The Most Significant
Gentile Nation in the Bible
By Ernest L. Martin, Ph.D., 1997
Transcribed and edited by David Sielaff, July 2006
Read the accompanying Newsletter for July 2006
What is the most significant Gentile nation of the Bible? I suppose when you enquire about the word “significant” a person should ask, significant in what way? What I am getting to is this: what is the most significant Gentile nation in relationship to the nation of Israel in the entirety of the Bible, from Genesis all the way through the Book of Revelation. There is one nation mentioned, constantly coming in contact with Israel, and most people do not really know much about these people called “the most significant Gentile nation,” because they have not really looked at the prophecies related to them in a proper way.
Some might say the most significant people would be the Egyptians. After all, the Egyptians were adjacent to the Israelites on the south and represented one of the great riverine civilizations of the past. Indeed, the Egyptians were very important as far as Israel was concerned. Another might say that the Babylonians would be the most significant. They certainly would be a contender because we also find a considerable amount of information about them in the Bible. Others might say the Assyrians. Or get a little closer. Some might say the Philistines. The Philistines were always in close association with Israel usually near the cities of Judah in the southwest area of Jerusalem down on the coast. Others might say maybe it was the Tyrians, the people of Tyre who lived north of the area of Israel.
All of these nations are significant in their own way. From time to time, at particular periods of time, each one could have been considered the most significant. But overall from the beginning of the history of Israel down to the end of the New Testament, and prophetically still down to a time future to us when Jesus Christ will come back to this earth, there is one people, one nation that has been mentioned throughout the Scripture which has far greater significance than all others that I have mentioned. I am not going to say far greater than all of them put together; but if you single out one people and one nation from a biblical point of view, the one I am going to mention now stands out par excellence.
Indeed in the Old Testament, in the prophecies uttered by Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and almost all the 12 Minor Prophets, you will find a mention of these people. You will not find a mention of the Assyrians in all of them. You will not find the Babylonians. You will not find the Egyptians. But you will find these people mentioned in almost every single prophecy, major or minor, of the Old Testament. By ramification, and by that I mean by reference, back to the Old Testament, particularly from the Book of Revelation, you will find these people continually being mentioned by John in the Revelation. They are not mentioned by name, but all you have to do is to go back to the references and the references are in a context of dealing with these people.
Who are these people who represent the most significant Gentile nation as far as Israel is concerned, the most significant in the entirety of the Bible as far as not being part of Israel. It happens to be the Edomites, the descendants of Esau.
This is made quite clear in the Scripture. You will find Edomites mentioned all over the place in the Bible, in the most unusual places in some cases, a prophecy couched, shall we say, among others in maybe only three or four verses, but what those three or four verses contain happen to be the most significant teachings you can imagine, prophetically speaking.
Sometimes we have whole sections of books that are given to Edom. In one case one whole book is written concerning the Edomites alone. That is the Book of Obadiah. I will refer to it just a few moments. If a person would read the history of Israel from the very beginning he would find, even prophetically, these people of Esau called Edom.
They were called Edomites. The word means “red people.” Edom means red. Compare Genesis 25:25, 30. It does not necessarily mean that the descendants of Edom were colored red, that they had a red complexion, although it could mean that. They were people of the flesh. It is a takeoff of the word Adam. Adam itself means “made out of red earth or red clay.” Look at us. We have red blood in us. The whole connection is there with the red. That is Adam, but they vowel point it differently and they get Edom. Edom/Adam it is virtually the same thing, but it means “red men,” “fleshly men,” “men of the flesh.”
In actual fact when you analyze the characteristics of the Edomites as revealed in the Scripture I suppose you would say they are men of the flesh, whereas the Israelites, though they were not spiritual all of the time, symbolically speaking you would say they were men of the spirit and the Edomites are men of the flesh. I think this is well shown throughout the Scripture. 1
In the very beginning when Isaac wanted to have children, Rebecca finally became pregnant (Genesis 25:21). In her womb came to be twins and one of them was Esau and the other was Jacob. You know what they were doing from the very beginning? It is mentioned in the Scripture; they were struggling with each other, even before birth (Genesis 25:22–24). That was looked on in the Old Testament as a sign that these two peoples, twins though they were, would continue to struggle even after birth and continue all the way through time unto the end. Indeed that is exactly the case as we are told in the books of Moses.
This is reiterated by Paul in Romans chapter 9 which gives the significance of Esau and Jacob and what was to happen to their posterity as time goes on. In verse 8 it speaks about “the children of the flesh” and then about “the children of God.” Who are these children of the flesh? It means anyone who lives fleshly, I know. But there was one group of people that symbolized “the children of the flesh” and that group was the children of Edom, and that is the children of the red, “the children of the flesh.” Do you see the point?
