Obadiah 1

1 The vision of Obadiah. The Lord of all says this about Edom.

We have heard a message from the Lord.

He sent someone with a message to the nations.

He said, 'Get ready! Let us go to war against its people.'

The word 'vision' refers to special words that God uses. He uses them to speak to people. It means that here Obadiah will speak the words of God. The prophecy is about a terrible event that would happen to Edom. Obadiah repeats what Jeremiah said in his prophecy (Jeremiah 49:14). The nations that were once friends with Edom's people would attack their country. Obadiah received a message about Edom. At the same time, he heard that this attack would happen.

2 I will make you low in position among the nations.

Everyone will think that you have no value.

3 Your pride has made you believe something. But that thing is not true.

You live in Sela. You live there in the hiding place in the rock. (A hiding place is where people hide themselves. They go there so that other people cannot see them.)

Your home is high in the mountains.

You say to yourself,

'Nobody can ever pull me down.'

4 You fly very high like an eagle (a big strong bird with large wings).

Your nest seems to be above the stars,

but I will pull you down.

God is going to make Edom small in size and in value. The people thought that they were better than other people. They thought that armies could not attack their home. An eagle is a big strong bird with large wings. As an eagle flies high, so Edom's people were high above their enemies. They were high above them as the stars are high in the sky. Sela (verse 3) was the chief city of Edom's people. They had cut the city out of rock. It was high up in the rock, so they could hide themselves there. They believed that nobody could capture it.

They forgot that God was above them. He could easily pull them down. As we read in Proverbs 16:18, ' Pride leads to destruction.' People wanted to be like God. As a result, they did not obey God. This was the first wrong thing that they did. Many people today think that they are better than other people. Because of this, they think that they are safe. They forget the greatness of God.

5 Let us suppose that thieves came to you.

Perhaps they came during the night.

They would steal only as much as they wanted.

(What terrible events will come to you!)

Perhaps people that pick grapes came to you.

They would leave a few grapes.

6 Look how people have taken things from Esau.

They have stolen all the valuable possessions that he hid.

7 Your friends have not been loyal to you. They have made you leave your country.

There are people that were at peace with you. But now they have ruined you.

The friends that ate with you have made a plan. By that plan, they want to capture you.

How foolish you were to trust them!

Here the writer imagines that thieves have attacked Edom's people. These people would know what would happen after that. Thieves that picked grapes would leave some for the foreigners and poor people (Deuteronomy 24:21). But the prophet interrupts his prophecy with a cry of great fear. Then he declares that other people will completely destroy Edom. Nobody and nothing will remain there.

This will not happen to Israel. Israel's people will receive punishment, but God will not completely destroy them. Here the prophet is using the rhythm of a song for a funeral. This shows how terrible the punishment is. Edom's people believed that their friends would help them. But in fact, their friends turned against them. This is like what Judas did to Jesus. He was a 'friend' of Jesus. But he was not loyal to Jesus. In verse 6 there is a reference to Esau. This links with the use of his brother Jacob's name in verse 10. This verse shows how the nations should have behaved towards each other. Their relationship should have been like the relationship between brothers should be.

Verses 6-7 are in the prophetic perfect. Obadiah writes about these events as if they had already happened. This is because he was so certain that they would happen.

8 The Lord says this.

On that day I will destroy the wise men of Edom.

I will also destroy the wise men in the mountains of Esau.

9 I will make the soldiers of Teman very afraid.

I will kill every man in the mountains of Esau.

'That day' means the day of judgement for Edom. Edom's people were a proud nation. They thought that they had greater wisdom than anyone else. Eliphaz, who tried to advise Job, was from Teman. (We can read about this in the book called Job.) Edom's people thought that their army was better than any other army. But God would destroy it. There would be a day of Judgement for Edom. Similarly, there will be a final Day of Judgement for everyone. On that day, God will destroy everything in which people trust. This includes their wealth, their wisdom and their armies. And it includes help that they receive from other nations. 'The mountains of Esau' means the country called Edom.

10 Because you used force towards your brother Jacob,

you will be deeply ashamed.

I will completely destroy you.

11 You stood on the other side

when strangers carried off his wealth.

You were as bad as those foreigners that broke down the gates.

