Obadiah 1 - Outline of Obadiah (Book Notes menu page)
The Judgment of Edom for their Hatred of Israel.
This brief book, the shortest book of the OT, is focused on the judgment of Edom, a nation which passed into oblivion more than 2,000 years ago. At first reading, modern readers may wonder whether Obadiah's message has any application to our time or to yet future days. Why did the LORD allow it to be included in the timeless canon of Scripture? As the LORD opens this book to us, we will begin to see that the message is much more far reaching than it first appears. The historic judgment of Edom foreshadows the future judgment of the nations, in the Day of the LORD, when He comes to establish His Kingdom on the earth. In that day, He will resolve the old hatred of Esau for Jacob.
1. The vision of Obadiah.
Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom;
We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen,
Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.
The vision of Obadiah...
Obadiah's name means 'a servant of the LORD.' Beyond that, we know nothing about the man, except that, he received this 'vision' {a divine spiritual communication, an oracle} from the LORD. This message concerns 'Edom' and their relationship with the southern kingdom of Israel (referred to as Jacob, Judah, Jerusalem, and Zion). We are not told when Obadiah lived, or the circumstances of his times.
Scholars have put forward various suggestions as to when the book was written.
  1. Circa 855 BC, during the reign of Jehoshaphat - because one of the king's princes was named Obadiah (2Chr 17:7).
    However, Obadiah was a common name, and occurs frequently in the historical books of the Bible (eg., 1Kin 18:3,7; Neh 12:25).
  2. C. 845 BC, during the reign of Jehoram (son of Jehoshaphat) - because this was a period of conflict with Edom (2Kin 8:20).
  3. C. 720 BC, during the reign of Ahaz - because this also was a period of conflict with Edom (2Chr 28:17).
  4. C. 585 BC, shortly after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, in 586 BC. - based on viewing v.11 as history rather than prophecy.
    This is supported by very similar wording between passages in Obadiah, Jeremiah (eg., Jer 49:14-16), Ezekiel (eg., Eze 35:1-5) and a post exilic Psalm (eg., Psa 137:7). These similarities can best be explained if Obadiah was a contemporary of the prophets who wrote around the time of the fall of Jerusalem.
         However, some who prefer an early date for this book, note that there are also similarities between Joel and Obadiah. Usually, these scholars think Obadiah was the first of the writing prophets, followed by Joel (c. 800 BC).
         The editor leans toward the late date, because the similarities to the later writers seem much more striking than those with Joel, who is also quoted by many of the other prophets. It must be remembered, that if the time of writing was critical to the book's message, the LORD would have made it clear. Being timeless, the message is not limited to a historic period of conflict, and looks forward to final fulfillment in the Day of the LORD (v.15).
Thus saith the Lord GOD {Adonai Jehovah}...
The Speaker identifies Himself with a compound name: As 'the Lord' {Adonai}, He is the Ruler of all nations. As 'Jehovah,' He is the God who made an everlasting covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their seed. His governance over the nations ensures the fulfillment of His promises to Israel.
...concerning Edom...-
  • The land of Edom was to the south of Israel and the Dead Sea.
    Today, the territory is controlled by the modern nation of Jordan. But the message applies to the nation of Esau's descendants.
         'Edom is Esau' (Gen 36:8b), just as the nation of 'Israel is Jacob' (Gen 25:22,23; 32:28). The name 'Edom' {derived from HB='adom, or Adam} means red or ruddy. The name 'Esau' means 'hairy.' From his birth, Esau was red and hairy (Gen 25:25). When Esau moved away from his parents, he settled in 'mount Seir' (Gen 36:8,9). 'Seir' also means 'hairy' or 'shaggy.' The names Seir, mount Seir, and Edom all refer to the territory in which Esau and his descendants dwelt.
  • The character of Esau...
    Esau despised {ie., regarded with contempt} his birthright (Gen 25:30-34; Heb 12:16,17). In doing so, he despised both his relationship with the LORD, and the everlasting Covenant which He had previously established with Abraham and Isaac.
         Esau lived to satisfy the flesh. He saw little value in distant spiritual promises. In this, he is a type or picture of the 'natural man.' The NT sets Esau forth as an example of the 'old nature' versus the 'new nature' which lives by faith in God's Word (Rom 9:8-13; Gal 5:17).

