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Arno C. Gaebeleinn

(C) In the Public Domain

                            THE PROPHET OBADIAH


     Of Obadiah we know nothing but his name, which means "servant of
Jehovah." There are numerous men mentioned in the Old Testament by that
name, but it is impossible to identify any one of these with Obadiah, or
to trace him. "The silence of Holy Scriptures as to the prophet Obadiah
stands in remarkable contrast with the anxiety of men to know something
of him. They hoped that Obadiah might prove to have been the faithful
protector of the prophets under Ahab; or the son of the Shunamite, whom
Elijah called to life, or the Obadiah whom Jehoshaphat sent to teach in
the cities of Judah, or the Levite who was selected, with one other, to
be the overseer set over the repair of the temple in the reign of Josiah.
Fruitless guesses at what God has hidden! God has willed that his name
alone and this brief prophecy should be known in this world" (Dr. Pusey).

     Inasmuch as nothing is known of this man of God, nor anything
stated under whose reign he uttered his prophecy, the guesses about the
time he lived are numerous and very contradictory. The critics have
assigned to Obadiah dates removed from each other by above 600 years.
We quote again from Pusey's commentary: "The punishment of Edom the
prophet clearly foretells, as yet to come; the destruction of Jerusalem,
which, according to our version is spoken of as past, is in reality
foretold also. Unbelief denies all prophecy. Strange, that unbelief,
denying the existence of a jewel--God's authentic and authenticated
voice to man--should trouble itself about the age of the casket in which
the jewel rests. Yet so it was. The prophets of Israel used a
fascinating power over those who denied their inspiration. They denied
prophecy, but employed themselves about the prophets. Unbelief denying
prophecy had to find out two events in history, which should correspond
with these two events in this prophet--a capture of Jerusalem and a
subsequent judgment of Edom. And since Jerusalem was first taken under
Shishak, king of Egypt, in the fifth year of Rehoboam 970 B.C., and
Josephus tells us that in 301 B.C. Ptolemy Lagus treacherously got
possession of Jerusalem, unbelieving criticism has a wide range in which
to vacillate. And so it reeled to and fro between these two periods, 970
B.C. and 301 B.C."

     Obadiah does certainly not belong to the prophets of the captivity,
nor to the post-Exilic prophets. The position given to him in the Hebrew
arrangement of the prophetic books bears witness to that. The internal
evidence shows that he is one of the earliest prophets, if not the
earliest. If we turn to Jeremiah 49:7-22 we find a very striking
similarity between the words of Jeremiah and the words of Obadiah
concerning Edom. The question is whether Jeremiah used Obadiah's words
or Obadiah made use of Jeremiah's message. It has been pointed out that
it is a peculiar characteristic of Jeremiah that he often leans upon the
utterances of the earlier prophets, and in his writing their thoughts,
words and symbols are often reproduced. Compare Jeremiah 47 with Isaiah
14:28-32; Jeremiah 47 with Isaiah 15 and 16; Jeremiah 49:1-6 with Amos
1:13-15, etc. When we point out this characteristic of the book of
Jeremiah we do not mean to say that this man of God was a copyist, who
slavishly copied the utterances of the earlier prophets. He had the books,
or scrolls, of the earlier prophets before himself and the Spirit of God
led him to use them; thus the Spirit of God repeated through Jeremiah
the testimony of his predecessors and confirmed their God-given
utterances. Jeremiah knew and possessed the prophecy of Obadiah, so that
we can say with certainty that Obadiah is earlier than Jeremiah.

     Now, Obadiah in his utterance lays bare the wicked behavior of Edom
in a time when Judah and Jerusalem were plundered by hostile forces. The
statement of some of the critics that the eleventh verse means only the
taking of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar is an assumption. The fact is the
prophet does not speak of the destruction of the city, but that
Jerusalem was plundered.

