Isaiah 24 – Judgment for Universal Sin & Edom

So tell me, exactly what is going to happen when You get tired of people getting right with You?  When Jesus was here, didn’t He explain what was going to happen to evil people?

“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in there at:

Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matt 7:13-14).

“Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?  And in thy name have cast out devils?  And in thy name done many wonderful works?

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matt 7:21-23).

1 Behold, the LORD maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof.

Walls of Jeresulem
The Walls of Jerusalem) surround the Old City of Jerusalem (approx. 1 km²). In 1535, when Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan Suleiman I ordered the ruined city walls to be rebuilt. The work took some four years, between 1537 and 1541.

The length of the walls is 4,018 meters (2.4966 mi), their average height is 12 meters (39.37 feet) and the average thickness is 2.5 meters (8.2 feet). The walls contain 34 watchtowers and seven main gates open for traffic, with two minor gates reopened by archaeologists.

In 1981, the Jerusalem walls were added, along with the Old City of Jerusalem, to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

24:1-27:13chapters 24-27 deal with apocalyptic judgment and blessing in the last days, the time of God’s final victory over the forces of evil.  These chapters form a conclusion to chapters 13-23 just as chapters 34-35 form a conclusion to chapters 28-33.

“Maketh the earth empty: – cf 2:10, 19, 21; see also note 13:13 and note.

“Scattereth abroad the inhabitants” – see Gen 11:9.

2 And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the servant, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the taker of usury, so with the giver of usury to him.

Social distinctions will provide no escape from the judgment (cf 3:1-3).

3 The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the LORD hath spoken this word.

4 The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish.

5 The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant.

“Broken the everlasting covenant” – reference is pro to the covenant of Gen 9:8-17 (see Gen 9:11).  See also v 18.  This same covenant appears to serve as the basis of the judgment of the nation’s surrounding Israel in Amos 12 (cf 1:9-10).  Although everlasting from the divine viewpoint, God’s covenants can be broken by sinful mankind.

6 Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left.

“Curse” – because of the intensification of evil in the world, God’s devastating curse will burn up the earth’s inhabitants (cf Gen 8:21-22; cf also the covenant of Gen 9:8-17).

Arch of Hadrian
The large arch in the Al-Bass area of Tyre was erected in the second century CE, probably for the emperor Hadrian, who visited the city in 130 or in 131. The monument is twenty-one meters high, and its core is made of sandstone, which used to be covered with plaster. A small fragment proves that the arch was once painted in all kinds of colors.

On both sides of the main arc were smaller gates for pedestrians. Nowadays, it is hard to imagine that above these smaller arcs used to be a wall, probably with niches for statues, that was as high as the central part.

On both sides were large rooms that must have served as guard room. The southern room was paved with normal stones, but in the northern room, the remains of a mosaic can still be seen. The presence of these guard rooms suggests that the large arch indicated the city’s official outer border. It has also been suggested that the Large Arch marks the beginning of the Dam of Alexander, but nineteenth-century maps prov that this was a bit more to the south.

The road, which leads to the Tower of Hiram (a well in the city center), was repaved in the Byzantine age; the two levels are still visible near the arch.

7 The new wine mourneth, the vine languisheth, all the merry hearted do sigh.

“Vine languisheth” – see v 4 and note.

8 The mirth of tabrets ceaseth, the noise of them that rejoice endeth, the joy of the harp ceaseth.

“Mirth…ceaseth” – cf 22:2, 13, 23:7.

9 They shall not drink wine with a song; strong drink shall be bitter to them that drink it.

“Wine with a song” – characteristic of Judah in 5:11-13 (see note there).

10 The city of confusion is broken down: every house is shut up, that no man may come in.

“City of confusion” – the same idea appears in 25:2, 26:5 (cf 17:1, 19:18).  It’s probably a composite of all the cities opposed to God, such as Babylon, Tyre, Jerusalem and Rome.

11 There is a crying for wine in the streets; all joy is darkened, the mirth of the land is gone.

12 In the city is left desolation, and the gate is smitten with destruction.

13 When thus it shall be in the midst of the land among the people, there shall be as the shaking of an olive tree, and as the gleaning grapes when the vintage is done.

Only a few olives and grapes will be left (see v 6, 17:6, 11).

14 They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing for the majesty of the LORD, they shall cry aloud from the sea.

