Introduction: In many contexts, compromise is a good thing. Nations, politicians, adversaries, business persons, spouses, and children are all encouraged to work out their differences instead of fighting. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Ro. 12:18). Yet, some kinds of compromise can be bad. Compromising God’s standards for the world’s standards is one example. Esau grew up with little regard for the things of God. He was a successful hunter and a self-made man (Gen. 25:27). Because he loved the world more than God, he made a series of compromises in his walk. These compromises put him and his descendants on a slippery slope with God. His passions for God cooled. He then gave up on the Promised Land to live in the world. His descendants compromised further and embraced evil. His descendants then compromised further and became enemies of God. Esau’s descendants then became prideful. God then judged them. Today, this once mighty nation no longer exists. Outside of a few archeological references, we would know little about Edom if it weren’t for the Bible. It might be tempting to skip a chapter listing the genealogies, leaders, and kings of now forgotten people who once lived in southern Jordan. Yet, the western world could easily suffer the same fate. If the west continues to compromise with God’s standards, it will also be judged.
First, Esau compromised with God’s standards and married two Canaanites and later a daughter of his half uncle Ishmael. The names of his first two children reflected his initial relationship with God. These include names like “my God is pure gold” and “friend of God.” Yet, his later children and grandchildren had names with no relationship to God. The name of his last son meant “ice, hail, or frost”. From this, God reveals that compromising with His standards for the world’s standards will cause your passions for Him to cool over time. Second, because his passion for God had become cold, Esau took his three wives and his five children and left the Promised Land for the hill country in southern Jordan. From this, God reveals that compromise with the world may cause you to choose the things of the world over Him. Third, although Esau rejected the things that God offered, God remained faithful to His promise to turn Esau into the father of a nation. His descendants formed the once mighty nation of Edom. From this, give thanks that your compromises with God’s standards will not cause God to compromise His promises to you. He remains faithful, even when you are not. Fourth, God also loved Esau the sinner and wanted him to succeed. Thus, he blessed the sons of Esau with 14 chiefs to rule the nation of Edom. From this, God reveals that your compromises with His standards will not cause Him to compromise His love for you. As the Good Father, your sins will in no way cause Him to love you less. Fifth, out of love, God also helped Esau’s descendants to defeat the Horites who lived in the same territory. Yet, instead of driving this pagan nation out, Esau’s descendants intermarried with the Horites. The names of their descendants included the name “wicked”. From this, God reveals that compromise with the world may ultimately cause you to embrace wickedness. Sixth, while the people of Israel spent 400 years in captivity, God also blessed Esau’s descendants in Edom with eight consecutive kings to rule the land. Yet, the seventh king’s name reflected their embrace of the pagan god Baal. Their end would come soon after that. From this, God reveals that Satan offers instant gratification that quickly fades. By contrast, while God requires patience, He offers eternal peace to His people. Finally, although blessed, the descendants of Esau turned not to God for their identity. They instead found their sense of identity in the pride of their 11 chiefs who ruled their lands. God then judged them. From this, God reveals that compromise frequently leads to pride and ultimately judgment.
Esau’s three wives and his five sons born in Canaan. While he lived in Canaan, Esau compromised with God’s standards and married two Canaanites and later a daughter of his half uncle Ishmael. Through his three wives, he had five sons named Eliphaz, Reuel, Jeush, Jalam and Korah: “1 Now these are the records of the generations of Esau (that is, Edom). 2 Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan:  Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and  Oholibamah the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite; 3 also  Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter, the sister of Nebaioth. 4 Adah bore [a] Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore [c] Reuel 5 and Oholibamah bore [d] Jeush and [c] Jalam and [e] Korah. These are the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.” (Gen. 36:1-5; same, 1 Chr. 1:35). Esau despised the things of God and compromised with the world (Gen. 25:29-34; Heb. 12:16). He did not deserve God’s blessings. Yet, out of grace, God gave him five heirs. In the Bible, the number five is the number of grace. Esau’s five children showed God’s mercy and grace in his life.
