After promising to deal with Israel’s selfish leaders (chapter 34), the Lord now promises to judge Israel’s cruel neighbour—Edom (chapter 35). As the Lord was against the shepherds of Israel (34:1-2), so He is also “against” the people in Mt Seir (1).
While Babylon brought the hammer down to smash and demolish Israel, Edom—the neighbour to the East—assisted and applauded it. They “cherished perpetual enmity” towards Israel and aided the invading armies who put the Israelites to the sword (5). Rather than grieve the downfall of Israel, the Edomites opportunistically saw a chance to benefit. Their reaction to Israel’s calamity was to say, “These two nations [Judah and Israel] and these two countries shall be mine and we will take possession of them,” (10) and “They are laid desolate; they are given us to devour” (12).
Their underlying “hatred” fueled a passive-aggressive “anger and envy” (11). While they didn’t take the lead in attacking Israel, they rejoiced when Israel was attacked (15). Instead of helping and sheltering those fleeing for their lives, they did not “hate bloodshed” (6) but “gave over the people of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity” (5).
The Lord lets Edom know He considers their vicious attitudes and utterances against Israel as words against Him: “And you magnified yourselves against me with your mouth and multiplied your words against me; I heard it” (13). They failed to understand or believe that He was present with His people (“the Lord was there”—10) even when He sent the Babylonians to judge them.
Because of their sins, the Lord promises to make Edom “a desolation and a waste” (note the repetition of these terms in verses 3, 4, 7, 9, 14 -15). Rather than benefiting from Israel’s demise as they anticipated, they will share Israel’s doom—only in their case it will be “perpetual” (9). When judgment comes, they (as well as the people of Israel) will once again “know that I am the Lord” (4, 9, 11, 12, 15).
Visions of God
The Lord judges those who celebrate or contribute to the pain of His people. Even when Israel’s pain was due to their rebellion against God and His judgment upon them, Edom was wrong to rejoice in Israel’s desolation. Israel were still God’s people by covenant; the Lord took Edom’s hateful words and actions personally. Proverbs 24:17-28 admonishes against rejoicing over an enemy’s calamity, lest the Lord “see it and be displeased and turn away his anger from him.” God calls us to have compassionate, not calloused, hearts towards others. Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy (Matthew 5:7).
The Lord stands up for His people even though He brings them low. God’s covenant with His people remains in force, even when He carries out the “curses” of the covenant (Lev. 26; Deut. 28). He is faithful to His promises and does not abandon His people. Even after the most severe judgment at the hands of the Babylonians, God had not forsaken His covenant people. His judgment on Edom is evidence.
The Lord takes no delight in the death of the wicked; nor should we. God, as the Righteous Judge of the world, is right in bringing lethal judgment on rebellious sinners. However, even though He upholds justice and righteousness, the Lord “has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (33:11). God’s compassionate heart should find echo in our own hearts.
Words to Watchmen
Watchmen rebuke those who callously delight in the calamity of others. The Edomites found delight in Israel’s destruction, rejoicing over the desolation caused by the invading armies (15). While they were not the primary cause of Israel’s devastation, God holds them accountable for having callous, hateful hearts towards His people. Here is a reminder that God judges evil heart attitudes (5, 11) and words (11).
Watchmen highlight the link between sinful attitudes and actions. Ezekiel condemns Edom for aiding and abetting the Babylonian attack on Israel. In the time of Israel’s calamity, they “gave the people of Israel to the power of the sword” (5), joining in the slaughter of fleeing refugees. While their actions were sinful, Ezekiel’s words focus more on their underlying evil attitudes: hate, anger, envy, greed, insensitivity and cruelty. Actions begin with attitudes. Problems in the heart are the heart of our problems.
Watchmen remind people God takes animosity against His people personally. The Lord knows the intents and inclinations of those who hate His people. He hears the harsh words spoken against His people and considers them as spoken against Himself: “And you multiplied yourselves against me with your mouth, and multiplied words against me; I heard it” (11). He identifies with His own people, even when His own are not acting like His people!