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Most Christians are familiar with the basic story of Jacob and Esau. Genesis 25 tells us that they were twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. Gen. 25:22, 23 tells us that even before they were born they seemed to be fighting in their mother's womb:
22 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, "If it is so, why then am I this way?" So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her, "Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples shall be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger."
Esau was born first, so as the oldest son, he normally would have inherited the birthright. However, we learn from subsequent history and from Rom. 9:9-13 that God had predestined Jacob to receive the birthright, rather than Esau. This was the foundation of the controversy between the two brothers.
The biblical account in Genesis 25 then continues by telling us that one day Esau returned from hunting and was very hungry. He then sold his birthright for a bowl of soup that Jacob was preparing. Gen. 25:34 concludes, "Thus, Esau despised his birthright."
These few details do not really tell us why Esau would despise his birthright. Normally, such a carnally-minded man would want to keep the birthright, because such people always seem to desire wealth and power. Isaac was quite wealthy, for he had received the birthright from his father, Abraham, who was also wealthy. Abraham, in fact, could field 318 armed men in a battle to retrieve his nephew, Lot, in Gen. 14:14. No one could have had that many servants with families of their own without being very wealthy.
So why would Esau despise all of this wealth? He must have had a reason to think that such wealth was inconsequential, because carnal men do not think like this. If we look outside the Bible to an ancient historical source called the Book of Jasher, we find a possible answer. The Book of Jasher is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and in 2 Sam. 1:18. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., this book was lost until an old copy was found in a rabbi's office in 1613. It was finally translated into English in 1840. Jasher gives us an interesting account that explains why Esau despised his birthright. Jasher 27:1-13 says,
1 And Esau at that time, after the death of Abraham, frequently went in the field to hunt. 2 And Nimrod king of Babel, the same was Amraphel, also frequently went with his mighty men to hunt in the field, and to walk about with his men in the cool of the day. 3 And Nimrod was observing Esau all the days, for a jealousy was formed in the heart of Nimrod against Esau all the days. 4 And on a certain day Esau went in the field to hunt, and he found Nimrod walking in the wilderness with his two men. 5 And all his mighty men and his people were with him in the wilderness, but they removed at a distance from him, and they went from him in different directions to hunt, and Esau concealed himself from Nimrod, and he lurked for him in the wilderness. 6 And Nimrod and his men that were with him did not know him, and Nimrod and his men frequently walked about in the field at the cool of the day, and to know where his men were hunting in the field. 7 And Nimrod and his two men that were with him came to the place where they were, when Esau started suddenly from his lurking place, and drew his sword, and hastened and ran to Nimrod and cut off his head. 8 And Esau fought a desperate fight with the two men that were with Nimrod, and when they called out to him, Esau turned to them and smote them to death with his sword. 9 And all the mighty men of Nimrod, who had left him to go to the wilderness, heard the cry at a distance, and they knew the voices of those two men, and they ran to know the cause of it, when they found their king and the two men that were with him lying dead in the wilderness. 10 And when Esau saw the men of Nimrod coming at a distance, he fled, and thereby escaped; and Esau took the valuable garments of Nimrod, which Nimrod's father had bequeathed to Nimrod, and with which Nimrod prevailed over the whole land, and he ran and concealed them in his house. 11 And Esau took those garments and ran into the city on account of Nimrod's men, and he came unto his father's house wearied and exhausted from fight, and he was ready to die through grief when he approached his brother Jacob and sat before him. 12 And he said unto his brother, Jacob, Behold I shall die this day, and wherefore then do I want the birthright? And Jacob acted wisely with Esau in this matter, and Esau sold his birthright to Jacob, for it was brought about by the Lord. 13 And Esau's portion in the cave of the field of Machpelah, which Abraham had bought from the children of Heth for the possession of a burial ground, Esau also sold to Jacob, and Jacob bought all this from his brother Esau for value given.
