On the one hand, Edom, together with all other nations that oppose Israel’s God and his people, will experience God’s retributive judgment. On the other hand, God’s own covenant people, who have already experienced God’s judgment, will receive restoration from their God. The book ends with the promise of the kingdom of God.
- Enemies will be put to shame because of their enmity against God’s people (Obad. 10).
- Every proud human effort at self-security will ultimately fail before God’s coming judgment (Obad. 1–9).
- God’s retributive justice is strict and fair, with the punishment corresponding to the misdeeds (Obad. 15).
- Reunited Israel will experience God’s deliverance (Obad. 16–17), possess the Promised Land, and defeat and rule over Edom (Obad. 17–21).
- In the future, Yahweh will definitively manifest his kingly rule (Obad. 21).
Obadiah exhibits numerous parallels with other OT texts, especially Jeremiah’s Edom prophecy (Jer. 49:7–22). Essentially the message of Obadiah spells out what Lamentations 4:22 announces: restoration for Zion but doom for Edom.
The Jerusalemites experienced God’s judgment (Obad. 16a) when enemies invaded and “cast lots for Jerusalem” (Obad. 11). The Edomites, the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau and one of Israel’s neighbors to the southeast, should have assisted their brothers during the Babylonian crisis. Instead they sided with the foreign invaders and even took advantage of Israel’s misfortune (Obad. 10–14).
Holy Zion had been profaned, and God’s people were put to public shame. Edom felt secure in spite of its complicity in Israel’s demise. For all intents and purposes it looked as though Edom and the foreign nations were in charge, ruling over the future of Israel. The book of Lamentations reveals the extent to which Israel was devastated by the exile—politically, economically, and theologically. Does Israel have a future? Will Zion be profaned forever? Will the plan for Abraham’s offspring to bring blessing to the world come to nothing? Will Edom and the hostile nations triumph? Is God indifferent to all of this?
Into this bleak situation the prophet Obadiah proclaimed the word of Yahweh. The first half of Obadiah (Obad. 1–15) addresses Edom with “you” singular. The prophet announces coming judgment against Edom and warns Edom to desist from its anti-Judahite hostilities before it is too late, before “the day of the Lord” comes against “all the nations” (Obad. 15). The standard of the judgment will be strict retributive justice (Obad. 15).
The second half (Obad. 16–21) addresses the people of Jerusalem with “you” plural in Obadiah 16: “you . . . on my holy mountain.” Here the prophet gives hope to God’s beleaguered people with the good news of the future great reversal. On the terrible day of the Lord the hostile nations will receive God’s judgment, but those in Zion will be saved, and Zion will be holy (Obad. 16–17a). All Israel will be reunited and given the Promised Land and victory over Edom (Obad. 17b–20). The last line expresses God’s ultimate goal: to establish his kingly reign over all the earth (Obad. 21).
History of Salvation Summary
Edom is the target of Obadiah’s prophecy of doom because it exemplifies hostility toward God’s people. The Edomites took delight in bringing disaster to Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem fell for its unfaithfulness, and even though Edom was one of God’s tools for bringing judgment, the Lord has tied himself to his people and will punish those who hurt them. Eventually, Jerusalem will be restored and its blessings will extend to the Gentiles (Obad. 19–21).
Taken from the ESV® Study Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2008 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For more information on how to cite this material, see permissions information here.