Edomite Empire

Genesis 36:31-43

31These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned: 32Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah. 33When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king. 34When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

35When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith.

36When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king.

37When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king.

38When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king.

39When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

40These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

Introduction

If you are fascinated with history, you may have come across the terms empires and dynasties. An ‘empire’ is a group of nations or peoples ruled over by an emperor, empress, or other powerful sovereign or government. It is usually a territory of greater extent than a kingdom (e.g. British Empire, French Empire, Russian Empire, Byzantine Empire, or Roman Empire.

The term ‘dynasty’ pertains to a sequence of rulers from the same family, stock, or group (e.g. Ming dynasty).

While the issue about ‘empire’ does not attract serious argument, ‘dynasty’ is a polarizing issue in politics. Relatives, friends and supporters of political dynasties perceive continuity of governance to be favorable economically and administratively but, most opposition cannot appreciate political dynasties.

As believers in Christ, how should we view the issue of ‘political dynasty?’ Did God favor political dynasty when He promised believers to rule with Christ for 1,000 years? It says in Revelation 20:6, 6Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.

It’s great to keep in mind the millennium reign with Christ. It will certainly encourage us to live a lifestyle that Christ has exemplified. Can you imagine that we will reign with Christ for 1,000 years on earth? A thousand years is about 25-generation-dynasty if rulers reign for 40 years each. So, does the Lord favor of political dynasty? How should we respond to authorities?

We are instructed in Romans 13:1-2, 1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

It did not mention about oppressive or non-oppressive authorities. The government favors law abiding citizens but we cannot discount the presence of oppressive officials. There will always be corrupt officials who oppress people.

Our free will, our independent spirit dictates that we are the master of our destiny and captain of our decisions. But since we belong to a community with established governance, it’s proper to respect leaders and authorities, whether we agree with them or not? It teaches us in Hebrews 13:17, 17Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

In the account of the kings of Edom, it did not elaborate if Edomite kings abused their power. It’s possible but quality of governance or how they become dominant people in Seir was not mentioned. Establishing an empire in Edom was a survival instinct. The sovereignty of the Edomite Empire was more important.

1. Sovereignty

31These were the kings who reigned in Edom before any Israelite king reigned: 32Bela son of Beor became king of Edom. His city was named Dinhabah. 33When Bela died, Jobab son of Zerah from Bozrah succeeded him as king. 34When Jobab died, Husham from the land of the Temanites succeeded him as king.

The rise of Edomite Empire may not be about popular or powerful figure among their leaders but it may present a picture of respect and submission to authorities. And as a result, they may have been envied by the Israelites.

During the time of Prophet Samuel the last judge of Israel, the Israelites wanted to have kings like their neighboring nations or like the Edomites.

It says in 1 Samuel 8:19-20, 19But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. 20Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

The Edomites lived southeast of Israel. The Israelites may have observed the stability of Edomite Empire. Before kings ruled Israel, judges lead them in their battles against invading enemies. But as soon as their leader dies, the Israelites turned back to old lifestyle of contradicting the commands of God.

Then, the Lord sent cruel invaders to oppress them, they would cry out for help, and the Lord would raise a judge to save them. The Israelites may have assumed that if they have a king, he would take care of their enemies. Of course, that if a king dies, there will be successors to the throne. They thought it good to have a king who would rule and keep them secure from invasion.

So, political dynasty is not at all bad. Sure, there are politicians who may abuse their power and authorities but it is not also sure that politicians who don’t come from political dynasties won’t abuse their power or authorities. Dynasty or not, there is always a gamble of selecting good or bad leaders.

We can easily observe such reality among believers or in church setting. Leaders who are descendants of previous leaders may have been accused of political dynasty. For sure, they can also make mistakes but genuine believers would not intentionally destroy the name of their ancestors, for sure.

In comparison, there are elected church leaders who lived a noble and admirable lifestyle. Some have relatives who were previous leaders. Some did not have relatives who were church leaders. Yet, nobody was immune or exempted from the temptation of abuse of power and authority.

