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Book of Obadiah

The Book of Obadiah
Commentary by Ron Beckham

 Audio Bible Study – Obadiah 1-5

Verse 1. "The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom - We have heard a report from the Lord, and an envoy has been sent among the nations saying, 'Arise and let us go against her for battle' -"

There were thirteen men named “Obadiah” ("servant of YHVH – Jehovah") in the Old Testament. Some have attempted to identify this man with one of those references, but with little success. The Book of Obadiah does not mention his lineage and no kings of Israel or Judah are listed. The most likely set of circumstances for the backdrop of this prophesy is found during the reign of King Jehoram of Judah (848-841 BC). During his reign, the Philistines and Arabians invaded Judah (2 Chronicles 21:16-17) and Edom used the opportunity to revolt and declare their freedom (2 Kings 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8-20). The plundering of Jerusalem (verse 11 & context) was likely by the Philistines between 848 & 841 BC. In that case, Obadiah was a contemporary of Elisha and he was the first of the writing prophets.

The country of "Edom" ("red”) began with Esau, Jacob’s (Israel’s) red-headed (and hot-headed) brother. Esau moved to the mountains of Seir and took over a group called the Horites, absorbing them into his lineage in the process. The Edomites would not let Israel pass through their territory on the way to Canaan. The Edomites fought against Saul, the first king of Israel, but were completely under the subjection of Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon. The Edomites were forced out of their territory in the 5th Century BC (by the Nabateans) and they moved to South Palestine where they became known as Idumeans. Herod the Great was the Idumean king of Judea who would attempt to murder the child Jesus. An Idumean killed John the Baptist.  The descendents of Esau, in their hatred of Israel, displeased God, and He would send an "envoy," saying "Arise and let us go against her for battle."

Verse 2. "Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you are greatly despised.”

God delights in making the unlikely become reality and He also is pleased to reveal unexpected future events to His servants the prophets. At the time these words in Obadiah were spoken and then written, Edom was a powerful little nation, protected by the mountains that surrounded them and by a fierce army. It seemed, from a human perspective, that they would never be defeated.

One of the great symbols of Edom’s strength was the rock city of Petra, which was built right into a mountain. The place was considered impregnable, and yet Edom would be driven out of their country by the Nabateans, a tribe named in the Apocrypha, but not in the Bible. The “shame” of Obadiah verse 10 would come upon them and the result was that they became “small.” To be “despised” by men is difficult, but worse for them, the Edomites were “despised” by God because of their actions toward Israel – an infinitely greater problem.

Verse 3. "The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in the loftiness of your dwelling place, who say in your heart, 'Who will bring me down to earth?'”

Almost everyone wants to do well in life – if possible, you want to succeed in all that you do. The problem with success is that the person who attains such a condition begins to exhibit pride, or as this verse calls it – “arrogance.” Planted deep inside, people everywhere secretly or openly have high opinions of themselves, and if we do well, that aspect of ourselves begins to emerge.

The Edomites lived “in the clefts of the rock,” and they emerged from their “loftiness” to attack their neighbors whenever it seemed feasible to do so. A key neighbor was the southern kingdom of Judah. When Edom did well, they kept attacking, and when things turned out badly for them, they retreated to “the clefts of the rock.” The question was in their hearts: “Who will bring me down to earth?” and if we have a similar question in our hearts (“Who will bring me down to earth?”) we should look at this little book of Obadiah. The answer to the question is: God will!

Verse 4. "’Though you build high like the eagle, though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,’ declares the Lord.”

Until the creation of modern weaponry like rifles, and the pollution which damages their young, it was nearly impossible to bring down an “eagle.” Those winged creatures just flew too high and they were too fast for other creatures (such as humans) to consistently attack them. The people of Edom, with their mountains, fortresses and armies, felt like an “eagle” among nations – they could not be defeated, it was felt.

