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CRITICAL NOTES.] Amb.] God is represented as summoning armies and setting them in battle array, after the custom of earthly kings.
Obadiah 1:3. Clefts] Jeremiah 49:16. See Stanley for description. The position, strong by nature and by art, was thought impregnable, hence their proud confidence and insolence.
Obadiah 1:4.] Who? is the boast; “thence will I” is the answer. God can dislodge the highest.
THE SOLEMN MESSAGE.—Obadiah 1:1-2
Obadiah prophesies against Edom, whose conduct towards Jacob typifies the general attitude of hostile nations to God’s people, and threatens retribution for all its crimes. These verses are introductory.
I. The nature of the message. God speaks in manifold ways and divers forms to adapt his revelations to men.
1. A vision. God first opens their eyes, and if they have not real visions, they have fresh light and new life poured into the soul. All God’s servants have heard and seen God in Christ; have enlarged views of truth and duty; and rejoice in spiritual illumination. “We speak that we know, and testify that we have seen.”
2. A report. To impress our minds God often appeals to the senses, speaks to the eye and ear. (a) A true report, not a mere rumour originating with men; but authentic and Divine. “From the Lord.” (b) A prevalent report. “We have heard.” The prophet identifies others, of earlier or those of his own date, with himself. God’s judgments are known in the earth by various means. Men are not kept in the dark. If the wicked despise them the righteous shall be warned.” Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets.”
3. A judgment. Those who desert God and renounce spiritual interests to gratify animal passions will be disgraced. And when posterity indulge the spirit, perpetuate and multiply the sins, of their ancestors, as Edomites walked in the steps of Esau, then God will make an example of them. “And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom, by the hand of my people Israel.”
II. The execution of the message. God’s word is not empty sound. God changes not, and his servants must not alter their message. “Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom.”
1. By an ambassador. “An ambassador is sent.” Whether this ambassador be the prophet himself, or another servant, or celestial messenger, matters little. God has agents visible and invisible. Evil spirits and wicked men are permitted to stir up nations to battle. We are ambassadors from God to beseech you to take heed and escape the judgment.
2. By other nations. There is first a rumour, then the ambassador, followed by the gathering of nations. Though eager to accomplish their own ends, and engrossed in their own pursuits, yet when God calls, “Arise ye,” they respond, “Let us rise up against her in battle.” The Medes and Persians, the Russians and Turks, are under the control of God Almighty. He can create war or cause it to cease. He has absolute dominion over the human heart, and can turn it at his pleasure. One wicked man punishes another; one sinful nation administers justice to another. “He maketh the wrath of man to praise him.”
III. The consequences of this execution. “Behold. I have made thee small among the heathen.” The greatness of the calamity is set forth by its effects.
1. Small in territory. Edom extended from Dedan of Arabia to Bozrah in the north (Jeremiah 49:8-13). But the enemy “laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” (Malachi 1:3). He was robbed of his dominions, and subdued by the heathen.
2. Small in number. They were noted for riches and power (Genesis 36:7-31); blessed with men and possessions: but were made small and sadly reduced in war (2 Kings 14:7).
3. Small in honour. Not merely despised, but “greatly despised.” This mighty nation was made insignificant in itself, and despicable in the sight of others. Proud men are worthless in character, and ridiculed by inferiors. They wrongly estimate themselves, and are lightly esteemed by others. Humiliation and shame will ever be the result of their pride and defiance of God. God exalts and abases, makes great and makes small. “For lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men.”
“My pride fell with my fortunes” [Shakespeare].
PRIDE OF HEART.—Obadiah 1:3-4
Edom’s dwelling on the rock which seemed impregnable, fostered his pride and arrogant self-confidence. But this natural fortification afforded no shelter. God brought them down from their lofty heights, and retribution found its victims.
I. That pride of heart is deceptive. “The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee.” Edom imagined that they were secure in their elevated rocks—that they were out of the reach of the enemy, and that they occupied an impregnable fortress. They were deceived. National fortifications avail not against the Divine hand.
1. Pride of heart deceives men in the commercial sphere of life. There are godless merchants who build their nests in bright stars—pride themselves on strong financial fortifications—have a large capital, a good stock, and a fine commercial reputation. They have no need to be religious, or introduce religious sentiments in business life; they can do without it. They say, “Who shall bring me down?” God sees their pride of heart, and causes unexpected calamity to work their ruin (Psalms 37:35-36).
2. Pride of heart deceives men in reference to their intellectual thinkings. Many proud thinkers reject the word of God, imagine that they are safe in the invincible battlements of logic, and their ability to resist truth and God.
3. Pride of heart deceives men in reference to their moral safety. Men pursue a continuous life of sin, openly blaspheme the name of God, and imagine that they are safe in the fortifications of social position and wealth. They vainly imagine that natural qualifications and favourable circumstances will enable them to conduct life safely and well in defiance of the Great Ruler of the Universe. They are deceived. The rocky places are no refuge for the retributive providence of God. They may shield from the assaults of men, but not when God is Captain of the assailing army.
