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THE UTTER RUIN OF IDUMEA. (Chap. 35)
EXEGETICAL NOTES.—Ezekiel 35:2. “Mount Seir”—Idumea, the woody mountain region in the south of that part of Palestine which lies to the east of Jordan from the Dead Sea to the Atlantic Gulf. “Seir” means shaggy, alluding to its rugged hills and forests, and originally to Esau, the ancestor of Edom (Genesis 25:25; Genesis 27:11).
Ezekiel 35:3. “I will make thee most desolate”—literally desolation and desolateness. “It is only in their national character of foes to God’s people that the Edomites are to be utterly destroyed. A remnant of Edom, as of the other heathen, is to be called by the name of God (Amos 9:12).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 35:5. “A perpetual hatred”—enmity for ever, an abiding enmity. Edom perpetuated the hereditary hatred derived from Esau against Jacob. “By the force of the sword”—by the hands of the sword, the sword being personified as a devourer whose hands were the instruments of destruction. “In the time their iniquity had an end”—its consummation. “Oppression of brethren calls at once for the exercise of compassion, which is best manifested where no one is innocent. When guilt makes the end, ancient enmity should not be let loose.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:6. “Sith thou hast not hated blood”—rather the affirmative, Surely thou dost hate blood. “The preservation of thy life is what thou art intent on securing. The thought of blood being shed among thee is what thou art putting far from thee as the object of aversion; but God’s purposes are contrary to thine, and what thou hatest He will send—blood shall pursue thee.”—Fairbairn. “The effusion of blood, of thy own blood, shall cleave fast to thy footsteps. The murderer hates the blood which he sheds. If he hates the man with such an energy of hate that he attempts his life, he hates the blood in which is the man’s soul.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 35:7. “Cut off from it him that passeth.” There is no going to and fro—no traffic. Hence the desolation of death. A retribution in kind, that she should be cut off herself, even as she stood in the crossway to cut off the Israelites who escaped (Obadiah 1:14).
Ezekiel 35:10. “Whereas the Lord was there.” “It is not said the Lord is there, but was there. For a moment He had withdrawn Himself (chap. Ezekiel 11:23); but that He was there secures that He will be there, since He has not yet definitely given up His inheritance. Where God is in the midst there Edom cannot possibly gain a footing, though He give over His people even for a long time to the foe.”—Hengstenberg.
Ezekiel 35:11. “I will do according to thine anger.” “From the hating come anger and envy, expressing themselves not only in word but also in deed. Jehovah acts according to Edom’s doings.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:13. “With your mouth ye have boasted against me.” Edom implied, if he did not express it, in his taunts against Israel, that God had not sufficient power to protect His people. A type of the spirit of all the foes of God and His people (1 Samuel 2:3; Revelation 13:6).
Ezekiel 35:14. “When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate.” “The ‘whole earth’ refers to Judea and the nations that submit themselves to Judea’s God. When these rejoice, the foes of God and His people, represented by Edom as a nation, shall be desolate. Things shall be completely reversed: Israel, that now for a time mourns, shall then rejoice, and that for ever. Edom, that now rejoices over fallen Israel, shall then, when elsewhere all is joy, mourn, and for ever (Isaiah 65:17-19; Matthew 5:4; Luke 6:25).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 35:15. “Mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it”—set in contrast to the inheritance of the house of Israel.
