After an eight-week hiatus from our systematic study in the book of Genesis we now return to its exposition and to a familiar storyline: God’s faithfulness in bringing to pass His everlasting covenant of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone. We have seen this theme run through every chapter thus far. God made a covenant (before the foundation of the world) to save a people through the sinless, sacrificial and substitutionary death of His Son. The Son agreed to come to earth, to take up the human body prepared for Him. He would, in that very body, pay the wages for every sinner for whom He died. And thus He would fully atone for every sinner whom the Father, in sovereign and gracious love, had chosen unto salvation.
But this pivotal event in the history of the universe did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, it was the culmination of all that had transpired from Genesis 1:1 onward. God created the world in order to recreate another one. He, being God, knew all that would happen in this world. He knew that Adam would sin and that the world would be populated by sinners. Yes, this was all in the eternal counsel and purpose of His will. But thanks be unto God that He also planned to redeem this fallen world. And He would do so through the Second Man from heaven, the Last Adam: the Lord Jesus Christ. At the dawn of history, when Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send the Redeemer, the One who had been slain from before the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). As a pledge of this promise the Father slew an animal (a lamb?) and clothed Adam and Eve, who were smitten by sin, shamed in their sin, and who had become slaves to sin. In a word, He saved them. Or to use another word, He justified them. As they stood in the midst of a sin-cursed world, clothed in the skin of a freshly-slaughtered lamb, they were actually standing before God clothed in the sinlessness of the already—because promised—freshly slaughtered Son of God.
But what God had designed, in His eternal counsel, was not merely for Adam and Eve; instead, it was for a multitude that no one can number, from every tribe, nation, tongue, and peoples of humanity. God’s manifold grace in Christ would be displayed in the multicoloured and multicultural tapestry of the church.
But this beautiful tapestry of grace would not come about without a struggle, for the seed of the serpent would relentlessly seek to destroy the Seed of the woman. Satan’s goal was, and continues to be, to rob God of His glory. He aims to thwart God’s saving grace, for He knows that in a particular way, God’s grace as experienced in the salvation and transformation of sinners brings glory to God in a remarkable way. And this will be so throughout all eternity (Ephesians 3:8-11). It is for this reason that Satan seeks to attack God’s Word, by working in history to try and keep God’s promise from coming to pass. And the Edomites have been a major stratagem in the crafty hands of Satan for this very purpose.
From the fleshly conniving of Esau to the evil deeds of the Herods, the Seed of the woman has been attacked by Edomites. And even though the Edomites long ago passed off the scene, the church today still faces their spiritual kin. Satan has not relaxed his efforts—even in spite of being defeated at the cross. He still opposes the church at every turn, because he continues to seek to defame God and to defeat His cause. And thus the church must be alert to the reality of this conflict. We must know our enemy, and we must defeat this enemy by knowing our God!
In this study, we consider Genesis 36 with a view to getting a grip on knowing our enemy in our pursuit of God’s kingdom, and knowing our God who is faithful to deliver on His promise.
The Chronicles of the Edomites
As we have learned previously, the phrase “these are the generations of” is called a toledoth, and it is a literary device, used by Moses, to organise the story of Genesis. What follows from these words is the “story of” the mentioned character or event. Thus, 36:1 tells us that Jacob’s story has ended (see 25:19-35:29) and now the story of Esau is given. But this chapter mentions this phrase twice (vv. 1, 9). The reason is because vv. 1-8 records the story of Esau raising a family in Canaan, and vv. 9-43 tells the story of the genealogy of Esau as he settled in Mount Seir. This region became known as Edom.
Note that the words “Edom” or “Edomite” and “Seir” (a synonym for Edom) occur 16 times in this chapter. Significantly, the opening and closing verses make it deliberately clear that the author’s intention to drive home the point that the Edomites came from Esau. In addition to this literary bracket, note also verses 8, 9 and19 where it is emphasised that Esau is the father of the Edomites. Why this emphasis? Let’s consider some reasons for this.
