Isaiah 34:5
For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down on Idumea, and on the people of my curse, to judgment.
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(5) My sword shall be bathed in heaven . . .—Literally, hath drunk to the full. The words find an echo in Deuteronomy 32:41-42, and Jeremiah 46:10. There, however, the sword is soaked, or made drunk with blood. Here it is “bathed in heaven,” and this seems to require a different meaning. We read in Greek poets, of the “dippings” by which steel was tempered. May not the “bathing” of Isaiah have a like significance?

It shall come down upon Idumea . . .—Better, for Edom, . . . here and in the next verse. No reason can be assigned for this exceptional introduction of the Greek form.

Isaiah 34:5-6. For my sword shall be bathed — In the blood of these people; in heaven — Where God dwells; in which this is said to be done, because it was there decreed and appointed. Or, it shall, as it were, be sharpened and made ready in heaven, to bathe itself on earth. It shall come down upon Idumea — Upon the Edomites, who, though they were nearly related to the Israelites, yet were their implacable enemies. But these are named for all the enemies of God’s church, of whom they were an eminent type. The people of my curse — Whom I have devoted to utter destruction, as the word properly signifies. The sword of the Lord is filled with blood — Shall drink its fill of blood. The metaphor is taken from a great glutton, who is almost insatiable, With the blood of lambs, &c. — By lambs, and goats, and rams, he means people of all ranks and conditions, high and low, rich and poor. Dr. Waterland renders the verse, “When my sword in heaven is bathed, behold it shall sink deep into Idumea, into the people whom I have devoted to judgment.” For the Lord hath a sacrifice — So the prophet terms this bloody work, because it was done by God’s command, and for the honour of his justice and righteous government, and therefore was a service acceptable to him; in Bozrah — A chief city of Edom, (Isaiah 63:1,) and a type of those cities which should be most hostile to God’s people.34:1-8 Here is a prophecy of the wars of the Lord, all which are both righteous and successful. All nations are concerned. And as they have all had the benefit of his patience, so all must expect to feel his resentment. The description of bloodshed suggests tremendous ideas of the Divine judgments. Idumea here denotes the nations at enmity with the church; also the kingdom of antichrist. Our thoughts cannot reach the horrors of that awful season, to those found opposing the church of Christ. There is a time fixed in the Divine counsels for the deliverance of the church, and the destruction of her enemies. We must patiently wait till then, and judge nothing before the time. Through Christ, mercy is exercised to every believer, consistently with justice, and his name is glorified.For my sword shall be bathed in heaven - A sword is an instrument of vengeance, and is often so used in the Scriptures, because it was often employed in capital punishments (see the note at Isaiah 27:1). This passage bas given much perplexity to commentators, on account of the apparent want of meaning of the expression that the sword would be bathed in heaven. Lowth reads it:

For my sword is made bare in the heavens;

Following in this the Chaldee which reads תתגלי tı̂thgallı̂y, 'shall be revealed.' But there is no authority from manuscripts for this change in the Hebrew text. The Vulgate renders it, Quoniam inebriatus est in coelo gladius meuse - 'My sword is intoxicated in heaven.' The Septuagint renders it in the same way, Ἐμεθύσθη ἡ μάχαιρά μον ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ Emethusthē hē machaira mou en tō ouranō; and the Syriac and Arabic in the same manner. The Hebrew word רוּתה rivetâh, from רוה râvâh, means properly to drink to the full; to be satisfied, or sated with drink; and then to be full or satiated with intoxicating liquor, to be drunk. It is applied to the sword, as satiated or made drunk with blood, in Jeremiah 46:10 :

And the sword shall devour,

And it shall be satiate, and made drunk with their blood.

And thus in Deuteronomy 32:42, a similar figure is used respecting arrows, the instruments also of war and vengeance:

I will make mine arrows drunk with blood;

And my sword shall devour flesh.

A similar figure is often used in Oriental writers, where the sword is represented as glutted, satiated, or made drunk with blood (see Rosenmuller on Deuteronomy 32:42). Thus Bohaddinus, in the lift of Saladin, in describing a battle in which there was a great slaughter, says, 'The swords drank of their blood until they were intoxicated.' The idea here is, however, not that the sword of the Lord was made drunk with blood in heaven, but that it was intoxicated, or made furious with wrath; it was excited as an intoxicated man is who is under ungovernable passions; it was in heaven that the wrath commenced, and the sword of divine justice rushed forth as if intoxicated, to destroy all before it. There are few figures, even in Isaiah, that are more bold than this.

It shall come down upon Idumea - (see the Analysis of the chapter for the situation of Idumea, and for the causes why it was to be devoted to destruction).

Upon the people of my curse - The people devoted to destruction.

5. sword—(Jer 46:10). Or else, knife for sacrifice for God does not here appear as a warrior with His sword, but as one about to sacrifice victims doomed to slaughter [Vitringa]. (Eze 39:17).

bathed—rather "intoxicated," namely, with anger (so De 32:42). "In heaven" implies the place where God's purpose of wrath is formed in antithesis to its "coming down" in the next clause.

