The book was written by Obadiah, whose name means worshipper of Jehovah, but nothing is known about the writer’s background. There are twelve Obadiahs mentioned in the Old Testament.
The Edomites, relatives of Israel tracing their descendants back to Esau (Gen. 25:21-26), Jacob’s twin brother, lived in a mountainous region called Sier southeast of the Dead Sea and reaching to the Gulf of Akabah. The capital of Edom, Sela (Isa. 16:1; 42:11), modem-day Petra, was long thought to be impregnable because of its precarious position and difficulty of access. The Edomites, believing that they were unconquerable, developed a fierce independent spirit which fostered pride and a false security.
Hostility arose when Edom refused to allow the Israelites passage through their land on their way to Canaan (Num. 20:14-21). Israel was instructed not to hate Edom because they were related (Dt. 23:7). But the hostility lasted for centuries (Ezek. 35:5), especially with Saul (1 Sam. 14:47), David (2 Sam. 8:13-16), Joab (1 Ki. 11:16), and Solomon ( l Ki. 11:17-22).
God would judge Edom for encouraging the Babylonians to destroy Judah (Ps. 137:7) in 586 B.C. In the sixth and fifth centuries the Nabateans drove most Edomites out of their land (Obad. 7), and those who remained were absorbed by the Nabatean Arabs. The expelled Edomites settled in southern Judah which they called by the Greek name Idumea. In 120 B.C. the Idumeans were subdued by John Hyrcanus who forced them to embrace Judaism. The Idumeans joined Judah in their rebellion against Rome (70 A.D.) but were almost totally destroyed and eventually disappeared only to be remembered in history.
The exact date of Obadiah’s prophecy is unknown. Scholars suggest three time periods ranging from 845- 400 B.C. Three specific time periods are suggested: first, during the reign of Jehoram (848-841 B.C.) when Edom revolted against Judah (2 Ki. 8:20-22; 2 Chr. 21:8) and the Philistines and Arabians attacked Judah (2 Chr. 21:16-17); second, during the reign of Ahaz (731-715 B.C.) when Edom attacked Judah (2 Chr. 28: 17); third, during the Babylonian invasion of Judah (586 B.C.) when Edom assisted in the nation’s destruction (Ps. 137:7). Conservative scholars are divided between two views, the first and third, as to the time this prophecy was written.
Edom (9 times); cut off (3 times)
OUTLINE OF OBADIAH
I. VISION OF JUDGMENT OF EDOM (vv. 1-9)
- Jehovah’s Declaration (v. 1)
- Judgment Described (w. 2-9)
- People Despised (v. 2)
- Pride of Dwelling (v. 3)
- Petra’s Demise (v. 4)
- Possessions Devoured (w. 5-6)
- People Deserted (v. 7)
- Prudent Destroyed (w. 8-9)
II. VIOLENCE ON JUDAH FROM EDOM (vv. 10-14)
Edom’s Shame (v. 10)
- Reveled in Judah’s Captivity (v. 11)
- Rejoiced over Judah’s Calamity (v. 12)
- Robbed Judah in Crisis (v. 13)
- Ravished Judah at the Crossroads (v. 14a)
- Returned Jews to the Captors (v. 14b)
III. VENGEANCE OF JEHOVAH ON EDOM (vv. 15-21)
- Retribution on Israel’s Enemies (vv. 15-16)
- Day of Judgment (v. 15)
- Drinking in Judgment (v. 16)
- Restoration of Israel (w. 17-21)
- Reunited in the Land (v. 17)
- Removed from the Land (v. 18)
- Reoccupying the Land (w. 19-20)
- Rule in the Land (v. 21)
THE PRIDE OF EDOM Obadiah 1-9
History is replete with small nations who strut across the world stage, proudly flex their political muscles, then vanish into obscurity. Edom was such a nation. Her story is graphically detailed by Obadiah in the short book that bears his name. Although an obscure book, tucked away in the minor prophets and seldom read, it carries a contemporary message which 20th-century man and nations should read and heed. Edom, not unlike many nations, was proud, prejudiced, prosperous, and a persecutor of those living around her. She had been lulled into a false security, believing herself to be indestructible because of her impregnable position in the mountainous region of Sier. But God had other plans for Edom; judgment was about to fall upon her.
DECLARATION AGAINST EDOM
Edom had become powerful and prosperous, believing that she had control of her own destiny, but that was not the case. Scripture is clear: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1). It is God who raises nations to power and likewise destroys them.
