THE RESTORATION OF YAHWEH’S LAND REQUIRES FIRST RENDERING EDOM DESOLATE FOR HER TREATMENT OF ISRAEL
These two sections (chap. 35 and chap. 36:1-15) are mirror-images of one another. They are paired in such a way as to highlight the contrasts. Mount Seir is condemned for her hostility and reviling of Israel while the mountains of Israel anticipate the blessing of fruitfulness and repopulation as YAHWEH once again takes possession of His land.
Feinberg: It may appear at first as though the present prophecy belongs to the oracles against foreign nations, but it is probably here as a point of contrast to chapter 36, that is, wrath for Mount Seir contrasted with blessing for the mountains of Israel.
David Guzik: Perhaps Ezekiel put this prophecy here to answer the question, “How can we be restored if there are enemies like Edom who hate us so deeply and wish to take advantage of our desolation?”
Constable: But why did the Lord target Edom here? Probably Edom was representative of all the enemies of Israel who wanted to take over her land, and was selected because of her long history of land squabbles with Israel (cf. Gen. 25:22-34; 27; 36:6-8, 31-43; Num. 20:14-21; 24:15-19; 1 Sam. 14:47; 1 Kings 11:14-22; 2 Kings 8:21; 2 Chron. 20:1-23; 28:17; Ps. 137:7; Isa. 11:14; 34:5-6; Lam. 4:21-22; Dan. 11:41; Amos 2:1; Obad. 10-14; Mal. 1:2-5). Edom was the nation that had longest and most consistently resisted Israel’s occupation of the Promised Land. The Edomites evidently wanted to reclaim the birthright that Esau had sold to Jacob.
Therefore, if God is going to give Israel her land in the future, as He promised in chapter 34, He will have to deal with Edom and all other nations that oppose Israel’s possession of it. This section assures the readers, both ancient and modern, that He will deal with opponents to Israel occupying her land by prophesying the destruction of Israel’s greatest antagonist viewed as a representative of all such powers (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Edomite invasions of Israel following the Babylonian decimation of Judah also made Edom a major topic of interest.
Charles Dyer: Ezekiel 36 parallels the New Covenant God promised to Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 31. This covenant includes at least three specific elements:
(a) restoration to the land (Ezek. 36:24; Jer. 31:27-29),
(b) forgiveness of sin (Ezek. 36:25; Jer. 31:34), and
(c) the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:26-27; Jer. 31:33).
Wiersbe: In his previous messages, Ezekiel looked back and reproved the people because of their sins. Now he looks ahead and encourages the people by telling them what the Lord will do for Israel in the future. . . The future of Israel [in chapters 36 and 37] can be summarized in four words: restoration, regeneration, resurrection, and reunion.
Anton Pearson: The Territorial Integrity of Israel Assured (35:1 – 36:38)
After the promise of a good shepherd to replace the wicked shepherds who had ruled Israel, there follow three oracles on the security of the land itself. Mount Seir, for its hostility to Israel, was to be rendered a desolation (35:1-15); while the mountains of Israel, which had been ravaged by the nations, would become luxuriantly fruitful (36:1-15). The Lord would do all these things for his people for his name’s sake (36:16-38).
I. (35:1-15) PREREQUISTIE OF RESTORATION = JUDGMENT AND DESOLATION AGAINST MOUNT SEIR
(:1-3a) Prologue – Addressing Mount Seir
“Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me saying, 2 ‘Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir, and prophesy against it, 3 and say to it, Thus says the Lord God,’”
Jamieson: lit. “Mount Shaggy,” alluding to its rugged hills and forests
Leslie Allen: “Mount Seir” is the traditional description of the mountainous area to the south-east of Judah, on the other side of the rift valley, where Edom was situated (see Gen 36:8, 9).
Charles Dyer: Edom was the prototype of all Israel’s later foes. The destruction of Edom would signal the beginning of God’s judgment on the whole earth based on that nation’s treatment of Israel (cf. Gen. 12:3).
Peter Pett: While the blessing of Yahweh will come on His people, it will be accompanied by judgment on others who have despised His people. And Edom as the bitterest enemy of Israel were selected for the contrast, partly because they shared a similar situation to Judah in their connection with the Jordan rift and its surrounding mountains, and largely because their betrayal was most recently in mind. And even more because they thought that they could take possession of Yahweh’s land which He had given to His people. It demonstrated that it was always dangerous to meddle with the people of God even when they also were under chastening.