In this account we find that Esau, like Nimrod (Gen. 10:9), was a hunter. Nimrod was jealous of Esau's hunting ability and was spying on him, or having him watched. Esau apparently knew this, because Jasher was written from Jacob's perspective. One day Esau began to stalk Nimrod and suddenly ambushed him from his hiding place. Esau killed Nimrod and then had to fight for his life against Nimrod's two bodyguards. After killing them as well, he ran for his life, for he could hear the other men in the party running to help Nimrod's men. Because all the men who actually saw Esau were dead, there were apparently no witnesses left alive, leaving the rest of the party guessing who had ambushed their king.
Esau escaped and ran home, taking with him the special garments of Nimrod. These garments are said to be those that God gave to Adam, which signified his right to rule the earth. Garments had great significance in those days. Note that when Jacob himself gave the birthright to his son, Joseph, he gave him a special garment as well-a " coat of many colors " (Gen. 37:3, KJV).
The seventh chapter of Jasher explains that Adam's garments had been passed down to Noah, but after the flood, when Noah became drunk on wine, his son Ham stole those garments. Ham apparently never attempted to wear them, but passed them down to his son, Cush, who ultimately gave them to his son, Nimrod. Nimrod was the first to wear them openly at the age of twenty, and by these skins, he laid claim to Adam's dominion mandate over the earth. In this way Nimrod became the first open rebel who usurped the divine authority from Noah and Shem.
Esau stole the garments from Nimrod, and thus seemed to become the heir of the dominion mandate over the earth. With these garments, he thought that he could be like Nimrod and rule the world. What need would he have for the blessing of Isaac? Isaac was allied with Shem, the builder of Jerusalem, whose title was Melchizedek, "King of Righteousness," or Adonizedek, "Lord of Righteousness." In fact, this became the title of all the kings of Jerusalem long after Shem died, and we read of such a king by this name-title in Joshua 10:1.
To show that Shem was the Melchizedek of Gen. 14:18, we will quote from Jasher 16:11, 12, which tells us the story of Abram's meeting with Melchizedek after freeing Lot :
11 And Adonizedek king of Jerusalem, the same was Shem, went out with his men to meet Abram and his people, with bread and wine, and they remained together in the valley of Melech. 12 And Adonizedek blessed Abram, and Abram gave him a tenth from all that he had brought from the spoil of his enemies, for Adonizedek was a priest before God.
Many people have misunderstood Melchizedek, thinking him to be Jesus Christ incarnate. Their belief is based upon a misreading of Heb. 7:1-8. Verse 3 says Melchisedec was:
3 without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; but made like the Son of God. (NASB)
This must be taken in the context of verse 6. Heb. 7:6 says in the KJV, " But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham." The NASB reads, " But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham." In other words, Melchisedec's genealogy is not counted, traced, or RECORDED by the biblical writer, and in this way is he also a type of Christ. It does NOT say that Melchisedec literally had no parents. It only says that he merely appears out of nowhere in the biblical text, with no explanation of who he was or who were his parents. This divine silence in the biblical text was done purposefully in order to make him a type of Christ, that is, " one like the Son of God."
Shem himself lived to the ripe old age of 600 years. He was a century old when the flood came, and lived 500 years after the flood. If one charts the genealogies of Gen. 11, as we did on page 17 of Secrets of Time, we find that Shem outlived Abraham. In fact, Shem died when Isaac was 50 years old.
Jewish traditions teach that Shem built Jerusalem, and he would therefore be its king. He was still alive during all of Abraham's life. Therefore, it would only stand to reason that Abraham would pay tithes to him, for he was the true king of all the earth and was the birthright holder. In fact, because Shem outlived Abraham, Abraham never did receive the birthright, though he was in line to receive it. Hence, it passed directly from Shem to Isaac, and this is why the biblical narrative does not tell us about the birthright until Isaac's sons fought over it.
