|Vol. 1, No. 4||Page 4||April 1999|
AuthorThe name Obadiah means "servant of Yahweh." Other than his good name, little is known about Obadiah. There is, perhaps, more speculation than fact relating to his historical identity. The book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament and reveals nothing personal about the prophet.
DateThe exact date of this prophecy is hard to determine. "The date of Obadiah's work is ascribed to periods ranging from 845 to 400 B.C. However, the two most probable dates are 845 and 586 B.C. or shortly thereafter" (Homer Hailey, A Commentary On The Minor Prophets, p. 28).
Some of the arguments against the late date are as follows: There is no mention of Babylon or the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar. There is no mention of Jerusalem or the temple. There is no mention of refugees fleeing to Egypt.
The following are some of the arguments for the early date: The book of Obadiah is listed with the pre-Assyrian prophets in the canon. Jeremiah quoted from Obadiah; therefore, the book of Obadiah was written before the book of Jeremiah. The enemies as described in Obadiah were from early history. Verses 19 and 20 speak of the Judeans repossessing their land. This did not happen after they were carried away in Assyrian and Babylonian captivity.
There is an abundance of material available where the arguments for the date of this book are set forth. In this overview, we have not pursued these many arguments in detail. The simple point that must be made, however, is this: the book of Obadiah was a prophecy, therefore, it was written sometime before the destruction of Edom.
PurposeThe purpose of Obadiah's writing and the subject of his prophecy are easily understood. Obadiah prophesied of Edom's certain judgment and doom. The judgement would be just and extensive. However, God's people would enjoy victory and blessings.
EdomThe Edomites were the descendants of Esau. Hostility between the Edomites and the Israelites, who were the descendants of Jacob, started in the womb.
"Now Isaac pleaded with the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived. But the children struggled together within her; and she said, 'If all is well, why am I like this?' So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her: 'Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.' So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them" (Genesis 25:21-26).The brothers, Esau and Jacob, eventually overcame the hostility which existed between them, however, the hostility of the resulting nations continued for many years. It, perhaps, culminated in one event, which set the tone for relations between these two nations for many years.
"Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. 'Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that has befallen us, how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. When we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King's Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.' Then Edom said to him, 'You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.' So the children of Israel said to him, 'We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.' Then he said, 'You shall not pass through.' So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him" (Numbers 20:14-21).At the time of Moses' confrontation with the Edomites, God did not allow the Israelites to engage them in battle due to the blood ties which existed between them. "You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother" (Deuteronomy 23:7a). However, by the time of Saul's reign there was war between these two nations. King David also fought against the Edomites.
"The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the Lord, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, 'Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle')"(Obadiah 1:1). Though the Israelites under Saul and David had done battle with the Edomites in the past, it would be the heathen nations whom God would use to bring about her utter destruction. One must wonder how many opportunities this nation had to repent as did the city of Nineveh in Jonah's day. Yet, they remained proud and arrogant before God and man, and as a result, their downfall was certain.
"Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to the ground?' Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,' says the Lord" (Obadiah 1:2-4).The Edomites literally dwelled in the mountains. Due to location their city was easily defended. They became so arrogant that they believed themselves to be unconquerable. They believed themselves to be so great that falling was impossible. Yet, the Lord said, "From there I will bring you down."
This same attitude exists today. We may not literally dwell in the lofty mountains, as did the Edomites; however, an exaggerated sense of "self" may cause us to be guilty of the same arrogance. It may be that the materialistic society in which we live cultivates a false sense of security in our abilities and accomplishments. This may cause us to look down from a self-erected podium with the belief that we cannot fall. If our attitude is similar to that of the Edomites, the result will also be the same. Anyone at any time who is not obedient to God will fall, perhaps sooner, but certainly no later than the great day of judgement.
