It’s easy to assume that a Godless person is also a lawless person, but that is actually not the case. Paul said in Romans 2:14-15, “For when the Gentile, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another…” The conscience inside every person bears witness to God’s law. Even if they have not been told it is wrong, everyone knows killing another person in wrong.
A person that does not violate his conscience will do well in life regardless of whether or not he has a relationship with God. The purpose of having a relationship with God is not so that you will know what is right, it is so that you will do what is right. It is possible to do what is right without the help of God, but every human effort will fail at some point because we are not perfect and have a sin nature.
The Edomites, the descendants of Jacob’s twin brother Esau were most likely good, hard working people. The only problem was that they married into a bad family. “Esau took wives of the daughters of Canaan” which means he brought himself under the curse issued by Noah. Esau made a conscious decision to do what he knew was wrong. For many years, hundreds of years, his descendants prospered and established a thriving community in the land that was to be inherited by his brother Jacob.
Esau’s intention was to beat the system. He thought he could keep his brother from receiving the blessing promised to him by joining forces with the Canaanites and teaching them how to do things right. In addition to kings that reigned over the people, Esau’s sons became dukes (1 Chronicles 1:51-54), guides that were familiar with the customs of the people that could through association teach them different ways of doing things (5021). Knowledge was transferred from generation to generation so that learning became a part of the lifestyle of the Canaanites and led them to increasingly successful practices over time.