Understanding Esau-who he is and how his life has affected modern history-is of utmost importance in the study of Bible prophecy. The descendants of Esau were called various names in the Bible. The first name was Edom, which means "red," as we read in Genesis 25:30 in the NASB,
30 And Esau said to Jacob, Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished. Therefore his name was called Edom ["red"].
The Hebrew name, " Edom," sometimes is written in its Greek form, "Idumea." These are the same name, but written in different languages. By marrying the daughter of Seir the Horite, Esau made an alliance with him and then went to live with that Canaanite family, as we read in Genesis 36:8,
8 So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.
Jasher confirms this, saying that the reason he moved away was due to disputes with the Canaanites over pasture land and water rights. He then intermarried with the family of Seir the Horite and gave his daughters in marriage to the men of that family (Jasher 30:29). Eventually, in a dispute, Esau's family destroyed the family of Seir the Horite and thus inherited all of that land. And so, mount Seir became Esau's inheritance, the " land of Edom," and is so identified in later Scripture. It was located south of the Dead Sea all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.
In Ezekiel 35 the prophecy against Esau's descendants is directed against " mount Seir and all Edom " (NASB of 35:15). The prophet also directs his anti-Esau prophecies against "Teman" in Ezekiel 20:46 and in 25:13. Teman was Esau's grandson through Eliphaz (Gen. 36:11).
Eliphaz also had a son named Amalek (Gen. 36:12) who established a prominent Edomite tribe that was one of Israel 's fiercest enemies. They settled east of Edom between Canaan and Egypt. The Amalekites were the ones who attacked Israel as they came out of Egypt under Moses. Israel won the battle as long as Moses interceded for Israel with his hands raised (Exodus 17:11). In Exodus 17:16, after Israel had defeated Amalek in battle, God told Moses,
16 and he said, The LORD has sworn; the LORD will have war against Amalek from generation to generation.
From that time forward, the prophets consistently identify the descendants of Esau as being Israel 's enemy that would be overthrown in the latter days. The book of Obadiah is only one chapter, but it is entirely devoted to this subject. It says in verse 18 that the house of Esau would be consumed as a field of stubble is consumed by fire.
18 Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be as stubble. And they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken.
Interestingly enough, the "fire" is said to be first "the house of Jacob" ( Israel ) and more specifically "the house of Joseph." You recall that Joseph was the birthright holder and carried the name " Israel," ever since Jacob had given that name to the sons of Joseph in Gen. 48:16. This shows a particular conflict between Joseph and Esau. The reason is that both houses were to fight over the birthright. Esau had lost it, and his descendants continually desired to take it back. Joseph had ultimately received it, but was to lose it temporarily in the latter days. The struggle over the birthright is called "the controversy of Zion " in the King James Version of Isaiah 34:8. The NASB reads,
8 For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion.
In the footnote of the NASB, "the cause" is said to mean "controversy." They rendered it "cause," in the sense of a legal cause. The Hebrew word is reeb, and Strong's Concordance renders it "a contest (personal or legal)." In other words, God has a court date set for Edom, because He has a legal cause, or controversy, regarding " Zion," that is, regarding the administration of the Kingdom. Because the original Zion was the place of David's seat of government, Zion became a symbol of the administration of the Kingdom. Of course, this side of the Cross, we believe that the New Jerusalem takes precedence over the Old Jerusalem, and likewise, there is a New Zion that is distinct from the original location. This will be discussed further in Chapter Eight.
Once we understand that the prophecies regarding Esau come under all of these various names, it is apparent that the Bible is full of prophecies against Esau's descendants in the latter days. Many do not realize this, however, because many prophetic statements are directed at one of the other names: Edom, Idumea, Seir, Teman, or Amalek.
Of course, Jacob and Esau themselves were rivals for the birthright and blessing (rulership, or dominion). When Esau was extra hungry one day, he sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup (Gen. 25:29-34). The birthright was the ownership of all the property owned by Isaac. When Jacob purchased the birthright for a bowl of soup, this sale was unlawful, according to Leviticus 25:14, which says,
14 If you make a sale, moreover, to your friend [Heb. amiyth, "an associate, neighbor"], or buy from your friend's hand, you shall not wrong [Heb. anah, "oppress, mistreat"] one another.