First, at this point in Israel’s history (at the time in which Moses was writing), the descendents of Esau were already proving to be a problem for the nation of Israel. Shortly after coming out of Egypt they faced the fearsome Amalekites (Exodus 17). These warrior-like people sought to destroy Israel and it appears that the motivation was that of the right to the use of water. And the Amalekites traced their line back to Esau (v. 12).
God gave the children of Israel a wonderful victory over these people, and yet He declared the prophecy that they would face conflict with them “from generation to generation.” In Balaam’s prophecy concerning the future prosperity of Israel he proclaimed the eventual downfall of this people, and in so doing he identified them as “the first of the nations” (Numbers 24:20). It would appear that he was identifying them as the first of the nations to oppose Israel. Further, as Israel wandered from place to place they sought a shortcut through the Middle Eastern desert, only to be refused access by the Edomites (Numbers 20:14ff). Those who were united by blood were refused help by their brothers and thus great discouragement set in (Numbers 21:4). This led to their sin of murmuring and God’s subsequent judgement fell upon the children of Israel.
It was for these human induced reasons that Moses penned this genealogy: to help the Israelites to know their enemy, an enemy which would confront them for centuries to come. But in addition to this motivation, Moses was also moved to write this account to highlight God’s faithful character. Note these two facts.
First, God had made a promise to Rebekah regarding Esau, and God always keeps His promises (see 25:23). God had told her that her children would head up two distinct peoples (“nations”) and thus here we have the record of the “people of Esau.” Also, Isaac had bestowed a blessing upon Esau (27:38-40) and here we see indeed that God had brought this to pass. This is a good example of God’s common grace.
Second, God recorded this, primarily, to once again encourage the church of all ages that His plan and purpose of redemption will not be thwarted, though it will constantly be threatened. And we often need this reminder. The church has always been confronted by Edomites who have sought to stand in the path of its progress. As Edom of old, the church has always had her detractors who have boasted in the failure and follies of the church (cf. Obadiah). And, yes, in spite of these, God has proven faithful, time and again, and the church has marched successfully on.
The Character of the Edomites
This chapter, as mentioned, is filled with references to Edom and this is very significant, for it reminds us of the nature of Esau which led to the eventual separation of him from Jacob. In chapter 25 we read of the events which led to Esau’s selling of his birthright to Jacob and it is a pathetic scene. As Esau comes in from a day’s hunting he is famished and thus when Jacob (mischievously) offers to give him some of his red stew in exchange for his birthright Esau casts it aside like a useless rag and subsequently fills his belly with food. As we learned in our study of that chapter, Esau thought merely in sensual terms and thus the birthright held no value for him. But think with me for a moment about what this birthright represented. It was the right to be in the direct genealogical line of the Lord Jesus Christ! And yet Esau saw no value in something that would only later yield its blessed fruit. Rather, he chose to trade that which was substantial for the temporal pleasure of fleshly consumption. And this sensual desire for red stew earned him the name “Edom,” which means “red.”
Later when he returned to his senses, he sought with Isaac’s help to restore the birthright to himself. Jacob, once again mischievously connived (along with his mom) to make sure that he received what God had promised him and that which he had so subtly stolen. In the end, Jacob got the birthright, Esau became enraged and Jacob was forced to leave his homeland.
We spent several weeks looking at the biblical record with regard to Jacob, which covered some 25 years. Over those years we saw God’s grace at work in his life and thus Jacob was transformed into “Israel.” The one who spent his life plotting to get his will done became the prince who was resigned to do God’s will. But we also saw a man who, though he experienced saving grace, did some pretty reprehensible things. He was guilty of adultery, of cowardice, of passivity and of deception. Praise God for what He had done, for just think how Jacob would have turned out apart from grace!
But during these twenty five years we wonder what was going on in the life of Esau? Was he lying awake at night plotting the eventual day when he would face Jacob and thus get his due? Was he eaten up with bitterness and unforgiveness? Was he still murderous in his heart towards Jacob for the way that Jacob had cheated him (which would, of course, be the pot calling the kettle black)? If we examine the text of Scripture recording the meeting between Jacob and Esau it would appear that Esau was a changed man.
