Judgment on Judah’s Neighbors
It is not known exactly when God gave Ezekiel the prophecies of this chapter, though it is reasonable to assume that they were given prior to the next chronologically dated section of the book. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says: “The four short oracles against Judah’s immediate neighbors are a continuation of Ezekiel’s dated judgment message that began at 24:1 and concludes at 25:17. This, therefore, was originally a singular series of messages, all delivered at the same time according to Ezekiel’s normal chronological notices. The messages in this series announce judgment on Judah [as discussed in previous commentary] and then turn to denounce the surrounding nations that had rejoiced over Judah’s downfall and had hoped for personal spoil and gain. God announced judgment on these nations lest their gleeful taunts continue and the exiles question his faithfulness to his promises” (note on verses 1-7).
The siege of Jerusalem had begun but the city would not fall for more than two years. However, much of Judah had no doubt been devastated rather quickly with the invasion of the Babylonian forces. Recall also that the Chaldeans had invaded a few times before—stripping the temple of treasure and deporting many people. The Ammonites and Moabites had actually taken part in one of these invasions during the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:1-2 2 Kings 24:1-2  In his days Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant three years: then he turned and rebelled against him.
 And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldees, and bands of the Syrians, and bands of the Moabites, and bands of the children of Ammon, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servants the prophets.
American King James Version×). Though this was part of God’s judgment on Judah, these ancient enemies rejoiced in Judah’s calamity not for any righteous reason but out of envy and their undying hatred against God’s people. This provides some background for the prophecies of Ezekiel 25.
God says to the Ammonites that they will suffer His judgment “because you said, ‘Aha!’ against My sanctuary when it was profaned, and against the land of Israel when it was desolate, and against the house of Judah when they went into captivity” (verse 3). This might seem to apply to their attitude after the fall of Jerusalem, and certainly God could have foreseen this even before it happened. Indeed, prophecies often portray things that are yet future in the past tense, demonstrating the certainty of their fulfillment. Nevertheless, the statement could just as well describe what had already happened by the early stages of the siege—the period in which we are chronologically placing this section. God’s temple was profaned when, as already mentioned, it was twice stripped of treasure by the Babylonians. In fact, “profaned” seems to go much better with that than with the ultimate razing of the temple—which was much more than defilement. The desolation of the land of Israel could apply to what happened much earlier to the northern kingdom. It could also apply to the last item mentioned in verse 3: the massive deportations Judah had already suffered, including any carrying away of people that happened early in the current invasion.
Moab and Seir (the latter denoting the territory of Edom) are to be judged for saying, “Look! The house of Judah is like all the nations” (verse 8). Essentially, they are mocking the concept of Judah being some special nation. It’s like saying, “So they think they’re the ‘chosen’ people of the ‘true’ God, do they? Well look at what’s happening to them now. They’re going the way of all other nations by being conquered and carried away. Guess they’re not so special after all!” Such sentiments, in fact, mocked God, as He had revealed through His inspired servants that Judah and Israel were indeed His special, chosen people.
As punishment, Ammon and Moab would be given into the hands of “the men of the East” (verses 4, 10). “The ‘people of the East’ are not identified specifically anywhere in Scripture. The phrase was used to refer to any peoples living east of another people. However, the immediate context, parallel passages…and ancient history all argue for the designation of Babylonia as Ezekiel’s contemporary people of the East. Moreover, Josephus (Antiq[uities] of the Jews, [Book 10, chapters 180-81, sec. 9]) recorded that Nebuchadnezzar brought Ammon and Moab into subjection in the fifth year after the Fall of Jerusalem (c. 58⅖81 B.C.)” (Expositor’s, note on verses 1-7).
Of the Edomites, God said they “greatly offended” by taking vengeance on His people. While Edom did this at the time of Judah’s fall, it had a long history of such action: “The transgressions most characteristic of Edom were its perpetual animosity and repeated, vindictive acts of violence against Israel. The Hebrew words rendered greatly offended (‘be guilty’) may indicate continuous or repeated rather than intensive behavior” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verse 12).
In verse 14 God surprisingly declares, “I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel.” This certainly did not happen in Ezekiel’s day. The Expositor’s Bible Commentarystates: “Other passages in the O[ld] T[estament] indicate that…[Edom’s] punishment would be executed by Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 9:26 Jeremiah 9:26Egypt, and Judah, and Edom, and the children of Ammon, and Moab, and all that are in the utmost corners, that dwell in the wilderness: for all these nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in the heart.
American King James Version×; 25:21; 27:1-11). Certainly Ezekiel 32:29 Ezekiel 32:29There is Edom, her kings, and all her princes, which with their might are laid by them that were slain by the sword: they shall lie with the uncircumcised, and with them that go down to the pit.
American King James Version×and Malachi 1:2-5 Malachi 1:2-5  I have loved you, said the LORD. Yet you say, Wherein have you loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? said the LORD: yet I loved Jacob,  And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.  Whereas Edom said, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus said the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD has indignation for ever.  And your eyes shall see, and you shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.
American King James Version×assume that Edom’s desolation was past. However, God also declared that he would execute his vengeance on Edom in return for its vengeance on Judah and would do so through the instrumentality of Israel. The historical context of Ezekiel’s day precluded this event from happening at that time. However, Ezekiel and other prophets declared that Israel would possess Edom in the end time as well (cf. 35:1-36:15; Isaiah 11:14 Isaiah 11:14But they shall fly on the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
American King James Version×; Daniel 11:41 Daniel 11:41He shall enter also into the glorious land, and many countries shall be overthrown: but these shall escape out of his hand, even Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon.