Idumea—originally extending from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea; afterwards they obtained possession of the country east of Moab, of which Bozrah was capital. Petra or Selah, called Joktheel (2Ki 14:7), was capital of South Edom (see on [754]Isa 16:1). David subjugated Edom (2Sa 8:13, 14). Under Jehoram they regained independence (2Ch 21:8). Under Amaziah they were again subdued, and Selah taken (2Ki 14:7). When Judah was captive in Babylon, Edom, in every way, insulted over her fallen mistress, killed many of those Jews whom the Chaldeans had left, and hence was held guilty of fratricide by God (Esau, their ancestor, having been brother to Jacob): this was the cause of the denunciations of the prophets against Edom (Isa 63:1, &c.; Jer 49:7; Eze 25:12-14; 35:3-15; Joe 3:19; Am 1:11, 12; Ob 8, 10, 12-18; Mal 1:3,4). Nebuchadnezzar humbled Idumea accordingly (Jer 25:15-21).

of my curse—that is, doomed to it.

to judgment—that is, to execute it.

Shall be bathed in the blood of these people; Heb. is or shall be made drunk. In heaven; either,

1. In my church, which is called heaven, Daniel 8:10 Revelation 4:1 12:1, in and against which these enemies are said to be gathered together. Or,

2. In the highest heaven, where God dwells; in which this is said to be done, because it was there decreed and appointed to be done.

Upon Idumea; upon the Edomites, who, though they were nearly related to the Israelites, and were circumcised as well as they; yet were their most inveterate and implacable enemies, watching all opportunities, and being ready to join with all those that attempted, to destroy them; whereof we have many intimations and instances in Scripture. But these are not named exclusively, but rather comprehensively, and synecdochically, for all the enemies of God’s church, of whom they were a considerable part, and an eminent type.

Upon the people of my curse; to whom my curse belongs; or, whom I have cursed, and devoted to utter destruction, as this Hebrew word properly signifies. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven,.... That is, the sword of the Lord, as it is called in the next verse Isaiah 34:6, and it is he that is speaking; it designs the vengeance of the Lord, the punishment he will inflict on the wicked, said to be "bathed in heaven", because determined and prepared there; the allusion may be to the bathing of swords in some sort of liquor, to harden or brighten them, and so fit them for use. Kimchi renders it, "my sword" which is "in heaven shall be bathed", that is, in the blood of the slain; "heaven" may denote the whole Roman Papal jurisdiction, as it does the whole Roman Pagan empire in Revelation 12:7 and may design the principal men in it, those that are in the highest places and offices, in whom the sword of the Lord shall be first drenched, and be as it were satiated and inebriated with the blood of them:

behold, it shall come down upon Idumea; with great weight, force, and vengeance, having a commission from heaven to execute. Idumea is here particularly mentioned, because the Edomites were implacable enemies to the Jews, and so are here put for all the enemies of God's church and people, all the antichristian states, particularly Rome, which the Jews, as Jerom observes, understand by Edom or Idumea here:

upon the people of my curse to judgment; a very descriptive character of the Papists, the people of God's curse, and righteously so; those who have anathematized his people, and cursed them with bell, book, and candle, are anathematized by him, devoted to destruction, and doomed to be accursed, sentenced to ruin, and on whom judgment shall pass, and shall be executed; they shall hear, "go, ye cursed", both here and hereafter, at the fall of Babylon, and at the general judgment. The Targum is,

"because my sword is revealed in heaven; behold, upon Edom it is revealed, and upon the people whom I have condemned to judgment.''

For my sword shall be {d} bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Edom, and upon the people of {e} my curse, to judgment.

(d) I have determined in my secret counsel and in the heavens to destroy them till my sword is weary with shedding blood.

(e) They had an opinion of holiness, because they came from the patriarch Isaac, but in effect were cursed by God, and enemies to his Church as the papists are.

5. my sword (see on ch. Isaiah 27:1) shall be bathed] Better: is drunk; i.e. not “with blood” (which suggests an idea foreign to this passage) but “with fury,” in preparation for its work, which is on earth.

Idumea] Read Edom with R.V. The A.V. uses this Greek form here and in Isaiah 34:6, and in Ezekiel 35:15; Ezekiel 36:5, without any justification.

the people of my curse] The last word is strictly ban (ḥçrem, cf. Isaiah 34:2): “the people on whom I have laid the ban.”