“They” – the godly remnant that survives the judgment.

15 Wherefore glorify ye the LORD in the fires, even the name of the LORD God of Israel in the isles of the sea.

“In the fires” – to the “east” (the land of light).

“Isles of the sea” – see note on 11:11.

16 From the uttermost part of the earth have we heard songs, even glory to the righteous. But I said, My leanness, my leanness, woe unto me!  The treacherous dealers have dealt treacherously; yea, the treacherous dealers have dealt very treacherously.

 ”Uttermost part of the earth” – see note on 11:12.

“I” – probably collective for the godly community that wastes away because of the villainy of the treacherous nations that seek to crush the people of God.

“My leanness…dealt treacherously” – the prophet expresses deep grief over the devastation that will befall the world as God judges the wicked.  In the Hebrew text these four lines of the verse “Razi li, razi li!  Oy Li!  Bogedim bagadu!  Ubeged bogged-im bagadu!) contain a powerful example of alliteration and assonance.

“Woe unto me!” – Isaiah had the same reaction in 6:5 (“Woe unto me!”).

“The treacherous” – the enemies of God’s people.

17 Fear, and the pit, and the snare, are upon thee, O inhabitant of the earth.

The Pantheon is the oldest large public building in use in he world, is the work of Hadrian (76 – 117 – 138 (62)), who rebuilt a 27BC south facaded structure erected by Augustus’ contemporary and latterly son-in-law Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa.

24:17-18cf Amos 5:19.

“Fear, and the pit, and the snare” – another example (see note on v 16) of alliteration, and and assonance.  The Hebrew words are pahad, pahat, and pah.

18 And it shall come to pass, that he who fleeth from the noise of the fear shall fall into the pit; and he that cometh up out of the midst of the pit shall be taken in the snare: for the windows from on high are open, and the foundations of the earth do shake.

“Windows from on high” – an echo of Noah’s flood (Gen 7:11, 8:12).

“Foundations…shake” – earthquakes and thunder (see note on 13:13; cf Joel 3:16).

19 The earth is utterly broken down, the earth is clean dissolved, the earth is moved exceedingly.

20 The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it; and it shall fall, and not rise again.

“Like a drunkard” – cf 19:14.

“Like a cottage” – see 1:8 and note.

21 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth.

“In that day” – the day of the Lord (see notes on 2:11, 17, 20, 10:20, 27; cf 25:9, 26:1, 27:1-2, 12-13).

The Arch of Constantine (Emperor 306 – 337) with the Colosseum in the background. The arch was erected in 315 to commemorate Constantine’s victory over rival Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge.

“Host of the high ones” – Satan and the fallen angels (see Eph 6:11-12).

22 And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.

“Shut up in prison” – cf Rev 20:2.

“Visited” – sentenced or punished; cf Rev 20:7-10.

23 Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the LORD of hosts shall reign in mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.

“Moon…confounded, and the sun ashamed” – the sun and moon do not shine during judgment (see note on 13:10) or when the Lord is the “everlasting light” (60:19-20; cf Rev 21:23, 22:5).

“Reign in mount Zion” – see 2:2-4 and note.

Edom

Edom, a nation consisting of the descendants of Esau, twin brother of Jacob (Gen 25:24-26) and son of Isaac and Rebekah, was located to the southeast of Judah, in a rugged, mountainous region which is now the southwestern part of the kingdom of Jordan.

Petra the Ancient City
Once a flourishing city in the heart of the Near East, Petra, the Ancient City was forgotten for centuries by the outside world, even veiled in mystery. Situated halfway between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, rests a trapezoidal valley encompassed by steep rocky cliffs. Passage to the city of Petra exists only by entering through a narrow gorge, the Siq.

The fascinating remains of remote cities always seem to entice our imagination. Petra captured the interest of early 19th-century European travelers who read the incredible accounts of a Swiss explorer. Knowledge of Petra was lost to the Western world until John Lewis Burckhardt tricked his Bedouin guides into leading him there in 1812.

For more than 500 years, Petra had remained unseen by outsiders, undocumented on their modern maps—until Burckhardt’s visit. With anticipation, early visitors journeyed by camelback and on foot to relish in Petra’s magnificent past. Their accounts and images fueled immense curiosity about the city’s origins and its people.

