Bible Study: Obadiah – Judgment on Edom

The book of Obadiah contains only one chapter and it is primarily focused on the Judgment of Edom.

Gen 25:30 And Esau said to Jacob, Let me taste of that red pottage, because I am fainting; therefore his name was called Edom.

Edom means red referring to the red pottage for which he sold his birth-right.

Background

There are at least 10 other Obadiah given in the  Bible but none of them seems to be a potential candidate who wrote the book of Obadiah. Hence, it seems impossible to know who or when this book was written. The only information we have is the prophecy.
The region around 830 BC, with Edom in yellow. (wiki)
The mountains of Seir was given to Easu’s descendants by God Himself.

Josh 24:4 ‘To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. To Esau I gave the mountains of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

Edom and Idumea are two related but distinct terms relating to a historically contiguous population, but two separate, if adjacent, territories occupied at different periods of their history by the Edomites/Idumeans. The Edomites first established a biblical kingdom (“Edom”) in the southern area of modern Jordan, and later migrated into southern parts of the Kingdom of Judah (“Idumea”, or modern southern Israel/Negev) when Judah was first weakened, then destroyed by the Babylonians in the 6th century BC. After the loss of the kingdom, the Edomites were pushed westwards towards southern Judah by nomadic tribes coming from the east; among these were the Nabateans, who first appear in the historical annals of the 4th century BC and already establish their own kingdom in what used to be Edom by the first half of the 2nd century BC. (wiki).
With this historical background, let’s study what the prophecy states.

Obadiah and Jeremiah: War and Destruction of Edom

The book of Obadiah is extremely similar to Jeremiah 49 and it seems to be another warning to Edom by God. Let us see how they compare.

Obadiah Jeremiah 49 Notes
Obad 1:1-2 THE vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the LORD, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle”): “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised. Jer 49:14-15 I have heard a message from the LORD, And an ambassador has been sent to the nations: “Gather together, come against her, And rise up to battle! For indeed, I will make you small among nations, Despised among men. War is a punishment from God

The Lord is calling the nations to rise up against Edom and He will make it small among the nations. This was fulfilled in 6th century BC when the Babylonians destroyed or weakened their kingdom and it continued to exist until it was conquered by Seleucid Empire. Today, Edom doesn’t exist.

Obad 1:3-4 The pride of your heart has deceived you, You who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Whose habitation is high; You who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’ Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” says the LORD. Jer 49:16 Your fierceness has deceived you, The pride of your heart, O you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, Who hold the height of the hill! Though you make your nest as high as the eagle, I will bring you down from there,” says the LORD. God resists the pride of Edom

Jas 4:6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

Obad 1:5-6 “If thieves had come to you, If robbers by night– Oh, how you will be cut off!– Would they not have stolen till they had enough? If grape-gatherers had come to you, Would they not have left some gleanings? Oh, how Esau shall be searched out! How his hidden treasures shall be sought after!
Jer 49:9-10 If grape-gatherers came to you, Would they not leave some gleaning grapes? If thieves by night, Would they not destroy until they have enough? But I have made Esau bare; I have uncovered his secret places, And he shall not be able to hide himself. His descendants are plundered, His brethren and his neighbors, And he is no more. Edom oppressed the afflicted Israel. So, Edom will be plundered

Prov 22:22-3 Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; For the LORD will plead their cause, And plunder the soul of those who plunder them.

Obad 1:7-8 All the men in your confederacy Shall force you to the border; The men at peace with you Shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it.  “Will I not in that day,” says the LORD, “Even destroy the wise men from Edom, And understanding from the mountains of Esau?
Jer 49:7,22 Against Edom. Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Is wisdom no more in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished? … Behold, He shall come up and fly like the eagle, And spread His wings over Bozrah; The heart of the mighty men of Edom in that day shall be Like the heart of a woman in birth pangs. People can betray us but not the Lord

Ps 118:9 It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in princes.

Obad 1:9 Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau May be cut off by slaughter.

