Edom of the Latter Days

Chapter 4

Edom was the land occupied by Esau and his descendants. The country included Mount Seir, an elevated region stretching from the Gulf of Elath on the Red Sea to south of the Dead Sea; and also to the east of this region (see Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible).

The condition of the region then was totally different from the present; it was well-vegetated and fruitful, and was also prosperous because of the east-west trade route through from Egypt to Mesopotamia. In the times of the Greeks and Romans Edom was called Idumea. Today the land of Edom is part of Jordan.

Edom finds frequent mention in the prophecies. It occurs in one of the earliest national prophecies of Israel. Balaam said that when the Star should come out of Jacob and the Sceptre arise out of Israel, then Edom should be a possession, Seir should be a possession for his enemies, and Israel should do valiantly (Num. 24:17-18). Isaiah has the great overthrow of the nations at Bozrah in Idumea; Jeremiah as he deals with the nations around Israel has 16 verses on Edom in chapter 49; Ezekiel includes Edom in his prophecy against the seven Gentile powers, telling us that God would lay his vengeance on Edom by the hand of his people Israel (Ezekiel 25); and later he has a whole chapter of prophecy against Mount Seir in the time of the End (Ezekiel 35); and then there is the whole prophecy of Obadiah on Edom; with the final picture of saviours coming up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord’s. There are a number of shorter references, as Joel 3:19; Isa. 11:14; Psa. 83:6.

Edom is part of the south lands that we have been considering in the previous chapter, and we would expect it to be directly involved. We have already come across the “people of his curse” receiving judgment in Edom, in studying Isaiah chapter 34. In reaching a correct picture of Edom in the latter days there is a peculiarity we must clearly have in mind.

The Representative Character of Edom in the Latter Days

The peculiarity about Edom is that it does not now exist as a national entity, and this must create some difficulty in interpreting the prophecies concerning it. Under Turkish rule there were no distinct nations in the region of Palestine and Arabia for centuries. In the present century the Turk has been removed from the whole region. After the First World War France was given a mandate over Syria and Lebanon; Britain a mandate over Iraq, Jordan and Iran (Persia), and also control over Saudi Arabia. The spirit of nationalism has grown rapidly in the intervening 70 years, and is intensely manifest today. All the countries mentioned have, of course, by now become independent. Long ago Jeremiah had prophesied of a revival of nationality in this region “in the latter days”. We are not referring here particularly to the return of the Jews, but to other surrounding countries. In Jeremiah chapter 48: “Yet will I bring again the captivity of Moab in the latter days, saith the Lord”. Similar words are used of Ammon and Elam. Elam stands for Persia—we remember that Nehemiah was cupbearer to Artaxerxes king of Persia at Shushan the palace in Elam (Neh. 2:1)—and we have seen in our times the emergence of Iran (Persia) as the latter-day Elam. The latter-day Moab and Ammon we find in Jordan. Now although the same chapter in Jeremiah includes a prophecy against Edom, it does not say that God would bring again the captivity of Edom in the latter days! and this agrees with the situation today that there is no separate nation inhabiting the region of Mount Seir.

The prophecies on Edom have a peculiar emphasis on her complete desolation. This is seen in Jeremiah’s words in chapter 49; and they are parallel with the earlier words of Isaiah chapter 34: “For I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes...Also Edom shall be a desolation: everyone that goeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah and the neighbouring cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it” (Jer. 49:13, 17, 18)). The history of Edom until it disappeared can be followed in Josephus The Antiquities of the Jews, using the index. During the Babylonian captivity Edom took many towns in Judah, including Hebron. These towns were re-conquered, and Edom overrun in the time of the Maccabees under John Hyrcanus. This was a fulfilment of the words of Ezekiel 25:14: “I will lay my vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel”. The Edomites were compelled to be circumcised, and were absorbed into the Jewish nation; their national name became extinct. As to the whole area becoming a desolation, this is covered in detail in Keith’s Evidence of Prophecy. A whole chapter of 50 pages is devoted to Edom. He quotes from historians, and from the remarkable ruins that have been found, to show that in early days it was a flourishing country, with Petra as a centre of the caravan routes. He also quotes extensively from the travels of Burckhardt to show the complete desolation of this mountainous deserted region; and there has been little change in recent years. Edom’s desolation is a monument to the truth of the prophecies of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

