Obadiah is the shortest
book in the Old Testament, and is the most unlikely
place where we would expect a positive word about
the Messiah's reign. Indeed, the prophecy has been
described as a "Hymn of Hate," and "Obadiah's
Indignation Oration." This Hebrew prophecy could be
from the oldest writing prophet and could be placed
in B.C. 845. Others give it a later date of 587.
Obadiah means "Servant of
Yahweh." The theme of his short prophecy is the
destruction of Edom whereby one historical event is
taken as occasion for a prophecy. In it he predicts
the destruction of Edom, the most hated enemy of
Israel. But he also sees another day of judgment
upon the enemies of God. He sets his sights on "the
Day of Yahweh."
A REPUGNANT FAMILY
To understand Obadiah we
must go back to the days of two brothers Jacob and
Esau. Jacob beat his older brother out of his
birthright and as a result two brothers and their
decedents have been fighting ever since. They have
taken sides and waged war with each other. Esau's
descendents settled in the land of Edom. It was
south of the Dead Sea, marked by well-watered
plains, on an important caravan trade route that
became a very wealthy trading center. They were
notorious for making raids on their neighbors and
retreating to their impregnable strongholds at Sela
(Petra), Teman and Bozrah.
The bitter hatred of the
Edomites was reinforced in Numbers 20 when they
refused to allow the Israelites passage through
their territory while fleeing from Egypt. In the
conquest of the Promised Land they fought against
Israel. Later King David and his son Solomon subdued
them, and the Edomites later rebelled under King
Ahaz. This family feud was long, bitter and tragic.
One writer says, "It is significant that nowhere in
the Old Testament is any mention made of the gods of
the Edomites," and there is no indication that
Israel ever went after Edomite gods. There is no
indication that they even had a religion. They lived
The pious, patriotic
prophet of Judah pours forth the flaming righteous
indication of his soul. He denounces the proud
Edomites who deserve the punishment of God.
In this brief book Edom
is destroyed (vv. 1-9) and the reasons for her
destruction are given in vv. 10-14. However, it is
against this backdrop of judgment on Edom that we
discover that Israel will be restored. A remnant
will come forth from Judah vv. 17, 21.
THE RUIN OF EDOM
Obadiah has a strong firm
conviction regarding the inflexible integrity of
God. He is a righteous God who is in active control
of every phase of His creation and His chosen
The Hebrew prophets
looked forward to the time when Yahweh would
intervene in human affairs and judge the evil world.
The Edomites represented
the self-sufficient, oppressive we can do it all by
ourselves without God attitude. The prophets
proclaimed the end of all opposition to God. There
would come a day when Yahweh would settle all
accounts. He will rise to judge the world. That is
the coming Day of Yahweh. It will be a day of doom
and destruction to all opposition to God and a day
of salvation and victory to the people of God.
Obadiah saw the "Day of
Yahweh" looming near for all the enemies of God in
"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."
All of the Gentile
nations will drink of the cup of the wrath of God.
Keep in mind the Day of the LORD is a demonstration
of divine justice and divine grace.
Edom's defeat is but a
prelude to the overthrow of all powers set in
opposition to the LORD.
Edom is best regarded as
a type of the power of the world that is in
opposition to and hostile to God and His kingdom.
The cause of Edom's ruin
is their wickedness toward Israel (vv. 10-11). Edom
was hostile because Yahweh elected Israel (Genesis
Edom and all the enemies
of Israel will receive just retribution for their
sins against Israel on the Day of the LORD. The day
is drawing near on all the nations. The rule will be
"as you have done, it will be done to you. Your
dealings will return on your own head."
It would appear that
Obadiah was the first prophet to use the expression
"day of Yahweh." It is a day "on which Jehovah
reveals His majesty and omnipotence in a glorious
manner to overthrow all ungodly powers, and to
complete His kingdom." Out of this comes the idea of
"the day of judgment and retribution which
predominates in the prophetic announcements . . ."
(Keil and Delitzsch).
But judgment is only one
side of what is in view on that day. God reveals His
glory in judgment as well as salvation. In verse
sixteen he writes:
"Because just as you
drank on My holy mountain,
All the nations will
They will drink and
And become as if they had
The Hebrew scholars Keil
and Delitzsch observe that our passage describes,
"not only judging all nations and rewarding them
according to their deeds (vv. 15b, 16), but as
providing deliverance upon Zion (v. 17), and setting
up His kingdom (v. 21). The retribution will
correspond to the actions of Edom and of the
Moreover, " . . . Obadiah
regarded Edom as a type of the nations that had
risen up in hostility to the Lord and His people,
and were judged by the Lord in consequence, so that
what he say of Edom applies to all nations which
assume the same or a similar attitude towards the
people of God. From this point of view he could,
without reserve extend to all nations the
retribution which would fall upon Edom for its
However, as we shall see
it is a divinely ordained future for Israel.
THE ROLE OF THE
"But on Mount Zion" is a
fresh cool breeze against the heat of the hot,
hostile night. Obadiah writes in verse seventeen:
"But on Mount Zion there
will be those who escape,
And it will be holy.
And the house of Jacob
will possess their possessions."