In Genesis 33 Esau comes with four hundred men to meet Jacob, and regardless of the reason behind this great entourage, he is seen to reconcile with his brother, not clobber him! In fact it is Esau which seems to make the first moves towards this reconciliation (v. 4). He does not appear to have any bitterness in his heart; he does not appear to have any murderous intent and he is even conciliatory to the point where he offers Jacob and his household the opportunity to dwell together with him. Upon his father’s death we see him alongside his brother mourning their loss. All seems to be well. In fact, in my opinion, Esau’s behaviour is manifestly better than that of many professing believers. That is, his behaviour is Christian. But if his behaviour is Christian, if he has overcome the cancer of bitterness and now manifests an attitude of forgiveness, is it possible that he had been born again? Is it possible that Esau, the one whom lost his birthright had actually been transformed by the grace of God? Yes, I think that it was possible.
Now, I can already hear the objections: “But, Doug, surely Genesis 25:23 states the opposite: that Jacob and not Esau was elect unto salvation?” But does it? In fact, the text speaks of the fact that God had chosen Jacob to be the one who would carry on the birthright of Isaac, which we know was the genealogical line of Messiah. The phrase, “the elder shall serve the younger” was a prophecy of the eventual theocratic nation of Israel being the stewards of this gospel promise. It certainly included the historical fact that Edom would be subservient to Israel (under Saul, David, and Solomon) but the primary application was soteriological and eschatological. Again, this was obviously a nationalistic election rather than specifically an individualistic election unto salvation.
Again, some would object that Romans 9:10-13 clearly speaks to the issue of individuals being elected unto salvation and thus Paul’s conclusion is that Jacob was elected unto salvation while Esau was not. And those who so object have a good case, but not an airtight one.
I grant that the apostle is speaking in this chapter of individual election unto salvation. This is his main theme, as a study of vv. 1-6 will clearly indicate. Paul is seeking to prove that not every Israelite was chosen unto salvation even though they are a part of a people which received God’s unconditional blessing of being the chosen nation. But when he uses Esau and Jacob as examples of sovereign election he does so historically as he quotes Genesis 25:23. He uses this Scriptural example to highlight God’s uncompelled choice to bless some while not so blessing others. It is from this example that Paul is able to build an argument for God being righteous in His choosing some individuals to salvation while not choosing all.
But what about Paul’s quotation of Malachi 1:2-3? Does this not prove that God, way back in Genesis 25 chose to love Jacob the individual and to hate the individual named Esau? Not necessarily. Keep in mind that Malachi wrote 1,400 years after the events of Genesis 25 and in this context Jacob clearly represents the nation of Israel while Esau represents the nation of Edom. I grant that when God speaks of a “nation” He is by extension also speaking of individuals. Yet here in Malachi it is also clear that nations are the primary focus of the message. Thus when Paul quotes the prophet he is doing so to once again prove that God has the right to bless whatever people(s) that He chooses. In the case of Malachi, we see the truth that God set his love upon the nation of Israel and not upon the nation of Edom. He chose to bless Israel while He chose to love Edom less. But note a very important factor: No one that I know of argues that in Malachi God is promising that He will save every Israelite because He chose to love the nation of Israel (“Jacob”). And Paul is arguing this very point, namely, that not every Israelite was saved because God chose to love Jacob (cf. Romans 9:6). But since this is true is it not also consistent to say that when God chose to “hate” Esau He was not saying that He would not love any Edomite? We know full well that there will be people saved from every people group—including Edomites. And perhaps the first Edomite, Esau, was indeed a recipient of God’s saving grace.
