Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE NATURE OF MALIGNITY. The children of Ammon are charged with malevolence and malignity. They wished harm to their neighbors, the children of Israel; and, when evil came upon them, they rejoiced in their neighbors' calamities. When Judah's sanctuary was profaned, when the land was laid waste and desolate, when Judah's sons were carried captive, they said, "Aha!" they clapped their hands, they stamped with their feet, and rejoiced with all the despite of their soul. All these actions were manifestations of a vile disposition and habit of mind leading to satisfaction in the ills and adversity befalling others. The reality of such a vice as malignity cannot be questioned.
II. THE BASENESS OF MALIGNITY. There are sins into which men fall through the pressure of temptation arising from their natural constitution, and through the circumstances of life providentially permitted. We recognize in such sins signs of the frailty of human nature, and we make allowances for the strength of the temptation to which the sinner has yielded. But the sin of which the Ammonites were guilty was of a different kind. What were called by Lord Shaftesbury, the author of the 'Characteristics,' the "unsocial passions," are of all the most blamable and inexcusable. They are those habitual emotions known as malice, envy, jealousy, malignity. It is wrong to seek our own pleasures overmuch; but it is worse to seek and to delight in the suffering and the ruin of our fellow-creatures. Inasmuch as we are members of one race, of one body, and partakers of one nature, we are peculiarly bound to sympathy, benevolence, and mutual helpfulness. The Christian law is one of great beauty both in substance and in expression, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice, weep with them that weep." The malignity displayed by the children of Ammon was not only neglect and violation of the natural law of sympathy, it was in exact opposition to that law. This is a sin not even now extinct; traces of its presence may be found even in Christian communities, though decency may compel those who are guilty of it to conceal it with a thin disguise. But it is a sin which every conscience must condemn, and in defense or even extenuation of which no word can be uttered.
III. THE EXPLANATION OF MALIGNITY. This habit of mind may have originated in a state of society in which every man's hand was against his neighbor, in which, consequently, suspicion and distrust were prevalent. In such a state of social life (if it may so be called) the strength of a neighbor was a source of danger and fear to a people conscious of their own weakness; and any calamity which diminished a formidable neighbor's power to harm would awaken satisfaction and rejoicing, as presaging peace and the opportunity of progress and prosperity. The emotion may survive the circumstances in which it arose. But this can be no excuse for the cherishing of malevolence and malignity in ordinary states of society, in which it is an unjustifiable expression of the worst tendencies of human nature.
IV. THE CONDEMNATION AND PUNISHMENT OF MALIGNITY. The sentence issued against Ammon is one of awful severity; the sin must have been inexcusable and even horrible to call for such a punishment as is here published. They were to be conquered and spoiled; strangers were to possess their land and enjoy its produce; and as a people they were to be blotted out from amongst the nations, and to be no more. The displeasure of the Eternal could not be more powerfully exhibited. And there is every reason for believing that the same sin is ever regarded with the same disapproval and meets with a similar retribution. Malignity reached its deepest depths when the holy Jesus was hated by scribes, Pharisees, and religious leaders, who found in his goodness the reproach of their sin. Israel rejected Israel's noblest Son, nay, the Son of God himself. And in rejecting Christ the ancient people of God brought upon themselves the condemnation which has from that day to this remained upon the scattered and homeless sons of Abraham. How awful and how instructive are the lessons concerning God's hatred of sin embodied in the history of mankind! - T.
this to be a criterion of their acceptance. Internal character, not external service, is the only passport to heaven. "The just shall live."
I. THE SUPREME AUTHORITY AMONG NATIONS. Never yet have the nations of the world combined to elect a common tribunal, before which international disputes may be heard. We may hope for such in the future. Yet a Supreme Authority there is - a King of nations! Undoubtedly, the God of heaven takes note of every national delinquency, deals with every nation in a method consonant with its present development, and visits it with reward or punishment according to its desert. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." And not individual persons only, but societies and empires, are weighed every day in the balance of Divine justice. A fierce light, not only from human eyes, but from the Divine eye, bends upon every throne.
II. THE INDICTMENT. The indictment brought against the neighbors of Israel was twofold.
1. Rancorous hatred. The people of Ammon and others were chiefly incensed against Israel because of their peculiar religion. For a long period, Israel had maintained a great distinction, in that they scorned idol-deities. By virtue of their allegiance to the true God they had gained their triumphs over the degenerate Canaanites. Hence this dislike of Israel was, at its root, a dislike of Jehovah; and dislike of Jehovah meant dislike of righteousness.