That is what the takeoff is all about. And there are “the children of God” or the children of the Spirit and they would be considered the Israelites. I hasten to add, however, and the Bible makes it quite clear, that though Israelites were called “the children of God” or the children of the Spirit, they had as much flesh in them as anybody else. We all know that. Here then is Paul speaking about “the children of the flesh” in contrast to “the children of God,” as he says beginning at verse 9:
“For this is the word of promise, ‘At this time will I [YHWH] come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac’; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls).”
He means that God calls a person before birth. God calls people to do certain things or a person to do a particular thing, or a descendant of that person to do a particular thing — whether good or evil — even before their births. This is called election. It is also termed “a calling.” It is not of works, obviously, because when two people are still in the womb as babies; they cannot do good or evil, but God had consigned these two children, from Rebecca, to particular roles in history. It says here:
“(… neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calls). It was said unto her, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’”
The firstborn came to be Esau, later to be named Edom. The second born (born immediately afterward, of course) was Jacob.
“As it is written, ‘Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.”
I shall stop here and comment on this. It says in verse 13, and here is Paul quoting the Old Testament (Malachi 1:3), 2 of course, that Jacob was to be loved. He was designed to be loved by God. He was elected before birth to be loved. He was called to that position, whereas Esau his twin brother was called not to be loved, but to be hated. He was called not to be given all the good things of life, but to be given evil. If this happened before birth, before either of the children could even say “yea” or “nay” to the whole thing, and God designed it this way, the most natural conclusion that you and I would make, and which Paul makes reference to here, is that God must be unrighteous because He did not give them a chance.
We know what happened to Esau later on. He sold his birthright for some mere pottage. 3 God called him a profane person as a result of that, as he no doubt was. But on the other hand look at Jacob. He “bought” his birthright by stealth from Esau, did he not? Almost everything that Jacob ever did as a young man was evil, up until he became what we might call “converted” up in Luz or Bethel (Genesis 28:19) on the road to Babylon. Up to that time he was one of the greatest scoundrels you could ever imagine.
Is it not interesting though, that before Jacob was born he was given a commission or a position to be loved by God. Whereas Esau, before he was born, was to be hated along with his descendants. “Is there unrighteousness with God?” On the surface we would say yes. But Paul said “God forbid,” that is, let it not be. There can never be any unrighteousness with God.
You can carry this teaching a little farther. I do not know why it is that you and I living in the United States of America right now have the physical and even spiritual blessings that we can have in these lands. We could have been born, I suppose, maybe somewhere else, let us say Mexico, but they do not have the blessings we have here. You could have been born in central Africa, I suppose, well, wherever. Why is it we have these blessings and other people do not? We could say quite clearly that God is not righteous in the matter. Why does He not even it all out? Better yet, why does He not give me ten times more than I have now? That is what most of us want to say. 4
God knows what He is doing. We do not have all the answers to these points but God is the one who calls. God is the one who elects. And before these two children were ever able to say yea or nay about the whole matter, what happens? God had elected one to hatred and his descendants, and that hatred is expressed from the beginning to the end of the Bible. To another He said I am going to love them. That is also from beginning to end as well. God knows what He is doing in all of this.
So since Esau was struggling in the womb with Jacob even before birth, and that was a sign of what was to happen to the two nations afterward, and you see it perpetuated through the biblical revelation, when I ask the question what is the most significant Gentile nation of the Bible as associated with Israel, the answer is plain right on the surface, it is Edom, the descendants of Esau, or the Edomites.
Where do these Edomites live? They were given territory south of the Dead Sea. Their central area was the region of Petra, the red rose city of ancient times. They lived in that area. They also spread toward the Mediterranean Sea in later times in southern Judah in that region there. They became associated with the Jews in the time of Christ. Herod, for example, who in the time of Christ ruled over the Jews, was himself an Edomite. The Edomites always had some contact, in one way or another, with the Jews, and we certainly see it throughout the Scripture.
As I said before, there are more references to the nation of Edom in the Bible, as far as a Gentile nation is concerned, than any other, so it must mean that they are important. Indeed they are. I will turn to one section of Scripture, and go through it quickly. In fact I am going to go through the whole book. It will not take long to do it because it is 21 verses long. It is the Book of Obadiah.
The information in this book has never happened before in history. A few incidences mentioned here we might consider as having happened before, but when you take all of these 21 verses into account, and try to look on them as having a historical relevance in the past at one given time (which you must have when you read this section), it has never occurred in history. Therefore I say it is a prophecy of the future because it has never happened before.
After we go through Obadiah I want to go to a section of Scripture in the Book of Isaiah which most people do not even realize exists, yet it is one of the most important prophetic chapters dealing with the end times that you can imagine, showing a people that will call together Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, and all types of other nations. It is quite true that an “Assyrian” will lead this coalition at the end, but the Edomites are going to be fundamentally involved in dealing with the nation of Israel at the end of the age just prior to the Second Coming of Christ. It is most significant.