In the context of buying or selling, to mistreat or oppress means to take advantage of someone's situation, buying something at a very low price or selling at a very high price. Jacob broke this law when he bought the birthright from Esau for a bowl of soup. Jacob did not have enough money to purchase the birthright for a fair price.
Many years later, at the death of Isaac, Jacob did make the attempt to make this right with Esau. Jasher 47:15-19 tells us the story,
15 And at the death of Isaac, he left his cattle and his possessions and all belonging to him to his sons; and Esau said unto Jacob, Behold I pray thee, all that our father has left we will divide it in two parts, and I will have the choice, and Jacob said, We will do so. 16 And Jacob took all that Isaac had left in the land of Canaan, the cattle and the property, and he placed them in two parts before Esau and his sons, and he said unto Esau, Behold all this is before thee, choose thou unto thyself the half which thou wilt take. 17 And Jacob said unto Esau, Hear thou I pray thee what I will speak unto thee, saying, The Lord God of heaven and earth spoke unto our fathers Abraham and Isaac, saying, Unto thy seed will I give this land for an inheritance forever. 18 Now therefore all that our father has left is before thee, and behold all the land is before thee; choose thou from them what thou desirest. 19 If thou desirest the whole land, take it for thee and thy children forever, and I will take this riches, and if thou desirest the riches, take it unto thee, and I will take this land for me and for my children to inherit it forever.
So the choice was between the wealth of Isaac and the land of Canaan. Esau, of course, decided to take the wealth and leave the land to Jacob, because the land was already claimed by the Canaanites and might never be inherited. The deal was recorded in a book, signed, and sealed. Esau moved back to his territory south of Canaan, and Jacob remained in Canaan. This settled the dispute, at least temporarily.
What neither Jacob nor Esau understood was that the " land of Canaan " included a great deal more than just a geographical land inheritance. As we showed earlier from Gen. 1:26-28, God had in mind from the beginning that this birthright should be promise of Sonship. In other words, the so-called "land inheritance" was really the manifestation of the Sons of God. How? Because our bodies are made of the dust of the ground. Adam was formed of the dust of the ground and was a "manifested Son" at the beginning. That is, Adam's body was spiritual flesh. His earthly body manifested the glory of God.
The purpose of creation was for God to manifest His glory in the earth that He had created. The highest manifestation of glory was reserved for Adam and man in general. The body, though made from earthly materials, was not evil, but "very good" (Gen. 1:31). God had always been glorified in the heavens, but God created this earth in order to glorify Himself in this dimension as well. But Adam sinned and lost that glorified body. That is, he literally lost his inheritance and found himself in bondage to an earthly body that was devoid of the former glory. The purpose of history is for man to regain the glorified body, where the dust of the ground once again houses and manifests the divine glory.
For this reason, the Sonship is actually man's prime inheritance. It is the real "land of Canaan " that God intended from the beginning to give us. The old land of Canaan was merely a type and shadow of the real inheritance. Yet when Esau chose the wealth, leaving Jacob with the promise of the land inheritance, Esau was despising the true birthright once again. And Jacob obtained the promise of Sonship that was inherent, but disguised, in the land of Canaan.
The point is that Esau was given a fair choice this time. But Esau was not a spiritual man, nor did he discern what was really at stake here. He chose the immediate blessing of wealth and rejected the long-term inheritance of the land inheritance, which the Apostle Paul calls "the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23).
But what about the dominion mandate? This, too, was something God gave to Adam in the first chapter of Genesis. Recall that this had been passed down from generation to generation. It resided in Shem, the King of Righteousness, King of Jeru-Salem ("City of Salem "). Abraham had died too soon to receive this mantle of rulership, but Isaac did receive it at the death of Shem, for he was the next prime inheritor in the lineage. How did Jacob get this dominion mandate?