Edom like Babylon

It will help us in understanding Edom in the latter days to note the similarity it has with Babylon. Babylon, like Edom, was under God’s judgment to be a perpetual desolation. “And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldee’s excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation...but wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures” (Isa. 13:19-22). The truthfulness of this prophecy is well-known. For many, many centuries Babylon has been no more than mounds of sand against the skyline. It is only in the last century or so that the ruins have been excavated by archaeologists. So it is impossible to give the prophecies regarding Babylon in the latter days a geographical basis, and we have to interpret them in the light of the prophecy in the Revelation on Babylon the Great. This Babylon of the latter days is a despotic Christian system of government, whose ways are, and will be, like those of the original Babylon; characterised by idolatry, witchcraft, a powerful priesthood, and apostacy from the true God. This system of government will be centred on Europe, though the territory controlled may well include the original Chaldea; but its capital will certainly not be Babylon on the Euphrates.

Edom of the latter days has to be understood in a somewhat similar way to Babylon. If we ask, what is the antitype of Edom, as Babylon the Great is the antitype of Babylon, that answer will be found in studying the character of the original Edom; and this takes us back to the very beginning, to the relation of Esau with Jacob. The salient features of their relationship were:

(1) Before they were born Rebekah was told, “two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels”.

(2) Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. Esau followed his natural feelings, Jacob had regard to God, and had faith. Esau was willing to sell his birthright, and Paul describes him in the light of this as a fornicator and profane person (Heb. 12:16). In brief he was a despiser of divine promises and a lover of this present world.

(3) Hence God said through Malachi: “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9:13).

(4) Finally, Esau hated his brother and would have taken his life.

So Esau or Edom stands in the scriptures for the despisers of God’s promises and haters of Israel. In the latter day antitype, this fits Christianity, and also the hostile neighbours around Israel. Christianity scorns the truth and literality of God’s promises, and teaches its fancies of souls going to heaven; it regards Israel as cast off for ever from God, and no longer related to His promises; it desecrates His city and land with its temples; and sees not the purpose of God in the return of Israel to their land. As Esau (Edom) at the beginning, by birth, was in the line of Promises through Abraham and Isaac but turned his back on them, so Christianity was originally in the line of God’s promises in the days of the apostles, but became apostate. At present Christianity’s unbelief and scorn are largely passive, but this will turn to active hatred and war against Israel when Christ returns.

There being no nation now centred on Edom, we must see the latter day prophecies of Edom fulfilled by representative people. Isaiah chapter 34 says God will gather all nations into Edom. All the Christian nations of Europe, incorporated into the Image of Nebuchadnezzar, will be brought into the land, and will clash with Christ first at Bozrah in Edom. Ezekiel chapter 35 is also a prophecy about Edom and Mount Seir, and its latter-day aspect has this representative character. The prophet describes the desolation that came upon the original people of Edom for their hatred of Israel, and he uses this as a pattern of the great destruction of peoples who behave against Israel in the latter days as Edom did. Mount Seir is a symbol for the enemies of Israel, and their spirit is expressed in the charge God makes against Mount Seir, “I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou has spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying they are laid waste, they are given to us to consume” (v. 12). God says he has heard this “boasting” and “the multiplying of words against me” (v. 13); and as a result: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoices, I will make thee desolate”. We cannot give this latter-day part of the prophecy a literal fulfilment, because the land of Edom has already been desolate for centuries. And in the future the land of Edom will not be desolate; it will belong to one of the tribes of Israel, when the whole land is made like the garden of the Lord. So one is driven to give the latter-day Mount Seir a representative character. This we shall find is also necessary in the prophecy of Obadiah. The antitypical or representative interpretation of Mount Seir in the latter days is set out in Bro. H.P. Mansfield’s booklet Ezekiel’s Prophecies of the Restoration, in the chapter “The Doom of Those who Hate Israel”. Bro. Thomas has a 10 page article on the subject in the 1857 Herald of The Kingdom and Age to Come (page 73), in which he shows in detail how Christendom has “spoken blasphemies against the mountains of Israel” in their treatment of the land and the city, and in their doctrines that deny God’s good promises to the land of Israel.

