How are we today different from Tyre, Gaza, and Damascus or Israel? The four earlier Bible studies on Amos’ prophecies from God against Damascus, Gaza, and Tyre taught us they worshiped false gods. Israel worshiped false gods, too. Damascus, Gaza, and Tyre harassed, harmed, and betrayed their neighbor nation, the Israelites. Where was God when they did that to Israel? He was right there and allowed them to do it. God used those nations to punish the Israelites so they would seek Him, confess their sins, and return to their covenant with Him.
Damascus battled against Israel and stole Gilead (the eastern side of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea). They thought they were mighty enough to keep the territory. Gaza - the Philistines - raided Judah taking their possessions and people. The latter they sold into slavery. The Philistines were a mighty, menacing warrior nation. They thought they could stand against any enemy. Tyre had a covenant of brotherhood with the Israelites from the time of David and Solomon, yet they kidnapped and sold Israelites into slavery, too. The leaders of Tyre thought they were invincible with their 200 foot high wall. For these three nations, God prophesied their absolute annihilation. His might and power expressed as the “fire” sent from Him would devour their walls, their citadels and fortresses, and their people would perish. His wrath and vengeance against them for what they did to His children would reach and affect them. These nations were not invincible.
This week we will study Amos’ prophecy against the Edomites. We will learn the Edomites were blood relatives with the Israelites and will understand an even greater betrayal occurred by them against Israel than by the leaders of Tyre and all of Phoenicia. Remember, Phoenicia had a covenant of brotherhood with Israel. As we study Amos 1:11-12, we will understand God’s charge against the Edomites and their history with Israel. Amos will tell God’s judgment of them to the northern kingdom of Israel. We will study the Old Testament and other historical sources to understand how Amos’ prophecy of God’s judgment unfolded. Finally, we will understand why God told Amos to prophesy the judgment against Edom to Israel and how it affects us today.
Who was Edom?
Moses received a command from God in Deuteronomy 2:4-5 that taught the Israelites and teaches us about the Edomites. God said,
“You will pass through the territory of your brothers the sons of Esau who live in Seir, and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful; do not provoke them, for I will not give you any of their land, even as little as a footstep because I have given Mount Seir to Esau as a possession.” [NASB]
Seir was in the Mount Seir mountain range. These are located from the eastern side of the basin of the Dead Sea south to the head of the Red Sea. Seir was below the nations of Moab and Ammon, who were east of the Jordan River. The descendants of Esau lived in Edom. Edom means “I will praise Him.” Esau did not praise Yahweh, the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac. He lived in anger instead.
Esau was the twin brother of Jacob, the sons of Isaac. Through their mother’s deception, Jacob, the second twin, received the blessing and birthright to be given to the firstborn that Esau should have received. When the people of Esau and Jacob grew too big for Canaan to provide for both of them, Esau took his people and animals and went to the hill country of Seir (Deuteronomy 36:7-8). Esau married women from the Canaanite tribes and they bore him sons. Jacob acknowledged Esau’s claim over Edom in Deuteronomy 32:3. He sent messengers to Esau asking for his favor. Jacob feared Esau because of their history. Read Deuteronomy 32 to gain this understanding.
Though Esau was the firstborn son, he did not receive his father’s blessings as the firstborn or his birthright; Jacob did. Through Jacob, the promise of God to Abraham and Isaac would occur, the promise to make them as numerous as the stars and to give them a land of their own. Naturally, Esau experienced jealousy and anger over this favor given to Jacob. Even more so, Jacob’s fear was normal. His humility in approaching Esau and his territory is commendable and wise.
· Are there people who’ve passed through your life who expressed jealousy about you?
· Did you offend them in any way?
· How did you treat that person? Did you stay away from him or her or did you approach him or her with humility and the wisdom of God?
The Charge against Edom
Amos pronounced God’s judgment of Edom to Israel. As he did with Damascus, Gaza, and Tyre, reference to the chief cities of the nation meant God pronounced His judgment on the whole nation. In God’s charge and judgment in Amos 1:11-12, He mentioned Teman and Bozrah, the chief cities of Edom. We will look at the charge, history, judgment by God, and the fulfillment of God’s judgment just as we did for the other three nations. After this, we should reflect, as God wanted Israel to reflect, and determine if we are guilty of similar sins for which we need to confess and repent, and return to a right relationship with God.