         'Jacob have I loved... Esau have I hated...' - This statement, quoted by Paul (in Rom 9, above), is from the last book of the OT (Mal 1:2,3). As Paul points out, the LORD chose Jacob over Esau, before they were born. On what basis did He choose? Both were sinners by birth. Jacob was a deceiver, who stole the birthright that Esau despised. Both were natural men, pursuing the way of the flesh.
         Esau, being the 'first born,' illustrates that for every descendant of Adam, our 'first' or natural state is fleshly. Only through an encounter with 'the Lord from heaven' can fleshly man receive a spiritual nature. 1Cor 15:45-50
         Jacob, in a time of distress, turned from himself to the LORD and became Israel, a prince with God. To Israel, God further revealed Himself, in the Law, in the Temple worship, and through the prophets. Meanwhile, Esau and his children continued in their natural state, far from God.
         Through Obadiah, the LORD said the things of Esau would be 'laid bare' (v.6). Esau's fleshly nature, magnified by the multitude of his descendants, would be exposed, for all to see the wickedness of the natural man... not only that of Esau's children, but also all of 'Edom' (ie., Adam's race). The exposure of wickedness demonstrates the LORD's just cause for judgment.
We have heard a rumor from the LORD... let us arise against her in battle.
Other nations would be called to execute the LORD's judgment upon Edom. Jer 49:14
2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.
3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee,
thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation [is] high;
that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
4 Though thou exalt [thyself] as the eagle,
and though thou set thy nest among the stars,
thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.
The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee...
  • 'Pride' {presumption, arrogance}, though regarded by man as admirable, or at worst a minor fault compared to drunkenness or stealing, is a terrible thing in God's eyes. Prov 6:16-19; 8:13; 1Joh 2:16
  • Pride is the opposite of 'the mind of Christ' (Php 2:5-8; Mat 11:29).
  • Pride was at the root of Satan's sin (Isa 14:12-14), and of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity (Dan 4:30-f).
  • "Pride of heart is the attitude of life that declares its ability to live without God." [JVMcGee]
  • Esau's pride led him to despise his birthright.
  • Edom's pride led the nation to consider itself impenetrable and secure.
...thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock...
The word for 'rock' {HB=cela) was also the name of the capital city of Edom: 'Sela,' which was later given the Greek name 'Petra' (with the same meaning). (2Kin 14:7; Isa 16:1; 42:11)
     This city is famous for the buildings carved into the face of solid red rock cliffs, which stand 100 - 300 feet above the valley floor. Petra was regarded as impenetrable, because the primary access to the city was through a long, narrow, easily defended canyon. The city's location, near major caravan trade routes, enabled its people to amass great wealth.
     The descendants of Esau occupied and developed the rocky cities of Edom from antiquity. However, because of apparent Grecian influence on the architectural wonders which tourists view today, in Petra, archaeologists believe they were refined and embellished by the Nabataeans, an Arabian nation which displaced Edom, around the fourth century BC.
     Certain of their natural security, Edom boasted arrogantly: "Who shall bring me down to the ground?"
Behold... I will bring thee down, saith the LORD. Jer 49:15,16
...though thou exalt thyself as the eagle... among the stars.
The eagle is a symbol of deity. To be placed among the stars is to be exalted to heaven. Their blasphemous pride, was like that of Satan (Isa 14:12-14).
...I have made thee small {ie., insignificant}... greatly despised {very much regarded with contempt}.
At the time of their downfall, Edom's enemies would laugh at them, for the weakness of their defenses. Jer 49:20-22
5 If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!)
would they not have stolen till they had enough?
if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave [some] grapes?
6 How are [the things] of Esau searched out!
[how] are his hidden things sought up!
7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee [even] to the border:
the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee,
[and] prevailed against thee;
[they that eat] thy bread have laid a wound under thee:
[there is] none understanding in him.
8 Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD,
even destroy the wise [men] out of Edom,
and understanding out of the mount of Esau?
9 And thy mighty [men], O Teman, shall be dismayed,
to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.