The conflict between Jacob and Esau came to a head when Isaac was ready to pass on the blessing to Esau. Isaac apparently became quite sick or weak and felt that his life was coming to an end soon. So he decided to bless his oldest son, Esau, with the dominion mandate. The blessing was customary when a patriarch felt like he was coming toward the end of his life. It was done to formally establish his successor as ruler of the estate. It was the moment when the birthright holder was lawfully appointed as RULER.
The difference between the birthright and the rulership was established in the first chapter of Genesis. In Gen. 1:26 God said to Adam and Eve, "Let them have dominion." In verse 28 God said, "Be fruitful and multiply." The blessing of being fruitful and multiplying was the birthright that Esau sold to Jacob for a bowl of soup. The dominion mandate is the blessing that Jacob stole.
Isaac intended to give the dominion "blessing" to his oldest son, Esau. He sent Esau to hunt venison for the occasion, but Rebekah overheard the conversation and remembered the prophecy during her pregnancy that "the older shall serve the younger." She immediately decided to help God secure the blessing for Jacob. Taking advantage of Isaac's blindness (Genesis 27:1), Jacob pretended to be Esau, even dressing in Esau's finest clothing. Genesis 27:15, 16 says,
15 Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her elder son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. 16 And she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck.
Isaac was suspicious, because he seemed to recognize Jacob's voice. Verse 19 says,
19 And Jacob said to his father, "I am Esau your first-born; I have done as you told me. Get up, please, sit and eat of my game [venison], that you may bless me."
Later, Isaac was still suspicious, so he tried once again to verify Esau's identity. Verse 24 says,
24 And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?" And he said, "I am."
Isaac then blessed Jacob and proclaimed him as his successor from Adam, divinely appointed to rule the earth. But then Esau returned with the venison and requested the blessing. When he was told that Jacob had already usurped it, he was furious. One can hardly blame him. Isaac, too, was greatly disturbed by Jacob's deceit. We then read in verse 36:
36 Then he said, "Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing." And he said, "Have you not reserved a blessing for me?"
Here we see a clear distinction between the birthright and the blessing. Many years later, Jacob preserved this distinction when he blessed his 12 sons, giving the blessing of the dominion mandate to Judah and the birthright to Joseph. 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2 says,
1 Now the sons of Reuben the first-born of Israel for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. 2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright belonged to Joseph.
It is clear from this that Judah received the blessing of leadership, and this meant that from him would come the kings of Israel -most importantly, the Messiah. On the other hand, Joseph received the birthright, which was the mandate to "be fruitful and multiply." The birthright included, then, the people of Israel -that is, the Kingdom itself. This was a type and shadow of a greater fulfillment that was yet to come-not merely carnal people who were nationally known by the name of Israel, but the Sons of God manifested in the earth. Remember that when God gave the fruitfulness mandate to Adam, He did not intend to produce mere fleshly children, but the Sons of God. The nation of Israel was certainly called to bring forth the Kingdom and bring forth the Sons of God, but they failed to do so.
The blessing of the dominion mandate was to produce the KING-MESSIAH. Having the birthright was to possess the KINGDOM. Jacob supplanted Esau in both of these. First Jacob took the birthright by price-gouging, taking advantage of Esau's hunger. But by deceit, he simply stole the blessing of the dominion mandate.
There is one thing I have learned about the divine law: it is impartial (James 2:9). That means Esau had lawful cause against Jacob, because Jacob wronged him. Many have attempted to justify Jacob's actions here, but they cannot be justified. The Bible says Jacob lied to his blind father. Jacob was guilty of outright fraud. For this reason, God had to hold Jacob accountable. So he led Isaac to pronounce a very important blessing upon Esau, a blessing which was not fulfilled until the twentieth century, as we shall yet see as we continue our study.