4 REASONS FOR JUDGMENT OF DESOLATION AGAINST MOUNT SEIR
A. (:3b-4) Vindication of the Lord’s Sovereignty
1. (:3b-4a) Divine Opposition in Assertion of Sovereignty
“Behold, I am against you, Mount Seir,
And I will stretch out My hand against you,
And I will make you a desolation and a waste.
I will lay waste your cities, And you will become a desolation.”
2. (:4b) Recognition Refrain
“Then you will know that I am the LORD.”
B. (:5-9) Hatred and Treachery against Israel
1. (:5) Charge of Hatred and Treachery
“Because you have had everlasting enmity and have delivered the sons of Israel to the power of the sword at the time of their calamity, at the time of the punishment of the end,”
MacArthur: God will judge Edom because of
1) her perpetual enmity against Israel since Esau’s hatred of Jacob (Ge 25-28), and
2) Edom’s spiteful bloodshed against the Israelites trying to escape the Babylonians in 586 B.C.
Derek Thomas: their treachery — The Edomites struck Judah ‘at the time of their calamity’ (35:5). Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem managed to escape the lengthy Babylonian siege (one which resulted in such awful atrocities as cannibalism caused by starvation), only to be caught and slaughtered by the Edomites (Obad. 10, 14). The Edomites had ‘harboured an ancient hostility’ which went back over a thousand years (35:5).
2. (:6-9a) Judgment of Bloodshed and Desolation
a. (:6) Bloodshed
“’therefore, as I live,’ declares the Lord God,
‘I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you; since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you.’”
Constable: “Bloodshed” (Heb. dam, lit. blood) may be a play on Edom’s name (Heb. edom, from ‘adom, “to be red”).
b. (:7-9a) Desolation
“And I will make Mount Seir a waste and a desolation,
and I will cut off from it the one who passes through and returns.
And I will fill its mountains with its slain;
on your hills and in your valleys and in all your ravines those slain by the sword will fall.
I will make you an everlasting desolation,
and your cities will not be inhabited.”
Feinberg: none would traverse her land. The designation was for all groups, especially the caravans, for Edom’s tribes were the channel of commerce between India, the East and Egypt. This was the source of Edom’s wealth.
3. (:9b) Recognition Refrain
“Then you will know that I am the LORD.”
C. (:10-13) Appropriation of Yahweh’s Land
1. (:10) Aggressive Expansionist Policies
“Because you have said, ‘These two nations and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them,’ although the LORD was there,”
Derek Thomas: their expansionist policies — The Edomites had eyes for both Judah and Israel (35:10). They coveted that which was not theirs. It is the drive for more that is the cause of the world’s ills.
Constable: Ancient Near Easterners viewed the lands of nations as the domain of the gods of those nations. To take a nation was to overcome its god. Thus in trying to take over Israel’s land Edom tried to discredit Yahweh since “the Lord was there,” it was His land (cf. v. 12; 48:35). This in turn involved failing to recognize Yahweh as the only true God (v. 13).
Peter Pett: Edom were guilty of two major crimes. They considered that they could annex the land that belonged to Yahweh, His possession, and they had magnified themselves (and their gods) against Yahweh. The two nations here are Israel and Judah. But the land belonged to Yahweh. ‘Yahweh was there’, as they well knew. Thus in saying what they did they were despising Yahweh.
2. (:11) Attitude of Defiance
“’therefore, as I live,’ declares the Lord God,
‘I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred against them;
so I will make Myself known among them when I judge you.’”
Feinberg: The principle of recompense in kind was again set forth, for Edom would receive from the hand of the Lord in direct proportion to her anger, envy and hatred against Israel.
3. (:12-13) Arrogant Boasting
“Then you will know that I, the LORD, have heard all your revilings which you have spoken against the mountains of Israel saying, ‘They are laid desolate; they are given to us for food.’
And you have spoken arrogantly against Me and have multiplied your words against Me; I have heard.”
Lamar Cooper: they had spoken against God “without restraint” (v. 13). This spirit of defiance was the subject of Malachi’s message and insight into the bitterness of the descendants of Esau (Mal 1:1–5). They exhibited an attitude of defiance that ignored God’s will for themselves as well as for the Israelites.