The destruction of Edom would be complete. Jer 49:9,10
  • The enemy would not leave any survivors (v.5).
  • The secret treasures which Esau's descendants had securely hidden in their caves would be sought out and confiscated (v.6).
    As noted earlier, the fleshly nature of Esau, the natural man, would also be laid bare (as will be seen in v.10-15).
...all the men of thy confederacy have brought thee... to the border...
Because of Edom's natural defenses, their enemies did not attack them directly. Rather, their allies, taking advantage of their welcome access, would rise up to slaughter them and drive them to the edge of their borders.
the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee... they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee...
Sometime around the fifth or sixth century BC, Edom was overwhelmed by a group of nomadic Arab tribes. These groups were later displaced by the Nabataeans (c. 312 BC), who were also of Arabic background.
     During the period of Judah's captivity in Babylon (586 - 506 BC), the men of Edom sought to expand into Israel's vacated land. Apparently, the resulting decrease in the population of Edom's cities, provided their Arab 'friends' the opportunity for which they had been waiting.
     Edomites who escaped the conflict in their land, established themselves just beyond their previous borders, in the southern portion of the land of Judah, which became known as Idumea. As the people of Judah returned from Babylon, the Idumeans attempted to assimilate with them, and became familiar with the Jewish culture and religion. The kings named 'Herod,' who ruled in Judaea and Galilee, around the time of Christ, were Idumeans (Edomites, descendants of Esau).
Shall I not... destroy the wise men of Edom... and understanding out of Edom?
Edom was known for its 'wise men.' Eliphaz, one of the counselors who came to comfort Job, was a Temanite (Job 4:1). People traveled from distant places to access the wisdom of Edom. But following the fall of Edom, through the deception of her 'friends,' their powers of perception would be in doubt (Jer 49:7). Likewise, the wisdom of the natural man, which disregards the LORD, is shown to be empty foolishness (Psa 33:10; 1Cor 3:19,20).
...thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed... that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.
Teman, one of the primary cities of Edom, was named after Teman, who was a son of Eliphaz, and a grandson of Esau. Teman was also one of the 'dukes' or 'chiefs' of the nation descended from Esau (Gen 36:10,11,15).
     The civil authority of Edom's leaders, and the military power of their soldiers, would be shattered and of no use, in the day that the LORD would bring them down.
10. For [thy] violence against thy brother Jacob
shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side,
in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces,
and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem,
even thou [wast] as one of them.
12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother
in the day that he became a stranger;
neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah
in the day of their destruction;
neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.
13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction
in the day of their calamity,
nor have laid [hands] on their substance in the day of their calamity;
14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway,
to cut off those of his that did escape;
neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his
that did remain in the day of distress.
These verses present the crimes for which the LORD would judge Edom.
  • For thy violence {ie., cruelty, injustice, wrong} against thy brother Jacob... (v.10)
    Jacob and Esau were brothers. Their descendants should have shown brotherly kindness toward one another. During their exodus from Egypt, Israel was commanded to treat Edom well (Deu 23:7). But the children of Esau nurtured a jealous hatred against their cousins. Over the centuries, Edom made frequent incursions into the kingdom of Judah. Their cruelty was fully displayed at the time of the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon (Eze 35:5).
  • ...thou shouldest not have looked on... neither rejoiced... neither...spoken proudly in the day of [Israel's] distress... (v.11,12)
    When Jerusalem was under siege, Edom stood aloof. They observed their brothers' difficulty but offered no assistance. Rather, they were glad to watch them perish. Offering no protest to the foreign invaders, they 'spoke proudly' {lit., 'enlarged thy mouth'} with hateful laughter at the plight of Israel, and with 'talking big' to the invaders (Psa 137:7).
  • ...thou shouldest not have entered into the gate... nor laid hands on their substance... nor delivered those... that did remain... (v.13,14)
    Edom behaved aggressively against Israel in the day of their calamity. Not content to watch the destruction of Jerusalem from a distance, they joined the invaders in looting the city. With merciless cruelty, they blocked refugees from escaping, and betrayed them into the hands of their enemies.
About 600 years later, the proud, unbrotherly, self-serving cruelty of Edom was still on display...