Isaac must have been well aware that God would judge Jacob for defrauding Esau. It made no difference that Esau was carnal, not having the character of God (or even of Isaac). Obviously, neither did Jacob. As the victim of deceit himself, Isaac knew that there would be a day of reckoning, when Jacob would have to return the birthright and blessing to Esau and allow God to give it to whomsoever He would-and in His own way. So Isaac gave this blessing to Esau in Gen. 27:39, 40,
39 Then Isaac his father answered and said to him, Behold, away from the fertility of the earth shall be your dwelling, and away from the dew of heaven from above. 40 And by your sword you shall live, and your brother you shall serve; but it shall come about when you become restless [Heb. rood, "to trample, to rule"], that you shall break his yoke from your neck.
The key to understanding Esau's blessing is in the meaning of the Hebrew word, rood. The NASB translates it "become restless," but this rendering is meaningless. The KJV renders it "have the dominion." Young's Concordance says it means "to rule." Strong's Concordance says it means "to tramp about; i.e., ramble (free or disconsolate)."
It is apparent that the word paints the picture of a man who is free to "tramp" where he wishes-as in the case when a man owns his own land and can tramp where he pleases. In the above verse, where it is used in the blessing to Esau, we may picture Esau breaking free of Jacob's dominion, or rule, so that he is free to tramp about where he pleases. In fact, because Isaac has just prophesied that Esau would live by his sword, the word pictures Esau in a time when he would be free to do according to the dictates of his own violent character.
In other words, the day would come when Esau would receive the dominion mandate by force and be free to trample upon whomsoever he pleased. This is consistent with the character of Esau, and oppressive rule is what we would expect out of his descendants. Because Jacob had stolen this dominion mandate from Esau, Jacob would have to return it to Esau for a season at some point in the future. This was Isaac's righteous judgment in this case.
Yet even so, God will not allow Edom to have the dominion forever. Their time was to end after they had proven to all that they were not called or capable of ruling the earth with impartiality and with love. Their time of dominion would prove to all men that they are tyrants who expect to be treated as a privileged class. But God will have no tyrants ruling His Kingdom.
Esau believed that the land of Canaan was rightfully his and that his brother, Jacob, had unlawfully usurped the land. All through history, it was his desire to evict Jacob and to conquer or settle the land in place of Jacob. While Jacob's descendants were in Egypt, the main tribe called Edom settled in the Arabah just south of the Dead Sea all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba. The Amalekites, who were another branch from Esau, settled to their west in the Negev, directly south of Canaan. The Amalekites attacked Israel as they were coming out of Egypt under Moses (Ex. 17). In this sense, they were Israel 's oldest enemies and probably were determined to prevent them from returning to Canaan.
Centuries later, in the days of Gideon, Israel was in captivity to an alliance of three people: Amalek, Midian, and the children of the East (Judges 6:3). So we find Amalek still the enemy of Israel and desirous of putting them into captivity.
When Judah was taken captive to Babylon, Edom rejoiced at their downfall, for this meant that they might be able to settle the land of Canaan. This is mentioned in Ezekiel 35 in a prophecy directed specifically at Edom.
2 Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it.
5 Because you have had everlasting enmity and have delivered the sons of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of the punishment of the end, 6 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you; since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you.
10 Because you have said, These two nations [Israel and Judah] and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them, although the LORD was there, 11 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord GOD, I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred against them; so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you.
Notice here that Mount Seir, or Edom, was not a peace-loving people. They desired blood and were thus violating the law against "eating blood" (Lev. 17). Today men would describe them as bloodthirsty. Blood is red; Edom means "red." We cannot help but include Edom 's name in the prophetic description of national character.
In verse 10 above, we see by the mouth of the prophet that Edom 's desire was to possess the two lands of Israel and Judah. Though Isaac had prophesied Esau's eventual dominion-and presumably his claim to the land of Canaan -this return to Canaan was NOT to be done under godly motives. Hence, God says He will judge them according to their envy, hatred, and anger.
