The chaos and violence of the modern day Middle East can be traced back through centuries of anger, bitterness, and deceit. Why all the struggle? Why do nations continue to advance through history at arms with each other, without any real reconciliation that will last and no solution presently on the table to their territorial and genealogical crisis? Ironically, one of the answers can be found in a solution as simple as a passage of Scripture! Romans, chapter 9, declares “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13, KJV).¹ A passage such as this many times can present problems for the immature and unlearned believer. What appears to read as God the Father saying that He “hates” someone could not be more wrongly interpreted! God declares in John 3:16 that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). Thank God for the “whosoever”! The “whosoever” encapsulates the halls of eternity past and future! Salvation for any and all who will come to Him through the shed blood of His Son. What, then, is the correct response to this passage? Does God “hate” Esau? God’s Word is true and yet there seems to be a conflict between these two passages. The reality is that “hate” as used in this verse is not the emotional “hate” that the world is so abundantly familiar with, nor is this a flaw in the character of an Almighty Sovereign God! It is speaking in relation to the evil actions and rebellious line of descendants that would proceed through the seed of Esau. These actions would defy the true God and would wage war against the apple of His eye- Israel. The key to understanding today’s Middle East activity rests in the simple declaration- “Jacob have I loved, but Esau I have hated” (Romans 9:13, KJV).
The record of the birth of these two brothers, Jacob and Esau, is recorded in Genesis 25. God records three important and interesting points about them. First, the Bible states that “the children struggled together within her” (Genesis 25:22, KJV). Even before birth, there existed a strife already developing between the two. Secondly, God shares with Rebekah that “two nations are in thy womb…” (Genesis 25:23a, KJV). Here is a disclosure by the Creator Himself that two groups of people would arise from these two small babes yet in her womb. Thirdly, a declaration is made against modern culture and customs of the time in that “the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23b, KJV). God’s prophetic Words would remain true, and the brothers would be born and develop just as prophesied.
One of the early roots of bitterness between the two brothers would spring from the Birthright which Esau held by tradition, yet was promised to Jacob by God. Rather than trust God for His timing and provision in the transfer of the birthright, Jacob takes a human, fleshly approach to obtain the promise through bribing his brother Esau with food: “And Jacob sod pottage: and Esau came from the field, and he was faint: And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint… And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright…and he sold his birthright to Jacob” (Genesis 25:29-31, 33b, KJV). Jacob cunningly used the lust of the eyes and flesh to lure Esau into his trap. Esau, thinking in the flesh and wanting immediate gratification for his hunger, eagerly sells and despises his birthright (Genesis 25:34, KJV). Jacob would later yet again use deceit to obtain the blessing from his father Issac that God had promised (Genesis 27, KJV). Because of his sinful way of accomplishing this, further bitterness and anger would take root in the heart of Esau. This would lead to Jacob fleeing the land for fear of his life.
It is important to understand the history of these two brothers to understand why events unfolding in the Middle East today can be traced back in origin to God’s Word and these two brothers. Esau would later be reconciled to Jacob as recorded in Genesis, chapter 33. The brothers would dwell in the land together and would eventually bury their father, Isaac (Genesis 35:29, KJV). It is then after these events that the land can simply not bear both families due to their number (Genesis 36:6-7, KJV). Esau is recorded as dwelling in the area of Mount Seir (Genesis 36:8, KJV). Scripture also records that Esau is “Edom” and fathered the Edomites in Mount Seir (Genesis 36:8-9, KJV). Of those descendants was Amalek, who would become a major source of struggle for the people of Israel (Genesis 36:12, Exodus 17:8, KJV). Scripture records that “the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Exodus 17:16b, KJV). Agag, the king of the Amalekites and descendant of Esau, would bring much trouble to the house of Israel when Saul is disobedient in totally destroying them as ordered by the Lord through Samuel (I Samuel 15:3,8-9 KJV). Saul spares King Agag alive, which brings God’s rejection on Saul as King and his reign. Samuel would have to faithfully complete the task left for Saul in the execution of King Agag (I Samuel 15:33, KJV).
