I. Introduction to Obadiah

  • Many Obadiahs in the Bible.
  • Obadiah = 'servant of God' = Abdullah in Arabic
  • Written shortly after Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem, 586 BC.
  • Edomites sharply criticised for rejoicing in Israel's fall.
  • Edomites deeply affected by pride and humanism.
  • The fact that an oracle was directed to non-Jews (quasi-Jews) shows that 'God loves Gentiles, too!'

In this short study we will learn several things:

  • About the vision of Obadiah (situation, background).
  • How relational problems can span generations in their effects.
  • How to interpret the figurative language of the prophets.

About OT history (briefly).

  • Abraham lived around 2000 BC, his grandson Jacob around 1900 BC. Esau, Jacob's brother, was also known as Edom because of his reddish pigmentation.
  • Though Jacob and Esau may have eventually reconciled, their offspring were often at odds with one another. Even in NT times, the Idumeans (1st century Edomites) were not accepted by the Jews.
  • The nation of Israel was founded in 1446 BC with the Exodus. God intended that his people follow his Torah (teaching, instruction).
  • The canonical prophets spoke / wrote in the approximately three-century period from the mid-700s to the mid-400s BC. This was a time of tremendous social and economic upheaval. They called the nation back to the law of God. Sadly, their warnings went unheeded.
  • The Northern Kingdom ('Israel') was destroyed / deported in 722 by the Assyrians, the Southern Kingdom ('Judah') by the Babylonians in 586 BC. (Note: Israel = Judah + Israel.) These destructions took place after many, many warnings.
  • The Jews returned to their land under the Persians (in the later 500s BC), though they seldom maintained any political autonomy.
  • The Persians were succeeded by the Greeks (333 BC), and they in turn by the Romans (from 63 BC).
  • Despite the immense passage of time, the ill will, going back to the time of Jacob & Esau, persisted.

II. Through Obadiah

  • 'The vision of Obadiah'. God spoke to the prophets in visions—Num 12. An oracle against a foreign state. Many such oracles have survived from ancient times. Judgment—most often coming in the form of war / invasion—is coming to Edom.
  • 'Small among the nations' => insignificance.
  • Fundamental problem = pride. These words and many like it in Obad are echoed (or vice versa) in Jer 49:7-22.
  • Metaphorical language—like—1 Cor 13. (Does not assert such a deed is possible. The language is used to make a point.)Edom will be surprised.  Often those blinded to their need for repentance believe the challenge or judgment is an overreaction, “unfair”.Vs.8-9. Worldly wisdom and military power avail little.
  • Despite the animosity, Esau and Jacob are still “brothers”.
  • Standing aloof is culpable. Sin of apathy is serious enough; even more, sin of revenge is blameworthy.
  • Rejoicing in our enemy’s downfall is wrong.
  • And exploiting their weakness and vulnerability for your personal gain is also wrong.
  • Judgment day, on the macro scale, will apply to all nations. God is fair.
  • Esau will lose everything, becoming subjugated to Israel.  “And the kingdom will be the Lord’s”—God will be vindicated, his purposes will not be resisted, his kingship will be visible in a concrete way.

III. Conclusion

  • This short book of prophecy is jam-packed with lessons we need.
  • How relational problems span generations in their effects.
  • How to interpret the figurative language of the prophets.
  • The conviction that “all scripture” is useful, and we neglect a portion of the Bible to our own detriment.