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Bible Commentaries
Ezekiel 35

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries



It is rather surprising to have another prophecy against Edom at this particular place in Ezekiel, especially since he had just concluded one against the same people back in Ezekiel 25; and a number of scholars have attempted to explain this.

Cooke noted that this prophecy, “Gives greater detail, indicating that Edom had recently aggravated their offenses against the covenant people and their God. Also the full accomplishment of God’s purpose required the return of the captives to Palestine; and Edom had proposed to hinder that purpose by laying claim to Palestine itself.”(F1)

Dummelow observed that, “Before the land could be returned to its rightful owners, all false claims had to be disposed of. The prophecy had already disposed of the false claims of that conceited remnant in Judea (Ezekiel 33:23-29); and this was a logical place to take care of the false claims of Edom.”(F2)

Keil pointed out that, “The prophecy does not apply to Edom alone, because Edom here stands as a representative of the whole world of mankind in their hostility toward God and the covenant people.”(F3) Edom was thus used also by Isaiah in chapters 34 and 43 as a representative standing for the entire wicked world; and in our Commentary on those chapters, it was pointed out just how appropriate this use of Edom really was. The same is true here.

The meaning of this prophecy against Edom, therefore, is simply that no wicked nation on earth would be allowed to interfere with God’s bringing his righteous remnant back from Babylon at the end of their punishment, and again establishing them in their ancient homeland.

Verses 1-3

“Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it, and say unto it, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against thee, O mount Seir, and I will stretch out my hand against thee, and will make thee a desolation and an astonishment.”

“Set thy face against mount Seir” The prophecy is against the people called Edom, the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, who occupied the rugged country southeast of the Dead Sea. Here “mount Seir” stands for the people.

“This area in Graeco-Roman times was called Idumaea”;(F4) the stronghold of the area was the Edomite capital of Petra, also called Sela, a rockbound fortress with magnificent stone palaces, the ruins of which are still impressive.

“I am against thee, O mount Seir” The following verses suggest a fourfold indictment against the Edomites:

(1) They had aided Babylon in their final conquest of Jerusalem. Taylor suggested that they bartered with Nebuchadnezzar, offering their support for portions of Judea after the conquest.(F5)

(2) Edom had attempted to annex Israel’s territory.

(3) Her joyful exultation over Judah’s fall was a shameful expression of her attitude toward God’s people.

(4) The Edomites from the very beginning of their history had maintained a perpetual enmity against Israel (Amos 1:11). “This enmity against Israel, in the last analysis was also bitter and implacable enmity against God Himself.”(F6)

The serious nature of this quadruple indictment was pointed out by Beasley-Murray. For example, Edom’s claiming part of Judea as her own possession contradicted the prior claim of God Himself who had preempted it for his Chosen People. In view of God’s intention of again moving the Jews into the land, “Edom’s claim was little short of blasphemy in the eyes of God and of his prophets.”(F7)

Verses 4-6

“I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah. Because thou hast had a perpetual enmity, and hast given over the children of Israel to the power of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time of the iniquity of the end; therefore, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: since thou hast not hated blood, therefore blood shall pursue thee.”

“A perpetual enmity” This enmity is indeed a historical phenomenon. It began when Esau sold his birthright for a plate of lentils and continues until this very day in the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelites, despite the fact of the Edomites being no longer a recognizable group. The hatred, however, in both cases goes back to the old conflicts between Esau and Jacob, and between Isaac and Ishmael.

This perpetual enmity is mentioned in Amos 1:11. The historical disasters that have accompanied this vein of hatred are a pitiful example of how hatred, no matter what the source of it, in human hearts can produce disastrous results in the persons harboring the hatred. Christ himself has warned us, that “If we will not forgive those who trespass against us, God will not forgive us our trespasses!” (Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:35).

“In the time of her calamity, in the time of the iniquity of the end” Plumptre has summarized the various opinions of scholars on what this means: Keil thought it meant the time of Judah’s final transgression; Currey saw the meaning as the time when the capture of Jerusalem put an end to her iniquity;

Hengstenberg suggested that it was the time of the iniquity that brought on her end; and Ewald translated it, “At the time of her extremist punishment.”(F8)

The long hatred for Israel on the part of Edom led to their refusal of permission for Israel to pass through their land (Numbers 20:14-21); to their invasion of Judah (2 Chronicles 20:10-11); to their aiding Nebuchadnezzar in the overthrow of Jerusalem (Obadiah 1:13); and to the outrageous conduct of the Herods and their dynasty against the purposes of God during the days of Christ and the apostles. The Herods were Idumaeans (Edomites). See much more on this in Isaiah 34-43.

“Since thou hast not hated blood” Those who are still familiar with the KJV will no doubt wonder about the first word here. Sith is an Old English term that means since, or seeing that.

Verses 7-9

“Thus will I make mount Seir an astonishment and a desolation; and I will cut off from it him that passeth through and him that returneth. And I will fill its mountains with its slain: in thy hills and in thy valleys and in all thy watercourses shall they fall that are slain with the sword. I will make thee a perpetual desolation, and thy cities shall not be inhabited; and ye shall know that I am Jehovah.”

