“Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it, and say unto it, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O mount Seir, I am against thee, and I will stretch out mine hand against thee, and I will make thee most desolate. I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord.” — Ezekiel 35:2-4
As a child, one of my favorite books on our family bookcase was a big orange volume titled Complete Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton. The vivid descriptions of this American adventurer and author transported me to fascinating places around the world. One of my most frequently read chapters was about Petra.
Petra was an ancient city, the ruins of which are located in the middle of a mountainous wilderness east of the Dead Sea in southwestern Jordan. Halliburton related, “A traveler looking for Petra would not have found it unless he knew the country well, for the chief gateway was just a crack in the mountain wall. This crack led into a sunless canyon, a thousand feet deep, and this canyon led into the city. . . . so narrow was the canyon-corridor that four men could block it against four thousand. Petra became a huge fortified storehouse where dazzling piles of stolen gold and pearls and silk were guarded by the citizens. With so much wealth and power in their hands, the people of Petra were able to conquer all the neighboring nations.”1
While the Bible does not mention Petra by name, scholars believe Petra (meaning “rock”) was the Greek name for Sela, the fortress city of the Edomites in the mountainous region of Seir. (In Hebrew, sela also means “rock.”) Perhaps Edom’s arrogance, alluded to both in today’s text and in the prophecy of Obadiah, was based at least partially on her supposedly impregnable location.
This chapter gives a prophetic picture of divine justice. In our focus verses, Ezekiel foretold God’s destruction of Mount Seir because of the Edomites’ perpetual hatred of Israel, their looting of Jerusalem, and their desire to possess the lands of Israel and Judah. That prophecy clearly has been fulfilled: Edom declined steadily under the Babylonians, and then under Persian, Greek, and Roman domination. The Edomites’ former mountain stronghold is now merely an archeological site and tourist attraction.
The judgment upon Edom is a reminder that while God has glorious plans for those who honor Him, the day will come when God will no longer show mercy or longsuffering to the wicked. Like the Edomites of long ago, those who reject God and treat His people with hostility will be judged and punished. Thankfully, mercy’s door is still open and there is time yet to repent.
As believers, we look forward with anticipation to the day when our Lord and Savior will return and set up His Kingdom. He will rule in peace over all the nations of the earth, and every knee shall bow before Him, the King of the ages. As we view the oppression and strife that exists in the world around us, what a wonderful hope that is!
Chapter 35 begins a discourse that continues through verse 15 of the following chapter. It concerns the restoration promised by God to Israel, and was directed to the exiles in Babylon.
In contrast to what God promised to do for Israel, a prophecy was put forth beginning in verse 2 to foretell the destruction of Mount Seir. While Seir refers to the mountain range that begins south of the Dead Sea and extends nearly to the Gulf of Aqaba, in this text, Mount Seir was representative of all Idumea (or Edom), a people with a history of persecuting Israel. The prophesied destruction would come first by Nebucchadnezzar, then by the Jews after their return from captivity. It is accurate to term the chapter a “judgment” against Idumea because their sins were specified and the sentence pronounced. However, that sentence had not yet been carried out, giving them time for repentance that would lead to mercy.
In verse 6, repetition of the word “blood” may be an allusion to the fact that Edomites were descendants of Esau, who despised his birthright and sold it to Jacob. They “hated blood” (their brother, Israel), and thus Israel would pursue (chase and defeat) them. Some commentators suggest that the references to blood may also point to the covenant of circumcision and/or the sacrificial system the Jews observed under Moses.
In verse 13, when the Lord said, “I have heard,” the implication was that He was carefully and actively listening when the Edomites boasted; He was not a casual hearer. Verses 14 and 15 describe the utter desolation that would result from the judgment on Edom. Not only would its cities be abandoned and the area become a geographical wasteland, but the people would be utterly abandoned by the Lord, that all would see His righteous judgment and His name would be glorified.
IV. The consolation of Israel
A. Prophecies of Israel’s restoration
3. The devastation of Edom (35:1-15)
a. The declaration of judgment (35:1-4)
b. The determinant of judgment (35:5)
c. The description of judgment (35:6-9)
d. The determinant of judgment (35:10-15)
Just as Edom’s longstanding hostility against God’s people resulted in judgment, all nations who oppose Israel and the people of God will one day be judged.
1. Halliburton, Richard,Complete Book of Marvels, (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1941), pgs. 97, 100.