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I recently learned that Edom today means the Christians. See for example Ibn Ezra

This prophecy contains the decree made against Edom, that is, against the empire of Rome and Constantinople, who are called Edomites, because they adopted the Edomite religion—that is, the Christian religion—which was first established among the Edomites.

So given what it says in Ovadiah 1:18:

And the house of Jacob shall be fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall become stubble, and they shall ignite them and consume them, and the house of Esau shall have no survivors, for the Lord has spoken.

Does this mean we are destined to wipe out all Christians? Or is there a core of them that are descendants of Esav? When will this happen? Before or after Moshiach comes? Given that the era of Moshiach is characterised by universal peace and disarmament it seems to me that maybe this should happen before Moshiach comes.

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    Is it possible that the flame is Torah and the "consuming" will be the inspiration towards conversion?
    – rosends
    Jun 14, 2022 at 10:10

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I recently learned that Edom today means the Christians. See for example Ibn Ezra

This is not universally agreed upon. See Shadal on Gen. 27:40 and Ibn Kaspi on Deut. 23:20-21

So given what it says in Ovadiah 1:18... Does this mean we are destined to wipe out all Christians?

It does not apply to ALL individual Edomites as the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 10b) makes clear:

Once he [Antoninus] asked him [Rebbi]: 'Shall I enter the world to come?' 'Yes!' said Rebbi. 'But,' said Antoninus, 'is it not written, There will be no remnant to the house of Esau?' 'That,' he replied 'applies only to those whose evil deeds are like to those of Esau.' We have learnt likewise: There will be no remnant to the House of Esau, might have been taken to apply to all, therefore Scripture says distinctly — To the House of Esau, so as to make it apply only to those who act as Esau did.

So even if the Ibn Ezra and those that identify Christianity with Edom is correct, only those that perpetuate evil Edomite ways will be destroyed (i.e. the "House" but not necessarily individuals).

When will this happen? Before or after Moshiach comes?

The Rambam in H. Melakhim 12 is relevant here:

Some of the Sages say that Elijah will come before the coming of the Messiah. But regarding all these matters and similar, no one knows how it will be until it will be. For these matters were unclear to the Prophets. Even the Sages themselves did not have a Tradition regarding these matters and only could attempt to understand the verses. Thus, there were disagreements in these matters. Nevertheless, neither the order that these events will occur nor their details are fundamental to the religion. Thus, a person must never busy himself with the Aggadoth and not dwell on the Midrashim regarding these matters or similar issues. He must not make them dogma. For these do not result in either love (for God) nor fear (of sin).Similarly, one should not calculate the Ends. Our Sages have said that the spirit of those who calculate the Ends will expire. Rather, one is to (simply) wait and believe in the principle of this matter, as we have explained.

That said...

Given that the era of Moshiach is characterised by universal peace and disarmament it seems to me that maybe this should happen before Moshiach comes.

The Malbim does suggest that it means that Moshiah ben Yosef will do the job, but again that is speculative and there is not much to be gained from such inquiries on our part.

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    Would it be fair to say that even according to the opinion of Ibn Ezra there are a number of Christians who are not descendants of Esav and therefore will not be destroyed? Jun 14, 2022 at 14:53
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    @YaakovRoth to my reading of the Ibn Ezra, there are Christian heirs to the name Edom despite having no genealogical relationship. Whether someone will be subject to the prophecy in Obadiah depends on whether they identify with what Edom represents. Jun 14, 2022 at 17:51
  • @YaakovRoth Note surely even some people not subject to this particular prophecy will be destroyed.
    – Double AA
    Jun 14, 2022 at 18:45
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Just because a later generation decided to use the name Edom to represent Christianity (largely during a time when a more direct critique could be dangerous) does not make it correct to read that meaning backwards into the text from the prophetic era.

Ovadiah is clearing talking about the historical kingdom south of the Dead Sea. To extrapolate otherwise is to do the exact same thing that we find so distasteful when Christians apply their Christocentric meanings to verses in Isaiah or other books.

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  • Ovadiah 1:21 says "And saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the Lord shall have the kingdom." This seems to link the destruction of Edom with the end time. How can this be referring to a kingdom which no longer exists? Jun 14, 2022 at 14:55
  • I say that everyday too, and I grant that there are lots of non-literal ways to read prophecy. I apologize if I was curt with this answer this morning. Esau/Edom is used in other places as well to represent the "other" and that meaning could apply to a messianic time. What bothers me about the automatic dropping in of "Christians" for "Edom" is that it takes what was probably intended as coded speech and elevates it to a profound significance. It is easy to go astray reading additional meanings into the words of the prophets and this one lines up too easily with popular prejudice to be trusted
    – Mike
    Jun 14, 2022 at 20:35
  • If we are to go with Edom equals Rome instead of Edom equals Christians wouldn't that mean that the Italians are the ones that the prophecy is about? Jun 14, 2022 at 22:05
  • That is, if anything, even worse. If you want to play these games, at least make it "evildoers among the nations" rather than "decent people who happen to be descended from people ruled by a brutal regime."
    – Mike
    Jun 15, 2022 at 1:27
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The Talmud in all cases equates Edom with Rome. It would therefore seem that the prophecy is about the descendants of the Romans, the Italians.

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