Derek Thomas: their blasphemous boasting — The Edomites gloated in the downfall of Israel. But Israel belonged to God and thus their boasting was an insult against God himself: ‘You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it’ (35:13). Their boasting constituted blasphemy against God.
D. (:14-15) Gloating over Israel’s Desolation
“Thus says the Lord God,
1. (:14-15a) Promise of Desolation in Return
As all the earth rejoices, I will make you a desolation.
As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel because it was desolate, so I will do to you.
You will be a desolation, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it.”
Leslie Allen: Israel’s right to the land is reaffirmed: Yahweh as owner had given it to “the community of Israel” as a “heritage.” While the promise was in abeyance, it was not abrogated.
Constable: The Lord would cause all the earth to rejoice when He made Edom a laughingstock in the world, just as it had rejoiced when Israel became desolate (cf. 36:5). Mount Seir and all of Edom would become absolutely desolate (cf. 36:10). It would not exist when the Lord restored His people to their land. Then the Edomites would learn that Yahweh is God.
Feinberg: The prediction has been literally fulfilled. Edom was first subjugated by Babylon, then Medo-Persia, and then in 126 B.C. by John Hyrcanus the Hasmonean, who compelled them to become Jews. There is no trace of the Edomites now, although their desolate cities can still be identified, as predicted by Obadiah (v. 18) and Jeremiah (49:13).
Leslie Allen: God promised judgment for Edom and announced that since the Edomites rejoiced over Israel’s calamity the whole world would rejoice over its destruction (v. 14). Gloating over Israel and trying to confiscate the territory caused the destruction, desolation, and loss of their land and national identity (v. 15).
2. (:15b) Recognition Refrain
“Then they will know that I am the LORD.”
Daniel Block: In her claims to Israel’s territory Seir failed to recognize its owner. She treated the devastation of Yahweh’s land and the deportation of its population either as a sign that like his people Yahweh had abandoned his land, or as simply the natural consequences of shifting political circumstances. She could not see the judgment of Yahweh upon his own people in the demise of the nation and the ruination of the land, let alone his concern to cleanse his land of its defilement. Consequently, the mountains of Israel were hers for the taking, like a carcass for vultures. But the first panel of this oracle reminds Edom and the audience that perceptions and reality may indeed be worlds apart.
II. (36:1-15) RESTORATION AND BLESSING FOR THE MOUNTAINS OF ISRAEL
(:1-2a) Prologue – Addressing the Mountain of Israel
“And you, son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the LORD. 2 Thus says the Lord God,”
MacArthur: This chapter must be understood to speak of a literal Israel, a literal land, and a literal regeneration, leading to a literal kingdom under Messiah. Ezekiel addresses Israel’s mountains, as symbolic of the whole nation. He promises:
1) to give these mountains gain to dispersed Israel (v. 12);
2) to cause fruit to grow on them (v. 8);
3) to rebuild cities and to multiply people there (v. 10); and
4) to bless in a greater way than in the past (v. 11).
This promise can only be fulfilled in future millennial blessing to Israel that she has not yet experienced, because it includes the salvation of the New Covenant (vv. 25-27, 29, 31, 33).
John Taylor: The structure of the chapter is as follows,
(a) The oracle addressed to the mountains of Israel has two parts to it. Verses 1–7 promise that the nations round about Israel, and Edom in particular, will suffer reproach for the way they have treated Israel. Verses 8–15 speak more positively of the prospect of fruitfulness for the mountains of Israel and repopulation of the land by the homecoming exiles,
(b) The second main section consists of an introductory flashback over Israel’s past, showing that it was concern for his holy name which prompted the Lord to punish his people (16–21), and this is followed by three oracles dealing with the new blessings which the people are to receive and enjoy (22–32, 33–36, 37, 38).
Charles Dyer: Ezekiel contrasted Israel’s present humiliation before her enemies with her future glorification.
A. (:2b-7) Returning Reproach on the Surrounding Nations for Their Insults against Israel
1. (:2b) Taunting by the Enemy with Arrogant Boasts
“Because the enemy has spoken against you, ‘Aha!’
and, ‘The everlasting heights have become our possession,’”
2. (:3) Tormenting by the Enemy for Good Cause
“therefore, prophesy and say, ‘Thus says the Lord God,
For good cause they have made you desolate and crushed you from every side, that you should become a possession of the rest of the nations, and you have been taken up in the talk and the whispering of the people.’”
