The prophecy of Obadiah is the shortest book in the OT.
Briefly, it recounts how Edom is to be brought low (Obad 1:3-9,16), on account
of its treachery against Israel in the day of Israel's calamity (Obad 1:10-14).
And it promises that "the day of the LORD" (Obad 1:15) will reveal God's
judgments upon all nations -- at the same time that there will be salvation in
Zion and Jerusalem for the faithful remnant (Obad 1:17-21).
The country of Edom (called Idumea in the NT) extended from
the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, and was bounded on the east by the Arabian Desert
and on the west by the land of Judah. It was a mountainous district with average
elevation of about 2,000 feet. Its wild and rugged character is described in
This was the land occupied by Esau, the ancestor of the
Edomites, after the death of his father Isaac (Gen 36:6-8). There his
descendants, cousins to the Israelites, built cities literally in solid rock, in
almost impregnable positions. They became rich by controlling and traveling the
trade routes between Egypt and the East. Even in modern times, the ruins they
left behind -- as at Petra -- stand as stark and magnificent testimonies to
their power and achievements.
There is a long history of enmity between Edom and Israel,
beginning with the bitter rivalry between the twins Esau and Jacob (Gen
25:19-34; 27:1-40; etc), and continuing all the way through the OT, until the
time when Herod the Great, the hated Idumean (or Edomite), used his Roman
connections to gain ascendancy over the Israel of Jesus' day.
And the same enmity continues to our day, in the struggles
between the Arabs -- of Palestine and Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- and the
Israelis, over the ancestral lands which they both claim.
1. Judgment on Edom: Obad 1:1–14
a) Edom's destruction announced: Obad 1:2–7
b) Edom's destruction reaffirmed: Obad 1:8–14
2. The Day of the Lord: Obad 1:15–21
a) Judgment on the nations but deliverance for Zion: Obad
b) The Lord's kingdom established: Obad 1:19–21
Who is Obadiah? When, and in what circumstances, was the
prophecy first given? There are no details about the prophet himself; "Obadiah"
is a common name signifying "the servant of Yahweh". And no time period is
definitely specified in the prophecy itself.
Given the lack of a definitive date, several different times
are possible as the initial context of Obadiah's "burden" upon Edom:
(1) Judgments upon Edom for participating in a cowardly attack
upon Israel in the days of David, when the king and his forces were occupied in
Syria. This "stab in the back" -- from a people who were near of kin to Israel
(cp Deu 2:4,5; 23:7) -- was swiftly answered by a punitive raid by David's
armies, led by Abishai (1Ch 8:12), Joab (1Ki 11:15,16; Psa 60 title) and David
himself (2Sa 8:12-14).
(2) About 200 years later (c 860 BC) another "Arab" invasion
of Judah was repelled by faithful king Jehoshaphat (2Ch 20). This confederacy
included Edom along with Moab and Ammon.
(3) During the reign of Hezekiah (c 720 BC), the Edomites gave
enthusiastic support to the irresistible Assyrian invasion, and were utterly
callous in their treatment of the desperate refugees from Israel and Judah (cp
Isa 21:11,12; 34:5-10; 63:1-6; Joel 3:19).
(4) And finally, the prophecy could be dated as late as 588
BC, when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon devastated Jerusalem and its Temple, and once
again men of Edom -- like loathsome jackals or vultures -- joined in to pick the
bones of their cousins (cp Jer 49:7-22; Lam 4:21; Psa 137:7; Eze 25:12-14;
35:1-15). In favor especially of this possibility is Obad 1:16, which pictures
Edom "drinking [from the holy vessels?] upon my [God's] holy mountain" (cp Jer
25:15-26, esp v 21): So far as is known, none of the earlier attacks upon Israel
in which Edom took part resulted in the actual capture of God's temple
The Last Days Fulfillment
But even if we cannot be certain which of Edom's many
atrocities upon Israel provoked the tongue, and pen, of Obadiah -- it seems
certain that we are intended to read Obadiah's prophecy as a Last Days prophecy
as well: Obad 1:15,17,21.
Such language can only be absolutely fulfilled with the return
of Christ and the establishment of God's Kingdom. Seen as a Last Days preview,
Obadiah's words corroborate certain details of the general picture:
(a) This Edomite enemy will be a member of an alliance: Obad
1:11. Edom is a member of the 10-nation Arab alliance described in Psa 83.
(b) The controversy of the Last Days will concern God's holy
mountain, mount Zion. There the enemies of Israel, including Edom, will rejoice
over her: "Just as you drank on my holy hill...." (Obad 1:16).
And there also will God bring retribution upon these
blasphemous enemies: Obad 1:15-17. This observation lends credibility to the
idea that the last great conflict in and around Jerusalem -- a conflict which
will bring on the literal Return of Christ -- will be a religious conflict,
between two peoples desperately struggling to lay claim to the same "holy
(c) At this point the prophecy dramatically changes tone. The
people of Israel are saved from their adversity and are spiritually regenerated.
They receive back the Land promised to their fathers, to its fullest extent, and
the rescued and redeemed state of Israel becomes the nucleus of the Kingdom of
God: "But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy... The house of
Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; the house of Esau will be
stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors
from the house of Esau... Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the
mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD's" (Obad
Obad 1:19,20 go into detail as to which lands the redeemed
people of Israel will recover and occupy:
Certain of these territories (ie, Samaria and Ephraim and part
of Philistia) were conquered by modern Israel in 1967. [Will some of this
territory be returned as a result of the current "Peace Process"?] Zarephath, in
southern Lebanon, is increasingly coming under Israel's influence since the
incursions of 1982. But other territories (ie, Gilead and the mountains of Esau)
remain today in Arab hands.
- People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau.
- People from
the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines.
- They will occupy
the fields of Ephraim and Samaria.
- Benjamin will possess Gilead.
company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as
- The exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the
towns of the Negev.
Will Israel, as presently constituted, conquer all these lands
prior to the return of Christ? Or will Israel need to suffer a serious defeat,
losing the very lands which it now possesses (together with its own
sovereignty?) before a chastened remnant will repent and turn to God?
In short, is Obad 1:19,20 being fulfilled right now, or do
they await a future fulfillment?
The order of Obad 1:17-21 suggests an answer: First, there
must come a deliverance to mount Zion (v 17), and not just a military victory
such as in 1948 or 1967: "But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy
[or 'there shall be holiness': AV], and the house of Jacob will possess its
And so this "deliverance" will of necessity involve "holiness"
-- and for this there must be true repentance and forgiveness of sins. Only then
will Israel -- ie, a renewed and glorified remnant of Israel -- go forth to
possess all the lands promised to the fathers (cp Gen 15:18-21; Exo 23:23; Deu
1:7; 11:24; Jos 1:4; Psa 72:8), as detailed in Obad 1:19,20.
This last territorial expansion will never be set back or
thwarted in any way. Why? Because "Deliverers ['saviours': AV] will go up on
Mount Zion... and the kingdom will be the LORD's" (Obad 1:21).