A Word for Edom

Posted: July 13, 2017 in Obadiah, Uncategorized

Obadiah, “A Word for Edom”

To say that brothers and sisters fight is not a cliché, so much as it is a plain fact.  Although some siblings grow out of their disagreements & become great friends later in life, other cases of sibling rivalry last through the generations.

The Biblical patriarchs were no different than the rest of us when it came to sibling rivalry, and in some ways, perhaps they define the term.  To this very day, the conflict between Ishmael and Isaac consumes world headlines in the form of conflict between the Muslims and the Jews.  That is a dispute that will eventually be solved, though it will not be until the day that Jesus returns in power and glory.

Other sibling conflicts were resolved earlier in history, but they had still endured for generations on end, one of which being that of Esau and Jacob.  The twin sons of Isaac, they struggled against each other from their day of birth (literally!), and the enmity between them was passed along to their national descendants: Edom and Israel.  When Israel was freed from Egyptian slavery, heading to their land of promise, Edom refused the nation passage through their lands. (Num 20:14-21)  When the Israelite monarchy began, Saul waged war against the Edomites, treating them no different than the other Gentile nations around him. (1 Sam 14:47)  David solidly defeated the Edomites, and they became his servants. (2 Sam 8:14)  The Edomites began rebelling against Israel during the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 11:14), and this back-and-forth went on for the remainder of the Jewish kingdom, with Edom generally being on the losing side of the battle.

Thus it might come as no surprise that when the kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians, the Edomites rejoiced.  But that’s not all Edom did.  Edom actually assisted in the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem, and gloated over the Jews at their defeat.  Thus what might have been understandable is actually sin.  They took joy in the suffering of God’s chosen people, and that was something God would not allow to go unaddressed.

Thus we have the book of Obadiah.  Perhaps the best way to remember the theme of the book is “Obadiah = Oh Bad Edom.”  This is God’s sovereign word against the Edomites – His judgment for the sins they committed against His people.  Had Israel & Judah sinned?  Yes – without question.  The very reason that God brought in the Babylonians in the way He did was due to the sin of the Jews.  They had repeatedly violated their covenant agreement with God, and the Lord Almighty could not allow it to pass.  Thus He brought in the Babylonians as His tool of judgment.  But just because Judah was judged by God didn’t mean that God had cast them away.  It didn’t mean He stopped caring for His people, or that He no longer had a plan or future for them.  He did!  The Jews may have broken their covenant with God, but God did not break His covenant with them.  God made them inviolable promises, and those promises would be kept!

One of those promises was spoken to the ancestor of both Israel and Edom: Abraham.  Genesis 12:3, "I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."  That covenant promise was passed from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob, who became Israel.  When Edom cursed the Jews, Edom cursed Israel…and God would act in their defense.  It is God’s judgment against Edom that Obadiah records in his letter.

It is a specific word for a specific time and a specific people.  Is there anything for us today?  Absolutely!  If there is one thing that is perfectly clear in the little book of Obadiah, it is that God is not just the God of Israel; He is the Sovereign God over all the world.  God sees the suffering of His people, and He will act in their defense.  We can trust in the plans of our God who rules over the nations.  Whatever it is that goes on today, our Lord is not ignorant of them.  Have faith that the God who loves you is the God who stands for you.


  • Edom’s sentence (1-9)