“Him that passeth through and him that returneth” This is an old expression equivalent to “all that go to and fro,” “all comers and goers,” “all the buyers and the sellers.” “It means `everybody without exception.’“(F9)

The total desolation of Edom has come to pass in the most startling manner. The National Geographic Magazine a few years ago ran an article with many graphic pictures of the desolated capital of ancient Seir, Petra. It still seems incredible that a city with such a fortress could ever have fallen; but there it stands in the blistering desert sun, its ancient red walls of solid stone exhibiting its magnificent architecture, beautiful palaces, and many other signs of ancient prosperity in a breath-taking silence that reminds one of the petrified forest of Arizona. It brings a mist to the eyes and a catch in the throat just to see it. What an awful thing it is for God to “stretch forth his hand” against a city, or a people.

“A perpetual desolation” “This is a much harsher fate even than that which was inflicted upon Ammon and Egypt, who at least had a prospect of restoration held out to them (Jeremiah 49:6; and Ezekiel 29:14).”(F10) Note that this threat of perpetual desolation is repeated here from Ezekiel 35:5.

However, the eternal justice of God is seen in this perpetual desolation of Edom. Who murdered the innocents of Bethlehem in his frenzied efforts to kill the Lord Jesus Christ? Answer: It was the savage Idumaean (Edomite) Herod the Great.

Who murdered John the Baptist, the great forerunner of Christ, the Herald of the Gospel Age? Answer: It was another Herod, an Edomite, who presented John’s head on a platter to please a dancing girl.

Who mocked the Son of God in one of those six crooked trials preceding his crucifixion? Answer: It was another Herod, of course.

Who murdered the apostle James? Answer: A Herod (Edomite).

Who imprisoned the apostle Peter and condemned him to death as soon as the Passover ended? Answer: It was Herod Agrippa (another Edomite, of course).

Who murdered the sixteen men who kept the prison on that night when an angel released the apostle Peter, on the false charge that these guards had released Peter? It was that same Herod the Edomite.

Who fully decided to exterminate all of the apostles of the Church of God, and as a preparatory move had himself installed as a god down at Caesarea (Acts 12)? It was that same son of the devil, the Edomite Herod Agrippa. This Edomite was so wicked that God did not even allow him to live a normal life; but cut him down in the very act of his announcement that he was god!

Yes indeed that evil people deserved the retribution with which Almighty God rewarded them.

Verses 10-12

“Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it, whereas Jehovah was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, I will do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast showed out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known among them, when I shall judge them. And thou shalt know that I, Jehovah, have heard all thy revilings which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to devour.”

“These two nations and these two countries” These are Israel and Judah, the covenant people after the division of the monarchy, the northern and the southern Israels, Samaria and Jerusalem.

“Whereas Jehovah was there” True enough, God was in Palestine; but is he not also in every other place in all the earth? Jonah fled to Tarshish (or was trying to do so) “from the presence of Jehovah”; but he found out that God’s presence was not limited to Palestine. God is not only the God of Palestine, but the God of all the world and of all humanity.

“Thy revilings which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel” The revilings were bad enough, but Edom’s verbal assault upon the mined countries was followed by their moving militarily against them. It appears that they actually penetrated and occupied Palestine as far south as Hebron.

Verses 13-15

“And ye have magnified yourself against me with your mouth, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard it. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: when the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate. As thou didst rejoice over the inheritance of the house of Israel because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Edom, even all of it; and thou shalt know that I am Jehovah.”

“And have multiplied your words against me” The words that men speak have an importance far beyond what many suppose. Words are by no means unimportant or inconsequential. The Son of God Himself has warned us all that, “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

“When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate” This gives the time when desolation shall come to Edom. It shall be when “the whole earth rejoiceth,” a reference to the times of the New Covenant, the present dispensation of God’s grace. The present state of the ancient land of Edom is an eloquent fulfillment of what is here foretold.

Any good encyclopedia, travel magazine, or travelers’ guide will afford all the proof that is needed that the prophecies in this chapter against Edom have received the most literal fulfillment. Plumptre noted that:

“This land, once so rich in flocks and herds, so mighty in its rock-hewn cities, so extensive in its commercial activities, so renowned for the architectural splendor of its palaces, is now a desolated and deserted wilderness. Its whole population consists of three or four miserable tiny villages. No merchant would now dare to enter it; its highways are unused; its cities are in ruins.”(F11)

No ghost town of Arizona or California is any more forlorn or deserted than is Petra.

Feinberg has a statement which is true enough, but which is also the basis of a great deal of popular misunderstanding. He said:

“When a nation gives itself over to the perpetual hatred of Israel, then there is no other alternative than perpetual desolation from God. Nation after nation has experienced this in the past, and some have done so in modern times.”(F12)

This is true enough as long as one understands which Israel of God is meant. The only Israel God has in our generation is the spiritual body of Jesus Christ, his church; and it has no connection whatever with any racial group of people who ever lived on earth.

Our generation needs to get that fact in focus.

The old racial Israel lost their status when their official leaders cried, “Let him be crucified; we have no king but Caesar.” Ever since that time, they have indeed had no king but Caesar; and this fact is the one overwhelmingly corroborated by history down to the present time.

The great name for Israel in the Old Testament is `the vine’; but, in time the old racial Israel became a bastard vine; but, in the fullness of time Jesus Christ the True Vine came into our world (John 15:1 ff); and ever since that event, Christ and his followers have been the Only Israel of God.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ezekiel 35". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/ezekiel-35.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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