The Agora
Bible Commentary



Oba 1:1

See Lesson, Prophet, the.

See Lesson, Minor prophets, and their messages.

There are similarities between Oba 1:1-6 and Jer 49:9,14-17 and between Oba 1:10-18 and Joel 1:15; 2:1,32; 3:3-4,17,19. There are also similarities between Oba 1:9,10,14,18,19 and Amos 1:2,6,11,12; 9:13. However, in all these instances it is really impossible to determine if Obadiah referred to the other prophets, if they referred to Obadiah.

Other prophecies against Edom: Psa 137; Joel 3:19; Lam 4:21,22.

VISION: Heb "hazon", as in 1Sa 3:1; Isa 1:1; Nah 1:1. "The vision is to be sharply differentiated from common sight and things seen. It is the result of inspiration and is understood as having unique significance since it is given by God himself" (Watts).

OBADIAH: Nothing is known of this prophet personally; there are about a dozen "Obadiahs" in the OT -- from Davidic to post-exilic times. And it is quite possible that this Obadiah is not one of them. It is even possible that "Obadiah" is not a proper name, but simply means "the servant of Yahweh". Lack of personal information makes it difficult to establish the time period of this prophecy, leaving several reasonable possibilities (see Lesson, Obad, overview).

Oba 1:3

THE PRIDE OF YOUR HEART HAS DECEIVED YOU, YOU WHO LIVE IN THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCKS, AND MAKE YOUR HOME ON THE HEIGHTS, YOU WHO SAY TO YOURSELF, 'WHO CAN BRING ME DOWN TO THE GROUND?': "The Edomites lived in a rocky, reclusive region around a town that later became known as Petra. The Nabateans, the Arabians who later drove the Edomites out, actually carved this town out of solid rock. The habitation of the Edomites says much about them. They were self-reliant isolationists and fiercely independent. In some ways they were like the survivalists of our own day. They preferred to be by themselves. They distrusted others. They wanted to control their own destiny. They took refuge in a part of the wilderness from which they thought they could defend themselves against all enemies" (Const).

"Edom's natural defenses were imposing. Its main centers of civilization were situated in a narrow ridge of mountainous land southeast of the Dead Sea... This ridge exceeded a height of 4,000 feet throughout its northern sector, and it rose in places to 5,700 feet in the south. Its height was rendered more inaccessible by the gorges radiating from it toward the Arabah on the west and the desert eastwards.

"In addition to these natural fortifications, Edom was strongly defended by a series of Iron Age fortresses, particularly on the eastern frontier where the land descended more gradually to the desert" (Armerding).

THE CLEFTS OF THE ROCKS: "Rock" is "Sela" -- referring to the granite and sandstone that made up Mt Seir. Sela was also the name of an Edomite town (2Ki 14:7).

PRIDE: The outstanding mark of Edom's national character was pride. The Heb word for pride ("zadon") comes from a verb meaning to boil up ("zid"). It pictures pride being like water that boils up under pressure in a cooking pot. Similarly the proud person is like a bubble that thrusts itself up but is hollow. Interestingly, the same Heb word occurs three times in the account of Esau squandering his birthright (Gen 25:27-34).

Oba 1:4

THOUGH YOU SOAR LIKE THE EAGLE AND MAKE YOU NEST AMONG THE STARS, FROM THERE I WILL BRING YOU DOWN, DECLARES THE LORD: The God whom the Edomites thought they could disregard would visit and destroy them. God is higher than even the eagles. He is the One who formed the mountains in which the Edomites foolishly trusted for safety.

AND MAKE YOUR NEST AMONG THE STARS: Cp the same hyperbole in other prophecies: Jer 49:16; 51:53; Hab 2:9; Isa 14:12-15; Amo 9:2; Mat 24:29; Luk 21:25,26; Rev 6:12-17; 2Pe 3:10.

Oba 1:5

Vv 5,6: Thieves robbed houses and grape pickers stripped vineyards, yet both left a little behind that they did not carry off. However, Yahweh's destruction of Edom would be so complete that nothing at all would remain of her (cf Jer 49:9,10,17-22). There would be no remnant of Edom left (in contrast to the remnant that Yahweh promised elsewhere to leave in Israel). Concealed treasures of all kinds, human as well as material, would not escape Yahweh's omniscient eye.

Oba 1:7

ALL YOUR ALLIES WILL FORCE YOU TO THE BORDER; YOUR FRIENDS WILL DECEIVE AND OVERPOWER YOU; THOSE WHO EAT YOUR BREAD WILL SET A TRAP FOR YOU: The Edomites trusted in other nations for their security rather than in God. But the Lord would use the very objects of Edom's trust to destroy them. He always uses the false gods that people rely on instead of Himself to do this. Allies in ungodliness turn out to be enemies eventually.