2. Spiteful revenge. The nations whom God employed to humble Israel had gone beyond their commission. They had fostered the lowest animal passions, and had given way to fiercest revenge. So far as a nation wages war in defense of its rights, it may be approved. Yet if, in the prosecution of its task, it inflicts needless suffering, or rejoices in mere destruction, that nation, in its turn, has violated the rights of humanity, and will be punished. Even if God has given to a nation the clearest command to invade and to conquer, that command is circled round with the requirements of righteousness. Personal feeling must be repressed. Public advantage alone must be promoted. Otherwise that nation so employed becomes a criminal.
III. THE SENTENCE.
1. It is equitable. Edom had dealt vengeance "against the house of Judah." Therefore the sentence is, "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom." The Philistines had "taken vengeance with a despiteful heart." Therefore, said God, "I will execute great vengeance upon them." Retribution is complete. The same word that describes the sin describes also the penalty. Every sin contains in its womb the embryo of chastisement.
2. The sentence includes desolating war. "They that take the sword, perish by the sword." The successful warrior teaches his enemies how to handle spear and shield. His personal strength does not abide forever, nor yet his personal influence. His watchful, sleepless foes wait in secret for their opportunity of revenge. Violence naturally begets violence. In return for reckless destruction on others, their lands were to be desolated - productiveness to cease, cities to be razed, and their palaces to be occupied by the foe!
3. Annihilation of empire and name. The justice of God is far more sweeping than anything that we can conceive. "The Ammonites shall not be remembered among the nations." "I will cause thee to perish out of the countries." Men find a pleasure in posthumous fame. They love the anticipation of living again in their children and in their children's children. To know in their lifetime that this prospect is cut off is a serious loss of enjoyment. One great source of pleasure is destroyed. One great inspiration to effort is extinguished.
IV. A GRACIOUS RESPITE. The simple fact that Jehovah's prophet fore-announced these things was an act of kindness. It gave the people an occasion and an urgent reason for repentance. This is not after the manner of men. In human jurisprudence there is no place for repentance. But God's agencies are every way superior to man's. As it was with Nineveh in Jonah's day, so might it have been with Moab and Edom and Philistia. God's patience and pity are wonderful. Yet, at length, justice strikes the avenging blow.
V. THE FINAL AIM. "They shall know that I am the Lord." This conviction of God's existence and God's active righteousness will surely come at length, but in many cases will not come in time to avert the great catastrophe. Every such national overthrow will be a monument to God's power and God's veracity. "Being dead, these nations yet speak." The mounds ransacked today for treasures produce eloquent demonstrations of the truthfulness of ancient prophecy and of the certainty of Divine retribution. There is a knowledge that saves; there is a knowledge that does not save. - D.
Ezekiel 24:27). But having already proclaimed the judgment of God upon Israel and Judah by various figures and with much reiteration, he proceeds to declare that judgment against the neighboring heathen nations. "Judgment indeed begins at the house of God; but if the Father of the household does not spare the sons, how soon must it alight upon the others! This doctrine first of all shines forth from the connection of this chapter with the preceding chapters. Then, also, we see here how, with all the special solicitude wherewith God interested himself in Israel, he still by no means lets the heathen out of his sight, since he must show himself to be a God also for the heathen." Of these nations the prophet first addresses himself to the Ammonites. They were related to the Israelites, being the descendants of Ben-ammi, the son of Lot by his younger daughter. Yet they were inveterate enemies to Israel. "They had joined Eglon, had oppressed Israel in the time of Jephthah, had fought against Saul, David, Jehoshaphat, and Jotham. They had joined the Moabites in Nebuchadnezzar's army, when he besieged Jerusalem in the reign of Jehoiakim (2 Kings 24:2). And they exulted in the miseries of Israel and Judah. The date of this prophecy is uncertain. Hengstenberg says that "the date in Ezekiel 24:1 applies to this also. What was predicted in Ezekiel 24. regarding the immediate future of Judah is here presupposed as already accomplished; so that the point of view is ideal." But the 'Speaker's Commentary' supposes "that this prophecy was delivered immediately after the capture of the city by Nebuchadnezzar." We have in the text -
