Obadiah was one of the Old Testament prophets that God sent to Israel with a message. God gave Obadiah a vision of what would happen in the future. The year was approximately 586 B.C. The Jewish people recognized Obadiah as one of the prophets sent to them by God. He was one of their minor prophets because his message from the Lord was short. Just three chapters!
One of the main themes of Obadiah’s vision from God contained a severe message - that the tribe of Edom would be judged and completely destroyed. The Edomites were neighbors of the Jews and they were distant relatives also. What had this tribe of people done to cause God to decide to wipe them off the face of the earth?
The ancient Edomites (people from the tribe of Edom) were the children or descendants of Esau. Esau was the grandson of Abraham and the son of Isaac. He was also the brother of Jacob. And, the nation of Israel are the children or descendants of Jacob. Jewish people trace their lineage back to their patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It seems that down through the centuries, Esau’s children, Edom, hated Israel, Jacob’s children. And they hated them passionately, with a deep dark hatred!
God had promised Abraham that his children would be blessed, and that God would give them a “promised land” – the land of Israel. God’s special promise had been passed down from Abraham to Isaac. And it was to be passed on to Esau, since Esau was Isaac’s oldest son.
But Esau wasn’t very interested in his father and grandfather’s God. And also it seems that Esau didn’t much care about God’s special blessing that would someday belong to him. Esau enjoyed hunting and running around with the heathen Canaanite women living nearby. Later Esau married three or four of these wild women and they pitched their tents next to his parents’ tent. (Genesis 36:2) Esau and his wives and children must not have been living good lives, because Esau’s mother, Rebecca, told his father, Isaac, that she was tired of living because of Esau’s wives! And that her life would be worthless unless Jacob found a more godly wife or wives. (Genesis 27:46)
Esau’s brother Jacob was different. Jacob desperately wanted God’s special blessing and he also wanted to do God’s will and have all that God wanted for him. One day as Esau was coming back home from one of his hunting trips, he ran into his brother, Jacob, who was cooking a big pot of beans over the campfire. Esau asked his brother for a bowl of his beans. And Jacob replied that he would give him some beans if Esau would sell him God’s blessing that he was going to receive. Esau laughed and said that since he might die (of hunger) what good was God’s blessing!
So, Esau gave God’s blessing away for a bowl of beans!! (Genesis 25:29) I guess that was all God’s blessing meant to him! And later, when their father Isaac was ready to give God’s blessing to his oldest son, Esau, Jacob pretended to be Esau, and their father, Isaac, who was blind, gave Esau’s blessing to Jacob, thinking he was Esau. This caused bad feelings between the brothers and Jacob had to run away from home since Esau was threatening to kill him. (Genesis 27:32,33)
But, later when the two brothers grew older, Jacob and Esau got back together and made up their differences. Even though Jacob and Esau remained friendly and helpful to one another during their lifetimes, after their deaths Esau’s family (the tribe of Edom) held onto jealousies and hatreds with Jacob’s descendants, (the nation of Israel). The Edomites kept a burning hatred for Israel alive down through the many centuries. (Numbers 24:18-19) Any chance the Edomites could get, they tried to harm their relative.
Scripture tells us that when Moses was leading the Jewish people across the wilderness to their promised land, that the Edomites followed after them and tortured and killed off the sick ones and the stragglers that couldn’t keep up with the others. Deuteronomy 25:17-19) These Bible passages go on to say that the tribe of Edom didn’t fear God! Evidently, they murdered their Jewish relatives whenever they could and didn’t concern themselves about how God might care.
When the Babylonians were sacking Jerusalem and carrying the Jewish people off into captivity, the tribe of Edom came around and joined the Babylonians against their brother, Israel. Scripture says that Edom pursued his brother (Israel) with the sword and had no pity. The tribe of Edom kept his anger forever! (Amos 1:11) The tribe of Edom occupied the land south of the Dead Sea and in the mountains and down to the Gulf of Aqaba, what is now Jordan. Historically we don’t know how Edom was destroyed. But we do know that they were completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.
Obadiah’s vision from God moves on from foreseeing the destruction of Edom to how God judges and deals with all the nations of the earth, good or bad. Obadiah message speaks of the “Day of the Lord” Obadiah 1:15-16 says: “For the Day of the Lord upon all the nations is near: As you have done, it shall be done unto you. For as you drank on My holy mountain, so shall all nations drink continually: Yes, they shall drink, and swallow, And, they shall be as though they had never been.”
About Israel (Jacob’s descendants) there was also a prophecy from Obadiah for them too. “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness. The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire. And the house of Joseph a flame:..” (Obadiah 1:17-18a) God promises restoration, salvation, and rest for those who trust Him.
The “Day of the Lord” in Prophecy, is a term used by the Old Testaments prophets to signify a time in the history of mankind when God directly intervenes to bring salvation to His people and punishment to the rebellious. The “Day of the Lord” is a broad biblical concept. Prophecies about Edom’s doom, and other biblical prophecies for other nations that existed long ago, were mingled in with those reaching as far as the final culmination of all things, when Christ will come again and God will judge the whole world and restore His righteous order in the Earth!
What can we learn from Obadiah, God’s prophet? Does God also have a message in this prophecy for us today? God through Obadiah forcefully addresses the matter of relationships. How easy it is for those we know best to become the objects of our most bitter resentments. Scripture tells us that one of the reasons God punished Edom is because they held on to their burning hatred for Israel and never let it go. God’s people are called to love our enemies. (Matthew 5:44 and Romans 12:14-21) We are on dangerous ground when we hate our brother – or someone else- and refuse to forgive as we have been commanded to do.
Our job is to forgive and give the resentments we have with others to God to deal with. And we are to pray for those who hate us or come against us. Throughout Scripture God’s people are called to forgive and seek reconciliation in their broken relationships. (Matthew 5:21-26) God is just and His job is to judge and deal with our injustices. We can see how dangerous it is for us to hold onto hate, when we see what happened to Edom!