They divided up Jerusalem among themselves.

This explains why God would punish Edom's people. Here 'Jacob' means all of Israel's people. In Deuteronomy 23:7, God told Israel's people not to hate a person from Edom. However, Edom's people hated Israel's people. Edom's people used force against them. They hurt Israel's people and they killed them. Israel's people remembered that Edom's people had attacked Jerusalem. (Look at Psalm 137:7.) Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan. A Samaritan was a person who lived in Samaria. Samaritans and Jews were enemies. This Samaritan helped the Jew when people from the Jew's own country did not help him (Luke 10:30-35). The priest and the Levite, who were Jews, 'went by on the other side'. They did not help the man in trouble. (A Levite was a person from the family of Levi. The Levites helped the priests.) Edom's people were like the priest and the Levite. They did not help Israel's people when these were in trouble.

12 On that day, your brother had a bad experience. But you should not then have considered him as worse than you.

On that day, when Judah's people were destroyed, you should not have laughed at them.

On that day, they had their trouble. But you should not then have said how great you were.

13 On that day, my people were suffering disaster.

But you should not then have entered their city.

You should not have considered them as worse than you.

You should not have seized their wealth.

14 You should not have stood at the place where the roads cross each other. You were waiting there in order to kill people. Those were the people that tried to escape.

Nor should you have given to the enemy those that were still alive.

Hebrew is the language that the Jews spoke. In the Hebrew Bible, these verses are commands. That is, 'You should not consider them as worse...' and so on. Actually they describe the events at the capture of Jerusalem. So we have translated them here in the past tense. Because Obadiah has written the verses as commands, these events seem more terrible. Edom's people have been told not to do certain things. But in fact, they have done them! Notice how they have moved from thoughts to actions. First, they 'considered them worse' and they 'laughed at them'. Then they 'entered the city' and they 'seized their wealth'. When we do wrong, the same thing happens. Jesus said that anger was as bad as murder! Some of Judah's people tried to escape from their enemies. But Edom's people tried to kill them. Or they handed them over to those enemies. These were the worst crimes that Edom's people did.

Notice the use of the word 'day'. This can mean 'a good or bad event in connection with some place or person'. This leads on to the next section. That section refers to the Day of the Lord. This is the final judgement. God will decide then who is right or wrong.

15 The day of the Lord is near for all nations.

People will do to you what you have done.

What you have done will happen to you.

16 As you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink in the same way. They will not stop.

They will drink. And they will continue to drink. They will become as if they had never been born.

17 But some on Mount Zion will escape

and it will be a holy place.

The people of Jacob will possess what their family gave them.

18 The family of Jacob will be like a fire.

The family of Joseph will be like a flame.

They will destroy the family of Esau as if it were stubble. ('Stubble' means plants' short stems that remain in the ground after people have cut off the top part of the plant.)

Nobody in the family of Esau will continue to live.

I, the Lord, have spoken.

The day of the Lord is when God punishes people. He does this because they have not obeyed his laws. This punishment may be an invasion (when an enemy enters a country). It may be a natural disaster (a fire or when the earth shakes, for example). It will come upon the Jews and the Gentiles (people that are not Jews). The final Day of the Lord is the Last Judgement, when Christ comes again. Then God will punish those that oppose him. And he will save those that trust him. We cannot see in the Bible exactly when this day will come.

People will do to Edom's people what Edom's people did to other people. Edom's people drank with pleasure when their enemies captured the 'holy hill'. (This is another name for Jerusalem. In verse 17 Mount Zion is also another name for Jerusalem.) Now Edom's people and the other nations will suffer punishment by God. And they will suffer his anger. In the end it will be as if they had never been born. Mount Zion (Jerusalem) will be a place where some will escape. These will be the people that trust God. Joel was a prophet who lived after Obadiah. In Joel 2:32 he repeated these words. 'God will rescue everyone that calls the Lord's name for help. Because "on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem some will escape". The Lord has said this. Those that God calls will live.' Mount Zion would be a holy place and it would be a safe place. This is because God would be there. It would be a mountain where there was blessing. It would be very different from the mountain where Esau's pride was. Israel's people would again possess the land that God had promised to them. This happened when Ezra led them back to Jerusalem from the foreign country called Babylon. (The king of Babylon sent him to help the Jews make their home in Jerusalem.) They built again the place where they praised God. The names 'Jacob' and 'Joseph' mean all the 12 families of the sons of Jacob. Those families will be the agents of God's anger. God will use them to ruin Edom. ('Fire' and 'flame' here mean God's anger.) Some of Israel's people had escaped from Jerusalem. And they were still alive. Edom's people tried to kill them. But in the end, none of Edom's own people would remain alive.