Before connecting the dots in this study I want to go on record as stating that I firmly believe Scripture teaches that God soveriegnly chooses individuals unto salvation. The book of Romans, especially chapters 8-11, teaches this glorious doctrine. It is there for all who have eyes to see and ears to hear. This sovereign choice is by God’s free grace without any consideration of merit in those whom He chooses to save. For purposes only known to Himself God chose certain multitudes of people (individuals) unto salvation. But at the same time I am also saying that neither this text in Genesis 25, nor the text in Malachi 1, presents clear evidence that Esau was outside of God’s everlasting covenant. I agree with the words of R. Kent Hughes who wrote, “Genesis is ambiguous about Esau. The beginning of his life was certainly graceless, but he appeared as a different man after the twenty-five year hiatus. Certainly his demotion from covenant-bearer did not mean that he was excluded from the benefits of the covenant.” Note also these words from Donald Grey Barnhouse, “It may be that someday I will find a verse in the Bible that will make me decide, finally, that Esau was personally a lost soul. I have not yet found such a verse. I do know that he was rejected as far as the birthright was concerned, but the hating was pronounced upon his descendants.”
So what is the point of all of this? What, in other words, can we learn from this? I would suggest that we can learn from this that sometimes our enemies come from those who were at one time our brothers. With specific reference to the church let me put it this way: Some of our biggest foes come from the loins of those whom were faithful to Christ.
J. C. Ryle was one of the finest Christians, and one of the most faithful pastors who ever lived. He was an Anglican minister who faithfully preached the gospel for decades. He was a loyal member of the Anglican Church, so much so that he argued against those who thought that people should separate from this church in response to the many ministers who were slowly but surely departing from the faith. Ryle believed that the church was salvageable. Sadly, he was wrong and today the Anglican Church is dominated by the likes of Desmond Tutu, who fill the media with blasphemies masquerading as truth. Thus a forefather that had experienced God’s grace was in the line of those who would later slander that grace.
The Dutch Reformed Church is in the same boat, as are many Baptists, the majority of Methodists and mainline Presbyterian Churches. Yes, our fiercest enemies seem to come from the loins of our brothers.
We should not be surprised by this but rather we should be careful, circumspect and discerning in our thinking. And above all, we must be sure to guard the deposit entrusted to us (1Timothy 6:20; 2 Timothy1:14).
I’d like to think that Esau became a converted man for, once again, we would see in this the power of the gospel to transform an individual. But Hebrews 12:16-17 may dash any of our hopes for this. The writer states (regarding the danger of neglecting opportunities for grace), “Lest any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
But again, two considerations may help us to avoid reading into the text anything about the eternal state of his soul.
First, Esau’s “repentance” was in relation to his attempt in getting back the firstborn’s birthright, the one that he had sold. This is not a salvific issue at all. Surely it is not merely the “firstborns” in a family that can be converted! The writer is highlighting the well-known fact that some things cannot be reversed and thus in their case, they had better not squander their opportunity to follow Christ. Second, the Bible does record the follies and failures of those whom we know are saved. One thinks of the adultery and murder at the hands of David and of the thrice repeated denial of Christ by Peter. Lot is another classic example. These men were clearly converted and yet the Bible includes the revelation of their failures in order to spur us on to greater watchfulness. And I would maintain that such is the case with Esau.
Again, I cannot be dogmatic regarding Esau’s spiritual condition but if he was saved it is sad that he left no godly heritage. Perhaps he fooled around with the gracious opportunities until it was too late and thus by the time that he was converted he had squandered away all of his influence for good in his home. He had married outside of God’s covenant and thus doubtless idolatry had crept in from Canaan, the Hittites, the Hivites and even perhaps from the Ishmaelites (see vv. 2-3). His years of living according to the flesh had produced bitter fruit.
Yes, as the writer of Hebrews reminds us, there was a time in which Esau was a profane person. And sadly this largely seems to be the legacy that he left. The Edomites became a people who were calloused towards God’s people and they even mocked them when they were under duress. In fact, worse than this, they blocked Israel’s paths of escape when the Babylonians invaded their land and thus many Jews were captured and others slaughtered because of this heartless and profane treatment at the hands of the Edomites.
Believer, I point this out to exhort us to be careful lest we create future enemies (“Edomites”) which our children will one day need to fight. Let us follow Christ with all of our heart and may we leave a legacy of future generations which will truly be the friend of God’s people.
