Divine Payback

1 The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, set your face toward the Ammonites and prophesy against them. Say to the Ammonites, Hear the word of the Lord God: Thus says the Lord God, Because you said, ‘Aha!’ over my sanctuary when it was profaned, and over the land of Israel when it was made desolate, and over the house of Judah when they went into exile, therefore behold, I am handing you over to the people of the East for a possession, and they shall set their encampments among you and make their dwellings in your midst. They shall eat your fruit, and they shall drink your milk. I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels and Ammon a fold for flocks. Then you will know that I am the Lord. For thus says the Lord God: Because you have clapped your hands and stamped your feet and rejoiced with all the malice within your soul against the land of Israel, therefore, behold, I have stretched out my hand against you, and will hand you over as plunder to the nations. And I will cut you off from the peoples and will make you perish out of the countries; I will destroy you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

“Thus says the Lord God: Because Moab and Seir said, ‘Behold, the house of Judah is like all the other nations,’ therefore I will lay open the flank of Moab from the cities, from its cities on its frontier, the glory of the country, Beth-jeshimoth, Baal-meon, and Kiriathaim. 10 I will give it along with the Ammonites to the people of the East as a possession, that the Ammonites may be remembered no more among the nations, 11 and I will execute judgments upon Moab. Then they will know that I am the Lord.

12 “Thus says the Lord God: Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them, 13 therefore thus says the Lord God, I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast. And I will make it desolate; from Teman even to Dedan they shall fall by the sword. 14 And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord God.

15 “Thus says the Lord God: Because the Philistines acted revengefully and took vengeance with malice of soul to destroy in never-ending enmity, 16 therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will stretch out my hand against the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethites and destroy the rest of the seacoast. 17 I will execute great vengeance on them with wrathful rebukes. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon them.” – Ezekiel 25:1-17 ESV

From the moment the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, they found themselves surrounded by a host of hostile enemies. When they showed up on the scene after their 40-year trek through the wilderness, they were greeted with less-than-open arms by the land’s current occupants. The Israelites numbered in the millions by the time they entered the land, and they were viewed as a threat by the various people groups who lived in the region. But God had granted them a particular portion of the land as their inheritance. Centuries earlier, God had promised Abraham that the land of Canaan would be the possession of his offspring.

“I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:7-8 NLT

But during the more than 500-year delay between the time when that promise was given and when the people of Israel entered Canaan, the land had not set empty or unoccupied. Its fertile soil and central location made it an attractive piece of real estate. And while the Israelites had been languishing as slaves in Egypt, a host of nations had taken up residence in and around Canaan. This included the nations listed in the chapter: Ammon, Moab, Seir, Edom, and Philistia. These particular groups occupied territory on the edges of the land of Canaan, and God had given Moses instructions about how to deal with them. In order to enter Canaan, the people of Israel would need to pass through some of these outlying territories. Their goal was to do so as peacefully as possible but, if necessary, they were ordered to use force.

“As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace. If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor. But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town. When the Lord your God hands the town over to you, use your swords to kill every man in the town. But you may keep for yourselves all the women, children, livestock, and other plunder. You may enjoy the plunder from your enemies that the Lord your God has given you. – Deuteronomy 20:10-14 NLT

Some of the nations listed in this chapter had an interesting relationship with the people of Israel. They were actually blood relations. In the case of the Ammonites and Moabites, they were the descendants of Abraham’s nephew, Lot. The record of their rather sordid history is found in the book of Genesis. Lot had made the unwise decision to settle his family in Sodom, a city infamous for its immorality. But God graciously rescued Lot and his two daughters before destroying the entire city and all its occupants.

In the immediate aftermath of Lot’s rescue, his daughters took it upon themselves to continue their family line by getting their father drunk and having sexual relations with him. And their depraved plan worked.

…both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their own father.  When the older daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Moab. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Moabites. When the younger daughter gave birth to a son, she named him Ben-ammi. He became the ancestor of the nation now known as the Ammonites. – Genesis 19:36-38 NLT

So, the Ammonites and Moabites were actually distant relatives of the Israelites. They had settled in the eastern portion of the land of Palestine long before the nation of Israel had been released from its captivity in Egypt. And they both proved to be less-than-accommodating to the Israelites as they attempted to enter the land of Canaan.