II. Pride of heart is presumptive. “Who shall bring me down to the ground?”
1. It presumes unduly upon the natural, temporal, and secondary advantages it may possess. The Edomites presumed unduly upon the natural position of their city, and upon their high fortification. They trusted exclusively in these for protection against the foe. So many favoured with natural, intellectual, and social advantages of life are glad in the enjoyment of these gifts, but their folly consists in placing undue confidence in them. The true fortifications of life are not in stones and rocks, but in love and purity of soul.
2. It presumes ignorantly, without taking into view the access which God has to men, notwithstanding their temporal fortifications. Edom thought only of elevated position, and not the power of God to touch them at unknown points, and by unexpected agencies. No device can avert God’s retributive touch. He can send angels on his errands, who are not hindered by the battlements of men. How often do men of social position and intellectual ability—men naturally gifted—look at their own fortress unmindful of God, and become presumptuous.
3. It presumes unwarrantably upon the inability of men to achieve its ruin. Edom never imagined for a moment that God would interfere to work their ruin—did not see the Divine purpose in the armies coming against them, and scorned the idea of men reaching their altitudes. So men enjoy the protective advantages of life, underrate the power of their fellows, and hold in contempt the feeble instrumentalities which shall ultimately work their ruin.
III. Pride of heart is destructive. “I will bring thee down, saith the Lord.” Men who boast of human fortifications which protect them from injury are ignorant of the power of God, or vainly imagine they can elude it—make lawful things the subject of unlawful boasting—invite the scorn of men and the retribution of God. God can send darkness on the noblest intellect, distress into the most joyous home, failure into the most successful business, and will do, if pride of heart be indulged. Pride is the herald of ruin.
1. Such men are often brought to humiliation by commercial failure. Their best schemes fail. Their largest speculations are unsuccessful.
2. Such men are often brought to humiliation by domestic bereavement. Their fortifications are sealed by the stern foe Death; and the brightest lights of their homes are put out. Thus are they brought to the ground.
3. Such men are often brought down by social slander. Rumours get about concerning the conduct of the proud, which endanger their reputation, and bring the haughty to the dust of social execration.
4. Such men are often brought down by death. They shall surely be brought down from their nests in the stars, by the last great enemy of humanity. Their destruction is—
5. Irreparable [The Study and the Pulpit].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
1. Natural advantages often beget pride.
2. Pride leads to insolent defiance of God.
3. Insolent defiance of God leads to awful ruin.
Pride is the great enemy of God. It strikes at his throne and glory, provokes him to oppose and punish it. God resisteth (setteth himself in battle array against) the proud (James 4:6; Genesis 11:4 : cf. Genesis 10:8-10). Pride has its root in the practical denial of God. The proud think that there is none above them (Psalms 12:4). God’s honour is concerned in putting down pride. “I will bring thee down.” “Æsop, when asked ‘What doeth God?’ said, ‘He humbles the proud and exalts the humble.’ And another,
‘Whom morning’s dawn beholdeth proud,
The setting sun beholdeth bowed.’ ” [Pusey.]
No exaltation and power can secure those whom God in honour is concerned to bring down.
Fortifications may be constructed and made due use of, but must not be depended upon. For no fortification is too strong or too high when God is angry, and will punish. And he has various ways of bringing them into the hands of the enemies. He can cause provisions to fail; or a spark to fall in a powder magazine; water may be wanting; there may be pestilence, dysentery, or mutiny among the soldiers, or bribes may be used as scaling ladders. Then all is in vain. What the world calls protection, cannot protect against God’s judgment; death mounts over all rocks [Lange].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:1-2. The circumstances of Obadiah’s country and family are designedly passed over, that we may not rest and depend upon the outward respectability of men, but derive the authority of such prophecy, and the certainty of its issues, from God alone. Preachers must be, not in name alone, but also in fact, Obadiahs, i.e. servants of God (1 Corinthians 4:1) [Starke].
Obadiah 1:3-4. Pride. God hath a special indignation at pride above all sins [Bp Hall]. “He that would build lastingly must lay his foundation low.” When pride cometh, then cometh shame (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 29:23).
“In pride, in reasoning pride, our error lies;
All quit their sphere, and rush into the skies.
Pride still is aiming at the bless’d abodes;
Men would be angels, angels would be gods.” [Pope.]
Obadiah 1:5.] Spoliation shall be complete; not such as thieves or grape-gatherers make, who leave the rest when they have had enough.
Obadiah 1:6. Hidden] places explored; all treasures searched out, lit. diligent and earnest tracking out (Zephaniah 1:12).
THE IRREPARABLE LOSS.—Obadiah 1:5-6
The prophet now depicts the utter overthrow of Edom. The material wealth on which they relied shall be taken away, and nothing shall remain or be recovered.
