Edom's Violence against Jacob
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Genesis 25:21-23 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
God's revelation to Rebekah regarding the struggling twins is that two kinds or types of people were in her womb. They were definitely not identical twins. The word "manner," as used in the King James Version, indicates the reason for their rivalry; they were so different despite having the same parents. Their struggling in Rebekah's womb was a precursor of what continued after their birth, which significantly influenced the history of Isaac's descendants.
Each son's approach toward and manner of life irritated the other. Each rubbed the other the wrong way. Rebekah seems naturally drawn to Jacob and Isaac to Esau, exacerbating an already volatile situation. Thus, each boy became a victim of the parent's favoritism and was encouraged to take advantage of it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)
Genesis 36:1-3 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
Edom heads the list of Israel's enemies in Psalm 83. From the days of Esau himself, a burning hatred of Israel has been nourished among the Edomites. God says through the prophet Amos, "For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever" (Amos 1:11). If any people would form and lead a confederacy against the Israelites, it would be Edom.
As the man Esau matured, married, and had children, he made critical alliances with surrounding peoples, recorded in Genesis 36. In writing this book of beginnings, Moses took the effort to include an entire chapter on the Edomites alone. He was careful to include specific details about who was born to whom and who ruled this or that area. In addition, he reminds the reader several times of his subject:
» Verse 1: "This is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom."
» Verse 8: "Esau is Edom."
» Verse 19: ". . . Esau, who is Edom. . . ."
» Verse 43: "Esau was the father of the Edomites."
When God repeats Himself, He is usually trying to convey an important matter. He is reminding Israel not to forget that the Edomites have their source in Esau. To deal with them correctly, the Israelites would have to know who the Edomites were and be prepared for their predictable and incessant attacks—and consciously or not, the Edomites never have stopped trying to win back what Esau lost to Jacob! Further, we today will readily recognize them by the biblical clues recorded about their forefather.
In introducing the family of Esau, Moses includes the names and derivations of Esau's wives: "Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth" (Genesis 36:2-3). Esau bound himself by marriage to the Hittites, the Hivites—both Canaanite tribes—and the Ishmaelites.
The Hittites, descended from Heth, son of Canaan, were, by far, the strongest and biggest of these tribes, possessing a huge empire that stretched from Asia Minor to Palestine, with its capital in what is today central Turkey. The "Land of Hatti" was the major empire of Abraham's time, having the commercial, cultural, and military power to influence the entire Levant.
The Hivites were a related but less numerous people living in the land of Canaan. They may be those whom the Bible calls elsewhere "Horites" and whom history terms "Hurrians," a people centered in northern Mesopotamia, who had once been a dominant people in the region. In Esau's time, they seem to have had several strongholds in central Canaan, including Shechem. Deuteronomy 2:12, 22 records that the Edomites destroyed and perhaps absorbed a branch of Horites living in Seir, taking their land for themselves.
It is now clear how close the ties were between the Edomites, the Hittites, the Hivites, and the Ishmaelites. They were all related by marriage and blood!
We find another blood-connection in Genesis 36:11-12: "And the sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho, Gatam, and Kenaz. Now Timna was the concubine of Eliphaz, Esau's son, and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These were the sons of Adah, Esau's wife." The Amalekites, descended from Amalek, a grandson of Esau, fall naturally into the anti-Israel alliance. Verse 16 mentions that Amalek became a chief among the Edomites. Although the son of a concubine, he nonetheless became head of a significant tribe, which in later times distinguished itself as a ruthless enemy of Israel.
Notice, too, that Teman, since he is listed first, is probably the firstborn son of Eliphaz, who is the firstborn son of Esau. Teman's name became attached to the central part of Edomite territory, where he and his clan evidently settled. A city by the name of Teman existed not far from Petra. Habakkuk 3:3 shows the area of Teman in parallel with Mount Paran, which some consider to be a poetic reference to Mount Sinai, but it more likely refers to Mount Seir in central Edom. It is helpful to remember that some of the prophecies concerning Esau use Teman as an alternative name for Edom.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Two)
Numbers 24:17-19 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
In this oracle, the time setting jumps forward to the end time and the return of Jesus Christ as King of kings. His words certainly touch on His first coming, but the thrust of the passage is on His royal power to defeat and rule the enemies of Israel. It shows Edom and Moab (and later, Amalek; verse 20) taking the brunt His wrath at His return (Isaiah 15-16; 34:5-7; Jeremiah 48:1-47; 49:7-22; Lamentations 4:21-22; Ezekiel 25:8-14; 35:1-15; Obadiah 1:15-21; etc.). These peoples are singled out because of their open hostility toward Israel and represent all nations who oppose God.