Edom is sometimes referred to as Esau (Mal 1:3), Idumea (Isa 34:5) and Mount Seir (Eze 35:3).  All of these names are interchangeable, referring to the same nation, Edom.

Genesis 36 describes the rapid growth of Edom.  Deuteronomy 2:5 informs us that Edom’s territory was not part of the land promised to Israel and never would be:

Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession (Deut 2:5).

Ezekiel condemned the nation of Edom, saying,

Thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity . . . Ezekiel 35:5.

Throughout ancient history, the Edomites manifested their hatred against the Hebrews, as shown by their refusing Moses and his people permission to pass through Edomite territory (Num 20:14-22). 

However, in the time of Elisha, the Edomites joined in a military alliance with Israel and Judah (2 Kgs 3:9).

Later, Judah defeated Edom in war (2 Chr 25:5-12).

The major prophecies against Edom are found in Isaiah 34, Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14 and 35:1-15, and the book of Obadiah.

Isaiah prophesied of God’s judgment against Edom about 700 B.C., while Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah all delivered their prophecies of impending doom upon Edom around the year 600 B.C.

Negev Desert
The Negev is a large desert region in southern Israel. Its main city is Be’er Sheva. Here, the Old City is home to the Negev Museum of Art, with contemporary Israeli and international exhibitions. Nearby is Abraham’s Well, a cultural center with interactive exhibits about the story of Abraham. East of the city, Tel Be’er Sheva is a prehistoric settlement mound with ruins, plus a lookout tower with desert views.

It would make sense to look for the fulfillment of these prophecies against Edom in that general time period of history.  However, some have proposed that these prophecies against Edom are still unfulfilled, and that their fulfillment will take place in our generation, in the early 21st century A.D.

There are two big problems with this theory:

1. The Edomites no longer exist.  It is impossible to punish a people who have already disappeared from the face of the earth many centuries ago. 

2. The prophet Malachi, writing about 400 B.C., speaks of God’s judgment of Edom as having already taken place:

“And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” (Mal 1:3).

History records that the Edomites were ravaged by the Babylonian armies in the early 6th century B.C., and that near the end of the 6th century B.C., the Nabateans attacked the Edomites, driving them from their mountain fortresses of Mount Seir, into the Negev Desert to the west.

 Some will say, “Are not the Arabs Edomites, and does not the ‘Curse of Esau’ rest upon modern Arabs?”  Though the identification of Edom with the Arabs is a common traditional belief, there is absolutely no Scriptural or historical basis for this notion.

The Arabians are often mentioned in the Old Testament, as a nation totally distinct from the Edomites.  For instance, the Chronicler mentions Edom in 2 Chr 8:17 and Arabia in 2 Chr 9:14.  The Edomites were not Arabs – they were Edomites.

Mount Seir
Mount Seir today known in Arabic as Jibāl ash-Sharāh, is the ancient, as well as biblical, name for a mountainous region stretching between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba, demarcating the southeastern border of Edom with Judah. It may also have marked the older historical limit of Egypt in Canaan. A place called “Seir, in the land of Shasu” (ta-Shasu se`er, t3-sh3sw s`r), thought to be near Petra, Jordan, is listed in the temple of Amenhotep III at Soleb (ca. 1380 BC).

Southern land of Seir, Mount Seir
Mount Seir was named for Seir the Horite, whose offspring had previously inhabited the area (Genesis 14:6, 36:20). The children of Esau (the Edomites) battled against the Horites and destroyed them (Deuteronomy 2:4-5, 12, 22). It is specifically noted as the place where Esau made his home (Genesis 32:3; 33:14, 16; 36:8; Joshua 24:4).

The prophet Balaam, predicting Israelite victories over the Trans-Jordanian nations at the end of their Exodus from Egypt, stated “Edom shall be a possession; Seir also, his enemies, shall be a possession”.

Mount Seir is also given as the location where the remnants “of the Amalekites that had escaped” were annihilated by five hundred Simeonites (I Chronicles 4:42-43). In 2 Chronicles 20:22-23, the “inhabitants of Mt. Seir”, i.e. the Edomites, came along with the Ammonites and Moabites against Jehoshaphat of Judah, however “Yahweh set ambushments” against them, causing their forces to annihilate one another. Mount Seir is also referenced in the prophetic books as a term for Edom, as in Isaiah 21:11, Ezekiel 25:8, 35:10.