I. AN EXHIBITION OF THE SIN OF THE AMMONITES.
1. Exultation in the miseries of others. "Thou saidst, Aha! against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was made desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity." "They were," says Greenhill, "the neighbors bordering upon them; they were their confederates, in league with the King of Egypt, as the Jews were; they were their half-brethren, descending from Lot; and upon these accounts should have sympathized with the Jews, wept with those that wept (Romans 12:15), been sensible of their great adversities (Hebrews 13:3); but they insulted over them, mocked at them, were despiteful against them, and added coals to the fire, weight to their burdens, and more chains to their bonds" (cf. Lamentations 1:2). They rejoiced when Shalmaneser King of Assyria invaded Israel, desolated the land, and carried the people into captivity (2 Kings 17:1-6). Again, they exulted in the miseries of the people of Judah when they were conquered and carried into exile in Babylon (2 Kings 24:10-16; 2 Kings 25:1-11). They triumphed in the national ruin and sore calamities of the Jews (cf. Ezekiel 21:28; Lamentations 2:15, 16; Zephaniah 2:8). Such derision and insultation are directly opposed to the will of God, especially when, as in this ease, the mockers are themselves also guilty of the sin which brought down the distresses. When some suffer sore calamities, God's will is that others should be thereby stimulated to consider their ways and repent of their evil doings (cf. Luke 13:1-5). Moreover, in exulting over the fallen and mocking the miserable there is Satanic malevolence and shocking cruelty. Sometimes saintly men have severely suffered by reason of such mockery. David smarted under it (Psalm 35:12-16), But the guilt of the Ammonites was darker even than this. They rejoiced in the desecration of the temple of God. "Thou saidst, Aha! against my sanctuary, when it was profaned." They looked upon that as the overthrow of the religion of the Jews, and probably declared that Jehovah was unable to defend either his temple or his worshippers. Thus they were guilty of blasphemy against the Lord God.
2. Exultation in the miseries of others with cruel animosity. "Thou hast rejoiced with all the despite of thy soul against the land of Israel" (Ver. 6). They rejoiced "with the soul, with passion, therefore with the whole heart's contempt of which" they were capable. They triumphed with revolting malignity.
3. Exultation in the miseries of others with cruel animosity in unrestrained expression. "Thou hast clapped thine hands, and stamped with the feet," etc. (Ver. 6). Their bitter rejoicing knew no bounds of moderation or even of common decency. Such was their grievous and inhuman sin.
II. A DECLARATION OF THE PUNISHMENT OF THE AMMONITES.
1. Their land should be given to others. "Therefore, behold, I will deliver thee to the children of the east for a possession, and they shall set their encampments in thee, and make their dwellings in thee; they shall eat thy fruit, and they shall drink thy milk." In the fifth year after the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar made war against the Ammonites, and brought them under subjection (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 10:9. 7). "After this the land was subjected to various masters" But at length it fell to the Arabians, who are spoken of by the prophet as "the children of the east." This was a common designation of the wandering tribes of the desert (cf. Judges 6:3). "They encamp now periodically in the land of Ammon. They have continued to do so for centuries. They, and they only, eat up the fruits of the land." Thus the children of Ammon, who had exulted in the expatriation of Israel and Judah, were despoiled of their own country.
2. Their metropolis should become a desolation. "And I will make Rabbah a stable for camels, and the children of Ammon a couching-place for flocks." When this judgment was fulfilled we know not. But that it has been fulfilled is placed beyond dispute by the ruins of what was once a flourishing city. That city entered upon an era of marked prosperity under Egyptian rule. It was rebuilt or restored by Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was called Philadelphia, after his name. It existed for some centuries afterward with varying fortunes. "As far down as the fourth century (of the Christian era) it was esteemed one of the most remarkable and strongest cities of the whole of Coele-Syria." And now amidst its ruins may be traced the remains of a magnificent theatre, an ancient castle, temples, mausoleum, and other buildings. The doom has been fulfilled, and Rabbah, "the populous" (as the name signifies), is now a desolation and without an inhabitant. Dr. Kitto brings forward several witnesses to the fulfillment of the word of the Lord by the prophet in Ver. 5. "Dr. Keith, in the last edition of his ' Evidence from Prophecy,' states that Lord Claud Hamilton told him that ' while he was traversing the ruins of the city the number of goats and sheep which were driven in among them was exceedingly annoying, however remarkable as fulfilling the prophecies.' Lord Lindsay found bones and skulls of camels moldering in the area of the theatre, and in the vaulted galleries of this immense structure. He says, ' The valley stinks with dead camels, one of which was rolling in the stream; and although we saw none among the ruins, they were absolutely covered in every direction with their dung. That morning's ride would have convinced a skeptic. How says the prophecy? "I will make Rabbah a stable for camels." He adds, "We met sheep and goats by thousands, and camels by hundreds, coming down to drink, all in beautiful condition." Mr. George Robinson also testifies, 'The space intervening between the river and the western hills is entirely covered with the remains of private buildings, now only used as stables for camels and sheep. There is not a single inhabitant remaining: thus realizing the prophecy respecting this devoted city.' These testimonials have occurred since attention has been called to the subject of the literal fulfillment of local prophecies. We add that of Mr. Buckingham, which is all the more valuable as being of anterior date. He halted for the night with a tribe of Arabs which he found encamped among the ruins, in a hollow behind the top of the theatre. Next morning he writes in his journal, 'During the night I was almost entirely prevented from sleeping by the bleating of flocks, the neighing of mares, and the barking of dogs.' "Thus literally and minutely has the prediction of the prophet been accomplished.
