Ezekiel and the United Nations (Ezekiel 35-36)

Now that the current war between Israel and Hamas has concluded (at least temporarily), we are not at all surprised by the outcome. With superior fire power, Israel devastated Gaza and brought a crushing defeat to these Islamic haters of Israel. We wonder sometimes what possesses a group like Hamas to imagine that they will drive Israel from the land.  It surely is a form of satanically stimulated insanity which motivates them.

What we are not surprised about is that so many nations and individuals found this war with Hamas an opportune event to express high levels of deep hatred for Israel.  Signs declaring that “Zionists are the new Nazis” and shouts that “Jews should be gassed” or “burned” were heard in the streets of Europe as well as many Arab nations.  But it was not just in the streets of cities all over the world (including the USA) that such irrationality was witnessed.  In the United Nations, once again Israel was attacked viciously. This time it was the “war crimes” of Israel that were decried and Israel’s indiscriminate killing of innocents (without mentioning, of course, that over 4000 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel from all locations including schools, hospitals and mosques.)

As we were again exposed to this irrational kind of thinking in our present day, it is good to recall again that this is not something new.  And it is not something that is going to go away any time soon. It will go on until Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, comes and conquers His enemies, restores Israel back to Himself and takes possession of His inheritance, which is all the nations of the world (Psalm 2). The prophet Ezekiel has some helpful thoughts in his prophecy. We want to quickly look at some of the words of the prophet Ezekiel, in chapters 35 and 36 because they sound as if they were spoken last month.

The Setting of the Prophecy.   This chapter is found within that great section of Ezekiel on the restoration of Israel.  In chapters 34-39, God declares that He is going to restore Israel (the words “I will” is used about 70 times in this section). We are told by Ezekiel that the restoration of Israel depends on God’s word and character and not on Israel’s righteousness.  There is an order to Israel’s restoration. God will first restore Israel back to their ancient land, and this will be over a period of time and will be clearly seen by the nations of the world. Second, they will be restored back to the Lord.  God will use the terrible days of the Tribulation to restore His people spiritually.  In the midst of this discussion, we have the declarations in chapter 35:1-36:15 of the antagonism of Edom and the nations of the world.  This section is likely included to reveal that the restoring of Israel will not be easy and will be resisted by Israel’s enemies.

The History of the Hatred of Edom Against Israel.  Edom was a nation formed primarily from the descendants of Esau as well as Ishmael.  God said of Ishmael that “he will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him.” (Gen. 16:12).  Later Esau (Gen. 28:8-9) married into the line of Ishmael, and the nation that came about was the nation of Edom.  From the very beginning there was a deep antagonism between Esau and Jacob (Israel).  In the end times, the hatred of Edom (the Arab nations) towards Israel would remain. The term “Edom” is being used not only of these peoples but also as representing the nations of the world. As Dr. Merrill Unger states: “Edom, her bitterest and most inveterate foe, representative of her enemies in general, is prophesied to be destroyed irrevocably.” (Ungers Commentary on the Old Testament, p. 1567).  This irrational hatred for Israel which has been in the world since the days of Genesis will be alive and vibrant at the end of this age and apparently led by “Edom”.  It must be said that the rabid anti-Semitism that is witnessed in the world today and will be present in the end of times finds it origin in Genesis 12.  This chapter records that moment in time when God entered into an eternal, unconditional covenant with Abraham and his descendants.  Through the “seed” of Abraham, Satan, and his attempts to control the world, will be brought to an end.  Satan is well aware that it is through the “seed” of Abraham (the Lord Jesus Christ) that his demise will come.  He hates Jesus (whom he cannot touch) and so his venom is spewed out on the Jewish people.

The Sins of Edom and the Nations of the World.   Ezekiel records several evils of “Edom” (as it represents the world of nations in the end times).

(1) The slaughter of the Jews (35:5; 36:4).  The blood of Israel has been shed in abundance.  “Edom” has not hated blood and murder. Does this remind us of dozens of statements made by Hamas, Hezbollah and ISIS? And not just their statement but their brutal actions. They have loved blood and there will be retribution in kind from the Lord (35:6).  There will be no mercy shown to them because they refused to show mercy. (Note what Amos 1:11 says about this attitude of Edom).

(2) The Taking of Land Given to Israel Under the Abrahamic Covenant (35:10; 36:2, 5).  The Land was given to the descendants of Abraham within the eternal, unconditional covenant.  To take that land is to steal from the Lord God.  The promise of the Lord in Ezekiel is that Israel will get all of their land that was given to them under the Abrahamic Covenant.  “Edom” will pay for their arrogant claims that the land will become theirs. The Land is not “Palestinian land” and it has not been theirs from “time immemorial” as is often claimed.  It is not true to history that the Jews arrived late and took it from the “Palestinian people” (who, of course, do not exist in history).  Note the proud boast of “Edom” in 35:10 where the two nations likely refer to Israel and Judah.  “These two nations and these two lands will be mine, and we will possess them…”  Does that not sound a lot like what we hear today when it is said that Israel will be driven into the sea and “Palestine” will be possessed by the Arab peoples?

(3) The Intense Hatred and Envy of the Jews (35:11). The Jewish people have turned the swamps and barren desert into lush, productive land.  They have been innovative and developed an immensely prosperous land.  This reality has only fueled the long-standing hatred and envy against the Jewish people.  God clearly has chosen to bless and prosper them even though they presently remain in their unbelief.

It must be noted that this envy and hatred is seen in the words spoken against Israel (an example of which is that constant stream of abuse flowing out of the United Nations).  Israel is said to have become “a derision to the rest of the nations” (36:4), but that will come to an end when Messiah reigns and “I will not let you hear insults from the nations anymore, nor will you bear disgrace from the peoples any longer” (36:15). This has not taken place yet but the UN will be silenced!

The End of It all.  One basic thing that “Edom” forgets is that to attack Israel is to attack the God of Israel (35:10).  When they speak against Israel, they speak against the Lord Jehovah (35:13).  When they take land, they steal it from the Lord Himself (35:10; 36:5). In the end, the patience of the Lord God will come to an end and He will deal with them according to their evil (note Exo. 34:6 and 7).  And, “Edom” has also forgotten the most basic of points.  That point is that the Abrahamic Covenant is still in force and that those who “curse” Israel will be cursed by God (which is not an enviable position to be in). (See Gen. 12:3)

So, we learn from Ezekiel that the deep antagonism against Israel was true in the past and it will be true in the present, but that it will not be true in the future kingdom when Jesus, son of David from the tribe of Judah, rules.  Then all will be as it should be.  We need Ezekiel’s perspective as we observe events in the middle-east and hear the rhetoric coming out of New York (the United Nations), Damascus, Tehran, Cairo, Gaza City and many other places.