The opening words of Numbers 24:17 emphasize the long-range nature of this final prophecy. The coming of the Messiah is "not now" and "not near"; indeed, it would be 1,400 years until His coming as the Son of Man and another 2,000 years or more until His return as King. The symbols of "a Star" and "a Scepter" are both ancient and widespread figures for monarchs, and some scholars feel that at least the star symbol may represent Deity (many ancient monarchs were considered gods or the gods' offspring). In Jesus Christ's case, this would be true.
"While Israel does valiantly" (verse 18) may have a physical-spiritual fulfillment much like Daniel 11:32: "The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits." It can also be linked to Zechariah 12:8: "In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them" (see also Zechariah 9:13; 10:5). Certainly, in the context of judgment on Edom, Obadiah 1:18 is relevant: "The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau shall be stubble; they shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau" (see also Amos 9:11-12).
The first part of Numbers 24:19 is a clear reference to Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, . . . until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." The second half of the verse is better in the New International Version: "[He will] destroy the survivors of the city." To which city this verse refers is not known. Some postulate Petra as the chief city of the Edomites, while others take it generally as any city of Edom. The latter view is preferable, as the thrust of the passage is that this great Ruler will possess and rule over everyone—no one will escape His judgment.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Prophecies of Balaam (Part Two)
Obadiah 1:10 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The Edomites' record of brutality and aggression against Israel is found throughout Scripture. Earlier, we saw Esau's personal hatred and murderous vow against Jacob (Genesis 27:41), the Amalekites' sneaky attack against the Israelite stragglers in the wilderness (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19), Amalek's alliances with other nations against Israel (Judges 3:12-14; 6:1-6), and even Haman's attempt to exterminate the Jews in Persia (Esther 3:1, 8-11, 13). Beyond these, the Bible provides more examples of Edom's almost incessant hostility against Israel and Judah and against God's will.
Psalm 137 is a lament describing the Jews' grief and longing for Jerusalem while they were held captive in Babylon. They were too forlorn even to sing "the LORD'S song in a foreign land" (verse 4). The later verses tell of the Edomites' role in the sack of Jerusalem, and the psalm ends with the Jews' hope that the Edomites will suffer as they had:
Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom, the day of Jerusalem, who said, "Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!" O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, happy the one who repays you as you have served us! Happy the one who takes and dashes your little ones against the rock! (Psalm 137:7-9)
Evidently, in 586 BC, the Edomites had joined with Nebuchadnezzar's Babylonian forces against Judah and reveled in the Jews' defeat, committing atrocities against defenseless babies and youngsters.
Other Old Testament chroniclers add to the tally against Edom. God, through the prophet Ezekiel, relates the same account of fratricide, as well as what He has determined to be His just response to Edom's cruelty against His chosen people. These prophecies agree in full with Obadiah's:
» Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them, therefore thus says the Lord GOD: "I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword. I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance," says the Lord GOD. (Ezekiel 25:12-14)
» "Because you have had an ancient hatred, and have shed the blood of the children of Israel by the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, when their iniquity came to an end, therefore, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "I will prepare you for blood, and blood shall pursue you. . . . Because you have said, 'These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess them,' although the LORD was there, therefore, as I live," says the Lord GOD, "I will do according to your anger and according to the envy which you showed in your hatred against them. . . . The whole earth will rejoice when I make you desolate. As you rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so I will do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom—all of it! Then they shall know that I am the LORD." (Ezekiel 35:5-6, 10-11, 14-15)
» Surely I have spoken in My burning jealousy against the rest of the nations and against all Edom, who gave My land to themselves as a possession, with whole-hearted joy and spiteful minds, in order to plunder its open country. (Ezekiel 36:5)
Jeremiah also refers to Edomite perfidy in the same destruction of Jerusalem:
Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom, you who dwell in the land of Uz! The cup shall also pass over to you and you shall become drunk and make yourself naked [see Jeremiah 25:15-38]. . . . He will punish your iniquity, O daughter of Edom; He will uncover your sins! (Lamentations 4:21-22)
Among these, the prophecy in Joel 3:19 is most interesting, since the prophet Joel lived in the latter half of the ninth century BC, 250 years before Jerusalem fell to the Neo-Babylonians! He writes, "And Edom [shall be] a desolate wilderness, because of violence against the people of Judah, for they have shed innocent blood in their land." Amos, writing in the mid-eighth century bc, accuses Edom of similar crimes:
For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with a sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually, and he kept his wrath forever. But I will send a fire upon Teman, which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah. (Amos 1:11-12)
In the Bible, we have a comprehensive record of the violence that Edom has perpetrated against ancient Israel and Judah. The evidence from Obadiah reveals that the Edomites will continue their anti-Israel crime spree until God Himself intervenes in the last days. He takes great offense to these heinous acts, and thus He promises, they "shall be cut off forever" (Obadiah 1:10).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment
Obadiah 1:10-14 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
Obadiah 10 had named the Edomites' great sin: "violence against your brother Jacob." The four subsequent verses tick off a number of illustrations of the Edomites' violence toward Israel, providing an expanded description of their transgression.
