Some think that the Obadiah of this book was the governor/chief steward of king Ahab’s household, when the kingdom was experiencing intense spiritual degeneracy. (This is why the book is so apt to read today, when a similar degeneracy applies to the West). Matthew Henry does not agree that this Obadiah is the one employed by Ahab. However, like Daniel, Obadiah maintained his own life with complete faithfulness to the Lord.
Whoever he really was, the book describes a vision given by God to Obadiah, that Edom would be destroyed and Israel restored. Though the shortest book in the Old Testament it contains a weighty matter. He sees the capture of Jerusalem before it happened, and, in typical Hebraic fashion, he speaks of it as if it had already taken place. Obadiah lived about 400 years before Christ. He sees the Edomites joining forces with the Chaldeans and Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Israel and capture Jerusalem. For this reason, Obadiah was sent by God to declare His judgment upon Edom.
The prophecy was written just before, or about the time of, the destruction of Jerusalem. Edom is a type of God’s and Israel’s last foe, which makes it highly pertinent in today’s politico-religious environment, in which both Israel and Christians are surrounded on all sides by hateful enemies bent on destroying both. The conclusion is that in the end God will win, the enemy will be vanquished, and the kingdom will be supreme.
Edom (‘red’, and, through several roots, adam) is another name for Esau, whose descendants lived in a mountainous region called Edom, which ran from the head of the gulf of Akabah to the foot of the Dead Sea, a wild and rugged land, with fruitful valleys interspersed. The Edomites displaced the original inhabitants, the Horites, by war (and yet intermarried with them). They later opposed the kings of Judah and Israel, and refused to allow them free passage in their land, remaining hostile to Israel during its gradual decline, and waging war against it.
Though allied to the Chaldeans, Edom was slowly absorbed by Chaldean power until the Edomites eventually disappeared. Today, one of their chief cities, Petra, is barren and uninhabited, the people and language removed from time and history. The end of all who oppose God and His people.
By language and blood, the Edomites were closely related to the Israelites, which made their hostility to Israel and God all the more reprehensible. We see exactly the same hatred coming from the sons of Esau towards Israel, today, and, in the West, towards Christians. (2023 note: Hamas caused war between Israel and Islam).
Many Christians have the odd idea (borrowed from evolutionist propaganda and Higher Critical liars) that because we are ‘modern’ we are ‘more advanced’; therefore, those who lived at the time of Obadiah were ‘backward’ by comparison. The notion has no basis in fact; if anything (a view shared by ‘Intelligent Design’ science) the people of ancient times were far more advanced in intellect and achievements*. Their religious sense was far more honed than it is today. This is why the ‘minor prophets’ such as Obadiah should be heeded more closely. (*Today’s achievements are the product of millennia of accrued knowledge and activity).
Overall, I suggest we can read this book as a modern warning against all who oppose God and His people, but especially against those who claim to be ‘related’ spiritually – corrupt Christians, who join forces with evil, wicked movements... we know what these movements are. God will punish these groups of ‘believers’ who, instead of supporting God and His word, support the wicked men and women who oppose Him. They openly claim freedom for them, and call for legal recognition of their sin and their ‘rights’, even though God gives such people no rights at all.
- “The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.
- Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.
- The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
- Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.”
Obadiah (‘servant of Jehovah’) received a vision or chazown, from God. A chazown is very much misunderstood, even in our day. Most think a vision is ‘something in the head’, an imagination, something ‘not real’. After all, they muse, visions are seen by occultists and schizophrenics!
Many of the biblical visions were received at night, possibly because the activities of the daytime are then put to rest. We are not told if Obadiah had his vision at night, but it does not matter. A vision is a direct communication by God, with an human being. The one receiving the vision may, or may not, have it during a trance or ecstatic state. The vision to Peter, for example was in broad daylight while he was fully awake. A divine vision cuts through time and environment, and certainly does not correspond to natural laws... after all, God is ‘other’ and not of His own creation. Thus, a vision is a communication that starts in Heaven and ends in an human situation. In human terms this kind of experience is impossible... but, the Lord is the God of the humanly-impossible! Such a vision is actually seen – if it is of the future, then the one seeing it will see the activity itself in reality; a divine portent.
The vision was from ‘Adonay (used by Obadiah to show reverence; sometimes Hebrews did not use the name ‘Jehovah’, but here he does, in conjunction with ‘Adonay). The root, ‘adown, also refers to God. The Lord “saith” literally means God actually spoke to Obadiah, as ‘amar indicates. I am very aware that reformed men today deny that God speaks in this actual sense, but as I have experienced it myself, I cannot join them in this particular cessationist view. I will not say “I heard it in my head”, when I KNOW I heard it with my ears! Obadiah saw and heard in a true sense.