Esau’s three carnal marriages and his drift from God. Esau committed the sin of polygamy by marrying two Hittite women. This brought his parents great grief: “34 When Esau was forty years old he married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite; 35 and they brought grief to Isaac and Rebekah.” (Gen. 26:34-35). “46 Rebekah said to Isaac, ‘I am tired of living because of the daughters of Heth; if Jacob takes a wife from the daughters of Heth, like these, from the daughters of the land, what good will my life be to me?’” (Gen. 27:46). Both Isaac and Esau married at age 40 (Gen. 25:20). Forty symbolizes trials and testing in the Bible. Isaac passed the test by waiting for the woman that God “appointed” for him (Gen. 24:14). In contrast, Esau followed the path of Lamech, the first polygamist and a murderer (Gen. 4:19). Esau thought he could correct his mistake of marrying two non-believers by marrying a third. While Jacob submitted to his parents’ will in finding a godly spouse, Esau trusted in what felt right to him. To correct his parents’ disappointment over his prior choices in marriage, he took a third wife by marrying Mahalath, the daughter of his uncle Ishmael: “8 So Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan displeased his father Isaac; 9 and Esau went to Ishmael, and married, besides the wives that he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth.” (Gen. 28:8-9). Both the Hittite wives and the daughter of Ishmael symbolized the flesh. Their unity through marriages to Esau merely shows that the flesh is united in its war against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17). The names of Esau’s five children showed that his compromises with the world caused him to drift from God. His first two sons reflected a time when he had some relationship with God. Eliphaz means “my God [El] is pure gold”. His second son Reuel means “friend of God [El]”. His last three sons and his grandchildren had names with no connection to God. Korah, his last son, meant “ice, hail, or frost”. His relationship with God had become cold through his compromises. His name also foreshadowed the evil Levite named Korah who lead a rebellion in the wilderness against Moses (Num. 16:1-35). When you make compromises with the world, you also run the risk of causing your passions towards God to cool.
Compromise with the world and your flesh may lead to spiritual blindness. Paul warns “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:5). They are people “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.” (Phil. 3:19). “For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.” (Rom. 16:18). They are spiritually blind to the path leading to salvation: “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thess. 1:9). Esau’s compromises also blinded him to the nature of the evil that he embraced. Like Esau, many live according to their own standard of morality. “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25; 17:6). Like Esau, many who make compromises with the world become spiritually blinded. Have you guarded your heart and prayed for the Spirit to keep you on the narrow path?
Esau’s rejection of the Promised Land for Edom. After Isaac blessed Jacob instead of Esau, Esau took his three wives and his five children and left the Promised Land. They settled in the hill country of Seir in the southern part of modern Jordan: “6 Then Esau took his wives and his sons and his daughters and all his household, and his livestock and all his cattle and all his goods which he had acquired in the land of Canaan, and went to another land away from his brother Jacob. 7 For their property had become too great for them to live together, and the land where they sojourned could not sustain them because of their livestock. 8 So Esau lived in the hill country of Seir; Esau is Edom.” (Gen. 36:6-8). Abraham also sent his seven sons of the flesh out of the Promised Land. He first sent out Hagar and his son Ishmael (Gen. 21:12-21). He later sent out Keturah and their six sons (Gen. 25:1-6). Yet, unlike Hagar, Keturah and their children, Esau left voluntarily.
Esau’s disregard for the things of God. As a child of the flesh, Esau had little regard for the blessings of God available to him as the firstborn son of Isaac. Thus, he gave them up for a bowl of lentil stew: “29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, ‘Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.’ Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, ‘First sell me your birthright.’ 32 Esau said, ‘Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?’ 33 And Jacob said, ‘First swear to me’; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.” (Gen. 25:29-34). In the book of Hebrews, God revealed that Esau sold his birthright because he was immoral and did not believe with faith in God: “that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.” (Heb. 12:16). He later regretted what he lost: “For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.” (Heb. 12:17). Yet, his mere “regret” was not enough because he was unwilling to change his heart. Because his regret was not enough to motivate a change in his behavior, he eventually rejected the Promised Land and instead chose the world.