I. Their treasures are searched out. “How are the things of Esau searched out!” The most secret places, the most hidden things, are diligently tracked out. Everything safely stored up in holes of the rock was sought after and discovered. No place can hide from God. No wealth can protect from retribution. Nothing can be concealed and kept on earth. Our best treasures are searched out, stolen by thieves or corroded by time. In the judgment day the hidden things of all men will be brought to light, every hiding-place of sin exposed, and sinners stripped of their pride and self-confidence.
II. Their treasures are taken away. The grape-gatherer leaves some gleanings, thieves and robbers retreat with what they can carry with them: but the enemy would act much worse than ordinary plunderers. Nothing shall escape them. The devastation should be complete. A gleaning was left in Israel (Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 24:13), but Edom was utterly spoiled. Treasures ensure not from the invader, aggrandize not the possessors, but become the spoil of the conqueror. Nations may trust to their defences and individuals to their wealth, but God can take them all away. “I have made Esau bare. I have uncovered his secret places, and he shall not be able to hide himself.”
III. The regret at the loss is great. “How art thou cut off!” This parenthetic sentence indicates the amazement of the prophet at the great destruction of the ungodly. Sad to see men lose reputation and happiness, the health of the body and the fortunes of the family, without the least hope of recovery. What a sight to behold men exposed to judgment, robbed of all defence, and stupefied in their sin.
1. God pities such. Judgment is strange work to him. He desires not the death of any sinner. O Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thee!
2. God’s servants pity such. Amos mourns over the destruction which he announces in the name of God. David and Jeremiah wept because men kept not the law. All true prophets are in sympathy with the people for whom they labour. A lost soul should cause tears to flow like rivers of water.” Oh that they were wise, that they understood this!”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:5-6. Thieves. Paulinus, when he was told that the Goths had sacked Nola and plundered him of all he had, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Lord, thou knowest where I have laid up my treasure” [Bib. Museum].
Obadiah 1:7.] Edom would be forsaken by those in whom they put confidence. Confederates] Allies would drive back (brought) fugitives to the frontier. Men at peace with them, neighbouring states, would deceive them (Psalms 41:9). They that eat bread, lit. men of bread, their dependents, lay snares to wound. Treachery everywhere. None] of the wisdom and tact for which Edom was famous is left to extricate himself.
Obadiah 1:8. Wise men] shall be bereft of discernment.
Obadiah 1:9. Thy mighty] heroes are dismayed, or fall into despair.
RELIANCE ON BROKEN REEDS.—Obadiah 1:7-9
The destruction threatened could not be warded off by dependence upon allied armies, renowned wisdom, and heroic valour. Every object of confidence is destroyed. Those very projects by which they seek to protect themselves and secure their treasures become the ruin of both.
I. Human alliances disappoint. Those who forsake God often flee in vain confidence to man. But as Edom had deceived and persecuted his brother Jacob, so in turn he is deceived and punished by his friends.
1. Confederates are worthless. When Edom seeks for help and support from them, ambassadors and fugitives are sent back to the frontier or delivered into the hands of the enemy. Allies will not entangle themselves in the fate of Edom.
2. Neighbours are treacherous. They deceive or overpower them. Men hide their malice under a pretence of peace. Their friendship is deceitful as a brook in summer, false and perfidious. Hence cried the heathen, “Friends! there is no friend to be found.” The man of my peace, with whom I had no difference, in whom I trusted, proved treacherous. “For it was not an enemy that reproached me; then I could have borne it” (Psalms 55:12-13).
3. Dependents forsake them. Those who had bread with them; those entertained by them and who lived by them, laid plots for their overthrow. While they professed to aid they secretly desired to wound them. Unkind acts from those in whom we put confidence are most severe. To spurn those from whom we derive our bread and being is the height of ingratitude and malice. “All my friends have forsaken me,” cried a Prime Minister of England. “And thou, O Brutus!” said the dying Cæsar, “yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me.” Thus the help of man proves to be vain. When nations are united in fear, they may be severed and turned against one another. “Every experiment by multitudes or by individuals that has a sensual and selfish aim will fail,” says Emerson. The giants in old time succeeded not in confederacy against the gods. The firmest friendship, the strongest armies, are broken reeds. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.”
II. Worldly wisdom failed. The prophet makes an appeal to Edom, “Shall I not?” God will turn their knowledge into ignorance, and their wisdom into folly.
1. Wise men will be destroyed. They will not have wit or wisdom enough to preserve themselves. A wise man, though poor, may defend a city (Proverbs 9:14-15). A woman’s wisdom defeated the purpose of Joab (2 Samuel 20:14-22). Archimedes saved Syracuse from Roman plunder. Wisdom is better than strength, and its merits often more brilliant. Sad therefore is the loss of wise men.
