The Torah has an entire chapter, 43 verses, dedicated to the descendants of Esav and what became of them.
We have a specific commandment not to hate Esav’s descendants (Devarim 23:8). Rashi comments on that verse, “even though it would be appropriate for you to hate him, for he came out against you with the sword.” At the end of our 40 years in the desert Esav’s descendants, Edom, came out and attacked us. Never the less, we are told not to hate them because they are our brothers.
After the separation with Esav, the Torah keeps track of his descendants and they appear in the future throughout the Tanach. They were a neighboring tribe to Israel for centuries after we conquered the land. The relationship between the two was not always friendly, sometimes hostile, but the Torah reminds us that they are our brothers.
In an alternate universe Esav might have been another tribe of Israel. Esav grew up in the house of Yitzchak, and presumably loved his father. There is no reason to believe that he did not pick up many of the values of Avraham and Yitzchak.
It is no wonder that in later rabbinic writings Christianity became associated with Edom.
There are many parallels between Esav and Christianity. One of course is that Esav was able to marry into the tribe of Seir and rather than Esav be absorbed by them, they became the children of Esav.
For whatever reason, Jews were perpetually frightened to mix with other nations because we feared that we would assimilate and absorbed into the other nations. Christianity emerged among the Romans and like Esav the flea swallowed the elephant. It is rather remarkable how that happened.
Today there is controversy about how Jews should view the support of evangelical Christians. For many Jews there is something very distasteful about Christianity.
There are many reasons for this. Among them, liberal Jews don’t like Christians because of their political conservatism. And secular Jews who are uncomfortable with religion are made very uncomfortable with Christians confront with it.
There is also the issue of proselytizing and replacement theology that is offensive.
Then there is also the issue of coming after us with the sword. It is still within living memory that Christian holidays were days of dread and terror for Jewish communities in Europe. I have spoken with Holocaust survivors who have told me what Christmas was like in Europe. They sat at home with the lights out hoping that the sermon given by the local priest was not a hateful anti-Jewish diatribe that would provoke a pogrom.
But things have certainly changed for the better in America. Christians are among the biggest supporters of Israel, sometimes, to our great embarrassment, outshining Jewish groups. Even now, when times are tense in Israel, church groups are taking their trips to Israel, while Jews are frightened and stay home.
Our relationship with Esav and with Christianity is complicated by a long history with ups and downs.
Esav’s descendants were chastised by the prophet Ovadiah in this week’s Haftarah. They were told, “For your violence to your brother Jacob shame will cover you and you will be cut down forever.”
It seems that the American Evangelical Christians have incorporated this and other prophecies. In my experience as a rabbi I have had many encounters with evangelical Christians. I have never been proselytized, and I have heard from them all that they believe in the Biblical promise that the Lord will bless those that bless Israel.
We should be thankful and fortunate that we live in a time when the dominant religious group in America is a friend of Israel and the Jewish people.