But just like pollution enters the egg shells of eagles and damages their young, and the advent of the rifle brought the eagle near extinction, NO ONE is safe from the judgment of God. As a race, we are on the verge of establishing colonies on other planets; perhaps even the planets of other "stars." But we are a race of sinners, under the judgment of God, and just like Edom, ALL will be brought down. Our hope is not in ourselves, but in Jesus Christ, God’s Gift of forgiveness and hope for you and me.

Verse 5. "If thieves came to you, if robbers by night - O how you will be ruined! - Would they not steal only until they had enough? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave some gleanings?”

Jesus gave us excellent advice when He warned: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Just like the people of Edom learned, everything of this earth will be lost in an instant. Jesus continued, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:20). There were men and women at that time who placed their faith in the Lord. An example is Obadiah, the writer of this prophesy, and there were others like him.  From the nation of Judah, the Word of God and salvation in the Person of Jesus Christ would come to this world.

There apparently were very few or even none in Edom who would “lay up” those “treasures in heaven” and they, individually and as a people, were to be destroyed. Israel and Judah always contained those who followed the Lord, even in the time of the horrible king Ahab (2 Kings 19:18 & context), but it seems that Edom did not have people of faith in their country. So, God decreed, “robbers” would take their nation.

Father, let us no longer be like the Edomites, trusting in our resources instead of Yours.  Let us instead be men and women of faith, who look to and trust in - You.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

 Audio Bible Study – Obadiah 6-10

Verse 6. "O how Esau will be ransacked, and his hidden treasures searched out!”

The words of this verse appeared to be impossible at the time they were written, for the mountainous country of Edom seemed impregnable to those who might think to invade the place. But this verse is the PROMISE of God through the prophet: “Esau” (Edom) “WILL be ransacked- the country was to be robbed of everything it counted valuable. Everything, you might add, that they had stolen from their neighbors through raids on their countries. Note that Petra, the capital of Edom, was a center of trade, and much like a modern bank, the city contained the “treasuresof many nations.

This verse, by the way, had a two-fold purpose: 1) To ENCOURAGE those of Israel, that their tormentor, Edom, would fall, and 2) To WARN those of Edom (“Esau”) who might hear of these words and change their ways by trusting in the Lord. We have the same warning and opportunity available to us today. All our earthly goods and our reputations will eventually be lost to us, but the Lord Jesus Himself is our infinitely great inheritance and He has given Himself to you and me – forever.

Verse 7. "All the men allied with you will send you forth to the border, and the men at peace with you will deceive you and overpower you. They who eat your bread will set an ambush for you. (There is no understanding in him.)”

For centuries, the Chinese felt SAFE behind the Great Wall of China. “Nothing can happen to us,” they must have thought, not unlike those who felt SAFE in the mountainous country of Edom. At the Great Wall in China, the Mongols to the north simply bribed the guards at the Wall and bought their way through. The Chinese were complacent in their apparent security, but were destroyed by deceit. China, like Edom, had “no understanding” of what was about to occur.

Something deceitful was about to happen to the Edomites. They would be fooled and overpowered by their allies, the Nabateans, an Arabian tribe; and the “ambush” set for them would succeed. There is no wall, no earthly mountain, no amount of insurance or any human army that has the “understanding” necessary to keep us safe. Like countless others that have come before, we need the Lord. He IS “our refuge and strength” (Psalm 46:1). You only true safety is in Him.

Verse 8. "’Will I not on that day,’" declares the Lord, ‘Destroy wise men from Edom and understanding from the mountain of Esau?’”

The country of "Edom" ("Esau") was not only known for its armies, but it was also noted as a place of wisdom.  The Lord, through the prophet Jeremiah, asked the following question in a prophesy against Edom: "Is wisdom no more in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished?" (Jeremiah 49:7).  "Teman" was a city in Northeastern Edom, noted at the time for the wisdom of its leaders and philosophers.

We are seeing in these verses that the strongholds of this earth (or wherever humanity may be established in the future) are not sufficient to save us.  Military might is not enough; nor are riches, alliances in the form of treaties with other nations; and even great wisdom will not do the job.  We need the Lord.  Only He can save us on the day of trouble.  He is indeed "the power of God and the wisdom of God" for us all (1 Corinthians 1:24).