2. Wisdom itself shall perish. “And understanding out of the mount of Esau.” “Knowledge is power,” and in “the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” But “there is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” Pharaoh’s device, was frustrated. Ahithophel’s counsel was befooled when it was thought to be like “the oracle of God.” Worldly policy is weak, begets suspicion and leads to ruin. “The best-laid schemes” are often overturned by accident, and the wisdom of legislators “made foolish” by the providence of God. Trust not to human wisdom. It can neither prevent the treachery of men, nor ward off the judgment of God. When we seek protection in “the wisdom of men,” from national distress and personal evil, we shall be disappointed. “There is no understanding in them;” they are bereft of all prudence and help. “The wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.”
III. Martial valour availed not. “Thy mighty men, O Teman! shall be dismayed.” Their courage turned pale. Heroes and valiant men were cowards. Their last hope was cut off, brave warriors were dismayed and trembled in despair. If the mighty fall, what becomes of the weak? “Howl, fir-trees, if the cedars be shaken.” When armies and fleets fail, the people are defenceless, and “every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.” The nation is panic-stricken, and the rigour of death strikes them helpless (Psalms 76:5). How terrible was the overthrow of Edom! Its wealth and confederacies, its renown and its valour, availed not in the day of calamity. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Obadiah 1:7. Edom is a type of worldly wisdom and secular policy, as well as of unbrotherly enmity to God’s people. In both respects the punishment of Edom is a warning to all Machiavellian politicians in these latter days [Wordsworth].
1. The judgment. I will “destroy the wise men.”
2. The time. “In that day.”
3. The certainty of it. “Saith the Lord.”
1. Its outward cause.
2. Its moral necessity in God’s purpose. “The prophet sums up briefly God’s end in all this. The immediate means were man’s treachery, man’s violence, the failure of wisdom in the wise, and of courage in the brave. The end of all in God’s will, was their destruction. All things work together to good to those who love God, and to evil to those who hate him” [Pusey].
Understanding out of Mount of Esau. God will justly deny those understanding to keep out of the way of danger, that will not use their understanding to keep out of the way of sin. He that will be foolish, let him be foolish still [Lange].
1. Carnal confidences of men. Good situations, abundant treasures, powerful allies, prudence, and mighty men to deliver in extremity.
2. The destruction of these confidences. Every one is threatened, and the terror is only the forerunner of the judgment of God. “The death or disunity of the mighty often proves the death and destruction of the many; and it is in vain to depend upon mighty men for our protection, if we have not an Almighty God for us, much less if we have an Almighty God against us” [Lange].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:7. Fickleness. Clocks will go as they are set; but man, irregular man, is never certain [Massinger].
Obadiah 1:8. Many had proved themselves wise if they had not thought themselves so [Bp Hall]. He that is not wise will not be taught; but there is a wisdom which multiplieth bitterness (Sir. 21:12).
“Heaven is for thee too high; be lowly wise.” [Milton.]
“Wherefore should not strength and might
There fail where virtue fails?” [Milton.]
Obadiah 1:10. Cause of ruin] Violence against the seed of Jacob. In different ways.
Obadiah 1:11.] For taking a position. Stoodest] not as a looker-on, but as an enemy; an attitude of hostility, not sympathy.
Obadiah 1:12.] For malicious pleasure in three forms—looking on with delight; rejoiced without reserve; boasting, spoken proudly, lit. to make the mouth broad or open; a gesture of contempt and derision (Psalms 35:21, Isaiah 57:4 : cf. Ezekiel 35:13, and Revelation 13:6).
Obadiah 1:13.] For plundering Jerusalem. Gato] Citv (Micah 1:9).
Obadiah 1:14] For seizing Judean captives, to murder them or deliver them up to the enemy.
UNBROTHERLY CONDUCT AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.—Obadiah 1:10-11
The prophet shows the equity and the cause of the judgment pronounced against Edom. The sentence increases in severity as special sins are more aggravated in their quality. Edom was guilty of many sins, but none so great as unnatural conduct and vindictive spirit towards his brother Jacob. This violence is mentioned in general terms (Obadiah 1:10), and in particular descriptions (Obadiah 1:11-14). In Obadiah 1:10-11 we have—
I. A brother in circumstances of distress. It was a day of calamity with Judah, calamity mentioned three times to indicate its depth (Obadiah 1:13). All are exposed to danger and distress, require sympathy and aid. “A brother is born for adversity.” Three clauses form a climax.
1. Judah’s possessions were taken. “Strangers carried away his forces,” or substance. The country was probably cleared of its produce, cattle, and treasures.
2. Judah’s cities were destroyed. “Foreigners entered into his gates.” The gates were fortified and defended; yet they were carried by the enemy. The capital was taken and the temple destroyed by the Edomites (2Es. 4:45).
3. Judah’s population were made captives. “And cast lots upon Jerusalem.” When the city was taken, the conquerors divided the booty, slew some of the prisoners, and took the others captive. Such distress should have excited the pity and prompted the help of the Edomites: but “in the day of Jerusalem they cried, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.”
II. Unnatural conduct towards a brother in distress. “Thy violence against thy brother Jacob.” “Violence includes all sorts of ill-treatment, from one with whom might is right.”