Look at the Book of Obadiah. This book was probably written in the later part of the 8th century or early 7th century B.C.E., long before Christ was on earth, and long before the Babylonian captivity of the Jews.
However, most commentators today would say (incorrectly) that the Book of Obadiah was written just about the time of Jeremiah.
Indeed you will find virtually all of this prophecy of Obadiah repeated in Jeremiah 49:7–22. Jeremiah utters this prophecy virtually the same, word for word. What Jeremiah really is doing is copying from the earlier work of Obadiah. This shows that Obadiah’s prophecy is a very old one. The Book of Obadiah deals with this brother people to Israel, the Edomites. 5 This is most significant. As I said, this has never happened in the history of the world — yet — but it will happen one of these days.
“The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom; We have heard a rumor from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen [the nations], Arise you, and let us rise up against her [Edom] in battle.”
This means let us now go against Edom “in battle.” Here is the prophet Obadiah seeing this vision, and an appeal is being made among all the heathen that ambassadors are being sent out saying arise up, we are going to go against Edom. We are going to conquer Edom.
Why is Edom going to be conquered? It will be done because of something that the Edomites will do to the Israelites. Going on we find this in the next verse, talking to Edom: “Behold, I have made you small among the heathen: you are greatly despised” (Obadiah 2). Notice that first phrase. I do not want to get too technical, but it is most important in this regard. The verb here says “I have made you small among the heathen.” 6 If this was written by Obadiah in the early part of the 8th century B.C.E., someone would probably say, well, they were made small earlier on, sometime in the past. I suppose you could get that teaching from it, but in actual fact that is not what is meant here at all. I believe that most commentators understand this.
Though it is in the past tense, “Behold, I have made you small among the heathen,” most of the prophecies of the Bible including Isaiah (and I can show you prophecy after prophecy), in which the past tense is used but it actually talks about future events. In fact grammarians even have a term for this and it is most peculiar when it comes to prophetic teaching in the Bible. They call it the prophetic past tense and it is designed by scholars to show a linguistic characteristic. I will show you what it means.
Though it is in the past tense and a person would think, well, the Edomites were made small in the past before Obadiah wrote this; and it could have that meaning, but yet it does not, because the context shows that these things mentioned here have never occurred in history. But it is in the past tense. Isaiah has it. Jeremiah has it. Others have it. The reason it is in the past is because the prophet is so certain that these things will occur that the events are expressed in the past tense, even though they refer to future events as if they had already occurred. This is called the prophetic past tense.
“Behold, I have made you small among the heathen: you are greatly despised” (Obadiah 2). Taking it from the point of view that the prophetic past is being used, it would make it plain for us to put it into the future by saying, “Behold, I will make you small among the heathen.” Really, that is what it means. How is Edom going to be made small? It says in the first verse how. Here is an ambassador being sent to all the heathen nations round about saying, arise, “let us rise up against her in battle.” Do you know what will happen? They will make Edom small, but it is put in the prophetic past.
Verse 3: “The pride of your heart has deceived [will deceive] you.” They are a very proud and haughty people, undoubtedly quite egotistical. No doubt they have or will have a considerable amount of money or resources to be able to maintain the pride that they possess. Throughout the Scripture we find these Edomites normally described as being very proud people. Here it is being illustrated.
“The pride of your heart has deceived [will deceive] you. You that dwell in the clefts of the rock” (Obadiah 3). That is in Petra. I have been to Petra and it is a most impressive place. It is surrounded by these rock escarpments all around with one or two entrances into it, and the entrances are very narrow. I think most of you know about that. 7 An army could be held off by just a few men guarding some of those passes into the area of Petra. Edom is very proud, it dwells “in the clefts of the rock,” in the Petra area, southeast of the Dead Sea:
“… whose habitation is high; that says in his heart, ‘Who shall bring me down to the ground?’ Though you exalt yourself as the eagle.”
The eagles of Palestine are practically free of all predators. No one can injure them. They put their nest way up on the crags of a rock. Snakes cannot get up there to get the little eaglets. Hardly anyone can get up there. The mother can protect the little ones easily. The eagle of Palestine was known for its invulnerability. So here are these Edomites exalting themselves,
“‘Who shall bring me down to the ground?’ Though you exalt yourself as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, thence will I bring you down, says the Lord. If thieves came to you, if robbers by night (how are you cut off!), would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to you, would they not leave some grapes?”
Normally that is the case. I was reared in the San Joaquin Valley and after the harvest of the grapes, I was always able to find a few little bunches here and there that were never gathered because leaves were covering them. I remember this as a kid going to school about the time of the year before the frost would come, passing by the grape orchards and you would find little bunches of grapes all over the place. It was an ordinary occurrence.
Here we find in this verse 5 that ordinarily as grape gatherers go through they leave a few grapes. What God is saying, the enemies of Edom will not leave any. They are going to clean you Edomites out entirely, though you are way up to the height, you will be brought down low.
