The Word Made Fresh
1Here is the vision of Obadiah:
Concerning Edom, this is what the LORD says:
We have heard from the LORD,
and a message has been sent to the nations:
“’Arise! Take up your positions for war!’
2For I will make you the weakest of all the nations
and you will be utterly despised.
3You who dwell in the crevices of the rocks
have been deceived by your own pride.
Because you live in the highlands
you think no one can bring you down.
4You may fly as high as the eagle,
and build your nest among the stars,
but I will bring you down,” says the LORD.
5“If you are plundered day and night
and greatly damaged by thieves,
isn’t it true that they will only take what they want?
And if those who steal grapes invade your land,
Wouldn’t they leave some grapes behind?
6Esau has been robbed! His wealth has been discovered!
7All of your allies have tricked you
and you have been driven to your border.
Your so-called friends have conquered you.
They will eat your bread and set up an ambush for you,
but you’ll never see it coming.
8When that takes place I will do away with those in Edom who are wise,
and all who are intelligent will be chased from Mt. Esau.
9Your soldiers will be defeated, Teman,
and everyone in Mt. Esau will be slaughtered.
10The slaughter and violence done to your brother Jacob
will be visited on you, and you will be utterly defeated.
11On the day you turned away from Jacob
strangers carried off his wealth.
Foreigners entered his gates and carried away Jerusalem.
And you were like one of them!
12But you should never gloat over your brother’s misfortune,
nor celebrate the defeat of the people of Judah.
You should not have bragged about their defeat.
13You should not have entered my people’s gates
on the day of their tragedy.
You should never have joined in the celebrations
of Judah’s defeat on the day of his troubles.
You should not have taken his wealth
on the day of his troubles.
14You should never have blocked the crossroads
to cut off his people who were trying to escape.
You should not have surrendered his survivors
on the day of their defeat.
15The LORD’s day against all the nations is near,
and it will be done to you as you have done to others.
Your actions will return to you.
16Just as you have drunk water on my sacred mountain,
all the nations around you will drink.
They will drink and drink as they never have before.
17But some on Mt. Zion will escape, for it is holy.
And the family of Jacob will eventually possess
those who dispossessed them.
18The family of Jacob and the family of Joseph will be like a fire,
but the family of Esau will be like stubble.
They will be burned, consumed by the fire.
The family of Esau will have no survivors.
The LORD has spoken!
19The people of the Negeb desert will possess Mt. Esau,
and the people of the Shephelah
will possess the land of the Philistines.
They will own the land of Ephraim and Samaria,
and Benjamin will possess Gilead.
20Israelite exiles in Halah will possess Phoenicia
as far as Zarephath,
and the Jerusalem exiles in Sepharad
will possess all of the towns of the Negeb.
21Those who have been restored will go up to Mt. Zion.
They will rule Mt. Esau,
and the kingdom will belong to the LORD.”
1-4: Welcome to the shortest book in the Old Testament. Not much is known about Obadiah, but the subject of his book would indicate that he was a prophet in Jerusalem during the time of the Babylonian invasion. The name means “worshiper of God,” and some scholars think it should not be taken as an individual’s name at all. The book of Obadiah is a prophecy against Edom. We have already read a number of pronouncements against Israel’s neighbors, Edom included (as in Isaiah 21:11-12, Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14 and Amos 1:11-12), but the entire book of Obadiah is dedicated to the destruction of those folks over yonder across the Jordan who were enemies of Israel (and Judah) since the time of Moses (see Numbers 20:14-21).
5-9: God’s vengeance against Edom will be awful indeed, with such destruction that nothing worth having will be left. The reference to Esau hearkens back to the tradition that Edom was settled by Jacob’s brother (Genesis 36:8). Teman was a region and a town in Edom, though not the capital. It is mentioned here because Teman was also the name of Esau’s grandson (Genesis 36:11), so the familial bond between Judah and Edom are emphasized. The name “Mount Esau” only occurs in Obadiah, and is likely not a place name but an acknowledgement of the ancient kinship and enmity between Esau/Edom and Jacob/Judah.
10-14: The rape of Jerusalem is recounted, with Edom’s participation in the sacking of the city after the Babylonians destroyed it.
15-16: The “Day of the LORD” is seen by Obadiah as the time when God will take vengeance on the nations that took part in Judah’s destruction.
17-21: Jerusalem will be restored, and those who return to Jerusalem shall rule over Edom in the future. Here the prophecy widens a bit to have Judah ruling over more territory after their restoration than was the case before their destruction. Not only Edom but also Philistia will be ruled from Jerusalem, as well as Samaria, Gilead, Phoenicia, and the Negeb.
Obadiah (and many of the other prophets) attempts to explain the calamity of the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians and others. It is a result of the sinfulness of the people. But Jerusalem will be gloriously restored as a center of worship of the LORD. God never completely abandons God’s people. Punishes, yes. Abandons, no.