1. They took up hostile attitude towards their brother. “Thou stoodest on the other side.” Not mere spectators of the calamities of Jacob, but intensely opposed to him. There was lack of sympathy and positive cruelty. All this towards a brother, and a twin brother! Edom acted with the enemy, and took the contrary side to the dictates of nature; feasted his eyes with the misery, and eagerly sought the destruction of Jacob. “Thou wast as one of them.” A man should be more affectionate towards a brother than a stranger. But often the closer the relationship the greater the cruelty. Ingratitude is always black, but doubly black in a brother. “Love as brethren.” This conduct is—
(1) Most reprehensible;
(2) Most inhuman;
(3) Most guilty.
III. Righteous punishment for unnatural conduct towards a brother in distress. Edom helped the Babylonians in the overthrow of Jerusalem, exulted in the downfall of Jacob, and thought to secure his own safety and prosperity. They were disappointed. God in righteous retribution visited them with the punishment they inflicted on others. Two periods of ignominy are mentioned in their history. They would suffer as a conquered people, and at length be utterly extinct.
1. They would suffer as a conquered people. “Shame shall cover thee.” Not the shame of penitence, but the shame of dishonour. Jacob was not ruined as they expected. They were humbled and made contemptible, and the judgment of God confounded them for taking part against those whom they should have loved. Shame will ever be the robe and the result of social cruelty. “Let mine adversaries be clothed with shame, and let them cover themselves with their own confusion, as with a mantle.”
2. They would be cut off as a nation. The sentence was centuries in fulfilment; but after repeated trials the end came and God cut them off. Justice without mitigation, and ruin without recovery, will come upon nations and individuals, who rejoice in a brother’s affliction, and do what they can to increase it (Leviticus 22:3). Ages abate not the force of God’s word, and years change not the sinner’s doom. “I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return: and ye shall know that I am the Lord.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:10-14. Neither shouldest thou. There is a debt of mercy and pity, of charity and compassion, of relief and succour, due to human nature, and payable from one man to another; and such as deny to pay it the distressed in the time of their abundance may justly expect it will be denied themselves in time of want [Burkitt]. “Be more glad to see a man’s amendment than his punishment.” He that is not concerned that his brother should perish, is in great danger of perishing himself [Bp Wilson].
VIOLATION OF SOCIAL DUTY.—Obadiah 1:12-14
These words describe what the conduct of Edom towards his brother ought to have been; and by implied contrast with his actual conduct condemns his violence, rapacity, and murder. They not only neglected social duty, but acted with inveterate cruelty
I. In taking malicious pleasure at a brother’s misfortune. The various ways are minutely specified.
1. With insolent looks. “Thou shouldest not have looked,” (a) With a look of total indifference. Distressed neighbours require relief, and we should not be unconcerned in their sorrows. The priest and the Levite looked on the wounded Samaritan and passed by. Forgetfulness of our common origin and our constant exposure to evil is another form of human hatred. (b) With a look of malignant joy. They looked with scornful eye. They looked and delighted in the affliction of Jacob. The Saviour was pained by the impudent gaze of the multitude. “They look and stare upon me.” Those who make mirth at other men’s misery, dishonour their nature and insult their God. This selfish cruelty is a fearful provocation (Proverbs 17:5). “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth.”
2. In blasphemous words. “Neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly.” They enlarged the mouth (margin) with a flow of haughty words. They magnified themselves against God’s people (Job 19:5); and mocked them in sorrow. This spirit of Edom exists yet; men add insolence to pride, and affliction to affliction. Mockery of God’s people is mockery to God himself. “Thus with your mouth ye have boasted against me, and have multiplied your words against me: I have heard them.”
3. In cruel acts, (a) Acts of selfishness, (b) Acts of robbery. “Nor have laid hands on their substance.” They were drawn into the cities, “entering the gate of God’s people to share the conqueror’s triumphant gaze on his calamity.” Then they laid violent hands upon the spoil. Keep away from sin if you wish to escape it. Enter no place to enrich yourself by the prey of another, lest you be ruined yourself. Wealth, so gained, will prove like the gold of Toulouse, an evil to all that meddle with it—“A burdensome stone for all people; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces.”
II. In making common cause with the enemy. Instead of helping their brother, they aided the enemy.
1. By secret ambush. They stood in the cross-way, the fork where the roads met, or narrow mountain passes, to intercept the fugitives (2 Kings 25:4). The Chaldeans were not so well acquainted with the ways and passes as the Edomites. Hence they took the cruel part to help the foe and seek the complete destruction of their brethren.
2. By cruel murder. They cut off those that escaped and delivered up all that they caught. Every association with thieves and robbers is a breach of the commandment; and those who join with others in seeking the life of man are not mere accessaries, but murderers. Paul charged the murder of Stephen upon himself. Malice in any form contains the seeds of all evil, and if not overcome by grace, will reign and ripen for destruction. Edom did not commence the war, but aided those who did, and hence were guilty of making common cause with the enemy. “Shouldest thou help the ungodly and love them that hate the Lord?”