Don’t mock your spiritual birthright. Because Esau cared little for the things of God, he liked better what he saw in the world than in the Promised Land. The language of Esau’s departure tracks in reverse the language used for Abraham’s departure from Ur: “Abram took Sarai his wife and Lot his nephew, and all their possessions which they had accumulated, and the persons which they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan; thus they came to the land of Canaan.” (Gen. 12:5). The language in this account also mirrors the language used prior to Lot’s departure from the Promised Land: “And the land could not sustain them while dwelling together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to remain together.” (Gen. 13:6). Like Esau, many treat their birthrights in Christ with no greater importance than a bowl of stew. “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). The “gift” Jesus offers is free (Rom. 5:15; 2 Cor. 9:15). Yet, many find no value in His free gift. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). God wants you to place your value in what He offers over what the world offers: “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,” (Phil. 3:7-8). When others mock what the Bible says or what God offers, do you stay steadfast in your faith? Are you using your spiritual gifts each day for God’s glory?
Make no provision for your flesh. Esau’s departure from the Promised Land symbolized God’s mandate that you make no provision for the things of your flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Rom. 13:14). “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). “[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;” (Rom. 6:6). Part of living by the Spirit requires that you renew your mind every day to live according to the Spirit: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Are you purging the things of the flesh in your life?
Esau’s descendants who founded the Edomite nation. Although Esau rejected the things that God offered, God remained faithful to His promise to turn Esau into the father of a nation: “9 These then are the records of the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. 10 These are the names of Esau’s sons:  Eliphaz the son of Esau’s wife Adah,  Reuel the son of Esau’s wife Basemath. 11 The sons of Eliphaz were Teman, Omar, Zepho and Gatam and Kenaz. 12 Timna was a concubine of Esau’s son Eliphaz and she bore Amalek to Eliphaz. These are the sons of Esau’s wife Adah. 13 These are the sons of Reuel: Nahath and Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the sons of Esau’s wife Basemath. 14 These were the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah and the granddaughter of Zibeon: she bore to Esau, Jeush and Jalam and Korah.” (Gen. 36:9-14; same, 1 Chr. 1:36-42). This list includes Esau’s five sons and ten grandsons who later become tribal chiefs. Some contend that by grouping the descendants in a certain way, Esau’s descendants appear analogous to the 12 descendants of Ishmael (who founded the Arab nation) and the 12 descendants of Jacob (who founded Israel): “The birth of Amalek, Esau’s grandson, by concubine Timna indicates the illegitimacy of the Amalekite heritage (v. 12). When Amalek is not counted, the genealogies consist of nine grandsons and three sons (by Oholibamah), giving a total of twelve offspring born to Esau. By placing the three sons born to Oholibamah on the same tier as Esau’s grandchildren and by omitting her grandchildren, the number twelve is achieved. Twelve corresponds to the number of descendants born to Ishmael and Jacob (25:12-16; 35:22-26).” (Kenneth Mathews, “The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture” Genesis 1-11:26, Vol. 1B, (B&H Publishing Group Nashville Tenn. 2005) p. 646). In the Bible, 12 is the number associated with God-ordained government. Just as there are 12 tribes, there were later 12 apostles. Thus, the nations of Israel, Edom, and the Arab nation were all ordained by God. He established these nations to show that He keeps His promises.
The fulfillment of God’s promise of two nations arising from Rebekah. God’s creation of the nation of Edom is important because it shows that He was faithful to keep His promise to Rebekah that two nations would come through her: “The LORD said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body;’” (Gen. 25:23(a)). He separately showed that He was faithful to His promise to Abraham that “many nations” would come from him (Gen. 17:4-5). The Bible is filled with historical accounts demonstrating that God keeps His Word. His Word never fails.
You also can trust in His promises to you. The accuracy of God’s promises shows that you can also trust His promises for you as well. “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” (Dt. 7:9). “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). He is faithful even when you are not: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13). Have you given thanks that you can trust in His faithfulness even when your faith fails Him?
