Obadiah, An Introduction

Intro: If God sent a prophet to speak to our nation, what would he denounce? Each of us might give a different answer, but there would certainly be some issues on everyone’s list. Immorality? False worship? Materialism? A failure to protect the life of the innocent and unborn? I believe that all of these things would be included.

  • A review of the messages of the OT prophets reveals that God spoke about all of these things to the nations of the world hundreds of years ago. Things are not that different. In our study of the Minor Prophets we will be looking at ourselves, and these prophets will be speaking to our generation.
  • Who among us does not believe that we live in a proud and arrogant society? In fact, we might rightly judge that the major problems we face are the result of basic issues of the heart.
  • “The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom” (Obadiah 1:1)
  • Obadiah’s words are God’s judgment against Israel’s enemy, the nation of Edom. But even more they are God’s judgment against the pride, arrogance and indifference of those who oppose His purpose and words. These are the true enemies of God’s people.

I. Background to the Prophecy of Obadiah

A. Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. Despite its brevity, it stands as a treatise of God against the pride and arrogance of those who oppose Him and His people. It makes a good beginning study as it concisely presents the powerful prophetic words of judgment that God issued against the nations of the world. It implies His sovereignty. It displays His resolution to justice towards sin.

B. Obadiah the prophet is historically obscure. We know nothing for sure about him accept what may be inferred from this short book. There are 13 people named Obadiah in the scriptures. His name means “servant of God”.

1. Josephus identifies him with Obadiah, the steward of Ahab, who hid God’s prophets from the evil Jezebel in 1 Kings 18.

2. There are two popular dates for the book: Obadiah mentions an attack on Jerusalem (v. 11-14) and some place the book just after the time of the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Others see an earlier date (about 845 B.C.) during the time the reign of Jehoram after the Philistines and Arabians attacked and captured the city of Jerusalem. There are good arguments for either date, and scholars are divided on the exact time of the prophecy. I am convinced of the earlier date, making him the first of the Minor Prophets.

II. A Background of Sibling Rivalry – We cannot fully understand or appreciate the message of Obadiah without a review of the enmity that existed between the nation of Judah and the nation of Edom.

A. Who were the Edomites?

1. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, and son of Isaac. Jacob and Esau are the epitome of sibling rivalry. The animosity begins even before their birth as they struggled against each other in their mother, Rebekah’s womb. Genesis 25:22-2622 But the children struggled together within her; and she said, “If all is well, why am I like this?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. 23 And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” 24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.

2. From birth they were very different boys – one the favorite of their father, the other the favorite of their mother. Two familiar events contributed to their animosity.

a. Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew because he thought he was so hungry he was going to die (Gen. 25:27-34).

b. Later Jacob tricked Esau out of his father’s blessing (Gen 27)

c. Esau wanted to kill Jacob and so Jacob fled and did not return home for 20 years. Even though they were reconciled as brothers in Genesis 32-33,

d. The nations that descended from them grew to be enemies. The conflict of the two nations began at the time of the exodus, when Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through their land on their journey to Canaan. (Num. 20:14-21), and continued through the OT period.

e. During their later history the Edomites were eventually overcome by the Nabataeans who drove the Edomites from their land. Toward the close of the second century B.C. they were conquered by John Hyrcanus of the Maccabees, who forced many of them to be circumcised and accept the law. Thus, they became nominal Jewish proselytes. The Idumeans (such as King Herod the great, and his family, were descendants of the Edomites. By 100 A.D. they had become lost to history.

f. In the Book of Malachi God sums up this disposition toward Edom, the nation, as he contrasts God’s judgment of His enemies with His blessings for His faithful. Malachi 1:1-4 1 The burden of the word of the Lord to Israel by Malachi. 2 “I have loved you,” says the Lord.”Yet you say, ‘In what way have You loved us?’ Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” Says the Lord. “Yet Jacob I have loved; 3 But Esau I have hated, And laid waste his mountains and his heritage For the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Even though Edom has said, “We have been impoverished, But we will return and build the desolate places,” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “They may build, but I will throw down; They shall be called the Territory of Wickedness, And the people against whom the Lord will have indignation forever. Although God’s enemies may seem to be powerful and resilient, God will tear them down.

g. Throughout the writings of the prophets Edom stands as a symbol of the earthly, non spiritual people of the world. The book of Hebrews warns Christians not to belittle the value of spiritual blessings and uses Esau as an example: “That there be no immoral or godless person like Esau who sold his birthright for a single meal.” (Hebrews 12:16). Esau’s descendants (Edomites) characterize this disregard for God’s purposes and became a nation opposed to His people, Israel. The prophecy of Obadiah speaks to their sin and its judgment.

III. What was the Sin of Edom? God’s complaint against Edom is rooted in the nations’ history of contempt for Israel. But it goes deeper. It is a complaint against their cold and arrogant hearts. They characterize all those who have opposed God’s purposes through the centuries. Those who feel secure in their position of power and human achievement. These sins will be the focus of our study this month. The Lessons in Obadiah’s prophecy:

A. The Deception of Pride: Obadiah 3-4The 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?’ 4 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.

    • Edom felt secure in their fortress of Rock (Petra) – It was a city set in the mountain accessible through only a small pass (2 horsemen could not ride side by side). Human pride is deceitful. No more destructive pride than that which ignores the judgment of God.
    • Prosperity and wealth can be a source of prideLuke 12:19 – I have many good stored up, I am secure. Where is your security? Could God take it all away? He will.
    • Self-righteousness can be a source of pride – The Pharisee who saw no need for forgiveness, and so sought none. He was good enough. Compared to the lowly publican who humbled himself before God because he saw his sin clearly.

B. Violence against a Brother: Obadiah 10“For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever.” God’s rebuke clearly points to the fact that Jacob and Esau were brothers, and that meant something. How can God’s children fight among themselves?

    • 1 Thess 4:9-10 – But concerning brotherly love you have no need that I should write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

C. Standing against God and His People in the day of distress: Obadiah 11 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.

    • God requires us to make a choice based on righteousness, not opportunity or advantage. Are you willing to stand for God and His people no matter what? Sin of betrayal.

D. Rejoicing at the hurt of others in the day of distress: Obadiah 12But 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.

    • True love does not rejoice in unrighteousness (1 Cor. 13) Even when people are getting what they deserve, God’s people do not gloat over their judgment. (Christians who are gleeful over the execution of a criminal, or the death of their enemy (Osama Bin Laden).

E. Showing no Mercy in the day of distress. Obadiah 14 – 14 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.

    • People plunder their neighbors in the time of trouble – have to call out the national guard to stop the looting.

Conclusion: We will consider the implications of Obadiah’s words and look carefully at the sins he condemns.

  • What was Obadiah’s last word to Edom? Judgment (Justice) is coming. Obadiah 15“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.
  • Obadiah places hope where it truly is – with God in Zion: Obadiah 17-18“But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. 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.
  • We may take refuge on Mount Zion and put our trust in King Jesus. He will deliver us and give eternal victory. “But you have come to Mount Zion… to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to spirits of righteous men made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” (Hebrews 12:22-24). We are now invited to take our places on spiritual Mount Zion, the church. “Therefore, since we have received a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28, 29).