“How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!”
These people of Edom were well known for their wisdom. They gave to the ancient world many of the philosophers, long before the time of Plato and Aristotle and Socrates of the Greek world. These were the people who were reckoned as some of the most wise men of the earth. As an example, Jeremiah said:
“Concerning Edom, thus says the Lord of hosts; Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?”
In the Old Testament there were two general areas where wise men were reckoned as coming from. One was Egypt and the other was the East, the area of Edom.
In the Book of Job is an example. One of the three friends of Job, one of the three ancient gray haired men that came to Job to tell him what was wrong with his life was Eliphaz (see Job 2:11, 42:7). Eliphaz was a grandson of Edom (Genesis 36:4, 10). He was one of the wise philosophers of the past. The land of Uz was Edom. That was where Job had his residence at the time of his trial and where wise people had their residence. So it says, “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!” (Obadiah 6). People were after the Edomites to give them wisdom and understanding for years and years.
“All the men of your confederacy [or covenant] have brought you even to the border [the border of destruction]: the men that were at peace with you have deceived you, and prevailed against you; they that eat your bread have laid a wound under you: there is none understanding in him.”
There used to be understanding in the wise men of Esau, but that understanding shall fail them.
“Shall I not in that day, says the Lord, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”
This is a reference to the wise men, the philosophers of the East.
“And your mighty men, O Teman, 8 shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.”
When it says “every one” it is in the masculine there, it means every male. We will see a bit later that the women and children and even male children were to be given release, but not adult men. Every single male Edomite above the age for the war, 20 years of age and older, was to be cut off [killed] and not one single one left. It is true that in history in the time of Joab and King David, Joab went to war with the Edomites on one occasion and took all the males of 20 years of age and above, and slaughtered every single one they fought against:
“For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom; (For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom).”
1 Kings 11:15–16
That indeed did happen once in history (there were surviving Edomite males who did not live in Edom), but that event took place before the time of Obadiah. This prophecy is talking about a time yet future to us. This has never happened. But every one of the adult males in the future will “be cut off by slaughter.”
Look at Obadiah verse 9 above. Who are these Edomites today? I tell you this, it is almost impossible to identify them exactly. 9 I will say that at the outset. But some people have felt that they know who they are. They say they are the Turks, the Turkish people who live in part of Europe and southeastern Europe and throughout Asia Minor. That is the biggest bunch of nonsense that you can possibly imagine. There is not one historical nor prophetic reference whatsoever, to indicate that the Turkish people today are Edomites. Not one. In fact, there are all types of reasons to show that they could not be.
This verse 9 was used by people trying to substantiate that Turkish/Edomite connection, and they will say, look, do you not see it says “And your mighty men, O Teman.” One of the major Turkish groups (there were several of them) that expanded the Turkish empire to grow from around the 13th century C.E. up to the 16th century and then it began to retreat somewhat, and it retreated to its present borders in the First World War. It was a mighty empire at one time, especially around the 15th to the 17th centuries.
The number one Turkish group that controlled the Turkish people were called the Ottomans, the Ottoman Turks. The word Ottoman signified one family name that became king or ruler over all the Turkish tribes. They called the whole lot the Ottoman Turks. Well, how many times have I seen people refer to Obadiah verse 9 and say see, these are Ottomans. It says “O Teman” does it not? It is rather interesting. It says “O Teman” only here in the King James Version. They did not even think to look into the original Hebrew because the little expression “O” which is an expression preceding the noun, it is not even in the Hebrew at all. It has been placed there by the translators. It has no relevance in the Hebrew text whatsoever. Moffatt translates it correctly. He says something like this: “And you mighty men, Teman shall be dismayed.” It has nothing to do with “O Teman,” but to some misinformed people, because that little “O” put in there by a few scholars over on the Thames River when they made the King James Version, suddenly the Turks were changed into Edomites.
Verse 10 shows why the destruction is coming:
“For your violence against your brother Jacob shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever [olam, to the age].”
Yes, the Edomites were a close brother to Jacob. After all they were twins. It is true that the Esau at first had hair all over him like a goat (Genesis 25:25). His descendants did not have hair like that. That was a peculiarity just with him. That is the reason he got the name Esau, which means hairy. At the same time it said in another part of the Bible that because Esau had this hairy garment on him, which was natural, it was a sign of prophetic office that he had. Almost all of the ancient prophets of Israel had a hairy garment and sometimes it is called a “rough [hairy] garment to deceive” (Zechariah 13:4), a woolen garment that they put around them.
Remember Elijah. He had this mantle that he put around him. When he put the mantle on around him that gave him his prophetic office, he now was speaking as a prophet. When Elijah left and gave his authority to Elisha, he took off his mantle and then gave it to Elisha. When Elisha put on the mantle, he was then able to give prophecy (2 Kings 2:1–16). The mantle was called a hairy garment.