Edom's allies would treacherously betray their friend. Thus Edom would not only deceive herself, but her trusted allies would also deceive her. They would do what in the ancient Near East was most despicable, namely break covenant with a covenant partner (Psa 55:20; Amos 1:9). Edom's allies would prove to be the worst of enemies. They would fail to assist her in her hour of greatest need. Three parallel descriptions of covenant disloyalty in this verse picture the treachery as certain. Moreover this disloyalty would completely surprise the Edomites.

Edom was a weak country militarily, its small population and its limited agricultural wealth precluding powerful armed forces. Therefore its ability to attack Judah's Negeb and help plunder Jerusalem had depended on its alliance with more powerful states, especially Babylon (Joel 3:19; Psa 137:7; Lam 4:21,22; Eze 25:12-14). Eventually it would be Babylon that would turn against Edom.

Oba 1:8

IN THAT DAY... WILL I NOT DESTROY...?: The reality, from a spiritual viewpoint, is that it is Yahweh -- not Babylon (v 7) -- who will destroy Edom! Babylon is only a tool in His hand (cp Isa 10:5,15; 14:5,6; Jer 51:20-24).

THE WISE MEN OF EDOM: God would destroy Edom's famous wise men (1Ki 4:30; Job 1:1; 2:11; 4:1; Jer 49:7; Lam 4:21) and their understanding by allowing them to fail to detect the unfaithfulness of their allies (v 7) and to overestimate their own security (v 3).

Oba 1:9

TEMAN: Teman was a region in the north of Edom (cf Gen 36:10,11) and a prominent town in northern Edom near Sela (possibly modern Tawilan), but its name stands for the whole nation (by metonymy). The end of all this deception and destruction would be the total end of Edom.

Oba 1:10

BECAUSE OF THE VIOLENCE AGAINST YOUR BROTHER JACOB: If pride (vv 3,4) was Edom's essential sin, violence was the supreme manifestation of that pride. They not only protected themselves, but they did wrong to others and rejoiced when they harmed others.

Pride was not the only reason God would humble Edom. The Edomites had also cursed the people whom God had purposed to bless, the Israelites (cf Gen 27:40,41; Exo 15:15; Num 20:14-21; Deu 2:4; Jdg 11:17,18; 1Sa 14:47,48; 2Sa 8:13,14; 1Ki 11:15,16; 1Ch 18:11-13; Psa 60). In doing this they had incurred God's wrath (Gen 12:3). "Violence" (Heb "hamas") includes both moral wrong and physical brutality. This violence was esp despicable since it was against Edom's brother, Jacob, and his descendants. Consequently, great shame would cover Edom (cf v 2), and God would cut her off forever (cf v 9).

Oba 1:11

YOU STOOD ALOOF WHILE STRANGERS CARRIED OFF HIS WEALTH... YOU WERE LIKE ONE OF THEM: By contrast, "...the Israelites are always commanded in the law to preserve a friendly and brotherly attitude towards Edom (Deu 2:45); and in Deu 23:7 it is enjoined upon them not to abhor the Edomite, because he is their brother" (KD).

Oba 1:12

Vv 12,13: God reinforced the seriousness of the Edomites' sin by condemning it in parallel terminology eight times (vv 12-14). Hostile attitudes more than physical violence were Edom's sins against the Israelites on this occasion. Blood ties should have transcended even covenant ties. Edom's allies would break covenant ties with her (v 7), but she had betrayed the ties of blood!

Oba 1:14

YOU SHOULD NOT WAIT AT THE CROSSROADS TO CUT DOWN THEIR FUGITIVES, NOR HAND OVER THEIR SURVIVORS IN THE DAY OF THEIR TROUBLE: Not just hatred, but also physical violence eventually came into play. As the Judahite fugitives from Jerusalem left the city (probably after the Babylonian overthrow), the Edomites met them at some fork in the road and slew them rather than helping them escape from the invader. Other Edomites imprisoned fleeing Judahites instead of giving them refuge.

For historical parallels, see the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 596 BC (2Ki 24:13-16; 25:4-17; 2Ch 36:18,20; cf Psa 137:7; Jer 9:26; 25:21; 27:3; 40:11; Eze 25:12; 32:29; 35:3-9,11-15; 36:2-7; Lam 1:17; 2:15-17; 4:21-22.

Oba 1:15

THE DAY OF THE LORD IS NEAR...: The future day in which God will reverse the fortunes of Israel and the nations (cf v 8; Joel 3:14; Mal 4:5; Zec 14:1; Mic 5:15). It will be the day when God establishes His rule in human affairs, namely when Jesus Christ returns to rule and reign on the earth. Obadiah said that day was approaching. As Edom and the other nations had done to Israel, so God would pay them back with precisely the same judgment (Lev 24:20; Deu 19:21).

