Bible Commentary: Ezekiel 35

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Ezekiel 35

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God's Judgment on Edom

Chapter 35 may appear a digression from the subject of Israel's restoration, and yet the removal of Israel's great enemy, the most persistent thorn in its side, is indeed central to Israel's restoration. Mount Seir is Edom (verses 2, 15; 25:8; 36:5; Genesis 36:30; 2 Chronicles 20:10). The Edomites are the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother, so the strife began as sibling rivalry (Genesis 25:30). But Esau's resentment turned into never-ending "ancient hatred" (Ezekiel 35:5) and "anger," "envy" and "hatred" (verse 11).

"Edom had sought to block Israel's first entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14-21; Numbers 24:15-19)...There were conflicts during the times of Saul (1 Sam 14:47), Solomon (1 Kings 11:14-22), Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1-23), Jehoram (2 Kings 8:21), and Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:17). The prophets regularly made reference to Edom's antagonism toward Israel and the resulting judgment they would receive (Isa 11:11-16; Dan 11:41; Amos 2:1). Malachi demonstrated that the hatred between these nations was still common in his day (Mal 1:2-5)" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, note on Ezekiel 35:1-9).

The clearest example of hostility today is seen in the branch of Edomites that comprises many of the Palestinians, whose hatred regularly breaks out against the Israeli state. (The persistent failure of the West to understand that deep-seated hatred that transcends hundreds of generations is one of the principal reasons that peace plan after peace plan fails utterly—and will continue to fail.) It also appears that Edom will constitute part of the end-time Babylonian power bloc—the great enemy of Israel in the last days—perhaps through Turkish participation in the coming European empire as well as a large influx into Europe of Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa (see the Beyond Today Bible Commentary on Obadiah).

Esau lost the birthright and the blessing, and in jealous envy has repeatedly tried to capture territory from the descendants of Israel. "These two nations" in verse 10 refers to Israel and Judah (see 37:15-28). Once ancient Israel and Judah both had gone into captivity, Edomites thought they could move in and take over the land. This will again be Edom's attitude in the end time—which may well be the primary reference in Ezekiel 35.

Mentioned more than once in Scripture is how the Edomites have attacked, and will attack, Israel at her times of vulnerability—when she is engaged in conflicts with other enemies (35:5; 36:2-5; 25:12; Obadiah 11, 13-14). Unger's Bible Dictionary says in its entry on "Edomites": "When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem the Edomites joined him, and took an active part in the plunder of the city and slaughter of the Jews. Their cruelty at that time seems to be specially referred to in the 137th Psalm. It was on account of these acts of cruelty committed upon the Jews in the day of their calamity that the Edomites were so fearfully denounced by the later prophets (Isa. 34:5-8; 63:1-4; Jer. 49:17; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 25:13, 14; Amos 1:11, 12; Obad. 8, 10, sq.). On the conquest of Judah, the Edomites, probably in reward for their services during the war, were permitted to settle in southern Palestine, and the whole plateau between it and Egypt; but they were about the same time driven out of Edom proper by the Nabataeans. For more than four centuries they continued to prosper. But during the warlike rule of the Maccabees they were again completely subdued, and even forced to conform to Jewish laws and rites and submit to the government of Jewish prefects. The Edomites were now incorporated with the Jewish nation, and the whole province was often termed by Greek and Roman writers Idumaea.Immediately before the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, twenty thousand Idumaeans were admitted to the Holy City, which they filled with robbery and bloodshed."

Scriptures indicate the Edomites will once again—in the end time—gleefully join in attacking the Israelites.

Edom has chronically been guilty of another sin that God despises—pride and arrogance. And when the Edomites exalt themselves against God's nations and God Himself, they are getting into deep trouble with their blasphemies (Ezekiel 35:10-13).

The history of the Edomites toward the Israelites has largely been hatred, hardheartedness, cruelty, and arrogance. Consequently, in several scriptures, prophecies of the end time foretell God's annihilation of all Edomites (see Ezekiel 35:14-15; 25:13; Obadiah 18; Jeremiah 49:17-18). The good news is they will be raised to life in the second resurrection, humbled, and ready to receive God's instructions—something we will read more about in Ezekiel 37.

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