"If thieves had come to you, If robbers by night--Oh, how you will be cut off!--Would they not have stolen till they had enough? If grape-gatherers had come to you, Would they not have left some gleanings (Obadiah 1:5)?This is one reason that Edom had a poor reputation among the nations. Not only did they plunder at every opportunity, but also their appetite for plunder was never satiated. They could never get enough. The point made here is that even thieves have a concept of "enough." If the vineyards were raided there would have been some grapes left behind. But Edom took everything from those around them and wanted more. This is also an attitude that can be seen today. It is not limited to those who physically plunder or steal. Anyone who allows his appetite for the things of this world to overwhelm his service to God displays this attitude. So many in our society want more of everything, but more is never enough. This desire to obtain "more" results in the robbing of God. Because so much time and energy is spent in obtaining the pleasures of the world we rob God of the time and service which we ought to dedicate to Him. We need to do what the Edomites did not do. We need to allow our appetite for worldly things to be easily satiated and humble ourselves in service to God.
"Oh, how Esau shall be searched out! How his hidden treasures shall be sought after! All the men in your confederacy shall force you to the border; The men at peace with you shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it" (Obadiah 1:6-7).Edom would receive what it had dished out. Edom took everything from those whom it plundered. In like manner, everything would be taken from Edom. Even those who appeared to be friends would be enemies. The destruction of Edom would be total.
"Will I not in that day," says the Lord, 'Even destroy the wise men from Edom, And understanding from the mountains of Esau? Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau may be cut off by slaughter'" (Obadiah 1:8-9).This verse also deals with the total destruction of Edom. Edom was known for its wise men. Especially the wise men of Teman which was Edom's southernmost city. They would have nothing left in reserve. Both their wisdom and strength would be destroyed. Even the safety of their mountains would be cut off. As was the case with Edom, the same is true today. When we rely on anything other than the things of God we are sure to fall. The worldly things we set store by may seem powerful. We may be secure in our science, philosophy and abilities, but none of these things can save a soul or turn aside the wrath of God. Obedience to God was all that could have saved Edom and it is all that can save us.
"For violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side--In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, when foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem--Even you were as one of them" (Obadiah 1:10-11).Destruction was coming due to Edom's conduct at the time of Obadiah's prophecy, however, that was not the only reason. Doom was also coming upon them because of their treatment of Israel in the time of Moses and the exodus from Egypt. It would appear historically that Edom never supported or defended its brother Israel, but stood with the enemies of God's people.
"But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother in the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly in the day of distress. You should not have entered the gate of My people in the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads to cut off those among them who escaped; Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained in the day of distress" (Obadiah 1:12-14).These verses reflect a deep-seated hatred. We have seen previously that the Edomites were a worldly, self-absorbed, opportunistic people. But they took joy in the sufferings of Israel even when they had nothing to gain by it. They not only wished harm to befall the people of God, but they would "kick them when they were down." What sad conduct in any age for people to desire their fellow human beings to suffer and to stand ready to cause or add to that suffering.
"For the day of the Lord upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. For as you drank on my holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And they shall be as though they had never been" (Obadiah 1:15-16).Edom would not be the only nation which would face the judgement of God. The day was approaching when all those that stood in opposition to God would face His divine wrath. Again it is stated that Edom would reap what it had sown. The same was true of the other nations who opposed God. Edom, specifically, had desecrated God's Holy Mountain by its conduct and attitude. Their ungodly attitude would cause them to be swept away as utterly and completely as if they had never existed at all.
"'But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,' for the Lord has spoken" (Obadiah 1:17-18).In this time of judgement the world would seemingly be turned upside down with chaos reigning. In the midst of the chaos there would be one safe haven. That haven of deliverance would be Mount Zion. That simply means that deliverance was to be found only in God. In our chaotic world the same is true. No matter the alternatives presented by man, no matter the sorrow we experience, salvation is found only in obedience to God. The United Kingdom of Israel and Judah would consume Edom as a flame consumes dry wood. The destruction would be so complete that not one Edomite would remain.
"The South shall possess the mountains of Esau, and the Lowland shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim and the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. And the captives of this host of the children of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the South. Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord's" (Obadiah 1:19-21).Edom would be physically overthrown. It would literally be wiped from the face of the earth. But a spiritual truth is also found in these verses. God's people shall overcome. In every nation under all circumstances God's people will overcome. The Kingdom of God is the only refuge. It is attainable to all who will humble themselves in obedience to God.
ConclusionWe can learn a great deal from the fall of Edom. As long as men are arrogant, self-absorbed and opportunistic, Edom should serve as a warning. No individual or nation can soar beyond God's reach. No one can escape the judgement of God. The Creator's judgment is certain and it is final.