Most scholars see verse
twenty-one as part of the stanza formed with verse
seventeen. The theme of Zion dominates both verses
17 and 21. Verse 21 takes up the phrase "on Mt.
Zion" which begins in v. 17. My Zion is the seat of
the kingdom of Yahweh (v. 21). It is a type of the
kingdom of God in its fully developed form just as
Edom is a type of the nations of the world system in
opposition to God. Obadiah writes in verse
"The deliverers will
ascend Mount Zion
To judge the mountain of
And the kingdom will be
The sacred site will be
rehabilitated. The fortunes of God's people are
contrasted to the absolute destruction of Edom.
There is consolation and hope for the remnant.
Mt. Zion is the LORD's
dwelling place and the land rightly belongs to Him.
The holy hill is a symbol of the LORD's land. To
worship Him carried with it the privilege of living
in the land. When the fortunes are reversed the land
too will be restored to its rightful owners. With
play on words the prophet links the city of
Israel's enemy Edom will
be destroyed, but Yahweh will restore His people.
The true victor, of course, is not Israel, but
Yahweh who is sovereign over the Edomites of this
world. The Lord God reigns!
Verse eighteen draws out
the contrast further by emphasizing the total
destruction of "all the nations." God will bring
judgment upon the nations of the world.
"Then the house of Jacob
will be a fire
And the house of Joseph a
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 Old Testament idea of
the blessings of God was bound to the material
possession of the Promised Land. As Allen observes,
"the land had a sacramental significance: spiritual
restoration to divine favor is inextricably linked
with material restoration of Palestine."
THE REIGN OF THE
Some modern scholars see
this and other passages that relate to the
restoration of the land fulfilled in the modern
State of Israel. On the other hand, other scholars
see the contemporary Israel inspired by raw
political nationalism rather than by the divine. But
cannot our Sovereign LORD use a political, even
non-religious Israel, to accomplish His chosen goal?
Still other scholars see the territorial Israel
transmuted into a supernatural heavenly Jerusalem
and new Israel.
One thing is for sure the
coming of this kingdom has already begun with Jesus
Christ, and in Him it reaches its consummation at
His Second Coming.
Edom is only a type of
the God-hating Gentile world and therefore the true
fulfillment can be seen in Christ alone.
"The leading thought is: The universal dominion of
the kingdom of God which follows the deepest
abasement of the people of God, and of which the
fullest and most perfect realization must be sought
in Christ . . . . The coming of this kingdom began
with Christ, and looks for its complete fulfillment
in Him." Cf. Joel 3:21; Mic. 4:7; Isa. 24:23.
Just as surely as God
fulfilled His judgment on Edom He will also fulfill
His promises regarding Zion and her Deliverer!
Who will eventually
dominate the world? The house of Jacob, the true
people of God will under the rule of the Messiah.
Malachi 1:3 reminds us
Yahweh made the mountains of Esau into a wilderness.
This can only refer to the desolation of the land of
Edom by the Babylonians.
The destruction of the
Edomites as a nation was commenced by Judas
Maccabaeus in 164 B.C. John Hurcanus subdued them
entirely c. 129 B.C. and forced them to accept
Judaism including circumcision and the observance of
the Mosaic Law. They became the hated Idumeans
during the days of Christ and gave to the Jews the
Herodian family. They completely disappear from
history with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.
D. The Romans slew the Idumeans in Jerusalem along
with the Jews. A few Edomites who remained were lost
among the Arabs. The Edomites were "cut off forever"
(v. 10) by the Romans. Its very name disappeared
from the earth. There are no Edomites living today.
Amos 9:11, 12; Numbers
24:18 and Obadiah 18 all refer to the same events. A
Ruler will arise out of Jacob (the Messiah) and,
according to Amos it will take place in connection
with the raising up of the fallen hut of David, and
according to Obadiah, in the day of Yahweh along
with the judgment of all the nations.
The fulfillment of
Obadiah 17 and 21 can only belong to the Messianic
times. It commenced with the founding of the kingdom
of Christ on this earth and it reaches its
fulfillment at the second coming of Christ.
Jesus Christ alone will
be exalted. "God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on
Him the name which is above every name, so that at
the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who
are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and
that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians
Jesus Christ is
Yahweh–God. One day all mankind will be made to
acknowledge that Jesus Christ is all He claimed to
be—very God of very God. Unfortunately, for many it
will be too late for the salvation of their souls.
There is a day coming in the future when the exalted
place the Savior now occupies in heaven will
consummate in the universal submission and
acknowledgement of His lordship by all mankind.
Will you submit to His
lordship today as a free volitional choice?
One day you will not have that free choice. You will
bow before Him and confess Him as a sovereign whose
right it is to reign. One day we will have the
glorious opportunity of being a part of the "great
multitude, which no one could count, from every
nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb,
clothed in white robes, and palm branches in their
hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying,
'Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to
the Lamb" (Revelation 7:9-10). Even so come, Lord
The all-sufficient work
Jesus Christ includes the giving of the Holy Spirit.
Have you received His free gift of eternal life by
grace through faith in Christ alone? Here is A
Free Gift for You.
15-17 Obadiah's Hymn of Indignation
Christ in the Old Testament