Obadiah — Announcing the Doom of Edom and Future Blessing for Defeated Israel
A mere 22 verses long, Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It is divided up into two main sections: The first part deals with the impending doom of Edom for its treatment of God’s people; the second assures Israel of their eventual triumph.
Although several men by the name of Obadiah are mentioned in Scripture [See 1 Kings 18:3-16; 1 Chron. 3:21, 7:3, 8:38, 9:16 & 44, 12:9 & 27:19; 2 Chron. 17:7 & 34:12; Ezra 8:9; Neh. 10:1-8 & 12:25], not one of them seems to be the author of this book. In fact, the prophet does not even offer the name of his father or hometown to help us identify him. It is as if he wanted to remain anonymous or was well-known enough he needed no introduction.
Most likely a contemporary of the prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Obadiah borrows content from Jeremiah 49 and employs imagery similar to Ezekiel 35. According to Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts, experts estimate this book was composed sometime between the fall of Jerusalem and Babylon’s defeat [p. 253].
Obadiah Chapter 1
Verse 1 introduces the book simply as, “The vision of Obadiah,” and launches immediately into God’s indictment of the descendants of Esau. YHWH was sending messengers to call the nations to war against Edom.
He intended to make this people group small and despised among the nations, to bring them down from their lofty estimation of themselves (Obad. v. 2). Those “who dwell in the clefts of the rock” were said to be self-deceived, convinced no one could touch them (v. 3). Yet the Lord warned, “Though you ascend as high as the eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down” (4).
Thieves would have left some gleanings among the grapes and stolen only what they could carry, but God declared that Esau was going to be completely emptied of its treasures and resources (5-6). Trusted neighbors and allies would turn against the Edomites on the day YHWH wiped out wise men and warriors alike “from the mountains of Esau” (7-9).
Why this calamity on the descendants of one of the sons of Abraham? Verse 10 tells us, “For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” For generations, Edom had festered with bitterness toward their relatives, the descendants of Jacob. So when the Babylonian hordes came from the North…
- Edom applauded and assisted the armies that invaded Israel and carried its inhabitants away captive to foreign lands (11).
- They celebrated when Judah was destroyed and taken captive (12).
- Edomites plundered the goods of their defeated neighbors (13).
- They waited in ambush at the crossroads to kill or apprehend those who tried to escape (14).
Obadiah warned, “the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near,” and that Edom would suffer the same things it had done to Israel (15-16). “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness,” the prophet declared (17).
The descendants of Jacob would get their land and possessions back. Moreover, the two houses of Israel (the Northern tribes represented by Joseph, the Southern tribes identified as Jacob) were compared to fire, while “the house of Esau shall be stubble”—completely devoured by God’s people, until “no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (18).
The kingdom of Judah would possess both “the mountains of Esau” and the territory of Philistia (19). They would also regain the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. The tribe of Benjamin would spill over into Gilead, and the captives from Israel would occupy everything formerly dominated by the Canaanites (20). “Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s” (21).
If you travel to the Lone Star State, you’ll spot lots of bumper stickers and T-shirts that warn, “Don’t mess with Texas!” If Obadiah were alive today, he’d say the same thing about Israel.
In the days of Esau and Jacob’s ancestor, Abraham, the Lord made a covenant stating, “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse…” (Gen 12:3, NIV). That same blessing was given to Jacob, but not to Esau, by their father Isaac (Gen. 27:29). Because the descendants of Esau persecuted the descendants of Jacob, who were blessed by God, they brought on themselves all of God’s destructive anger.
That same protective blessing and curse remains in affect today. When nations oppose Israel or Abraham’s adopted children in Christ, they are asking for trouble. Although Arab and anti-Christian nations may gain the upper hand for a time, the “Day of the Lord” is coming, when God will right all the wrongs done against His people.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.