In this book, the vision was an oracle – something that represented another thing. In this case it represented a real occurrence in the near future. A true divine vision can actually be seen: it does not mimic an human dream filled with invented or desired things, but is what God wants the person to see, document, and act upon. The word here used for ‘vision’ is used poetically, of a highly exalted state, and yet all of Obadiah’s five senses ‘saw’ what was happening. To put it another way, the one seeing the vision was ‘actually there’ in the future experiencing the content of the message from God. Or, the future was brought backwards to Obadiah. (When we consider that there is no time in Heaven, this is not impossible for God).
God wanted Obadiah to warn Edom of pending doom, but not so as to prevent God’s judgment. We know this because God does not give Edom an opportunity to repent or to stop their activities. There are times when the wicked are so disgusting, God condemns them outright, with no possibility of repentance or salvation. Such a judgment is never revoked.
History reveals that this doom did come upon this tribe, for God does not sleep; He sees what happens to His children, even when they are lawless, and He does revenge Himself upon the wicked. The warning was upon the whole land owned by the Edomites, Idumea, though it is thought the same warning can be applied to all and any enemies of God and His people. This must be true regardless of interpretation of the text, because all enemies of God and His people are under His divine wrath and may be eliminated or ruined. However, it is the Edomites who are mentioned by name in the text. They represent the lot of enemies of God.
It seems that God wanted His people to know that though Edom was presently successful in opposing them, they could see what the future held for them... the enemy would be crushed and removed. Let us remember this in our current evil day. And let us remember that what men take an age to construct against us, God can demolish in just the blink of an eye.
“We have heard a rumour from the Lord”. That is, hearing as in real speech, shama’. Who is “we” in this text, the ones who would rise up against the Edomites? This is not to be taken in a personal sense: it means ‘God has issued an order’, which cannot be taken back or changed. The order says that God has witnessed the evils of Edom and has been stirred against it. They thus stood condemned.
Once God stirs against an enemy there is no turning back! In our own day we must praise God for a similar vision (found in the New Testament) of God removing our enemies, who, we must admit, are particularly vile and foul. They presently hold positions of power, but this will be reversed soon, when the Lord thunders His wrath against them. Bear in mind that God never allows His children to suffer at the hands of enemies without rising up against them.
The ‘ambassadors’ are those sent by God to issue His warnings. Obadiah was one of these ambassadors or heralds. His purpose was to instigate horror or alarm, and this is a righteous activity. We should alarm people who harm us or try to harm God! The idea of ‘coming alongside’ evil men, or debating with them, is foreign to God’s Person and character. The message from God is to rise up against the enemy... in this case Edom, but the same can be said of any enemy.
As I have said many times, I am no man’s punch-bag! Nor am I a doormat to be trodden down quietly. Thus, God was prophesying the end of Edom for acting against His people. This end was in the near future, but it was nevertheless just as real. And note that the “heathen”, too, were made to rise against Edom. In this text ‘heathen’ is simply the gowy, which can include both non-Hebrews and Hebrews. Never give in! Though enemies are all around as if to finally finish us off, God calls upon everyone else to act against the enemy, even if they are not compatible with believers.
Watch for it! It will come not primarily by human activity but by God, by divine actions, even if human actions are used as part of His assault on evil. And when it comes it will be swift. Also note that the people were to rise up in battle, milchamah. God/Jesus is never the feeble, pale-faced person depicted in paintings. He has vigour and strength and wars against sin and those who love it. Christians should not be pacifists, spiritually or physically, for otherwise they deny that God is a God of war (see article on this subject).
In the future decline, Edom would be humiliated and made small, though it presently makes a show of its strength and arrogance. God would make them “small” in the eyes of all nations, and “greatly despised”. Nations can sometimes be fooled by propaganda and lies, but eventually lies are found out and the people turn against the liars. Many leaders and power-endued people today lie to the nations. They hope their lies will at least last for the duration of their own lifetimes. But, when God acts He does so without further warning.
Like so many enemies of God and believers, Edom had immense pride in its own power and ability to rain evil upon God’s people; they think their power will last forever. But, it is a deception. The enemy thinks he can hide away in rocks and up high, where others cannot reach them. What fools! God can reach them wherever they are! What is now their armour can become their tomb. Even as they boast “Who shall bring me down?” God is arranging their demise. Look for it! Expect it! Pray for it!