     Can this historically be located? There can be no question but it
must have reference to the time when the Philistines and the Arabs
invaded the city in the reign of King Jehoram. Then the Edomites threw
off the Judean supremacy (2 Kings 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8-10). They
also planned a great massacre of the Jews who were in the land of Edom
at that time (Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11). It was then that the
treacherousness of Edom and its evil spirit became fully manifested. But
there can be no question, as we show in the annotations, that the
description of their evil spirit against their kin includes the after
history, the fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, the opposition of
Edom during the times of the Maccabees and the future revival and doom
of Edom. It is, therefore, quite well established that Obadiah lived and
uttered his prophecy during the reign of Jehoram.


                       In a corrected version

  1. The vision of Obadiah,
     Thus saith the Lord Jehovah concerning Edom:
     We have heard tidings from Jehovah,
     And an ambassador is sent among the nations.
     Arise ye! Let us arise against her to battle!
  2. Behold, I have made thee small among the nations;
     Greatly art thou despised!
  3. The pride of thy heart has deceived thee,
     Thou dweller in the clefts of the rock, in
     the lofty habitation;
     Who saith in his heart:
     Who will bring me down to the ground?
  4. Though as high like the eagle,
     And though thou hast made thy nest among the stars,
     Thence will I bring thee down,
     Whispers Jehovah.
  5. If thieves came to thee,
     If robbers by night--
     How art thou destroyed!
     Would they not steal until they had enough?
     If grape gatherers had come unto thee,
     Would they not leave some?
  6. How is Edom searched out
     His hidden things laid bare!
  7. Even to the border
     Have all the men of the covenant sent thee;
     They have deceived thee, prevailed against thee,
     Those that were at peace with thee;
     Thy bread have they placed as a snare under thee.
     There is no understanding in him.
  8. Will not I in that day,
     Whispers Jehovah,
     Destroy the wise out of Edom,
     And understanding out of mount Esau?
  9. And thy valiant ones, O Teman, shall be dismayed,
     When every man is cut off from mount Esau
     By slaughter.
 10. For the violence of thy brother Jacob,
     Shame shall cover thee,
     And thou shalt be cut off forever.
 11. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side,
     In the day when strangers took captive his army
     And foreigners entered his gates,
     And o'er Jerusalem cast lots,
     Thou also wast one of them.
 12. And thou shouldest not have looked on
     the day of thy brother,
     On the day of his calamity;
     Thou shouldest not have rejoiced over
     the sons of Judah
     In the day of their destruction;
     Nor spoken proudly in the day of distress.
 13. Thou shouldest not have entered into
     the gate of My people
     In the day of their ruin
     Thou shouldest not have looked on his misfortune
     In the day of his calamity.
     And stretched not out thy hand for his possession
     In the day of his destruction.
 14. And thou shouldest not have stood at the cross-roads
     To cut off his fugitives;
     Neither shouldest thou have delivered up his remnant
     In the day of distress.
 15. For near is the day of Jehovah upon all nations.
     As thou hast done will they do to thee;
     Thy reward will be upon thy head.
 16. For as ye have drunken on the
     mountain of my holiness,
     All the nations shall drink continually,
     And drink and swallow down,
     And be as though they had never been.
 17. But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance; there shall be holiness;
     And the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
 18. And the house of Jacob shall be a fire.
     And the house of Joseph a flame.
     And the house of Esau for stubble;
     And they will kindle upon them and devour them,
     And there shall be none remaining of the house of Esau;
     For Jehovah has spoken it.
 19. And the south country shall possess the mountain of Esau,
     And the plain the Philistines;
     And they shall possess the fields of Ephraim,
     And the field of Samaria;
     And Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
 20. And the captives of this army of the children of Israel
     Will possess of the Canaanites as far as Zarepath,
     And the captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
     Shall possess the cities of the south.
 21. And Saviours shall go up on mount Zion,
     To judge the mountain of Esau.
     And the kingdom shall be Jehovah's.

