Mount Seir

Mount Seir represented a significant obstacle that the Israelites had to overcome in order to enter the Promised Land. Mount Seir was the home of the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau. The name Seir means rough (8165), but it is formed the same as the word sair which means “devils” (8163). Sair was used to describe Esau’s hairy skin in the book of Genesis where it talks about Jacob deceiving his father in order to obtain his brother’s blessing. It says, “And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man” (Genesis 27:11). Rebekah disguised Jacob by putting the skins of the kids of goats upon his hands and neck. When Isaac felt Jacob, it says in Genesis 27:23, “he discerned him not, because his hands were hairy, as his brother Esau’s hands: so he blessed him.”

The word sair is used in Leviticus 17:7 in connection with demon worship. It says, “And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils, after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations.” The interchangeability of the words Seir and sair may have been an intentional effort to connect Jacob’s brother Esau with pagan worship or to remind Jacob and his descendants of the deception he used too obtain God’s blessing. Either way, mount Seir was like the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan that was used to buffet God’s people, lest they should be exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7). Most of the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness was spent circling mount Seir. Moses recorded in Deuteronomy 2:1-3, “Then we turned, and took our journey into the wilderness by the way of the Red sea, as the LORD spake unto me: and we compassed mount Seir many days. And the LORD spake unto me, saying, Ye have compassed this mountain long enough: turn you northward.”

Ezekiel’s prophecy against mount Seir revealed the continued animosity between the descendants of Jacob and Esau. It says in Ezekiel 35:5-6, “Because thou hast had a perpetual hatred, and hast shed the blood of the children of Israel by the force of the sword in the time of their calamity, in the time that their iniquity had an end: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will prepare thee unto blood, and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, even blood shall pursue thee.” God’s use of the words perpetual hatred to describe the Edomites’ attitude toward the Israelites indicates that Esau never forgave his brother Jacob for stealing his birthright. Instead of accepting the outcome of the situation, Esau sought revenge and tried to recover what he felt was rightfully his. In response, God said:

Because thou hast said, These two nations and these two countries shall be mine, and we will possess it; whereas the LORD was there: therefore, as I live, saith the Lord GOD, I will even do according to thine anger, and according to thine envy which thou hast used out of thy hatred against them; and I will make myself known amongst them, when I have judged thee. (Ezekiel 35:10-12)

The Philistines

The Philistines were like a thorn in the side of the Israelites. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Philistines were occupying the coastal region of Palestine and had established five major cities along the Mediterranean coast: Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Ekron, and Gath. “Originally a part of Judah’s tribal allotment, the coastal area was never totally wrested away from the Philistines, who may have begun their occupation as early as the time of Abraham” (Five Cities of the Philistines). Some of the Israelites most notable battles were fought with the Philistines. Samson was captured by the Philistines who “put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza”  (Judges 16:21) where he later killed more than 3,000 men and women by toppling two pillars of a temple. David killed Goliath, a giant from Gath who threatened Saul’s army (1 Samuel 17:10).

The Israelites inability to drive out the Philistines left them vulnerable to attack on the western side of Judah. When Assyria invaded Judah during the reign of Sennacherib in 701 B.C., the Assyrian army marched down the coast through Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Gaza, and then proceeded west to Jerusalem through Gath. Sennacherib drove out more than 200,00 people of Judah (Sennacherib’s Campaign Against Judah), leaving the nation with little resources to defend itself against Nebuchaddrezzar king of Babylon when he invaded Jerusalem in 605 B.C. The last mention of the Philistines in Israel’s history indicated they had encroached on territory previously occupied by the nation of Judah and were being used by God to humble his people (2 Chronicles 28:18).

The message Jeremiah received concerning the Philistines emphasized the sudden destruction they would experience when they were delivered into the hands of Nebuchaddrezzar king of Babylon. Jeremiah declared, “At the noise of the stamping of the hoofs of his strong horses, at the rushing of his chariots, and at the rumbling of his wheels, the fathers shall not look back to their children for feebleness of hands; because of the day that cometh to spoil all the Philistines, and to cut off from Tyrus and Zidon every helper that remaineth; for the LORD will spoil the Philistines, the remnant of the country of Caphtor” (Jeremiah 47;3-4). The superior power of the Babylonian army was not given credit for the Philistine’s defeat. God intended to remove the Philistines so that they would no longer be a threat to his people. Setting the stage for the return of the remnant of Judah to the Promised Land, God was securing their borders and ensuring that their enemies would remain contained until the arrival of the Messiah.