Church members share partly in the blame when leaders they elected commit blunders. They rejoice also when leaders they elected performed greatly. We don’t want to blame leaders or ourselves. We have to collaborate, cooperate and support whoever is elected in the government or in the church as leader.

By the way, we are instructed in Titus 3:1-2, 3Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

Did the Edomites submit to their kings? How did their kings governed? Did they abuse their power or authority? Were they highly regarded by their people?

The first king of Edom Bela was identified with his father Beor and his city of Dinhabah. Maybe, whenever someone would ask who the Edomite king from Dinhabah City was, King Bela would certainly be remembered.

The second king of Edom Jobab was also identified with his father Zerah from Bozrah, and nothing more, nothing less. The third king of Edom Husham was not identified with his father but with his clan the Temanites. The Temanites were descendants of Esau’s grandson with his Hittite wife Adah.

Kings of Edom rose from the descendants of Esau or Edom but no one came from a single family as compared to the kingship succession in Judah, the Davidic Dynasty. Succession of Edomite kings took effect when ruling king dies.

2. Succession

35When Husham died, Hadad son of Bedad, who defeated Midian in the country of Moab, succeeded him as king. His city was named Avith. 36When Hadad died, Samlah from Masrekah succeeded him as king. 37When Samlah died, Shaul from Rehoboth on the river succeeded him as king. 38When Shaul died, Baal-Hanan son of Akbor succeeded him as king. 39When Baal-Hanan son of Akbor died, Hadad succeeded him as king. His city was named Pau, and his wife’s name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred, the daughter of Me-Zahab.

There were two kings of Edom who were named Hadad but they did not come from the same cities. The first Hadad was the fourth king of Edom. He was identified with his father Bedad and his city Avith. He was also remembered for his victory against Midian in the country of Moab located northeast of Edom.

The second king who was named Hadad was the last king of Edom in the account. He was identified with his city Pau and his wife. His wife Mehetabel was identified with her mother and grandmother, which may suggest that the maternal lineage of Mehetabel were famous among their clan.

The other kings Samlah, Shaul, Baal-Hanan were like the other kings who were either identified from the place they come from or with their father.

It may have been very great to credit one’s achievement for prominence but it is not absolutely true to everyone.

This account of succession of Edomite kings teaches that the rise to power and prominence can be influenced by personal achievements but more Edomite kings rose to power because of their identity with their parents and relatives.

Such account can also reminds us of God’s command in Ephesians 6:1-3, 1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.  2 “Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise—3“so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

The succession of Edomite kings was implemented when the current king dies, which can be interpreted that they reign as long as were alive. It was not known if there were Edomite kings who were assassinated or someone forced his way to take over a throne. But we can assume that one king waited for his turn. Therefore, the Edomites respected a reigning king.

Nevertheless, the Edomites had established their presence in country Seir. Seir was renamed Edom, and the Horites who previously ruled Seir were relegated to the sidelines when the Edomites took control of the land of Seir.

The Lord told Moses what the Israelites should know about the Edomites in Deuteronomy 2:4-5, 4Give the people these orders: ‘You are about to pass through the territory of your relatives the descendants of Esau, who live in Seir. They will be afraid of you, but be very careful. 5Do not provoke them to war, for I will not give you any of their land, not even enough to put your foot on. I have given Esau the hill country of Seir as his own.

Since Esau was a son of Isaac and grandson of Abraham, the Lord has designed the country of Seir to become a settlement for the Edomites. When Esau chose to move away from his brother Jacob, did he project that the country of Seir would become a settlement place for his descendants?

3. Settlement

40These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions: Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied. This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

The previous list of Edomite chiefs presents different account. It is possible that some chiefs died and some chiefs rose to power. The Edomites didn’t settle in one particular place. The phrase ‘according to their settlement’ implies that nobody challenged the authority of one single chief. Instead, they spread out to establish their presence in another place.

They Edomites grew numerically and established the Edomite Empire. The establishment of the Edomite Empire could be a lesson for on how believers may regard authorities with respect.

Disagreement to leaders can be done in a very civil manner. It is a great testimony for believers to submit to authorities.

Well not everyone can handle what the Scripture teaches believers.

It says in 1 Peter 2:13-17, 13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Traffic Violation

Have you ever encountered a traffic officer? When officers caught you violating traffic rules, what should you do? Not a few drivers have shared their negative encounter with traffic officers. Tragically, some drivers were shot, why?

If you were a police officer don’t you assume that your life is always in danger when you confront a violator? Human instinct dictates that you have to be prepared always. A violator has a tendency to commit bad things. If that is not true, then that driver would not violate in the first place right?

Well, a violation can be some sort of accidental. Certainly, there are accidental violations, not intentional. But if you were a police officer, you won’t rely on accidental violation. When a driver does not violate, he intends to do what is right. On the contrary, when a driver violates whether intentional or accidental, he also has a tendency to commit another offense.

So if a driver can accidentally violates, police enforcers can also accidentally misinterpret any aggressive behavior of a violator, right?

It is very advisable that drivers should give the highest respect when encountering police enforcers to avoid accidental tragedy.

That illustrates good and bad results of respect and disrespect to authorities, respectively. Respect of authorities is an implied lesson of the limited account of the Edomite kings and chiefs. The term ‘settlement’ implies also that the Edomite had experienced peace and order in their community.

The account of Edomite Empire was a transition break of the story of life story of Jacob that shifted to the life story of his sons. Jacob was later known as Israel. Esau was Isaac’s son and Abraham’s grandson but minimal account of his life story was recorded in the Scripture. Jacob’s life story had more space. Why?

The life of Jacob represents the life of believers in Christ. The life of Esau represents the life of non-believers. Although both believers and non-believers are creations of the same God, the Lord takes notice of believers’ lifestyle to be rewarded. The lifestyle of non-believers is His basis of their eternal punishment.

One may suggest that non-believers can do admirable deeds. Certainly! Yet, good deeds originated from human instinct won’t be rewarded by the Lord.

Why? Every good deed that the Lord would reward must be the product of faith in Christ. It says in Hebrews 11:6, 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Many non-believers do commendable accomplishments and charity works helping the poor, calamity victims, etc. Such exemplary efforts are very helpful to humanity. May God notice their selfless efforts and bring them to believe in Him.

The kings and chiefs of Edom could have done similar projects and ventures for their people. The record which says that succession happened after an Edomite king died suggests that citizens let their kings stayed in power until death. Why? They may have loved their kings because of their good leadership.

Yet nothing was recorded about what Edomite kings did for their people.

Such is a picture of non-believers before God. He ignores the good deeds of non-believers. He doesn’t care even if others say they are good. God only rewards good deeds by faith in Him. Good deeds of believers that God rewards are inspired by Christ’s Spirit. Good deeds the originated from human initiatives fall short of God’s standards. Therefore, they are unacceptable to Him.

Architect

How can good deeds from human initiatives fall short of God’s standards?

God is the designer, the architect of good and perfect life. To have perfect lifestyle acceptable to God, we should follow His grand design for us.

In a building plan, the designer or architect has specific measurements of each part of the building. If we help in the construction of the said building, we have to follow every detail in the building plan. But for any reason, we would just do what we think best without consulting the plan, everything we do will be rejected, even if others say that we have a good job. Right?

It says in Ephesians 2:10, 10For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Lord may not prevent us, if we do good things for ourselves, future, family, the church and community. No question about significance or importance but to be sure that God would reward whatever we do, we need to be guided by His Holy Spirit by faith in Him. To have faith in God actually helps us to do in whatever we do better than what we can think or imagine.

So, consider what God can do for us, in us and through us.

Let every thoughts, actions or decision be rewarded one day.

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