The cup of Edam’s iniquity being full, God gave Obadiah a ”vision” (v. 1) of the nation’s impending judgment. In the vision Obadiah saw the Lord send “an ambassador” (messenger) throughout “the nations,” arousing them to “rise up…in battle” (v. 1) against Edom. This messenger could be either a prophet or, in this case, an angel. But when a nation declares war upon another nation, they usually send the message through their ambassador within that country.
Notice, the messenger said, “Arise” (v. 1), and the response from the nations was “let us rise up against her in battle.” Although the nations believe their attack against Edom is of their own making, God has put it in their hearts to accomplish His will.
The ambassador is sent out with royal authority, speaking not for himself but for his king and country. He is always brought home before war ensues in the country where he serves. The Christian, an ambassador with a message to deliver, is to speak boldly for his Lord (2. Cor. 5:20; Eph. 6:20).
DELUSION OF EDOM
God had made Edom “small among the nations” (v. 2) in territory, number of people, and honor. She had become “greatly despised” by her contemporaries. Edom was very proud of her dwelling place “in the clefts of the rock” (v. 3). She lay southeast of the Dead Sea in a rugged region known as the Arabah. The area was noted for its steep canyons, impregnable mountain strongholds, and well-protected caves. Perched on top of this natural fortress, Edom felt secure from her enemies and thus developed a superior attitude and an independent spirit. She defiantly challenged, “Who shall bring me down to the ground?” (v. 3).
Although Edom might seem impregnable from a human standpoint, she was accessible to God. The Lord said, “Though thou exalt thyself like the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, from there will I bring thee down” (v. 4).
Dr. Leslie C. Allen’s words are well-taken: “In their presumptuous pride they have reckoned without God. Over these puny creatures, sadly mistaken in their illusions of superhuman invincibility, looms the majestic figure of Yahweh. Like an eagle they are denizens of rocky heights, but were they likewise to soar into the sky above, they could not get beyond the reach of the long arm of divine justice …Earthbound mortals as they are, they present an easy prey for Yahweh despite their boasts.”1
Many today are proud of their dwelling place. It is called “pride of place.” They love to flaunt their address in order to impress others.
Edom was proud of her wealth, which was the result of her location on the crossroads of a major caravan trade route. She charged exorbitant duty to those who passed by, and she plundered caravans which were vulnerable and unable to bring reprisals against her. The nation also became wealthy from the mining of iron and copper.
Today some businessmen pride themselves in their strong financial fortification, whether it be in capital, stocks, or real estate. Having built his nest, the businessman says within himself, Who shall bring me down? God sees his pride and can bring him to ruin overnight (Ps. 37:35-36; ]as. 4:13-17).
Edom was proud of her wisdom and ability to develop peace agreements with larger nations guaranteeing her security (v. 7). Many today pride themselves in their intellectual abilities and use them for their own profit and advancement. God “disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise. He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (Job 5:12-13). Obadiah continued that God would “destroy the wise men out of Edom” (v. 8). It is no different today as modem man strives for houses, wealth, and intellect in which to take pride.
What does the Bible mean by pride? Pride has a negative connotation in Scripture and can be defined as “an over estimation of one’s self and importance while manifesting a belittling attitude towards others.” The proud person sees himself as superior to others.
Where did pride originate? Pride first appeared when Lucifer’s “heart was lifted up because of [his] beauty” (Ezek. 28:17). Proud of his position, Lucifer attempted to dethrone God and set up his own throne in Heaven (Isa. 14:12-14), but he failed and was cast to the ground. Failing to overthrow God, Satan used the same tactic on Eve. He tricked her, through pride, to act independent of God with the ultimate goal of self-deification. Satan said, “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The result of Eve’s action was that all of humanity was infected with the sin of pride (Rom. 1:21-23).
Pride touches everyone’s life, whether it be pride of place, race, or face. Hezekiah’s pride of wealth brought God’s judgment upon his family and land (2 Ki. 20:12- 19). Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was broken when his kingdom was taken from him (Dan. 4:31 ). He lived like a beast (Dan. 4:32) until he acknowledged the true God who is able to abase the proud (Dan. 4:37). Uzziah’s pride and sinful action made him a leper until his death (2 Chr. 26:16, 20-21).
What are the effects of pride upon mankind? Pride deceives the heart (Jer. 49:16), hardens the mind (Dan. 5:20), binds man like a chain (Ps. 73:6), brings shame (Prov. 11:2), and causes contention among people (Prov. 13:10).
How does God look upon pride? The Scripture clearly states that there are six things the Lord hates, the first of which is a proud look (Prov. 6:16-17; 8:13). It is an abomination (Prov. 16:5) which He will not tolerate (Ps. 101:5). He calls it sin (Prov. 21:4), and He resists those who practice it (Jas. 4:6), warning that the proud are headed for a fall and ultimate destruction (Prov. 16:18). Man has nothing to be proud of or to glory in, for all he has and is comes from God (1 Cor. 4:7). The believer is called upon to be “clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). It is the humble person whom God will exalt (1 Pet. 5:6).
