Esau’s hatred of Jacob has played out as bitter conflict through the centuries. The predictions of Obadiah will impact the Middle East in the years ahead.

Obadiah is not only the shortest prophecy, but also the shortest book of the Old Testament. The author was Obadiah, whose name means “the servant of the Eternal.”

The prophecy is largely concerned with the condemnation of Edom (descendants of Esau) for treachery toward their brother Israel (descendants of Jacob) and the resultant punishment Edom will endure.

Who is Edom?

Edom is another name for Esau (Genesis 25:30). Esau’s descendants grew into a nation and dwelt in the region of Mount Seir (Genesis 36:8-9) with Petra as their chief city. In modern times this area is known as southern Jordan.

One of the chief tribes of Edom was Teman (Obadiah 1:9), named after Esau’s grandson (Genesis 36:10, 15). As the people of Teman began to multiply and expand, they occupied the area south and east of the Dead Sea, which became known as the land of Teman or the “land of Temani” (Genesis 36:34).

Historical background

The enmity between Israel and Edom can be traced back to the incident where Jacob convinced Esau his brother to sell him his birthright (Genesis 25:29-34). From that time, animosity between the two brothers and their descendants continued (aside from brief respites—see Genesis 33:1-16; 35:27-29). For example, Edom refused passage to Moses and the children of Israel during their travels to the land of Canaan (Numbers 20:14-21). King Saul fought against Edom (1 Samuel 14:47), and David brought Edom under his control (2 Samuel 8:13-14).

When Judah was conquered in 586 B.C., Edom supported the Babylonians from the sidelines, aptly reflected by the psalmist in Psalm 137:7: “Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom the day of Jerusalem, who said, ‘Raze it, raze it, to its very foundation!’”

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (revised edition) comments: “Not only did the Edomites do all they could to frustrate the desperate people of Judah; they also encouraged the Babylonians to ‘tear it [Jerusalem] down to its foundations!’ The word ‘foundations’ implies more than the actual foundations of the walls of Jerusalem, as it also pertains to the God-established order (yasad) in creation, in his rule, and in his election of a people as his own (cf. 24:2; 78:69; 89:11; 104:5). The Edomites were hoping for the destruction of the ‘foundations’ of Yahweh’s rule on earth. This interpretation receives its validation in Obadiah’s prophecy against Edom.”

This helps explain the Bible’s scathing condemnation for the nation of Edom.

Other prophecies about Edom

God will not forget the treachery of Edom toward Judah during her time of tribulation, distress and captivity. Notice Ezekiel 25:12-13: “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.’”

And Isaiah 34:5-6: “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; indeed it shall come down on Edom, and on the people of My curse, for judgment,” which will result in “a great slaughter in the land of Edom.” Isaiah 63:1-6 also describes God’s end-time punishment of Edom.

Also see the striking similarity between the words of Obadiah and Jeremiah 49:7-22.

Outline of Obadiah

Verses 1-14: Edom’s destruction during the Day of the Lord.

  • Verses 1-9: Edom condemned for pride.
  • Verses 10-14: Edom condemned for brotherly hatred and cruelty.

Verses 15-21: Vision of the Day of the Lord.

  • Verses 15-16: Judgment “upon all the nations.”
  • Verses 17-21: Israel restored; God’s Kingdom established (“the kingdom shall be the LORD’s”).

Pride leads to destruction

The Bible states that pride in nations or individuals will lead them down a path of destruction. The Edomites felt secure in their mountain stronghold. Mount Seir was the highest mountain in their nation (Obadiah 1:3-4), making them feel superior to Mount Zion and Judah. Their rock fortress city Petra seemed impregnable and secure from invasion.

Proverbs 16:18-19 states: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Edom’s haughty attitude would bring them to a fall: “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; you shall be greatly despised” (Obadiah 1:2).

The Bible states that God opposes and sets Himself against the proud: “God resists the proud, but gives grace [favor] to the humble” (James 4:6). The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (revised edition) comments on this verse: “The ‘mighty’ of the earth, who because of status, wealth, or power, have an inflated view of their significance in the world, are opposed by God. In other words, he resists or works against them and their agendas.”