Amos began his prophecy against Edom in verse eleven. He said,
“Thus says the LORD, ‘For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment because he pursued his brother with the sword, while he stifled his compassion; his anger also tore continually, and he maintained his fury forever.’” [NASB]
Remember, the starting part of this verse, “for three transgressions and for four I will not revoke its punishment,” is the same for each of the eight charges Amos prophesied against the nations. In Biblical numerology, three plus four equals seven and seven is a number denoting completion. The nation had completed their allotted amount of sinning against God before He charged them; now His charge would come and He would not revoke His judgment. The nations, and here, Edom, multiplied sin upon sin and it was enough, God said.
What sins did God charge of the Edomites? We must understand the words Amos used to understand fully this charge by God. God said they “pursued” their brothers. “Pursued” comes from the Hebrew word radaph (raw-daf), which means to follow after to persecute and harass with an aim to secure who or what they followed. “Brother” is an often used Hebrew term that comes from the word ‘ach (awkh), meaning to be related, of the same kin, the same blood. “Stifled” by itself comes from the Hebrew word shachath (shaw-khath), which means destroyed, corrupted, dealt corruptly with, and perverted. Racham (rakh’-am) translates to English as “compassion” in this verse. It carries the further meaning of mercy and pity. Combined, these words “stifled his compassion” mean destroyed one’s compassion – mercy and pity – for someone in distress, and in this case with Edom, their own brothers. Edom kept compassion from entering their feelings for Israel. The word, “tore” that Amos used, can mean to rend or to tear like a wild animal with its captured prey. “Fury” we understand to be overflowing wrath combined with arrogance at one’s own rightness and justification. The word “maintained” is an important word. It is an active word meaning to keep, guard, and nurture something. In this usage, it means Edom stored up and kept their bitterness growing against Israel. They kept it at a low boil so it took no time to cause their anger to boil over against Israel. Using an idiom from today, Edom “fed the fire” of their anger so it was always ready to spill over onto Israel.
Considering these definitions, what did Amos say in the charge from God about Edom? Because of Edom’s multiplied sin upon sin against their brothers, the Israelites, their wrath they kept at a boil ready for any opportunity to betray their brethren - to capture them and feed upon them continually and forever allowing no feelings of compassion to abate their anger. When God charges a person or nation, it comes with justice and judgment, a punishment. First, before we continue to God’s judgment against Edom, we must consider the times Edom “stifled their compassion” against Israel. By this, we will understand God’s wrath against them and His lack of any further mercy on them.
· Do you remember someone who kept a grudge so long, it infected their family for over one generation? Have you heard of a family like that?
· What became of those people who stifled their compassion? Did they confess and repent to God? Did they allow God to soften their hearts?
· How about you? Is there someone in your life whom you have not forgiven for a slight or injury to you? Are you allowing that anger and bitterness to affect your relationship with that person today and to affect your own family’s relationship with that person and his or her family?
· God has a better way and wants us to come to Him about this before He must punish us, too.
The History of Edom
What is the “bad blood” between Esau and Jacob? How did it begin? Go back to Genesis 27. In this chapter you will read of Isaac blessing Jacob and giving him the birthright reserved for the firstborn son. Isaac was blind and had only his other four senses to lead him to assume he blessed his firstborn, Esau. Rebekah, his wife, tricked Isaac. Though Jacob doubted its integrity, he obeyed her. She told Jacob she wanted Isaac to bless him before he died, so Jacob did what she said. The story continues as we remember it. Jacob received the blessing and birthright and Esau was angry. The writer of Genesis 27:41 stated it clearly when he said,
“So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said to himself, ‘The days of mourning for my father are near, then I will kill my brother Jacob.’” [NASB]
Malice lodged in Esau’s heart from that day. Natural rivalry between the two boys occurred, normal activity between twins who seek the affections of their parents. Unfortunately, each parent, Isaac and Rebekah, had a favorite son, one for each of them. This fed the rivalry between Esau and Jacob.