Esau wanted to rule the Kingdom of God for his own personal gain and with carnal motives and methods. In Ezekiel 36, the prophet turns to Israel and tells them about Edom in verses 2-5,
2 Thus says the Lord GOD, Because the enemy has spoken against you, Aha! and, The everlasting heights have become our possession... 5 therefore, thus says the Lord GOD, Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey.
The conflict between Jacob and Esau in this prophecy is very clear. The fight is over the land of Canaan, which both wanted as their possession. When God scattered the House of Israel from 745-721 B.C., only Judah stood in the way of Esau's descendants from possessing the land. When Judah was taken to Babylon from 604-586 B.C., Edom then appropriated God's land for themselves, not to use it for God's will, but for their own selfish motives.
This prophecy was partially fulfilled in the days of Ezekiel, but at that time, not Edom, but Babylon actually possessed the land. The Assyrians before them had settled other people in the land to replace the Israelites that had been deported (2 Kings 17:24). The descendants of these people became known as Samaritans even in Jesus' day.
So even though Edom would have liked to possess the two countries of Israel and Judah, they were prevented from doing so at that time. This means that the fulfillment of Isaac's blessing upon Esau would come at a later time. The same is true of Ezekiel's prophecy of Edom.
The prophet Malachi (about 450-400 B.C.) is probably the clearest statement of Esau's Zionist motivations. In chapter one we read,
1 The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel through Malachi. 2 I have loved you, says the LORD. But you say, How hast Thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob's brother? declares the LORD. Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation, and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness. 4 Though Edom says, We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins; thus says the LORD of hosts, They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the LORD is indignant forever.
Esau's Zionistic motive is in the statement, "We will return and build." God's response is "They may build, but I will tear down." In essence, God is re-affirming Isaac's blessing upon Jacob that they will indeed return and build, but at some point it will all be torn down. At that time the world will learn God's view of Edom and his methods. Men will then "call them the wicked territory."
Even so, the way in which God restored the land and the birthright to the descendants of Esau is largely hidden from most people's view. God deliberately blinded both the world and the Church, lest we oppose His plan and method. But we believe the time has arrived when all may see what God has done to right the wrong done to Esau. To understand this properly, we must look at the historical record and see what actually happened to Esau's descendants, called Edom in Hebrew and Idumea in Greek.
The conquest of Edom, or Idumea (as it was then known by its Greek name), began with Judas Maccabeus in 163 B.C., according to 1 Maccabees 5:3-8. Eventually, Edom ceased to be a nation in 126 B.C. when John Hyrcanus of Judah finished his conquest and forcibly converted the remaining Edomites to Judaism. Never again was there a nation called Edom or Idumea. The story is told in great detail by the first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, XIII, ix, 1. Here we read:
"Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of Idumea, and subdued all the Idumeans ; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would be circumcised, and make use of the laws of the Jews; and they were so desirous of living in the country of their forefathers, that they submitted to the use of circumcision and the rest of the Jews' ways of living; at which time therefore, this befell them, that they were hereafter no other than Jews."
Josephus was the first-century Jewish historian who initially fought against the Romans in the war that destroyed Jerusalem. He was himself a descendant of the Maccabees. He was well-acquainted with these things when he wrote of these things, because he was writing about his own family history. The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1925 edition under " Edom," affirms the Edomite absorption into Jewry, saying,
"Judas Maccabeus conquered their territory for a time (B.C. 163; Ant. Xii, 8 par. 1, 2). They were again subdued by John Hyrcanus (c. 125 B.C.) by whom they were forced to observe Jewish rites and laws ( ib. 9, par. 1; xiv. 4, par. 4). They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation, and their country was called by the Greeks and Romans 'Idumea' (Mark iii. 8; Ptolemy, Geography v. 16). With Antipater began the Idumean dynasty that ruled over Judea till its conquest by the Romans. Immediately before the siege of Jerusalem 20,000 Idumeans, under the leadership of John, Simeon, Phinehas, and Jacob, appeared before Jerusalem to fight in behalf of the zealots who were besieged in the Temple (Josephus, B.J. iv. 4, par. 5).