We read about Edom: “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?’” (Obadiah 1:3).

An attitude of pride in their own greatness and achievements can lead a nation to adopt an independent spirit and a rejection of God and the Bible. This disposition places them in direct opposition to God and the blessings that come from obedience to Him.

Time setting of Obadiah’s prophecy

One of the major principles for understanding biblical prophecy is to determine the time setting. Verse 15 gives a specific time: “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near” (emphasis added throughout). This is a reference to the time in the future when Christ will return to intervene in human affairs to prevent the earth from being totally destroyed.

Christ, in giving various signs characterizing the end of the age (Matthew 24:3, 14), made reference to His second coming in order to save mankind from utter destruction (verse 22). This is the Day of the Lord described by many of the prophets.

Notice this comment from The New Unger’s Bible Handbook (revised by Gary N. Larson): “In verse 15 the prophet links the future with the past in a prediction still unfulfilled. ‘The Day of the Lord is near for all nations.’ All nations will be judged … the Lord Himself in kingdom power shall rule over all (Ps. 22:28; 103:19).”

It is likely that the events described in Obadiah 1:11-15 may yet be fulfilled in the years ahead.

The day Christ returns

Christ stated that He would return to the earth on a particular day.

  • As lightning flashes from one part of the sky to another “so also the Son of Man will be in His day” (Luke 17:24).
  • “But on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. In that day … the one who is in the field, let him not turn back” (Luke 17:29-31).
  • “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mark 13:32).

Although the Bible does not provide a specific date, that does not change the certainty of Christ’s return. The disciples asked Jesus privately, “Tell us, when will these things [end-time events] be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

These prophecies will be fulfilled at the return of Christ when the saints will be resurrected to form part of the Kingdom of God. Then Christ will establish His government and benevolent rule over all nations.In order to answer their questions, Jesus proceeded to list a number of signs that would reveal when “they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:4-31).

“And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s”

God desires that people listen to and act on the prophetic warnings contained in His Bible. He wants us to respond to Him so that He can open our minds to a greater understanding of His plan and purpose for mankind (Revelation 21:7).

In their concluding comments on the book of Obadiah, authors William LaSor, David Hubbard and Frederic Bush state: “People still chafe under injustices in this world, and yearn for a day when things will be ‘as they should be.’ Human intervention, crucial though it is, is not the ultimate answer to this cry for justice. And when it does, all will indeed know the One who rights all wrongs, restores the just possession (v. 19 f.), and performs his will on earth as it is now done in heaven” (Old Testament Survey, p. 375).

Obadiah ends his prophecy in verse 21 on a most encouraging and comforting note:

  • “Then saviors [margin ‘deliverers’] shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau.”

Who are these saviors who are given the power of judgment and deliverance? “Judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Daniel 7:22, King James Version). The apostle Paul wrote: “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” (1 Corinthians 6:2).

  • “And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.”

These prophecies will be fulfilled at the return of Christ when the saints will be resurrected to form part of the Kingdom of God. Then Christ will establish His government and benevolent rule over all nations (Revelation 11:15).

What about the immediate future?

It is tragic to witness the decline of the Christian nations of the Western world, who lamentably are failing to uphold biblical values and principles as God intended. The inspired writings recorded in Hosea aptly describe why their power, influence and prestige are diminishing:

  • “Because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law” (Hosea 8:1).
  • “I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing” (8:12).
  • “For Israel has forgotten his Maker” (8:14).

How many people will have the courage to acknowledge that they have abandoned God’s laws and turn back to Him?

How many will take note and heed the warnings recorded in God’s Word before it is too late?

This promise is recorded in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

For further study, read the articles in the “Minor Prophets” section.

For a quick link to all the other books of the Bible, see “Books of the Bible” on the Learning Center.

About the Author

André van Belkum

Andre van Belkum

Andre van Belkum currently serves as the pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in New Zealand and the Pacific region. Previously he pastored congregations in southern Africa, including South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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