Study of a Lost Nation

By Bill Echols

When Obadiah spoke out against Edom he said, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou I shalt be cut off for I ever.” (Verse 10) A1- so he said, “There I shalt not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Verse 18) When God through His prophets speaks concerning nations, the things spoken come to pass. This is true of Edom. Edom as a nation is extinct. Lost from the maps of the world it is a reminder to all that God’s word is not void.

Students of the Bible know that the Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin. Although twins, these sons of Isaac were opposites in many ways. The differences between the brothers were handed down to their respective descendants, the Edomites and the Israelites. Does history record another set of brothers who each fathered a nation with each nation’s history so interwoven with the other’s? Truly their struggle together in the womb of their mother was continued in the nations they produced.

Before the birth of the twins God told Rebekah, “Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” ( Gen. 25: 23) The Bible enables us to trace the fulfillment of this prophecy and most of the history of Edom until the words of Obadiah came to pass when Esau was “cut off for ever.”

According to the announcement made to Rebekah, each son was to become a nation. Esau was the father of the Edomites. (Gen. 36:43) The size of the land of Edom varied in different periods of its history. Centered around Mount Seir (Gen. 36:8), it once extended from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea at Eziongeber. (I Kings 9:26) Jacob’s blessing upon Esau promised, “Behold, thy dwelling shall be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above.” (Gen. 27:39) When the possessions of Jacob and Esau became so great that the land of Canaan could not contain them both, Esau moved to dwell in Seir. (Gen. 36:6-8) There the Edomites continued to grow in wealth. Edom was a wealthy nation with kings as rulers while Israel was still in Egyptian slavery. (Gen. 36:31)

The land of Seir lay south and east of the land promised to Israel. This made it necessary for the Israelites to pass through Edom on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. In Numbers 20: 17, as Israel sought passage through Edom, we learn more of the great wealth of the Edomites. “Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells.” The hillsides were terraced to yield abundantly. Palaces were built in major cities. (Amos 1:12)

Isaac further told Esau, “And by thy sword shalt thou live.” (Gen. 27:40) Edom was possessed with a war-like spirit. (Psalm 137:7) It was by the sword that the children of Esau took Seir from the Horites. (Deut. 2:12, 22) Edom never relinquished the sword. The Chronicler records, “For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives.” (II Chron. 28: 17) Such constant warfare resulted in the ultimate downfall of the Edomite nation. (Obad. 8,9) Edom had long considered itself safe in an impenetrable mountain fortress. “The pride of shine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground.” (Obad. 3) God showed that all the accomplishments of men couldn’t prevent His judgment arid punishment upon the sinner. Let us not, as individuals or collectively as churches, become proud or think ourselves as beyond the judgments of God. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16: 18) “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jas. 4:6) “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (I Cor. 10: 12)

Edom, according to Isaac’s prophecy, was to serve the descendants of Jacob. “And thou shalt serve thy brother.” (Gen. 27:40) This was fulfilled in David’s time. “And all the Edomites became servants to David.” (II Sam. 8: 14) But Isaac also prophesied that Esau would throw off this yoke. (Gen. 27:40)

Israel’s yoke on Edom was broken when Joram was king of Judah. “In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and made a king over themselves.” (II Kings 8:20) This freedom was not long lasting as Amaziah “slew of Edom in the valley of salt ten thousand, and took Selah by war, and called the name of it Jokteel unto this day.” (II Kings 14:7) His son Azariah continued to add Edomite territory to Judah. (II Kings 14:22) Under the reign of king Ahaz, Edom was again free. This freedom was maintained until the time of Judas Maccabaeus who subdued the Edomites and laid waste many of their cities. Edom later lost national identity. Many of the people were absorbed into the Jewish nation. In the New Testament the land Edom once possessed was known as Idumaea (Mark 3:8), but this has long since passed. The land of Edom is “cut off for ever.”

What lessons can we learn from this nation that was but is not? We have already observed that pride was part of the cause of Edom’s fall. Her treachery was another. Obadiah stated specifically that Edom was to be cut off “for the violence done to thy brother Jacob.” (vs. 10) The first record of such violence was the refusal to allow Israel to pass through Edomite territory. (Num. 20: 14-22) Later when Judah was oppressed by the Philistines and others. Edom joined the oppressors. (II Chron. 28:17, 18) “Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. ” (Joel 3:19) Can we today expect less when we “bite and devour one another?” (Gal. 5: 15)

From this study it is obvious that God does not approve people of violence and vengeance. God’s people must manifest no desire for vengeance. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19) We are often made to wonder if some of our brethren’s actions are not prompted more by a desire of vengeance than a love for the truth. The only warfare God requires of His people is spiritual. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” (II Cor. 10.4)

From this study of Edom we can also see the fulfillment of God’s promises. Obadiah said to Edom, “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee, thy reward shall return upon shine own head.” (vs. 15) We have found things to be just as he said. Thus we can know that those things spoken concerning the end of time and eternity will also be as God has spoken. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28, 29) “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Rev. 2:10) Let us learn that the Word of God endureth forever.

“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11).

Truth Magazine, VI: 6, pp. 5-7
March 1962