The eagle flies to reach the sun, not realising his power and glory is given by God, and limited to whatever God has elected for it to do. The people of Edom thought their greatness was in their own hands. Fools! How many today, even Christians, think this same thing?
Men are destined by God to rise high and do great things, but those who do so without His blessing or prompting will be pulled down... “saith the Lord”. Those who exalt themselves have no excuse, and will lose any blessing they generally have as created beings. Every man has blessings from God, in the form of sun, rain, food, dwellings, etc., but even these ‘natural’ provisions will be removed by God if such men reject Him and harm His people. He WILL bring them down!
- “If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?
- How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!
- All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; that they eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.
- Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”
God likens the coming lot of the Edomites to that of a householder who is robbed of his goods by men who are stronger; people rob the vineyard owner of all his grapes, leaving nothing. “How thou art cut off!” says God. They are left alone and without strength to fight back – and this will be the future for Edom (enemies) because of its evils against God and His people. They are already cut off in God’s mind, so His wrath will follow without exemption or exception.
There are times when God issues a warning of pending doom, which can be put off if the people repent. In this prophecy God gives no such assurance. Edom has gone too far, and so God will not allow them to repent. Today, the whole world it seems has gone far down a road of sexual and religious perversity, so far that it cannot turn back. A few individuals might escape by repentance but the ‘movement’ as a whole is already damned by God to oblivion. They will not escape. They have already been warned in Romans 1 and elsewhere. Their doom is sealed. Believe it. Expect it.
These men think they are advancing, but they are reversing the accrued wisdom of the ages, limiting and regressing in intellect and thought. Esau’s foolishness is catching them up, just as it finally erased the Edomites. Their evils were once hidden as secret wishes, but are now standing proud, boasting of their degeneration. As a result, they think their perverse friends are their allies. But, there are no friends amongst the perverse, whose only interest is their own advancement, at the expense of others. (2023 note: as is happening today).
Those who are similarly perverse and sinful have no allies unless it suits them for the moment. They turn on their ‘friends’ with ease when they are no longer needed or wanted; they kill them and spit on them; they want power for their own selves; they turn on each other like ravenous, diseased dogs, ripping each other apart for its own sake, such is their satanic heart. As it was in Edom, so it is today.
The allies of the wicked, wicked themselves, play friends to the very limit and then snarl their hatred, tearing at those who thought they were supreme. Their ‘confederacy’ proved to be worthless, a thing of convenience. When it suits the enemy all promises and alliances are torn up. This is because friendship amongst the wicked is like smoke, easily blown away; it is nothing but a lie.
This is what the text says – they claimed to be at peace, but they “have deceived thee”. They pretended to be friendly and then stabbed their ‘friends’ in the back. This is what happened to the Edomites, when their more powerful allies had had enough of them. The problem with laying down with tigers is that you cannot then go to sleep!
The supposed ‘friends’ of the Edomites, when they had taken what they could from the friendship, wounded them beyond healing, even while eating their bread from the same table. They have no understanding, because those who are hateful and wicked do not care about understanding: their interests are only in what they want for themselves. Understanding is not part of their character. This is why God says that atheists are fools, stupid. They have intellect without intelligence; they know much, but do not know what to do with the knowledge. To all intentions they are dumb.
Being so far away from God, and yet founded by the same relationships that built Israel, Edom would be destroyed by God (verse 8), beginning with those who were the wisest, for the wisest of the wicked are as stupid as any fool. God would ruin them all, so that wisdom would never again be found in the land of the Edomites.
God destroys even His own, if they ignore and reject Him or His dealings, just as He did many times in the history of the ancients. Do not think the Lord sleeps! He sees and hears all, and knows our sinful intentions before we know them ourselves.
- “And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.
- For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
- In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.
- But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.”
Teman (‘south’) was a grandson of Esau, a royal duke of Edom; his tribe was known for its wisdom... until now. Those who defy God have no wisdom! His descendants are warned by God that He will slaughter the warriors of Edom. He did it through supposed ‘friends’ who became enemies, a just reward from God for the way they turned their backs on the tribes of Israel in their time of need. Very often God’s punishments are wrought by the hands of others who are close… family, friends.
