And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of
Joseph a flame
The former may denote the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, the latter the ten tribes, which after the separation in Rehoboam's time were called Ephraim, and sometimes Joseph; though they may here signify one and the same, since all the tribes will be united, and become one people, at the time the prophecy refers to: the meaning is, that the people of Judah and Israel shall have strength and power to conquer and destroy their enemies, with as much ease, as flames of fire consume chaff or stubble, or any such combustible matter they light upon, as it follows: and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and
that is, the Israelites shall fall upon the Edomites, who will be no more able to withstand them than stubble can stand before devouring flames of fire, and shall utterly waste and destroy them: and there shall not be [any] remaining of the house or Esau;
they shall all be cut off by, or swallowed up among, the Jews; not so much as a torch bearer left, one that carries the lights before an army, as the Septuagint and Arabic versions; which versions, and the custom alluded to, serve very much to illustrate the passage. It was a custom with the Greeks, as we are told F4, when armies were about to engage, that before the first ensigns stood a prophet or priest, bearing branches of laurels and garlands, who was called "pyrophorus", or the "torch bearer", because he held a lamp or torch; and it was accounted a most criminal thing to do him any hurt, seeing he performed the office of an ambassador; for those sort of men were priests of Mars, and sacred to him, so that those that were conquerors always spared them: hence, when a total destruction of an army, place, or people, was hyperbolically expressed, it used to be said, not so much as a torch bearer or fire carrier escaped F5; hence this phrase was proverbially used of the most entire defeat of an army, or ruin of a people. So Philo F6 the Jew, speaking of the destruction of Pharaoh and his host at the Red sea, says, there was not so much as a torch bearer left, to declare the calamity to the Egyptians; and thus here, so general should be the destruction of the Edomites, that not one should be left, no, nor a person in such a post and office as described. The Targum of the whole is,
``and they of the house of Jacob shall be strong as fire, and they of the house of Joseph strong like a; flame, but they of the house of Esau shall be weak as stubble; and they shall have power over them, and kill them, and there shall be none left of the: house of Esau.''This was fulfilled literally, either by Judas Maccabeus, when he went against the children of Esau in Idumea, and smote them, and took their spoil, in the Apocrypha:
``34 Then the host of Timotheus, knowing that it was Maccabeus, fled from him: wherefore he smote them with a great slaughter; so that there were killed of them that day about eight thousand men. 35 This done, Judas turned aside to Maspha; and after he had assaulted it he took and slew all the males therein, and received the spoils thereof and burnt it with fire.'' (1 Maccabees 5)or rather by Hyrcanus, who took the cities of Idumea, subdued all the Edomites, but permitted them to live in their own country, provided they would be circumcised, and conform to the Jewish laws; which they did, as Josephus says F7, and coalesced and became the people with them, and were reckoned as Jews, and no more as Edomites. But this prophecy had its accomplishment spiritually, either in the first times of the Gospel, when the apostles, who were Jews and Israelites, went forth into the Gentile world, and among the enemies of Christ, preaching the word, which is like fire; and, when attended with the spirit of judgment and of burning, enlightens the consciences of men, melts their hearts, consumes their lusts, and is as a refiner's fire to them, for, their purification; or, if not, it irritates, provokes, torments, and distresses, as fire does; and is either the savour of life unto life, or the savour of death unto death; see ( Isaiah 4:4 ) ( Jeremiah 23:29 ) ( Revelation 11:5 ) ; or rather it will have its full and final accomplishment in the destruction of antichrist, here signified by Esau and Edom, which will be by burning mystical Babylon, the whore of Rome; the beast and false prophet will be burnt with fire; the day of the, Lord will burn like an oven, and all the wicked will be as stubble, which will be burnt by it, root and branch, so that none will remain; see ( Revelation 17:16 ) ( 18:8 ) ( 19:20 ) ( Malachi 4:2 ) ; compare with ( Zechariah 12:6 ) . Kimchi, on ( Amos 9:12 ) , says this shall be in the days of the Messiah, the Edomites shall be all consumed, and the Israelites shall inherit their land: for the Lord hath spoken [it];
and therefore it shall most certainly be accomplished; what God has said shall be done, he will not alter the thing that is gone out of his lips; heaven and earth shall sooner pass away than one word of his.
F4 Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 5. c. 5.
F5 Herodot. Urania, sive l. 8. c. 6.
F6 De Vita Mosis, l. 1. p. 630.
F7 Antiqu. l. 13. c. 9. sect. 1.