THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET OBADIAH.
Of the author of this book, the shortest in the Old Testament, very little is known. It appears from his book that Obadiah ("servant of Jehovah") was a member of the southern kingdom, and it may be right to identify him with the man of the same name who lived under Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat. This would place him in the first half of the ninth century before Christ, an assumption which receives some further support by the fact that both Joel (chap. 2, 32; 3, 2. 3. 7. 14. 17) and Jeremiah (chap. 49, 7-16) evidently refer to the prophecy of Obadiah.
The vision of Obadiah contains a severe arraignment of the Edomites for their traditional enmity against the people of God, on account of which he announces the divine judgment upon Idumea. After a further paragraph, in which the justice of this punishment upon Edom is established, the book closes with a promise of the restoration of Judah, a prediction which finds its complete fulfillment in the victories of the Church of Christ in the Messianic period. It is clear that the judgment upon Edom is intended as a type of the punishment upon all the enemies of the Lord, .and that the fulfillment of the kingdom of the Messiah are the basic thoughts of the vision. 1)
EDOM’S DESTRUCTION FORETOLD. — V. 1. The vision of Obadiah: Thus saith the Lord God, the supreme Ruler and Sovereign of the universe, concerning Edom: We have heard a rumor from the Lord, tidings from Jehovah, the God of the covenant, the Protector of His people, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, with a powerful and comforting message, as far as the Lord's people are concerned, Arise ye and let us, the various nations of the world acting with, and in behalf of, Jehovah, rise up against her in battle, the struggle between the powers of light and of darkness thus being brought out. V. 2. Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen, the humiliation of Idumea being represented as having already been accomplished; thou art greatly despised, humiliated exceedingly. V. 3. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, the Hebrew text making this very emphatic: "Betrayed hath thee the pride of thine heart," upon which Idumea depended, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, in the mountain fastnesses of its rugged country, whose habitation is high, for the territory of Edom was a rocky mountain mass, full of caverns, that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground? The Edomites considered themselves so secure in their rock dwellings, which, in their opinion, were practically inaccessible, that they were filled with overweening pride. The Lord now shows the vanity of this confidence. V. 4. Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, with his home placed on inaccessible crags, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, on the summit of the highest mountains, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord, for no one can escape His avenging justice. V. 5. If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, this being said for the sake of comparison, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? They take whatever they find, what is lying there to be taken readily. If the grape-gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes? the usual remnants left for gleaning. Ordinarily, if enemies come against a country, they will satisfy their immediate desire for vengeance; but in this case the ruin would be too complete to be ascribed to ordinary causes; it would clearly be God's pitiless punishment. V. 6. How are the things of Esau searched out! the spoiling of the country being complete in every respect. How are his hidden things sought up! so that not one of its hiding-places would be unexplored by the foe. V. 7. All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border, or, "To the border have they escorted thee, all thy confederates," that is, the allies, to whom Idumea sent for assistance, sent these ambassadors back, not wishing to be involved in the downfall of that nation; the men that were at peace with thee, the neighboring nations, who had formerly professed friendship, have deceived thee and prevailed against thee, by withdrawing their assistance at the critical moment; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee, literally, "Thy bread have they placed as a snare," or "wound," under thee, that is, they broke their pledge of alliance to hospitality, treacherously leaving them in the lurch when they needed help most. There is none understanding in him, for Edom, overcome by the misfortunes which struck it, lost its usual cleverness in finding a way of escape from his perilous position. V. 8. Shall I not in that day, saith the Lord, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, who formerly had given such excellent counsel in every emergency, and understanding out of the mount of Esau? so that the people of Idumea would be hopeless in the face of the calamity which would strike them. V. 9. And thy mighty men, O Teman, the inhabitants of the southern district of Idumea, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau, of their entire mountainous country, may be cut off by slaughter, for that was the object of the Lord in taking away from them their wisdom and the use of their former power. When God decides to punish a nation, then all the cleverness of its most learned men, all the strength of its mightiest men, will be of no avail.