Obad 1:9-10 And thy warriors from Thaeman shall be dismayed, to the end that man may be cut off from the mount of Esau. Because of the slaughter and the sin committed against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever (LXX).
Jer 49:18,20 As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah And their neighbors,” says the LORD, “No one shall remain there, Nor shall a son of man dwell in it. … Therefore hear the counsel of the LORD that He has taken against Edom, And His purposes that He has proposed against the inhabitants of Teman: Surely the least of the flock shall draw them out; Surely He shall make their dwelling places desolate with them. Cut Off

Masoretic and Septuagint differs in the punishment to Edom. Masoretic adds the cut off is by slaughter while Septuagint mentions because of the slaughter and sin against Jacob. Both are slightly different. Based on LXX, they are just cut off while Masoretic suggests a great slaughter.

Obadiah and Ezekiel: Reason for Edom’s Punishment

Obad 1:10-14 For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. In the day that you stood on the other side– In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem– Even you were as one of them. But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. You should not have entered the gate of My people In the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction In the day of their calamity, Nor laid hands on their substance In the day of their calamity. You should not have stood at the crossroads To cut off those among them who escaped; Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained In the day of distress. 

Obadiah gives a reason for Edom’s punishment. which is reiterating the prophecies of Ezekiel 25 and 35.

Ezek 25:12-14 ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Because of what Edom did against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has greatly offended by avenging itself on them,” therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “I will also stretch out My hand against Edom, cut off man and beast from it, and make it desolate from Teman; Dedan shall fall by the sword. I will lay My vengeance on Edom by the hand of My people Israel, that they may do in Edom according to My anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance,” says the Lord GOD. 

Ezek 35:15 “As you rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so I will do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom–all of it! Then they shall know that I am the LORD.” ’

Edom was one of the allies with Babylonians who came against Israel and took advantage of Israel’s punishment from God which is it’s exile and captivity. 

Ps 137:7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, “Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!”

This was echoed by the exiles in Babylon who cried out to the Lord. 

Past and Future: Day of the Lord

Obad 1:15-16 For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. For as you drank on My holy mountain, So shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And they shall be as though they had never been.

All nations that came against Israel will be punished. What they did shall be returned upon their own head, and they shall be no more.

2Pet 3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, on account of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!  

1Thess 5:2-3 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.

While Obadiah speaks about a past day of the Lord, New Testament authors speak about a future day of the Lord which is for the whole world. The past events are a reminder and warning for us to be to be holy and righteous as Peter mentioned in his letter. 

Judgment and Deliverance: Jacob and Esau

Obad 1:17 “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.

In Mount Zion, there shall be deliverance. 

Joel 2:32 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls.

The deliverance which Obadiah prophecies is about Jesus Christ, who will deliver us from the day of the Lord which is in future. 

Obad 1:18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken.

The verse suggests Israel destroying Edom with no survivors for the house of Easu. 

Obad 1:18 And the house of Jacob shall be fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau shall be for stubble; and Israel shall flame forth against them, and shall devour them, and there shall not be a corn-field left to the house of Esau; because the Lord has spoken (LXX).

But LXX paints a very different picture stating, Esau will not be left with any corn field. In other words, Esau will  not have any land or inheritance. This makes sense because the next verses speaks about division of the land of Esau to others.

Division of the Lands

Obad 1:19-21 The South shall possess the mountains of Esau, And the Lowland shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim And the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. And the captives of this host of the children of Israel Shall possess the land of the Canaanites As far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad Shall possess the cities of the South. Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion To judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.

Obad 1:19-21 And they that dwell in the south shall inherit the mount of Esau, and they in the plain the Philistines: and they shall inherit the mount of Ephraim, and the plain of Samaria, and Benjamin, and the land of Galaad. And this shall be the domain of the captivity of the children of Israel, the land of the Chananites as far as Sarepta; and the captives of Jerusalem shall inherit as far as Ephratha; they shall inherit the cities of the south. And they that escape shall come up from mount Sion, to take vengeance on the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s (LXX).

Below is the division and distribution of land including Esau’s inheritance to the captives of Israel.

Land / Cities New Owners
Mountains of Esau Captives of children of Israel who dwell in the south
Mount of Ephraim, Plain of Samaria, Benjamin and the land of Galaad. Captives of children of Israel who dwell in the plain of Philistines
Land of the Canaanites (as far as Zarephath) Captives of children of Israel
Cities of the South, Sepharad (Ephratha) Captives of Jerusalem

Conclusion

What did we learn from the book of Obadiah? If we rejoice in the destruction of our brother and not help him, God will question us.

Gen 4:9 And the Lord God said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? and he said, I know not, am I my brother’s keeper?

You are your brother’s keeper!