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Obadiah is considered one of the twelve minor prophets, minor because of the short length of what he wrote, not because it was unimportant. Other than what is disclosed through the book of Obadiah, nothing more is known about him. Since there are thirteen  men named Obadiah in the Bible, all we can conclude for certain is what this Obadiah tells us about himself. The name Obadiah was common in ancient Israel and Judah meaning “the Lord’s servant” or “worshiper of Yahweh.”

The book of Obadiah is the shortest in the Old Testament with only twenty-one verses, 575 words in the NIV translation. Dating of the writing is approximate and done by its content. Information reveals that Obadiah probably lived in the harsh and bitter era after the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. While several methods have been proposed by scholars to date the book, their best guesses places Obadiah in the 840s BC, making him the earliest writing prophet, a few years prior to Joel, and a contemporary of Elisha. His book is based on a prophetic vision concerning the fall of Edom, (v. 1,4,18) a hostile, mountain dwelling neighbor of Israel (v. 8,9,19,21) whose founding father was Esau.

Obadiah’s prophecies focus on God’s judgment against the Edomites for their part in destroying Jerusalem. Obadiah’s message is that God does not forget His people even in their captivity. God will accomplish His purpose through and beyond the appalling conditions they may endure. Some of Obadiah’s words are similar to verses in Jeremiah chapter 49. This has led some scholars to think that Jeremiah quoted some of Obadiah’s prophecy as he was writing his own prophecy against Edom.

Most of the short book pronounces judgment on Edom, making Obadiah one of only three prophets who pronounced judgment primarily on other nations (Nahum and Habakkuk are the others). While the other prophetic books contain passages of judgment against Edom as well as other nations, Obadiah’s singular focus points to a truth about humanity’s relationship with God. When people remove themselves from or place themselves in opposition to God’s people, they can expect judgment, rather than looking forward to restoration at the end of their life.

Today, the Christian and Jewish communities in the world are under attack for nothing more than their faithfulness to God. Obadiah’s prophecy focuses on the destructive power of pride, reminding us of the consequences of living a self-serving life. This short writing helps us to understand that our hope is in being God’s people and that He will restore all things to the standards of His Kingdom.  Earthly power rests totally with God. To fully understand the extensive reach of our God, we see Him sending Obadiah to Edom, the enemy of God’s people to warn them. Edom had been found guilty of pride before the Lord.

(Obadiah 1:3) 1 – “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’”

The people of Edom had thought they were greater than they actually were, great enough to mock, steal from, and even harm God’s chosen people. But the “Lord GOD,” a name Obadiah used to stress God’s sovereign power over the nations, will not stand idly by and let His people suffer forever (verse 1:1). Through Obadiah, God reminded Edom of their poor treatment of His people (1:12–14) and promised redemption, not to the Edomites but to the people of Judah (1:17–18). The nation of Edom, which eventually disappeared into history, remains one of the prime examples of the truth found in Proverbs:

(Proverbs 16:18) – “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

God’s issue with Edom was that in the 840s BC, when Edom rebelled against King Jehoram of Judah, the Philistines and the Arabians also invaded Jerusalem (2 Kings 8:20–22; 2 Chronicles 21:16–17). While 2 Chronicles does not validate the Edomites’ participation in the actual invasion, Obadiah 1:10–14 describes the violent behavior that the Edomites carried out on their neighbors, waiting on nearby roads to murder and steal from those who were fleeing the invaders attacking Jerusalem. In other words, they were taking advantage of the carnage caused by others and benefiting by plundering their frightened neighbors, the Israelites.

Obadiah’s prophesy to Edom:
  • Their pride will be humbled (v. 2-4).
  • Their wealth will be plundered (v. 5-7).
  • Their wisdom will be short-lived (v. 8, v. 9).
  • Their spiteful behavior towards God’s chosen people will be avenged (v. 10-16).
God’s promises to Israel:
  • They will be restored and changed for the better.
  •  They will be victorious over the Edomites and become masters of their land and the lands of others of their neighbors (v. 17-20).
  • The kingdom of the Messiah will be established by the bringing in of the great salvation (v. 21).

At this point, we need to pause for a moment and overlay this Old Testament book against the things happening today. It is not hard to find countries, areas within our own country, large corporations, or people that are taking advantage of frightened people. COVID-19, disruptive economic policies, poor leadership are causing fear. Cancel culture, the war on law enforcement, media bias are all promoting hatred that brings violence to one group while generating profits and power for others. The blatant disregard for human life caused by drugs, the trafficking of children, even the politicizing of abortion, is no different than  Edom taking advantage of people running in fear from an invasion of their city. We live in a world that takes advantage of the weak and uses fear as a tool to advance self-interests. But wait! Will God do anything to help? Will God bring justice?

Where has Edom gone today? No less than into complete ruin. It does not exist anymore. What specifically did Edom do to arouse such anger in our God? Yes, they were a sinful people, and a people laden with many vices. But the one single charge filed against them by Obadiah, the one they were indicted, convicted, and condemned for was the injury Edom had done directly to the people of God.

(Obadiah 1:10) – “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever.”

Injuries to any people are an affront to God, “a righteous God,” that loves righteousness and hates wickedness. He is the Judge of all the earth. It is God who will give redress to those that suffer injustice and takes vengeance on those that do wrong. When a simple signature from a political leader destroys an industry, cancels tens of thousands of jobs, or a restriction in the name of health and safety issues causes small business owners to lose their businesses and even their homes for reasons that are still not understood, God cares! Obadiah tells us that it will be God who settles the score. When people remove themselves from God’s presence, it is the end of their life with Him. There is no more eternal grace, only eternal damnation. No one, not a nation, not part of a nation, not any part of society, not a government, not a single person should live a self-serving life. Obadiah tells us that the focus of “life with God” is to be on the needs of others, not themselves.

Contemplations

  • Where are the places in our society that take advantage of fear?
    • Ideas to Explore: COVID restrictions, regulations, financial institutions, and dependency on capital, race.  After storms, the contractor fraud seems to go up, what do you think? Looting during riots, is that just like Edom?
  • Of the above places you found, how do they attack those who love God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Obadiah says God will seek vengeance on their behalf. What evidence of that have you seen, both in history as well as in current times?
  • How have you seen the “Cancel Culture” instill fear and then take advantage of people?
    • Ideas to Explore: Social Media, monitoring of personal communications by companies, control of information via search engines.
  • Is our educational system complicit in using fear of failure to control their agenda and views?
    • Ideas to Explore: Education is meant to teach the use of creativity, common sense and reason – Does it do this any more?
  • Fraud through fear is one of the key components of phishing and telephone fraud – Do you have examples?
    • Ideas to Explore: How frequently is a fraudulent contact made that uses fear and /or urgency in an attempt to steal information or money, to harm you?
  • Where do you see the most abuses due to personal self-interests?
    • Ideas to Explore: Politics, media, corporations, countries, States, etc. Do self-interests exist in families? Do today’s churches have any issues caused by their denominal self-interests?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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