Accepting God’s Lordship

Explore the Bible Series

June 10, 2007


Background Passage: Obadiah 1-21

Lesson Passage: Obadiah 1-4, 10-13,15



Authorship: We know little of the identity of this Old Testament prophet.  His name means “the Lord has spoken” (others believe the name means “Yahweh’s servant”), a common name in the Scriptures. The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary lists eleven different individuals, but none of these other men should be identified with this author.


Date and Occasion: Again, we have little information to help with a definitive date for Obadiah.  Some believe the book describes the military and political circumstances surrounding the Babylonian assault on Judah (c. 586 B.C.).  Others set the occurrences in an earlier period, during the reign of King Jehoram (c. 848-841 B.C.). Ancient Jewish scholars, according to my limited research, seem to lean toward this later date.  Whatever the date, the book deals with the failure of the Edomites to aid Judah during a time of military conquest.  The text describes the glee with which Edom observed the calamity that struck the Lord’s people, and God held Edom responsible for its refusal to assist beleaguered Judah in her time of need.


Edom was located to the southeast of Judah, and was an arid, barren region.  The waterless terrain made agricultural development very difficult, and many of the inhabitants of the land were semi-nomadic shepherds.  Some small outposts did enjoy reliable, permanent water supplies, and a few well-fortified cities evolved.  The Edomites built formidable military fortresses in these areas, and the ancient Near-East knew the Edomites as fearsome warriors.  The Jews regarded Edomites as close kinsmen because of their common ancestry with the Patriarch Abraham.  The Edomites descended from Esau, Abraham’s grandson, Isaac’s son, and Jacob’s twin brother.  The prophet Amos referred to Edom as Israel’s brother, and the Jews allowed citizens of Edom to enter the Old Testament temple.  Nevertheless, Israel often found itself at odds with Edom, and the Scriptures detail several military conflicts between the two brother nations.  This tension originated with the animosity between Jacob and Esau and continued until the day of Jesus.  Herod the Great descended from Edomite (Idumean) stock, and the First-Century Jews distrusted and disliked this despotic king.


Audience: This prophecy, written to condemn Edom’s unfaithfulness, was, nonetheless, penned for the covenant people of God.  During the days of Obadiah, Judah had experienced a catastrophic military loss and lay in social and religious ruin.  The people, of course, would stagger under the severity of this situation, and, as a consequence, might degenerate into disillusionment and despair.  Obadiah wrote to remind the Jews of God’s sovereign control of history and his wondrous faithfulness to his chosen people.  The message of Obadiah focuses on God’s ultimate justice toward Edom.  In his own time and way, God pledged to vindicate his people and bring judgment on Judah’s enemies.

I.                   God’s Displeasure with Edom (vv. 1-9): Verse Three pinpoints Edom’s great sin: pride.  Her pride, according to the text, evidenced itself in three tangible ways.

A.    Pride in their military prowess (vv. 3-6): As stated earlier, Edom enjoyed the security of several nearly impregnable cities.  The Edomites built these fortifications in mountainous regions where they benefited from narrow mountain passes and a plentiful water supply. They apparently believed themselves invulnerable to the attack of their enemies.  Their prideful, false sense of security soared like an eagle; yet, God had set himself against these arrogant people, and they stood at the threshold of utter destruction. 

B.     Pride in their powerful allies (v. 7): The text does not identify Edom’s allies, but it does make clear that, in the end, these trusted “friends” would betray Edom.

C.     Pride in wisdom (vv. 8-9): The Edomites placed great confidence in their wits and ingenuity.  Whatever arose, they felt confident that they could devise a way to thrive in the crucible of hardship.  In the end, this crafty people would not outsmart God.


II.                Edom’s Cruelty Toward Judah (vv. 10-14)

A.    God’s condemnation of Edom (v. 10): In summary, God condemned Edom for violence against her brother Judah.  When the enemies of God’s people came against Judah, Edom participated in the assault.  She delighted in Judah’s misfortune, and Jehovah shamed Edom for her indiscretion.

B.     Edom’s aloofness toward suffering Judah (v. 11): They gloated over Judah’s misfortune, and, in doing so, they sinned grievously toward their brothers. 

C.     God’s eight-fold offense with Edom (vv. 12-14): James M. Boice saw this list as stages in a downward spiral into an “unbrotherly” attitude.

1.      “Do not gloat over the day of your brother in the day of his misfortune” (v. 12a).

2.      “Do not rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their ruin” (v. 12b).

3.      “Do not boast in the day of distress: (v. 12c).

4.      “Do not enter the gate of my people in the day of calamity” (v. 13a).

5.      “Do not gloat over his disaster in the day of his calamity” (v. 13b).

6.      “Do not loot his wealth in the day of calamity” (v. 13c).

7.      “Do not stand in the crossroads to cut off his fugitives: (v. 14a).

8.      “Do not hand over his survivors in the day of distress” (v. 14b).


III.             God’s Deliverance of His People (vv. 15-21)

A.    God’s retributive justice (vv. 15-16): The day of the Lord, a time of God’s judgment on Edom, was at hand.  God planned to treat the Edomites just as they had treated Judah; that is, their deeds will return on their own heads.

B.     God’s vindication of Judah (vv. 17-18): The Lord planned to use Judah as an instrument of judgment on Edom.  The text compares Judah to a burning torch that will consume the stubble of Edom.

C.     God’s pledged to restore the boundaries of Judah (vv. 19-21): The land that belonged to the Edomites would soon become the possession of Judah.