1 The vision of Obadiah.

  • That’s it…that is all of the personal information we have regarding the prophet.  We know nothing specific of his family, or anything else of his background.  The name “Obadiah” is fairly common in the Old Testament, and there’s no way to connect this particular prophet with any of the other men mentioned in the Bible.  Considering that his name translates to “Servant of YAH,” (עֹֽבַדְיָ֑ה ) it’s quite possible that the name is generic. In any case, the prophet doesn’t put any attention upon himself, and perhaps that’s the way he wanted it.
  • Although Obadiah writes nothing of his timeframe, we can actually guess with fairly decent accuracy as to when he wrote.  Jerusalem fell to Babylon in 586BC, and Edom fell to Babylon (under a different king: Nabonidus; not Nebuchadnezzar) in 553BC.  Considering the content of Obadiah’s prophecy, it seems that he wrote the book (page?) at some time between those two points.  Obviously, Jerusalem had indeed fallen, and Edom’s turn was coming.  This oracle was the proclamation of Edom’s soon fall.
  • Whether or not Edom actually received this prophecy is another question altogether, and one that cannot be answered with any certainty.  God had given this vision, but it could have been while Obadiah was captive in Babylon with no way for the message to be taken to Edom.  Or, perhaps Obadiah was one of the few allowed to stay behind, and he personally took it to them.  In the end, it’s irrelevant.  God had given many prophecies concerning Edom through other earlier prophets (Isaiah, Amos, Jeremiah), and Edom had plenty of opportunities to repent, if they had been interested.  In the end, that’s not really the main point.  Although the primary people in Obadiah are the Edomites, the primary audience are the Jews.  The Jewish people needed to remember that their covenant God still loved them & still acted on their behalf, even when they were helpless to do anything about it.
    • That’s something for all of us to remember, especially during times in which we may be experiencing the discipline of God.  God’s discipline doesn’t mean we are unloved; quite the opposite!  It is because God loves us that He chastens us. (Heb 12:6)  He certainly still loves us, grieves with us in our suffering, and desires His best for us.  Trust Him!

Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom (We have heard a report from the LORD, And a messenger has been sent among the nations, saying, “Arise, and let us rise up against her for battle”):

  • Where was Edom?  To the southeast of Judah.  It was to there that the nations would go, prepared for battle.  War was on its way to Edom, just as it had previously come to Judah.  This time, it wouldn’t be a singular nation, but many “nations” that would put the nail in the coffin of the Edomites.


2 “Behold, I will make you small among the nations; You shall be greatly despised. 3 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?’ 4 Though you ascend as high as the eagle, And though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” says the LORD.

  • Many have noted that the famed rock city of Petra is located within the borders of ancient Edom, but it is unlikely that Petra is envisioned by the phrase “you who dwell in the clefts of the rock.”  Petra was founded by the Nabateans, the people who pushed out the Edomites from their land, and it was their capital city.  That being said, it is possible that the Nabateans got the idea to carve their city into the rock from the Edomites who had done something similar.  The word translated “rock” is most likely a word-play on the Edomite capital, Sela (spelled the same way).  That was the city in which the Edomites took refuge, but they would find that it was insufficient.
  • The whole idea here is of a proud people brought low.  The Edomites had shown themselves to be insolent & presumptuous, and it would all come back upon their own heads.  They had exalted themselves, but they would find themselves humbled – humiliated by the Lord God.  Interestingly, similar language is used of the king of Tyre, which itself was reflective of that of Satan, in his own rebellion against the Lord.  Ezekiel 28:14–16, "(14) “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. (15) You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you. (16) “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones."  It was pride that caused Satan to lift himself up to blasphemous and traitorous thoughts against God, but God still cast him down to the earth.  It was pride in their economic prosperity that caused Tyre to believe it could do whatever it wanted, and God humbled them.  Likewise, it was pride that caused Edom to believe they could gloat over the defeat of God’s people, and just like with all the rest, God would show them otherwise.
    • Pride is truly a Satanic sin, yet it is one into which many of us fall…and often!  Pride is antithetical to the gospel.  Pride tells us, “I can do it!”  The gospel tells us, “I can do nothing; God must do it.”  Pride tells us, “I don’t need the Lord!”  The gospel tells us, “My only hope is the Lord!”  Lest we think otherwise, born-again Christians often fall into the trap of pride.  We think we have the power to live the Christian life on our own.  We think we have strength in ourselves to take on spiritual battles.  We think we can look temptation in the eye, and come out unscathed.  Experience shows us differently!  Attempts to live out our Christianity in our own power are based in pride, and founded in legalism.  It is our attempt to “do,” and inevitably we find out that we fail.  What we need is grace.  From beginning to end, we are absolutely dependent upon the grace of Jesus.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit.  We need the guidance of God the Father.  It is when we receive these things – when we are fully & wholly dependent upon Jesus – it is only then that we can glorify Him with the life He has given us.  Pride always takes us away from Jesus; grace takes us to Him.
  • Proud people will fall, and that is exactly what Edom would learn.  God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble. (Jas 4:6)  We can be humble, or we can be humbled.  Edom would learn the latter.

5 “If thieves had come to you, If robbers by night— Oh, how you will be cut off!— Would they not have stolen till they had enough? If grape-gatherers had come to you, Would they not have left some gleanings? 6 “Oh, how Esau shall be searched out! How his hidden treasures shall be sought after!

  • What was about to befall Edom would be nothing like anything else they had ever faced.  Other tragedies would have an end.  Other conquests might leave something behind.  Not this time.  Nothing would be left. All that Edom possessed would be lost – even the things they believed were safely hidden away.  When God allowed judgment to come to Edom, it would be total.
    • God’s judgment is always total!  When people finally stand before the Lord at His great white throne, every thought, deed, and word will be exposed.  Men & women will have to account for everything, and everything will be judged to the fullest extent.  Nothing will be hidden from Him.
    • Which only underscores our need for Jesus!  The total judgment for our sin has already been received: by Christ!  He has taken it all, on our behalf.

7 All the men in your confederacy Shall force you to the border; The men at peace with you Shall deceive you and prevail against you. Those who eat your bread shall lay a trap for you. No one is aware of it.

  • Speaking of betrayal.  Edom had allied itself with other nations against Israel in the past, but the Edomites would soon find themselves alone in their defense.  Historically speaking, the Edomites actually helped the Babylonians in their conquest of Jerusalem.  From their perspective, that was all well & good, up to the point that Babylon set their sights on Edom.  The nation they had once shared a shaky “peace” with, turned against them.  And what Babylon left behind, other nations later consumed, truly forcing Edom “to the border” of its land, to the point they actually lost their ancestral home.

8 “Will I not in that day,” says the LORD, “Even destroy the wise men from Edom, And understanding from the mountains of Esau? 9 Then your mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, To the end that everyone from the mountains of Esau May be cut off by slaughter.

  • How would it take place? All of this destruction would be by the hand & will of God.  This was no mere accident of the nations – this was not the rise & fall of world empires or other geopolitical overturnings of the ancient near east.  This was the act of God, the LORD YHWH: the covenant God of Israel.  Edom had risen up against beloved people of God, and God acted on their behalf.  God would destroy Edom, and there was nothing Edom could do about it.
  • Who would be left?  No one.  All over the land, all generalized by the major Edomite city of “Teman,” the “mighty men” and warriors would be destroyed.  “Everyone” all over the land would be “cut off.
  • This is a fearsome prophecy!  Is it accurate?  Yes. Again, Edom was attacked by Babylon in 553BC, and like Judah before them, they were conquered.  Out of the people who remained in the land, the Nabatean people (nomadic people, primarily of Arabic descent) came into the land once possessed by the Edomites, and took it for themselves.  Although they lost their land, the Edomites survived, as they moved into the southern areas once held by Judah, and they became known by the Greek-version of their name: Idumea. Over time, empires rose & fell, and the Jewish people were able to briefly gain independence (recorded in the non-canonical books of the Maccabees).  This Jewish kingdom, known as the Hasmonean dynasty, conquered Idumea, taking back the land for themselves in 125BC.  Once Rome asserted itself over the entire Mediterranean coastline, the region was still known as Idumea, but the people group had fallen into decline.  Herod the Great was actually an Idumean, but he was one of the last Idumeans to be known by history.  The people group disappeared, quite literally being “cut off,” per Obadiah’s prophecy. 
    • God keeps His word!  His prophecies are true…so we’d better pay attention to them!
  • Edom’s sin (10-16)

10 “For violence against your brother Jacob, Shame shall cover you, And you shall be cut off forever. 11 In the day that you stood on the other side— In the day that strangers carried captive his forces, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem— Even you were as one of them.

  • God had proclaimed a terrible judgment against Edom, and He also told them why they would receive it.
    • For “violence”: Again, they had helped the Babylonians conquer Jerusalem.  Truly the Edomites had been violent against their distantly related brothers!
    • For apathy: Refusal to act in the face of evil is almost as bad as the evil itself.  As God said, Edom “stood on the other side” as Judah suffered.  For that, they would be judged.
    • For enmity: When it came to choosing sides, Edom picked enmity against Israel.  They were no different than the other foreigners who came into Jerusalem to plunder it.
    • The bottom line: Edom could not have been more opposed to the Jews if they tried!  They had roundly earned the judgment of God against them.
  • Not that this news ought to have been surprising or new.  God warned Edom about this in the past.  The prophet Amos had also written of judgment against Edom, writing specifically how Edom engaged in slave-trading of God’s people.  The Philistines of Gaza delivered Israelites over to Edom. (Amos 1:6)  The people of Tyre delivered Israelites over to Edom. (Amos 1:9)  Edom itself engaged in terrible violence against the people of Israel. Amos 1:11–12, "(11) Thus says the LORD: “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, And cast off all pity; His anger tore perpetually, And he kept his wrath forever. (12) But I will send a fire upon Teman, Which shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.”"  Edom had consistently committed violence against his brother, and even after the many warnings given them by God, they refused to repent.  Thus God would deal with them in His judgment.
    • As terrible as it is to consider God’s judgment, think of it from another aspect: one of vindication.  When God acts, it is a good thing!  Think of it: one day, every victim of horrendous crime will see justice done – every act of evil that has escaped earthly punishment will answer to God.  There is no sin or crime that will remain unanswered in eternity.  That is gloriously good news!  One of the things that makes suffering so horrendous today is the fact that we so often cannot see an end or righteous response to it.  God has that righteous response!  God lays retribution upon the wicked.  He has an answer.
    • Of course, we would all face that retribution if it were not for the work of Jesus!  After all, we are just as wicked as those who have sinned against us, though we may have sinned in different ways.  Even so, all sin still has an answer: the cross.  The worst of sinners can still find eternal forgiveness when he/she turns to faith in Jesus.  The cross covers all, and praise God it does!  Without it, none of us would have any hope.
  • As for the prophecy, God goes on to describe the sin of Edom…

12 “But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother In the day of his captivity; Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah In the day of their destruction; Nor should you have spoken proudly In the day of distress. 13 You should not have entered the gate of My people In the day of their calamity. Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction In the day of their calamity, Nor laid hands on their substance In the day of their calamity. 14 You should not have stood at the crossroads To cut off those among them who escaped; Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained In the day of distress.

  • They gloated.  Remember the days after 9/11 when news pictures showed Palestinians dancing in the streets in celebration? (http://www.foxnews.com/story/2001/09/12/arafat-horrified-by-attacks-but-thousands-palestinians-celebrate-rest-world.html  http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/abc-news-footage-shows-911-celebrations/story?id=35534125 )  That was the reaction of the Edomites to the fall of Jerusalem.  The rejoiced and gloated over the people of God.  To be sure, they had warred against the Jews for generations – but that did not earn them to right to take joy in Jewish humiliation.  If nothing else, it ought to have humbled the Edomites.  After all, if God did not restrain from judging His own people, what would stop God from judging Edom?  Nothing…as Edom was about to learn firsthand.
  • They looted.  They “laid hands on [the] substance” of the Jews.  What the Babylonians left behind, the Edomites took for themselves.  Looting has sadly seen an increase in our own culture during times of riots and violence, and it is the sign of a depraved people.  It takes advantage of the weak, and God will judge that evil for what it is.
  • They enslaved.  Just as Edom had done with the northern kingdom, so did they do with the south.  Apparently they rounded up Jews who were left in the land, and delivered them over into slavery.  Again, God saw it all, and He would pour out His righteous wrath.

