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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Ezekiel 35

Chapter 35 The Denunciation of Edom.

The question must be asked as to why the denunciation of Mount Seir (Edom) is found in the midst of these chapters about deliverance? The answer must lie in the fact that it is in deliberate contrast with Israel’s fate and restoration. Note how ‘Mount Seir’ (the mountain range of Edom) is in contrast with ‘the mountains of Israel’, the mountain backbone of Israel (Ezekiel 35:3; Ezekiel 35:7; Ezekiel 35:15; with Ezekiel 35:12; Ezekiel 36:8. Also compare Ezekiel 35:8 with Ezekiel 36:6). And how ‘Behold I am against you, O Mount Seir’ (Ezekiel 35:3) contrasts with, ‘O mountains of Israel, -- behold I am for you and I will turn to you’ (Ezekiel 36:8-9).

Furthermore Ezekiel 36:1-16 are directly connected with chapter 35 by the fact that ‘the word of Yahweh came to me saying’ (Ezekiel’s way of dividing the oracles) occurs only in Ezekiel 35:1 and then in Ezekiel 36:16. The whole was seen as one oracle.

While the blessing of Yahweh will come on His people, it will be accompanied by judgment on others who have despised His people. And Edom as the bitterest enemy of Israel were selected for the contrast, partly because they shared a similar situation to Judah in their connection with the Jordan rift and its surrounding mountains, and largely because their betrayal was most recently in mind. And even more because they thought that they could take possession of Yahweh’s land which He had given to His people. It demonstrated that it was always dangerous to meddle with the people of God even when they also were under chastening.

The despicable behaviour of Edom during and after the invasion, in that they turned back fleeing refugees to the swords of the Babylonians, probably to earn the commendation of Nebuchadnezzar and so that they could possess the land, and then later plundered the suffering land as a result, was still warm in the memory and merited their being especially remembered in this way. It is a stark warning that when God is blessing not all will receive the blessing. God blesses His own and punishes their enemies. Their enemies will reap what they have sown, especially when they have been so vindictive. For God is the God of all nations and is not to be thwarted by any.

Verses 1-4

‘Moreover the word of Yahweh came to me saying, “Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it, and say to it, Thus says the Lord Yahweh, Behold I am against you, O Mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against you, and I will make you a desolation and an astonishment. I will lay your cities waste and you will be desolate, and you will know that I am Yahweh.” ’

Mount Seir (Edom) had no doubt gloated over what was happening to Judah, but now they learn that it would also happen to them. They too would suffer as Judah had previously done at the hand of Yahweh (compare Ezekiel 33:28; Ezekiel 12:20; Ezekiel 19:7). Their betrayal would not save them from the hand of God. There would be total devastation.

‘Mount Seir’ refers especially to the continuation of the Jordan rift valley after it passes the Dead Sea, the land where Petra (Sela) is to be found. It was in that mountainous region that the Edomites lived and revealed their almost perpetual enmity towards Judah and Israel.

Verse 5

“Because you had a perpetual enmity, and have poured out the children of Israel to the power of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time of the final iniquity (iniquity of the end).”

This is the reason for their condemnation, their perpetual enmity towards the people of God, vividly again revealed in recent days. In mind therefore is their perpetual enmity and betrayal. It is clear continually that Edom did have a perpetual enmity against Israel and Judah. See Genesis 25:22-34; Genesis 27:1-41; Genesis 36:1; Numbers 20:14-21; Numbers 24:15-19; 1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:13-14; 1Ki 11:14-22 ; 2 Kings 8:21; 2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 20:1-23; 2 Chronicles 28:17; Psalms 137:7; Isaiah 1:11-16; Isaiah 34:1-17; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Lamentations 4:21-22; Daniel 11:41; Amos 1:11-12; Obadiah 1:10-14; Malachi 1:2-5). They were constant enemies.

But especially in mind are their cold, cynical acts when Judah desperately needed help. Ammon received refugees, Egypt received refugees, but Edom did not. They turned them back at the frontiers. This is probably what is in mind in their ‘pouring out of the children of Israel to the power of the sword’. It may, however, refer to their subsequent invasion of the land (see Ezekiel 35:10).

‘In the time of their calamity, in the time of the final iniquity.’ This almost certainly refers to the fall of Jerusalem, and the subsequent events that followed when Israel perpetrated their final iniquity.

