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Text. Obadiah 1:1-21

Obadiah is only 1 chapter, and 21 verses, and most people avoid it! Let’s explore it, and see if we can find out its purpose, and what lessons we can learn from it.

1 Backgroud and Historical Context?

Let’s do our basics first.  Who was Obadiah, where did he do his work and what was that work, and when did he do it?

  • Who was Obadiah?  Very little is known about him.  His name means “Servant of Yahweh (Jehovah)”, and was quite common.  Thirteen different Obadiahs appear in the Old Testament. Any more than that is speculation.  
  • An Indefinite Date.  We can’t really put a precise date on Obadiah, for the events of Obadiah, the cruelty that Edom perpetrated upon Israel, started with Esau, and continued until Edom finally died as a nation in the Inter-Testamental period.  The events described in Obadiah could fit many periods of history during the time of the divided kingdoms.  So…
  • A Long Running Grudge. Obadiah’s prophecy is about EDOM.  Now, who or what was Edom?  Edom was a land to the South of Israel, and the word Edom means RED.  They were the descendants of Esau.   Esau hated his brother Jacob so much, that he went to his uncle Ishmael (Abraham’s other son by the slave girl) and married a Canaanite, his cousin.  From that union came the nation of Edom.  Genesis 28:6-9. 

So, to summarise, there’s a nation to the south of Israel, referred to in Obadiah as the ‘brother’ of Israel v10,  They should have been friends, helped each other, but instead, they were the enemies of Israel, a family feud that went on for centuries, a grudge. Every time Israel came under pressure, Edom joined in against her. 


2 Obadiah’s Prophecy against Edom.

Obadiah’s prophecy is described as a ‘vision.’ He has heard a ‘report from the Lord!’  Could that just be a reference to Jeremiah 49:14-16?

  1. Woe to Edom. The basic message is that God is going to judge Edom because of their irrational hatred of his people.  Look how the feud was pursued…
    • The Pride of Petra.  The capital city of Edom was called PETRA. It was a magnificent city, carved out of the rocks of the desert, approached by a long gorge which made the city secure.  They thought Petra was unassailable, and were full of their own self security and pride.  V3    
    • The Cruelty of Petra.  They were merciless in their attacks.  V5.  Even common criminals would not have been as severe and cruel.  They stood by while their neighbours were enslaved.  V11.   They rejoiced at Israel’s affliction.  v12 They looted and plundered the cities in the aftermath of the destruction wrought by the invaders.  v13  They arrested the refugees. Men, women and children trying to escape from conflict – only to be arrested at the border by their neighbours the Edomites, and handed over to the people who will enslave them.  14  What great wickedness.  


Such evil will not go unpunished, for God witnesses their deeds and there will be a day of reckoning.

  1. The Day of the Lord.  Like Joel, Obadiah prophesies the coming of a day of destruction, the day of the Lord, when God will right all the wrongs of this world.  There is no Edom today.  In the Inter-Testamental period the day of reckoning came for Edom, just as surely as it will come for every nation, tribe and tongue..
  2. The Final Triumph of Zion.  Compared with the fate of Edom, see how Obadiah announces the future of Zion in v17-21 Mt Zion is always a reference to the place where God dwells – in the OT, that was the nation of Israel, in the Temple, where his presence was experienced, but in the NT, God dwells in His church, Mt Zion today is the church, engrafted into Israel to make up the completeness of God’s people.  See it’s blessedness here…
    • It is DELIVERED.  But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance,. Of course it is!  Deliverance came at Calvary!  
    • It is HOLY.  and there shall be holiness;.  Holiness is an effect of God’s presence,  he is holy, and he dwells in Holiness, and the church is holy because He dwells with us, and in us.  
    • It is RESTORED.   and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.  Remember that the Edomites had plundered the homes of the Israelites when they were unable to defend themselves.  Now, they would be living in plenty and in blessedness.  They shall have what is theirs. 
    • It is VICTORIOUS.  18   Ultimately, God’s people will reign with Him forever and ever.
    • It is dwelling in God’s IMMEDIATE PRESENCE.  and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.

There is one strange phrase used here.  21And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau.  But there is only one Saviour!  Of course, but Obadiah is speaking about earthly deliverers, -just as we can ‘save’ someone from their sins by pointing them to the Lord Jesus.  In Jude 22-24 And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, we are rescuing sinners from the wrath of God,  – we are not the Saviour, Jesus is that, and he alone but Israel would have ‘saviours.’.

So wicked Edom will perish under the wrathful judgement of God, and Israel, the true, spiritual Israel will prosper and God will dwell in the midst of His people, both now, spiritually and in the future in the New Heaven and Earth.

3 Lessons and Applications. 

So, the Book of Obadiah is made up of interesting history, and prophecies that God has and will bring to pass.  But is there any practical application of the book for us, as Christian believers, are there any lessons to be learned?  Yes, there are.

  1. Pride always leads to a fall.  The people of Edom were proud people.  proud of their city, proud of their invincibility, proud of their great allegiances.  Be careful about pride.  It is sinful. 1 John 2:16   Luke 1:51  James 4:6   
  2. Be careful, lest we mistreat our brothers and sisters.  The Edomites should have been more sympathetic with Israel.  We too need to be careful about we treat our brethren.  1 Corinthians 8:12  
  3. Don’t gloat when your enemy suffers.  Proverbs 24:17-18 That’s what Edom did – be careful we don’t follow suit.
  4. In times of divine judgement, God will find a means of escape for those who trust him.  Hebrews 12:22-25  That place is THE CHURCH!  The place where God is, to comfort us and help us, and comfort us in times of trouble.


So, the tiny book of Obadiah is a warning of God’s judgment to Edom, a spiteful nation who are set for divine judgment.  It’s a reminder that only in Mt Zion, the place where God’s presence is, can there be blessing and security, and it contains practical help and advice for us.

© BobMcEvoy March 2019

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