Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
This and the following chapter are closely connected: in fact, Ezekiel 35:1 to Ezekiel 36:15 form one continuous prophecy, while Ezekiel 36:16-38 is another and distinct one, and the division of the chapters should have been made between them. The prophecy contains a denunciation of Mount Seir as the enemy of Israel (Ezekiel 35), and in contrast with this, a promise of the richest blessings upon the mountains of Israel. Ezekiel had already foretold the desolation of Edom (Mount Seir, Ezekiel 25:12-17); but in the present prophecy this becomes a foil to set off the prosperity of Israel, and in fact, under the circumstances, a necessary element of that prosperity. Moreover, as in the last chapter Israel stood as the representative of the Church of God, so here Edom and Israel, while they stand in the foreground as actually existing nations, are yet evidently regarded in the Divine Word as representing, the one the kingdom of God, and the other all hostile powers of the world. This typical and symbolical way of looking at present things becomes increasingly prominent in all the latter part of Ezekiel.
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it,(2) Mount Seir.—This poetical designation of the Edomites from the land which they inhabited is common in Scripture (Genesis 36:8-9; Deuteronomy 2:1; Deuteronomy 2:5; 1Chronicles 4:42, &c.). The land included the whole mountainous region between the Dead Sea and the Elanitic Gulf, or eastern branch of the Red Sea. The earlier denunciation of the Edomites had in view their historical relations to Israel; this, on the other hand, as already said—like Isaiah 34; Isaiah 63:1-6—while still keeping this historical relation in view, regards them also as representative of the world’s hostility to the covenant people of God. This appears from the fact that the desolation of Edom, itself but a small province, is put in contrast (Ezekiel 35:14) with the rejoicing of the whole earth, and that in Ezekiel 36:5 (and generally Ezekiel 35:3-7) Edom is coupled with “the residue of the heathen.” For the phrase “set thy face against,” see Ezekiel 13:17; and on Ezekiel 35:3, comp. Ezekiel 6:14.
Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end:(5) Perpetual hatred.—Enmity towards Israel is also imputed to the Ammonites, Moabites, and Philistines in Ezekiel 25; but that of Edom was deeper and coeval with its first ancestor (see Genesis 25:22, &c., Genesis 27:41); its peculiar malignity is noticed by Amos 1:11. (Comp. also Obadiah 1:10-15.)
Shed the blood.—“Blood” is not in the original, and should be omitted. The verb means literally to pour out, and the clause should be rendered hast scattered the children of Israel. The same expression occurs in Psalm 63:10; Jeremiah 18:21. The time specifically referred to is that of the overthrow of Jerusalem, as both that of their great “calamity” and that when “their iniquity had an end.” (On the last phrase, see Note on Ezekiel 21:29.) So the world-power generally, while it may fawn upon and corrupt the Church in the day of its prosperity, shows its undisguised hostility in every time of adversity.
Therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.(6) I will prepare thee unto blood.—Rather, I will make thee blood. There is here a play upon the name of Edom in the original: I will make thee dom (=blood); Edom itself means red. The latter part of the verse brings out, as frequently, the congruity of the punishment: violence shall come upon him who has loved (“not hated “) violence.
Thus will I make mount Seir most desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out and him that returneth.(7) Him that passeth out.—The cutting off of the traveller is a striking feature in the doom of Edom, for her nomadic tribes had been the great carriers between India and the East and Egypt, and she had grown rich by this commerce. The fierceness of the few tribes now wandering over the land make even the occasional visit of the curious traveller a matter of difficulty and danger.
And I will fill his mountains with his slain men: in thy hills, and in thy valleys, and in all thy rivers, shall they fall that are slain with the sword.(8) Rivers.—As elsewhere = river-courses, in which water was found only at times.
Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there:(10) These two countries shall be mine.—In Ezekiel 35:3-9 the sin charged upon Edom is its hatred of Israel; in Ezekiel 35:10-15, its desire to possess itself of Israel’s inheritance. The two nations and countries are, of course, the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah.
Whereas the Lord was there.—This fact brings out the real sin. Edom desired Israel’s possessions, not as it might have desired those of other nations, but knowing that this was the peculiar inheritance given by God to His people, and which it thought ought to have been given to itself as the elder branch, thus arraying itself in direct opposition to God.
And thou shalt know that I am the LORD, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume.(12) Blasphemies.—Rather, reproaches. These indeed became, under the circumstances, constructively blasphemies against God; but it is better not to push the meaning further than was intended.
Thus saith the Lord GOD; When the whole earth rejoiceth, I will make thee desolate.(14) The whole earth.—This is taken by some writers—as, indeed, Hebrew usage very well allows—of the whole land, viz., of Israel. It seems better, however, to keep the sense of our version, for the thought is not confined to Edom. When all the earth shall rejoice in the salvation of God, and “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord,” then Edom, the hostile power of the world, shall be desolate.
As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the LORD.(15) Because it was desolate.—This is spoken of Israel; yet Israel was to preserve a remnant who should return to their land, and ultimately become the centre of the new covenant. So the desolation of Edom, though ultimately perpetual as far as its nationality is concerned, is not inconsistent with the fact foretold by Amos (Amos 9:12), that a remnant even of Edom should at last be received into the Church.
All Idumea.—It is better to keep the uniform name of Edom. Idumea is essentially the same country but is a more modern name, and when it came into use the boundaries had somewhat changed.