5–8. The slaughter of the inhabitants of Edom.Verse 5. - My sword shall be bathed in heaven; rather, has been bathed, or has been made drunken (ἐνεθύσθη, LXX.) in heaven. Some suppose a reference to the old" war in heaven," when the sword of Divine justice was drawn against the devil and his angels. Others regard the sword now to be used against the Idumeans as first, in heaven, "made drunken" with the Divine anger. It shall come down upon Idumea (comp. Isaiah 63:1-6). The Edomites first showed themselves enemies of Israel when they refused to allow the Israelites, under Moses, "a passage through their border" (Numbers 20:14-21). David subdued them (2 Samuel 9:14); but they revolted from Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:8-10), and were thenceforward among the most bitter adversaries of the southern kingdom. They "smote Judah" in the reign of Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:17), and were always ready to "shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity" (Ezekiel 35:5). Amos speaks of them very much in the same tone as Isaiah (Amos 1:11, 12). They ultimately "filled up the measure of their iniquities" by open rejoicing when Jerusalem was destroyed, and the people led away captive by Nebuchadnezzar (Psalm 137:7; Obadiah 1:10-14; Lamentations 4:21, 22; Ezekiel 35:10-13). In the present passage we must regard the Edomites as representative of the enemies of God's people generally (see the introductory paragraph). The people of my curse; i.e. "the people on whom I have laid a curse" - the Edomites. Esau was to "serve" Jacob (Genesis 25:23; Genesis 27:40), Edom to be "a possession" for Judah (Numbers 24:18). God had said of Edom, probably before Isaiah uttered the present prophecy, "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof... but I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah" (Amos 1:11, 12). Thus Edom was under a curse. (Compare Grashof, Ueber das Schiff bei Homer und Hesiod, Gymnasial-programm 1834, p. 23ff.). The μεσόδμη ( equals μεσοδόμη) is the cross plank which connects the two sides of the ship. A piece is cut out of this on the side towards the rudder, in which the mast is supported, being also let into a hole in the boards of the keel (ἱστοπέδη) and there held fast. The mast is also prevented from falling backwards by ropes or stays carried forward to the bows (πρότονοι). On landing, the mast is laid back into a hollow place in the bottom of the ship (ἱστοδόκη). If the stays are not drawn tight, the mast may easily fall backwards, and so slip not only out of the μεσόδμη but out of the ἱστοπέδη also. This is the meaning of the words בּל־יהזּקוּ כן־תּרנם. It would be better to understand kēn as referring to the ἱστοπέδη than to the μεσόδμη. The latter has no "hole," but only a notch, i.e., a semicircular piece cut out, and serves as a support to the mast; the former, on the contrary, has the mast inserted into it, and serves as a kēn, i.e., a basis, theca, loculamentum. Vitringa observes (though without knowing the difference between μεσόδμη and ἱστοπέδη): "Oportet accedere funes, qui thecam firment, h. e. qui malum sustinentes thecae succurrant, qui quod theca sola per se praestare nequit absque funibus cum ea veluti concurrentes efficiant."

Isaiah 33:23Now indeed it was apparently very different from this. It was not Assyria, but Jerusalem, that was like a ship about to be wrecked; but when that which had just been predicted should be fulfilled, Jerusalem, at present so powerless and sinful, would be entirely changed. "Thy ropes hang loose; they do not hold fast the support of thy mast; they do not hold the flag extended: then is booty of plunder divided in abundance; even lame men share the prey. And not an inhabitant will say, I am weak: the people settled there have their sins forgiven." Nearly every commentator (even Luzzatto) has taken Isaiah 33:23 as addressed to Assyria, which, like a proud vessel of war, would cross the encircling river by which Jerusalem was surrounded. But Drechsler has very properly given up this view. The address itself, with the suffix ayikh (see at Isaiah 1:26), points to Jerusalem; and the reference to this gives the most appropriate sense, whilst the contrast between the now and then closes the prophecy in the most glorious manner. Jerusalem is now a badly appointed ship, dashed about by the storm, the sport of the waves. Its rigging hangs loose (Jerome, laxati sunt); it does not hold the kēn tornâm fast, i.e., the support of their mast, or cross beam with a hole in it, into which the mast is slipped (the mesodme of Homer, Od. xv 289), which is sure to go to ruin along with the falling mast, if the ropes do not assist its bearing power (malum sustinentes thecae succurrant, as Vitruvius says). And so the ropes of the ship Jerusalem do not keep the nēs spread out, i.e., the ἐπίσημον of the ship, whether we understand by it a flag or a sail, with a device worked upon it (see Winer, R.W. s. v. Schiffe). And this is the case with Jerusalem now; but then ('âz) it will be entirely different. Asshur is wrecked, and Jerusalem enriches itself, without employing any weapons, from the wealth of the Assyrian camp. It was with a prediction of this spoiling of Asshur that the prophet commenced in Isaiah 33:1; so that the address finishes as it began. But the closing words of the prophet are, that the people of Jerusalem are now strong in God, and are עון נשׂא (as in Psalm 32:1), lifted up, taken away from their guilt. A people humbled by punishment, penitent, and therefore pardoned, would then dwell in Jerusalem. The strength of Israel, and all its salvation, rest upon the forgiveness of its sins.

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