American King James Version×; Amos 9:12 Amos 9:12That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, said the LORD that does this.
American King James Version×; Obadiah 18)” (note on Ezekiel 25:12-14 Ezekiel 25:12-14  Thus said the Lord GOD; Because that Edom has dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended, and revenged himself on them;  Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; I will also stretch out my hand on Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it; and I will make it desolate from Teman; and they of Dedan shall fall by the sword.  And I will lay my vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel: and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my fury; and they shall know my vengeance, said the Lord GOD.
American King James Version×, emphasis added).
Observe that God punishes the Ammonites, Moabites and Philistines so that they will come to know He is the true God (verses 5, 7, 11, 17)—and consider that they will not come to truly understand this until the time of Christ’s return. Of course, it should be remembered that the rulers of these peoples in Ezekiel’s day would have understood it in a limited sense—as God had warned them through Jeremiah that they would either submit to Nebuchadnezzar or suffer sword, famine, pestilence and the yoke of slavery (see Jeremiah 27). Nevertheless, none of these peoples really came to understand who the true God was at that time.
In Ezekiel 25, God does not mention the Edomites coming to know Him as the true God. Rather, He simply says, “They shall know My vengeance” (verse 14). In an end-time context, this may be because Edom will apparently be completely destroyed, with no survivors left, when Christ returns (see Obadiah 18). (The Edomites will apparently have to wait for the second resurrection mentioned in Revelation 20:5 Revelation 20:5But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
American King James Version×to be given their opportunity to turn to God in sincere repentance.)
As mentioned previously in the Beyond Today Bible Commentary, the modern descendants of Edom are likely to be found among the Turkish peoples, the Palestinians and other Middle Eastern groups. Indeed, today’s Palestinians, who are concentrated in Jordan and Israel, appear to be a blending of all the peoples mentioned in Ezekiel 25—Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites and Philistines—along with others. For centuries virtually all of these peoples have been Muslims, convinced that Allah is the one true God and that the worship of Jews and Christians is corrupt. Only after Jesus Christ returns and establishes true Christianity as the religion of the world will these people—and all other Muslims worldwide—come to know and worship the true God of the Bible.
The chapter ends with God declaring vengeance to befall the Philistines (or Cherethites, as the Philistines or a major part of them are also called). “God’s great vengeance against the Philistines was a judgment ‘in kind’ for their revengeful attitude and actions against Judah. His destruction of Philistia would be complete, even consuming the remnant of them that were on the coast… Though the time of this punishment on Philistia was not stated, the context assumes time in harmony with the three verdicts executed on Ammon, Moab, and Edom by Babylon (cf. Jeremiah 25:20 Jeremiah 25:20And all the mingled people, and all the kings of the land of Uz, and all the kings of the land of the Philistines, and Ashkelon, and Azzah, and Ekron, and the remnant of Ashdod,
American King James Version×; Jeremiah 47:1-7 Jeremiah 47:1-7  The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before that Pharaoh smote Gaza.  Thus said the LORD; Behold, waters rise up out of the north, and shall be an overflowing flood, and shall overflow the land, and all that is therein; the city, and them that dwell therein: then the men shall cry, and all the inhabitants of the land shall howl.  At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands;  Because of the day that comes to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remains: for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor.  Baldness is come on Gaza; Ashkelon is cut off with the remnant of their valley: how long will you cut yourself?  O you sword of the LORD, how long will it be ere you be quiet? put up yourself into your scabbard, rest, and be still.  How can it be quiet, seeing the LORD has given it a charge against Ashkelon, and against the sea shore? there has he appointed it.
American King James Version×). The ultimate fruition of this judgment would be realized when Israel possesses Philistia in the end time (cf. Isaiah 11:14 Isaiah 11:14But they shall fly on the shoulders of the Philistines toward the west; they shall spoil them of the east together: they shall lay their hand on Edom and Moab; and the children of Ammon shall obey them.
American King James Version×; Joel 3:1-4 Joel 3:1-4  For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,  I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.  And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink.  Yes, and what have you to do with me, O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine? will you render me a recompense? and if you recompense me, swiftly and speedily will I return your recompense on your own head;
American King James Version×; Obadiah 19; Zephaniah 2:4-7 Zephaniah 2:4-7  For Gaza shall be forsaken, and Ashkelon a desolation: they shall drive out Ashdod at the noon day, and Ekron shall be rooted up.  Woe to the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy you, that there shall be no inhabitant.  And the sea coast shall be dwellings and cottages for shepherds, and folds for flocks.  And the coast shall be for the remnant of the house of Judah; they shall feed thereupon: in the houses of Ashkelon shall they lie down in the evening: for the LORD their God shall visit them, and turn away their captivity.
American King James Version×)” (note on Ezekiel 25:15-17 Ezekiel 25:15-17  Thus said the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred;  Therefore thus said the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out my hand on the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast.  And I will execute great vengeance on them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall lay my vengeance on them.
American King James Version×). Interestingly, today’s Palestinians are actually named after the Philistines—and many Palestinians live in the Gaza Strip on the southern Israeli Mediterranean coastline, the region of ancient Philistia. This land will eventually be returned to the Israelites.