  • in the four successive Idumean kings who ruled under Rome, over Israel. For example:
    • Herod the Great ordered the slaughter of the innocent children around Bethlehem, after the magi came to worship the young child, Jesus (Mat 2:16-18).
    • Herod Antipas ordered the execution of John the Baptist to appease his unlawful wife, Herodias (Mat 14:6-10).
    • Herod Agrippa I, slew the apostle James and imprisoned Peter. In his pride, he accepted blasphemous praise as a god, and God struck him dead (Acts 12:1-3,21-23).
    • Herod Agrippa II, who was 'expert in all the customs and questions which are among the Jews,' heard the Gospel message from Paul, but was not persuaded to turn to Christ (Acts 26).
  • at the fall of Jerusalem to Rome (in 70 AD), according to the historian, Josephus, several thousand Idumeans again joined with the foreign invader against the people of Israel.
For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
Today, the nation of Edom and the line of Esau cannot be found. The LORD has brought them down to oblivion as He promised.
     However, natural men, descended from Adam, and in the likeness of fleshly Esau, persist in their proud disregard for the LORD and His Word, and in their hatred for His people. The LORD will bring them down also.
15 For the day of the LORD [is] near upon all the heathen:
as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee:
thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain,
[so] shall all the heathen drink continually,
yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down,
and they shall be as though they had not been.
For the day of the LORD is... upon all the heathen {ie., all the nations}...
This looks, beyond the historic judgments upon Edom, to the future Tribulation period, in the Day of the LORD. The judgments of that day will not be upon the nation of Edom, for it is long extinct, but rather upon 'all nations' which gather for battle against Jerusalem. Zeph 3:8; Rev 16:13-16; 19:11-21
The day of the LORD is near... - Eze 30:3; Zeph 1:7
Obadiah wrote 2,500 years ago, and that Day has not yet come. In what sense is it near?
  • That which seems distant in human time is a very brief span for the eternal One. Psa 90:4; 2Pet 3:8-10
  • This event is immense. For those who comprehend its consequences, it looms large on the horizon, as the destination toward which mankind is rapidly moving (Isa 14:26,27). Most of the calendar pages, which mark the passing of the Times of the Gentiles (Gentile world dominion), have already been turned (Dan 2:31-45). As the editor writes this text, we are living in the days of 'the feet of iron and clay.' Can't you see that the Day of the LORD is near?
  • This event is certain to come. Those who ignore its approach will be caught off guard (Mark 13:32-37). The Day will come, when it is no longer 'near' but 'here' (Eze 39:8).
...as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee.
As Edom reaped what they sowed, so will the nations. Lam 4:21,22; Psa 137:8,9
...all the [nations] shall drink... they shall swallow down... they shall be as though they had not been.
The nations will drink the cup of God's wrath. Psa 75:8; Isa 51:22,23; 29:7,8; Jer 25:15-29
17. But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness;
and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame,
and the house of Esau for stubble,
and they shall kindle in them, and devour them;
and there shall not be [any] remaining of the house of Esau;
for the LORD hath spoken [it].
But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance {HB=peletah, an escaped remnant}...
The Day of the LORD which causes the nations to "be as though they had not been," will bring restoration to Israel and Jerusalem.
  • an escaped remnant of Israel "shall be" on the Temple mount. Isa 37:31,32; 10:20
  • holiness "shall be" characteristic of the people and of the place.
    Israel will find deliverance and holiness when they call on the One who purchased their salvation, with His own blood, upon mount Zion. Joel 2:32; Mat 23:37-39; Zech 12:10; 13:1
  • Israel "shall be" a fire and a flame, to consume their enemies.
    The house of Esau "shall not be." The natural, fleshly, ungodly men, who presently have dominion over the earth and over Israel, will be brought to their end in the Day of the LORD. In His power, Israel will have complete victory over their enemies. Mic 4:11-13; Zech 12:1-9
         Originally, 'the house of Jacob' referred to the entire nation which was descended from him. After the fall of the northern kingdom, the phrase was applied to Judah (eg., Jer 5:20). But in the Day of the LORD, Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel) and the house of Joseph (the northern kingdom of Israel) will be united as one nation, in this victory. Eze 37:16-22
...the house of Jacob (ie., all twelve tribes of Israel) shall possess their possessions...