Verse 9. "Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, so that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter.”

You might ask yourself: How can riches, armies, walls and wisdom help me, in the day when I am facing earthquakes, tsunamis and hurricanes (a.k.a. cyclones & typhoons)?  The answer is: NOTHING, NO ARMY can save me from a 9.0 earthquake, or a wall of water or hurricane force winds.  There will ALWAYS be forces greater than we are, and we need the Lord, who alone is greater than any storm that might come upon us.  The armies of "Esau" would be lured out from the "mountain" fortress that was the country of Edom, and their "slaughter" was to be the result.

The men of "Teman," a major city of Edom, were noted as philosophers and thinkers, able to deal, they thought, with anything that came their way.  And note - there is nothing wrong with wisdom.  The ability to think and plan is God's gift which has helped humanity in a multitude of positive ways.  But those who are wise tend to become "proud," as it says in Psalm 10:4, an observation that continues in this way: such a person "does not seek God."  Edom's pride would be overthrown, along with their nation, and then perhaps some of the survivors would "seek God," as all of us need to do.

Verse 10. "Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever.”

Through his descendents, Esau's hatred of his brother, "Jacob," continued through the centuries.  The Edomites, who descended from Esau, attacked and rebelled against the nation Israel (which descended from Jacob) many times.  Herod the Great was the Idumean (Edomite) king who attempted the murder of the child, Jesus.  It was Herod Antipas (another descendent of Esau) who beheaded John the Baptist.  Esau's hatred continued in surprising forms.

The Edomites were happy when Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 BC (Psalm 127:7), but ironically, they died trying (as Idumeans) to defend the place in AD 70, when Jerusalem was destroyed again.  The Edomites, later called the Idumeans, have never been heard of since that time.  As the Lord through Obadiah foresaw, they as a people would be "cut off forever" from this earth.  It is hoped that some of them trusted in the Lord when He was here.

Father, no matter who or what we are, You have made provision for us in Christ Jesus.  We trust in Him and receive Him now.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

 Audio Bible Study – Obadiah 11-15

Verse 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.”

God is in eternity, not in time and space as we understand things.  The past, present and future are as one to Him, and the lament against the country of Edom relates to not only what they had done, but also what they would do.  The Edomites rejoiced when Jerusalem was plundered by the Philistines in the 800's BC, and they were to be happy when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Paul the Apostle, speaking of the "righteous judgment of God," noted that "those who practice such things (unkind, unholy acts) are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also APPROVE of those who practice them" (Romans 1:32).  Be careful about the books you read and the movies you see, because the media tends to glorify sinners and their actions.  It is not only your actions, but also your thoughts that makes you "as one of them."

Verse 12. "Do not gloat over your brother's day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah in the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast in the day of their distress.”

When you are angry at somebody; when you're jealous of them, the tendency is to feel bad if that person does well in life, and to "gloat" when things go badly for them.  God is offering good advice to the people of Edom in these verses, and this Book of Obadiah was kept in what we call the "Bible" all these centuries, so we might hear these words, too.  Note that Edom was a people who had little regard for the God of their ancestor, Abraham, who loved the Lord.  He walked with God, but they, as a group, did not.

Notice that even though the Edomites were sinners who had no regard for God, He loved them and sent his prophet to them; to their need.  Also, though they were far from Him, He was not far from them.  He knew their tendencies and their failings.  He intimately knew their every thought, even before they did.  He also loved His people, Israel, though He was about to judge them.  To "gloat" and "rejoice" over Israel's fall would displease God greatly.  The message to us is to NEVER "rejoice" over the fall of others; friends and enemies alike.  Instead, pray for them and if possible, reach over to their need and lift them up.

Verse 13. “Do not enter the gate of My people in the day of their disaster. Yes, you, do not gloat over their calamity in the day of their disaster.  And do not loot their wealth in the day of their disaster.”