From this point, history tells the story of the bitterness and anger Esau enacted upon Jacob and the animosity that grew and boiled over for generations. Esau bore a grudge for Jacob supplanting –usurping and displacing - him twice. Jacob’s receipt of Esau’s blessing and birthright was his and became Edom’s biggest grudge against Jacob and the Israelites. After Esau moved his people and took over the Seir region from the Horites (Genesis 36:20-29), almost 500 years later when the Israelites left Egypt, Moses sought permission from the king of Edom to allow the Israelites to enter Edom so they could get into the Promised Land. He explained to the king of Edom the people asking permission from him are his brothers, the tribe of Israel (Numbers 20:14). The king of Edom said in Numbers 20:18 & 20,
“18You shall not pass through us, lest I come out with the sword against you.” 20 “You shall not pass through.” Then Edom came out against him with a heavy force and with a strong hand. [NASB]
Edom carried Esau’s angry grudge for over 500 years by that point. They continued in their intention to allow a grudge to fester and constantly “stifle their compassion” against Israel.
Consider this list of actions against Israel by Edom.
1. Edom’s grandson, Amalek, had a tribe of hostile people, the Amalekites, who pestered the Israelites as they left Egypt and walked in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula. They attacked the weak and the young stragglers at the back of the parade of Israelites. [Exodus 17:8-18]
2. King Hadad the Edomite battled Solomon for Edom around 950 BC and was an adversary of Israel throughout his life. [1 Kings 11:14-25]
3. When the Assyrians attacked Jerusalem and their King Ahaz, the Edomites attacked Judah and carried away captives. [2 Chronicles 28:17, 2 Kings 16:5, and Obadiah 1:10 & 12]
4. Psalm 137:7-8 tells of how Edom went against Jerusalem when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon attacked Jerusalem. Edom helped Babylon overcome Judah.
5. The Edomites killed King Joash of Judah. His son, King Amaziah, killed the people who killed his father, Joash. He killed 10,000 Edomites in the valley of Salt and took Sela by war. [2 Kings 14:7 and 2 Chronicles 25:11]
6. Besides these sins, the Edomites were the intermediary for trading Israelites into slavery whom Philistia and Phoenicia captured as noted in the two earlier Bible studies.
Edom betrayed their blood relatives by selling them into slavery and joining in battle with Israelites' enemies to defeat Israel. They bore their grudge deep and long. These seven instances and others in history show Edom’s depth of hate and anger against Israel. Amos was not the only prophet to speak a prophecy against them. Joel 3:19, Isaiah 34:5-6 and 63:1-5, Obadiah 10-14, Psalm 137:7, Lamentations 4:21, Ezekiel 25:12-14, 32:29, and 35:1-15, Jeremiah 27:1-3 and 49:7-22, and Malachi 1:2-5 each prophesied against Edom.
· Is there something you continue to do in your life of which you know God disapproves?
· Why do you continue doing it? Is it caused by anger in you?
The Judgment of Edom
Amos pronounced God’s judgment against Edom in verse twelve. He stated,
“So I will send fire upon Teman and it will consume the citadels of Bozrah.” [NASB]
From the previous three studies of Amos’ prophecies against Damascus, Gaza, and Tyre, we remember the fire of which he spoke was the fire - the wrath - of God. God’s wrath came down on people in various ways – as actual fire from heaven and as wars by other nations against those upon whom He pronounced judgment. Unlike the prophecy against the Philistines, God’s judgment through Amos did not say the Edomites would perish. They were blood relatives to Israel and part of the promise to Abraham.
Teman was Edom’s largest southern city. The Edomite’s named it after Esau’s grandson, Teman (Genesis 36:11, 15). The people of Teman were well known for their wisdom. In Jeremiah 49:7-22, God asked if there was no wisdom anymore in Teman. God’s wrath that Amos prophesied would come down on Teman. Jeremiah’s prophecy about Edom in Jeremiah 49 meant God’s divine wrath would take away Edom’s wise people, the people of Teman. An army would come and consume Teman and take their people away so they could no longer lead and advise the people of Edom.
Just as in the other prophecies, God said He would consume the citadels. Remember, the citadels were the buildings upon which the people trusted to keep them safe from invaders. They were fortresses, watchtowers, and palaces set upon defensible land, usually high ground like hills and mountains. Bozrah was the chief city of Edom and its fortress stronghold in the north. God would consume the fortress of the biggest and chief city of this nation. What the greatest thinkers, engineers, and architects created to be their best defense against enemies would not be strong enough to withstand the fire of God’s wrath. Teman and Bozrah denoted the strength and glory of Edom, but would fall to the superior strength and absolute power of God. Like God could crush humans He made from earth, He would crush the Edomite defenses made of earth and stone made by human hands.