Esau was born with a hairy garment on him like goat skin. Many of the ancients looked upon him as being born with the prophetic spirit. But it was peculiar only to him. His children did not have hair all over them at all. They looked very much like any ordinary Israelite would. After all they were a twin brother to Israel. It is quite true that Esau married two Canaanite wives (Genesis 28:8) and also an Ishmaelite wife (Genesis 28:9). But Edom was still a brother to Jacob and would have appeared very similar in physical appearance to the Israelites. 10
“For your violence against your brother Jacob shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever [olam, to the age]. In the day that you stood on the other side, …”
This refers to the other side, the east side of the Jordan River. This is in the future when the Israelites will want to escape. They are being invaded by peoples, they will be taken over and conquered, and here are their brother people next door to them. Instead of giving them help in a time of need, they are standing to the side and they will prevent them from escaping. God is angry because of this betrayal of a brother.
“In the day that you stood on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his [Jacob’s] forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even you were as one of them.”
You [Edom] were willing to cast lots as well upon Jerusalem. This has never happened in the history of the world. The reason it has not happened is because in the 6th century, in 586 B.C.E. when the Babylonians came down under King Nebuchadnezzar and destroyed the city of Jerusalem; they leveled it down to the ground. The Temple was destroyed absolutely. Every building in Jerusalem was completely gutted. They took the people captive and there was nothing left to the area except a lot of stones that were fallen over. Not until some 70 years later did Jews come back from Babylon to rebuild the city of Jerusalem. They found nothing there.
Here though it says that lots will be cast upon Jerusalem. It will be cast for certain peoples and the Edomites are going to be right there to receive some portion of Jerusalem. This never happened in 586 B.C.E. 11 The Edomites did not cast any lots. No one cast any lots. The whole city of Jerusalem became Babylonian territory and it was Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest, lock, stock, and barrel. This, however, will happen in the future. Jerusalem will be taken over by several nations. The Edomites who are brothers to the Israelites should be there to help, you would think. They will not help. In fact they will stand in the way and not let people escape. While Jerusalem is exposed and up for grabs, Edom will be with their neighbors demanding that they get their share of plunder. So they draw lots on Jerusalem. Look at all the evil that Edom will do to their twin brother Jacob:
“But,  you should not have looked on the day of your brother in the day that he became a stranger;
 neither should you have rejoiced over the children of
Judah in the day of their destruction;
 neither should you have spoken proudly in the day of
 You should not have entered into the gate of my people in
the day of their calamity [to take over the territory of
 you should not have looked on their affliction in the day of
 nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their
 Neither should you have stood in the crossway, to cut off
those of his that did escape;
 neither should you have delivered up those of his that did
remain in the day of distress.
For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen.”
That gives you a time period we are talking about here. It is a time in the future when the Day of the Lord is just about upon the world. This is relevant with the Second Coming of Christ. It is associated with that time.
“For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as you have done, it shall be done unto you: your reward shall return upon your own head. For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain ...”
The Edomites will go into Jerusalem, into the Temple, taking it over, casting lots with the heathen over the city and the whole territory, when they should have been helping their brother, that is what Obadiah is saying.
“For as you have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen [the nations] drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.”
It will be a bitter pill Esau will have to swallow. Verse 17:
“But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions [some time again in the future]. 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 [male, again] of the house of Esau.”
In the parallel passage to this in Jeremiah 49:11 it says that the children and the women would be left. After all, there would be no more Edomite nation if there was not someone left. But the male adults, all of them, will be killed off. There shall not be one male remaining of Esau.
“… for the Lord has spoken it. And they of the south [meaning Judah] shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain [near the Mediterranean, the southern area of Esau] the Philistines: and they [northern Israel, the house of Joseph] shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.”
In other words there shall be a second Exodus coming in the future and Israel will finally be able to be in the land and they will possess it from then on. But before they do it, this will have to happen, with Esau their brother coming with the heathen to destroy Israel from being a nation. Verse 20:
“And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel [taken into captivity] shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath [north of the city of Tyre]; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad [also north of Tyre], shall possess the cities of the south. And saviors [like the judges of old after the time of Joshua] shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom [of Esau] shall be the Lord’s.”
That concludes the Book of Obadiah. This is a time mentioned by Obadiah when Esau will come with the nations, and instead of helping Israel, they will join the nations. It is called a covenant in verse 7, a confederacy, and Esau will be a part of it. They will cast lots over Jerusalem because Jerusalem at that time will be the capital city of the world. What Esau will want is to take over that entire world possession, you might say. This is what it says when you put all the scriptures together, but they will be put down.
Who is it that will finally come up in glory as all the prophecies say they will? Israel. Israel shall possess the land once more. That is what we have here in this Book of Obadiah.
I want to go back to that chapter I told you about before, Isaiah chapter 34. This is one of the most interesting prophetic chapters anywhere in the Bible. I do not want to take too much time on it, but I will tell you that it refers also to Edom, though in the King James Version it is spelled slightly different. It makes no difference, in the Hebrew it is the same. This is a prophecy about Edom. When I read some of this to you, you shall see reflections of other parts of Isaiah coming into play in your mind. Not only that but some scriptures mentioned in the Book of Revelation dealing with the end time referred to by Obadiah, scriptures referring clearly to the time when Christ Jesus will come back to this earth are referenced directly back to this chapter 34 of Isaiah.
Indeed, some of the things in chapter 34 seem to have a kind of a reflection of what will happen to Babylon of the future. Babylon and Esau seem to be merged together in some ways in this particular chapter of Isaiah. However, the whole chapter is referring to Esau, to Edom.
Before I go into this chapter I want to mention one other thing I think is important. Of all Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the nations of old starting with Israel, then with Judah, finally with Babylon in Isaiah chapters 13 and 14. 12 Then in Isaiah chapters 15 and 16 it is Moab and Ammon. Then he goes into others down the line and finally gets to the nation of Egypt. The very last nation that Isaiah deals with is found here in chapter 34 and it is the nation of Edom. The reason he is the last one is because really he is the most important Gentile nation as far as the Israelites are concerned.
As we read this little chapter here, which I will go through very quickly, you will see the relevance of it and how at the end of the age Edom, Esau, will have a major role to play in bringing the nations of the world against Israel, against Judah, against Jerusalem. God will be angry concerning it. Remember that God said, “Esau have I hated” and “Jacob have I loved” (Romans 9:13). This is in God’s plan. The Edomites will all be redeemed some time in the future, but they have a role to play in this world before that redemption. Here is Isaiah giving the final chapter, the final prophecy, against the last of the nations.
“Come near, you nations, to hear; and hearken, you people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it.”
This is an appeal here to the universal world.
“For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies [this is worldwide in scope]: he has utterly destroyed them, he has delivered them to the slaughter.”
Again, this is the prophetic past tense being used, when it is talking about a time in the future.
“Their slain also shall be cast out, and their stink shall come up out of their carcasses, and the mountains shall be melted with their blood.”
Have you read that somewhere in the New Testament? Why of course. And it goes on “… and all their host [the heavenly host] shall fall down …” Have we read in Daniel and also the Book of Revelation about stars falling from the heavens at a particular time in the future? Have we not read in Luke chapter 21 of the Olivet Prophecy about heavenly signs and stars falling and all of that? It is a reference to this time period when all the nations of the world will be dealt with. In fact let us go on:
“And all their host shall fall down, as the leaf falls off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea.”
That is the King James translators spelling of it. Why is it spelled Idumea here and spelled as Edom in some other places. It is simply because there were six different groups of people back in 1611 who translated the King James Version. Some were in Lambeth in London. Some were in Cambridge. Some were in Oxford. What they did was they translated different sections of the Bible. When they brought it all together, one group had a different spelling than the other. Did they streamline it and make it all to be the same? No they did not. They left the words different. It is most interesting.
In the Hebrew the words are exactly the same. It is “Edom.” That is all it means. That is what it means in Isaiah 34:5.
“For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea [Edom], and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.”
He says they are “the people of my curse.” From the very beginning they were fighting in the womb. One was to be evil. The other was to be good. We find this carrying on until the Second Coming of Christ. This fight is being described here.
“… the people of my curse, to judgment. The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah [a city in Edom], and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea [Edom]. And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness.”
All of these are clean animals being discussed here, animals for sacrifice. If you go to Revelation chapter 19, you will find the same description being given there, with slightly different language, but also about a great slaughter, a great sacrifice occurring at the end of the age when Christ comes with the sword in His hand. It is the same event being described right here. It is called in Isaiah chapter 34 the sacrifice of bulls, of lambs, and goats, but these animals represent nations and peoples and countries. They are coming and they will find themselves destroyed in the land of Edom. Look at this in verse 8:
“For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion.”
This year and this day have not yet occurred. They are still future to us. The Book of Revelation shows that it is future. It is going to involve Edom. Edom is the major people of His curse (Isaiah 34:5). And the references in the Bible, from the very beginning of struggling in the womb all the way through the Scripture, we find Edom fulfilling this role. Is it not interesting that the king over Judah in the time our Lord was born, who almost had Him killed when the king said to kill all of the male infants around Bethlehem (Matthew 2:16–19) was Herod, who himself was an Edomite. It is most remarkable when you think about it.
“For it is the day of the Lord’s vengeance, and the year of recompenses for the controversy of Zion. And the streams thereof shall be turned into pitch, and the dust thereof into brimstone, and the land thereof shall become burning pitch. It shall not be quenched night nor day; …”
Look at this reference here. The only other place you will find it in the Bible is Revelation 19:3.
