We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, which means servant of Yahweh. The place of this book’s composition is uncertain as is the date although most scholars believe it was written after the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites, descendants of Edom, condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah. Obadiah also condemned the Edomites for their arrogance and indifference towards God. The Old Testament contains other prophecies against Edom but Obadiah is the only book dedicated entirely to this purpose. Obadiah presents the culmination of prolonged tensions between Israel and Edom. Conflict between these two nations dated back to the patriarchal period when their respective ancestors, Jacob and Esau, had been at odds. Throughout their history these two nations fought frequently. The people of Judah felt that the hostility shown them by Edom, at what was possibly the lowest moment in their history, was cruel and unjustified. The fact that God had rejected Esau in no way excused Edom’s disdain for Israel. Obadiah assured his readers that Edom’s callousness and opportunism would not escape judgement. And Edom did not. Here are a couple of things to think about as you read this book. Consider Obadiah’s statements about the coming deliverance and restoration of God’s people in light of the Book of Revelation, which informs believers that while it sometimes appears that evil has the upper hand Christ’s sure and certain return will result in the ultimate victory of righteousness. Edom, especially Teman, was known for its wise men. Job’s friend Eliphaz was a Temanite. There are two main themes in the Book of Obadiah. The first is judgement. The briefest of Old Testament books assured God’s people that God would punish those who had abused them. Second is the theme of deliverance and restoration for Israel. Obadiah reminds the people that God is sovereign over all nations. And, although the enemies of God’s people have experienced momentary glimpses of glory, they would ultimately be defeated by God and their lands would be given to His people.
The word vision introduces a prophetic book. It also defines what a prophet saw or sensed as a divine word. A vision that did not come from the Lord was false, the ultimate proof being its lack of fulfillment. Prophetic visions came in various forms and the absence of visions is a mark of divine abandonment. When a book or prophecy begins with, “Thus says the Lord” this is a very strong indication this Oracle did not originate in the prophets own thinking. Sending an ambassador to the nations was not unusual. In ancient warfare, allies would be contacted about joining a military coalition to punish an enemy or defend against an attack. Here the Sovereign Lord calls the nations to redress Edom’s evil pride. This is a willing coalition although ironically they will be punished later as well for their own evil deeds. God has promised to cut Edom down to size, making them small. He will deflate their inflated sense of self importance. But it is even worse than that because God had also promised to make Edom despised among the nations. When you look at the lists of nations that opposed Israel, Edom is usually on the list. Now those they get into cahoots with won’t want anything to do with them.
Jerusalem sits about 2,300 feet above sea level but some of the mountain peaks of Edom reached over 6,000 feet. This made Edom nearly unattackable and that made them haughty. Their topography mimicked their pride and the height of their mountain fortresses would emphasize the height from which they would fall. In fact, Edom trusted in their high places but God has promised that no matter how high their defenses are, even as high as an eagle soars, He will still bring them down. Again, you can run but you cannot hide. The Babylonians totally destroyed Jerusalem and Edom not only shared in the plunder but they help with the Babylonians defeat. That meant they deserved equal retribution and they would be stripped of everything. They would have been better off if thieves and robbers descended upon them. Thieves and harvesters would not take everything. Thieves would leave anything that would hinder an immediate and successful escape. Harvesters always left gleanings for the poor. Now, no stone will be left unturned as the destroyer would take absolutely everything. Esau will be ransacked. The fact that Obadiah uses Esau instead of Edom here indicated Edom’s violation of their brotherly relationship. If things were as they were supposed to be, Edom and Israel would have been allies against everyone else. But because of the hatred between the brothers Edom made a covenant with Babylon. It is ironic that Edom’s treachery with Babylon was rewarded by Babylon’s treachery against Edom.
The time referred to in verse 8 is the beginning of the end, when God steps in to reverse the fortunes of His people. Edom also took great pride in their wisdom tradition and some believe that the Book of Job was set in Edomite territory. The name Teman comes from a son of Eliphaz who was a first born son of Esau. See Genesis 36:9-11. Teman may have also been one of Edom’s major cities. Verses 10-14 list the reasons for Edom’s punishment, the violence they did in Israel. This is where Edom’s treachery is described. Using legal terms the evidence from these verses supports the charge of covenant breaking. Outside of this book nothing specific is known of Edom’s role during the various Babylonian invasions of Judah. Responsibility towards ones neighbor is a specific requirement of God’s law. See Deuteronomy 22:1-4. This is true especially when there is a specific treaty of brotherhood, or an historical relationship that is regarded as fraternal. It was one thing for the Babylonians to attack Judah but for the Edomites to join in was unthinkable. Judah’s defeat and destruction should have brought sorrow to her neighbors but instead, Edom laughed out loud. And, they took spoils and helped to complete Judah’s destruction. They also helped capture those of Judah who were trying to escape the Babylonian onslaught, turning them over to Nebuchadnezzar. It seems that Edom and other nations thought that if they helped the Babylonians defeat Judah, that would put them in good stead later. Their time would come.
The law of retribution is that we harvest what we plant. Edom’s treachery, along with her pride, would be more than returned when the cup of vengeance came around to her lips. Justice would bring deliverance for Israel and punishment for Edom. Obadiah warned that the day of the Lord was near. This may be pointing to the end times or it might be a reference to the Lord judging all those, including Edom, who had participated in Judah’s destruction. For those who experience judgement, their evil deeds shape their punishment. The drinking in verse 16 refers to the drinking the cup of God’s wrath. It was passed from Samaria to Judah to the nations..including Edom. God is still referring to His holy mountain because He intended to reestablish His presence there. Jerusalem will become a refuge for all those who escape. A remnant of Judah remained in Jerusalem. The Lords holy mountain is contrasted with Edom’s high cliffs and mountains that failed to protect them. Those who returned would be able to claim their inheritance. This is the land God gave Abraham. There would be a return for Judah and Israel, but not for Edom. The prophet Malachi also addresses this issue. The fact that both Israel and Judah would return signifies a United nation once again.
The raging fire of Judah and Israel will burn Edom to extinction. And the Edomite cities were burned to destruction by the Babylonian king Nabonidus in 553 B.C. The Lord has decreed this so it will happen! History yields to the day when the entire world will belong to the Lord as His kingdom. This message encourages God’s people and warns the nations that forgot God. God’s people living in the Negev, the south foothills of Judah, plus Benjamin will possess the territories of their neighbors. The restored Israel would recover Ephraim and Samaria, territory lost in 722 B.C. to Assyria. It would also expand its borders to those lands promised in the conquest; the Philistine plains, the land of Gilead, and the Phoenician coast. In the north, Shepharad, was a city to which some of the people of Judah were exiled. God would bring them back. Obadiah is showing us that the Lord is not a local god but one who is sovereign over the whole earth. He had not been defeated by the Babylonian god Marduk. And, the fact that He could stand by and let His people be carried into captivity and bring them back was proof of His power and sovereignty over all the earth. Finally, the deliverers, in this case the Judeans, would return as the deliverers and they would reign over the people of Edom. This was a precursor to the coming universal kingdom. Obadiah ended with these words: “the kingdom will be the Lord’s “. These were Obadiah’s last words against all human arrogance, pride, and rebellion. Edom thought she was indestructible but the Lord humbled that nation and restored fallen Judah. Many people think they are beyond the reach of God. But God will bring them low just as He will raise up the humble. And one day, in His time, the Lord will establish His just rule over all.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W