Obadiah – Judgment of Edom

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Obadiah 1

  1. Obadiah’s prophecy is unique in the Bible in that it is not primarily addressed to God’s people, but to the enemies of God’s people, in this case the Edomites.
  2. The Edomites were a people descended from Esau, the son of Isaac and Rebekah and the older brother of Jacob, also known as “Israel” (Gen 25:19-34).
    1. Just as Jacob is better known as “Israel”, so Esau was called “Edom”, which means “red”. Perhaps Esau was a redhead and was therefore called Edom?
    2. Israel settled in the land of Canaan with Jerusalem and Mount Zion as its central city. Edom settled south of the Dead Sea with Mount Seir as its central city.
      1. The capital of the Edomites was called “Sela”, which is “stone” in Hebrew and “petra” in Greek. It is quite possible that the Edomite capital of Sela was located where the Nabataean rock city of Petra is now.
    3. When Israel left slavery in Egypt and wanted to enter the land of Canaan through the Edomite territory, the Edomites did not allow it (Num 20:14-21).
    4. In the time of King Saul and King David, Israel waged war against Edom and occupied their land (1 Sam 14:47, 2 Sam 8:14, 1 Kings 9:26).
    5. Israel and Edom warred back and forth on several occasions (2 Chron 20:1-27, 2 Kings 8:16-22, 2 Kings 14:9-11, 2 Chron 28:17).
    6. In New Testament times, Herod the Great, the king of the Jews, was an Edomite (Luke 1:5).
  3. The message that the prophet Obadiah receives from the Lord concerning Edom is, in short, that God will judge Edom by gathering various nations to fight against them because of their sin against Israel. The sin that Edom committed was not helping their brother nation Israel when their enemies attacked them. Instead of helping Israel, Edom watched and rejoiced in the defeat of Israel and also took the opportunity to profit from Israel’s fall.

Obadiah 2-4

  1. Edom was a small and insignificant people with little to be proud of. But they liked to brag about how difficult it was to take the mountainous territory of Edom. They thought they were safe and relied on the impregnable terrain of the area.
    1. Edom’s gorges are reminiscent of the Titanic, a ship that boasted to be unsinkable, but sank on its maiden voyage.
    2. God’s message to Edom is that they cannot rely on their own strength, but will fall no matter how much they boast about their impregnable mountain gaps.

Obadiah 5-9

  1. The riches that Edom acquired for themselves by trading or plundering Judah, they hid in the rock crevices of their mountainous region.
  2. God judges Edom by striking at the very points Edom thought they were safe; their mountain gaps, their wise men and their allies.
    1. Not only will the treasures of the clefts be plundered by thieves, but the entire Edomite people would disappear from their mountains.
    2. Edom, like the ancient Greeks, was known for its great wisdom, but today this is hardly something one associates the Edomites with. Their wisdom is forgotten in history.
    3. Edom was condemned by Edom’s allies and friends going behind their backs.

Obadiah 10-14

  1. Edom and Israel were brother nations because their ancestors, Esau and Jacob, were twins. This made Edom’s sin against Israel even worse.
    1. To sin is always wrong, but to sin against one’s own family or against Christian brothers and sisters, is worse.
  2. When Judah was attacked by enemies and suffered greatly, Edom stood by and did not help. Not only were they passive in Israel’s hour of need, they were malicious at Judah’s fall. And if that wasn’t enough, they also helped kill or hand over the Jews who fled and stole the Jewish wealth they came by. Edom’s sin escalated something like this:
    1. At first, Edom stood by without helping a brother nation in need.
    2. Then Edom rejoiced at the fall of Judah.
    3. Then Edom began to take advantage of Judah’s misery
    4. Finally, Edom itself actively participated in the killing of God’s people, handing over captured Jews to the Jews’ enemies.

Obadiah 15

  1. God announces to Edom through the prophet Obadiah that there will be a “day of the Lord” when Edom’s sin against Israel will be punished.
    1. God’s judgment on Edom is in line with God’s promise to Abraham concerning Israel: “I will bless those who bless you and curse the one who curses you.” (Genesis 12:3a)
      1. Over the years, countless nations have tried to destroy Israel and the Jewish people. This has never succeeded, and instead the nation that tried to destroy the Jews has instead been lost. For example, ancient Egypt, Persia, Nazi Germany, etc.
    1. When God gives a judgment, there is almost always an offer of grace included, if one repents. God’s judgments therefore often do not come immediately after they have been pronounced, in order to give the people a chance to repent.
      1. For example, God says through the prophet Jeremiah, “I speak of a nation and a kingdom, that I will uproot them, break them down, and destroy them. But if the nations of which I have spoken turn from their wickedness, I will repent of the evil that I have purposed to do to them.” (Jer 18:7-8)
      2. An example of God “repenting” of his judgment is Jonah’s judgment on Nineveh: “When God saw what they did, that they turned from their wicked way, he repented of the evil which he had threatened to do to them, and he did not do it.” (Jon 3:10)

Obadiah 16-17

  1. True, Israel is going through difficult times right now, but their distress is temporary and salvation is on the way. For Edom it is the opposite, they are happy now, but their judgment will come soon and it will be eternal.
  2. Obadiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in the context of the Jewish rebellion against Rome in 66-70 AD. In that uprising, the Jews and the Edomites fought side by side. When the rebellion was crushed, the Jews completely lost their land and dispersed into the Jewish diaspora, while the Edomites instead completely disappeared from history and ceased to exist as a people.

Obadiah 18-20

  1. Here Obadiah prophesies of a future in which Israel holds a larger area of land than they do today.

Obadiah 21

  1. “Mount Zion” and “Mount Esau” contrast each other, with Zion representing God’s people and salvation, while Mount Esau represents God’s enemies and judgment.
  2. The message of Obadiah’s prophecy can be summarized in the “double outcome”:
    1. For those who belong to God’s people and read Obadiah, the text becomes a comfort and a call to perseverance and trust in God. We may suffer temporarily now, but soon we will have eternal salvation.
    2. For those who do not belong to God’s people and read Obadiah, the text becomes a call for urgent repentance, because God’s enemies may rejoice temporarily right now, but will soon receive an eternal judgment.
  3. Obadiah concludes his short little writing by stating that in the end the kingdom will belong to the Lord God. Even though God’s people may suffer here and now, we know that God will ultimately prevail. We don’t have to take matters into our own hands, fight our oppressors, or fight back against those who beat us. We can turn the other cheek and leave the judgment to the Lord. God will deal with our enemies at just the right time, and we can rest assured that God has the whole world in His hand.
  4. In conclusion, Obadiah teaches us that:
    1. God judges those who attack God’s people
    2. He who belongs to God will be saved
    3. God is in control of history
    4. God will ultimately establish his kingdom fully
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