Psychological warfare

Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servant Rabshakeh from Lachish to Jerusalem unto king Hezekiah with a great army in order to intimidate the people of Jerusalem into surrendering (Isaiah 36:2,4). A master at psychological warfare, Sennacherib instructed his servant to speak to the Jews in their native language so that they would understand every word he said and would believe he sympathized with their situation.

Rabshakeh intended to instill doubt and fear in the people when he said, “Am I now come up without the LORD against this land to destroy it? the LORD said unto me, Go up against the land, and destroy it” (Isaiah 36:10). Hearing these words spoken in Hebrew made the message much more convincing. Essentially, Rabshakeh implied that the LORD had switched sides. He was no longer protecting the Israelites; God was helping the Assyrians to destroy them.

Rabshakeh’s message was true in the context of the northern kingdom of Israel, but an outright lie in regards to Jerusalem. Whether or not God had spoken to Sennacherib was not what really mattered. The question at hand was did God intend to destroy the kingdom of Judah as he had the northern kingdom of Israel? Apparently, king Hezekiah had already warned his people of an Assyrian invasion. Rabshakeh wanted the people to think Hezekiah was the one who was lying to them.

Then Rabshakeh stood, and cried with a loud voice in the Jews’ language, and said, Hear ye the words of the great king, the king of Assyria. Thus saith the king, Let not Hezekiah deceive you: for he shall not be able to deliver you. Neither let Hezekiah make you trust in the LORD, saying, The LORD will surely deliver us: the city shall not be delivered into the had of the king of Assyria. (Isaiah 36:13-15)

Rabshakeh had a strategic advantage in convincing the people that their king was lying to them. It would make sense for Hezekiah to do so. Rabshakeh argued that Hezekiah was like every other king and was powerless to keep his promise. Rabshakeh declared, “Beware lest Hezekiah persuade you, saying, The LORD will deliver us. Hath any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” (Isaiah 36:18).

Three of king Hezekiah’s cabinet members were listening in as Rabshakeh struck fear into the hearts of the people of Jerusalem. Rather than trying to defend their leader, these men walked away without acknowledging Rabshakeh’s threat. It says in Isaiah 36:21-21, “But they held their peace, and answered him not a word: for the king’s commandment was saying, answer him not. Then came Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, that was over the household, and Shebna the scribe, and Joah, the son of Asaph, the recorder, to Hezekiah with their clothes rent, and told him the words of Rabshakeh.”

We are not alone

Life can be challenging at times, especially when we try to server the LORD. Everyone has enemies, but I think the worst enemy of all is the one that attacks Christians who are in the ministry. Whether you think of him as Satan, the devil, or the ruler of darkness, the enemy of our souls does everything he can to stop Christians from doing God’s will.

The apostle Peter, speaking of the Christian life said, “Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). I believe Peter used the image of a roaring lion in order to convey the idea of intimidation. Lions are powerful and dangerous, but they can be tamed. When Daniel was thrown into the lions den, he was able to escape unharmed (Daniel 6:22).

David said, “blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight” (Psalm 144:1). David may have been referring to spiritual warfare because the word he used for war is related to man’s entrance into the presence of the living God (7126). If so, using his hands could mean prayer and his fingers to fight, playing the harp to worship God.

Prayer and worship enable us to enter into the presence of God, but they also cause God to draw near to us. It says in James 4:8, “draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” David referred to the LORD as, “my goodness, and my fortress; my high tower, and my deliverer; my shield, and he in whom I trust” (Psalm 144:2).

God’s greatness is far superior to man’s and all of his creation is subject to him. David said, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). The two Hebrew words that put together translate into the word unsearchable have the connotation of being undiscoverable or in another sense invisible. I believe one of the characteristics of God is that he can make himself invisible. We typically think of God as being invisible, but I don’t think he is invisible. I think God is hidden from our view and he is able to hide other things as well. David said to the LORD in Psalm 17:8, “hide me under the shadow of your wings.”

Satan’s effort to seek someone whom he may devour is thwarted when God hides his children under the shadow of his wings. In other words, we can become invisible to our enemy. David prayed, “Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me. Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God” (Psalm 143:9-10). David was eager to do God’s will because he knew the LORD had him covered.