“Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.” (Malachi 1:4)
Due to Edom's participation in the destruction and slaughter of Jerusalem, God had promised that He would lay their land desolate (Ezekiel 35). It is somewhat difficult to pinpoint the exact details of Edom's “impoverishment,” but general history seems to be in agreement concerning at least three simple facts. First, Edom's power and prominence declined significantly after the captivity of Judah. The Nabateans (a people group with whom Edom traded) attacked Edom from the inside while under the guise of peaceful relations. They slaughtered the people and plundered the cities. Secondly, during the intertestmental period, the Hasmonian dynasty of the Jews subjugated the land of Edom. This was at the least a partial fulfillment of Ezekiel 25:14. Lastly, the Romans turned on the Edomites after Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. and killed them. At the time of this prophecy here in Malachi, the Edomites had likely undergone the first of the three judgments just mentioned.
The response of Edom reveals their complete disregard for God and His ways. They say, “We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places.” The word impoverished means beaten down. God had ground Mt. Seir into the dust for its sin, and the only response Esau's descendants could muster up was one of arrogance. The Hebrew word for return is the same word often translated repent; however, in this case, the Edomites are not returning from their wicked ways, but rather they are turning back to them. Israel's heart was not much different at the time of this prophecy. God had allowed the destruction of northern and southern Israel in order that sin might be judged and the people might return to Him, but much of the population was slipping back into apostasy while projecting a form of godliness. People are no different in any dispensation. Christians are just as susceptible to such apathy and negligence. God's chastening ought to be received with fear and repentance. May God's child never be guilty of saying, “The Lord has beaten me down, but I will turn back and rebuild the fortresses of my rebellion!”
The next few sentences reveal God's hot displeasure against the attitude of Edom. He says, “...thus saith the LORD of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness, and, The people against whom the LORD hath indignation for ever.” These judgments were at least partially fulfilled when the Macabees and the Romans subjugated Edom; however, Scripture consistently reveals that some future judgment awaits the land of Edom. In the last days, many of the ancient nations will be revived. This fact is revealed by many of the Old Testament prophets. Among the revived enemies of Israel will be found the land of Edom. When the Lord Jesus Christ returns to take His rightful place of rule in the revived city of Jerusalem, He will first deal a fatal blow to the God-hating Edomites. This truth is found in Isaiah 63:1-6 which says, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come. And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.” While these verses describe the destruction of all Israel's enemies, Edom's judgment opens the discourse. Prior to establishing His one thousand year reign on this earth, God will forever deal with the continued rebellion of Esau's descendants. Concerning this miraculous event, the Lord says...
“And your eyes shall see, and ye shall say, The LORD will be magnified from the border of Israel.” (Malachi 1:5)
Someday, in the not-to-distant future, Israel will be converted as a nation, and they will “...with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:6).” In the end, God always gets the glory. Men can choose to withhold it, but God is not mocked. He has already promised “...I will not give my glory unto another (Isaiah 48:11).” As the people of Malachi's day listened to these words, they were faced with two choices- Repentance or Rebellion. May all who read these verses obey the life-giving principles found within.