Lesson 1 - Obadiah 1:1-4, 10-17 - Enemies of God's People
INTRODUCTION: We begin a new quarter that will comprise a study of eight of the twelve OT Minor Prophets. They are classified as "minor," not because their messages are less important but only because they are shorter in length. And they appear roughly in chronological order, although the dating of some of them is uncertain. Today, we'll start with the Book of Obadiah, which is distinguished as the shortest book in the OT (440 words), though there are three shorter books in the NT. While the book is clearly Canon (an internal structure that demonstrates it was inspired by God), the identity and origins of the writer Obadiah are largely uncertain. There are 12 Obadiahs named in the OT, and the writer of this prophecy could have been any one of them. The date it was written is also very unclear and might have any time between 840 and 530 B.C. The message of the book, however, is very straightforward: Edom, along with all the other nations that oppose Israel's God and His people, will experience God's retribution, while God's people will receive restoration.
Read Obadiah 1:1 - A VISION CONCERNING EDOM
1 The vision of Obadiah. This is what the Lord GOD says concerning Edom-We have heard a report from the LORD, And a messenger has been sent among the nations saying, "Arise, and let's go up against her for battle"-
v. 1a: "The vision of Obadiah." - The name "Obadiah" in Hebrew translates to "servant of Yahweh," and this prophecy was received by him in the form of a vision.
v. 1b: "This is what the Lord God says concerning Edom-We have heard a report from the Lord, And a messenger has been sent among the nations saying, "Arise, and let's go up against her for battle"- We know that the Edomites were descended from Esau, twin brother of Jacob, who was knick-named "Edom," which literally means "red," probably a reference to his hair color. Edom, a region to south of Judah, had been a historical enemy of Israel from the time of the Exodus (ca. 1260 B.C) all the way up to the Babylonian conquest and exile (587 B.C.)
Read Obadiah 1: 2-4 - I WILL MAKE YOU SMALL AMONG THE NATIONS
2 "Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You are greatly despised. 3 The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, The one who lives in the clefts of the rock, On the height of his dwelling place, Who says in his heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?' 4 Though you make your home high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down," declares the LORD.
v. 2: "Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You are greatly despised." - Edom was already a backwater, an insignificant political and economic entity among the various nations of the Ancient Near East, and God promised and planned to bring them down even further.
v. 3a: "The arrogance of your heart has deceived you," - This phrase is the key that unlocks the central moral lesson of this prophecy: The outstanding trait of Edom's national character was pride. The Hebrew for "arrogance" (zadon) literally means to boil up. The sin of pride can also a be a stumbling block for Christians, whenever we allow ourselves to think we're superior to others.
v. 3b: "The one who lives in the clefts of the rock, On the height of his dwelling place, Who says in his heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?'" - The Edomites thought they were better because they inhabited a mountainous region. They believed they were secure from attack due to the natural protection provided by the terrain that surrounded their populated areas. This brings to mind modern day Switzerland, not in terms of pride but its impregnable natural features. The irony of Edom's pride is that nothing can hide from YHWH, the all-powerful Creator.
v. 4: "'Though you make your home high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,' declares the LORD." - The image of an eagle, with its nest perched on a virtually unreachable mountain peak, makes the Edomite's superior attitude even more evident. The irony of this verse is that even if the Edomites were capable of building a refuge as high as the stars in the heavens (an exaggeration), they still could not make themselves safe from the power and might of Yahweh, who is the almighty Creator of everything in existence. Since He Himself had declared it, God would burst their bubble of pride. It was already a fact in future history.
Summary of skipped vv. 5-9: These verses foretell that Edom's trusted allies, notably Egypt and Babylon, will treacherously betray them; and that their wise men, mighty warriors, and leaders would be destroyed. In short, God's judgment against them would be complete.
Read Obadiah 1:10-14 - BECAUSE OF THE VIOLENCE TO YOUR BROTHER JACOB
10 "Because of violence to your brother Jacob, Shame will cover you, And you will be eliminated forever. 11 On the day that you stood aloof, On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, And foreigners entered his gate And cast lots for Jerusalem-You too were as one of them. 12 Do not gloat over your brother's day, The day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah
On the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast On the day of their distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of My people On the day of their disaster. You indeed, do not gloat over their catastrophe On the day of their disaster. And do not lay a hand on their wealth On the day of their disaster. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads To eliminate their survivors; And do not hand over their refugees On the day of their distress.
v. 10a: "Because of violence to your brother Jacob, Shame will cover you," - Pride was not the only reason that God would humble Edom. The Edomites had also cursed the very people whom God had intended to bless, the Israelites. And in doing this, they had incurred God's wrath. (Long before Obadiah's time, in Gen. 12:3, God had promised Abram "I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.") In the context of this prophecy, the word "violence" (Heb. Hamas) includes both physical harm and moral wrong, in that a sin against a family member, in this case, a brother, is more grave than sins against others. You might recall that Hamas is also the modern name for the Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip.
v. 10b: "And you will be eliminated forever" - By 400 B.C., Edom has ceased to exist as a recognizable people, while the remnant of Judah had survived and grown.
v. 11-14: "In the day that you stood aloof, On the day that strangers carried off his wealth, And foreigners entered his gate And cast lots for Jerusalem-You too were as one of them. 12 Do not gloat over your brother's day, The day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah On the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast On the day of their distress. 13 Do not enter the gate of My people On the day of their disaster. You indeed, do not gloat over their catastrophe On the day of their disaster. And do not lay a hand on their wealth On the day of their disaster. 14 Do not stand at the crossroads To eliminate their survivors; And do not hand over their refugees On the day of their distress." - Although some scholars differ, these verses appear to be a direct reference to the siege and conquest of Jerusalem (586-587 B.C.). In this event, the Edomites not only failed to come to the aid of their Israelite brothers, but attacked and killed many of the fleeing Judahite inhabitants and captured many others in order to hand them over to the Babylonians as captives-essentially slaves. The Edomites were guilty of four classes of sin: (1) omission-they did nothing to help their Israelite brothers; (2) they rejoiced in their calamity and suffering; (3) they took advantage of them when they were vulnerable; and (4) they joined in the violence against them. As Christians, we need to be careful about our attitudes when we see disaster and calamity visited upon some people we don't especially like or approve of, even those who might rejoice at our misfortune.