The prophecy of Obadiah has to be treated in the same way as Ezekiel chapter 35. Most of the prophecy, verses 1-14, describes Esau’s unbrotherly behaviour against Jacob, when the Babylonians invaded the land. Then in verses 15 and 16 Edom is equated with “all the heathen”; “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done to thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been”. While this in some degree had a fulfilment in Obadiah’s time, the two verses provide the key to Obadiah’s prophecy, that Edom is a pattern of what “all the heathen” will do, and receive from the Lord at a future time.

From this verse onward in Obadiah, the picture is clearly in the future. The section opens: “But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness...” “Holiness”—yes; Jesus returned as “Yahweh our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). A phrase is then introduced, “the House of Esau” and the House of Jacob. These two houses are two lines of descent, the serpent seed and the woman’s seed. Christ is the head of the House of Jacob, which includes all Israel in the new covenant. The Man of Sin is the head of the House of Esau. At Christ’s coming the hatred of Esau for Jacob will come to a head, and those whom God calls “profane” and “blasphemers” will be burnt up as stubble. Or in the language of Daniel Chapter 2, the Image shall be blown away as chaff by the wind.

It is interesting that the Jews regarded the Gentile nations as Esau, and they called the Roman captivity “galuth Edom” (Ministry of the Prophets, Isaiah Chapter 34; C.C. Walker). Also in Acts chapter 15, James quoting from Amos 9:11 uses “Gentiles” in place of Edom in the original reference.

The Arab People Today

The antagonism of Esau to Jacob can be brought forward to the attitude of the Arabs to Israel today. In this sense the Arabs can be thought of as part of Edom of the latter days. But we must be careful; this can only be done in a figurative way: the Arabs today do not directly fulfil the prophecies of Edom. “Arabs” today of course covers a variety of nations, beyond the true Arabs of Arabia. But approximately it covers those people who are predominantly Mohammedans. Now Mahomet claimed to be a descendant of Ishmael not Esau. So Arabs today are not the seed of Esau; though by their behaviour they may show themselves as belonging to “the House of Esau” along with other nations.

Edom and Moab Escape out of his Hand (Daniel 11:41)

The King of the North enters into the glorious land, has control of Egypt, but does not appear to take Edom and Moab, according to Daniel 11:41—“Edom and Moab shall escape out of his hand”. This seems to be out of harmony with there being a great slaughter in the land of Edom and at Bozrah (Isaiah chapter 34). If Edom is a battle ground, can it be said it escapes out of his hand? Examination of the Hebrew for “escape” in Strong’s Concordance shows that the word is different from that used for “the land of Egypt shall not escape”. The Revised Version takes note of this and says, “Edom shall be delivered out of his hand”. The same Hebrew word is used in Daniel 12:1, “At that time thy people shall be delivered”. The sense could therefore be that the enemy temporarily penetrates the land of Edom and Moab, and it is then delivered out of his hand. No doubt, with such vast movements of armies at this time, and the Tarshish Powers also contending against the southward push by the victorious northern armies, the military position will be fluid.

The Land of Edom

We have seen that there is no specific people or nation of Edom today to fulfil latter-day prophecies. So we have taken the House of Esau and Mount Seir in a representative sense of (1) nations who assemble in the land of Edom in the great conflict with Christ; and (2) the wider conflict throughout the earth between the despisers of God’s Word and haters of his people, Messiah and Israel.

Notwithstanding this representative character of Edom in the latter days, the actual land of Edom finds mention. We recall the prophecy of Balaam, that “Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly” (Num. 24:18). The land promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18) includes the land of Edom, and will belong to Israel in the future. See also Obadiah v. 19 and Isaiah 11:14.

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