‘The owl also and the raven shall dwell in it’, Isa. 34. 11.
In the scriptures, as here, the owl is often associated with ruins and desolation. Indeed, the extent of desolation is portrayed graphically in this verse where Isaiah speaks of ‘the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness’, where the words ‘confusion’ and ‘emptiness’ are also translated as ‘without form, and void’, Gen. 1. 2.
The background of this passage is ‘the day of the Lord’s vengeance’, v. 8. Here, the once prosperous and fertile land will be occupied by the ‘wild beasts of the desert’, v. 14. Its cities and towns will be laid waste and become ‘an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls’, v. 13. The population, ravaged by plague and warfare, will have died and, says the prophet, ‘there shall the vultures also be gathered’, v. 15. This is God’s judgement upon the nations.
Although the picture is a dark one, it is worth bearing in mind how this chapter commences. Speaking through the prophet, God says, ‘Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people’, v. 1. Before the judgement falls, God reveals what will happen, and He indicates where - ‘it shall come down upon Idumea’, v. 5. The warning is sounded out, v. 16. Any individual who is later caught up in it and perishes because of the predicted events must have chosen to ignore all that God has said.
But there is another point to note. Here, as elsewhere in scripture, we see the things that people put their trust in - wealth and power. They cushion themselves in their palaces and protect themselves in their fortresses, v. 13. They rely upon their own intelligence rather than casting themselves upon the mercy of God. Says the psalmist, ‘It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes’, Ps. 118. 8, 9.