The Prophecy of Obadiah (FA Blair)

F.A. Blair

Edom's red and rugged heights frowned down on favoured Israel's land of fruitful hills and valleys where the eyes of the LORD delighted to rest. Its sword, swift to shed blood (Genesis 27:40; Ezekiel 35:6), was often unsheathed to the sorrow of Jacob's sons, for Jacob had supplanted his elder brother, Esau, and stolen his birth right. By subtlety Jacob obtained the blessing of their father, Isaac; but Jacob, warned and aided by his mother, fled and escaped death from the hand of his brother. The disappointed Esau bequeathed to his descendants, the Edomites, the hatred he bore to Jacob, and they used every opportunity to wreak their vengeance mi the children of Israel.

Isaac's prophetic blessing and promise to Esau were fulfilled in time. Esau served Jacob, hut after many wars and much bloodshed the Edomites threw off the yoke of Israel.

Esau concealed his hatred when he met Jacob returning from Mesopotamia. Perhaps God had warned Esau not to molest Jacob as He had warned Laban. They embraced and there was every mark of outward affection, but Jacob after promising to follow Esau, again deceived his brother, and avoided him by going to Succoth instead of to Seir where Esau dwelt. There was no real reconciliation between the brothers.

When the children of Israel were passing through the wilderness they sought a passage through the land of Edom, but the inhabitants refused to let Moses lead the people that way (Numbers 20). Israel never forgot the incident, and

Edom ever retained its hatred (Ezek. 35:5; Amos. 1:11) When Judah went into captivity the Edomites helped the Babylonians, and when Jerusalem was destroyed they cried, "Down with it, down with it, even to the ground." (Psalm 137:7).

Many prophets speak of Edom, prophesying its downfall and ultimate extinction. The prophecy of Obadiah is confined to Edom, and he announces its doom, naming the instruments of its destruction, in a special word from the LORD who looks on to the end of all things. Nations rise and they fail; to the eyes of men they seem to disappear, but not to the eyes of God. The end of all prophecy is the accomplishment of God's purpose. The Edomites have passed off the scene, but as all nations and peoples have yet to answer before God for the use of the power that He allowed them in the day of their responsibility, their representatives will appear in the day to come when God will require at the hands of the living nations au answer for the trust once committed to them.

Edom heads the confederacy which plans to cut Israel "off from being a nation: that the name of Israel be no more in remembrance" (Psalm 83:4). We, today, can well understand an Arab confederacy making the attempt to drive Jewry from Palestine. But it is a serious thing to meddle with God's people, however much they may deserve their chastening.

Esau sought with tears the blessing he had lost, but he did not repent that he had despised his birthright. He thought little of the inheritance as given of God, and be lightly sacrificed his God-given natural advantage to relieve the distress of the moment. He valued the present more than the future. Jacob coveted the blessing and found it, though he obtained it by deception. Jacob risked everything for the blessing, and eventually God had to put a curb on him to prevent him from taking his own way of entering into the inheritance. Esau thought only of himself, and he never forgave his brother. His blood-bathed sword never cried, "It is enough."

The natural man does not realize his blessings, for he does not know God in them. Where there is faith the favour of God is everything to the soul, but unless the will has been broken, the ways of unchecked flesh intrude to spoil the effect of that which is the work of faith. The natural man may advance far in his attainments, but this only cultivates this pride. He shows his pride in his defiance of God, and in hatred of the one whom God favours.

There are seven things which God hates and that are an abomination in His eyes (Proverbs 6:16-19). In them is found the sum of human wickedness.

1. Pride—the sin found in Satan, the mighty anointed cherub (Ezekiel 28:17). The eyes of a man are the windows of the soul, and the eyes betray the haughty spirit.

2. Lying—the word from the tongue of him who does not walk in the fear of the LORD and has no regard for truth.

3. Murder—the work of hands guided without mercy

4. Lust—the product of unbridled affections; its designs end in nothingness.

5. Violence—the violent run swiftly into mischief; but the feet of those who brink glad tidings of peace are beautiful.

6. Hatred—it springs from pride and leads to lying in the effort to harm another

7. Independence—it has no regard for the welfare of others, and seeks to break down all fellowship between brethren.

Obadiah sees in the Edomites these aspects of human wickedness, and pronounces the judgement of God upon them for their pride, independence, and brotherly hatred.

Pride turns the heart to stone, it knows no pity. It blinds the eyes to good, and hides truth from the sight. It exalts self above God, and finds in those favoured of God a butt for its contempt.