3. Their existence as a people would be terminated. "Therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the nations; and I will cut thee off from the peoples, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord." These expressions indicate utter and total, destruction. In this respect the judgment of the Ammonites was more severe than that pronounced upon Israel. For the latter there was hope and a future; but for the former the prophetic message closes darkly, even as their history has closed. As a tribe the Ammonites "disappear wholly at last in the Arabians."
CONCLUSION. "Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamity shall not be unpunished" (Proverbs 17:5). "He that maketh others' calamities the object of his gladness stirs up God to be the Author of his destruction" (Greenhill). - W.J.
reference to the circumstances of the several peoples and to their peculiar relations with Israel. In the case of Moab, the prophet urges a peculiar charge, which is not, indeed, supported by detailed facts, but which he was nevertheless assured was a just charge and a heinous offence.
I. THE PECULIAR OFFENSE. Moab was convicted of saying, "The house of Judah is like unto all the nations." The prophet knew, and we know, that the descendants of Jacob were a separated, chosen, and peculiar people. And to assert the contrary, as Moab had done, was to cast a slur upon the revelation of God, upon the vocation with which his people were called, upon the purpose which Divine wisdom had in view in conferring upon them special privileges.
II. THE MORAL ENORMITY OF THE OFFENSE. It is only when the character of this sin of Moab is carefully considered, with all that it involves, that the guilt of Moab appears in its proper blackness.
1. It involves the classing of the holy and ever-blessed Jehovah with the idols which were the expression of human injustice, cruelty, caprice, and lust.
2. It involves the confusion of the righteous laws of Moses with the regulations and observances which obtained in heathen communities, some just and some unjust, and many of them superstitious and impure.
3. It involves the confusion of the Divine ordinances of sacrifice, of priesthood, of religious service, of sacred festivals, with the debasing rites practiced among the unenlightened idolaters.
4. It involves the classing together of the people consecrated to Jehovah with those who had abandoned themselves to systems of selfishness, worldliness, or superstition. All this was just calling darkness light, and light darkness. It, indeed, reminds us of what our Lord has said regarding blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. We cannot, therefore, look upon this offence of the Moabites as something which has no application to ourselves. The offence of calling evil good and good evil is an offence which, in various forms, is committed in our own day, and against which, therefore, men need still to be warned. There are blemishes in the Church of Christ as it actually exists upon earth; but still it is the Church of Christ, and it must not, therefore, be confounded with institutions of human origin, and to speak of it as we might speak of other organizations and institutions is to sin somewhat after the manner of the sin of Moab in the days of the Captivity.
III. THE PUNISHMENT OF THE OFFENSE. In the case of Moab this was terrible indeed. The territory was to be laid open to the incursions of the Eastern foe, the cities were to be taken by a foreign force, judgments were to be executed upon the people, and, like the Ammonites, they were to be overtaken by speedy and irremediable ruin. The very thought of such infliction is enough to make the sinner tremble, to induce him to repent of his evil words and actions, and to seek, in God's own way, reconciliation with the authority which he has despised, Silence, contrition, and true submission of heart are the true way of peace. - T.
