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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 34:5-7

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, April 15, 2008

5 My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens;
     see, it descends in judgment on Edom,
     the people I have totally destroyed.
6 The sword of the LORD is bathed in blood,
     it is covered with fat—
the blood of lambs and goats,
     fat from the kidneys of rams.
For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah
     and a great slaughter in Edom.
7 And the wild oxen will fall with them,
     the bull calves and the great bulls.
Their land will be drenched with blood,
     and the dust will be soaked with fat. (NIV)

The Lord’s vengeance on Edom would continue beyond the Old Testament times. The more historically accurate book in the Apocrypha makes the observation that “Judas (Maccabaeus) made war on the descendants of Esau in Idumea (Edom) at Akrabattene, because they kept lying in wait for Israel” (1 Maccabees 5:3).1

Edom stands as a type—a prophetic foreshadowing with specific details—of all God’s enemies in their downfall. The flocks of Edom are butchered by the sword. This is not just the destruction of the nation’s economy. Since the prophecy sets Edom in place of all God’s enemies (unbelievers), the flocks are the sheep that follow false shepherds. These sheep are the people themselves who do not put their trust in God.

Edom fits this picture in several ways. Edom (Esau) himself had known God’s promises and was of course the grandson of Abraham and the brother of Israel. He himself was quick to forgive Israel’s deception. But his descendants quickly turned away from their faith and began to hate God’s people. Already in Numbers 20:14-21, they were opposing the Israelites (“Edom refused to let them go through their territory,” Numbers 20:21).

Later, David subjected the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:14), but, like the nations rebelling against God himself, the Edomites rebelled against David’s heirs and set up their own king once again (2 Kings 8:20). King Amaziah temporarily defeated them (2 Kings 14:7) but once again they returned to their own ways, just as sinful mankind turns away from God over and over again.

Bozrah was an old Edomite settlement (Genesis 36:33; 1 Chronicles 1:44) that became the nation’s capital. It was on the road called the King’s Highway that ran from Ezion Geber on the Red Sea (the Gulf of Aqaba) all the way to Damascus (Numbers 20:17). This will become significant in the next chapter, when instead of the King’s Highway, God’s people will be encouraged to travel on the “Way of Holiness” (Isaiah 35:8).

The sacrifice of verse 6 is the zebach, which is sometimes a sacrifice with specific regulations (Leviticus 3:1, 4:10, 7:11; Numbers 15:8), but the word can also refer to older, unrestricted sacrifices from the time before Moses was given the laws (Genesis 31:54) and sacrifices that were made to idols (Hosea 3:4). God will destroy his enemies in a holy fashion, but nevertheless they will be cut down, cut up, and cut apart.

Passages like this drive us deeper and deeper into the lives and hearts of our friends, sharing the gospel of the saving work of Jesus, and also farther and farther out into the world. The gospel is the only solution to the problem of sin in the world. Jesus’ work cured us; we need to share the same cure with the world while there is still time.

1 If the account in Maccabees is correct, the Edomites must have penetrated very far into Judah; Akrabattene or Acrabbein was a few miles north of Shiloh. I have wondered whether the apocryphal account is in error here; there was a place called Akrabbim, “The ascent of the scorpions,” which led from the tumble-down south of the Dead Sea westward into the Judean highlands (Judges 1:36) which would have been much more appropriate from a battle against the Edomites.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.