While a satisfied justice is an unavoidable eternal event,
a satisfied revenge is an eternal impossibility.
— George MacDonald (Unspoken Sermons)
Did Israel tremble when she first heard these words? These words of judgment are very familiar—even formulaic. In the past, these phrases were directed at Jerusalem when God judged her for her sin. Now, these same words are directed at Edom—a long time neighbour/thorn in the flesh.
Did they tremble because they now knew from experience that God kept his promises—for good or for ill? Did they tremble because they knew how devastating such a judgment was?
. . .
Mt. Seir is a geographical designation for Edom—a nation who had always tormented Israel. We learn from Genesis that Edom descended from the incestuous relationship between a drunken Lot and his daughter. That close family tie to the children of Abraham, along with their geographic proximity led to many confrontations over the years.
When God acted to judge Jerusalem, Edom was thrilled. They were finally able to take the next step and conquer the land they always wanted. After all, when Babylon deported Israel, they only left a few farmers and labourers to maintain things. Edom’s campaign would be like invading a ghost-town.
. . .
There were three phrases that stood out to me as I reflected on this chapter:
- “Cherished an ancient enmity” (v. 5, NRSV): Edom had built up centuries of hatred toward Israel. She had spent years nursing bitterness and harassing Israel’s borders. God recognized this fact in his judgment. I wonder what ancient enmities we hold against friends, family, and even enemies? “If you forgive the sins of any . . .” (John 20:23, NRSV)
- “Although the LORD was there” (v. 10, NRSV): This is a remarkable statement because earlier in Ezekiel God’s glory clearly leaves Jerusalem. After Jerusalem was taken into exile, Edom decided they could take God’s land—but he was still there. I wonder where God still is today?
- “I heard it” (v. 13, NRSV): This is one of my favourite disclaimers. Edom was bolstering their courage by bragging about their own glory and how Jerusalem was theirs for the taking. God heard their idle talk.
. . .
Lord God, help us to learn from the errors people have made in Scripture. Give us the understanding to see their tendencies in our lives so we can quickly repent. In Jesus’ name, Amen.