The Tragedy of Edom

by Steven Chan
27 March 2011

God spoke through His prophet Obadiah concerning what He would do to the nation of Edom. Their fate was described as follows: “I will make you small among the nations; you shall be greatly despised. And they shall be as though they had never been. And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken.” (Obadiah 1:2, 16, 18). At page 30 of bro Homer Hailey’s Commentary on the Minor Prophets, published in 1972, he observed thus: “by 100AD, they (i.e. the Edomites) had become lost to history.”

The tragedy is that Edom descended from Esau (Gen 36:8,9), the eldest son of Isaac and he was a brother of Jacob (also know as Israel) and yet, such a terrible fate would befall them. The people of Edom were close relatives of the people of Israel – in fact God refers to Esau’s treatment of the people of Israel as treatments of his brother, Jacob (Obadiah 1:10). How could such a terrible fate befall Esau when his brother, Jacob was so blessed by God? They both descended from Isaac, a godly man who was richly blessed by God – and yet the end of Edom was tragically the opposite of that for the descendants of Jacob.

The Bible explains what happened and why Edom had to suffer such a tragic end. The first reason was given in Obadiah 1:3-4: “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; you who say in your heart,

‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.” They had a heart problem! That’s why they would not last long. God saw their hearts. He saw “pride” in their heart; He heard what they said in their heart, “who will bring me down?”

Pride is a problem because it may be well hidden in our hearts and not readily known to all. Therein is the danger. But God sees the heart: “For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”(1 Sam 16:7). In Acts 1:24-25, the disciples prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship…” 1 Chron 28:9, King David counselled his son Solomon thus: “know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.”

In Psa 101:1-5, the Psalmist says: “I will sing of mercy and justice; to You, O LORD, I will sing praises. I will behave wisely in a perfect way. Oh, when will You come to me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; the one who has a haughty look and a proud heart, him I will not endure.”

God sees our heart as to whether we are truly loyal to Him: Consider the account recorded in 2 Chron 16:7-9: “And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said to him: “Because you have relied on the king of Syria, and have not relied on the LORD your God, therefore the army of the king of Syria has escaped from your hand. Were the Ethiopians and the Lubim not a huge army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the LORD, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. In this you have done foolishly; therefore from now on you shall have wars.” The eyes of the Lord look for those whose heart is LOYAL to Him. He looks inside us: “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”(Heb 4:12-13).

In 1 Peter 5:5-7 Christians are similarly exhorted: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Humility and reliance upon God go hand in hand.

Whenever we sign the hymn, “have thy affections been nailed to the cross? Is thy heart right with God? Dost thou count all things for Jesus but loss? Is thy heart right with God?” we will do well to reflect upon our lives whether our heart is truly loyal to God in terms of our trust and reliance on Him.

God gave another reason for the obliteration of the nation of Edom from the earth: “For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side– in the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem–
Even you were as one of them.”(Obadiah 1:10-11) God accused them of “violence against his brother Jacob” as well as “standing on the other side” when the Israelites were being attacked and taken captive – they did nothing to help their brethren. Instead they gloated over their helpless situation.

Why did Edom behave in such a manner? In Amos 1:11, thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because he pursued his brother with the sword, and cast off all pity; his anger tore perpetually,
And he kept his wrath forever.” One version states that Edom’s “anger had no limits, and they never let it die.” They were probably angry because of what Jacob did to Esau when he bought his birthright and also took over the blessings from their father, Isaac. Though their forefathers had been dead for a long time, the descendants of Esau were probably still simmering with anger of what had happened in the past.

In Eph 4:26-27, the Bible caution us: “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.” We should be careful that we do not harbor anger and hatred against anyone to such an extent that it is perpetuated throughout our lives – then the devil will grab that opportunity to cause our downfall as he did with Edom. Are you angry with your brother or any close relatives for what they may have done to you? Any sense of injustice that continues to fuel that anger that burns within? Have you let the sun go down on your wrath?

Let us remember the tragic end of Edom because of their pride and their deep-seated anger against their own kindred. The Bible exhorts us in Eph 4:31-32: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”