It is particularly the sovereign work of the LORD concerning Jacob and his brother Esau which exhibits the true point of departure in this prophecy, the solid and unchangeable basis of God’s covenant dealings of the Lord with Israel! Thus we have indicated in our last essay.
All God’s reprovings of His people are based upon this covenant relationship in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Everywhere we hear the glad gospel story of the blessed God: herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent His, Son a propitiation for our sins. The starting point is the love of God manifested on the cross!
However, it is only when we see the matchless, sovereign love of God; only when we see that it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy, that we truly will give heed to the Word of the LORD in childlike faith. Only thus is the mouth of unbelief stopped, both in the days of Malachi and in every age, ours included. When we then ask our impertinent and sinful and brutal questions concerning the manifestations of the love of God, saying, as did Israel, Wherein hast thou loved us?” (vs. 2) the LORD of hosts replies with his Who art thou, O man?” Am I not the potter and ye the clay? Or to put it as does the LORD in Malachi 1:2, 3, “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother, said the LORD: yet I loved Jacob; and Esau have I hated, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness . . .”
We believe, that, although the standpoint of the prophet here is that of Israel after the Babylonian captivity, nevertheless, shall we understand the full implication and thrust of this saying to stop the mouth of unbelieving and doubting Israel, we must see this word of the LORD concerning Jacob and Esau as it was revealed to Rebecca “before the children were born, or had done good or evil.” Rom. 9:11.
In Genesis 25:19-23 we read this tremendously far-reaching word of the LORD to Isaac’s wife, Rebecca. It ought to be noticed that this passage is introduced by the sacred writer; “These are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son . . .” We are told in the context that Abraham gave gifts to the sons which he had by Keturah and to Ishmael, and “sent them away from Isaac his son while he yet lived, eastward, toward the east country.” Gen. 25:6. The writer takes pains to show the generations of Isaac, of whom it was said, “In Isaac shall thy Seed be called.” Gen. 21:12. And this Seed is to come forth from the loins of Isaac by means of Rebecca.
But, notice now! The sacred writer informs us something very divinely wonderful and sovereign about God’s bringing forth of the Seed in Isaac. The Seed will not be brought forth by the will of the flesh, nor by the desire of blood; it will all be by the wonder of sovereign love and grace. God will beget himself children in His sovereign love. No one can even come to Christ except the Father which sent him draw him. John 6:44. That is the meaning of God’s bringing forth of the Church, the Israel of God, to whom Malachi must bring this burden.
Let us go back now some nineteen centuries before the birth of Christ, to the days of Isaac and Rebecca, when they live yet with Abraham in Sarah’s tent. Here Isaac brought Rebecca, and he loved her. Truly, Isaac looked forward in hope to a multitude as the stars of the heavens in number, as the fulfillment of the promise of God Almighty. Nothing is impossible, too hard for Him. Had this not been exemplified in Isaac’s very conception and birth some forty years earlier? But what are the hard facts? Were they not that even as Abraham and Sarah had been childless, so were Isaac and Rebecca for twenty years? Rebecca proved to be barren. Isaac cannot raise up seed by her! Then he turns to the LORD. And the LORD is entreated; Rebecca conceives! But, wait! All does not seem to be well.
That all was not well Rebecca, the expectant mother, perceived. There were twins in her womb, twin brothers. Rebecca perceives a violent struggle between these brothers within her womb. And believing this to be a portent of things to come, she cries to the Lord in the fear and anguish of her heart, saying, “If it be so, why am I thus?” It was then that the LORD, Who declareth the end from the beginning, said to her these memorable words:
“Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger.” Gen. 25:23
We do well to think a bit into the implications of this word, so that we may see its importance as the basis and starting point of the Lord’s burden to Israel in the days of Malachi some fourteen centuries later. We will need to interpret Scripture in the light of Scripture. The LORD evidently does not forget any of His words spoken before, and He reminds us of His Words spoken at His crossroads in history.
What strikes us is that the import of these two sons’ wrestling in Rebecca’s womb is designated as being a wrestling between “two nations” and not merely between two individuals! Yes, they are individuals too. Thus Paul understands the matter in Rom. 9:11. However, both Jacob and Esau in their individual persons are representative of two nations. Not all individual men become nations. Few did in fact. But Israel and Edom are two nations and they both came from one womb as twin brothers. From a natural point of view they could not have been closer. Two distinct nations; both would span many centuries in history!
Secondly, let us notice that they are “two manner of people” which are separated from Rebecca’s bowels. The one will be the people of God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar treasure to the LORD, delivered from the bondage of Egypt, because God would call His Son out of Egypt. Compare Ex. 6:5; Hos. 11:1; Num. 23:21, 22; Matt. 2:15. And the other nation will be like the nations of the world, a people upon whom the LORD hath indignation forever. The former is the object of God’s love, because in them is the Christ in Whom is all God’s good pleasure, and the other is without Christ, estranged from the, life of God, without hope in the world.
And all through history there will be battle between the nation from Esau (Edom) and the nation from Jacob-Israel. And Jacob-Israel will be the stronger, for Israel shall do valiantly. Esau shall serve Israel. Thus was the word of the LORD to Rebecca before the children were born, or had done good or evil.
In the days of Malachi Israel had returned from the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, under Cyrus, king of Persia. Many centuries of the history, both of Jacob-Israel and Esau-Edom, are a matter of the sacred record. We have the record on the pages of the Old Testament Scriptures; it is the record of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the LORD to Rebecca.
That Jacob would be stronger than Esau and would rule over him hardly seems to square with the recorded facts. This appears from the significant account of the “generations of Esau, who is Edom” in Genesis 36. Here we read of the nation of Edom in the land of Seir, and of the children and Kings and Dukes which proceeded from the three wives of Esau; Adah, Aholibamah and Bashemath. What strikes us is that Edom is a great nation and a mighty one, when Jacob-Israel is in bondage in Egypt, a veritable ghetto, be it then in the land of Goshen. All that Israel has is the record of the genealogies in their tribes. Then, while Israel wanders in the desert, Edom is established as a mighty warlike nation in Seir. And when there is no king yet in Israel, and everyone does what is good in his own eyes during the nearly four hundred years of the period of the Judges, Edom is a nation with Kings and Dukes. For we read in I Chron. 1:43 “Now these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before any king reigned over the children of Israel.” The Chronicler would have us notice this fact of the greatness of Edom during that time, compared with the relative meanness and weakness of Israel, as far as display of worldly power is concerned. And, we believe, this had special meaning to which we will call attention presently.
There is a key to the understanding of the greatness of Jacob-Israel. It is given us in the love of God for Jacob in the Messiah, the Christ of God, to come. We see this in the fact that Israel only is greater in power during the period in Israel’s existence from David through King Jehoshaphat, a mere period of 110 years out of some 12 centuries. And we ask: why? The facts are clearly stated in the sacred record of Scripture. We read of the repeated attacks upon Israel by Edom and the surrounding nations in the time of the Judges. Edom is confederate with the nations, the enemies of Israel; they said, “Let us take to ourselves the houses of God in possession.” And David prays, “So persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm.” Psalm 83:12, 15. What is the greatness of Israel? It is that they are the theocracy of God. The LORD of hosts battles for them. That is the key to Israel’s greatness; the everlasting arms of the LORD are underneath them!
Only a little while do we see this greatness in Israel. David fought the battles of de LORD, also against Edom, and lay all the enemies prostrate. Wherefore we read in I Kings 11:15, 16, “For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom; for six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, Until he had cut off every male in Edom.” At this point did Jacob rule over Edom typically during de time of David. But it lasted for only one century, that is, through the reigns of David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Asa, Abijah and Jehoshaphat. During the reign of the last named king all the smaller kingdoms about Israel ceased to be tributary, including Edom. Wherefore we read the account that there came an end to that condition of Edom in which she was subordinate to Israel. What we read in I Kings 22:47, namely, “There was there no king in Edom, a deputy was king,” no longer was a glorious fact for Israel. Thus ended the servitude of Edom to Israel which was spoken of in the blessing of Isaac to Esau, “And it shall come to pass when thou shalt have dominion, that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck.” Gen. 27:40b. And, incidentally, none delighted in the razing of the city of Jerusalem as did Edom, who cried and shouted with delight, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundations thereof.” Psalm 137:7.
From the foregoing, appears that the unlikeness of the two nations must not be sought in a comparison of two nations according to the standard of the flesh, but it must be seen in the spiritual unlikeness which is initiated by the promise of the Seed to Isaac, which will come ford as a STAR from Jacob, to whom will be the gathering of the people. Jacob will do valiantly in the latter time. Says Balaam in that well-known word of prophecy, “And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.”
(to be continued)