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B'resheet/Genesis 36:20 These are the children of Se'ir, the Horite, the ones who dwelt in the land
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While the word is most frequently used without a name to mean the Land of Israel, here its context - in the middle of genealogies for the descendants of Esav and the other tribes who lived in the area known as Se'ir or Edom - makes it clear that "the land" is the land thatHaShem had designated for Esav and his sons to occupy. Rashi, quoting from Targum Jonathan, tells us: "For they were its inhabitants before Esav came there"; the clans of Se'ir the Horite had inhabited that land before Esav moved to the area.
The Sages held that the Horites were expert agriculturalists who instinctively knew which kind of crops could be supported by a particular tract of land: "Rabbi Samuel ben Nahmani said in Rabbi Johanan's name - they were thoroughly versed in the cultivation of the earth. For they used to say, This measure for olives, this measure for vines, this measure for figs. The word 'Horite' implies that they smelled the earth" (b. Shabbat 85a) to determine how many crops and of what type the land would best suit. This is based upon a word play: the name 'Horite' is drawn from the unused root meaning to dig or bore, while reversing the letters gives the root meaning to smell.
We might, nevertheless, wonder why the Torah is taking the time and trouble to records the names and genealogy of a people who seem only tangentially related to the main narrative of Abraham's descendants. TheSforno suggests that "The Torah records the names of these mighty men of repute to tell us that even so, the children of Esav were able to destroy them, for this was the will of the Almighty, as it says, 'As He did for the children of Esav who dwell in Se'ir' (D'varim 2:22)". Esav and his descendants had been given the land of Se'ir as their inheritance, so even though the men who previously lived there were worthy of note, "we see that the land belongs to G-d who gives it to whomever He wishes" ( Radak). After Moshe's death, when Joshua - although well schooled - is about to lead the people into the Land, G-d says to him: "Moshe My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moshe" (Joshua 1:2-3, NASB). Just because the local or human leadership has changed, there is no change in G-d's plans; the people are still going to enter the Land and G-d is still going to clear away the obstacles in their path.
In our day, we see eloquent and persuasive leaders of the nations who seem to exercise power and influence far beyond the borders of their own countries on the world stage. Individual nation states are grouping themselves together in federations and communities in order to increase their voice when they speak and are submerging their individual identities into that of their group. Vast commercial enterprises, employing thousands of people in many countries, pursue their own revenue-earning agendas regardless of national boundaries and without concern for the opinions or benefit of the countries within which they work. Financial empires, with revenues far exceeding those of many individual countries, control the ways in which even the nations of the world relate to each other, enabling or preventing international trade at the whim of a senior manager. Communication giants, linking all the parts of the world with cables, fibres and satellites, route the transfer of voice, documents and even people via their privately owned and operated networks, while remaining totally unaccountable to the the countries and peoples that they serve. Gradually, the barriers of language and culture are being broken down to enable people the world over to work with each other and be governed as one.
Taken together, this picture looks and sounds amazingly like the ancient world: "Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words" (B'resheet 11:1, NASB). We have heard the language of that era from kings and politicians for centuries, "And they said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.' And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. And they said, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name; lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth' (Genesis 11:3-4, NASB). Despite the rise of many world empires - Roman, Mongol, Indian, British, Russian - they have been unable to find enough cohesion to hold them together; each in turn has fallen and crumbled, the individual components making up the empire struggling to re-assert their independence. Now, perhaps, we may sense shadowy figures in the background who may just be able to exert enough control to make a world empire a possibility, manipulating politicians and commercial interests alike to bring a single international authority into being, despite the wishes of the people or nations themselves. Such an authority would either be entirely non-elected or only pseudo-democratic, enabling those in power to remain so and suppress disagreement. To many, who think they see the writing on the wall, this is a frightening prospect and conspiracy theories abound, linking largely unknown people through obscure "private" meetings and places in a web of interconnected intrigue.
More worrying is the way that many of the nations and corporations that wield such disproportionately high influence over all of our lives are implacably hostile to the Kingdom of G-d. Although "human rights" is a universal cry and banner used by parts of the world to throw off the shackles of tradition and religion, these "rights" somehow don't seem to be relevant to those who follow Yeshua and are blatantly ignored by some countries with the active connivance of others. The action that G-d took at the Tower of Babel - "And the L-RD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.' So the L-RD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city" (B'resheet 11:6-8, NASB) - is no longer relevant, since mankind is already scattered over the face of the earth but has managed to get joined up again regardless of distance and time.
The text above points the way to the correct perspective. The Horites were nameworthy in their time with a reputation for agricultural skill, yet they gave way to the household of Esav. G-d had given the land to Esav and so, despite the qualities and strengths of the Horites, they were conquered and subdued by what may have been an inferior force. Archeology confirms that such a conquest did take place and that it was fairly violent affair. The new owners of the land took possession according to G-d's mandate. The Psalmist asks the question: "Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing?" (Psalm 2:1, NASB). The nations of the world, driven by the forces of wickedness that seek to destroy the kingdom of G-d, are flexing their muscles and formenting revolt: "The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the L-RD and against His Anointed: 'Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!'" (vv. 2-3, NASB). But G-d's response remains constant: "He who sits in the heavens laughs, the L-rd scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury" (vv. 4-5, NASB).
Just as in days past, G-d has an agenda and a plan; His plans are unshakeable and will be fulfilled perfectly, on time and within budget. Men with mighty names, eloquent voices, powerful influences, significant connections and more, may stand against the Kingdom of G-d but they will rail in vain and shall not succeed. G-d has given all the world to His Son, Messiah Yeshua, saying, "I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shalt shatter them like earthenware" (Psalm 21:8-9, NASB). The word has gone out and G-d waiting for the nations to bow before Him: "Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (v. 12, NASB).
Further Study: Psalm 5:11; Revelation 19:11-16
Application: If you are nervous about the political and economic events that are happening in your life and the larger world around you, take comfort that G-d has it all in hand. Now is the time to depend fully on Him and put His plan into action. Ask Him today what you should be doing to speed the day of Messiah's return.
© Jonathan Allen, 2009
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