Isaiah 15., 16., and Jeremiah 48. The latter prophecy was pronounced about "ten or twelve years before the invasion of Nebuchadnezzar by which Jerusalem was destroyed;" so that it may be taken as setting forth their condition in the time of our prophet. That condition is well stated by Sir George Grove, in Dr. Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible: '"The nation appears in them as high-spirited, wealthy, populous, and even to a certain extent civilized, enjoying a wide reputation and popularity. With a metaphor which well expresses at once the pastoral wealth of the country and its commanding, almost regal, position, but which cannot be conveyed in a translation, Moab is depicted as the strong scepter, the beautiful staff, whose fracture will be bewailed by all about him, and by all who know him. In his cities we discern a ' great multitude' of people living in 'glory,' and in the enjoyment of great 'treasure,' crowding the public squares, the house-tops, and the ascents and descents of the numerous high places and sanctuaries where the ' priests and princes' of Chemosh or Baal-peor minister to the anxious devotees. Outside the towns lie the 'plentiful fields,' luxuriant as the renowned Carmel - the vineyards and gardens of 'summer fruits;' the harvest is being reaped, and the ' hay stored in its abundance,' the vineyards and the presses are crowded with peasants, gathering and treading the grapes, the land resounds with the clamor of the vintagers. These characteristics contrast very favorably with any traits recorded of Ammon, Edom, Midian, Amalek, the Philistines, or the Canaanite tribes. And since the descriptions we are considering are adopted by certainly two, and probably three, prophets - Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the older seer - extending over a period of nearly two hundred years, we may safely conclude that they are not merely temporary circumstances, but were the enduring characteristics of the people. In this case there can be no doubt that, amongst the pastoral people of Syria, Moab stood next to Israel in all matters of material wealth and civilization." Our text presents to our notice -
I. A SIN SEEMINGLY SLIGHT, BUT ESSENTIALLY HEINOUS. "Moab and Seir do say, Behold, the house of Judah is like unto all the heathen." In these words we have:
1. A decrial of the superiority of the Jews over their heathen neighbors. In many respects they were their superiors. God had granted to them the clearest revelation of his character and will, his temple also, and the ordinances of his worship. His mighty hand had frequently been stretched out in glorious deeds on their behalf. He had assured them of many blessings and of a bright future. Jerusalem "was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces." But now that Nebuchadnezzar has quite vanquished them, taken their famous city, and destroyed their holy and beautiful temple, the Moabites say, "The house of Judah is like unto all the nations." By this they probably meant:
(1) They are no better in their character. 'By their idolatries and idolatrous customs, and by their political treacheries, the Jews had given their enemies too much occasion to say this. Yet the religion which was prescribed to them was incomparably superior to those of their heathen neighbors; and there was at least a small remnant that was faithful to that religion.
(2) They are no better in their condition. When the Chaldeans came against them, they were no more able to resist them than any heathen people would have been. And these things were said by the Moabites, not sorrowfully, but scornfully. Like the Ammonites, they rejoiced over the miseries of the people of Israel and Judah (Zephaniah 2:8). Hence the Prophet Jeremiah cries, "'Moab shall be in derision. For was not Israel a derision unto thee? ... for as often as thou speakest of him thou waggest the head" (Jeremiah 48:26, 27).
2. A denial of the superiority of the Lord Jehovah over heathen gods. This aspect of the sin of the Moabites is clearly and forcibly presented by Hengstenberg: "The guilt consists in the denial of the true Deity of the God of Israel; for only on this ground could Israel be placed on the same level with all other nations. The pretence for this denial they take from the misery of Israel, which they derive, not from their guilt, but from the feebleness of their God, and discern therein a palpable proof against his true and full Deity. Their God Jehovah, the absolutely pure Being, the primeval Ground of all things, the absolutely certain Helper of his people, is a mere fancy: otherwise must they soar above, and not sink beneath. This full Deity, against whose historically extant evidence they rashly close their eyes, they must now discover by their own destruction. The transgression is seemingly small; but it is that by which the nations perish even to the present day. As each takes its stand towards God, who is historically revealed in his Church, so is its destiny measured out." Thus "Moab magnified himself against the Lord" (Jeremiah 48:26).
II. A PUNISHMENT CORRESPONDING TO THEIR SIN.
1. The Moabites had rejoiced in the overthrow and exile of the Jews, and they also should be overthrown and their land possessed by others. "Therefore, behold, I wilt open the side of Mesh from the cities, from his cities which are on his frontiers." He would expose Moab to the assaults of its enemy. Certain cities are mentioned, and are appropriately described as "on his frontiers." They lay to the north of the river Amen, which was the proper boundary of Moab (Numbers 21:13). Again, these cities are called "the glory of the country." The tract in which they were situated, "belonging to the district called by the Arabians Al Belka, has been at all times highly valued on account of the excellence of its pastures for cattle. Among others, Bochart writes, ' As the pasturage in Belka is far better than in the rest of Southern Syria, there has been a continual struggle among the various Arab tribes as to who should secure it. The Bedouins are accustomed to say, "Thou canst find no land like Belka" (Havernieh) ('Speaker's Commentary'). Moreover, their country was ultimately to pass away from them into the possession of "the children of the east," the wandering Arab tribes. Like Ammon, the land was ravaged by hostile armies, and at last was left unoccupied except by the Bedouins.