Feinberg: “crushed you from every side” — The enemy intended to swallow the people of God, the verb meaning literally to pant or snuff up, a figure from the panting of wild beasts, as a wild beast ravenously smells after prey to devour it.
3. (:4-5) Taking Back the Land of Israel as God’s Possession
a. (:4) Encouraging Word from the Lord
“Therefore, O mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God. Thus says the Lord God to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes and to the forsaken cities, which have become a prey and a derision to the rest of the nations which are round about,”
Constable: God continued His word directed to the land of Israel. Some feel uncomfortable with these prophetic passages that so clearly focus on Israel’s future in her promised land. They feel such promises contradict the principle that God is Lord over all the earth. Taylor spoke well to this concern: “To those who feel that this is altogether too materialistic a concept of God and too constricting for the God of the whole earth, the enlightened Israelite would probably answer that it is no more unreasonable than that the God of all time should declare one day in seven as his own and that the God of all nature should claim a tenth of its produce for himself. Authority over the whole is witnessed to by the surrender of the part.”
b. (:5) Emotional Reaction from the Lord
“therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey.’”
Constable: The Promised Land was the Lord’s land (“My land”), in the same sense that the Sabbath was His day and the tithe was His possession. These parts were not just segments of their wholes over which God claimed ownership, but they represented and illustrated His ownership of all lands, all days, and all possessions. Israel’s enemies had dealt with her in their anger and envy (35:11), but now Yahweh would deal with them in His fierce jealousy over Israel’s welfare.
4. (:6) Terminating the Insults and Abuse
“Therefore, prophesy concerning the land of Israel, and say to the mountains and to the hills, to the ravines and to the valleys, ‘Thus says bthe Lord God, Behold, I have spoken in My jealousy and in My wrath because you have endured the insults of the nations.’”
Daniel Block: Functioning as an indirect oracle of salvation, the proclamation makes three important affirmations.
– First, Yahweh announces his presence. For the beleaguered land, one simple word, hinĕnî (lit. “behold me!”), represented the best news imaginable. Yahweh has appeared to defend his land.
– Second, Yahweh speaks. The land has borne the insults of the nations long enough, and Yahweh’s own passion has been ignited. He will have the last word, the content of which is recorded in the following verses.
– Third, Yahweh swears that the nations will take their own medicine. With raised hand he pronounces the sentence. The nature of the nations’ punishment is not specified, but for Israel to hear that the tables will be turned and that the nations will bear their own disgrace (nāśāʾ kĕlimmâ) is enough.
5. (:7) Turning the Tables on the Enemy Nations
“Therefore, thus says the Lord God, ‘I have sworn that surely the nations which are around you will themselves endure their insults.’”
Leslie Allen: The three accusations brought against the enemies of Israel in vv. 1–7 expand the ideas of 35:1–15.
– First, the nations and Edom had taken possession of the mountains of Israel (36:2–3, 5).
– Second, the nations and Edom plundered Judah and left the land desolate (36:3–4).
– Third, the nations and Edom ridiculed and scorned Judah (36:3–4, 6, 15).
Ralph Alexander: The Lord vindicates his righteousness and his people. He had declared in the Abrahamic covenant that he would bless those who bless Israel, but he also would curse those who curse his people (Gen 12:3). Therefore God declared that Israel had borne enough scorn and shame from the nations. His fiery jealousy would come against those who had joyously and scornfully invaded Israel for spoils (vv. 5-6). As the nations had brought shame on Israel, so he would cause them to bear shame and disgrace. The Lord emphatically “lifted up his hand” against the nations in a symbol of strength and wrath (v. 7). He would exonerate his people.
B. (:8-12) Restoring Fruitfulness and People to the Land of Israel
1. (:8-9) Restoring Fruitfulness to the Land of Israel
“But you, O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel;
for they will soon come.
For, behold, I am for you, and I will turn to you,
and you shall be cultivated and sown.”
MacArthur: vv. 8-15 – Israel’s land will be productive (vv. 8, 9), populated (vv. 10, 11), and peaceful (vv. 12-15). These features will be fully realized in the Messiah’s kingdom. The return from Babylon was only a partial fulfillment and foreshadowing of the fullness to come in the future kingdom.
2. (:10-11) Repopulating the Land of Israel
a. (:10-11a) Multiplied Greater than Before
“And I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, all of it; and the cities will be inhabited,
and the waste places will be rebuilt.