The preceding verse is part of God's warning to the country of Edom, that they should not "gloat" or "rejoice" at the downfall of Israel.  And now, in this verse, God gives them another warning: "Do not enter the gate of (Israel) in the day of their disaster..." and in addition, Edom is warned to not "loot their wealth," which they would be tempted to do.

If you or someone you know finds "calamity" in their lives, it is time to comfort that person and it is NOT an opportunity for you or anyone else to enjoy their "disaster."  If somebody drops their wallet or purse, it does not make it yours when you find it and pick it up.  God KNOWS our hearts, our thoughts, and He knows what we do.  He knows EVERYTHING, and He is displeased by those who "loot" the "wealth" of others.

Verse 14. “Do not stand at the fork of the road to cut down their fugitives; and do not imprison their survivors in the day of their distress.”

These verses reveal the people of Edom's potential and actual thoughts and actions, listing them in a series of "do not" statements for that people.  They were not to "gloat" at Israel's impending destruction (verse 12).  They were not to take the opportunity of Israel's downfall to "loot their wealth" (verse 13).  And this verse is the most serious of all about the CHARACTER of the people of Edom.  In the day of Israel's "distress," Edom was expressly FORBIDDEN to kill or imprison (enslave) the Hebrew survivors that escaped from the disaster at Jerusalem.

The Edomites, who lived in and from the mountainous passes to the east of Jerusalem, knew all the different roadways the survivors from Jerusalem would take.  God knew the hearts of the Edomites and what they were capable of doing, if they had the opportunity.  The Lord had a plan for the survivors from Jerusalem, and to kill them was not part of that plan.  The Edomites should have listened, for their OWN future was at stake.  And when YOU get the chance to help someone, do it.  God actually is watching us all, and in that context, take a look at verse 15...

Verse 15. “For the day of the Lord draws near on all the nations. As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head.”

There is a "day of the Lord" that is coming for all of our plans, our lives, and the nations we live in.  That "day" is growing "near."  And these are the ominous words delivered by Obadiah the Prophet to the people of Edom: "As you have done, it will be done to you. Your dealings will return on your own head."  This idea is reflected throughout Scripture: What you do will be "done to you."

From these verses, it should be apparent to us all that it is sane and rational for all people everywhere to be kind, gentle and encouraging to one another.  Malice, cruelty and just plain meanness are irrational responses.  What you do today is like a seed of hatred that is planted in the ground.  Though you may not see the results today or tomorrow, that seed will grow and the hatred you brought into this world will fill your life and the lives of those you love.  Give yourself to the Lord; let Him change you into a person who loves - He will like the result and so will you.

Lord, change us from people who gloat over the fall of others and make us into men and women who receive and transmit Your love.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

 Audio Bible Study – Obadiah 16-21

Verse 16. “Because just as you drank on My holy mountain, all the nations will drink continually. They will drink and swallow and become as if they had never existed.”

All the nations of this world are like the prisoners on what is called "death row."  There is no escape.  The Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah in this manner: "Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause ALL the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it."  And then the Lord through Jeremiah named a series of nations that would be included in this judgment.  Among them was the nation "Edom" (Jeremiah 25:15 and forward).

The list ends with these words: "I will call for a sword on all the inhabitants of the earth" (Jeremiah 25:29).  The direction of the prophesy we are reading in Obadiah is against the nation called "Edom," and the Lord is offended, deeply offended against them, "Because of violence to (their) brother Jacob," as stated in Obadiah 10.  "Jacob" in this context is the nation Israel, a people created by God.  Those who attack God's loved ones will "become as if they had never existed."

Verse 17. “But on Mount Zion there will be those who escape, and it will be holy. And the house of Jacob will possess their possessions.”

The term "Mount Zion" in this verse referred to the area of the city of Jerusalem, a place surrounded by the tribe of Judah, which (with the tribe of Benjamin) became the nation "Judah" when the ten northern tribes of Israel ("Jacob") broke off on their own.  Jerusalem has been so utterly destroyed through the centuries that it would seem impossible; yet many Jews would "escape" and "Mount Zion" would be known as a "holy" place once more.