I would also add that we should not neglect the Lord’s warning in Matthew 10 that our greatest foes will often be those of our own household. As the children of Esau would be so vexing a problem for the children of Israel, so often in our day blood relatives strongly opposing family members that desire to follow Christ. Be aware but do not be alarmed by this. Just as the Israelites persevered in spite of the opposition, so can you.
The Conquests of the Edomites
As noted from the outset, we must know our enemy. We need to understand something of the stratagems of the devil. We need to be aware that he seeks to infiltrate the church with Edomites and that he seeks to mislead her through false teachings and teachers. Also, as in Eden, Satan seeks to accuse God to us and us to God. He aims to decimate our confidence in His character and thus in the veracity of His Word. We must be alert to any such satanically-induced schemes.
But having said this I need to place the emphasis on the right syllable. That is, ultimately we must know our God. As we grow in our understanding of who God is then we will be encouraged as we fight against the Edomites and Amalekites that attend our way. At the end of the day we must admit that we are no match for the foes of the evil one and thus we need to submit ourselves to God knowing that He cares for us. We must have an unshakeable confidence in God’s unchangeable character as revealed in His Word and thus go forth conquering to conquer in His name.
Again, Moses wrote these words as Israel was in the wilderness and on the verge perhaps of departing for Canaan. She has had a rough time as she has wandered for years due to her disobedience. She has been scorned by the world, divided as a people and made heart sore as thousands have died at the Hand of God’s judgement. And now to top it off Moses, her leader has just given her a document which informs them of the great prosperity of her rival brother Edom!
Moses identifies 29 chiefs (or clans) and eight kings amongst the Edomites and he also informs Israel that the Edomites are indeed a people that conquer by the sword (see v. 35 and compare with 27:39-40). It is now confirmed to Israel that these Edomites inhabit Mount Seir. This was an impregnable piece of ground fortified by red sandstone cliffs which made it possible for a mere twelve men to fight off an entire army from this post. What hope then had these children of Israel against such a seemingly prosperous and protected people? After all, the children of Israel were recently slaves and thus they were not exactly well armed. (There was no one in the White House supplying them with weaponry!) Yes, their leader talked tough and carried a big stick (“staff”) but what good was this against such a determined and hostile foe? In fact, it was a lot! The children of Israel were not ultimately dependant upon Moses, but rather upon the Lord. That rod that Moses carried around was a symbol of the powerful presence and faithful promises of Yahweh. And as for the effectiveness of Moses’ tough words, well, just ask Pharaoh!
God’s point in this detailed chapter of the progeny of Esau, is that His people need not fear the enemy that shadows our way; for He creates a much bigger and much more influential shadow! In other words, the church will persevere, in spite of the intimidating clans of the Edomites. In spite of Edom’s rejoicing at our failures and despite his cruel and heartless strategies to make our way more difficult and despite his arrogant schemes to destroy us, he will fail! God will give His Bride the victory over all of the religious and political harlotry that would attempt to undo our efforts. Whether it be the Edomites of apostate religion like that of Islam and Roman Catholicism, or whether it be the heresy of the Charismatic chaos or the latest blasphemous theological denials by postmodern theologians, the church will conquer!
The psalmist reflected upon the seeming success of the ungodly and he cried out, “Why do the wicked prosper?” And we would all probably admit that indeed we also have been there, done that, and repeated the same lament. Surely the Israelites must have been asking the same thing as they heard this account of their nemesis. The Edomites were prospering and the people that had followed Jacob’s God were in poverty. We can almost hear the Jewish women complaining, “Forty years later and I am still wearing the same pair of shoes. And this dress, well, this went out of fashion three decades ago!” Meanwhile, the Edomites are nestled in to their nice little suburbia and the “dukes of Edom” are racing their new chariots up and down the Bedouin freeway. How do you suppose that they felt? Probably like you and I do—at least when we lose sight of the glory of God and of His wonderful purpose. It is when we don’t focus on what we know about God, or when we stop growing in our knowledge of God, that we tend to become envious of the Edomites. And when this happens then we stop marching forward.
