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Book of Obadiah

In Amos chapter 1 we see the prophecy of the Edomite’s judgment for their hostility towards Israel, because they stifled any compassion towards her. Although twin brothers (from a single fertilized egg), there was no love lost between Esau and Jacob. But it was God’s choice that Jacob would carry the seed of the covenant of Isaac and Abraham. That did not mean that God would not bless Edom for He did. Edom multiplied in numbers and inherited the large portion of lands southeast of Israel, much of which today is Saudi Arabia. The Edomites enjoyed tremendous security from their geographical location. The mountains and plateaus made it difficult for outsiders to attack. In their pride they believed that they could not be defeated. But they obviously did not remember the strength of the One who created these mountains. The One who was Israel’s God. God says: the arrogance of their hearts deceived them.

More than the descendants of Lot (the Moabites & Amorites), the Edomites were family to Israel. They were descendants of Jacob’s only brother. The ties between the distant relatives were basically upheld by treaties but Edom didn’t need a treaty because their ties to Israel should have been upheld by a love between brothers. But the anger and hatred between the two was passed down from generation to generation until they were two nations hating each other. But even more sinful than that is that by hating Jacob (Israel), Esau hated God’s choice. Throughout the centuries of attacks and wars on Israel, Esau was either party to the attacks, or she gloated in Israel’s demise at the hands of her enemies. In verses 10 and 11 God chastises Edom for celebrating Israel’s defeat. Although they did not participate, they stood aloof. “… You too were as one of them…” — God considers that to be participation. Verse 12 God seems to be speaking of a future time as He moves from Israel’s demise to Judah’s. This may be a warning to Edom regarding the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 by the Babylonians, that they should not celebrate the destruction of Judah. To gloat in Israel’s demise amounted to mocking the Sovereign God.

God’s judgment on Edom was that it would cease to exist as an independent nation never to rise again. The men at peace with them, with whom they ate and drank, their own trusted allies, would ambush them, break their covenants and defeat them through deception. Their strength was in themselves and their own wisdom. But God said He would in that day destroy the source of that wisdom. Starting with the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, and the Maccabeans, little by little the Edomites were destroyed. By the 4th century BC, Edom’s judgment was just about completed. The nation no longer existed and its people were now known as the Idumeans (Herod the Great was an Idumean).

Edom symbolizes all who choose the security of their own wisdom. But in verses 15-21, God lays out their future: “They will drink and swallow and become as though they never existed” (vs. 16). But note that the place of true security – Mt Zion – is where those who escape will be. We know that those who escape are those individuals from ALL nations who remained faithful to God. The house of Jacob will be the shepherd of those who escaped while their former nations which mocked God will be destroyed.

Obadiah gives us a full picture of what the future holds. God will indeed judge Israel, but in the end He will restore a remnant and through that remnant effect His covenant with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob, which always included all peoples. Israel will finally uphold her part of the covenant as the people who are an example of what it means to be human, and fulfill their role as Shepherd of the world.

Key Verse(s):
“They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed. But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.” ~ Obadiah 1:16b-17

Questions to ponder:

  1. Are you aloof in the face of injustice to those around you? Does God think you’re innocent?
  2. Is your Mount Seir your wealth, your position, your education or your power? Or is it God alone?
  3. How much say does your own wisdom have in your life’s decisions compared to God’s wisdom?
  4. Are you being deceived by the arrogance of your own heart?
  5. Except for one, all nations eventually perish. Will your allegiance be to a nation or to a God who has your best future in mind?
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