Independence revels itself in callous treatment of others, while supposing itself secure in its own fastness of isolation. In a creature independence is evil; God only is independent. No creature is sufficient for himself. "None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." Man's true place is that of dependence, submission, and obedience to the revealed will of God. Christ was perfect in every way and the Christian's life ought to be the manifestation of Christ in the world, for Christ is his like.

Hatred finds its joy in the downfall of another, and when it knows the fall of another is chastening from God it feels a keener pleasure. The closer the relationship the bitterer the hatred.

The strongest language in scripture denouncing evil is used against Babylon and Edom. Babylon is judged for its religious corruption, and Edom for its brother hatred; both are an abomination to God.

Verse 1

Nothing more is known of the prophet than is given in. this verse. The date of the prophecy is uncertain, but it seems clear that it was spoken at the time when Jerusalem fell and Edom helped in the destruction. This makes Obadiah contemporary with Jeremiah.

A message is sent to the heathen to gather them against Edom. The Babylonians obeyed the summons and were used as a rod of chastening to put down Edom, B.C. 583. But this was not the final word to Edom; God has yet to deal with all those who oppose His government.

Verse 3, 4

Deceived by a pride of heart that exalted them above the stars, feeling secure in the strength of their rocky abode where the eagle built its nest, they forgot the LORD who is above the stars, yea, above creation. He will bring them down and make them despised among all peoples.

Man can exalt himself in creation only and lift himself within the bounds of nature, but no farther. God, who is above nature, is able to cast down, and lift up to the knowledge of Himself. The humble heart that leans on God for everything learns to know Him, as it learns its own nothingness.

The prophet uses the approaching judgment of Edom and his allies as a pledge of a greater destruction of the confederate nations in Edom, where and when the name of Edom will be blotted out for ever.

Obadiah in common with other Prophets uses the near and local event to illustrate what will happen in a future day; the prophecy will then warn the wise of the last days when the final judgments are in the earth.

Verse 7

Edom came up with the confederate nations against Israel. The eastern peoples will again combine to prevent Israel from possessing their land. What happened to Edom demonstrates the course common to a confederacy amongst the ungodly. In the first glow of excitement they move together and help one another; soon they grow jealous and they deceive each other, then they quarrel and fight over the spoil. Their behaviour is unreasonable, and, capricious, the prophet adds.

Verse 10

Brotherly hatred is the cause for Edom's extermination

Verse 11

Seven times Edom is reproached, and this verse gives the first reproach. The men of Edom stood on the other side when strangers robbed Jacob and carried away his substances. They did not move to help their brother when foreigners entered into the gates of Jerusalem to possess it. They joined in with the victors when they gambled for the spoil of Jerusalem.

Verse 12

They should not have look on the day when Jacob became a stranger as though it were a high-day. In the day when the children of Judah were chastened they should not have rejoiced. Neither should they have spoken proudly in the day of Jacob's distress as though they themselves stood on secure ground.

When the eyes look without in shame on distress, the heart finds that in which it takes pleasure, and "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh."

Verse 13

The men of Edom should not have taken advantage of the day of calamity to enter into the gate of God's people. When God puts a hedge around His people none may touch them. In the day of their chastening they appear to be unprotected but woe to those who take advantage of the occasion. A brother should not look on the affliction of a brother in adversity to add to his distress. The children of a family do not assist in chastening; it is their place to comfort the broken-hearted. All chastening is from the hand of God, whatever the rod He may use.

Verse 14

Neither should Edom have stood in the crossway to slay those who were escaping, nor should they have imprisoned those remaining.

Verse 15

This verse connects the day in sight, with the future day of the LORD, when many nations will be gathered in Edom for the terrible day of slaughter spoken of in Isaiah 63; Ezekiel 32:29; and elsewhere.

Verse 17

Upon Mount Seir will be destruction, but upon Mount Zion shall deliverance for the house of Jacob. The house of Jacob will be holy in that day, and those who escape the judgment will possess Edom.

Verse 18

The instruments of destruction are shown. The tribes of Israel will again be gathered in the land, Judah first, for he is in the royal succession. The eastern confederacy, massed in Edom, will contest the right of ownership with the house of Jacob then in possession of Palestine [i.e. Israel]. The house of Jacob, represented by the tribe of Judah, will be the fiery coals, the house of Joseph [that is Ephraim, for he took the place of the first born (1 Chronicles 5:1, 2; Genesis 48:9)], will be the consuming flame, and the house of Esau, will be the stubble to be utterly consumed.