God is sovereign over the nations. This account also shows the sovereignty of God. He controls the destiny of every nation. He also appointed for each person a nation to live in: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” (Acts 17:26). “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the people according to the number of the sons of Israel.” (Dt. 32:8). Thus, He controls the destiny of every nation. This of course means that the western world should not take His blessings for granted.
Don’t allow your children to dishonor God’s blessings and become enemies against Him. Although God blessed Esau’s descendants, they failed to teach their children to honor God. Esau’s ignoble genealogy also reveals the origin of Israel’s enemy the Amalekites. They were the ignoble offspring of Esau’s son Eliphaz and his concubine Timna (Gen. 36:12). They fought with the nation of Israel on its return trip to the Promised Land. “Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.” (Ex. 17:8, 9-16). God later condemned them for waging war on His people: “And he looked at Amalek and took up his discourse and said, ‘Amalek was the first of the nations, but his end shall be destruction.”’ (Num. 24:20). “Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt, 18 how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God. 19 Therefore it shall come about when the Lord your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.” (Dt. 25:17-19). “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt.”’ (1 Sam. 15:2, 3-8). Many today have grown up receiving God’s blessings. Yet, they fail to teach their children where their blessings really come from. If you fail to raise your children to honor and love God, they may also become His enemies.
The 14 chiefs of the sons of Esau. God was not only faithful to Esau, He also loved him and wanted him to succeed. Thus, he blessed the sons of Esau with 14 chiefs to rule Edom: “15 These are the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn of Esau, are  chief Teman,  chief Omar,  chief Zepho,  chief Kenaz,  16 chief Korah,  chief Gatam,  chief Amalek. These are the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Adah. 17 These are the sons of Reuel, Esau’s son:  chief Nahath,  chief Zerah,  chief Shammah,  chief Mizzah. These are the chiefs descended from Reuel in the land of Edom; these are the sons of Esau’s wife Basemath. 18 These are the sons of Esau’s wife Oholibamah:  chief Jeush,  chief Jalam,  chief Korah. These are the chiefs descended from Esau’s wife Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 19 These are the sons of Esau (that is, Edom), and these are their chiefs.” (Gen. 36:15-19). “The inclusion of the chiefs was to underline the stature of Esau’s descendants, all his sons and grandsons became the heads of tribal clans, suggesting that theirs was a prestigious and prodigal heritage.” (Mathews p. 646-7). Thus, God’s faithfulness was not limited to creating a nation out of Esau. He also provided the leaders from Esau’s descendants to govern it. “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Rom. 13:1(b)).
Your compromises will not cause God to stop loving you. Many assume the first thing God does when He sees sin is to punish the sinner. Yet, this is incorrect. “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6). “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ps. 103:8). “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.” (Ja. 5:11). With Edom’s descendants, God first tried to win them over with love and blessings. He blessed them with rulers to rule the land for hundreds of years. Yet, the Edomites misused these blessings as a license to sin. If you sin, God will never stop loving you. Punishment will also be a last resort. He would rather woo you back with blessings and love than with punishments. Yet, like the Edomites, have you forced God to discipline you for misusing His blessings to sin?
