The Edomites were descendants of Esau (twin brother of Jacob) (Genesis 25:1924, 30 and 36:8-9). The conflict between Jacob (Israel) and Esau (Edom) began in their early days. Esau was the first born son of Isaac and Rebekah and due the birthright of the family. God had made grand and eternal promises to Abraham regarding the future blessings of all men through his Christ (Genesis 12:1-3 and Galatians 3:16). The firstborn had the upper hand in being in the line that would eventually produce the Messiah. Esau had the opportunity of being in the lineage of Jesus Christ by way of his father Isaac; however, he did not value his first born birthright of the family as did Jacob. Esau eventually sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for bread, pottage, and lentils. The book of Genesis tells us that Esau "despised" the grand blessings of God through Abraham (see Genesis 25:33-34). The author of the book of Hebrews refers to Esau as "profane" or impure due to his lack of spiritual interest (see Hebrews 12:16). The Apostle Paul quotes the prophet Malachi, in the context of God's eternal knowledge of his elect and remnant people, saying "Jacob I loved but Esau I hated" (Malachi 1:2-3 and Romans 9:13).
God hated Esau because his life was a living contradiction to the will of God. Esau married a Canaanite women even though his grandfather Abraham had commanded not to do so (see Genesis 24:1ff and 26:34- 35). Esau's descendants eventually form the nation of Edom. The Edomites were as their founding father Esau when it came to spiritual interest and the people of God. There was a perpetual animosity that Edom harbored for his brother nation Israel. While Edom despised spirituality and was a profane people Israel sought to live by the laws of God. Edom had no real concern for the lives of their kinsmen of Israel and Judah (Ezekiel 35:6). Edom, from the days of Esau, was both angry and envious of Israel (Ezekiel 35:10-12).
The animosity of Edom toward Israel is seen when Israel desired to pass through their land on the way to Canaan.
The king of Edom refused Israel's request making them travel far out of their way to reach their destination (see Numbers 20:14-21). Furthermore Edom is found rejoicing in happiness when they saw and heard of Israel's hardships and defeats at the hands of enemies (see Psalm 137:7 and Ezekiel 35:13-15). The Edomites erroneously reasoned that they would possess the land of Israel and Judah when the Assyrians and Babylonians conquered them (Ezekiel 35:10). Edom had even gone as far as attacking and plundering God's people in their weakened state after doing battle with the Babylonians (Ezekiel 25:12 and 35:4-6).
Throughout the scriptures, the name of Edom is used as a representation of all Jehovah's enemies that love wickedness rather than righteousness (Isaiah 34:1-17; Jeremiah 49:7 and Obadiah 1:21). Jeremiah summed up the sin of Edom as being that of pride and arrogance (cf. Jeremiah 49:16). Jeremiah said that Edom, and all those who set their face against Jehovah God, would be brought down off their high horse of pride (Jeremiah 49:7-22). Isaiah depicts Edom as a sick man that continues to check the clock throughout the night anxiously awaiting the end of his illness that is brought on by God due to their is obedience (Isaiah 21:11-12). There would be, however, no relief for the pride-stricken people of Edom. World empire after empire would continue to press them (i.e., Assyria, Babylon, Medes and Persians, Grecians and then the Romans), and eventually they were non-existent (Malachi 1:2-4). "The archeological evidence also indicates the downfall of Edom by the end of the sixth century. Nomadic tribes infiltrated Edom, and it lost the power to control and profit from the trade between Arabia and the Mediterranean coast and Egypt. In the fifth century, an Arabian tribe, the Nabateans, forced their way into Edom and replaced the Edomites, many of whom went westward to southern Judea (later to become Idumea; cf. I Macc. 5:3, 65), while others were absorbed into the newcomers. By 312 B. C. the area around Petra also was inhabited by the Nabateans" (ISBE, Volume 2, page 20). The Edoms of all times are defeated by good (see Revelation 18:2).
Isaiah sees Edom as a place of judgment. The Lord is depicted as trampling to death the wicked of all nations in Edom (Isaiah 63:1-6). Similarly we read of Christ doing the same thing at Revelation 14:19-20. The Apostle Paul's depiction of Esau at Romans 9:13 and the clear denouncing of Edom in the Old Testament prove the figurative use of Esau and Edom to stand for the wicked now and forevermore. The wicked will always hate the righteous and persecute them (see John 15:18-16:3). Nothing but the wrath of God awaits all those who fall into the class of people ruled by the mind of Esau (see Romans 2:5ff). The same prophets and apostles use the name of Jacob to depict the elect remnant of God that will enjoy the peace and serenity of heaven forevermore (see Amos 3:13-15; Obadiah 1:10, 17-18 and Romans 11:26-27 as Paul quotes from Isaiah 59:20).
John C Robertson