“ … the smoke thereof shall go up for ever [for the age]: from generation to generation it shall lie waste; none shall pass through it for ever and ever [for the ages of the ages].”
That is very reminiscent of Babylon, is it not? But this is not Babylon being talked of here. It is Edom, the area southeast of the Dead Sea.
“But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it.”
These are unclean animals. The clean animals were the sacrificial animals of Isaiah 34:6–7 representing the nations of the world. They will be slaughtered there. After that takes place, what happens? The unclean animals come in: the cormorant, the bittern, the owl, the raven:
“… and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles [of Edom] thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof: and it shall be an habitation of dragons, and a court for owls.”
Now look at verse 14 which is very reminiscent of the same thing that will happen to Babylon in the future; but this is not Babylon, this is Edom! Edom who calls together the nations of the world (Obadiah 1), the day of recompense that God will give to Edom for the controversy of Zion.
“The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest. There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.”
In other words all the unclean animals and birds will have carrion to eat all over the place, and the whole land of Edom will be turned into brimstone, running pitch, with the smoke thereof going up all over the place, and the whole land utterly demolished. It says “forever and ever.” It means “to the end of the age.” The Book of Revelation says that Babylon will also be in a similar condition. But this is not Babylon here.
I must tell you this story. When I was over in England on one occasion we saw a film produced by the Moody Bible Institute concerning Petra, the Red Rose City of old. So many of us were interested in Petra in those days. I am still interested to a certain extent because it is a very beautiful area to see. But we had reasons (then, not now) for believing that Petra had some prophetic significance for all of us. This new film about Petra came out in 1961 or 1962.
I can well remember sitting in the front row next to the wife of a religious leader as were watching the film. When this film showed Petra in the land of Edom and then quoted this verse: “The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr” (Isaiah 34:14), this woman said, “Look, they even misquote Scripture, because that is for Babylon and they are putting it here on Edom.” While it is true that a judgment is given for Babylon, she did not understand that Isaiah chapter 34 presents the exact same kind of judgment for Edom! Do you know who was correct in it? The Moody Bible Institute who produced the film was correct. At least they knew it was in Edom.
But I ask this question, how many lectures have you heard on Isaiah chapter 34 connected with the nation of Israel? How many times have you been told just how important the nation of Edom is in relationship to Israel? I bet you have not been told that at all. It has always been Babylon or Assyria or Egypt that is the most important. I am afraid the Bible says just the opposite.
“The people of my curse” (Isaiah 34:5), God identifies as the Edomites. The people that are mentioned more often than any other people in all the prophecies are Edomites. If you analyze the Book of Obadiah and chapter 34 of Isaiah carefully, you will find that the Edomites have something to do with the bringing together of the world nations to take over Israel at the end of the age. They have the feeling, I suppose, that since they had the prophetic garment put on them from the very beginning from their father Esau, well, maybe they are the ones to take over the destiny of the world.
Struggling in the womb together? That is right. Struggling at the end too. That is the whole prophetic history of the twin brothers in a nutshell. Look at verses 16: “Seek you out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate …” Not one of these prophecies will fail. If we would look at the ancient history of Edom and of Israel and of the other nations over there, every one of these prophecies have failed if we say they were to occur and did occur in the past. But the Book of Revelation itself puts these into the future just near the Second Coming of Christ.
“Seek you out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: …”
What does it mean? What mate? Go back to Isaiah 34:15:
“There shall the great owl make her nest, and lay, and hatch, and gather under her shadow: there shall the vultures also be gathered, every one with her mate.”
Here is a male vulture with a female vulture. They mate and they have little vultures. They grow more and more vultures. Why? They must be able to take care of the carrion in the land. It says here in verse 16: “no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: …” The vulture shall have her mate, the owl will have her mate, all the other unclean animals will have their mate and they are going to take care of the whole land of Edom.
“… none shall want her mate: for my mouth it has commanded, and his spirit it has gathered them [all these unclean animals]. And he has cast the lot for them [these unclean animals], and his hand has divided it [the land of Edom] unto them by line [one has some here, another some there]: they shall possess it for ever [olam, for the age], from generation to generation shall they [the unclean wild beasts] dwell therein [in Edom].”
Babylon will indeed suffer the same thing as Edom. But God must have some great controversy with these Edomites to give a judgment on that nation like this. It is a powerful judgment because of all the peoples that should be helping Israel; it should be your brother. Here is a brother turning against a brother. That is not like the Babylonian or the Egyptians because, after all, you can imagine them turning against Israel, but a brother turning against a brother, I am afraid that is a little too much.