Notice in Amos’ prophecy about Edom, the people would go into exile. If you study the other prophets who prophesied against Edom, you will note God’s judgment escalates in intensity. By the time Jeremiah and Ezekiel pronounced their prophecies, the Edomites would no longer go into exile. Nations would slay them with the sword. The Edomites would not only not be a nation because of being dispersed in foreign countries, the people who called themselves Edomites would be dead. One must ask why God escalated His prophecy like this since He called the Edomites brothers of Israel. When reading throughout Old Testament history, we can see possibly why this occurred. Edom never repented, but continued to raid, kidnap, destroy, kill, and enslave the Israelites and their possessions. No change of heart ever occurred. Sometimes God’s punishment occurs in the future and sometimes immediately. God will eventually judge all unrepentant sinners on the Day of Judgment after Christ’s return to earth. A few sinners continue to commit heinous crimes with no remorse or abatement of the sin. They continue to flaunt their way of life and harm or kill people. During times like that, God’s judgment often occurs to the person early in life. He kills them as His judgment. God shortens the person’s life. It is possible this is similar to what happened to God’s judgment of Edom. The Edomites continued relentlessly and remorselessly to injure, imprison, and kill the Israelites. God’s judgment against them escalated.
· Has God moved your conscience about something you do of which He disapproves? The Edomites heard the prophecies God proclaimed against them, but continued to act out their anger toward the Israelites.
· What did you do because of God’s striking your conscience? Will you be strong-willed like the Edomites or will you bow to God’s will.
The Fulfillment of God’s Judgment against Edom
The Edomites were very strong-willed. Their disobedience and continued aggression against Israel spanned over 1000 years. God used other nations to exact His judgment, His fire, upon Damascus, Gaza, and Tyre. He would do the same with the Edomites.
God used the Israelites to start the execution of His judgment on Edom. David battled them in the Valley of Salt killing 18,000 of them as recorded in 2 Samuel 8:13-15, 1 Kings 11:14-17, and 1 Chronicles 18:12-13. Solomon took control of Ezion-Geber from Edom, one of their ports on the Red Sea, as noted in 1 Kings 9:26 and 2 Chronicles 8:17. King Amaziah battled Edom in 2 Chronicles 25:11-12 and 2 Kings 14:7. His people killed 10,000 sons of Seir and captured 10,000 other people. King Uzziah, called Azariah too, fulfilled part of Amos’ prophecy when he overtook Edomite territory on the Red Sea and built the city named Elath. King Hezekiah conquered Gaza and Edom in 2 Kings 18:8 and 1 Chronicles 4:41-43.
When the Assyrian army entered Canaan lands under Tiglath-Pileser III, they overwhelmed the nations who lived there. Assyria completely destroyed some of the nations and cities. They made others into vassal states with their leaders taken into captivity and exiled throughout the Assyrian Empire. Assyria subjugated Edom then. In King Sennacherib’s reign of Assyria, he punished Edom for rebelling with the other vassal states of Canaan.
After the fall of the Assyrian Empire, the Neo-Babylonians rose under the leadership of King Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah 27:2-3 and 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 32:11 & 29 record Edom’s fall to Babylon. Prior to their battle with Nebuchadnezzar, Edom participated with them in capturing Jerusalem and destroying the temple. For this Obadiah, Psalms 137, Lamentations 4, Ezekiel 25, 32, & 35, and Jeremiah 27:1-3 and 49:13 & 16 prophesied against them. These prophecies can be noted as having come to pass because Nebuchadnezzar left Edom a wasteland.
Edom never really recovered from this devastation. It became a land populated by animals and birds as Isaiah 34:11 & 13-15 prophesied. The people, the nation, and the language are not remembered. They are no longer a people group.
After their destruction, an Arabian tribe lived in the area for about 100 years. The Nabateans of Arabia cut the temples of Petra into the stone walls of the area. Finally, the Romans conquered the territory and made it part of its empire.
The angry people of Esau were no longer angry. They no longer existed. God’s judgments from the prophecies occurred. This should make us consider our actions and relationship with God.
· Have you heard from God to stop doing something He dislikes?
