descended from Esau, Jacob's brother and rival (see Gen. 25.20–34; 27.1–28.9; 33.1–20; Mal. 1.1–5 ). The Edomites were especially antagonistic towards the Judeans when the Babylonians conquered Judah at the end of the 6th century BCE, and Judean anger towards the Edomites was severe (see Ps. 137.7; Ezek. 25.12; 35.5–10; Obad. vv. 10–16 ). This ch predicts an utter disaster overcoming the Edomites in the strongest possible terms. This is ironic in light of later Jewish history, since the Edomites converted to Judaism en masse during the late 2nd century BCE, and were among the most zealous Jews during the conflict with Rome in the 1st century CE. Rabbinic literature understands Edom in prophetic texts as a symbolic reference to the Roman empire and Christianity, rather than to the historical Edomites, who were in fact Jewish by the time rabbinic literature was composed. See, for example, Targum to v. 9 .

1–4 :

Judgment against the nations of the world.

5–8 :

The slaughter of the Edomites.

9–17 :

The everlasting destruction of Edom is depicted through two somewhat contradictory figures: In vv. 9–10 , Edom becomes the site of an eternal fire (cf. 66.24 ); in vv. 11–17 , Edom becomes a deserted wasteland, inhabited only by wild beasts.

14 :

Lilith: In ancient Semitic folklore contemporaneous with the Bible (and also in rabbinic literature), this term referred to a group of female demons. They seduced and then killed single men, and they were especially dangerous to nursing mothers and infants. In later rabbinic and kabbalistic folk‐ lore, a character with this name was said to be the first wife of Adam. Their parting was not amicable; he later married Eve, and she embarked on a career killing young children. These legends about Adam and Lilith are postbiblical, however, and have no bearing on the term used here.

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