And I will multiply on you man and beast;
and they will increase and be fruitful;
and I will cause you to be inhabited as you were formerly
and will treat you better than at the first.”
Daniel Block: vv. 8-11 — The description of the new day envisions the complete restoration of the deity-nation-land relationship. The sign of the new day will be the renewed fruitfulness of the land, described according to the ancient covenant blessings (Lev. 26:1–13). The mountains of Israel are portrayed as a tree whose boughs are filled once more with branches and fruit. However, the transformation presupposes two momentous events.
– First, the covenant relationship between Yahweh and his people Israel will have been reestablished. What a welcome sound it should have been for Ezekiel’s audience to hear Yahweh referring to Israel endearingly as ʾammî, “my people,” once again. The benefactors of the new fertility of the land will be the nation whom Yahweh had chosen for himself, and to whom he had originally given this land.
– Second, the nation of Israel will have come back home from its exile. In terms reminiscent of earlier predictions of the day of Yahweh (7:7; 30:3) and of the judgment of Israel (9:1; 12:23), Yahweh announces the imminent return of the people to their homeland. The divorce of 586 B.C. will finally be reversed as people and land are brought together once again.
b. (:11b) Recognition Refrain
“Thus you will know that I am the LORD.”
3. (:12) Permanent Possession of the Promised Land
“Yes, I will cause men– My people Israel– to walk on you and possess you, so that you will become their inheritance and never again bereave them of children.”
Lamar Cooper: Ownership of the land was by divine commission. Every family was entrusted with a portion of land protected by the law of the Jubilee Year (Lev 25:8–24), when all property was restored to the original owner or surviving family. Thus the land was viewed as a divine stewardship. It was this reason, for example, that Naboth refused to sell his portion of land to Ahab (1 Kgs 21:3; Lev 25:23). In this way divine ownership of the land was acknowledged. When an enemy claimed possession of the land, they claimed ownership of what was not theirs to take. It was God’s land.
C. (:13-15) Removing Israel’s Reproach
“Thus says the Lord God,”
1. (:13b) Stinging Insults Hurled at Israel
“Because they say to you, ‘You are a devourer of men
and have bereaved your nation of children,’”
2. (:14) Secure Future Promised
“’therefore, you will no longer devour men,
and no longer bereave your nation of children,’ declares the Lord God.”
Lamar Cooper: When the spies described the land after their reconnaissance, they said that it was a land that “devours those living in it” (Num 13:32). God promised that in the restoration the land would no longer “devour” its inhabitants (Ezek 36:14). No longer will people taunt Israel in it; no longer will they scorn them nor cause them to fall (v. 15). God assured them that these things would “never” happen again.
3. (:15) Shame Removed Permanently
“’And I will not let you hear insults from the nations anymore,
nor will you bear disgrace from the peoples any longer,
nor will you cause your nation to stumble any longer,’
declares the Lord God.”
Galen Doughty: If one remembers that the culture of the Middle East is a shame-honor based culture then the taunts of Israel’s enemies would have been as unbearable as the consequences of their disobedience to God. God is going to put a stop to their shame one day when he restores Israel as his people.
Constable: Verses 8-15 contain four promises concerning the land.
– First (:8-9), the land would become productive because the Israelites would soon come back into the land. Yahweh assured the land that He was for it, He would bless it, and it would become cultivated again instead of desolate and uninhabited. Formerly the Lord had said that He was against Mount Seir (35:3).
– Second (:10-11), the Lord promised to fill all the land with Israelites, to enable them to live in their cities and rebuild the places that had become ruins (cf. 6:3, 5-7). Earlier the Lord promised to desolate all the land of Edom (35:15) and to lay waste her cities (35:4). The mountains of Israel would again become populated with people and animals that would become fruitful and multiply. The Lord would bless them more greatly than ever before. Then His people would know that He is God.
– Third (:12), the Lord would cause the people of Israel to take possession of these mountains as their inheritance and never leave them again (cf. Gen. 12:7). The Edomites had formerly determined to possess these mountains (35:10). The nations had accused the Promised Land of devouring its inhabitants (cf. Num. 13:32), but Yahweh would see that it no longer did that.
– Fourth (:13-15), He would not allow the Israelites to hear insults from their neighbors any longer, to bear disgrace any longer, or to stumble in their affairs any longer. He would restore them to their prestigious position as His Chosen People (cf. Deut. 28:13; Zech. 8:13, 20-23).