The returned captives of Israel and of Judah will possess the land, and saviours for Jacob will come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau.

Jacob supplanted his brother, and was compelled to leave his home because of the deceitful way he took to gain the blessing, but God in grace, to fulfil His purpose brought him back to the land of promise. The same principle of divine government is seen at work in the history of the house of Jacob. The children of Israel first entered into possession of Canaan on condition that they kept the law of Jehovah. They failed to keep the law, even turned to idolatry, and so lost their right to remain in the land. The attempt to gain and retain the promise by their efforts has caused them for the moment to lose all to strangers, but they will in the end possess all that that God promised to Abraham and to his seed. In that day they will not hold the land under a condition of obedience, but they will be restored through the mercy of God, and the law will be written in their hearts instead of on tables of stone. Esau gave no thought to the blessing as coming from God, he only thought of himself and how he would benefit, and will therefore lose all.

Interesting though it is to learn the purpose of God for the ultimate blessing of Israel, yet prophecy has a present moral value for the Christian which he does well to weigh.

The general and public pride of the world is found more explicitly set in the prophecy of Nahum. Obadiah manifests the attitude and behaviour of the world in its hatred of God's people at all times.  The hatred is more intense when those who belong to the world are connected by natural ties with the people of God, and can claim a natural right to the inheritance of the firstborn.

God blesses according to the sovereignty of His grace, and not merely according to natural descent. He chose Jacob for blessing above Esau before the boys were born (Genesis 25:23). IT was many centuries after that God said, "Yet I loved Jacob, and I hated Esau" (Malachi 1: 2, 3). Esau's descendants by that time had proved their wickedness.

Jacob desired the blessing of God almost to the cost of his life. Esau despised his natural advantage hut wanted the blessing irrespective of his disregard for God. When men or nations come to despise their natural heritage, God takes it away in government, and sets up others to carry on a government on earth, under His providential ruling. The deposed, roused by, jealousy, hate the favoured object of God's government. These governmental ways of God expose the natural heart, man is left without excuse, and all the ways of God are justified in the result.

Israel now dispersed and godless will yet know the blessing of Psalm 133. Aaron of old was anointed with the precious ointment and it flowed down to the skirts of his garments. The Holy Spirit, of which the oil is figurative, will be poured out upon the house of Israel in the fragrance of grace. (See Joel 2:28; Ezekiel 39:29; Zechariah 12:10.) Dwelling together again in unity under one head, Israel will know the goodness of the LORD from on high, and the anointing of true Spirit will reach to the farthest limits of their inheritance.

The One Spirit which came down at Pentecost and formed the church down here brought the blessing of unity in a far fuller way into the Church. His ministry of grace, revealing by the word heavenly things, filled with joy the hearts of those in the unity of Christ which He Himself formed. The apostle Paul could speak to the Colossians of their love in the Spirit. What is the state of the Church to-day? Where is the love that covers u multitude of sins? (1 Peter 4:8). The present low spiritual state of the Church tells how deeply the Spirt has been grieved.

When there are those in the Church who claim to have truth and blessing by descent, as the Jews claimed the promises by natural decent, the LORD encourages the feeble and faithful heart that look to him for present grace, with expressions of His own power and love. The knowledge of grace deeply rooted in the heart gives the strength needed to overcome the pretension prevalent in the day of ruin.

Jealousy is as cruel as the grave, it awaken such hatred in the heart that can only be met by the sword and by the fire of the indignation of the LORD (Ezek. 25: 13; Amos 1: 12).

In the days when the judgments of the LORD are in the earth the inhabitants the world will learn righteousness (Isaiah 26:9). Then all peoples will call upon the name of the LORD and serve Him alone (Zephaniah 3:9). Wars will cease and men on earth will live in peace (Isaiah 2:4; Micah 4: 3).

In the books of the prophets we learn the triumph of grace in God's elect over evil in the man of fallen nature without God. We also see that the purposes of God cannot be fulfilled in the natural man, the son of Adam. When the failure of the first Adam – Christ – and in Him all the purposes of God shall be established. God will "gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him (Ephesians 1:10) Christ must reign until all things are subdued under Him (1 Corinthians 15:25). In that day the earth will be free of all the savours of Edom. 1947.

Frederick Alexander Blair: Published 1947 (1891 – 1974)

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Scanned from the booklet and converted to text January 2016