What’s the history of the enmity between Jacob and Esau in the OT?

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The enmity between Jacob and Esau had been of long standing, probably derived from the birthright incident (Genesis 25). This hostility was foretold by the Lord to Rebekah, their mother, in Genesis 25:22-26.

This hostility continued in their descendants the Edomites and the Jews. The animosity surfaced when the descendants of Esau refused to give permission to the children of Israel to go through their land on the way to Canaan (Num. 20:14–21).

In the promised land, this enmity became evident during the wars that Saul waged against them (1 Sam. 14:47). Also, David took severe measures against the Edomites, slaying “every male” and placing garrisons “throughout all Edom,” making them “servants” (2 Sam. 8:13, 14; 1 Kings 11:15).

This strife between the two enemies continued under David’s son, Solomon (1 Kings 11:14–22). During the reign of Jehoshaphat, the Edomites, called “the children of Seir” (Gen. 32:3; 36:8; Deut. 2:5), united together with the Moabites and the Ammonites, to invade Judah (2 Chron. 20:22).

But the independence they lost under David, they regained under Jehoram (2 Chron. 21:8–10). And the struggle between Edom and the Israelites was taken up when Amaziah of Judah successfully attacked the Edomites, capturing their stronghold, Sela, and putting many of them to death (2 Kings 14:1, 7; 2 Chron. 25:11, 12). Still incompletely subdued, they again attacked Judah in the time of Ahaz (2 Chron. 28:17). And when Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, the Edomites rejoiced over the calamities that befell Judah (Ps. 137:7).

Finally, the Hasmonaean king John Hyrcanus I brought the Edomites’ independence to an end in the year 126 b.c., when he forced them to accept the rite of circumcision and the law of Moses, and to submit to a Jewish governor.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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