III. This neglect of duty was at a time when there was every inducement to perform it. “In the day of their calamity” (Obadiah 1:13). “In the day of distress.” Such a time should awaken sympathy and tender feeling for our brother. To increase the burdens and conspire against the interests of men is bloodthirsty. If you cannot relieve the distressed, do not display your insolence and satiate your vengeance by increasing their misery. This is fratricidal and will bring down the judgment of Heaven. One burns with indignation at such inhumanity. God will turn the current of his wrath upon such offenders (Proverbs 24:18).
“This deep disgrace of brotherhood
Touches me deeper than you can imagine” [Shakespeare].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Obadiah 1:12-14. Cruelty. They were charged with cruelty.
1. Cruelty of the eye.
2. Cruelty of heart.
3. Cruelty of tongue.
(1) In their anger they spake cruelly, instigating their enemies to destroy them.
(2) In their pride they spake insolently, expressing inward joy at their ruin, by speeches of scorn and disdain, and of triumph over them.
4. Cruelty of hands. Two things aggravate this cruelty of Edom.
(1) Against a brother.
(2) And in the time in which it was done. For a Turk to oppress a Christian, an infidel a believer, is but a trespass against humanity; for Hebrews to strive, and one Christian to afflict another, woundeth religion. Brethren by nation, brethren by religion, should live as brethren by nature; live as brethren, and our Father will be angry if we do not, and the God of peace will fight against us [Adapted from Marbury].
Nothing is more hateful to God than unnaturalness. “A brother is born to adversity” (Proverbs 17:17); his birth binds him to it; and he must first offer violence to himself that is unkind to his distressed brother; he must tear the dictates of nature out of his own heart [Trapp].
Violence, bloodshed, unrelenting deadly hatred against the whole people, a longing for their extermination, had been inveterate characteristics of Esau. Joel and Amos had already denounced God’s judgments against them for two forms of this hatred—the murder of settlers in their own land, or of those who were sold to them (Joel 3:19; Amos 1:6; Amos 9:11). Obadiah warns them against yet a third—intercepting their fugitives in their escape from the more powerful enemy. Stand not in the cross way. Whoso puts himself in the situation to commit an old sin, does, in fact, will to renew it, and will, unless hindered from without, certainly do it. Probably he will, through sin’s inherent power of growth, do worse [Pusey].
Sin proceeds by degrees; neither is any man at his worst at first. First they looked at the Church’s calamity, and then they laughed, and then they insulted, and spoke big words, and then they plundered, and lastly they butchered some and imprisoned some [Trapp].
Obadiah 1:12. The day that he became a stranger.
1. Judah (the Christian Church) chastised. Not treated as a privileged people, but as strangers, and exercised with strange lots.
(1) Chastised by God.
(2) Persecuted by men.
2. Judah defended. The Church may be deeply fallen and deserve to be chastised; but God undertakes for her, checks the cruelty, and punishes the insolence of the enemy. God is faithful, though men are unfaithful.
However wicked men walk after the lusts and passions of their own hearts, and stick at nothing which they will, and have power to effect, yet the Lord will let them know, that they stand obliged by a law to duty, the violation whereof he will remark, aggravate, and punish; for, though Edom satisfied himself and his passion in what he did against Jacob, yet the Lord tells him, thou shouldest not have done thus and thus, but wast obliged by the law to do otherwise, being both a brother and a neighbour [Hutcheson].
“So many laws argue so many sins” [Milton].
Obadiah 1:15. For] Resumptive from Obadiah 1:10. Righteous retribution in kind.
Obadiah 1:16.] The greatest crime the desecration of the holy mountain by drinking carousals, for which all nations are to drink of God’s wrath till utterly destroyed. Not been] (Job 10:19); not a trace of national existence left (Psalms 37:36; Ezekiel 26:21).
THE DAY OF RETRIBUTION.—Obadiah 1:15-16
Another warning of judgment to come. All men are amenable to law. God notices violations of law and duty. He is present in the affairs and will administer justice on the sins of men. “For the day of the Lord is near.”
I. God governs men by a law of requital. Human life appears confused, but God has plan and design. The wicked may triumph and the righteous suffer, but God will rectify matters. Men may disregard and deny the day of retribution, but cannot escape it. They often suffer here in loss of property, thwarted plans, and bad repute. Look not then upon the wrath of man, but the judgment of God.
1. This retribution may be near. “The day of the Lord is near.”
2. It is fixed in time. “The day of the Lord.”
3. It is certain. “They shall drink.” “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.”
II. This law of retribution will be in equity. “As thou hast done it shall be done unto thee.” It is the lex talionis. God renders exactly to nations and individuals according to their works. Adonibezek confessed, “As I have done so God hath requited me” (Jude 1:7). With the froward God is froward (Psalms 18:26); with the cruel he is strict, as with Agag and Edom. Men are filled with their own ways (Proverbs 14:14), and reap exactly what they sow in quality and quantity. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”
1. In personal experience. “Thy reward shall be upon thine own head.”
2. In bitter degree. “They shall drink and swallow down.”
3. In long duration. “Drink continually.” “His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealings shall come down upon his own pate.”
