Beware of Edomites
We begin now with the second chapter of Deuteronomy, which continues Moses’ first speech. 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. Deuteronomy 2:1,
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.
A Short History of Esau-Edom
After Jacob lied to his father and pretended to be Esau in order to steal the blessing in Genesis 27:40, 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), who forcibly 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” (Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1). The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1903 edition, says under the heading Edom,
They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation, and their country was called by the Greeks and Romans “Idumea” . . . From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate nation, though the name “Idumea” still existed (in) the time of Jerome.
Because Edom converted to Judaism and was absorbed into the Jewish state a century before Christ, Jewry thereafter had a dual role to play in Bible prophecy. Insofar as their “Judah” role was concerned, the Jews who accepted Christ as King-Messiah were the “good figs” of prophecy (Jeremiah 24). The others who rejected Him were the “evil figs” of the same prophecy and are identified with the fruitless fig tree that Jesus cursed in Matthew 21:19.
That fruitless fig tree had many leaves but no fruit. That is, it had a show of righteousness, but did not bear the fruit that God required in the three-year time of visitation. For this reason, Jesus cursed the fig tree, saying, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforth forever.”
A later prophecy, however, made it clear that this fig tree would come back to life and bear more leaves (Matt. 24:32). This is what took place in 1948 when the Jewish state was established. It has again brought forth leaves, but Jesus said it will not bear fruit. Its fate is to be cut down (Luke 3:8-9; 13:6-9).
When the “good figs” (Christians) were expelled from Judea in the great persecution (Acts 8:1), the “evil figs” remained with the Edomite converts to Judaism. Jewry as such, then, represents the evil figs and the Edomites, while the Church represents true Judah, led by its rightful Heir and King, Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:29).
In the twentieth century, a new political movement arose called Zionism. Many in the Church assumed that the Jews were both Judah and Israel and so they mistook Zionism for the fulfillment of prophecies of Israel’s regathering. It was, in fact, the cursed fig tree returning to life, but it was not the regathering of Israel, which were the northern ten tribes dispersed by Assyria.
There was also a legal problem with Zionism that must be understood. The laws of tribulation in Leviticus 26:40-42 forbade Judah (and any other tribe) from returning to the land apart from repentance. Specifically, they had to repent of “acting with hostility against Me,” that is, against Jesus Christ. The Jews as a whole did not repent in this manner in the years leading up to 1948, and so their return was not done in a lawful way that might procure God’s blessing.
However, there was another prophecy which made Zionism successful in its occupation of Palestine. It was Isaac’s prophecy to Esau-Edom in Genesis 27:40. Because Jacob had taken the Birthright in an unlawful manner, Isaac told Esau that the “dominion” would be given back to him, and that Jacob’s “yoke” would be broken from off Esau’s neck.
In other words, Jacob would have to give back the Birthright to Esau in order to allow Esau time to prove himself unworthy as a “hated son.” The law protected hated sons from being disinherited without cause (Deut. 21:15-17), but a rebellious son could be executed (Deut. 21:18-23) and thus lose his inheritance.
Esau was called a hated son in Malachi 1:3. This designation meant that he was given certain rights by which God protected him from the deceit of his brother, Jacob. Yet in the end, the prophecy that “the older will serve the younger” (Gen. 25:23) would be fulfilled.
In 1948 the Jewish Zionists fulfilled Isaac’s prophecy to Esau-Edom when the Birthright and Dominion Mandate were returned to them after thousands of years. With it went the Birthright Name, Israel, identifying Esau as the one to whom God had given the Birthright. As Jews (Judah) they were prohibited from returning to the land by the divine law, but as Edomites they were allowed to return, as prophesied in Malachi 1,
4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.”
The Zionist Edomites will not succeed in the end, because they will not repent before their nation is destroyed. How do we know? We know because Jesus prophesied it. We know because Malachi prophesied it as well. We know because the law of the rebellious son is linked to the law of the hated son. The rights of the hated son could not protect him from the law after he proved himself to be rebellious and unrepentant.
Of course, all of this began with a case of mistaken identity, and so it ends in the same way. Jacob pretended to be Esau in order to obtain the Birthright by deceit; and so in the end, Esau has regained the Birthright by pretending to be Jacob-Israel.
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 expose his true identity and 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 fulfill another set of prophecies. He 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.
Even Edom Deserves Justice
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. The Zionists today are of this opinion in relation to the Palestinians. But Israel was told to buy their food and water as they passed through Edom.
Those instructions, of course, turned out to be irrelevant in Moses' day, because Edom did not allow them to pass through their territory. The instructions, however, are for us today.
The Modern Detour Around Edom
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 in order to prove ourselves as worthy sons of God.
There are many today who understand 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.
The year 1948 started our detour around Edom in the history of the Kingdom. God’s instructions to Moses in regard to Edom are applicable to us today as well. God will respect Esau’s rights and will grant him justice for what Jacob did to him many years ago. We have no choice but to go the long way around Edom to the Promised Land.