2. The Moabites had denied the superiority of Jehovah over heathen gods, and they should be brought by painful experience to know his supremacy. "And I will execute judgments upon Moab; and they shall know that I am the Lord." Says Hengstenberg, "Through the judgments under which Moab falls, it is forced to acknowledge the true Deity of Jehovah, which it did not willingly accept." (See our notes on Ezekiel 6:7, 10; Ezekiel 7:4.)
1. Let those who are avowedly followers of Christ take heed that they do not give occasion to sinners to blaspheme the Name or the cause of God. Let them show "all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things;" "Walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called."
2. Let those who are not Christians take heed that they do not bring upon themselves the anger of the Lord by speaking against his cause or his people. - W.J.
I. THE MANIFESTATION OF EDOM'S HOSTILITY AGAINST JUDAH. The attitude of opposition which Edom assumed had an especial character; it was designated "vengeance," "revenge." This implies a standing feud, and the bitterness which is bred of repeated acts of enmity and injustice.
II. THE GROUND AND CAUSE OF THIS HOSTILITY. We are not expressly informed upon this point; but we shall not err in assigning this enmity to the repugnance entertained by the Edomites to the religion of Judah, and to the worship and prescribed rites and observances which were so much in conflict with the idolatrous religion professed and practiced by the children of Edom.
III. THE GUILT OF THIS HOSTILITY. This is apparent both from the nature of the ease itself, and from the retribution which Divine justice deemed necessary in its chastisement.
IV. THE PECULIAR FORM OF PUNISHMENT WITH WHICH EDOM WAS VISITED. This is perhaps the most striking figure in the passage. Retribution was to be wrought upon Edom "by the hand of my people, Israel." The sufferers were the instruments of punishment. The power of Judah may have seemed scarcely adequate to the task. But it was appointed by the King of nations that the Edomites should pay the penalty of sin; and, not only so, but that those whom they had hated and reviled should be the scourge by which the smiters should be smitten. The hand of God's people Israel was God's own hand, and, when the Edomites felt it, they knew by bitter experience the righteous vengeance of the Lord. - T.
2 Chronicles 25:14, 15, 20, and Josephus, 'Ant.,' 15:7. 9. Consider -
I. THE HEINOUS SIN OF THE EDOMITES. "Thus saith the Lord God; Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them." Notice:
1. The sin itself. Revenge is the sin with which the Edomites are here charged. Distinguish between revenge and vengeance. "Revenge is an act of passion; vengeance, of justice; injuries are revenged, crimes are avenged" (Johnson). Vengeance is righteous, calm, majestic; revenge is wicked, cruel, malignant. The accusation against the Edomites is revenge. Schroder translates, "Because Edom exercises vindictive revenge upon the house of Judah." The hatred of Esau towards his brother Jacob for fraudulently depriving him of his blessing seems to have run down through all his generations. And it was increased by what the Edomites afterwards suffered in conflict with the descendants of Jacob (cf. 1 Samuel 14:47; 1 Kings 11:15, 16; 2 Chronicles 25:11, 12); although Hengstenberg says "that Edom brought upon himself, by his own conduct, what he formerly, particularly under David, suffered from Judah. For only on this supposition was the revenge sinful." Revenge was prohibited by the holy Law of God as declared in the Old Testament (cf. Leviticus 19:18). And much more so as expressed in the New Testament (cf. Matthew 5:44-48; Romans 12:17, 19; Ephesians 4:31).
2. The manifestation of this sin. Joel, who probably prophesied in the early years of the reign of King Uzziah, predicts that "Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land" (Joel 3:19; see also Amos 1:11, 12). But probably the reference in our text is chiefly to the action of Edom during the Chaldean invasion of Judaea. "When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, the Edomites joined him, and took an active part in the plunder of the city and slaughter of the poor Jews. Their cruelty at that time seems to be especially referred to in the hundred and thirty-seventh psalm: "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof!" Their conduct at that time is described by the Prophet Obadiah (Vers. 10-14).
3. The aggravations of their sin. They were kinsfolk of Israel and Judah. In joining Nebuchadnezzar against Judah, they were uniting with a foreigner against those who had descended from the same ancestor as themselves. Moreover, in former times the Israelites had made distinctions in their favor. When they marched to the conquest of Canaan, they were commanded not to contend with the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:4, 5); and they observed that command. The Lord also commanded them not to hate the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7). Yet the Edomites hated the Jews, and rejoiced in revenging themselves upon them.
II. THE RIGHTEOUS RETRIBUTION OF THE SIN OF THE EDOMITES. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will also stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it," etc. (Vers. 13, 14).