                      Analysis and Annotations

     The brief prophecy of Obadiah is composed of two parts: Verses 1-16
concern Edom and its destruction and verses 17-21 reveal the
establishment of the kingdom in Israel and Israel's restoration and
victory. We shall give brief annotations to assist in the understanding
of this prophecy by making a threefold division:

     1. Edom's humiliation and ruin (verses 1-9).
     2. Edom's sin against Israel and the day of the Lord (verses 10-16).
     3. The kingdom of the restoration of Israel (verses 17-21)

     Verses 1-9. In order to understand Obadiah's prophecy, Edom's
origin and history must be taken into consideration. The Edomites were
the offspring of Esau. Of him it was said that Esau the Elder should
serve Jacob the younger. The character of Esau was soon manifested and
his offspring soon became powerful. In Genesis 36 we read of the
generations of Esau, who is Edom; there the dukes, the national chiefs,
are prominently mentioned. Long before Israel had kings, Edom had such
rulers, "And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before
there reigned any king over the children of Israel" (Gen. 36:31). In
Exodus 15 we read of the dukes in Edom being amazed and in Numbers 20 of
the King of Edom. His outrageous behavior towards the kin of Edom is
recorded in Numbers 20:14-21. Though the children of Israel promised not
to drink the waters in the territory of Edom, or take their fruit
without paying for it, Edom refused to give Israel passage; while Israel
turned meekly away from Edom. Thus Edom branded itself as the enemy of
the people of God. They had an undying hatred against the children of
Israel, the sons of Jacob. They had an envious dislike of the people of
God. Later it was attacked by Saul and conquered for David by Joab (2
Sam. 8). During the reign of Jehoram (or Joram) they revolted and gained

     When Judah and Israel began to decline Edom became more and more
arrogant and rejoiced in the evil which came upon the people of God.
Their dwelling place was the former possession of the Horim, a race
which lived in caves in the mountainous region, much like the
prehistoric cave dwellers on the North American continent. Edom
possessed then the so-called troglodyte dwelling places cut into the
cliffs of sandstone; these rocky habitations were suited to their
warlike character and gave them the shelter they needed. Hence they are
mentioned in verse 3 as "dwelling in the clefts of the rock." The ruins
of Petra still bear witness to its former grandeur. The wickedness of
Edom continued and when the Chaldeans came to destroy Jerusalem they
also seemed to have shown their hatred. We read in Psalm 137:7,
"Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem, who
said raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof." They were also
in evidence during the Maccabean period and later in the person of Herod
the Great, an Edomite, reigned in Jerusalem. The judgment pronounced
upon Idumea, their dwelling place, has found a startling fulfillment.

     But this does not end the story of Edom; there will be a future
revival of Edom and an ultimate history. This will be at the close of
the age, when the Lord regathers all Israel and Judah and ten tribes
will be reunited, then and before Edom will appear once more in
prominence. No one knows where and what Edom is today. One might almost
surmise that the Turk must have some connection with Edom in his
horrible hatred and outrages against the Armenians, who, as it is
claimed by some, may contain remnants of the ten tribes. But all this is
mere speculation. When God's time comes the Edomite will manifest their
national, undying hatred against the sons of Jacob, but Israel
victorious will lay their hand on Edom (Isa. 11:14).

     We read of this future judgment upon the country of Edom, Idumea,
in Isaiah 34:5:

     "And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens
shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their hosts shall fall
down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from
the fig tree. For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; behold it shall
come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of My curse, to judgment." It
is unfulfilled to the present
time, but it will be fulfilled when "the LORD, hath a sacrifice in
Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea" (verse 6), that is,
in the future day of the Lord. As the context shows in Isaiah 34:8, it
will be that day, "For it is the day of the LORD'S vengeance, and the
year of recompense for the controversy of Zion." Then comes the utter
desolation of Edom (Isa. 34:9-17; see also Ezek. 25:12-14; 35; Isa. 63:3
and Lam. 4:21-22). While Obadiah's prophecy has been partially fulfilled,
it awaits its final accomplishment in the day of the Lord.