Dear reader, listen to the words of Matthew Henry: “We may suppose it a trial to the faith of God’s Israel, to hear of the pomp and power of the kings of Edom, while they were bond slaves in Egypt; but those who look for great things from God, must be content to wait for them; God’s timing is the best time.” And again, “The children of this world have their all in hand, and nothing in hope; while the children of God have all in hope, and nothing hand. But all things considered, it is better to have Canaan in promise, than Mount Seir in possession.”
God had promised the Israelites that He would give them a land and He could be counted on to do so. But there was more to this land promise than merely dirt. For ultimately the promise concerned the true Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ whom indeed would one day be called out of Egypt (see Hosea 11:1 and Matthew 2:15) to fulfil all of God’s redemptive promises. In Christ Jesus, all of the promises concerning the Seed which had been made to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob would be fulfilled.
But in the meantime the people of Israel would look like the ones who were dispossessed and they would be the ones serving the Edomites. As appearances go it seemed as if Rebekah had not heard too well upon her pregnancy for the Edomites obviously had the upper hand. But things are not always as they seem and thus the Israelites needed to face the facts with out at the same time forgetting the Father’s faithfulness. That is, the fact of Edom’s temporal prosperity was not in any way a nullification of God’s promises. God did love Jacob and thus “he” would receive the full promise—in God’s time.
The church today needs to reckon upon this. Indeed all is not really defined by what we merely observe on the surface. Rather, where we have God’s promise we can be sure that, according to His perfect time, we will inherit the land, and that the Edomites, who temporarily have the upper hand, will be brought to defeat. Along this line I would mention Islam and its apparent world domination. Believer, our Lord and Saviour is on His throne and He is not in a panic! He will build His church and the gates of hell, including the gates of this particular false religion, will not prevail. Likewise, Hinduism will not win the day in India, nor will Communism have the final world in China, or Roman Catholicism in Latin and South America. Neither will secularism be the last voice heard in Europe nor will Christian nominalism be victorious in South Africa. No, a thousand times, no!
What then must we do to see the Edomites defeated? Let me suggest two biblical requirements.
First, we must stop focusing on the Edomites. It is interesting that God sorted them out, without the help of the nation of Israel. What God wanted from Israel was their undivided commitment to Him. He desired their devotion to Him. It was precisely because they were not so committed that He used the Amalekites and the Edomites to chasten them. And when the Lord was done using them as His divine “spanking spoon” that He discarded them. If you don’t believe that, then simply look at that part of the world through world history. The Herodian dynasty is a nonentity today.
I suspect that the Lord is using all the “isms” that I have just mentioned to chasten His Bride. Perhaps when the church gets her eyes back on Christ and lives devotedly to Him we will begin to see the Edomites defeated. After all, judgement must begin first at the house of God.
What I am saying is that we need a revival, a true awakening in the church of the living God. If the church were to have the passion of those who love Christ more than life itself, if we would be passionate about the hallowing of God’s name and the extension of His kingdom and the performance of His will then we would be in a much better position to silence the arrogant attacks by the Edomites.
Perhaps we become so concerned with the enemy that we lose sight of the greatness of our God. When this happens we lose perspective as well as hope. Rather, like the early church we need to stare our enemies in the face, respectfully reject their blasphemous assertions and then beseech God that He would move for the glory of His name (see Acts 4:10-12; 23-ff). Oh, that we would experience the power of the presence of God and thus with boldness preach Christ without any fear of man. Oh, that we would persevere in faith despite the onslaughts of the Edomites in the conviction that “the elder will serve the younger.”
Second, we must love the Edomites. God had commanded the Israelites to be very careful to treat those of Edom with respect. “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite for he is thy brother” (Deuteronomy 23:7). And note that God gave this command after the Edomites had so callously refused to help them (see Numbers 20:14-21).
This was important for Israel to understand. Though the Israelites and Edomites were of a different stripe spiritually, they were nevertheless related as “brothers,” and the Israelites were to treat then with the necessary respect.