· If you heard from Him and you did not stop, do you feel God punished you for it?
· If you heard from Him and stopped what God dislikes, have you felt a freedom and release because of obeying Him?
The people of Edom were an angry vengeful people. It resulted from one brother’s hate of another because of a slight, a preference by one parent of one child over another. Feelings of being overlooked or slighted can happen in other parts of life, too, like at work, at the club, in church, and in school. Edom thought they were mighty and could win any battle. They succeeded partially in this for hundreds of years. Ultimately, their anger defeated them.
God showed mercy continually to the Edomites. He chose not to destroy and utterly annihilate them in His earlier judgments against them. God loved them like He loved Jacob and his descendants. He wanted them to repent and return to a relationship with Him. Their anger and hate of “those people” – the Israelites - engulfed them and “stifled their compassion.” The Edomites decided to feed their anger every day and in every generation. It was a blood feud between tribes/families.
Eventually, their strong-willed attitude needed correction with stronger punishment. God pronounced a stronger, more far-reaching judgment on them. He pronounced their utter destruction. With the first prophecies, He used the Israelites to punish the Edomites. With the latter judgments, God used the strongest nations/empires of the time to overpower Edom. God’s greater mind and power fulfilled the prophecies of His servants, the prophets.
Perhaps you think you are not like Edom. You may have killed no one. You might have hurt no one in anger. Possibly you think you are not a person who gets angry or seeks revenge. Each of us, though, is a sinner. We feel emotions and often act on them. Sometimes we feel someone has received preferential treatment at work. Maybe you have encountered racism and wanted to hurt someone as a way to get rid of your anger. There may have been times when a teacher in school seemed to have a “pet” and you could do nothing to get a better grade.
Each of these things can cause us to be angry. What we do with our anger determines if we are like Edom. These situations cause us tension and test our patience and understanding. They are difficult to get through, just as we read about with Edom, David, Saul, and other people of the Bible. We know other people who struggled to get through bad situations without losing their cool. The term “going postal” came about because of an angry postal worker. He took a gun to work and killed many of his coworkers. Being angry is not a sin; letting it simmer, boil, and fester, and then acting upon that anger is the sin.
I know anger is easier to vent than to “stuff.” God does not say to “stuff” your anger. He said to give it to Him. God said vengeance is His. In Deuteronomy 32:35, God said,
“Vengeance is Mine, and retribution. In due time, their foot will slip, for the day of their calamity is near, and the impending things are hastening upon them.” [NASB]
Anger is a heavy burden to carry. Not acting on anger is difficult. Jesus offered a better way. He taught in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [NASB]
Jesus reminded His followers what God taught through Jeremiah in Jeremiah 6:16 that walking in the good way brings rest for our souls.
Esau either never learned God will carry his burden and will avenge him, or he disregarded it. He let anger get the better of him. Instead of shining the beacon of light that the LORD was for the people of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Esau’s own light shown. He and his descendants praised themselves and their cunning.
God told the Israelites not to despise their brother, Esau, in Deuteronomy 23:7. Jesus taught us to love one another because love is of God. John said in 1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer and you know that any murderer does not have eternal life abiding in him.”
Acting upon one’s anger is sin, but it comes from judging another person. We cannot judge anyone because we are imperfect ourselves and are not impartial. Only One exists who is righteous and qualified to judge impartially. That One is God. Paul said this in Romans 14:10. He said, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will each stand before the judgment seat of God.”
What then can we do, we who are unrighteous and partial, who cannot control anger? We must live in the power of God. We must make a stand stating aloud to ourselves we are God’s children and not Satan’s pawn. The power of the Holy Spirit exists in each believer and we can claim it and live with the power of the Spirit. By doing that, the Spirit enables us to fulfill the two greatest commandments Jesus taught. He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27, NASB]
Living in the power of the Holy Spirit requires claiming it and taking your stand, actively doing what Jesus taught. Love God with all you have – your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Love your neighbor as you love yourself – as you want to be loved. This is the antithesis of anger and hate, which tempt people to sin. Give God your yoke of anger and let Him bear it and you receive His rest letting Him take control of you and what is happening in your life.
We do not deserve God’s love, but He gives His mercy and grace to us.
Your brother or sister may not deserve your love, but your Lord commands it.
Give God your anger; let Him turn it into His light.
Be God’s beacon of love to the world.