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Deuteronomy--Moses' first speech, Part 6

Jun 19, 2012

There is a natural break between the first two chapters of Deuteronomy, because Moses skips 38 years of history. After reminding Israel of the failure of their first attempt to enter the Promised Land, he immediately jumps ahead to speak of their second entry.

(1) Then we turned and set out for the wilderness by the way to the Red Sea, as the Lord spoke to me, and circled Mount Seir for many days.

Recall that Israel had gone to Kadesh years earlier as a staging ground for entering Canaan. Then they returned 38 years later to Kadesh (Num. 20:1), as if to say they would again be told to enter the land from the south without crossing the Jordan. However, God then redirected them to the Jordan River, telling them to enter from an entirely different direction. That path led through Edom, but the Edomites refused to allow them passage. So God led them to go around Edom (or Mount Seir).

(2) And the Lord spoke to me, saying, (3) "You have circled this mountain long enough. Now turn north. . ."

In Deut. 1:6 we find that this word actually came while they were camping at Mount Horeb, telling them to return to Kadesh. Moses leaves out quite a few details in this speech.

(4) "and command the people, saying, 'You will pass though the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; (5) do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession'."

Israel was told to be very careful not to provoke the Edomites on the grounds that they were "your brothers the sons of Esau." The feud between the two brothers ran deep, and any small incident could spark a war. Because Esau had received a promise from his father Isaac, it was necessary that the nation be in existence to fulfill that promise.

After Jacob lied to his father and pretended to be Esau in order to steal the blessing in Genesis 27, Isaac told Esau, "When you shall have the dominion [mandate], you will break his [Jacob's] yoke from off your neck." In time, the Edomites were conquered and absorbed into Jewry (126 B.C.), as virtually all historians know. The Wikipedia says,

"Judas Maccabeus conquered their territory for a time in around 163 BCE. They were again subdued by John Hyrcanus (c. 125 BCE), whoforcibly converted them to Judaism and incorporated them into the Jewish nation, despite the opposition of the pharisees. Antipater the Idumaean, the progenitor of the Herodian Dynasty that ruled Judea after the Roman conquest, was of Edomite origin."


The first century historian, Josephus, tells us that "they were hereafter no other than Jews." And so Jewry thereafter had a dual role in Bible prophecy, having to fulfill two sets of prophecy. As representatives of Edom, the political movement known as Zionism arose in the past century in order to fulfill this prophetic promise to Esau-Edom. Hence, in a reversal of Jacob's sin, the Zionists pretended to be Israelites and lied about their identity in order to obtain the dominion. This succeeded in 1948 with the establishment of the Israeli state.

The potential had existed for true Israel to receive their inheritance at the same time, but the Israeli state (prophetic Edom, or Mount Seir) stood in the way. Hence, the true inheritors (overcomers) have had to go around them for "many days" in order to arrive at the border of the genuine Kingdom of God, whose King is Jesus Christ.

Esau has thus received his due, conquering the land of Palestine according to his desire (Mal. 1:4; Ezekiel 35:10). When he has had sufficient time to prove his bloodthirsty character (Ez. 35:6), then God will remove the dominion from him. The Israeli state then will receive the divine judgment prophesied against Mount Seir in Ezekiel 34 and 35, the book of Obadiah, and in Malachi 1:1-4.

At the same time, God will "cast out the bondwoman," that is, Hagar, who Paul identifies as the old Jerusalem (Gal. 4:25). Jerusalem will be destroyed in such a way that she will never again be repaired or rebuilt (Jer. 19:11). This will undoubtedly be fulfilled through nuclear war, as Isaiah 29:1-6 describes.

Yet throughout all of this, there is one other great lesson to be learned from Moses' words in Deut. 2:4-7. Israelites were to be careful not to provoke Edom, but to treat them with justice.

(6) You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink. (7) For the Lord your God has blessed you in all that you have done; He has known your wanderings through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord our God has been with you; you have not lacked a thing.

It was common in those days to treat other nations as if they had no right to exist. If given opportunity, nations would regularly invade and plunder the wealth of another nation, if they thought they might get away with it. But Israel was told to buy their food and water as they passed through Edom.

Those instructions, of course, were irrelevant in Moses' day, because Edom did not allow them to pass through their territory. The instructions, however, are for us today. We must recognize that God has established the Israeli state, not to fulfill His promises to Abraham, but to fulfill His obligation to Esau-Edom. The promises to Abraham are fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, not the old city, for Abraham himself sought "a better country, that is a heavenly one" (Heb. 11:16). That city cannot be found apart from faith in Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we are the children of Sarah, not Hagar (Gal. 4:26, 31), and this makes us the true inheritors of the Kingdom. Our main rival today is Edom (Zionism), although Ishmael (Islam) is also asserting himself as a contender for the inheritance. God Himself will sort out these claims, give everyone his due, and adjudicate the case with perfect justice. Meanwhile, we are to be careful to give all men equal justice.

There are many today who understand the origin of Zionism as an Edomite desire to inherit the old land of Canaan, but who react to it in an unlawful manner. We ought to adopt God's attitude toward Edom, rather than to return hatred for hatred. Obviously, the Edomites hated the Israelites. But God called them "your brothers the sons of Esau." Later, in Deut. 23:7, God said, "You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother."

There are many today who hate Jews, and Zionists in particular, on the grounds that they are Edomites. Yet knowing their identity as Edomites is the reason NOT to hate them, according to the divine law. While I certainly object to the Zionists' treatment of the Palestinian people, my objection is based upon their violation of the law and the fact that the Zionists do not act in accordance with the love of Christ.

On the other hand, I recognize that it was Jacob's lack of faith in Genesis 27 that has brought about the present situation. If Jacob had not pretended to be Esau, Esau would not be pretending to be Jacob today.  The case of mistaken identity in Genesis 27 is being repeated inversely today in order that God might do justice to Esau.

It is important for us to recognize what God is doing, and why, for then we can rest in His wisdom and marvel at His justice which is dispensed equally to all men.

This is the sixth part of a series titled "Moses' First Speech." To view all parts, click the link below.

Moses' First Speech

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Category: God's Law

Dr. Stephen Jones

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