The message for the modern reader is clear. When Jesus comes again, God will kill his enemies. Edom's people are an example of God's enemies. But he will rescue those that call him for help. He will keep them safe for ever. They will enjoy all the blessings that God has promised them. Jesus Christ has drunk from the 'cup' of God's anger. He did this for them. Jesus said, 'Can you drink the cup of suffering that I must drink?' (Mark 10:38).

'Christ's death "joined in one body all the separated people of God" (John 11:52). The " Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16) will stand complete.' (D. W. B. Robinson)

19 People from southern Judah will live in Esau's mountains. People from the plains will own the country of the Philistines. They will live in the fields of Ephraim and Samaria. The people in the family of Benjamin will own Gilead. 20 The group of Israelites in Canaan had to leave their own country. They will own the land as far as Zarephath. The people in Sepharad that came from Jerusalem had to leave their own country. They will own the towns of southern Judah. 21 People that free other people will go from Mount Zion. They will go to rule Mount Esau. The Lord himself will be the king.

These verses are not written in poetry. They explain how much land Israel will own. Southern Judah is the Negev. This is the desert south of Beersheba. The people from there will live in Edom. The people from the plains will live in the Philistines' country. This is the Shephelah. It is the low land west of Hebron towards the sea. (The Philistines had often helped Edom to oppose Israel.) People from the plains will also live in Ephraim. (Ephraim is the country of the family of Joseph's second son.) And they will live in the central part of the Philistines' country and Samaria. (Samaria was the chief city of the northern kingdom of Israel.) The family of Benjamin (Jacob's youngest son) will completely control Gilead. (This is the land to the east of the River Jordan.) Verse 20 is very difficult to understand. We can translate the word 'group' as 'Halah'. This is a place in Assyria. Those people that had to leave their own country went there in 722 BC. We could then translate the first part of verse 20 in this way. 'The people from Halah that had to leave their own country, will return. (In the beginning they lived in Israel, the northern kingdom.) They will overcome Phoenicia as far north as Zarephath.' (Zarephath was a small town in Phoenicia. It was between the towns called Tyre and Sidon. Phoenicia was the country to the north-west of Israel.) Therefore when they return they will have more land. The second part of verse 20 refers to the Jews. Their enemies removed them from their own country in 586 BC. We are not sure what Sepharad means. Some people think that it is Sardis in Asia Minor. Perhaps some of the second group went there. When they return they will own southern Judah, the area called the Negev. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah will unite to rule the country.

People will free Jerusalem (Mount Zion) and they will rule over Mount Esau. Mount Esau is like all the nations that oppose God. The Lord ( Yahweh) will be the king.

In fact the Israelites have never obtained all these lands. These verses may refer to how the good news about Jesus will spread. They also refer to the time that the writer of Revelation 11:15 describes. 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Messiah. He will be the king for ever and ever.'

Final Notes

Obadiah is a difficult book to understand. However, the message is very important for today. In this book, we learn that God will completely defeat his enemies. God says to the Messiah, 'Sit here on the right side of me. I will put your enemies under your feet.' (See Hebrews 1:13.) Punishment will come upon Edom's people. It is like the punishment that will come upon Babylon's people. In Revelation 18:5, 6 the writer says, 'God remembers their wicked acts. Do the same to them as they have done to you.' In his book, Obadiah also teaches that one day God will let his people return. He will be the King over all. There will be a new Jerusalem. 'The royal seat of God will be in the city. It is also the royal seat of the Lamb (a name that Jesus had). God's servants will serve him' (Revelation 22:3). Compare this with Obadiah verses 17 & 21. Of course, Obadiah did not know all that we know. However, he explained all this in a manner that his readers could understand.