Another descendant in the line of Esau is that of Haman. Esther records that “After these things did King Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him” (Esther 3:1, KJV). Haman was a descendant of King Agag, of the Amalekites. Haman would be a tool of Satan in an attempt to wipe out the Jews. God would preserve the Jews through a humble heart of His servant Esther.
The Edomites would be attacked by the Nabataeans of Arabia, descendants of Ishmael. The remnant of remaining Edomites would escape from their dwelling in Petra and flee for their lives. This attack would be in response to God’s judgment on the Edomites for their prideful heart. They would settle around the southern half of Judea and would become known as the Idumeans, which is Greek for “pertaining to Edom”. From the Idumeans would emerge another adversary of God’s people: Antipater. This Idumean would become a powerful Roman official and would be given the power to extract taxes from the Jews, making him unpopular. ² Unfortunately, the more evil accomplishment of this descendant can be seen in his offspring- Herod the Great. At 15 years old, Herod would become Governor of Galilee. He would eventually become King and reign for over 30 years. Herod the Great was full of jealousy and rage. He would have many people killed in defense of his throne, including some his own children and his wife. He also would murder many of the rabbis and set up his own “high priest” to protect the control of the Temple. This high priest would also later be killed out of Herod’s jealousy of his growing popularity among the Jews. The descendants of Herod the Great (and thus descendants of Esau) were no less amiable to God’s people. Herod’s son would later have John the Baptist beheaded; Herod’s grandson would kill James, the brother of John; and Herod’s great-grandson would later be a persecutor of the Apostle Paul.
As it has been shown to this point, Esau and his descendants have continued to be at war with the Jewish people throughout history. There still remains bitterness and animosity towards the Jewish state by her enemies unto this very day, in the form of the Palestinian people, who are the descendants of Esau. Yasser Arafat, once the Leader of the Palestinians and first President of the PLO, an organization with the goal of displacing the Jews and taking their land, is a descendant of Esau. His ancestry also includes the El-Husseini family, who are also descendants of Esau. The modern day Palestinians are indeed descendants of the Edomites of Scripture. With this knowledge, one can gleam from God’s Word the future demise that awaits these people.
Obadiah records the judgment that would come against Edom. Two reasons for their judgment would stem from the pride of their heart (Obadiah 3, KJV), and violence against Jacob, or Israel (Obadiah 10, KJV). Obadiah describes in the future that “as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been (Obadiah 15-16, KJV). There awaits a day in the future, when God will destroy Edom for her wicked actions and hatred of Israel. Centuries of intoxicating power over God’s holy mountain- the Temple Mount- will bring about their demise. Ezekiel proclaims the desolation of the Edomites- modern day Palestinians: “I will lay thy cities waste, and thou shalt be desolate, and thou shalt know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 35:4, KJV). Ezekiel 25 and Jeremiah 49 also speak of the time when Edom will be utterly destroyed. God will, for His name’s sake, fulfill His promises to Israel and her enemies. The world today seeks for a political answer to the troubles of the Middle East. God will provide a just and righteous answer: “But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness: and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it” (Obadiah 17-18, KJV). Study of God’s Word reveals that the final calamity of the Palestinians will happen at the end of the Tribulation period, when Christ returns and empowers the Jews to overtake the Palestinians. They will be utterly and totally destroyed to never be a burden to God’s people again! Until that day, God will continue to use Kings and Authorities as He wills, to bring about His Righteous and Sovereign plan for mankind. There awaits an eternity with a loving God for those who will trust and obey His requirement of forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son on the Cross. For all others, including Satan, his evil angels, the atheists, the humanists, and even the unregenerate Palestinian people, their awaits an eternity of torment and pain. As a nation, Edom’s fate is sealed. As individuals, God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. There is, therefore, so much more the dire need to reach these heathen and satanically deceived people before God calls His people home to be with Him and judgment begins.
1All Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Bible version, Royal, 1971.
²Josephus. Flavius. William Whistom, translator. (2003) The Works of Jospehus: Complete and Unabridged, Updated Edition (17th printing). The Antiquities of the Jews. The Wars of the Jews. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.