The prophet's first example (in verse 11), the only one requiring explanation, is that they "stood on the other side." This Hebraism indicates they "stood aloof," a description of their haughtiness. God is emphasizing their attitude here. Literally, the phrase reads, "stood from in front of them," a roundabout way of saying that the Edomites considered themselves too good to stand with them. In other words, because of their pride, they stood off to the side or in front of them, effectively separating themselves from their brother.
Their action reflected their hearts, saying, in effect, "Do not confuse us with them!" It indicates an attitude of great superiority, of haughty pride and separation. Thus, instead of standing with Israel in her defense, they stood aside and let the enemy do what it would. Edom did not behave as a brother nation should have. Even had the Edomites not been directly engaged in the hostilities against Israel, this act alone reveals that their loyalties were solidly with Israel's enemy.
The New King James Version poorly translates verses 12-14, rendering them in the past tense, when the Hebrew text relates this story in the future tense. The difference in tense transforms a castigating historical narrative into a more appropriate and stern warning against future activity:
But do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune; do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin; do not boast in the day of distress. Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their calamity; do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity; do not loot his wealth in the day of his calamity. Do not stand at the crossroads to cut off his fugitives; do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress. (English Standard Version)
Specifically, what is the day of Israel's calamity? Jeremiah 30:5-7 provides the answer:
For thus says the LORD: "We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labor with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it."
Jesus also spoke about this distressing day in His Olivet Prophecy:
For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened. (Matthew 24:21-22)
"The time of Jacob's trouble," more commonly known as "the Great Tribulation," is a period of intense hardship and war for the people of Israel. It is generally thought that it will last three and a half years (Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2; 12:14; 13:5), until Jesus Christ returns in power to defeat the Beast and his armies and to rule all nations (Revelation 19:11-21). According to Jesus' description, it is a time of global holocaust; if God did not intervene, all life on earth would cease!
The warnings in Obadiah 12-14 are directed toward the Edomites alive when that day arrives, perhaps not very long from now. We may have seen a precursor of the fulfillment of this prophecy, when, on and after September 11, 2001, television news programs broadcast images of Palestinians gloating and dancing in the streets in the West Bank, giving out candy, and shrieking in giddy celebration. Such a scene is likely to happen again when the Great Tribulation fully comes upon the nations of Israel.
At that time, the people of Edom may not have a great deal of power over the nations of Israel, and the prophecies do not indicate that they will. Today, their strength is limited to suicidal terrorist attacks, but they still have the ability to mock, to pillage, and to take advantage of any sign of weakness. God says in Obadiah 6-9 that He will remove their wealth, their wisdom, and their courage, but they will still be able to gloat when they see Israel fall.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment
Obadiah 1:17-18 (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)
The theme for verses 17 and 18 is found in Malachi 1:2-3:
"I have loved you," says the LORD. "Yet you say, 'In what way have You loved us?' Was not Esau Jacob's brother? " says the LORD. "Yet Jacob I have loved; but Esau I have hated, and laid waste his mountains and his heritage for the jackals of the wilderness."
God's choice is supreme. He made His sovereign choice of Jacob over Esau before either had done anything. They may have struggled in the womb, but He made His choice prior to their developing any character. He chose Jacob, and that is the end of the matter.
Obadiah writes in verse 17, "But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions." This verse introduces an interesting distinction: "On Mount Zion [is] deliverance," but the end of verse 18 says, "No survivor shall remain of the house of Esau." The destinies of these two peoples are total opposites. Whereas God loves Jacob and allows a remnant to survive into the Millennium, no one survives of Esau.
There is no way to know how absolute this pronouncement may be. Will there be, perhaps, some few Edomite survivors counted among those who are converted—who become part of spiritual Israel, in effect? Perhaps, but certainly all the proud and gloating of Edom will be completely annihilated.
Verse 18 tells us, "The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame." "The house of Jacob" may refer particularly to Judah, and "the house of Joseph" would then refer to the rest of the nations of Israel, led by the Joseph tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh. In any case, it indicates the entirety of Israel. Zechariah 12:6 contains similar language, in which the governors of Judah will be "like a firepan in the woodpile" and "shall devour all the surrounding peoples." Edom will be one of these devoured nations.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
All About Edom (Part Five): Obadiah and God's Judgment
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