Obadiah and Esau

Obadiah and Esau

Obadiah and Esau.

“For the violence you did against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever.” (Obadiah 1:10)

Jacob and Esau were twin brothers to Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 25), a beloved patriarch and matriarch of the people of Israel. These two brothers struggled against one another in the womb, and the struggle never stopped, even to distant families in Edom, the people of Esau, and Israel/Judah, the people of Jacob. By the time of Obadiah at the Babylonian destruction of Judah, this ancient feud was alive and well, unfortunately. Edom was Judah’s southern neighbor, and the Edomites didn’t acknowledge the importance of their being blood brothers with the descendants of Jacob in Judah. Edom’s capital was Petra, a seemingly invincible city dug into cliffs of rock, some of which were 2,000 feet high. So Edom was smug and arrogant about their self- security. They were arrogant and full of pride as they continued to harass Judah. They were fierce warriors, and were known as being rugged and rather untamed. They never missed an opportunity to gloat over Judah’s misfortunes. The Edomites were historically in constant conflict with the kings of Israel, from Saul to David to Solomon. Finally, God had had enough, and He sent Obadiah, a prophet from Judah, to announce judgment on Edom. Once the destruction was completed, Edom disappeared from the face of the earth. There were no survivors.

The charges against Edom were many: They were blatantly arrogant against God. They were full of pride, secure in their own belief that they were invincible, independent of God’s sovereignty, and literally above it all in their impregnable city of Petra; they were constantly harassing the countryside of Judah, proving to be a thorn in Judah’s side for centuries since their forefathers Esau and Jacob; whenever an enemy of Israel or Judah attacked them, Edom would gladly join in on the enemy’s side and take part in the attack; when the Babylonian forces destroyed Judah, the Edomites just stood by and wouldn’t lift a finger to help their blood brothers in Judah; after Babylonia laid waste to Judah, Edom rejoiced in Judah’s destruction; the Edomites stooped to looting and plundering Judah while they were in distress from the Babylonian invasion; the Edomites even went so far as to capture those from Judah who had escaped from the Babylonian invasion, and they returned these fugitives to the Babylonians; after the Babylonian invasion, the Edomites went into certain parts of Judah and occupied this land as long as they could.

The Lord is a jealous lover. In Biblical history, God has continued to think of Himself as married to His Chosen People. God looked at the people of Israel as His spouse ever since they agreed to the spiritual marriage covenant at Mt Sinai. Prophets in the Jewish Scriptures loved to refer to God as a husband or a bridegroom to the chosen people. They loved to speak the truth that He considered Himself married to His people. God used the metaphor of marriage, evidently, because that is the closest earthly union, the most intimate and meaningful, that provides a way of communicating the love God has for His followers.

  1. “For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is His name – the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; He is called the God of all the earth.” (Isaiah 54:5);
  2. “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5);
  3. “Return, faithless people,” declares the Lord, “for I am your husband.” (Jeremiah 3:14);
  4. “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” (Jeremiah 31:32);
  5. “In that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master’; I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion; I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord.” (Hosea 2:16, 20).

God’s jealousy resulted in His zeal to protect His Chosen People at all costs. He was stirred into action to protect His spouse. God will go to extreme lengths to keep and guard His People, and to punish whoever dares lift a finger against His Chosen. In a sense, God is the valiant knight who rushes in to defend His bride in the midst of danger. In Obadiah, God is saying He will punish any nation who mistreats His People in the land of Israel and Judah. And this is what Obadiah prophesied as he declared the word of the Lord, that Edom is doomed.

The judgment of Edom as pronounced by Obadiah was meant to encourage those living in Judah. It was not meant by God to be a call for repentance for the Edomites. The Lord had already seen enough. Forgiveness was not an option at this late date in Edom’s history. God would not be deterred. So one could say that the destruction of Edom was not a matter of divine vengeance as much as it was of divine justice, a fair punishment from the Almighty in response to Edom’s many sins. Perhaps Edom’s destruction was the logical consequence of the way they treated God’s Chosen People. “As you have done to Israel, so it will be done to you. All your evil deeds will fall back on your own heads.” (1:15).

Edom was a goat. The judgment of Edom brings to mind the parable/prophecy of Jesus separating the sheep from the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. As we recall, all the nations were gathered before the Lord on Judgment Day, and of course Jesus was the judge. He accepted the sheep into eternal life, and He rejected the goats. The sheep were those nations who had compassion on “the least of these my brethren”. The goats were the nations who did not care for the Lord’s “brethren,” who didn’t move into action to show compassion on His least who were needy. Clearly, the Lord judged Edom because they didn’t treat God’s Chosen brethren with compassion when it was needed. Edom didn’t lift a finger in the Chosen’s hour of need, and in fact did their best to harass and hurt Judah when they were down. This parable/prophecy of Jesus seems to point directly to nations like Edom. Yes, Edom was a goat.

Doom didn’t have the last word. This short book, the shortest in the entire Hebrew Bible, closes with a nod to the restoration of Israel in God’s Kingdom. The Lord’s people will reign with God and perhaps even share in the judging. God’s people will in the end represent God’s rule, as John mentions in a “new song” to the Lord, “You have made us kings and priests to our God, and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:10). “Their deliverers shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau, and the Kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” (1:21)