1. The judgment inflicted. Two chief elements of it are mentioned by the prophet - slaughter by the sword, and the laying waste of the land. It is also intimated that the judgment should, pass over the whole land. "And I will make it desolate from Teman; even unto Dedan shall they fall by the sword." Or, as some would punctuate, "From Teman even unto Dedan they shall fall by the sword." Teman was a district in the south of Edom, and Dedan was in the north; so that "from Teman unto Dedan" signifies over the entire country. Not in one event alone may we trace the fulfillment of this prediction, but in several. In the time of the Maccabees, Judas the Maccabee slew more than forty thousand Edomites (1 Macc. 5:3; 2 Macc. 10:15-23). About thirty years afterwards, John Hyrcanus turned his forces against Edom, completely subdued the country, and compelled the people to submit to circumcision and to conform to the Jewish religion, or to suffer expatriation. And they were so desirous of remaining in the country of their forefathers, that they yielded to his conditions, and, as Josephus says, "they were hereafter no other than Jews" (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13:9. 1). So complete was their incorporation with the Jews "that the name of Idumaea appears no more in history as a separate kingdom." As Schroder remarks, "The vengeance of God could not in a more marked retribution manifest itself upon Edom than by the extirpation of his nationality, and that precisely in the form of an absorption by Israel." The desolation of the land was at length accomplished by the Mohammedans. "In the seventh century," says Dr. J. L. Porter, "the Mohammedan conquest gave a death-blow to the commerce and prosperity of Edom. Under the withering influence of Mohammedan rule, the great cities fell to ruin, and the country became a desert. The followers of the false prophet were here, as elsewhere, the instruments, in God's hands, for the execution of his judgments." And so "the Edom of prophecy - Edom considered as the enemy of God and the rival of Israel - has perished for ever: all, in that respect, is an untrodden wilderness, a hopeless ruin; and therein the veracity of God's Word finds its verification."
2. The instruments for the infliction of the judgment. "I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel," etc.; "And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble," etc. (Obadiah 1:18). The prophecy points to Judas the Maccabee and his army, and yet more to John Hyreanus, who completely subjugated the country of Edom, and annihilated the nationality of the Edomites.
3. The retributory character of the judgment. "Because that Edom hath dealt against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and hath greatly offended, and revenged himself upon them; therefore thus saith the Lord God... I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall know my vengeance, saith the Lord God." The Edomites inflicted vindictive revenge upon the Jews; and for so doing they must suffer the vengeance of the Lord Jehovah. "Revenge for revenge." "The Lord is a God of recompenses; he shall surely requite" (Jeremiah 51:56).
CONCLUSION. Our subject addresses to us:
1. Warning against estrangement or want of love amongst relatives. When kinsfolk or former friends become hostile to each other, they are much more embittered than strangers in a similar condition. "A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and such contentions are like the bars of a castle" (Proverbs 18:19); "Love one another with a pure heart fervently."
2. Warning against encouraging any feeling of revenge. Such feelings turn the heart which entertains them into a hell; and the entertainment of them awakens the stern displeasure of the Most High. Our Lord says," Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you," etc. (Matthew 5:44, 45). And St. Paul writes, "Bender to no man evil for evil... Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto wrath," etc. (Romans 12:17, 19-21). - W.J.
I. THE HATRED OF THE PHILISTINES TOWARDS ISRAEL WAS ANCIENT, PERENNIAL, AND UNDECAYING. This may be illustrated from the historical books of the Old Testament Scriptures.
II. THIS HATRED HAD ITS POLITICAL ORIGIN IN THE SETTLEMENT OF THE ISRAELITES IN CANAAN.
III. AND ITS RELIGIOUS ORIGIN IN THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE PURE WORSHIP OF JEHOVAH AND THE DEGRADING RELIGION PRACTICED IN PHILISTIA.
IV. THIS HATRED DISPLAYED ITSELF OFFENSIVELY IN THE TIME OF ISRAEL'S DEPRESSION AND HUMILIATION.
V. THIS HATRED BROUGHT DOWN UPON THE PHILISTINES THE INDIGNATION AND THE RETRIBUTIVE RECOMPENSE OF THE MOST HIGH.
VI. THIS HATRED THUS FURNISHED AN OCCASION FOR THE VINDICATION BY GOD OF HIS OWN RIGHTEOUS GOVERNMENT AND IRRESISTIBLE AUTHORITY. APPLICATION.
1. There is such a thing as national morality. Apart from the character and conduct of individuals, a nation by its collective action proves itself to possess a certain moral unity.
