That they may possess the remnant of Edom - Bp. Newcome translates this clause as follows: "That the residue of men may seek Jehovah, and all the heathen who are called by my name." Here, instead of אדום Edom, he reads אדם Adam, men or mankind, which is the reading of the Arabic, and some MSS. of the Syriac, and of Acts 15:17.
The Pachomian MS. of the Septuagint adds here, ὁπως εκζητησωσι με, that they may seek me. And the Arabic has the Lord; and in stead of יירשו yireshu, "they shall possess," the learned bishop seems to have read ידרשו yidreshu, "they may seek;" and thus the text resembles the quotation by St. James, Acts 15:17, "That the residue of men might seek after the Lord." It is strange that not one of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi, nor any of my own, favors or countenances any of these alterations. I am of opinion, therefore, that we must dismiss all these conjectural emendations, and take the Hebrew text as we find it. That it speaks of the conversion of the Jews in Gospel times, we have the authority of the New Testament as above to prove; and it we cannot make the words, as they stand there, entirely to agree with the words here, the subject is not affected by it. The Jews shall be converted and restored, and this text in both covenants is a proof of it.
That they may possess - rather, “inherit
The remnant of Edom - The restoration was not to be for themselves alone. No gifts of God end in the immediate object of His bounty and love. They were restored, in order that they, the first objects of God‘s mercies, might win others to God; not Edom only, “but all nations, upon whom,” God says, “My Name is called.” Plainly then, it is no temporal subjugation, nor any earthly kingdom. The words, “upon whom the name is called,” involve, in any case, belonging to, and being owned by, him whose name is called upon them. It is said of the wife bearing the name of the husband and becoming his, “let thy name be called upon us Isaiah 4:1. When Jacob especially adopts Ephraim and Manasseh as his he says, “let my name be named upon them, and the name of My fathers, Abraham and Isaac” Genesis 48:16. In relation to God, the words are used of persons and of places especially appropriated to God; as the whole Jewish Church and people, His Temple 1 Kings 8:43; Jeremiah 7:10-11, Jeremiah 7:14, Jeremiah 7:30; Jeremiah 34:15, His prophets Jeremiah 15:16, the city of Jerusalem Daniel 9:18-19 by virtue of the temple built there. Contrariwise, Isaiah pleads to God, that the pagan “were never called by Thy Name” Isaiah 63:19. This relation of being “called” by the “Name” of God, was not outward only, nor was it ineffective. Its characteristics were holiness imparted by God to man, and protection by God. Thus Moses, in his blessing on Israel if obedient, says, “The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn to thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in His ways; and all the people of the earth shall see that the Name of the Lord thy God is called upon thee, and they shall fear thee” Deuteronomy 28:9-10. And Jeremiah says to God, “Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for Thy name was called upon me, O Lord God of Hosts.”
Israel then, or the Jewish Church, was to inherit, or take into itself, not Edom only, but all nations, and that, by their belonging to God. Edom, as the brother of Israel and yet his implacable enemy, stands as a symbol of all who were alien from God, over against His people. He says, the “residue of Edom,” because he had foretold the destruction which was first to come upon Edom; and Holy Scripture everywhere speaks of those who should be converted, as a “remnant” only. The Jews themselves are the keepers and witnesses of these words. Was it not foretold? It stands written. Is it not fulfilled? The whole world from this country to China, and from China round again to us, as far as it is Christian, and as, year by year, more are gathered into the fold of Christ, are the inheritance of those who were the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
James quoted these words in the Council of Jerusalem, to show how the words of the prophet were in harmony with what Peter had related, how “God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for His Name” Acts 15:14. He quotes the words as they stood in the version which was understood by the Gentiles who came from Antioch. In it the words are paraphrased, but the meaning remains the same. The Greek translators took away the metaphor, in order, probably, to make the meaning more intelligible to Greeks, and paraphrased the Hebrew words, imagining other words, as like as might be to the Hebrew. They render, “that the residue of men may seek, and all the nations upon whom My name is called.” The force of the prophecy lies in these last words, that “the Name of God should be called upon all nations.” James, then, quoted the words as they were familiar to his hearers, not correcting those which did not impair the meaning. The so doing, he shows us incidentally, that even imperfection of translation does not empty the fullness of God‘s word. The words, “shall seek the Lord,” although not representing anything expressed here in the original, occur in the corresponding prophecy of Isaiah as to the root of Jesse, “In that day there shall be a root” (that is, a sucker from the root) “of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people, and to it shall the Gentiles seek” Isaiah 11:10. It may be, that James purposely uses the plural, “the words of the prophets,” in order to include, together with the prophet Amos, other prophets who had foretold the same thing. The statements, that the Jewish Church should inherit the Gentiles, that the Name of God should be called upon the Gentiles, and that the Gentiles should seek the Lord, are parts of one whole; that they should be called, that they should obey the call, and, obeying, he enrolled in the one family of God.