However, it is all prophesied in Scripture. God knows what He is doing and there is no unrighteousness in God. The people of Edom are “the people of my curse” (Isaiah 34:5) says God, so which is the most significant Gentile nation of the Bible? We have been reading about it.Take your concordance out, look up the word Esau, or Edom, or Idumea, follow the references through and you will find more prophecies about the brother nation of Jacob than all of the others. Yes, Edom is most important. We have not yet seen just how important it will be.
Ernest L. Martin, 1977
Edited by David Sielaff, July 2006
From Dr. Martin’s audiotape Obadiah and Modern Prophecy:
“Edom’s descendants were very interested in mercantilism and commerce. They established commerce from Palestine and from Egypt into India and the east in ancient times. The descendants of Edom … looked at the Mediterranean Sea and saw that they also needed to have ships there for commerce. There is clear evidence that the people who first established and inhabited the city of Tyre, known in Old Testament times for its mercantile and commercial enterprises, and where the Phoenicians had their origin, were the people of Edom. The ancient Jews knew this. In fact, the early inhabitants of Tyre were people who came from the Dead Sea region, where Edom settled. They established the city of Tyre and the city of Sidon and other cities along the Mediterranean coast to trade in the Mediterranean. They then went out through the pillars of Hercules (what we call the Straights of Gibraltar today), even into the Atlantic Ocean, around Africa and even into the new world. They were known as the Phoenicians. The word “Phoinos,” by the way, in Greek means “red.” They are connected with the twin brother to Israel named Edom.”
The Phoenicians provided architects and skilled construction supervisors for the building of God’s Templeby Solomon. DWS
2 The Book of Malachi itself is a prophetic commentary on Genesis chapter 25. In Romans chapter 9 Paul refers to Malachi’s commentary, and by implication testifies to the truth of the Genesis account. DWS
3 Pottage is thick soup or stew of vegetables and occasionally meat. It is sometimes called porridge. DWS
4 God will in the future “even it all out” and every person will be in awe at God’s plan. Dr. Martin later came to understand from the Bible the exact process by which God chose who He would love and who He would hate. It was done by an impartial lottery. Your position in time and place, your position in the history of creation was specially designated by a lottery. This is discussed and explained in Chapter 7, “God’s Use of Evil and the Allotment” at http://www.askelm.com/abc/abc007.htm of Dr. Martin’s 2003 book ABCs of the Gospel. DWS
5 There is an Obadiah mentioned in the Book of Kings and he lived in the 8th century, almost the 9th century B.C.E. This Obadiah lived during the time of King Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 18:1–16). He was the chief of Ahab’s royal household, his chief administrator, and a man who feared YHWH. He put Ahab in touch with the prophet Elijah. It is unknown if this is the same man who had the vision of the Book of Obadiah. There were several other Obadiahs in the Old Testament. The Book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. DWS
6 Note that although Edom comes from Isaac (and Abraham), they are still classified by God in Obadiah’s vision as being Gentiles, “among the nations [goy in Hebrew].” This is a correct designation. DWS
7 The rose city of Petra was the set of the climactic scenes in Steven Spieberg’s movie Indiana Jones and the Lost Crusade. DWS
8 Teman was the capital city in Obadiah’s day, not Petra. Teman was a little bit north of Petra. ELM
Dr. Martin wrote in chapter 28 of his 1993 book, The People That
History Forgot (ASK Publ.: Portland, OR, 1993), p. 163:
“For all practical purposes the nationalities of the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites (Idumaeans), ceased to be reckoned as distinct peoples any longer in the Middle East. Their areas were, as we have explained earlier, reverted into a type of desert environment and peoples from the peripheral lands (the desert Arabs) came into these unpopulated regions. This is when the Idumaeans and other nations around Palestine disappear from history and become a part of that group of races who blended in with The People That History Forgot.
That does not end the matter, however, especially with the Idumaeans (or Edomites). This is because the Jewish authorities kept up with the migrations of their brethren the Edomites (Edom or Esau was a twin brother to Jacob and their descendants were kin to the Jews). The Jews reckoned that many of the Edomites migrated west, even into North Africa and Rome.”
This book by Dr. Martin are available complete online at http://www.askelm.com/people/index.asp.
10 In the old days when I used to think that Ephraim and Manasseh were located in the United States and Great Britain, and Jacob was primarily in northwestern Europe, I often wondered, well, why in the world do we make Turkish people to be our brother Esau if they were indeed twins in the womb? If they were going to be anybody, they ought to be Germans. That would have made far greater sense. It makes no sense because Turkey as Esau does not fit. These erroneous racial theories that have come up are ridiculous and should be abandoned for lack of evidence. ELM
11 Nor did this happen in 70 C.E. when Rome destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. DWS
12 Besides Isaiah chapters 13 and 14 (as well as 34), see also Jeremiah chapters 50 and 51 for the destruction of Babylon that seem to describe the same events as will occur to Edom. The destruction is similar but the geography is totally different. DWS
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