Northern Mount Seir
There is also another Seir mountain near Hebron which was allotted to Judah in Joshua 15:10, near the modern town of Sa’ir in the West Bank of the Palestinian territories.

Obadiah prophesied that the house of Esau would be completely wiped out (v 18).  If he was talking about the Arabs, then Obadiah’s prophecy was false, since the Arabs are very much with us today.  If Obadiah was talking about Edom, like he said that he was (v 8), then his prophecy has been fulfilled, since Edom has longed since disappeared as a nation.

An examination of the standard reference works yields neither hint nor evidence of any connection between Edomites and Arabs.

If the Edomites are not Arabs, then what did happen to them?  We find the answer to that in the “Antiquities of the Jews” by the reliable ancient Jewish historian Josephus, writing of Jewish conquests in the 2nd century B.C.

Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision, and the rest of the Jewish ways of living; at which time therefore this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews. Chapter IX, (2).

William Whiston, translator of Josephus, adds this note:

This account of the Idumeans admitting circumcision, and the entire Jewish law, from this time, or from the days of Hyrcanus, is confirmed by their entire history afterwards.  This, in the opinion of Josephus, made them proselytes of justice, or entire Jews.”  Since that time, the Edomites have been part of the Jewish nation.  Some believe that the Edomites are still identifiable today as Sephardic Jews, but this is speculation.

Ruins of Ancient Babylon
Babylon is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia whose ruins lie in modern-day Iraq 59 miles (94 kilometres) southwest of Baghdad. The name is thought to derive from bav-il or bav-ilim which, in the Akkadian language of the time, meant ‘Gate of God’ or `Gate of the Gods’ and `Babylon’ coming from Greek.

The city owes its fame (or infamy) to the many references the Bible makes to it; all of which are unfavourable. In the Book of Genesis, chapter 11, Babylon is featured in the story of The Tower of Babel and the Hebrews claimed the city was named for the confusion which ensued after God caused the people to begin speaking in different languages so they would not be able to complete their great tower to the heavens (the Hebrew word bavel means `confusion’).

Babylon also appears prominently in the biblical books of Daniel, Jeremiah, and Isaiah, among others, and, most notably, The Book of Revelation. It was these biblical references which sparked interest in Mesopotamian archaeology and the expedition by the German archaeologist Robert Koldewey who first excavated the ruins of Babylon in 1899 CE.

Outside of the sinful reputation given it by the Bible, the city is known for its impressive walls and buildings, its reputation as a great seat of learning and culture, the formation of a code of law which pre-dates the Mosaic Law, and for the Hanging Gardens of Babylon which were man-made terraces of flora and fauna, watered by machinery, which were cited by Herodotus as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Some have thought that there will never be peace between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine:

Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity.. . . (Eze 35:5). 

However, we have seen that this passage concerning Edom has nothing whatsoever to do with the Arabs, ancient or modern.  Scripture and secular history reveal no information about an inevitable hatred between Arabs and Jews over the centuries.

Over the centuries, Jews and Arabs have lived in harmony in the Middle East.  On various occasions, Jews have fled to Arab and Muslim lands to escape persecution by the supposedly more enlightened European “Christians.”  

The current strife between Jews and Arabs in Palestine did not begin until the early 20th century, with the rise of the modern Zionist movement.

We have no way of knowing whether there will soon be peace between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, but there is nothing in the Word of God to indicate that such a peace cannot take place.

The prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah against Edom should not be wrenched out of their proper historical context, and made to apply to modern peoples who have no connection with Edom.

The purpose of these prophecies was to assure the Hebrews, at the time that they were taken captive to Babylon in 586 B.C., that Jehovah would not allow the covetous Edomites to occupy their land.  God promised that the land of Judah would remain vacant, and that the nation of Israel would be restored on that land after 70 years (Jer 25:11, 29:10; Dan 9:2).

The application of those prophecies for today is that we should not be prideful as the Edomites, believed that they were safe from God’s wrath and could never be overthrown in their mountain fortresses.  Also, we should not be covetous as Edom was, nor rejoice when judgment and suffering comes upon others.

The fate of Edom, and its complete disappearance from the family of nations, constitutes a powerful reminder of God’s justice, His judgment, and the sure fulfillment of all that He has promised in His inspired Word.