“Heaven is above all, yet there sits a Judge
That no king can corrupt” [Shakespeare].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Obadiah 1:15. Thy reward, &c.
1. Then take not the law in your own hands.
2. Be encouraged in a good cause.
3. Fear in a bad cause.
Obadiah 1:16. As ye have drunk. A metaphor found in Scripture and heathen writers, in allusion to the cup of poison given to criminals, or to feasts where the governor gave to each guest (John 2:9). As God’s people had drunk the cup of affliction, so must the heathen drink of it. The cup of sorrow.
1. To God’s people—(a) mixed with sweetness; (b) it will soon be over.
2. To the wicked—(a) full of wrath; (b) will last for ever. “When God’s people have drunk the red wine in the cup, the wicked must drink the dregs; the cup passeth from place to place till all be drank off.”
All nations are, in the first instance, all who had been leagued against God’s people; but the wide term comprehends all who, in time, become like them. It is a rule of God’s justice for all times. Each in turn drank continuously, until it became as though it had never been. To swallow up, and be swallowed up in turn, is the world’s history [Pusey].
1. The Hill of Zion God’s holy mount.
2. This mount polluted by the carousals of men.
3. This mount vindicated and purified by God. The Church may be laid waste and made desolate, but God will purify it and revenge its enemies; will make a difference between holy and unholy; punish the spoiler and defend the worshipper. “Here will I dwell, for I have a delight therein.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:15-16. Retribution. To the revengeful God will be robed in vengeance, and to the merciful he will be a God of love. Thus our own characters, whether good or bad, will be thrown back upon ourselves, with the conscious force of Divinity. What is hell but sin’s reflections of the Divine character—the rays of the Eternal falling upon the soul through the combustible medium of the moral corruption, and thus setting all on fire? Let us remember, then, that there is to be a Divine reflection of ourselves, and that exactly with what measure we mete, it will be measured to us again [Dr Thomas].
Obadiah 1:17.] Yet this Mount shall become a sanctuary for God and his people, who will possess, regain their possessions.
Obadiah 1:18.] Israel, again united and unassailed, shall execute judgment upon others. A fire] Numbers 21:28; Isaiah 5:24.
Obadiah 1:19.] Extend its territory to every region under heaven.
Obadiah 1:20. Captivity] Exiles among the Canaanites shall possess the country of the Canaanites; and those whom the Edomites had enslaved shall possess the cities of their masters. See Lowth.
Obadiah 1:21. Saviours] Deliverers (see 1Ma. 5:3-5); Jewish leaders and conquerors (Judges 3:9; Isaiah 19:20); or spiritually, preachers of salvation (cf. Obadiah 1:17 and Amos 9:12). Judge] i.e. to punish (1 Samuel 3:13). Kingdom] shall become universal under the Messiah (Psalms 22:28). “The fulfilment of Obadiah 1:17-21 can only belong to the Messianic times, and in such a way that it commenced with the founding of the kingdom of Christ on earth, advances with its extension among all nations, and will terminate in a complete fulfilment at the second coming of our Lord” [Keil].
THE KINGDOM AN ASYLUM IN JUDGMENT.—Obadiah 1:17
Mount Zion is a type of the Church of God. While heathen nations suffer in judgment it shall be restored, enlarged, and beautified. It will become the seat of empire, and God shall reign over a redeemed race for ever (Obadiah 1:17-21).
I. The Church of God is a centre of refuge. “Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance.” The return of the Jews is a type of redemption. The Church of God consists of those who have fled for refuge in Christ. They are delivered from self and sin’s dominion. The city of God is a sanctuary undefiled and free (Joel 3:17). It is built upon a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Its citizens are those “who have escaped of Israel,” those who claim its privileges through Divine grace. “In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the Lord shall call.”
II. The Church of God is a moral beauty. “There shall be holiness.” Physical beauty is seen in creation, moral in the Christian Church. In Christian life we see “the beauty of holiness.”
1. Holiness is promised. “There shall be.” God will complete his work. First, deliverance; then holiness, redemption, adornment, and service. “That we, being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”
2. Holiness should be pursued. By this we are qualified for enjoyments on earth and in heaven. In this consists the dignity of our character and the consummation of our bliss. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
III. The Church of God is a secure inheritance. “The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”
1. They shall regain their own inheritance. Recover their possessions from the hands of Edom and Syria.
2. They shall possess the territories of their enemies. The world is the inheritance of the Church. “All things are yours.” Ungodly nations will be judged and their dominions taken from them; but the Church will regain its privileges, enlarge its bounds, and enjoy perpetual security.” I will make thine horn iron, and I will make thy hoofs brass; and thou shalt beat in pieces many people; and I will consecrate their gain unto the Lord, and their substance unto the Lord of the whole earth.”