The end of Edom was caused by their violence against their kin, descendants of Jacob. For their part in the discomfort of Israel they would be cut off forever, and be covered in shame. God reminds them that they were part of the vanquishing army sent by Nebuchadnezzer to overtake Jerusalem. For this they would pay dearly – no man and no movement can hurt God’s people and get away with it. Take heed!
Worse than taking part, they laughed at the distress of Jerusalem and boasted of how they were victors alongside the triumphant army. But, they spoke proudly too soon, and our enemies today do the same thing, thinking they have won their battle. They are already doomed people, even in the midst of their perceived triumph; God moved vengeance against them during the time of their boasting and victory! To use a modern phrase, they are dead men walking. Their doom is now fixed and they cannot rid themselves of judgment.
Beware who you side with!
- “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;
- Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.
- For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.”
God saw the men of Edom enter Jerusalem as foes of Israel. They should not have done so, said God. God saw them kill and maim, and rejoice with the invading army; He saw the men of Edom, of the same stock as Jacob, steal the goods of their kinsfolk, the Hebrews. He saw the men of Edom catch and hand over the Israelites to the army. God said – you should not have done any of that. And when some of Israel tried to escape the city, the men of Edom caught them at the crossroads.
Their reward for all this was a promise from the Lord: He would do the same to the men of Edom as they did to His chosen people in Jerusalem. They would not escape, just as other heathen (other nations) would not escape. Their just reward would come back with vengeance to destroy them. By this we know, today, that our enemies are not triumphant forever, for God is already moving against them in many ways.
They will be destroyed. God will repay tenfold.
- “For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
- But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
- And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it.”
The men of Edom drank deeply of their victory on God’s holy mountain – Jerusalem. Likewise, said the Lord, they, and the other heathen, would drink deeply of their punishment sent by God; and what they drink, thinking it to be victory, will be the dregs of judgment, the wrath of God. “They shall be as though they had not been”. All nations who defied God in the past became as dust, blown away by the wind; this is the witness of history. The same occurs today with governments and peoples who defy God. They will fall as rotten corpses.
But, says the Lord, those who are holy (those who are “upon mount Zion”) will be saved! They shall know the reward of holiness and obedience to God. The house of Jacob would retrieve all that was lost to the enemy, including all that the enemy owned, too. Then, God’s chosen people would be like an unstoppable fire, consuming Edom and all who oppose them, bringing them to nothing.
Thus, the house of Esau, the Edomites, would be removed from the face of the earth. Let it be known that the enemies of God’s people today, including those who claim to be believers, will likewise be destroyed, their names being nothing but a pariah. “For the Lord hath spoken it”.
- “And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
- And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.
- And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD's.”
When Edom moves against Israel, God will move against Edom; they sign their own death warrant. The people of the south will overrun them and take the land of Esau. In this text the ‘south’ is Nekeb or southern Judah. At the same time, the arch-enemy of Israel, the Philistines, would move in from the west and take the fields of Ephraim in the north as well as the fields of Samaria. In this way Edom would be starved out of existence.
A third move would come from the tribe of Benjamin, who would take Gilead, west of the Jordan. Thus, every gain of Edom would be removed by those it thought it had rule, or superiority, over. This will be the end of the enemies of God and His people. Even as these wayward ‘believers’, thinking themselves clever, plan and execute their victories alongside the wicked people they support, God has already begun His opposition to their very existence and lives.
When God acts against Edom as a punishment, the dispossessed who were taken captive into Babylon will return and take back what was lost. They shall take back what the Canaanites/Edomites stole, even unto Zarephath (‘refinery’), a city on the coast south of Sidon (today called Sura-fend). They will again take back “the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad”. That is, those enslaved and kept exiled in Sepharad (‘separated’: We do not know where this was). These people, once freed, would take the cities of the south.
The message is clear: those enemies of God and His people will temporarily gain massively – but God would ensure they would lose all and be wiped from the face of the earth. We must take this truth for our own situation. Saviours would come to Jerusalem to free it. These yasha’, are victorious deliverers of the captives, whose actions will remove the power of Edom, judging it by God’s decrees. And when that happens “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s”. The kingdom is always the Lord’s, but not necessarily physically.
The truth is therefore made plain: God’s enemies will not continue.
Though presently powerful they will be scattered to the four winds, continually bleeding their life-blood until they disappear. At the same time, others would take back what was once belonging to the enemy, while the enemy pathetically believes it is the ruler of all mankind! God has already begun His action. He is currently moving all things to the one end – the destruction of His enemies, by whatever means He wishes to use.
Believe it and watch for the signs.
© May 2013 (Checked October 2023)
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH