Should Christians Support Israel? Part 7
Jun 02, 2011
There is another very important prophetic case of mistaken identity in biblical history. Once again, it involves a dispute over who is truly "chosen" to fulfill the Abrahamic covenant and to dispense the blessings of God to all families of the earth.
This is the story of Esau and Jacob, who struggled with each other even before the twins were born. When their mother was pregnant, the twins seemed to be fighting already (Gen. 25:22), so she sought revelation from God.
(23) And the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger."
We are not told which son would be "stronger," but we are told clearly that "the older shall serve the younger." Esau was the older son (and probably the stronger as well), but it was prophesied that he would be subject to his brother, Jacob. This knowledge was probably the cause of their rivalry, because Esau did not want to accept the prophecy. After all, he was the older, and the law therefore favored him.
The right of the first-born was reflected in the days of Moses (Deut. 21:15-18), for a man could not disinherit his first-born son without cause. Only if the first-born son turned out to be a rebellious or stubborn son could he be disinherited (Deut. 21:19-21).
When Isaac thought that the day of his death was approaching, he decided to pass the blessing to his first-born son, that is, to Esau. Jacob then pretended to be Esau in order to trick his father into giving him the blessing. This only worked because Isaac was blind (Gen. 27:1). This ruse was recorded in Gen. 27:15-19,
(15) Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. (16) And she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. . . (19) And Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your first-born. . ."
Jacob lied in order to obtain the blessing. No doubt he justified his lie on the grounds of the prophecy before his birth. After all, it appeared that the prophecy might fail without some fleshly help. A little sin seemed small in comparison to the "good" that it could accomplish.
He was deceived in his own heart, even as he deceived his father. God is perfectly capable of fulfilling His purposes, even if it does not appear to be possible. But Jacob was yet young. Though he was a believer, he was not yet an overcomer. He was not yet renamed Israel.
As a result of his deception, Isaac prophesied to Esau in verse 40,
Rotherham's The Emphasized Bible:
"And on thy sword shalt thou live, and thy brother shalt thou serve; But it shall come to pass when thou shalt rove at large, then shalt thou break his yoke from off thy neck."
Young's Literal Translation:
"And by thy sword doest thou live, and thy brother dost thou serve; and it hath come to pass when thou rulest, that thou hast broken his yoke from off thy neck."
The Septuagint (Greek version translated by 70 Jewish scholars 2 centuries before Christ):
"And thou shalt live by thy sword, and shalt serve thy brother; and there shall be a time when thou shalt break and loosen his yoke from off thy neck."
These agree that at some point in history Esau would obtain dominion over Jacob and would no longer serve his brother. This was Isaac's prophecy on account of Jacob's deception. He recognized that Jacob had disinherited Esau in an unlawful manner. Esau had not yet had time to prove himself unworthy, so Isaac could not lawfully disinherit him.
Hence, at some point in history Jacob would have to give back the dominion to Esau, so that Esau would have time to prove himself unworthy. Only then could he be finally disinherited by due process of law.
In later history, Esau's descendants formed a nation of their own and were called Edom (Gen. 36:1). The Edomites moved south to the country of Seir, or Mount Seir (Gen. 36:8), and this became their inheritance instead of Canaan. Seir is today known as the Negev, and it is the lower portion of the state of Israel, extending to the Gulf of Aqaba.
The Greek form of this name was Idumea. This Greek form is used in the Septuagint and also carries into the King James version of Ezekiel 35:15 and 36:5. It is important to know that Edom is Idumea, because this Greek form is common in the history books.
In 126 B.C. the Judean general Hyrcanus conquered the Idumeans (Edomites) and forcibly converted them to Judaism. The Jewish historian, Josephus, tells us this in Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1:
"Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would be circumcised and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision and the rest of the Jews' way of living; at which time, therefore, this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews."
The Jewish Encyclopedia (1903 edition) acknowledges this in its commentary on Edom:
"They were again subdued by John Hyrcanus (c. 125 B.C.) by which they were forced to observe Jewish rites and laws (ib. 9, par. 1; xiv. 4, par. 4). They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation, and their country was called by the Greeks and Romans 'Idumea' (Mark iii. 8; Ptolemy, Geography v. 16) . . . . From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate people, though the name 'Idumea' still existed (in) in the time of Jerome."
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia (1970 ed.) says under "Edom" (p. 587),
"The Edomites were conquered by John Hyrcanus, who forcibly converted them to Judaism, and from then on they constituted a part of the Jewish people."
There is no nation today called Edom or Idumea. There is no ethnic group that claims to be Edomite. The Edomites were conquered and absorbed into the nation of Judea, having become Jews in the century before the birth of Jesus.
So what does this mean? How does this play into the prophecy of Isaac and all of the other prophecies of Edom in Scripture?
The simple answer is that the Jews absorbed the Edomites, and therefore the end-time prophecies of Edom must be fulfilled by the Jews themselves--along with the prophecies of the evil figs of Judah. Not only was Edom a man of violence and force, but also the evil fig faction within Judah exhibited the same tendency toward violence. Their merger was a marriage made in--well, somewhere.
The prophetic implication of this plain and accepted history has not been fully recognized either by Judaism or by Christianity as a whole.
If the Idumeans had been converted by a genuine love for God, instead of by the desire to remain in their homes after being conquered, then their citizenship would have been transferred to the Kingdom of God. But their forcible conversion only merged them with the earthly nation of Judea. Their rebellious hearts are well documented by Josephus, particularly their rabid violence during the Roman war from 70-73 A.D. The final Idumean battle at Masada ended that war on Passover of 73 A.D., precisely 40 years after Jesus was crucified.
We will continue this next time.
This is the seventh part of a series titled "Should Christians Support Israel?." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones