Here’s my final post on the content of the book of Obadiah …

Read :

The Oracle (continued)

The final paragraph of the oracle first enlarges on the actions of the Edomites when Jerusalem fell (vs.12-14), then contrasts the respective fates of Edom and Judah (vs.15-18). The conduct of the Edomites, Obadiah says, deteriorated from mockery and exultation (vs.12) to looting (vs.13) and then to murder (vs.14). The Edomites, it appears, completely lost sight of even the moral demands of a common humanity and neglected the fact that the LORD will judge all nations (vs.15), and will recompense them according to their actions.

The LORD may have allowed the Babylonians to punish His own people, but the punishment was not to extinction. There would be a rem­nant restored to Zion (vs.16), as indeed had happened in Obadiah’s own day.

For Edom, by sharp contrast, the LORD’s answer to their arrogant question in vs.10 revealed that there would be no escaping the judgment of God. The climax to the whole oracle lies in the final words ‘… there shall be no survivors from the house of Esau …’ (vs.18).

The Appendix

Vs.19-21 add geographical detail about the restoration of the Jewish community, which in Obadiah’s time was small and insignificant. There appear to be some textual and other problems in these verses, but basically they promise expansion in all directions, southwards into Edom, westwards into Philistia, northwards into Samaria, and eastwards into Gilead. As the community assumed some­thing closer to its political shape in the golden days of King David, so it would also come closer to the spiritual atmosphere of those days: the king­dom would again be the LORD’s (verse 21).

The Conclusion

Though the nation of Edom dis­appeared from the political map, its people remained a recognisable social entity for some centuries. Some of them appear in the New Testament, though they often pass unrecognized. Herod the Great, for example, who was of Edomite descent through his father Antipater, attempted to kill the infant Jesus (Matthew Ch.2:16-18). Herod the Great’s son, Herod Antipas, murdered John the Baptist (Mark Ch.6:14-29). The same man could have intervened positively in the trial of Jesus, but merely exploited the occasion to strengthen his political position (Luke Ch.23:6-12). Herod Agrippa, a grandson of Herod the Great, took a lead in persecuting the early church (Acts Ch.12:1-2), and his son Agrippa (confusingly !) rejected the good news of the gospel when he was told it by Paul (Acts Ch.26, especially vs.24). The descendants of Jacob, the people of God, were constantly opposed by the descendants of Esau, the people of Edom. And although the lines of battle may no longer be drawn along genetic lines, the principle is still operative. Jesus said, ‘… whoever is not with me is against me …’ (Luke Ch.11:23). This remains both an essential element in the presentation of the gospel, and a persistent challenge to any who profess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. We need to examine our loyalty to the Lord, since as the prophet says, the LORD’s day is ‘… near for all nations …’ (Obadiah 15)

Below is the second part of my notes on reading the prophecy of Obadiah and the first part dealing with the oracle contained from vs.2 through to vs.18 …

Read :

The Oracle

The second half of vs.1 finds the prophet Obadiah reporting on some sort of anti­-Edomite alliance that is in the process of being formed. We know no details of the historical circumstances, but should that be the case, Obadiah views this development as being, ‘… from the LORD …’ and he uses it as the launch pad for his oracle of denunciation against the people of Edom.

The underlying sin of Edom is that archetypal human sin of pride (vs.2-4). The defensive strength of the imposing fortress city of Sela (Sela is the word translated as rock in vs.3), a city with natural protection on all sides that could only be approached from one direction along a narrow escarpment, contributed to the people’s belief they were impregnable.

In reply to the people’s arrogant rhetorical question `… who can bring me down to the ground …’ (vs.3) the LORD gives a straightforward and swift reply with a chillingly concise ‘… I will …’, in vs.4. The people of Edom who prided themselves on their perceived invincibility would become, ‘… utterly despised …’ (vs.2) by other nations. Indeed, history records that by about 500 BC the Edomites were already being dis­possessed from their traditional homeland territories by invading Arab tribes.

The prophet goes on to say that the punishment in store for Edom would be thorough and all-encompassing (vs.5-7). In normal times, those harvesting the grapes leave some fruit to be gleaned by the poor, and even thieves are selective in their choice of victims, but Edom is going to face total loss. And the shock of it will be all the worse because the perpetrators will be those the Edomites had counted as allies. Indeed it will be so astonishing as to seem incompre­hensible to them (vs.7), a deception that they were unable to uncover prior warning of.

This failure to grasp the facts leads Obadiah to mock the loss of the wisdom for which Edom was traditionally famed (vs.8-11). No more would they produce people renowned for wisdom like Eliphaz from Teman (Job Ch.2:11). And the reason why all this would be happening is as a response to the way Edom had treated their ‘… brother Jacob …’ (vs.10), the ‘… people of Judah …’ (vs.12).

The Edomites were of course the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Gen. Ch.25:19-­34). Despite the common expectation of good relationships between twin brothers, Jacob and Esau had never been at ease with each other (Gen. Ch.32-33), and the distance between them continued on into their descendants. The opposition of the Amalekites (Esau’s descendants according to Gen. Ch.36:9-13) to the people of Israel (Ex. Ch.17:8-16), and the refusal of the king of Edom to give Israel passage through his land (Num. Ch.20:14-21) were long remembered and resented. The hostility between the two groups reached boiling point at the ransacking of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 586 BC. When the enemy poured into the city, they were apparently followed by Edomites, just as hyenas follow lions, pitiless and eager for the spoils left behind. All thought of brotherhood and common origin was forgotten at that time; as Obadiah puts the climax of his accusation, ‘… you were like one of them …’ (compare Psalm 137:7). It is for this crime above all others that Edom brings upon itself the punishment of God.

Thoughts on the final paragraph of the oracle plus the appendix to follow shortly …