THE ENEMIES OF GOD
It sounds strange to hear again the voice of denunciation interposed in the midst of prophecies full of consolation and hope. The doom of Edom has been dealt with in chapter 25, but it is introduced once more in perfect harmony with the immediate design of the prophet, which is to show that the future triumph of Israel will be assured by the utter defeat of her bitterest enemies. Idumea, savagely gloating over the downfall of its hated rival, and eagerly taking possession of the desolated land, had an apparent superiority over Israel. The real advantage was still with the people of God. With them was deposited the seed of Divine blessing, the germ of a glorious future. In Idumea no such germ existed. There was nothing there but inveterate hostility to Jehovah, and no prospect but that of ultimate ruin. “While Israel rose in Christ to the supremacy of the world, Edom vanished from the face of history—their memorial perished, their envy and cruel hatred were for ever buried among the ruins of the nations.” The Edomites represent the heathen world and all who have rebelled against and opposed the truth, and in their destruction we read the ultimate fate of the enemies of God in all ages. Observe—
I. That the enemies of God are actuated by a spirit of malignant hatred. “Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred” (Ezekiel 35:5). The enmity existing between Jacob and Esau from their birth was fostered with increasing aggravation by the descendants of the latter. Immediately after the death of Isaac, Esau settled in Edom, and conquered the rocky territory in the neighbourhood of Mount Seir. From their mountain heights, overlooking the southern border of the Holy Land, the Edomites watched with undisguised envy the growing power of the favoured tribes. Their hatred became more acrid and implacable in every succeeding generation. As the father of Hannibal caused his son, when only nine years of age, to swear at the altar eternal hatred to the Romans, so the sons of Edom were pledged to maintain unceasing hostility to Israel. Time, which mollifies the fiercest passions, only intensified the ever-cherished malice of the Edomites, and they embraced every opportunity to make it manifest. The wild unreasoning hatred of the Edomites is a type of the malignant opposition of the enemies of God. This deplorable condition of mind is an evidence of the demoralising effect of sin. It is not simply a dull, sullen indifference, but an ungovernable, demoniacal passion, horribly real in its activity. Goodness is hated because it is good: God is hated because He is God.
II. That the enemies of God are infatuated with the fury of their opposition.
1. They exult over the disasters of God’s people. “Thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of Israel, because it was desolate” (Ezekiel 35:15). As Edom watched the advancement of Israel with envy, so it noted the invasion and dismemberment of the kingdom with chuckling satisfaction. When the Israelites were prostrate and groaning under the triumphant Chaldean power, Edom laughed at their misfortunes. There is a laughter that is utterly joyless, harsh, metallic, ringing with scorn and an indescribable contemptuousness. It is the laughter of inveterate hatred—an inhuman guffaw. It is thus that the enemies of God exult over the temporary defeat of His people.
2. They take a savage delight in helping to make those disasters more complete. “Thou hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity” (Ezekiel 35:5). Edom, forgetful of all ties of kinship, sent troops to assist the Chaldeans in the siege of Jerusalem. More cruel than the Chaldeans, they clamoured for the total destruction of the city, and exclaimed with fiendish gesticulations—“Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof” (Psalms 137:7). They eagerly took part in plundering the city, they occupied the passes and cut off the retreat of the fugitives who escaped the massacre at the storming, and openly rejoiced when the citizens were carried off into slavery, boasting loudly of their share in the terrible catastrophe (Obadiah 1:11-14). They were never forgotten for their base and cruel treachery. The enemies of God not only make sport of the misfortunes of His people, but show their vindictiveness in doing all they can to intensify their sufferings.
3. They seize with avaricious haste the possessions they help to ruin. “These two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it” (Ezekiel 35:10). The Edomites not only re-entered the cities captured from them by David when he was settling the boundaries of the Hebrew empire, but they made inroads into Southern Palestine, taking possession of the towns as far as Hebron. The race of the warrior kings of Judah who had kept them in check was extinct, and the country was too feeble to resist the rapacity of the Idumeans. The enemies of God are ever eager to make gain out of the troubles they have helped to create.
4. They are ignorant of the Power they rashly defy. “Whereas the Lord was there” (Ezekiel 35:10). What a sublime stroke of the prophetic pen! The sentence breaks in like a flash of lightning—the Lord is there! The land is desolate, but not forsaken; conquered, but not surrendered. Israel has been carried away, but not Israel’s God. The land and the people still belong to Him. This fact is flashed out to rebuke the presumption of Edom; but Edom sees it not, heeds it not. Like all the enemies of God, in his blind infatuation he wrestles with a Power that ultimately crushes him.
III. That the enemies of God will be inevitably destroyed.
1. Their destruction will be a Divine act. “I will stretch out mine hand against thee” (Ezekiel 35:3). The Being they had insulted and defied vindicated His honour and supremacy by their righteous punishment. Josephus informs us that, soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar turned his arms against Edom and the adjoining nations and defeated them with great slaughter. As in the conquest of Israel, Nebuchadnezzar was the instrument of Jehovah in working out the doom of Edom. Jeremiah (chap. 49), Ezekiel (chaps. 25, 35), and Obadiah describe in graphic language the fearful ravage of the Chaldean forces. The ordinary raids of robber tribes might be beaten off, for the Edomites had a reputation for warlike valour; but the Chaldees were irresistible, and were accustomed to do their work with desolating thoroughness. The enemies of God are helpless when His power is put forth to chastise.
2. Their destruction will be on account of their inveterate wickedness. “I will do according to thine anger, envy, hatred, blasphemies, boasting” (Ezekiel 35:11-13; Ezekiel 35:15). Their malignity towards God and His chosen people was hereditary, and was nourished from generation to generation. Their impregnable position among the hills increased their haughtiness; they boasted of the wisdom of their great men, and they had all the insolence of wealth, their country being situated in the route of commerce from north to south. They were continually stirring up the jealousies of the tribes, and were always as sharp thorns in the side of Israel. But their course of wickedness had an end; their sins ruined them.
3. Their destruction will be by the same weapon with which they destroyed others. “Because thou hast shed blood by the force of the sword” (Ezekiel 35:5-6). The law of retribution is ever operating with surprising exactitude and impartiality. Edom had wrought incredible horrors with the sword and been reckless in shedding human blood. By the sword shall he be punished, and be surfeited with a very carnival of slaughter and bloodshed. Joab was slain by the weapon with which he murdered Abner and Amasa years previously (1 Kings 2:28-34). Dogs lapped the blood and picked the bones of Jezebel, as they had done to Naboth, the victim of her fury, fifteen years before (2 Kings 9:36).
4. Their destruction will be complete and irrevocable. “I will make thee most desolate” (Ezekiel 35:3-4; Ezekiel 35:7; Ezekiel 35:9; Ezekiel 35:15). Thirty ruined towns within three days’ journey of the Red Sea attest the former greatness of Edom. The utter desolation that fell on the country and on the descendants of Esau is one of the most impressive facts of history. They were formerly distinguished for wisdom, now they are sunk in the grossest folly. They regard the ruins around them as the work of spirits. The tribes now wandering in Edom are savage and treacherous. Even the Arabs are afraid to enter the country, or to conduct any party within its borders. The desolation is irrecoverable, and travellers state that the whole region is a vast expanse of sand drifted up from the Red Sea (Isaiah 34:6-15; Jeremiah 49:7-22). The enemies of God will be smitten beyond the power of recovery.
5. Their destruction will be a vindication of the character of the Being they madly oppose. “Thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 35:4; Ezekiel 35:9; Ezekiel 35:11-12; Ezekiel 35:15).
1. Active opposition to the good is the offspring of intensified hatred.
2. It is utterly futile to oppose God.
3. The Divine vengeance may be averted by timely submission and repentance.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Ezekiel 35:1-15. “Why, in this connection, should Edom have alone been singled out for destruction? Not as if her people only were appointed to suffer vengeance at the hand of God, but because, in the bitterness of their spite and the intensity of their hatred to the cause and people of God, they stood pre-eminent among the nations, and so were fitly chosen as the representatives of the whole. The region where the greatest enmity reigned is the ideal territory where the final recompenses of judgment take place. The Edomite spirit, the carnal, unbelieving, rebellious spirit, is most surely doomed to perdition: enmity to the cause and kingdom of Christ is marked out in the councils of heaven for irretrievable ruin. They who are of it cannot overthrow the Church, but must themselves be overthrown and fall under the stroke of vengeance.”—Fairbairn.
Ezekiel 35:3. “When punishments break in and are already taking their course, in this God, as it were, stretches out His hand. Now, since His hand is not shortened to help His children, so also it is not too weak to punish His enemies (Isaiah 59:1).”—Starke.
Ezekiel 35:4. “When godliness goes out of cities, confusion and devastation enter in. We can never sufficiently recognise that God alone is eternal.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:5-7. Hatred—
1. One of the fruits of sin.
2. A prolific source of other evil passions.
3. Is intensified in virulence the longer it is cherished.
4. Prompts to deeds of cruelty and bloodshed.
5. Will be signally punished.
—“The fiercest mutual hatred had for centuries thrust apart the brother-races of Jacob and Esau. The refusal of a passage through Mount Seir to the Hebrews under Moses, in their march from Egypt nine hundred years before, had entailed the long sufferings of the wilderness life, and had never been forgotten. Under Joram, Amaziah, and Uzziah in succession, it had been virtually a Jewish province, till the reign of the weak Ahaz. The destruction of Jerusalem, however, had at last given the Edomites a chance of revenge, and they had indulged it to the uttermost.”—Geikie.
Ezekiel 35:5. “Edom was of the same stock, brother to Jacob, and it was sin to envy, but greater to hate, and greatest to retain a perpetual hatred, an hereditary enmity from Esau’s time, the father of the Edomites, till now: near one thousand two hundred years had the seed of Esau hated Jacob’s seed for inheriting the blessing, which they as little valued as their father did before them.”—Pool.
—“To afflict the afflicted is cruel. This is scarcely of man, bad as he is. He must be possessed by the malignant spirit of the devil, when he wounds the wounded, exults over the miseries of the afflicted, and seeks opportunities to add affliction to those who are already under the rod of God.”—A. Clarke.
—“Edom is often in Scripture made the type of the most bitter and inveterate enemies of God’s people in all ages. The hatred of brothers, when they are at variance, is proverbially rancorous. Such was Esau’s hatred of Jacob, though the latter averted it by soft words and conciliatory acts; and such was the inherited bitterness of Esau’s descendants towards Israel.”—Fausset.
—“Where enmity leads to: it perpetuates itself by degrees in the heart; it is not afraid even to use the sword: first the malice of the tongue, and then the violence of malice. Therefore, always become reconciled at once and completely, that no roots may remain in the heart which may shoot up afterwards.—The prayer of an implacable man is certain not to be heard.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:6. “Even blood shall pursue thee.” “As a bloodhound. It shall, it shall; believe me, it shall.”—Trapp.
—“The track of blood behind so many celebrated figures in history, behind so many so-called great exploits.—The shedding of blood a characteristic symptom of the world, a mark of the spirit that rules in the world, and of the wickedness in which it lies.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:7. “Trade and intercourse cease where God sends His judgments. The Lord destroys nations that delight in war.”—Lange.
Ezekiel 35:9. “Edom’s sin was perpetual hatred, and Edom’s punishment shall be perpetual desolations. Edomites would never return into friendship with the Israelites, but still hate, molest, and waste them; now, for just recompense, Edom’s cities shall be wasted, and never return to their former glory.”—Pool.
—“Sin is not to become eternalised; therefore eternal punishment.”—Starck.