15 “For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near; As you have done, it shall be done to you; Your reprisal shall return upon your own head. 16 For as you drank on My holy mountain, So shall all the nations drink continually; Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And they shall be as though they had never been.

  • All the things Edom had done to Judah – those things would be turned back upon them.  They had drunk in celebration against Jerusalem; now God would pour out the cup of His judgment upon them.  All of the violence, looting, pillaging, enslavement, etc., they had committed against the Jews would come back around to them.  God would be sure of that.
  • We reap what we sow!  This is a principle found throughout the Bible, given both to God’s people and God’s enemies.  Just as Edom would have their own actions returned upon them, so did God promise to His people that they would suffer the consequences of their sin.  As Hosea wrote, they had sowed to the wind, and would reap the whirlwind. (Hos 8:7)  The same principle applies in the New Testament as well.  God is not mocked; what a man sows, he reap. (Gal 6:7)
    • So what does that mean for us?  Take care as to what you sow!  Galatians 6:7–9, "(7) Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (8) For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (9) And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart."  Sow the good stuff!  Sow love, compassion, and grace.  Sow forth the gospel, and reap grace in return.
    • What is it you’re sowing?  It can be good or bad.  Make it good!

This was Edom’s sentence & sin – their judgment & crime.  How long would it last?  What would be their future?  That’s how the prophecy comes to a close…

  • Edom’s subjugation (17-21)

17 “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. 18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, And the house of Joseph a flame; But the house of Esau shall be stubble; They shall kindle them and devour them, And no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau,” For the LORD has spoken.

  • God would deliver Israel.  Unlike Edom, which would be cut off in history, a remnant of Israel was to be preserved, and given a place of escape/refuge on Mt. Zion.  In other words, the nation of God’s people would be totally restored.  They had been judged because of a lack of holiness, but they would be restored in a condition of complete holiness.  They would be restored to the place and position that God had desired for them all along.  That was His ultimate plan for His people, and despite their stumbling along the way, God’s plan would still be accomplished.
    • Isn’t that fantastic news?  God has a plan for us, as His children.  If you are a born-again believing Christian, then God has a plan for you.  And what He has begun in you, He will see to completion – all the way to the day of Christ Jesus. (Phil 1:6)  Despite all our failings – despite our lack of faithfulness – God still showers us with grace, and does His work within us.  Granted, we may miss out on some things along the way due to our disobedience.  Our stumblings may keep us from some temporary blessings here & there.  But the ultimate plan of God for us will be seen all the way to completion.  God has delivered us, and will continue to deliver us, all the way to the point that we see our Jesus face-to-face in glory!
  • Not only would Israel be delivered & restored, but Israel would be victorious.  In the struggle (sibling rivalry) between Israel & Edom, Israel would be exalted; Edom would be humbled.  Just as Jesus said of individuals: whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Lk 14:11)  So it will be with these two nations.  For a brief window in time, Edom gloated triumphantly over Israel…but it wouldn’t last.  Israel would have the final victory in the end, and the only thing left of the “house of Esau shall be stubble.
    • Our God has all victory over every enemy.  Of that we can be sure!

19 The South shall possess the mountains of Esau, And the Lowland shall possess Philistia. They shall possess the fields of Ephraim And the fields of Samaria. Benjamin shall possess Gilead. 20 And the captives of this host of the children of Israel Shall possess the land of the Canaanites As far as Zarephath. The captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad Shall possess the cities of the South.