Many believers do not see themselves as possessing pride, but upon closer examination, one’s pride becomes self-evident. Feelings of jealousy, ill-will, desire for position and prominence, resentment, believing oneself to be better than others, hostility, unjust criticism of others, boasting, insolence, arrogance, and ostentation often stem from the root of pride.
How is pride to be dealt with? The believer must hate what God hates, humble himself before the Lord, and ask Him to reveal areas of pride which need to be removed. Then the believer must work on removing that sin from his life and allow the Holy Spirit to mortify the deeds of his body (Rom. 8:13).
DESTRUCTION OF EDOM
Obadiah described the horrible destruction of Edom. First, their possessions were devoured. In verse five the prophet presented two illustrations concerning the taking of Edom’s possessions. It was the general practice for thieves to take only what they needed, or for gleaners of a vineyard to leave a few grapes rather than search under every leaf (v. 5). But this is not the case with Edom’s enemies. The horrors of Edom’s plunderage are described in two ways. The prophet asked, “How are the things of Esau searched out!” (v. 6). The enemy, unlike the thieves and gleaners mentioned in verse five, will turn over every stone in search of people and their property. “How are his hidden things sought out!” (v. 6). The most secure treasure of this proud people would be completely confiscated and the nation totally plundered; they would be helpless before their enemy.
Obadiah, anticipating the coming destruction of Edom, interposed an outburst of surprise and sympathy when he cried, “how art thou cut off!” (v. 5). Here is the heart of a true prophet who, rather than rejoicing over the destruction of his deadly enemy, laments their demise.
There is a lesson here for the believer who often harbors hatred for his enemies. We find the same principle in Christ’s teaching of “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Mt. 5:44).
Second, Edom would be deserted. Although Edom prided herself in alliances made with her neighbors to gain favorable trade relations and protection from other nations, those same “allies” in whom they trusted would become their enemies. It is possible that three groups of people are in view: first, Edom’s allies, “All the men of thy confederacy” (v. 7); second, her friends, “the men that were at peace with thee” (v. 7); and third, surrounding tribes, “they that eat thy bread” (v. 7).2 Although her allies were not named, they were most likely Moab, Ammon, Arabia, and possibly Gaza and Tyre with whom Edom carried on slave traffic (Amos 1:6-9).
Edom, deceived by her own pride (v. 3), would also be deceived by her allies (v. 7). Probably her allies would be allowed into Edom, perceive the secrets of its fortresses, and “trap” them in an ambush. Someone has well stated that there is no honor among thieves! Furthermore, destruction is more bitter when friends aid in it! The effects of their betrayal by so-called “friends” would stun and stupefy Edom; she would be left dumbfounded at what had happened and appear as one with “no understanding” (v. 7).
Obadiah’s third prediction regarding the horrible destruction of Edom was that the prudent men of Edom would be destroyed. By use of a rhetorical question, “Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom …?” (v. 8), God assured that this would take place. Edom had been noted for its wise men, but their wisdom would fail when they needed it most. Paul put it well, “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God…He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” ( 1Cor. 3:19).Human power and wisdom avail nothing against God.
The effects of God’s judgment would be twofold. First, “thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed” (v. 9). Teman, located in the southernmost part of Edom, was noted for its wisdom. It was from Teman that Eliphaz had come to comfort Job (Job 2:11). Second, Edom was to suffer total annihilation by her enemies. Most likely this was fulfilled during the intertestamental period when Arab tribes called the Nabateans destroyed Edom and drove the survivors into southern Judah (Jer. 49:7- 22; Ezek. 25:12-14). The people were stripped of their land and national identity, later to become known as Idumeans.
There are a number of valuable lessons which the Christian can glean from Obadiah’s prophecy. First, a nation should not put trust in its power or prosperity because either can be removed suddenly. Second, alliance with a wicked man can never serve God’s holy purpose: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2. Cor. 6:14).Third, the wealthy are warned, “He that trusteth in his riches shall fall” (Prov. 11:28). Fourth, worldly wisdom is foolishness with God: “He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” ( 1 Cor. 3:19). Fifth, it is important to remember that pride is one of the major causes of sin. What more can be said than, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). Has the “pride of thine heart deceived thee?” Maybe it is time for a spiritual checkup.
- Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1976), p. 147.
- Jerry Falwell, Liberty Bible Commentary: Obadiah (New York:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p. 1719.