Verse 6

“Therefore as I live, says the Lord Yahweh, I will prepare you for blood, and blood will pursue you. Since you have not hated blood, therefore blood will pursue you.”

Edom have not hated the shedding of blood, but have delivered God’s people to death. Therefore God will prepare blood for them, that is will arrange for their slaughter, just as they arranged for the slaughter of God’s people. And this is guaranteed by the fact that God, the God whom they have opposed, is the living God. Notice the fourfold mention of blood. The word for blood is related to that for Edom (mentioned in Ezekiel 35:15), so this may be a deliberate play on words. But Edom were kin to Israel, and were therefore blood guilty.

Verses 7-9

“Thus will I make Mount Seir an astonishment and a desolation, and I will cut off from it the one who passes through and the one who returns. And I will fill his mountains with his slain. In your hills and in your valleys and in all your watercourses they will fall who are slain with the sword. I will make you into perpetual desolations, and your cities will not be inhabited, and you will know that I am Yahweh.”

This is a clear contrast to what has happened to Israel. Compare Ezekiel 36:4. The hills and the valleys and the watercourses of Israel had been desolated. They had been made a desolate waste and their cities had been forsaken. They had become a prey and a derision. And Edom had taken advantage of it. Now they will suffer similarly themselves. Thus will they know Who Israel’s God is.

‘And I will cut off from it the one who passes through and the one who returns.’ A Hebraism to signify everyone without exception.

‘I will make you into perpetual desolations.’ Compare Isaiah 34:5-15. It is the final sentence from which there is no recovery.

Verses 10-13

“Because you have said, ‘These two nations and these two countries will be mine, and we will possess it’, whereas Yahweh was there. Therefore as I live says the Lord Yahweh, I will act in accordance with your anger, and in accordance with your envy which you have shown in your hatred against them, and I will make myself known among them, when I judge you. And you will know that I, Yahweh, have heard all your blasphemies which you have spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, ‘They are laid desolate, they are given to us to devour’. And you have magnified yourselves against me, with your mouth, and have multiplied your words against me. I have heard it.”

Edom were guilty of two major crimes. They considered that they could annex the land that belonged to Yahweh, His possession, and they had magnified themselves (and their gods) against Yahweh. The two nations here are Israel and Judah. But the land belonged to Yahweh. ‘Yahweh was there’, as they well knew. Thus in saying what they did they were despising Yahweh.

Furthermore their acts were acts of anger and jealousy against their ‘brothers’, acts which therefore drew on them Yahweh’s retribution. Thus when the retribution came Israel and Judah would recognise in it the hand of Yahweh, ‘I will make myself known among them when I judge you’.

And their words against the mountains of Israel were blasphemy, because while those mountains were Yahweh’s, they considered that they were now given to them (by their gods). The implication may also be that they had actually stated openly and constantly that Yahweh’s land was now given to them and their gods. That would be the view of an ancient nation. And it would make the blasphemy even more outrageous.

‘I have heard it.’ All is open to Him. No word can be spoken without Him hearing it. Thus He wanted them to know that He had overheard their words and would call them to account. Men are justified or condemned by their words (Matthew 12:37).

Verses 14-15

‘Thus says the Lord Yahweh, “To the rejoicing of the whole earth, I will make you desolate. As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so I will do to you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, even all of it. And they will know that I am Yahweh.”

The whole earth is pictured as rejoicing over Edom’s desolation, just as Edom had rejoiced over Israel’s desolation. They had rejoiced over the fact that Israel had lost their inheritance, so they too will lose their inheritance at the hand of Yahweh (what of their gods then?). They will be a stark warning to all who afflict God’s people.

‘You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, even all of it. And they will know that I am Yahweh.’ The desolation will affect the whole of Edom and will be such that all who see it will recognise in it the hand of Yahweh. They will recognise His being and His power.

These predictions against Edom were literally fulfilled. Edom was first subjugated by Babylon, then by Medo-Persia, and then in 126 BC by John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean ruler of Israel, who compelled them to become Jews and forcibly circumcised them (compare Obadiah 1:18). There is no trace of the Edomites in the modern day, although their desolate cities can still be identified (compare Jeremiah 49:13). Indeed the wonders of Petra have made it a tourist attraction.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Ezekiel 35". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.