Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Esau's Last Stand

"Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)

Because Esau sold his birthright for a mess of red pottage, his name was known as Edom (“Red”) thereafter. The Edomites were a major thorn in the flesh of Israel throughout Old Testament history. The Amalekites, the fiercest of Israel’s enemies, were a subgroup of the Edomites. The book of Obadiah foretells Edom’s doom, as do prophecies in several of the other prophets.

In Greek, the word edom becomes idum (pronounced in Greek “edum”). The Herods were Idumeans who became kings over the Jews. Herod the Ethnarch ruled Judea when Jesus was born and tried to kill Him, just as Esau had sought to kill Jacob (Genesis 27:41–42). Like Jacob, Jesus went into a foreign land for protection.

Herod the Tetrarch, known also as Antipas, was Herod the Ethnarch’s younger brother. It was he who adulterously married his brother Philip’s wife, imprisoned and slew John the Baptist, and heard the Jews’ complaints against Jesus. In A.D. 39, he was denounced by his nephew Herod Agrippa and deposed.

Herod Agrippa is also known as Herod the King. He put James to death and imprisoned Peter, and then for his open blasphemy, he was consumed by worms and died (Acts 12). He left a son, Agrippa, and two daughters, one of whom was Bernice.

Herod Agrippa II was too young to assume the throne immediately, but by the time Paul was on trial he had become king. He had a long-standing incestuous relationship with his sister Bernice, and when Paul preached to him, we can imagine that he was no less uncomfortable than was Herod Antipas when John the Baptist preached to him. Though Paul sought to convert him, Agrippa did not listen (Acts 26:26–30). Unlike the previous Edomite rulers, however, Agrippa could find no fault with God’s servant and was unwilling to do away with him.

The consistent hatred of the Edomites for Israel, and the readiness of the Herods to persecute and kill God’s prophets, is overcome by the providence of God. We see God protecting His spokesman Paul before the face of the worst enemy God’s people had ever known. It was now time for the Gospel to go forth, and not even Edom would stand in its way.

Do you feel a sense of wonder as you see the amazing way God orchestrated history throughout the Bible? Let this instruct you about what God is doing now. As a Christian, do not worry about the future. Be encouraged and thankful, remembering that everything is working out for the good of God’s kingdom.