FOR ALL NATIONS: In the future, "Edom" seems to be expanded to include "other nations" -- perhaps esp the other Arab nations who acted as Edom did when Judah was under siege by the Babylonians (cp Jer 25:15-28; also cp James' quotation of Amo 9:11,12 in Acts 15:15-17).

Oba 1:16

JUST AS YOU DRANK ON MY HOLY HILL: Edom had her "day" on the Lord's holy mountain, Jerusalem, when she failed to help her brother, Israel. Likewise, all the nations would have their "day" dominating Jerusalem and the Jews (during the "times of the Gentiles": Luke 21:24). Obadiah described these enemies as drinking there in celebration of their dominion over Israel (cf Exo 32:6; 1Sa 30:16).

THEY WILL DRINK AND DRINK AND BE AS IF THEY HAD NEVER BEEN: Though they would celebrate to the point of delirium, God would destroy them, and they would become as though they had never existed. They would drink the cup of His wrath (Psa 60:3; 75:8; Isa 51:22,23; Jer 25:15-18,28,29; 49:12,13; Hab 2:15,16; Rev 18:3-6).

ALL THE NATIONS: "Nations round about" (RSV), esp defining the Arab and Muslim nations surrounding Israel. See Lesson, Nations "round about".

Oba 1:17

ON MOUNT ZION WILL BE DELIVERANCE: A remnant of those who fled from Jerusalem will return there (cp Isa 11, esp vv 10-16; 2:2-4; 27:12,13; etc).

THE HOUSE OF JACOB WILL POSSESS ITS INHERITANCE: Thus beginning to fulfill the promises made to their father Abraham (Gen 13:15,16).

Oba 1:18

THE HOUSE OF JACOB WILL BE A FIRE AND THE HOUSE OF JOSEPH A FLAME; THE HOUSE OF ESAU WILL BE STUBBLE, AND THEY WILL SET IT ON FIRE AND CONSUME IT: The Israelites would then consume the Edomites, as a fire burns up stubble (cf Exo 15:7; Isa 10:17; Joel 2:5; Zec 12:6; Mal 4:1; Mat 3:12; Luke 3:17). Fire is often a method of divine judgment in Scripture (Deu 28:24; 32:22).

Some passages, like v 18, speak of a military participation by Israel in the judgment of the nations just prior to the Millennium (cp Zec 9:13; 12:1-9; Mal 4:3), while others depict the Lord carrying out the judgment on behalf of His people (Joel 3:12; Zec 14:3-5). Perhaps both aspects are true, but at slightly different times.

THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS FROM THE HOUSE OF ESAU: There would be no Edomites left (cf vv 8,9; Num 24:18; Isa 11:13,14; Eze 25:13,14; Amos 9:12), though Israelites would escape from Jerusalem (v 17). [This may mean: 'no Edomites as a NATION' particularly.]

Oba 1:19

Vv 19,20: For detail of the occupations described, see Lesson, Obad, overview. These occupations are, in order, se, sw, north, and east of Israel.

THE MOUNTAINS OF ESAU: Cp v 21. Edom would not prevail over Israel, but Yahweh would prove to be sovereign (v 1). His kingdom would extend over the whole Promised Land, even the part that Israel's enemies formerly occupied and the people who formerly opposed them.

PHILISTINES: See Lesson, Philistia in prophecy.

Oba 1:20

SEPHARAD: Of uncertain meaning. Some say it refers to Sardis in western Asia Minor, or to a district of southwest Media referred to by Sargon king of Assyria, where exiled Jews settled (cp 2KI 17:6). Others say it refers to Spain, and hence in modern times to the Sephardic Jews, the dark-skinned Jews mainly from Spain and North Africa (in contrast to Ashkenazi Jews, mainly from Germany and Poland). These Sephardic Jews, who have emigrated to Israel, have been sent mostly to the Negev (Tes 54:332).

Oba 1:21

DELIVERERS: Why is this word "deliverers/saviours" plural? There are two possible answers: (1) This is the scholarly "intensive plural" of OT Hebrew, which in this case should be translated: "the GREATEST of all Saviours"; and/or (2) Christ the one Saviour, along with all the glorified saints who will rule with him in the Kingdom of God (Dan 7:22,27; 12:3; Luk 22:30; Rev 2:26,27; 5:9,10; etc).

AND THE KINGDOM WILL BE THE LORD'S: "None of the prophets has a more exalted close than this... No man-ruled empire nor any nation of this world will endure forever. All will one day be merged into that eternal kingdom over which the Lord Jesus Christ will reign in solitary glory" (Gaebelein). See Psa 2:6-9; Isa 9:6,7; Dan 2:35,44; Zec 14:9; Luk 1:32,33; Rev 19:6.
Previous Index