STUDY OF OBADIAH

STUDY OF OBADIAH

INTRODUCTION


Obadiah is, by word count, the shortest book in the Old Testament. Few are more powerful. Although the date is disputed, it may also be the oldest minor prophetic book. In this day and age we are all aware of the conflict between Isaac and Ishmael, but this book  is about an older and stronger antipathy which is between Jacob and Esau, and  the book's prophecy focuses on the descendants of Esau called Edom. Obadiah’s name means servant of Yahweh, and that is surely what he is. This entire prophecy is an indictment of Edom, and an encouragement to the faithful of Jacob which is Israel, and it is a conversation between Jahweh and the parties. The content will be examined under three headings: the swaggering, the shame, and the salvation.

I THE SWAGGERING

No indictment of Edom is more on target than pride. The Bible has a lot to say about pride in a vast multitude of verses and none of it good. In James 4 we read, But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” and, among numerous verses in Proverbs are these, Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall: and Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them. The Edomites were the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, as mentioned in Genesis 36:43, and they lived in the mountainous regions south of the Dead Sea. The stronghold of their capitol was a city called Petra, a place tourists still visit today. The reason is that Petra is a remarkable towering wall covered with caves and carvings. We once showed a Moody Sermon from Science film at our church that told the story of this allegedly unassailable monument to pride and how it was conquered as the prophets of Israel had predicted. First defeated by Nabatean Arabs and then by others until it became a wasteland roamed by jackals as God said. Thus we read in Obadiah 1-8, The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom—We have heard a message from the Lord:    An envoy was sent to the nations to say,“Rise, let us go against her for battle”— “See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord. “If thieves came to you, if robbers in the night—oh, what a disaster awaits you!—would they not steal only as much as they wanted? If grape pickers came to you, would they not leave a few grapes? But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged! All your allies will force you to the border; your friends will deceive and overpower you; those who eat your bread will set a trap for you, but you will not detect it. “In that day,” declares the Lord,    “will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, those of understanding in the mountains of Esau? We cannot help  but be reminded of Paul’s quotation in I Corinthians 1:18 and 19. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

II THE SHAME

The crushing of Edom’s pride is attributed here to their sin and shame over their treatment of Jacob, Esau’s Brother. Esau hated Jacob which is the exact opposite of God who said in Malachi 1:2-4, and Paul quotes in Romans 9, “Jacob have I loved, and Esau I have hated.” According to the Bible, Esau’s hand was always against his brother. He even plotted once to kill Jacob because he had deceived his father Isaac into giving him a blessing. And later when the children of Israel were seeking safe passage on their way to the promised land, Esau’s descendants refused to allow Israel permission to travel through their territory. And so we read in verses 9-18, Your warriors, Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau’s mountains    will be cut down in the slaughter. Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. On the day you stood aloof  while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. You should not gloat over your brother  in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much  in the day of their trouble. You should not march through the gates of my people    in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity  in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth  in the day of their disaster. You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors  in the day of their trouble. “The day of the Lord is near  for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you;    your deeds will return upon your own head. Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink  and be as if they had never been. But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;  it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance. Jacob will be a fire  and Joseph a flame; Esau will be stubble, and they will set him on fire and destroy him. There will be no survivors   from Esau.” The Lord has spoken. In earlier times Jacob, himself, had fled from Esau fearing his wrath. Jacob had gone along with his mother’s deceptive plan to trick Isaac, and Jacob received the promise that had been handed down from his grandfather, Abraham. Jacob’s twin brother, Esau, as the eldest son, felt that he should have the blessing. Esau was not interested in the spiritual part of the blessing, but only his share in the inheritance. He was furious with Jacob and vowed to kill him. The story is in Genesis 27. Esau said that as soon as his father died, he would kill Jacob. Rebekah feared for Jacob, so she told him to leave home at once and go stay with her brother Laban until Esau was no longer angry. Rebekah did not tell Isaac that Esau threatened Jacob. Instead she told him, “I’m sick and tired of these local Hittite women! I would rather die than see Jacob marry one of them.” So Isaac called for Jacob and told him not to marry a Canaanite woman. He told him to go to Rebekah’s family to find a wife. Then, through deception, Isaac gave Jacob the blessing that God had intended for him to have. This is the whole point that Paul makes in Romans 9, God’s sovereign will cannot be frustrated. Jacob I have loved, and Esau I have hated. Ultimately, human conduct conforms to His plan.

III THE SALVATION

The concluding verses of this chapter, 19-21, assert Jacob’s dominance in spite of all that has befallen the nation Israel. People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau, and people from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines. They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will possess Gilead.
This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev. Deliverers will go up on mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the Lord’s.
This is all the work of God’s sovereign grace. It is finally, fully, perfectly accomplished in the new heavens and the new earth. The meek shall inherit the earth, and the meek are those who trust in Yahweh. The most sublime illustration is the Edomite king that Rome appoints over Israel in the time of Jesus. Yes, Herod, that wicked king was an Edomite (also called idumaean.) During his wicked reign he murdered members of his own family and attempted to destroy the new born king, Jesus. It has been observed, “Never did Israel encounter foes more dangerous to her higher interests than in the Idumean dynasty of the Herods.”  Herod, the great, attempted to kill  Jesus by slaughtering all the babies in Bethlehem. His son, Herod Antipas, helped to confirm the death of our Lord at His trial turning Him over to the Jewish opposition. His grandson, Herod Agrippa, Murdered James the Apostle.  His great grandson, Herod Agrippa II, presided over the final trial of the Apostle Paul, and shipped him off to Rome. After him, the family fell out of favor with Rome. In just over one generation the entire family was gone, some died terrible deaths, and the hand of God was displayed in judgment over Edom. We should take a lesson from this. God’s threats are not idle. Did the Lord lay waste to the stronghold of Petra and give it to the jackels? Oh yes. You see from 550 B.C. to 400 B.C. the Edomites were overrun by Nabatean Arabs who ransacked their territory. And although Petra was inhabited by others up until the time the Crusaders conquered it, afterwards the city was completely deserted to the jackals until being rediscovered by archaeologists in the late 1800’s. But His promises are even more sure, and you are an example of that through faith in Jesus. The enemies of the Church are the enemies of God and they will perish. The friends of God will enjoy a glorious future.