Read Odadiah 1:15-17 - THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR
15 "For the day of the LORD is near for all the nations. Just as you have done, it will be done to you.
Your dealings will return on your own head. 16 For just as you drank on My holy mountain, All the nations will drink continually. They will drink to the last drop, And become as if they had never existed. 17 But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, And it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their property.
Note: References to the work and word of God frame this next series of passages. Obadiah announces a reversal of roles was coming for Edom and for all nations, and as is true of many of the prophetical books, this one ends with a promise of Israel's restoration in the future.
v. 15a: "For day of the LORD is near for all the nations." - The "day of the LORD" as termed here is a future day when God will reverse the fortunes of Israel and the nations. It is a common expression of the prophets which generally refers to any time when God intervenes in human affairs to accomplish His sovereign will; however, the "day of the LORD" to which Obadiah refers will be the day when God establishes His rule over human affairs, specifically, when Jesus Christ returns to rule and reign over the earth. All those many, many years ago, Obadiah prophesied that this day was coming. Edom's punishments that resulted in its demise as a nation millennia before the return of Christ to rule is just one part of a chain of judgments on nations which will culminate in the end-times.
15b: "Just as you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head." - The judgment on Edom will be based on fair justice; God will deal out simple justice, no more and no less. Their punishment will be in proportion to their sinful deeds. Sometimes we would rather crush our enemies, blot them out completely, rather than give them fair justice. Because God is merciful to us, we must be careful to temper our justice with mercy.
v. 16a: "For just as you drank on My holy mountain," - Edom had its day on the Lord's " holy mountain," when it failed to help its brother, Israel, and likewise all the other nations would have their "day," subjugating Jerusalem and the Jews. Centuries after Obadiah spoke this prophecy, Jesus warned His disciples about the end times and told them that Jerusalem would, "be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled." (Luke 21:24). This actually happened in 586 B.C., when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and removed the last vestige of Israel's sovereignty as a nation. The eventual destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. followed as a afterthought. This "time of the Gentiles" will not completely end until Christ returns to earth and restores Israel's sovereignty.
v. 16b: All the nations will drink continually. They will drink to the last drop, And become as if they had never existed." Here, Obadiah is describing that Israel's enemies over the ages would celebrate Israel's demise to the extent of becoming completely oblivious to the real danger, i.e., oblivious to the consequences of God's wrath, oblivious to a holy and righteous God who never breaks a promise.
v. 16c: "And become as if they had never existed." - These nations which cursed God's people-Israel-will be utterly obliterated when judgment comes. Yet, there will be a remnant of some nations during the Millenium, when Christ returns to rule. About this, the prophet Isaiah said, "And He will judge between the nations, And will mediate for many peoples; And they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning knives. Nation will not lift up a sword against nation, And never again will they learn war" (Isa. 2:2-4). Thus, when Jesus returns, only those from the nations that have specifically called on the LORD'S name will enter the Millennial Kingdom. They will be under one king-Jesus Christ-and will no longer pose a threat to Israel's existence. Therefore, the nations as we know them today will no longer exist once the 1,000-year Millennial reign of Christ begins. Obadiah's specific prophecy against Edom can be seen as one small step in the destruction of the old order, one that had troubled Israel since the time of the Exodus.
v. 17a: "But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, And it will be holy." - This verse contrast the fate of Israel-restoration-with that of Edom-complete extinction. The phrase, "those who escape," a reference to the Jewish Diaspora (there were actually three that transpired over many centuries), described Jews who escaped from Israel and migrated to other parts of the world. And the present-day political state of Israel, which is predominantly secular, does not qualify as fulfillment. "Mount Zion," a metaphor for Jerusalem, will not become "holy" once again until Christ returns to rule during the Millennium.
v. 17b: "And the house of Jacob will possess their property." - In the Millennial Kingdom, Israel will be restored to the borders that existed during the Davidic kingdom, and all of God's covenants with Israel will be completely fulfilled.
APPLICATION-God's Justice is Perfect No One Can Hide From God
1. The sin of pride typically leads to more sin. The outstanding feature of Edoms national character was pride. Their secure physical location led them to believe they were safe from their neighbors and could take unfair advantage of them. They not only failed to come to the aid of their brother nation-Israel--but participated in the violence perpetrated against it. This can be a stumbling block for Christians who think themselves to be superior to others. Yes, we are better-off but not better.
2. It doesn't pay to oppose God's people. Pride wasn't the Edomite's only shortcoming. The Edomites accumulated a history of cursing the very people whom God blessed-the Israelites, and in Judgment, God essentially wiped them off the face of the earth. God will judge our enemies, too, and we will see this on the "Day of the Lord" (v. 15), when Jesus Christ returns to rule the world. At that point, He will restore Israel, and only nations which have called on the name of the Lord will be allowed to survive for His 1,000-year Millennial reign.