Chapter 35 contains God’s judgment against the nation of Edom. It is called Mount Seir in this chapter because that mountain is the most famous landmark of the country. Edom was a nation to the southeast of Judah.
It may seem a little odd at this point to interject a judgment against Edom, especially since there was a small passage in 25:12-14 condemning Edom, but the chapters 35 and 36 to together as a contrast of blessing and curse. At the present time in the Biblical narrative, Israel is cursed by God and made desolate. Edom seems to be thriving. But, in the future, Israel with be restored to thrive and Edom will be cursed and made desolate for its actions against Israel.
The language also indicates that the two passages are part of one message. Both begin with instructions for the son of man, Ezekiel, to prophesy and say. Both are addressed to mountains. Both speak of desolation. In 35, God says he is against Mount Seir; in 36, God is for the mountains of Israel. Both speak of God’s zeal to act.
Jacob and Esau were twins, but Esau was born first. (Genesis 25:24-26) He was, therefore, entitled to the blessings of the first born. But Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for some red stew. (Genesis 25:29-33) Jacob later tricked his father Isaac and received the blessing of the firstborn from him. (Genesis 27) Esau was angry and held a grudge against Jacob. (Genesis 27:41) He passed that grudge down to his descendants. The nation of Edom remained an adversary of Israel for centuries. This is why Ezekiel 35:5 refers to an “ancient hostility”.
Edom means red in Hebrew. It is a name given to Esau. Esau was know as Edom, or red, because of the red stew. (Genesis 36:1)He moved to the hill country of Seir and conquered it to live in. (Genesis 36:8) He drove out the Horites. (Genesis 14:6) In fact, God granted Seir to Esau as he granted specific land to Israel, Moab and Ammon. (Deuteronomy 2:1-7) But the Edomites felt that they should also be entitled to Canaan because Jacob cheated Esau out of it. Thus, verse 10 recognizes their desire to take over both countries. Evidently, the Edomites threw in with the Babylonians as Jerusalem fell, and then took over part of Judah while the Jews went into captivity. They sought to reclaim the stolen birthright.
However, God did not allot Canaan to the Edomites, or direct them to inflict harm on Israel. He will, therefore, punish them for their actions against Israel.
So, what you have is a battle for the possession of the promised land. God promised the land to Abram and his descendants. (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; 17:8) God’s covenant with the nation of Israel, however, was conditional regarding the land. If they obeyed the covenant, they kept the land. If they broke the covenant, God would drive them from the land. (Deuteronomy 28)
But possession of Canaan was not a matter of national power. Canaan was God’s land. He chose who occupied it. He chose Israel to occupy it. He might run them out, but he could bring them back. It was God’s right to decide. It was a matter of election. Israel was God’s elect at the time. he land was their inheritance. (Ezekiel 35:15)
The judgment is this: since Edom helped make Judah desolate, God would make them desolate. (35:3-4, 5, 7, 9) Again, God said that when he did this, “you will know that I am the LORD”. (35:4)
In contrast to the judgment against Edom in chapter 35, chapter 36 records God’s decree of future blessings for Israel. The contrast appears in the first verse. Whereas chapter 34 was an oracle directed at Mount Seir, chapter 35 is an oracle directed at the mountains of Israel. The writer was emphasizing the contrast.
The first 8 verses of chapter 36 reiterate God’s decree that the nations around Israel, that rejoiced in Israel’s destruction, will suffer God’s wrath. The remainder of the chapter sets forth the future blessings to Israel.
Although God declared he would make Edom and other surrounding nations desolate, he declared, in contrast, that he would make Israel inhabitable once again. In verse 8, he said the mountains would again produce branches and fruit. He will cause the land to be plowed and sown. That is, instead of desolation, Israel would again be fruitful in agriculture. In addition he promised to multiply the people to inhabit the land. (10) God would also protect them from surrounding nations, taking away the scorn. (15) All of these express the blessings of obedience to the covenant set forth in Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
In a way, Edom is a representative of all who oppose God’s plan. God planned from eternity to bring salvation to a sinful world. He chose, or elected, Israel to be the family and nation that would produce the savior. The fortunes of Israel rose and fell with their obedience, but God preserved the line of David and the tribe of Judah down to a carpenter and a young wife who were given a child who was God incarnate, God with us, Jesus our Lord and Savior. All who oppose him will be destroyed as Edom was.
This struggle between the elect of God, Israel, and the non-elect, Esau, began before the boys were born. Genesis 25:22 says the babies jostled each other in the womb. It is as if they were struggling for position even before they were born. Before they were born, God chose Jacob to be over Esau. He told this to their mother, Rebekah. In Genesis 25:23, the Lord told Rebekah:
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.
Romans 9:10-15 declares this as a theological truth:
Not only that, but Rebekah’s children had one and the same father, our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad-in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-she was told “the older will serve the younger”. Just as it is written: Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Malachi 1:2-3) What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not al all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion”. (Exodus 33:19)
The struggled continued when Esau lost his birthright. He planned to murder Jacob. (Genesis 27:41) When Israel came of of Egypt, it sought permission to pass through Edom, offering to pay for the privilege. Edom refused and even sent an army after them. (Numbers 20:14-21) Israel conquered Edom under David and kept them under control until Edom successfully rebelled against Jehoram. (2 Kings 8:20) When Babylon conquered Jerusalem, Edom cheered. Psalm 137:7 says:
Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down” they cried,
tear it down to its foundations”.
The battle continued in the time of Jesus. Jesus was, of course, the Messiah, the one anointed to bring salvation. He was a son of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David. At the very beginning of his life, a powerful man tried to kill him. That man was Herod, the king over the land of Judah by the appointment of Rome. Herod was born in Idumea. Idumea is the Latin word for Edom. Herod failed, as God told Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt to hide until Herod died.
When Isaiah wrote of the final judgment, he wrote of the devastation of Edom (Isaiah 34:2-10) and even hell (Isaiah 34:9-10) Malachi 1:4 calls them the people “always under the wrath of the Lord”.
So we see that Edom was an enemy of Israel, but also representative of those who oppose God and his son in bringing redemption to men and women, freeing them from bondage to Satan and sin.
Those who have been saved by Jesus are now God’s children and citizens of his kingdom. As Israel was opposed, as Jesus was opposed, the church is now opposed. Jesus told his disciples that would happen. (John 15:18) Esau hated Jacob because God chose Jacob. The world hates the church because God loves the church, and each believer, and seeks to please God rather than the world.