But God’s warnings recorded in Ezekiel 25 have to do with their response to the much-later fall of the northern kingdom of Israel, and what will be their gloating response to the fall of Judah and Jerusalem. When the Babylonian finally defeated the southern kingdom of Judah, the Ammonites and Moabites would rejoice. But God warns that they will suffer a similar fate at the hands of “the people of the East” (Ezekiel 25:10 ESV).

And the same thing will happen to the Edomites. This nation enjoyed a close relationship with the Israelites as well. They were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. And while both brothers were in their mother’s womb, God had warned Rebekah, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son” (Genesis 25:23 NLT).

The Edomites and Israelites never got along. In fact, their history was marked by constant conflict. Despite their blood ties, there was no love lost between these two nations. And because the Edomites would also rejoice at Judah’s demise, God would bring judgment upon them as well.

“I will raise my fist of judgment against Edom. I will wipe out its people and animals with the sword. I will make a wasteland of everything from Teman to Dedan.” – Ezekiel 25:13 NLT

The final nation addressed in God’s message to Ezekiel is Philistia. The Philistines occupied the land along the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, just west of Canaan. They are first listed in the book of Genesis as the descendants of Mizraim, the grandson of Noah.

Mizraim was the ancestor of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, Pathrusites, Casluhites, and the Caphtorites, from whom the Philistines came… – Genesis 10:13-14 NLT

So, they too were distant relatives of the Israelites. They were a warring people who posed a perennial problem for the Israelites throughout their history. When God released the Israelites from their captivity in Egypt, He had chosen to send them via a route that would avoid any conflict with the Philistines.

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” – Exodus 13:17 NLT

God knew that an encounter with the Philistines might dissuade His people from attempting to enter the land He had promised them, so He sent them on a lengthier and more circuitous way.

As they had done throughout their hostile history with Israel, the Philistines would take advantage of the northern kingdom’s fall to the Assyrians, confiscating their land and plundering their cities. And when Jerusalem came under siege by the Babylonians, the Philistines would use Judah’s suffering as an opportunity to extend their own borders and enrich their coffers. But they would pay dearly for their efforts.

“I will raise my fist of judgment against the land of the Philistines. I will wipe out the Kerethites and utterly destroy the people who live by the sea. I will execute terrible vengeance against them to punish them for what they have done.” – Ezekiel 25:16-17 NLT

Each of these nations had direct ties to the people of God. Yet they had chosen to rejoice at Israel’s suffering and profit from their loss. But when God was done punishing His disobedient people, He would turn His wrath upon their enemies. When the dust settled and the judgment of God had run its course, everyone would know that He alone was God. He warns the Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, and Philistines, “when I have inflicted my revenge, they will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 25:17 NLT).

And the prophet, Isaiah, predicts a future day when the once-divided nations of Israel and Judah will be reunited and they will wreak vengeance upon all their former enemies.

Then at last the jealousy between Israel and Judah will end.
    They will not be rivals anymore.
They will join forces to swoop down on Philistia to the west.
    Together they will attack and plunder the nations to the east.
They will occupy the lands of Edom and Moab,
    and Ammon will obey them. – Isaiah 11:13-14 NLT

God was going to judge His rebellious people, but He was not done with them. He would not renege on His commitment to them. And while the surrounding nations might see the fall of Israel and Judah as a godsend, they would one day experience the miracle of their complete revitalization and restoration as God’s chosen people. As God told Isaiah, the day was coming when all His promises to His people will be fulfilled and their fortunes will be restored.

In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time
    to bring back the remnant of his people—
those who remain in Assyria and northern Egypt;
    in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, and Elam;
    in Babylonia, Hamath, and all the distant coastlands.
He will raise a flag among the nations
    and assemble the exiles of Israel.
He will gather the scattered people of Judah
    from the ends of the earth. – Isaiah 11:11-12 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.