THE KINGDOM REGAINED AND ENLARGED.—Obadiah 1:18-21
The holy land would be repossessed, and adjoining regions annexed.
I. The kingdom regained.
1. The exiles should return. “The captivity,” prisoners of war, would be reclaimed, and wandering exiles owned as sons of Israel.
2. The enemies would be subdued. “There shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau.” The victory of the Church is not by physical, but moral power; not by carnal, but spiritual weapons. The word of God, the gospel, like a spirit of judgment and a spirit of burning, melts the penitent and consumes the impenitent; restores the sinner and confirms the saint. Multitudes shall be converted, and truth, like an unquenchable fire, shall burn up error and superstition. Most distant tribes shall be brought to Christ, and most unlikely things shall come to pass. “For, behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble.”
II. The kingdom enlarged. Judah and Israel shall become one, and extend their boundaries to the four quarters of the globe.
1. Union of the tribes. All feuds and divisions shall cease, and Jew and Gentile become one in Christ.
2. Conquest of other nations (Obadiah 1:20). The prophet looks beyond the return from captivity and conquest of Canaan. He points to the original promise (Genesis 28:14). The gospel is aggressive in spirit and purpose. All nations are to be conquered, and Christ must have the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
III. The kingdom supreme. When Israel takes possession of the border nations, judges will ascend Mount Zion to defend it and govern their enemies. The mountains of Esau express the idea of other lands in contrast to Zion. To judge means not simply to settle disputes, but to exercise dominion. Hence the kingdom will be supreme and Jehovah will declare himself to be the Ruler of the universe. His royal sceptre does not yet sway all the world. The Saviour, of whom others are only types, is still ruling his people and gaining his dominions. Soon shall his blessings extend, remote as the curse. He must reign till he hath put all things under him. Willingly or by force, they must submit. “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Obadiah 1:18. The flame and the stubble. Cf. Isaiah 5:24; Isaiah 10:17. I. God’s people like a fire. “Jacob a fire and Joseph a flame.”
1. In their personal love to Christ. This is the fire that he kindles in the earth. It burns upon the altar within, and like the fire of old, never goes out. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”
2. In their personal zeal for Christ. They burn themselves, and seek to excite others to love and good works. The Psalmist and the Saviour were consumed by the zeal of their master’s house. Brainerd wished to be a flame of fire in the cause of God. Basil was represented as a pillar of fire, and Latimer longed for the spark of the Spirit in the preaching of the day. II. The wicked like stubble. “Esau for stubble.” Vital force has forsaken them. They are empty and worthless; ready for the touch of the flame.
1. In their moral character, and
2. In their moral condition. This fire shall eventually consume all hypocrisy, infidelity, and opposition. “The light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame; and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day” (Isaiah 10:17-18).
Opposers and meddlers will be destroyed. “There shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau.” Persecution fans the flame. Stubble can never quench the fire. Let all enemies beware. “Our God is a consuming fire.”
Obadiah 1:21. Mount Zion. The perpetuity of the Church. Mount Zion.
1. The residence of God.
2. The seat of universal government. God the Head; Saviour’s temporal and spiritual vicegerents.
God will raise up rulers for his people. These rulers judge and condemn the world, but defend and save the Church. But Jehovah is supreme, and executes his judgments by all agencies and instrumentalities. Let none contest his power, for his glory will be revealed in the defeat of his enemies and the salvation of his people. His kingdom can never be destroyed. “The Lord shall reign over them in Mount Zion from henceforth, even for ever” (Micah 4:7; Psalms 146:10; Zechariah 14:9).
Majestic, comprehensive simplicity of prophecy! All time and eternity, the struggles of time and the rest of eternity, are summed up in those three words; Zion and Edom retire from sight; both are comprehended in that one kingdom, and “God is all in all.” The strife is ended; not that ancient strife only between the evil and the good, the oppressor and the oppressed, the subduer and the subdued; but the whole strife and disobedience of the creature towards the Creator, man against his God [Pusey].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO THE CHAPTER
Obadiah 1:17-21. The earth is to come under the dominion of Christ, and is given to Him for this purpose. It is thus to Him as Canaan was to the Jews. All opposition will be as vain as it is unreasonable. His enemies shall lick the dust. The word is gone out of God’s mouth and shall not return, that to Him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess [Jay]. We see Jerusalem emerging from her ashes and standing more beautiful than ever. From Zion goes forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem, and in the Christ of the Jew all nations are blessed. The mountain of the Lord’s house is established on the top of the mountains, and all people are flowing into it. In other words—just as the nations owe their conversion instrumentally to the Jews, so do they look to the Jewish Church as the heart and centre of Christian life, and seek communion with it. It is thus that the union and unity of the whole catholic Church will be consummated and perfected [Ferguson].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Obadiah 1". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30