WRINKLED face, tiny hands with fingernail chips, rolls of new skin, and miniature eyes, nose, and mouth – she’s a newborn. After months of formation, she burst forth into the world and into her family. “She has her mother’s eyes”, “I can certainly tell who her parents are”, “Now that’s your nose”… relatives and friends gaze into the little face and see her mum and dad. Mother and Father rejoice in their daughter, a miracle, a new member of the family. As loving parents, they will protect, nurture, feed, guide, and discipline her. This is their duty and joy.
God too has children – men and women whom he has chosen as his very own. There have always been individuals marked as his, but with Abraham he promised to build a nation. Israel was to be God’s country, and her people, the Jews, his very own sons and daughters. Through the following centuries, there was discipline and punishment, but always love and mercy. God, the eternal Father, protected and cared for his children.
Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is a dramatic example of God’s response to anyone who would harm his children. Edom was a mountainous nation, occupying the reign southeast of the Dead Sea including Petra, the spectacular city discovered by archaeologists a few decades ago. As descendants of Esau (Genesis 25:19-27:45), the Edomites were blood relatives of Israel and, like their father, they were rugged, fierce, and proud warriors with a seemingly invincible mountain home. Of all people, they should have rushed to the aid of their northern brothers. Instead, however, they gloated over Israel’s problems, captured and delivered fugitives to the enemy, and even looted Israel’s countryside.
Obadiah gave God’s message to Edom. Because of their indifference to and defiance of God, their cowardice and pride, and their treachery towards their brothers in Judah, they stood condemned and would be destroyed. The book begins with the announcement that disaster was coming to Edom (verses 1-9). Despite their “impregnable” cliffs and mountains, they would not be able to escape God’s judgment. Obadiah then gave the reasons for their destruction (verses 10-14) – their blatant arrogance towards God and their persecution of God’s children. This concise prophecy ends with a description of the “day of the LORD”, when judgment will fall on all who have harmed God’s people (verses 15-21).
Today, God’s holy nation is his church – all who have trusted Christ for their salvation and have given their lives to him. These men and women are God’s born again and adopted children. As you read Obadiah, catch a glimpse of what it means to be God’s child, under his love and protection. See how the heavenly Father responds to all who would attack those whom he loves.
PURPOSE: To show that God judges those who have harmed his people
AUTHOR: Obadiah. Very little is known about this man, whose name means “servant (or worshipper) of the LORD”
TO WHOM WRITTEN: The Edomites, the Jews in Judah, and God’s people everywhere
DATE WRITTEN: Possibly during the reign of Jehoram in Judah, 853-841 B.C., or possibly during Jeremiah’s ministry, 627-586 B.C.
SETTING: Historically, Edom had constantly harassed the Jews. Prior to the time this book was written, they had participated in attacks against Judah. Given the dates above, this prophecy came after the division of Israel into the northern and southern kingdoms and before the conquering of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
KEY VERSE: “The dayof the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15).
KEY PEOPLE: The Edomites
KEY PLACES: Edom, Jerusalem
SPECIAL FEATURES: The book of Obadiah uses vigorous poetic language and is written in the form of a dirge of doom.
The book of Obadiah shows the outcome of the ancient feud between Edom and Israel. Edom was proud of her high position, but God would bring her down. Those who are high and powerful today should not be overconfident in themselves, whether they are a nation, a corporation, a church, or a family. Just as Edom was destroyed for her pride, so will anyone who lives in defiance of God.
- Edom’s destruction (1-16)
- Israel’s restoration (17-21)
EXPLANATION: Obadiah predicted that God would destroy Edom as punishment for standing by when Babylon invaded Judah. Because of their treachery, Edom’s land would be given to Judah in the day when God rights the wrongs against his people.
IMPORTANCE: God will judge and fiercely punish all who harm his people. We can be confident in God’s final victory. He is our champion, and we can trust him to bring about true justice.
EXPLANATION: Because of their seemingly invincible rock fortress, the Edomites were proud and self-confident. But God humbled them and their nation disappeared from the face of the earth.
IMPORTANCE: All those who defy God will meet their doom as Edom did. Any nation who trust in its power, wealth, technology, or wisdom more than in God will be brought low. All who are proud will one day be shocked to discover that no-one is exempt from God’s justice.
©Kingsway International Church, 1973.