The intermarriage of the seven Horite clans with Esau’s 20 grandchildren. Out of love, God also helped Esau’s descendants to defeat the Horites who lived in the same territory. Yet, instead of driving this pagan nation out, Esau’s 20 grandchildren (19 grandsons and one granddaughter) intermarried with the Horite Seir’s seven sons: “20 These are the sons of Seir the Horite, the inhabitants of the land: [a] Lotan and [b] Shobal and [c] Zibeon and [d] Anah, 21 and [e] Dishon and [f] Ezer and [g] Dishan. These are the chiefs descended from the Horites, the sons of Seir in the land of Edom. 22 The sons of Lotan were  Hori and  Hemam; and Lotan’s sister was Timna. 23 These are the sons of Shobal:  Alvan and  Manahath and  Ebal,  Shepho and  Onam. 24 These are the sons of Zibeon:  Aiah and  Anah—he is the Anah who found the hot springs in the wilderness when he was pasturing the donkeys of his father Zibeon. 25 These are the children of Anah:  Dishon, and  Oholibamah, the daughter of Anah. 26 These are the sons of Dishon:  Hemdan and  Eshban and  Ithran and  Cheran. 27 These are the sons of Ezer:  Bilhan and  Zaavan and  Akan. 28 These are the sons of Dishan:  Uz and  Aran. 29 These are the chiefs descended from the Horites: chief Lotan, chief Shobal, chief Zibeon, chief Anah, 30 chief Dishon, chief Ezer, chief Dishan. These are the chiefs descended from the Horites, according to their various chiefs in the land of Seir.” (Gen. 36:20-30). In Deuteronomy, God revealed that He displaced the Horites who occupied Mount Seir before Esau arrived: “the just as He did for the sons of Esau, who live in Seir, when He destroyed the Horites from before them; they dispossessed them and settled in their place even to this day.” (Dt. 2:22). Yet, the Edomites did not drive the Horites out. Instead, they intermarried with them.
Edom’s intermarriages with the Horites caused them to embrace evil. The Edomites’ decision to marry the pagan Horites caused them to fall off any walk with God. As noted above, some of the children of Edom before he fled from the Promised Land contained names that reflected God in some way. This was not true of the descents born through the intermarriages with the pagan Horites. For example, the name Alvan means “wicked.” (Gen. 36:23). As another example, the name Aran means “mountain goat.” (Gen. 36:28). In the Bible, the goat was a symbol of sin. During Yom Kippur, the sins of the people were cast upon two goats. One was killed, and the other was sent out with nation’s sins into the world (Lev. 16:8-22). Instead of releasing the scapegoat, the Edomites embraced the evil it symbolized. There is also meaning in the fact that there are 20 descendants listed here. In the Bible, 10 is the number of the Ten Commandments. It is both the standard of holiness and the standard by which all are judged. Two symbolizes the number of confirmation. The 20 grandchildren with ungodly leaders symbolized the future judgment that would come to this wayward nation.
The eight kings of Edom. While the people of Israel spent 400 years in captivity, God blessed Esau’s descendants in Edom with eight consecutive kings to rule the land. Yet, the seventh king’s name reflected their embrace of the pagan god Baal: “31 Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the sons of Israel.  32 Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah. 33 Then Bela died, and  Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah became king in his place. 34 Then Jobab died, and  Husham of the land of the Temanites became king in his place. 35 Then Husham died, and  Hadad the son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the field of Moab, became king in his place; and the name of his city was Avith. 36 Then Hadad died, and  Samlah of Masrekah became king in his place. 37 Then Samlah died, and  Shaul of Rehoboth on the Euphrates River became king in his place. 38 Then Shaul died, and  Baal-hanan the son of Achbor became king in his place. 39 Then Baal-hanan the son of Achbor died, and  Hadar became king in his place; and the name of his city was Pau; and his wife’s name was Mehetabel, the daughter of Matred, daughter of Mezahab.” (Gen. 36:31-39). The Bible later clarifies that these Edomite kings all ruled before Israel ever had a king: “Now these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom before any king of the sons of Israel reigned.” (1 Chr. 1:43). This would have likely caused some Jews to question God. The people of Edom also used their power over the Jews. For example, Herod the Great was an Edomite who terrorized the Jews. The number eight symbolizes new beginnings. God gave Esau’s descendants a new beginning with their own kingdom. Yet, Esau’s descendants used this God-given opportunity for evil. As time went on, their rulers drifted further and further from God until they renounced Him for the pagan gods of the world. None of the names reflect anything about God. The seventh king represented the culmination of evil. His name “Baal-hanan” (Gen. 36:38) reflected allegiance to the Canaanite god Baal. The name translates as “Baal is gracious.” What started off as compromise and cooled passions for the things of God eventually led to the rejection of God and the open embrace of the devil.