  • Although this could possibly refer to restoration of the land under the short-lived Hasmonean kingdom (i.e. Maccabees), it probably refers to the total acquisition of all of the Promised Land during the Millennial Kingdom.  Notice what the future Millennial Kingdom of Christ includes among the land of Israel?  All the area once known as Idumea.
  • The point here for Israel is that everything that appeared to be lost would be regained.  Remember that although this prophecy concerns Edom, it is given to a Jewish prophet and contained within the Jewish Scriptures.  Thus, this was a word from God to His people.  He had not forgotten them.  He had not forever cast them aside.  Yes, they were in Babylonian captivity, but that time was temporary.  One day they would be restored to their land, and that restoration will be better than their wildest imaginations.  They will see all of the promises of God fulfilled.  Thus, they could hold on.  They could have faith.
    • Sometimes we have trouble holding on.  Perhaps we know the promises of God through Christ, but everything else in this life distracts us from them.  Perhaps we begin to wonder if they are really real – if God is really going to be good to His word.  After all, heaven seems so far off.  Maybe it’s just a good thought, but nothing that we can hold to right now.  Not so!  It’s real – it’s all real!  Everything that Jesus promised is true.  If you have repented from your sins and placed your faith & trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you can be sure:
      • That you have been forgiven of your sin
      • That you have been granted everlasting life
      • That you have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit
      • That you have been given spiritual gifts from God
      • That you have been made a new creation
      • That you have been given a new purpose
      • That you have the guarantee of an eternal inheritance
      • That you have access to power over sin
      • That you have the promise of eternal deliverance from sin
      • And more!  These are sure promises, made by the Living God to His children.  Hold fast to them – have faith in them.

21 Then saviors shall come to Mount Zion To judge the mountains of Esau, And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.

  • In the end, Jesus will not just rule over the land of Israel; He will rule over all the earth.  Psalm 72:8–11, "(8) He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth. (9) Those who dwell in the wilderness will bow before Him, And His enemies will lick the dust. (10) The kings of Tarshish and of the isles Will bring presents; The kings of Sheba and Seba Will offer gifts. (11) Yes, all kings shall fall down before Him; All nations shall serve Him."  All peoples everywhere will serve Jesus!  Every knee will bow & every tongue confess that He is Lord!

Edom had laughed at and done terrible violence against his brother Israel/Judah.  Had God taken notice?  Yes.  They had cursed Israel, and thus God cursed them.  His people may have been in the midst of righteous discipline, but that did not mean God stopped caring for them and protecting them.  He still stood against their enemies, holding true to His covenant promises.

Why?  That’s what God does.  He’s faithful!  He loves us, even when we do not act loving towards Him.  He honors every promise He makes, though we have trouble keeping a single promise of ours.  We may be faithless, but our God is faithful.  He showers us with grace through Jesus, even when (and especially because) we do not deserve it.

Beloved, trust that our God is active within this world!  At times, it may not seem like it.  It may appear as if God has vacated the premises, and the world is in a freefall of chaos.  It may seem as if the wicked will always win.  They won’t.  The Almighty God is still sovereign, and all sin will one day be answered.  Our God is not just our King; He is King over all…even if they do not yet recognize Him.  They will.  That day is coming – of that we can be sure!

What is there of which you’ve had difficulty trusting God?  He still rules the nations – He is still living & active & working out His ultimate will within the world.  Trust Him tonight.  Intentionally commit your problems to His care.  Trust Him to reveal His will & wisdom to you.  He’ll do it.  Because you’re His child, born-again through the grace of Jesus Christ, indwelled with the Holy Spirit, He’ll do it.  Trust Him – have faith.

Or maybe you have less the perspective of Israel, and more that of Edom.  You’ve lifted up your heart in pride against God.  Perhaps it’s a foolish self-sufficiency – perhaps it’s a greater rebellion against God in general.  Tonight, humble yourself!  Far better to humble yourself, than to be humbled by God.  Do it, while you have the opportunity to do so.


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