THE PUNISHMENT A CONSEQUENCE OF IDUMEA’S HOSTILITY. — V. 10. For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, the two nations being so closely related through their common ancestor, but the Edomites having continued the family feud practically from the time of Esau, shame shall cover thee, so that Idumea would be disgraced before the eyes of the world, and thou shalt be cut off forever, in an extermination demanded by God's will and Law. V. 11. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, opposed to his brother Jacob, to the children of Israel, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, probably when the Philistines and Arabians made a raid against Jerusalem, 2 Kings 8, 20-22, and foreigners entered into his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem, upon its inhabitants, whom they distributed among them by lot, to sell into slavery, Joel 3, 3, even thou wast as one of them, taking the part of the enemies of the Lord's people. V. 12. But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger, namely, when Edom feasted his eyes upon the misfortunes which befell Judah; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction, when calamity came upon the Lord's people as a result of their estrangement from the Lord; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly, literally, "made great thy mouth," in utter mockeries, in the day of distress. V. 13. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of My people in the day of their calamity, with a feeling of satisfaction over their misfortune; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, with a malicious delight, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity, when the enemies plundered the city; v. 14. neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, at the crossroads, where everybody was obliged to pass, to cut off those of his that did escape, either to slay them or to deliver them to the enemies; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress. As a brother of Israel, Edom had the duty of standing by him, and this duty he had not performed. V. 15. For the day of the Lord, when His punishment would descend upon all His enemies, is near upon all the heathen; as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; thy reward, what he had earned by his wicked behavior, shall return upon thine own head. V. 16. For as ye have drunk upon My holy mountain, in the desecration of a drunken orgy, so shall all the heathen, of whom Edom was a type, drink continually, being obliged to drink the cup of the Lord's wrath; yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, compelled to bear His punishment; and they shall be as though they had not been, exterminated by the Lord's judgment. All enemies of the Lord and of His holy Church will eventually feel the heavy hand of His wrath on account of their hostility against that which He has ordained.
THE DELIVERANCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE. — V. 17. But upon Mount Zion, in the midst of the Lord's Church, shall be deliverance, the congregation of such as are saved from the judgment of destruction; and there shall be holiness, that is, Mount Zion would be a sanctuary, no longer to be desecrated by the enemies; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions, people from all the nations of the world being added to the Lord's congregation. V. 18. And the house of Jacob, Judah, as representative of the Church of God in the Old Testament, shall be a fire, through the burning zeal of God which lives in His believers, and the house of Joseph, the northern tribes in their believing representatives, a flame, and the house of Esau, the nation of Edom as type of all enemies of the Lord, for stubble, and they shall kindle in them and devour them, for all the enemies of the Lord's Church will eventually be destroyed; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it, and His Word is certain to be fulfilled in every instance. V. 19. And they of the South, the members of the tribe of Judah, shall possess the mount of Esau, according to the prophecy which states that the Messiah would dwell in the midst of His enemies, and they of the plain, the Lord's people of the southwestern plains, the Philistines, another tribe and country hostile to the Lord; and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, the territory of the northern kingdom, and the fields of Samaria; and Benjamin shall possess Gilead, the country east of Jordan. V. 20. And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel, the very ones who had suffered on account of the hostility of the enemies, shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath, or Sarepta, a city in the extreme northern portion of the country, within the boundaries of Phoenicia; and the captivity of Jerusalem, the captives from the capital, which is in Sepharad, either Sardis or Sparta, shall possess the cities of the South, the names being given only as representative of nations near by. V. 21. And saviors, men who would bring the deliverance of the Lord, shall come up on Mount Zion, appearing in the Church of the Lord as His messengers, to judge the mount of Esau, as typical of the entire heathen world; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's; for Jehovah's Kingdom of Grace will be established throughout the world. The entire paragraph evidently sets forth the marvelous deliverance of the people of the Lord from the oppression of all their enemies and their preservation in the Church of the Messiah, which, from being the Church Militant here in time, will merge into the Church Triumphant in eternity.