Obadiah

Introduction

The book of Obadiah only has one chapter! It's one of the shortest books in the Bible. With such a succint book, you can expect that not much is known about it's author, the prophet Obadiah—he keeps it straight to the point and doesn't spend much time on himself. Some scholars believe he was a contemporary of Jeremiah, while others believe he operated around the reign of Jehoram, and yet others place him as a contemporary of Elisha. The latter camps argue that because Obadiah doesn't mention the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, it was probably written before that destruction took place. The earliest date (Obadiah as a contemporary of Elisha) was proposed because Obadiah seems to reference the act that occurs in 2 Chronicles 28:17. No matter which of these dates is the true period in which Obadiah wrote, we can see that his prophecies were written before they were fulfilled.

Woe to Edom

Unlike most prophetic books of the Old Testament, Obadiah only talks about judgment on one nation: Edom. Edom was the bitter enemy of Israel, dating back to the rivalry between Esau (Edom) and Jacob (Israel). Despite the two brothers seeming to come to an agreement and make peace with each other, these two nations never got along. Edom joined Israel's ememies in attacking the city (2 Chronicles 28:17) and was not helpful when they were fleeing Egypt during the Exodus (Numbers 20:18). For this reason, God issued a judgment on Israel. Obadiah also lists the fact that Edom gloated over the failures of Israel as part of the judgment.

The judgment was that Edom would cease to exist. Obadiah describes the extent of dismantling Edom by contrasting it to robbery by thieves and plunders behave, noting that even they would leave something behind. Edom would become completely desolate and they would be betrayed by their so called allies. Today, there is no nation claiming to be descended from Edom. The last archelogical record explicitly referencing Edom as a kingdom/nation dates to 667bc.[2]
For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head. Obadiah 1:15 KJV

Characteristics of Edom

I thought it was interesting that there are a few descriptions of the Edomites that give us a glimpse of their culture. They were said to live in the clefts of the rocks, meaning they lived in the caves. I find this interesting because the other mention of caves in the Bible that come to mind are also negative. It is in a cave that Lot's daughter rape him to produce sons (Genesis 19:30-38) and in Revelation, it is there that the lost go to hide from God's wrath (Revelation 6:15). To this day there is still negativity associated with living in caves via the term "caveman."

Another thing I found interesting was that the Edomites were compared to an eagle. Countries have always had mascots, likely why in visions God uses beasts to represent countries (see Daniel 7, Acts 10, and Revelation 13). The eagle was also associated with the Roman empire. Today, the eagle is associated with many countries accross the globe, including the United Staes.[3]

What Can We Learn From This

For passages like this, I often ask myself what it is saying about my world today. Yes, the primary purpose was to give hope to the Israelites that the Edomites would pay for their behavior, and one could argue that a secondary purpose was for God to prove His ability to reveal the future to His servants. However, there's a reason God preserved this text for us today, long after the name Edom has become a thing of the past.

One of the main condemnations of Edom is that they relished in their brother's pain. We should not mock anyone else's suffering! We should also be willing to help our brothers and sisters when they are in need. We can learn from Edom's mistakes to ensure that we don't behave the same way.

References

  1. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 1121. 1995
  2. "Edom". Wikipedia; visited January 2021
  3. "Eagle (heraldry)". Wikipedia; visited January 2021

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About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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