At the end of the day, the Edomites are not the enemy; rather they are pawns in the hands of the “god of this world.” Let us not be confused in our warfare. Again, not all of the Edomites were outside God’s gracious covenant. Some, perhaps including Esau himself, were doubtless saved by the grace of God. And we know, in this gospel dispensation, that there are, and will be, disciples of all the nations. Thus let us be careful that in our stand against the system of Edom that we do not find ourselves alienating individual Edomites. Let us evangelise them with faith that God’s sovereign and saving grace will bless them as well. Believer, we are to love our enemies, especially those who are related to us.
Again, with reference to unsaved family, we would probably admit that they often present the biggest challenge when it comes to living out our faith in Christ. We can often grow frustrated and angered at their calloused and even mocking rejection of our witness. And yet we are to love them, for Jesus’ sake. I am not promising that if you do so that they will necessarily be saved; I am saying that when we respond in a Christlike spirit then the Lord is pleased. And at the end of the day this is our motivation for all that we do.
The Cross and the Edomites
Our worldview affects how we handle the world. If we have a worldview which is rooted in Scripture then we can face the threatening menaces of Edomites with confidence for we rest in God and in His Word. Perhaps there is no greater way for our worldview to be confidently informed than by looking at the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, for it was there that the Edomites were fully defeated.
As mentioned, the Edomites were a bother to God’s people throughout Old Testament history. But as we open the pages of the New Testament we are immediately confronted with the diabolical nature of an infamous King, that is, Herod.
Herod Agrippa was a political manipulator who played around with religion as a means to secure favours. He was also a shameless adulterer (even to the point of incest) and a murderer (even plotting the death of his wives and sons). In fact it was said in his day that it was better to be Herod’s pig than to be his son. In short, he was a despicable individual.
But without a doubt his most evil deed was his command to put all children to death who were under the age of two. As Matthew 2 records, Herod’s insane jealousy at the thought that a rival King had been born (Jesus) motivated his decree for this infanticide. Satan was attempting once again to destroy the Seed of the woman who was destined to crush his head. And Satan’s nation of choice was once again Edom, for Herod hailed from these people.
Once again we are reminded of the fact that God is in control and that in spite of this evil intent, God used it to fulfil His prophecy and promise. In fact it was because of this Idumean (Edomite) that Jesus was taken into Egypt so that he could be called out once again in fulfilment of the type as the true Israel. Yes, the Edomites were relentless and yet God is even more so. Be encouraged!
But Matthew 2 was not the last attempt by the Edomites to destroy God’s people and purposes. Thirty years later the Lord Jesus would stand before another Herod (Antipas) and this mocking, evil king would once again have his hand in the crucifixion of our Saviour. Upon his interview with Jesus, Herod merely amused himself at Jesus’ expense as he mocked our Lord’s previous claim to be King. (And how nobly our Saviour stood silently before this evil man!) Rather than making a righteous stand for truth Herod abused this opportunity for justice to gain political favour with Pilate (see Luke 23:1-15). Of course the result of this was that Jesus Christ was crucified. The younger seemed to be losing out at the hands of the elder. Ah, but things are not always as they seem. For on the cross the Lord Jesus Christ triumphed over the evil one that had motivated the Edomites for centuries. Truly the head of the serpent was crushed by the heel of the Seed and three days later the Lord Jesus Christ came forth alive from the grave and proved His victory. And henceforth the elder has been serving the younger, even when he does not realise it!
Yes, King Jesus is ruling over all those who are of the hated Edomites. They may mock Him, and curse Him and blaspheme His name, and yet He who sits in the heavens merely laughs! The fact of the matter is that all of the evil scheming of the Edomites against God and His children are being used by our sovereign Saviour to fulfil His purposes. He has won, He is winning and He will win. And we who are His people need to embrace this certain and fixed worldview.
May God give us the grace to see that though our enemy is prevalent and seemingly prosperous; in reality this enemy is powerless. God has promised that the elder will serve the younger. It will not come without a struggle, but come it has, and come it will. So, let us know our enemy, but more importantly, let us know our God.