J. B. Hewitt, Chesterfield
Obadiah was a name common among the Jews and several occurrences are found in the Old Testament, but there is nothing to indicate that any of them wrote this book. The name means “worshipper” or “servant of Jehovah”, and this book proves that the prophet lived up to his name.
Authority. This is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It is a brilliant prophetic cameo. It comes as a message of Jehovah against a proud and cruel nation and reveals that retribution falls on resolute sinfulness.
Date. The Revised Version rendering of verses 11-14 (e.g., “look not” instead of “thou shouldest not have looked”) would seem to indicate that the prophecy was uttered before the fall of Jerusalem, and not after it. The writer explains in detail the cause of the overthrow of Edom as referred to in Joel and Amos. Certain verses in Jeremiah (e.g., 49. 7-22) apparently quoted from this book, make it probable that the capture referred to is that by Nebuchadnezzar. The prophecy may have been spoken between the fall of Jerusalem in 586 b.c. and the subjugation of Edom by Nebuchadnezzar in 581 b.c., Ps. 137. 7; Lam. 4. 21-22; Ezek. 25. 12-14.
The book gives the character, career, condemnation and downfall of Edom. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, and the prophet reveals them as proud, bitter, and resentful, ever seeking an opportunity to harm Jacob’s descendants. As the servant of Jehovah, the writer shows that God is the Righteous Ruler, and although Israel may be suffering from the cruelty of her ancient enemy Edom, God will deal in judgment because of His holiness. This book strikingly illustrates the truth of Numbers 32. 23, “be sure your sin will find you out”. The prophecy concludes with a promise of restoration for Israel, v. 17-21.
Edom was a descendant of Esau, and Israel from Jacob. Antagonism was manifest in the family circle and continued when they became two nations, Edom and Israel, Gen. 25. 22; Num. 20. 18-21; 1 Sam. 14. 47; 2 Chron. 20. 22. Of all the nations who afflicted the Jews, the chief were the Assyrians, the Chaldeans and the Edomites; and three of the prophets were commissioned specially to pronounce their destruction. Nahum foretells the destruction of the Assyrian, Habakkuk that of the Chaldeans, and Obadiah the destruction of Edom. The antagonism of Edom to Judah came to a head in the time of Christ. According to the flesh He was a Jew; Herod, king of the Jews was an Edomite. To him our Lord never spoke, suggested by Luke 23. 8-9. This book warns the nations in all ages of the peril of Jew-baiting, anti-semitism, or hatred of the Jews, whose cause God Himself will undertake, and whose enemies He will destroy. The evil is pride and violence, v. 3, the issue, retribution and judgment. Historically, the book tells the story of the destruction of Edom and allegorically sets forth the destruction of the flesh, Gal. 5. 6, 16.
The key verses are 15-21, and the phrases “day of the Lord”, “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”, clearly point to the final “day of the Lord”. The kingdom of Edom may be revived in the last days and “all” the heathen will be effaced. This refers to the destruction of the Gentile armies at Armageddon. They will assist the armies of the Anti-Christ against the Jew, even as their forefathers assisted Nebuchadnezzar. Then Israel shall possess her possessions in the millennium, v. 17. The Edomites will be extinguished, v. 18, though this was partially fulfilled by Titus in a.d. 70. Their land will be annexed. This will probably be done by the Lord acting on Israel’s behalf, Joel 3. 19-20. The land of Edom will remain a desolation and thus will be a permanent warning to the millennial nations of the fate that awaits those who are the antagonists of God’s chosen people. The end of all prophecy is “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”.
This little book has a twofold message for our day, (1) Sin, vv. 3-4; 10-14; and (2) Salvation and Sovereignty, vv. 17, 21.
- Sin. Pride is the sin of sins, v. 3a, and the sin of our day among those who profess to follow the Lord, who was “meek and lowly”. This leads to five other sins, independence, v. 3b; injury, v. 10; indifference, v. 11; indulgence, v. 12; and interference, v. 14. Note “thou stoodest on the other side”, v. 11 and “thou shouldest not”, vv. 12, 13, 14. The message therefore which Obadiah has to bring to us is the sin of neutrality. If we are to play the man at all it is impossible to be neutral. The church needs men of conviction and character, to stand in moments of grave moral issue. How much injury have you caused to your brother by passive or active opposition? Have you rejoiced in the calamities that have befallen others? How many saints have we cut off by scandal, v. 14? Are we like the priest and the Levite, passing by on the other side, Luke 10. 32, doing nothing for God or man?
- Salvation. In contrast to the man of pride of heart, which is deceptive, presumptive and destructive, v. 3, there is the coming day of victory - “deliverance”, v. 17, sanctity - “holiness”, and security - possess your possessions. Do you live up to your name as the Lord’s servant? Are you serving the Lord, or criticising those who do? Do you really worship the Lord? or are there other objects of interest and affection and He only has second place? The Lord is looking for men like Obadiah today! The secret of Jacob’s history is that he was prompted “by faith”, Heb. 11. 21. The secret of Esau’s degeneration is that he was a “profane person”, Heb. 12. 16.
THE DOOM OF EDOM
- The revelation of Edom’s shame, 1-9.
- The Human Messenger, Obadiah, Ia.
- The Divine Message, the vision and the voice, Ia-9. Diminished, small, despised, 2; Deceived and defiant, 3; Self-deification, as the eagle, 4; Self-protection, among the stars, 4; Degraded by the Lord, cut off, 5; Despoiled by the enemy, they had enough, 5; Deserted by friends, deceived, against thee, 7; destroyed by the Lord, their wise and mighty, 8-9.
- The record of Edom’s sin, 10-14.
- Their Sin Defined, violence, 10a.
- Their Sin Denounced, shame cover thee, 10b.
- Their Sin Detailed, 11-14.
- Note : Refusing Judah help, 11; Rejoicing over calamity, 12; Ravaging their cities, 13; Resisting their escape, 14.
- The retribution for Edom’s sin, 15-21.
- The Day of Retribution, day of the Lord near, 15.
- The Law of Retribution, as thou hast, 15.
- Revelry and Ribaldry, 16.
- Rescue and Retribution, 17.
- Israel Established and Enriched, 17.
- Edom Extinguished, fire and stubble, 18-19.
- The Endless Kingdom, the Lord’s 21.
Meditate on carnal security and its end, 3-4; callous, cold indifference, 11; the blessings of victory, 17-18.