In February 2017, two casually dressed women approached Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean despot Kim Jung-un, in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport. One woman sprayed him with a lethal nerve gas while the other held a handkerchief to his face; he was pronounced dead on arrival to the local hospital. Although there is no concrete evidence of Kim Jung-un’s involvement in the murder, Jung-nam had always feared his brother’s intention to kill him.
Fratricide—the murder of a brother—was the first criminal act recorded in the Bible, when Cain murdered Abel. Hostility between brothers recurs in the story of Jacob and Esau. Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother for a bowl of stew, but later regretted his rashness. Then Jacob deceived his father, swindling Esau’s blessing for himself. For these betrayals, Esau threatened to kill Jacob, who fled to his uncle Laban’s house for twenty years. When he later returned to Canaan and reconnected with his brother, Esau’s anger had cooled, and the brothers reconciled (see Genesis 25).
Nevertheless, the legacy of hostility and hatred continued—not merely between Jacob and Esau but also between the nations of their descendants: Israel and Edom. Edom had not allowed Israel to pass through its land when leaving Egypt and traveling to the Promised Land. And then, on numerous occasions, Edom invaded Judah and took the people captive.
Most abhorrently, when the Babylonians ransacked the City of David in 586 b.c., the Edomites committed both passive and active betrayal of their brothers (Ps. 137:7). Edom failed to defend Israel, willfully prevented people from fleeing, and handed over survivors to the Babylonians.
Wouldn’t God’s goodness be a more appealing topic than His judgment? Consider what C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity about God’s goodness, that it is “either the great safety or the great danger.” God, in His goodness, punishes those who commit evil against His people. His judgment isn’t antithetical to His goodness, but necessary for it.