For the Love of God, Volume 2/October 2
From Gospel Translations
1 Kings 4—5; Ephesians 2; Ezekiel 35; Psalm 85
ONE MIGHT WELL ASK WHY EDOM should be specially denounced in Ezekiel 35. Doesn’t this material belong in chapters 25—32? Shouldn’t this passage be connected with the brief denunciation of Edom in 25:12-14? The easiest solution, of course, is to suppose that this is a late interpolation (which is what some critics allege). But that simply knocks the question back: why was the interpolator such an idiot? Moreover, if we can find reasons why the location of this chapter makes sense, then of course it makes sense if placed here in the original text.
Formally, Ezekiel 35 preserves some of the structure of the denunciations in chapter 34: “because . . . therefore” (e.g., 35:5-6, 10-11). More importantly, of all the neighboring nations Edom was in one respect a special case. The nation of Edom was descended from Esau, and the old rivalry between Jacob and Esau was passed down into the rivalry between Israel and Edom, two nations of relatives divided by a common animus. Edom is not specifically mentioned in this chapter, of course; the reference instead is to Mount Seir (35:2)—i.e., the mountain region east of the Arabah, the valley running south from the Dead Sea. There they harbored their “ancient hostility” (35:5). But the four references to “blood” in this chapter (Hebrew dam ) may be a deliberate pun on the unmentioned word Edom, as a way of pointing out that Edom’s callous treachery was all the more repugnant because of the degree of kinship they sustained with Israel. When Jerusalem was on the verge of collapse, Edom hoped that it could profit from the destruction of the “two nations” (35:10, Israel and Judah) for territorial aggrandizement. Probably they tried to trade support for Nebuchadnezzar for the promise of territorial gain. Above all, their gloating over their fallen rivals (35:12-15) is in God’s perspective nothing less than defiance of the Lord himself: “I the LORD was there” (35:10), God declares; “You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it” (35:13), God warns. In fact, part of the restoration of Israelite exiles to the land will involve making it safe for them: the land must be rid of the “wild beasts” (34:25) that have ravaged it. If this subtly alludes to the surrounding tribes that tried to move in, this prophecy of the destruction of Edom is suitably placed here (see also tomorrow’s meditation.)
Thus quite apart from implicit warnings against nurtured bitterness and feudlike vendettas, this chapter also implicitly reassures the covenant people of God of his continuing commitment to their good—including the destruction of their enemies. What New Testament passages preserve the same tune, transposed to the key of the new covenant?