The word 'possess' {HB=yarash} means to 'seize, take possession of, inherit.' They will actively and by force retake the land, which the nations divided and took from them, though it was given to them by the LORD.
     When His people turn again to Him, the LORD will restore to them "the things which belong unto [their] peace" (Luk 19:41,42).
19 And [they of] the south shall possess the mount of Esau;
and [they of] the plain the Philistines:
and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria:
and Benjamin [shall possess] Gilead.
20 And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel
[shall possess] that of the Canaanites, [even] unto Zarephath;
and the captivity of Jerusalem, which [is] in Sepharad,
shall possess the cities of the south.
21 And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau;
and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S.
and they... shall 'possess' {HB=yarash, seize, take possession of, inherit (same word as in v.17)}...
In v.19-20, this word occurs 3 times in the HB text, and is implied twice more (as supplied by the translators). Israel will capture the land which the nations had stolen from them.
  • they of the south {Negev}... the mount of Esau. -
    Israelites dwelling in the southern part of Judah, which had been usurped as Idumea, will retake their land and also the land which previously belonged to the descendants of Esau. Num 24:18,19
  • they of the plain {HB=shephelah, lowlands}... the Philistines. -
    The coastal lowlands, currently occupied by the 'Palestinians' will become the property of Israel. Isa 11:13,14
  • they shall possess the fields of Ephraim and... Samaria.-
    The land currently known as 'Judea and Samaria,' which the gentile nations regard as illegally 'occupied' by Israel, will no longer be contested territory. Rather, everyone will understand that this is part of Israel's rightful inheritance.
  • Benjamin... Gilead. -
    The smallest of Israel's tribes will expand into Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River. This region is currently under the control of the modern country of Jordan.
  • the captivity... that of the Canaanites unto Zarephath. -
    The children of Israel who had been taken captive by the hosts {armies} of the nations, will take possession of the coastal lands north of current 'Palestinian' held territory. Zarephath was a small town in the region of Tyre and Sidon. (Elijah took refuge there, during the reign of wicked king Ahab [1Kin 17:9,10]. In that region, also, Jesus healed the daughter of a woman of Canaan [Mat 15:21-28].)
  • the captivity {ie., exiles} of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad {meaning 'separated'}... the cities of the south. -
    Exiles driven from Jerusalem, during her several captivities, will return from the places to which they were scattered. The cities of the south {Negev} will increase in number and size to accommodate them. Several locations have been suggested for 'Sepharad,' including the country of Spain and the city of Sardis (in western Turkey), due to similarities in the Hebrew names for these places. It seems probable that the term is intended, not to identify a specific place of exile, but rather to indicate that the Jewish exiles will be regathered to Israel, from wherever they were separated from their holy city. Psa 137:1-6; Jer 32:44; Hos 1:10,11; Amos 9:12-15
...saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau...
In the days of the judges, the LORD raised up saviours to deliver His people, when they cried unto Him (eg., Judg 2:16; 3:9; 2Kin 13:5). Likewise, when Israel cries out to Him in the Day of the LORD, He will deliver them.
     The plural 'saviours' refers, first, in the 'plural of majesty,' to the great Saviour (Isa 19:20; Joel 2:32; Mic 5:4,5; Rom 11:26). Yet, His appointed representatives will also be involved in judging the nations (eg., Zech 9:11-17; 10:5-12; Luk 22:29,30; 1Cor 6:2,3; Rev 20:4).
     Here (v.21), "the mount {HB=har, hill} of Esau" refers not to the land of Edom, but to the world dominion of natural fleshly men (in the likeness of Esau). The kingdoms of this world will be judged (Rev 11:15).
and the Kingdom shall be the LORD's.
This is the end to which God's people pray (Mat 6:10,13).
It is the purpose of God which cannot be thwarted by the nations (Psa 2:1-9; 102:15,16; Isa 9:6,7).
The LORD {the ever living One} is the King, whose dominion is rightly over all, forever. Dan 7:14,27; Zech 14:9; Luk 1:32,33; Rev 1:7-8,18; 11:15; 19:6

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