"From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate people."
Books have been written attempting to prove that Turkey or China or other nations are modern Edom, in the vain effort to identify Edom with the real or imagined enemies of the modern Jewish state. Yet even The Jewish Encyclopedia itself (above) states the truth in plain language. "The Idumeans [or Edomites] ceased to be a separate people " from the Jews 125 or 126 B.C.
This is confirmed again by The Jewish Encyclopedia, 1925 edition, Vol. 5, p. 41, which says, "Edom is in modern Jewry."
Edom was absorbed by the Jews and ceased to be a separate people in history. This fact of history is beyond dispute, and no historian has even made the attempt to refute it. It is so well-known to historians that it is incredible how few Christians know this or have incorporated it into their views of Bible prophecy. Only God could have blinded the Church so as to make them lose the entire nation of Edom!
Hence, the Jews-or some branch of them-became the only people remaining to fulfill Isaac's blessing and the Zionist prophecies of Edom. These will be known by their character, manifested by their Zionistic methods. We would expect Edom 's Zionism to be fulfilled by violence, theft, and bloodshed. In contrast, we would expect the true, godly Zionism of Israel (Joseph) to be fulfilled by peace, righteousness, and justice that would be a blessing to all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). This is the contrast between the old Jerusalem and the New, between carnal and spiritual, between counterfeit and genuine.
In the first advent of Jesus Christ, King Herod was His rival for the throne, His nemesis. For this reason, Herod attempted to kill Jesus by slaughtering the children of Bethlehem shortly after He was born. In that this past generation has seen the revival of child murder once again in the form of legalized abortion, we cannot help but see the historic parallel to the events preceding the second coming of Christ.
The pattern of King Herod himself has not been fully appreciated today, because few people have thought of this connection, and those who do would rather avoid it. But King Herod was half Idumean and half Judean. His father, Antipater, had been captured by Idumeans while he was still young and had been raised in Idumea. He later married an Idumean girl, Herod's mother.
Antipater rose to power when the Roman government appointed him Procurator of Judea in 47 B.C. Shortly afterward, the Parthians conquered Syria and Judea, setting Antigonus on the throne, for he was of the Maccabean lineage. But ultimately, Antipater's son, Herod, went to Rome and in 40 B.C. obtained their backing as King of Judea. Josephus wrote in his Antiquities of the Jews, XIV, xv, 2,
"Herod had now a strong army; and... went on for Jerusalem.... Antigonus, by way of reply to what Herod had caused to be proclaimed... said, that they would not do justly if they gave the kingdom to Herod, who was no more than a private man, and an Idumean, i.e., a half Jew..."
Herod overthrew Antigonus in 37 B.C. and ultimately executed him in 34 B.C. Herod took the throne as King of the Jews and began the Idumean dynasty, which ruled Judea for a century until its destruction in 70-73 A.D. King Herod represented the Judean nation well, because he, like the nation itself, was half Idumean and half Judean.
In other words, Jewry itself-that is, those who adhere to Judaism and reject Jesus Christ-is the only modern nation that can fulfill the prophecies of Edom. In incorporating Edom into the nation of Judea and its religious system, the Jews became the heirs of both sets of prophecies -prophecies of Judah as well as the prophecies about Edom.
So far, we have shown but one side of this issue-that of Edom. Later, we will show how the Jews are fulfilling a portion of the prophecies of Judah as well. In order to understand the full scope of this picture, one must have a good grasp of both sets of prophecies and see how they merge without contradiction.
But before we can make sense of twentieth-century Zionism, and its connection to Edom, we must show also its Judah connection. Then when we have established both branches of this prophecy, all will be abundantly clear.