     The prophecy begins with the announcement that tidings had come
from the Lord which was heard by the prophet and by the people; an
ambassador is sent forth among the nations to summon them to go up in
battle against Edom. The hour for Edom's overthrow has come. The Lord
has made them small among the nations. It was pride which brought them
low so that they would be greatly despised. As the dwellers in the rocks
they thought themselves secure and boasted of it by saying, "Who will
bring me down to the ground?" But the humiliation of Edom had been
decreed by the Lord and no power could arrest its execution. Their nests
were high as the eagles, yea, even so high that their habitations seemed
to be among the stars, yet the Lord would bring them down. His
destruction would be complete; the spoilers would not be like the
thieves, who steal till they have enough; or like the grape-gatherers
who leave something behind. There would be a clean sweep, everything
searched out, even the hidden things. Even those in whom they trusted,
with whom Edom made a covenant would deceive them and prevail against
Edom. Those with whom they made an alliance and gave hospitality would
turn against Edom and prove treacherous, though they had eaten bread
with them. Their friends of the heathen nations, whom they stirred up
against Israel, would forsake them completely and the Lord would destroy
the wise out of Edom and understanding out of Mount Esau. Even the wise
men will not be able to help them; their wisdom and understanding will
not avail. Teman is mentioned because it was known for its wise men;
Eliphaz, who spoke so well to job was a Temanite (Job 4:1). And the
prophet Jeremiah in his testimony against Edom wrote, "is wisdom no more
in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom
vanished?" (Jer. 49:7). But now their wise and valiant ones would be cut
off by slaughter.

     Verses 10-16. Her sin of violence against her brother Jacob comes
now in special remembrance. On account of it shame would cover them and
they would be cut off forever. When Jerusalem was in trouble and the
Philistines and Arabs plundered the city (2 Chron. 21:16-17), they stood
on the other side and revolted (2 Chron. 21:8-10). And more than that,
they joined in plundering the city. Thus it was afterwards when the
Babylonians came against Jerusalem, Edom rejoiced; they spoke proudly.
Perhaps what is recorded in verses 12-14 happened repeatedly. They
stretched out their hands for the possession of God's people. They
placed themselves at the crossroads to cut off the fugitives and
delighted to deliver up into the hands of their enemies the remnant
which was left.

     All this will be repeated once more, when another great prophecy
will be fulfilled and Jerusalem is once more surrounded by hostile
nations (Zech. 14:1-5). Not a few superficial Bible students thought
when Jerusalem was captured during the war, and all looked bright for
political Zionism, that the promises were now being fulfilled. There is
coming another siege of Jerusalem, preceding the glorious appearing of
the King of Israel, our Lord. That siege is prophetically described by
Zechariah. Among those nations will be found Edom once more. Once more
they will manifest their malice and hatred against Jerusalem.

     Then, to show the link of connection between the future and the
past, the prophet announces the day of the Lord. "For near is the day of
Jehovah upon all nations." This day has not yet been. There have been
judgments upon nations like Egypt, Babylon and others, nations which
were nations of power and culture, which have fallen under the dealings
of a righteous God; these judgments of the past did not bring that day
which Obadiah announced, of which Joel after him so fully speaks. The
day of the Lord upon all nations is future. When it comes it will mean
judgment for all nations, including Edom, Moab and others named in the
Scriptures of Truth; and that day will be immediately followed by an age
of blessing and glory such as the earth and race had never known before.
It will bring divine retribution. "As thou hast done will they do unto
thee." The nations of the earth will have to drink of the cup of His
fury and wrath.

     Verses 17-21. The final section of Obadiah's brief prophecy
concerns the kingdom, the victory over the enemies and the restoration
of His people. Mount Zion will come into its own; there will be
deliverance and there shall be holiness. What God had promised to be the
remnant of His people will be accomplished, and they will be a holy
people and then hold their possessions, all that the Lord in His
infinite grace had promised unto them. The house of Esau will be
consumed, so that none shall be remaining of Esau, while Israel will
occupy Edom's territory.

     The saviours mentioned in the last verse of this prophecy (or
deliverers) must mean the chosen instruments which go forth to teach all
nations and make known the glory of the King in their midst. For "the
kingdom shall be the LORD'S."

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