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Bible Commentaries

Arno Gaebelein's Annotated Bible

Obadiah 1

Verse 1

Analysis and Annotations

The brief prophecy of Obadiah is composed of two parts: Obadiah 1:1-16 concern Edom and its destruction and Obadiah 1:17-21 reveal the establishment of the kingdom in Israel and Israel’s restoration and victory. We shall give brief annotations to assist in the understanding of this prophecy by making a threefold division:

1. Edom’s humiliation and ruin (Obadiah 1:1-9 ).

2. Edom’s sin against Israel and the day of the Lord (Obadiah 1:10-16 ).

3. The kingdom of the restoration of Israel (Obadiah 1:17-21 ).

Obadiah 1:1-9 . In order to understand Obadiah’s prophecy, Edom’s origin and history must be taken into consideration. The Edomites were the offspring of Esau. Of him it was said that Esau the Elder should serve Jacob the younger. The character of Esau was soon manifested and his offspring soon became powerful. In Genesis 36:1-43 we read of the generations of Esau, who is Edom; there the dukes, the national chiefs, are prominently mentioned. Long before Israel had kings, Edom had such rulers, “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom before there reigned any king over the children of Israel” Genesis 36:31 . In Exodus 15:1-27 we read of the dukes in Edom being amazed and in Numbers 20:1-29 of the King of Edom. His outrageous behavior towards the kin of Edom is recorded in Numbers 20:14-21 . Though the children of Israel promised not to drink the waters in the territory of Edom, or take their fruit without paying for it, Edom refused to give Israel passage; while Israel turned meekly away from Edom. Thus Edom branded itself as the enemy of the people of God. They had an undying hatred against the children of Israel, the sons of Jacob. They had an envious dislike of the people of God. Later it was attacked by Saul and conquered for David by Joab 2 Samuel 8:1-18 . During the reign of Jehoram (or Joram) they revolted and gained independence.

When Judah and Israel began to decline Edom became more and more arrogant and rejoiced in the evil which came upon the people of God. Their dwelling place was the former possession of the Horim, a race which lived in caves in the mountainous region, much like the prehistoric cave dwellers on the North American continent. Edom possessed then the so-called troglodyte dwelling places cut into the cliffs of sandstone; these rocky habitations were suited to their warlike character and gave them the shelter they needed. Hence they are mentioned in Obadiah 1:3 as “dwelling in the clefts of the rock.” The ruins of Petra still bear witness to its former grandeur. The wickedness of Edom continued and when the Chaldeans came to destroy Jerusalem they also seemed to have shown their hatred. We read in Psalms 137:7 , “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem, who said raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof.” They were also in evidence during the Maccabean period and later in the person of Herod the Great, an Edomite, reigned in Jerusalem. The judgment pronounced upon Idumea, their dwelling place, has found a startling fulfillment.

But this does not end the story of Edom; there will be a future revival of Edom and an ultimate history. This will be at the close of the age, when the Lord regathers all Israel and Judah and ten tribes will be reunited, then and before Edom will appear once more in prominence. No one knows where and what Edom is today. One might almost surmise that the Turk must have some connection with Edom in his horrible hatred and outrages against the Armenians, who, as it is claimed by some, may contain remnants of the ten tribes. But all this is mere speculation. When God’s time comes the Edomite will manifest their national, undying hatred against the sons of Jacob, but Israel victorious will lay their hand on Edom Isaiah 11:14 .

We read of this future judgment upon the country of Edom, Idumea, in Isaiah 34:5 :

“And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens shall be rolled together as a scroll, and all their hosts shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine, and as a falling fig from the fig tree. For My sword shall be bathed in heaven; behold it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of My curse, to judgment.” It is unfulfilled to the present time, but it will be fulfilled when “the LORD, hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea” (Obadiah 1:6 ), that is, in the future day of the Lord. As the context shows in Isaiah 34:8 , it will be that day, “For it is the day of the LORD’S vengeance, and the year of recompense for the controversy of Zion.” Then comes the utter desolation of Edom Isaiah 34:9-17 ; see also Ezekiel 25:12-14 ; Ezekiel 35:1-15 ; Isaiah 63:3 and Lamentations 4:21-22 . While Obadiah’s prophecy has been partially fulfilled, it awaits its final accomplishment in the day of the Lord.