Ezekiel 35:10. “Whereas the Lord was there.” The Presence of God—
1. A reality though unrecognised.
2. A comfort in the midst of desolation and suffering.
3. The hope and guarantee of deliverance and future prosperity.
4. A startling revelation to His enemies.
Ezekiel 35:10-11. “The overthrow and exile of the Israelites from their land ought to have moved Edom to self-examination, lest there should be in herself sins found which might provoke God to inflict similar judgments. Instead of this, she regarded Israel’s calamity as her opportunity. ‘These two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it.’ She forgot, in her wicked presumption, that the land of Israel was peculiarly the Lord’s possession and the Lord’s earthly dwelling-place; therefore, so far was Edom from being about to gain possession of Israel’s inheritance, that she was about to be deprived of her own, and that for ever.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 35:11-15. The Triumph of the Wicked—
1. Finds its joy in the downfall of those they hated (Ezekiel 35:11; Ezekiel 35:15).
2. Is unreal: their conquered possessions a desolation; their boasting hollow and joyless (Ezekiel 35:12-15).
3. Is soon changed to dejection, while all else rejoice (Ezekiel 35:14).
Ezekiel 35:12-13. The Speech of the Wicked—
1. Blasphemous. “All thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken” (Ezekiel 35:12).
2. Boastful. “With your mouth ye have boasted” (Ezekiel 35:13).
3. Copious in its insolent vocabulary. “Ye have multiplied your words against Me” (Ezekiel 35:13).
4. Does not escape Divine notice. “I have heard thee” (Ezekiel 35:13).
Ezekiel 35:13. “Worldly men think lightly of speaking vindictive and calumnious words against the people of God, and of forming projects for taking selfish advantage of their times of extremity; but God regards such words against His people as spoken against Himself. There is not a word that goeth out of our lips which God does not hear. How careful and guarded we should be in our words, especially in times when our carnal passions and tempers are excited! (Proverbs 10:19).”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 35:14-15. “What an entire reversal of the present order of things there will be at the second coming of Christ! The enemies of God, who so often seem now to triumph, shall then be cast down in everlasting sorrow. The people of God, Israel and the elect Church, who so often now mourn, shall then rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory. Edom, that rejoiced over fallen Israel, shall then mourn over her own irretrievable fall while ‘Jerusalem shall be a rejoicing and her people a joy.’ Let us see that we take our portion new with the people of God in their season of trial, that so we may have our everlasting portion with them in their coming blessedness.”—Fausset.
Ezekiel 35:14. Suffering—
1. Aggravated when all around is gay.
2. Has always in it a depressing element of loneliness.
3. Has special significance when we are conscious it is Divinely inflicted.
—“When the whole land of Israel rejoiceth; as it is sometimes hale and well with the Church when the wicked are in the suds. Judea was the world of the world, as Athens was the Epitome of Greece, the Greece of Greece.”—Trapp.
—“When the whole earth is in peace and plenty and enjoys both, thou shalt want all; and then envy at the welfare of others shall break thy heart. Envy was thy sin, and now what is the object of envy—the prosperity of others—shall be thy grief.”—Pool.
—“No true grace without justice. The theocracy must accordingly pass through the fire of affliction and become purified: for the same reason, the heathenism whose iniquity is full must show that it has fallen under the Divine justice. For grace is not toleration of the bad.”—Havernick.
Ezekiel 35:15. “The Edomites who thought of seizing on others’ lands, lost their own. They who covet all do oft lose all, yea, even the pleasure of that they possess; as a greedy dog swalloweth the whole meat that is cast him, without any pleasure, as gaping still for the next morsel.”—Trapp.
—“Thou tookest pleasure in the ruin of My people; for this thy sin I will ruin thee, and then do to thee as thou didst; I will retaliate and rejoice in thy ruin: thou helpedst to make Jerusalem desolate; I will make thee so: thou criedst to ruin them all, to destroy all the land; all thy land shall be ruined, and by these judgments I will be known to be the Lord.”—Pool.
—“This whole chapter strongly inculcates this maxim—Do as thou wouldst be done by, and what thou wouldst not have done to thee, do not to others. And from it we learn that every man may, in some sort, be said to make his own temporal good or evil; for as he does to others God will take care to do to him, whether it be evil or good, weal or woe. Would you not be slandered or backbitten? Then do not slander or backbite. Wouldst thou wish to live in peace? Then do not disturb the peace of others. Be merciful, and thou shalt obtain mercy.”—A. Clarke.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ezekiel 35". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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