2. There is such a thing as national responsibility. The people sin, and the people suffer; the people repent and call upon God, and the people are saved.
3. There is especial scope for the display of national virtues, and for the right use of national opportunity and probation, in the relations which subsist between different and sometimes rival communities.
4. National pride, power, and prosperity are of no avail in God's sight, if injustice and malevolence are exhibited by nations in their intercourse and transactions with each other. "The righteous Lord loveth righteousness." - T.
I. A BRIEF STATEMENT OF A LONG COURSE OF HEINOUS SIN. "The Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with despite of soul to destroy it with perpetual enmity." Mark the gradations of their sin as they are indicated in the text.
1. The sin of the Philistines was hatred against the Jews. They were a powerful people, occupying territory to the south-west of Judah, and were unvarying in their hostility to the Israelites. Their sin was the very opposite of that love which God commands as the supreme duty of man to his fellow-man: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18). And in Christian ethics their sin is equivalent to murder: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer" (1 John 3:15).
2. Their hatred was intense and scornful, it was no superficial emotion. They took "vengeance with despite of soul." They were hearty and passionate and zealous in their enmity to the Jews.
3. Their hatred was inveterate. "The old hatred," or "perpetual enmity." A glance at their history shows this. In the time of the judges "they vexed and oppressed the children of Israel" (Judges 10:7, 8). Near the close of the career of Eli they defeated Israel in battle with great slaughter, and seized the ark of God (1 Samuel 4:10, 11). They were conquered by the Israelites under Samuel, and were kept in check all his days (1 Samuel 7:7-14). But in the days of Saul they again became troublesome, and brought Israel in a measure into subjection to them (1 Samuel 13:19, 20). In the battle in which Saul and his sons were slain, they inflicted a disastrous defeat upon Israel (1 Samuel 31.). They were vanquished by David. But in after-times they caused much trouble and damage to Judah (2 Chronicles 21:16, 17; 2 Chronicles 28:18). And they showed their old animosity by acts of hostility at the time when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Their hatred was ancient and persistent.
4. Their hatred was habitually active. "The Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance." Their enmity existed not simply as an emotion, but found vigorous expression. And it expressed itself, not simply in hostile and bitter words, but in malignant deeds, in revengeful actions. And these deeds were not occasional, but habitual. They "dealt by revenge," as if it had been their trade or occupation. "A perpetually enduring war," says Schroder, "is the standing feature of the relation, while fixed hostility was the root of it."
5. This hatred was destructive in its design. "Have taken vengeance with despite of soul to destroy it with perpetual enmity." The aim of the hostile Philistines was to bring the Jewish nation to an utter end. This was their steadfast purpose. One aspect of hatred is very conspicuous in this brief delineation, and it is as admonitory as it is conspicuous, viz. its tendency to continuance and growth. If animosity be not resisted, if it be not combated by the presentation of prayer to God and by the cultivation and expression of kindness towards men, especially towards the object of our aversion, it will increase in depth and intensity. Hence it is of the utmost importance to check the beginnings of hatred. "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you."
II. A STARTLING ANNOUNCEMENT OF SEVERE PUNISHMENT FOR PROTRACTED AND HEINOUS SINS. "Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines," etc. (Vers. 16, 17). We see here:
1. Punishment of great severity. "I will execute great vengeance upon them with furious rebukes." Who can conceive the dread severity of the great vengeance of the Almighty with furious rebukes? They who had dealt by revenge and taken vengeance on Israel should suffer the great vengeance of the God of Israel. After the destruction of Jerusalem, when Nebuchadnezzar turned his mighty forces against Egypt, "the result was specially disastrous to the Philistines: Gaza was taken by the Egyptians, and the population of the whole plain was reduced to a mere 'remnant' by the invading armies."
2. Punishment ending in destruction. "I will cut off the Cherethites, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast." The name "Cherethites" is given "to the whole of the Philistines, for the sake of the paronomasia." The name signifies "cut off," or "extirpated," and it was to find its fulfillment in their doom. "The destruction of the remnant points to this," says Hengstenberg, "that they shall be destroyed to the last man, as in fact the Philistines have utterly disappeared. It is the great privilege of the people of God, that how heavy soever the judgments of God may be upon them, never will it be said of them, 'I will destroy the remnant.' "They who had made it their object to destroy the Jewish nation should themselves be destroyed by the Almighty. "With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you."
3. Punishment from the hand of God. "Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines," etc. The Chaldeans and others were but as weapons in the hands of the supreme Sovereign and righteous Judge of all.
"The Lord sitteth as King for ever: