Ezekiel against the Edomites

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Kendall K. Down

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Nov 26, 2021, 4:50:08 PM11/26/21
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Although the Babylonian guards had been quick to let it be known that
Jerusalem was captured, it was many months before the details filtered
through to the camp at Tel Aviv. New prisoners were brought in to
replace those who had died of old age, privation or accidents in the
canals. For men who couldn't swim, clearing the canals of accumulated
silt and reeds was perilous indeed.

No one was surprised by tails of massacre as the Babylonians looted the
city - that was normal behaviour after a long resistance. Cruelty and
even killing on the long march from Judea to Babylonia was also more or
less expected. Those already in the camp had suffered the same sort of
thing as they were marched the long miles around the Fertile crescent.

It was the story of what had happened to those who managed to escape
during the confusion of the city's capture which made blood boil all
through the camp. Refugees, usually bearing nothing but the clothes they
stood up in, streamed out of the city's useless gates and up the steep
slope of the Mount of Olives. There were wells and cisterns in abandoned
houses and they drank deeply before setting off down the other side.

Nowhere in Judea was safe from the all-conquering Babylonians, but
Ammon, fellow conspirator in the rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, was
as yet not involved in the war. There was the nearest place of safety
and hundreds, if not thousands, ran or walked or hobbled down the Mount
of Olives, across the rolling plain and then down more steeply through
the harsh, dry Wilderness of Judea, heading for the Jordan and the ford
that led to safety.

Yet even as they did so, there were bands of men moving to block the
way, rough-looking men whose dress and speech was all too familiar -
Edomites. They hurried from group to group, robbing the refugees of
anything valuable, occasionally murdering someone who tried to resist,
ripping the veils off women and occasionally raping one who seemed
attractive. Comely youths and beautiful girls had their hands tied
behind their backs and were led off to be sold as slaves.

As time past and the tumult within the city showed no signs of dying
down, the Edomites grew bolder, venturing right up to the city gates and
sometimes even venturing within to loot a house or two before hurrying
away to stash their ill-gotten gains before coming back for more.

Despite the frequent bad blood between the two nations and the distance
of the blood relationship, the Jews in Tel Aviv were indignant that
Edomites, of all people, should behave like that. The times in the past
when they had massacred the Edomites were easily forgotten in the
general fury over this behaviour.

In this atmosphere Ezekiel pronounced God's sentence on the Edomites.
"Because of your perpetual hatred and because you have shed the blood of
the children of Israel, your common ancestor, I will prepare you for
blood and blood shall pursue you. I will make Mount Seir desolate and
fill its hills with the slain. You said, 'These two countries are now
mine' and did not recognise that the land belongs to Me! Therefore I
will treat you as you deserve and make you realise that I am Yahweh, the
God of this land."

The listening Jews murmured with appreciation as Ezekiel thundered out
his maledictions against the mountains of Edom. It was no more than what
those heathen deserved and the sentence pronounced against them was
thoroughly merited.

But then Ezekiel's voice changed. "Mountains of Israel, hear the word of
Yahweh!"

People exchanged glances and one or two shrugged their shoulders. They
had heard Ezekiel before on the sins of Israel and its leaders; they
expected more of the same. But resignation turned into bewilderment and
then into astonishment as Ezekiel delivered God's message.

"This is what Yahweh says to the mountains of Israel. I sent judgements
upon you, but the heathen have done more than I intended, therefore I
will judge them in My fury. But you, O mountains of Israel, you will be
covered with fields and orchards, bearing fruit for My people, because
they are near at hand, they are coming home! Once more you will be
covered with people, your ruined estates will flourish, your desolate
fields produce rich harvests. Never again will the heathen say that you
devour men. Though I scattered Me people among the heathen, from among
the heathen I will bring them back, for the sake of My holy Name."

The people pressed closer to hear these words of hope and Ezekiel
cleared his throat.

"This is what Yahweh says: I am not doing this for your sakes, but for
the sake of My holy Name. I am going to gather you out of all the
nations among which you are scattered, I will bring you back to My land,
and there I will sprinkle clean water on you and cleanse you from your
idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; never
again will you follow after idols. But know that I am not doing this for
your sakes - you should be ashamed for your evil ways; no, I am doing it
for the sake of my Name so that it may be honoured and revered among the
gentiles."

In their joy over the prospect of going home, few really listened to
what Ezekiel was saying, yet his words came true. The Jews did go home
and never again did they worship idols. Yet there is an old proverb
which says, "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him
drink," and another which says, "A man convinced against his will is of
the same opinion still."

God forced the Jews to forsake idols and to remain faithful to Him, but
it was only an outward obedience. Instead of worshipping Baal and
Ashtoreth they worshipped themselves and their faithfulness to Yahweh;
they became proud and arrogant; and when Yahweh sent His Son, they took
Him and crucified Him.

God can force people to behave in certain ways, but He cannot force them
to actually be good - not without destroying the freewill which makes
man bear the image of God. Constraining a man to do good earns him no
merit; it is only the free choice to be good which places him on God's
side and gains him entry into God's kingdom.

The history of the Jews, who were forced to abandon idols but who still
chose evil, proves that God cannot force people into His kingdom.

Meanwhile, in far off Judea a little-known prophet denounced the
Edomites, plagiarising the words of Jeremiah to denounce those "who
dwell in the clefts of the rock" and foretell that "if thieves came, if
robbers by night, surely they would steal until they had enough, but now
the hidden things of Esau will be searched out."

Then Obadiah turned to the real theme of his prophecy. "Shame on you for
violence against your borther Jacob! You should not have stood aside as
men cast lots on Jerusalem, you should not have rejoiced at your
brother's distress, you should not have entered the gates of My people
to lay hands on their substance, you should not have stood at the
crossroads to cut off those who managed to escape."


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