It is interesting that the "house of Jacob" does, once more "possess (the) possessions" of the land that is again called Israel.  And we should all take heart by the fact that they do.  For those who are called by the Lord; God Himself will restore that which is lost.  You can entrust yourself and all you have to Him.  He will protect your interests, now and forever.

Verse 18. “’Then the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau will be as stubble, and they will set them on fire and consume them, so that there will be no survivor of the house of Esau,’ for the Lord has spoken.”

The "house of Jacob" in this verse refers to the nation called "Judah," composed of the Hebrew tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and the "house of Joseph" was a reference to the ten tribes to the north that called themselves "Israel."  Great troubles have come upon the Jews through the centuries, which were like a "fire" and a "flame" applied to them.  But they would survive, as it has been for thousands of years.

This "fire" and "flame" would touch others as well.  You can look around the world today and find many who are called "Jews" (named for the tribe of Judah, son of "Jacob"), but no one can be found who can confidently testify that they have descended from "Esau," Jacob's brother.  God wants us to live with Him in eternity, and those like Esau, who was physically strong, but seemed to have no interest in the Lord, will not survive.  Jacob was weaker physically, but he looked to the Lord.

Verse 19. “Then those of the Negev will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the Shephelah the Philistine plain; also, they will possess the territory of Ephraim and the territory of Samaria, And Benjamin will possess Gilead.”

The "Negev" (or "Negeb" - "dry place") was the desert region to the south of Judah originally owned by the Amalakites (Numbers 13:29).  It was allotted to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1-9), but it was occupied by Judah and "Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of that people" (Joshua 19:9).  "Shephelah" was the low country along the Mediterranean that had been occupied for centuries by the Philistines.

"Ephraim" was a Hebrew tribe to the north and "Samaria" was a region also to the north.  The tribe of "Benjamin" became affiliated with the tribe of Judah, and "Gilead" was the area east of the Jordan River between Galilee and the Dead Sea.  "Gilead" was originally given to the Reubenites, Gadites and Manasseh (Deuteronomy 3:13).  This verse is a prophesy that Judah would predominate and possess all those areas, as they do today.

Verse 20. “And the exiles of this host of the sons of Israel, who are among the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negev.”

"Zarephath" was the town where Elijah resided during the last half of the drought (1 Kings 17:9 & forward), and it is mentioned in Luke 4:26, using the Greek name "Sarepta."  The ruins of that place are in the country of Lebanon, about 8 miles south of Sidon and 14 miles north of Tyre.  Jewish captors were taken there to be held and then sold into slavery, where they were shipped in chains to ports all around the Mediterranean Sea.

"Sepharad" occurs only in this place and it is not found elsewhere in the Bible.  The word is closely related to an Assyrian word for "boundary," and may refer to the fact that Jewish slaves were sent to the boundaries of the known world.  The Jewish exiles in Spain, the "end" of the world at that time, were known as "Sephardim."  The point of this verse is that the "exiles" of Israel would at last come home and occupy the area of the "Negev," as they do today.

Verse 21. “The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom will be the Lord’s.”

From eternity, it has been God's intention that the nation Israel is to occupy the "kingdom" known as the "Holy Land."  The Lord made certain promises to Abraham, which were passed through his son, Isaac, and Abraham's grandson, Jacob (also known as Israel), that have never been revoked, nor will they ever be.  "Mount Zion" originally was the name of one of the hills of Jerusalem and it came to be a name for the whole city, especially the temple mount.

It also has been extended to the "heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22) and heaven itself (Revelation 14:1).  Ultimately ALL nations will be judged, not only the descendents of "Esau;" - all individuals will be judged as well.  The "deliverers" are faithful servants of God, whether angelic or human.  In Revelation 21:9-10, the "bride, the Lamb's wife," is described as the "great city, the holy Jerusalem."  It is more than a city, it is a people, and you become a part of all this, when you place your faith in the Lord.

Father, let us be a part of Your kingdom - forever.  Forgive us our sins.  We place our trust in Your Son.  Thank You, Father.  We praise Your Holy Name.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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