The world offers instant gratification while God offers eternal gratification. God later revealed to Joshua that He gave Esau’s descendants the nation of Edom to govern while he sent His people into 400 years of slavery: ‘“To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.”’ (Josh. 24:4). It might have been difficult for the Jews to see their brother pagan nation with a long history of stable kings. Yet, God was teaching His people the importance of patience in waiting for Him to fulfill His promises: “In outward prosperity and honor, the children of the covenant are often behind, and those that are out of the covenant get the start. We may suppose it a trial to the faith of God’s Israel, to hear of the pomp and power of the kings of Edom, while they were bond-slaves in Egypt; but those that look for great things from God must be content to wait for them; God’s time is the best time. Mount Seir is called the land of their possession. Canaan was at this time only the land of promise. Seir was in the possession of the Edomites. The children of this world have their all in hand, and nothing in hope, Lu 16:25; while the children of God have their all in hope, and next to nothing in hand. But, all things considered, it is better to have Canaan in promise, than mount Seir in possession.” (Matthew Henry on Genesis 36). God told the Jews that, in the end, the more powerful people of Edom would eventually serve them: “The LORD said to her [Rebekah], ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two peoples will be separated from your body; and one people shall be stronger than the other; and the older shall serve the younger.’” (Gen. 25:23). God would ultimately fulfill His promise. Saul subjected Edom (1 Sam. 14:47). David would later establish bases with military troops there (2 Sam. 8:14). If it seems like the non-believers around you are more blessed than you, will you wait for His timing?
The flesh is at war with the Spirit. Just as the descendants of Esau would later wage war against Israel’s descendants, your flesh is at war with the Spirit. “And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Gal. 4:28-29). Satan seeks to put your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8). “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17). If you give in to your flesh, the devil will ultimately enslave you: “Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He will turn you over to your addictions until you repent: “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, . . .” (Rom. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick who you will serve: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Matt. 6:24). Thus, you cannot lead a dual life. Which master are you serving?
The 11 chief descendants of Esau. Although blessed, the descendants of Esau did not turn to God for their identity. They instead found their sense of identity in the pride of their 11 chiefs who ruled their lands. This is symbolized by the second reading of the 11 princes who ruled the land: “40 Now these are the names of the chiefs descended from Esau, according to their families and their localities, by their names:  chief Timna,  chief Alvah,  chief Jetheth, 41  chief Oholibamah,  chief Elah,  chief Pinon, 42  chief Kenaz,  chief Teman,  chief Mibzar, 43 chief Magdiel,  chief Iram. These are the chiefs of Edom (that is, Esau, the father of the Edomites), according to their habitations in the land of their possession.” (Gen. 39:40-43). The eleven princes symbolized the chaos that would come from the Edomites’ decision to live by the might of their sword. God previously prophesized regarding Edom: “You will live by the sword . . .” (Gen. 27:40). Yet, Jesus later warned: “. . . for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52). In the Bible, 11 is the number associated with chaos. It was an 11-day journey from Mount Horeb to Kadesh-barnea, where the Jews were originally meant to invade the Promised Land (Dt. 1:2). There, they rebelled and chaos ensued. They then spent 40 years marching in the wilderness. As another example, there were originally 12 disciples. Yet, when Judas rebelled, there were only 11. As a result, chaos ensued and the disciples left Jesus. The 11 chiefs symbolized the pride of Edom. Yet, their pride in themselves would lead to their destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). The Edomites would be judged and forgotten as a once mighty nation.
Trust in God and not the powerful rulers of the world. God does not want you to trust in powerful people, powerful nations, or human institutions. When the Holy Spirit came to Edom, their mighty rulers trembled in fear “Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.” (Ex. 15:15). Because He is more powerful that the rulers of this world, God does not want you fear powerful rulers: “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.” (Ps. 118:8). “Thus says the LORD, ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the LORD.”’ (Jer. 17:5). “Stop regarding man, whose breath of life is in his nostrils; for why should he be esteemed?” (Is. 2:22). Instead, He wants you to trust in Him alone. “Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.” (Ps. 55:22). “[C]asting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). When times are difficult, do you place your trust in strong people or in God?
God’s mercy and grace in initially protecting the sons of Esau. The Edomites did not worship Yahweh. They also refused to allow Israel safe passage through Edom on the way back to the Promised Land (Num. 21:4). Yet, Moses still called them a “brother” of Israel: “From Kadesh Moses then sent messengers to the king of Edom: ‘Thus your brother Israel has said, ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us;”’’ (Num. 20:14). “You shall not detest an Edomite, for he is your brother; you shall not detest an Egyptian, because you were an alien in his land.” (Dt. 23:7). They also had greater rights in joining God’s assemblies than the Ammonites and the Moabites (Dt. 23:3, 8). Thus, God ordered the Jews not to harm them: “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.” (Dt. 2:4-5). The Jews were not even allowed to take food from them without proper compensation: “You shall buy food from them with money so that you may eat, and you shall also purchase water from them with money so that you may drink.” (Dt. 2:6). God did not do any of this out of a greater love for the descendants of Esau over Israel. He did this to give them an opportunity to repent. He also did this to show that He is faithful to keep His promises, even to the undeserving. This should give you great hope. God loves you so much that He sent His only son to die for you (John 3:16). If He has withheld His judgment from you, will you use this as an opportunity to repent and turn back to Him?
God’s judgment upon Esau. God promised that He would make a “great nation” out of the descendants of Ishmael (Gen. 17:20, cf. 21:13, 18). By contrast, He only promised to make a nation out of Esau. Every good and perfect thing is from God (Ja. 1:17). Yet, like many people today, Esau believed that the only good things in his life came from the respect he received for his own skills. Because he had no regard for the things of God, he was not thankful for his spiritual birthright. With sorrow, God later “hated” the evil in his heart: ‘“I have loved you,’ says the LORD. But you say, ‘How have You loved us?’ ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ declares the LORD. ‘Yet I have loved Jacob; but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” (Mal. 1:2-3; Rom. 9:13). With sadness, He later judged them for their wars against Israel. “Flee away, turn back, dwell in the depths, O inhabitants of Dedan, for I will bring the disaster of Esau upon him at the time I punish him.” (Jer. 49:8; Is. 34:5). “Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, so that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.” (Ob. 1:9). “therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘I will also stretch out My hand against Edom and cut off man and beast from it. And I will lay it waste; from Teman even to Dedan they will fall by the sword.”’ (Ezek. 25:13). Like Edom, no nation should become prideful and believe that it can live in open rebellion against God. Eventually, all nations will be judged. It is the role of believers to be “salt and light” in a lost nation (Matt. 5:13-16).
God lifts up holy nations and humbles the proud evil ones. God uses His sovereignty over the nations to fulfill His greater plans. As part of His plan, He lifts up the holy nations and bring down the evil ones: “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation.” (Jer. 10:10). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). The Bible records that God blessed Israel when it remained faithful. He also showed that He humbled His people when they disobeyed. Likewise, when Europe embraced Christ and sent missionaries around the world, God blessed those nations. Yet, when Europe began to turn from God, He removed His blessings and it began it decline in its power and influence. America was also once a vibrant, religious country. As it sent missionaries around the world, it also prospered through His blessings. Now, however, it has followed in Europe’s path of secularization. At the same time, America’s relative power has slowly declined. Unless the western world repents and returns to Judeo-Christian morality its decline will continue. Are you praying and fasting for your leaders and your nation to return to God?
Just as the nation of Edom disappeared, the western world can disappear as well. Many find no value in studying the genealogies of a nation that no longer exists. Without the Bible, Edom would be entirely forgotten. Yet, their forgotten status is exactly the message that believers should focus on. Just as God can record people in the book of life, He can blot out the wicked. This includes wicked nations: “You have rebuked the nations, You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their name forever and ever.” (Ps. 9:5). “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.”’ (Ex. 32:33). ‘“Let Me alone, that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven;. . .”’ (Dt. 9:14). “. . . and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.” (Dt. 29:20). “May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous.” (Ps. 69:28). “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” (Rev. 13:8). Do you worry more about how others will see you than where others spend their eternity?