The prophecy begins with the announcement that tidings had come from the Lord which was heard by the prophet and by the people; an ambassador is sent forth among the nations to summon them to go up in battle against Edom. The hour for Edom’s overthrow has come. The Lord has made them small among the nations. It was pride which brought them low so that they would be greatly despised. As the dwellers in the rocks they thought themselves secure and boasted of it by saying, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” But the humiliation of Edom had been decreed by the Lord and no power could arrest its execution. Their nests were high as the eagles, yea, even so high that their habitations seemed to be among the stars, yet the Lord would bring them down. His destruction would be complete; the spoilers would not be like the thieves, who steal till they have enough; or like the grape-gatherers who leave something behind. There would be a clean sweep, everything searched out, even the hidden things. Even those in whom they trusted, with whom Edom made a covenant would deceive them and prevail against Edom. Those with whom they made an alliance and gave hospitality would turn against Edom and prove treacherous, though they had eaten bread with them. Their friends of the heathen nations, whom they stirred up against Israel, would forsake them completely and the Lord would destroy the wise out of Edom and understanding out of Mount Esau. Even the wise men will not be able to help them; their wisdom and understanding will not avail. Teman is mentioned because it was known for its wise men; Eliphaz, who spoke so well to job was a Temanite Job 4:11 ). And the prophet Jeremiah in his testimony against Edom wrote, “is wisdom no more in Teman? Is counsel perished from the prudent? Is their wisdom vanished?” Jeremiah 49:7 . But now their wise and valiant ones would be cut off by slaughter.

Obadiah 1:10-16 . Her sin of violence against her brother Jacob comes now in special remembrance. On account of it shame would cover them and they would be cut off forever. When Jerusalem was in trouble and the Philistines and Arabs plundered the city 2 Chronicles 21:16-20 ), they stood on the other side and revolted 2 Chronicles 21:8-20 . And more than that, they joined in plundering the city. Thus it was afterwards when the Babylonians came against Jerusalem, Edom rejoiced; they spoke proudly. Perhaps what is recorded in Obadiah 1:12-14 happened repeatedly. They stretched out their hands for the possession of God’s people. They placed themselves at the crossroads to cut off the fugitives and delighted to deliver up into the hands of their enemies the remnant which was left.

All this will be repeated once more, when another great prophecy will be fulfilled and Jerusalem is once more surrounded by hostile nations Zechariah 14:1-21 ). Not a few superficial Bible students thought when Jerusalem was captured during the war, and all looked bright for political Zionism, that the promises were now being fulfilled. There is coming another siege of Jerusalem, preceding the glorious appearing of the King of Israel, our Lord. That siege is prophetically described by Zechariah. Among those nations will be found Edom once more. Once more they will manifest their malice and hatred against Jerusalem.

Then, to show the link of connection between the future and the past, the prophet announces the day of the Lord. “For near is the day of Jehovah upon all nations.” This day has not yet been. There have been judgments upon nations like Egypt, Babylon and others, nations which were nations of power and culture, which have fallen under the dealings of a righteous God; these judgments of the past did not bring that day which Obadiah announced, of which Joel after him so fully speaks. The day of the Lord upon all nations is future. When it comes it will mean judgment for all nations, including Edom, Moab and others named in the Scriptures of Truth; and that day will be immediately followed by an age of blessing and glory such as the earth and race had never known before. It will bring divine retribution. “As thou hast done will they do unto thee.” The nations of the earth will have to drink of the cup of His fury and wrath.

Obadiah 1:17-21 . The final section of Obadiah’s brief prophecy concerns the kingdom, the victory over the enemies and the restoration of His people. Mount Zion will come into its own; there will be deliverance and there shall be holiness. What God had promised to be the remnant of His people will be accomplished, and they will be a holy people and then hold their possessions, all that the Lord in His infinite grace had promised unto them. The house of Esau will be consumed, so that none shall be remaining of Esau, while Israel will occupy Edom’s territory.

The saviours mentioned in the last verse of this prophecy (or deliverers) must mean the chosen instruments which go forth to teach all nations and make known the glory of the King in their midst. For “the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.”

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Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Obadiah 1". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/obadiah-1.html. 1913-1922.