The Prophet Obadiah

This week we study the Book of Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament and fifth shortest in the whole Bible. Obadiah lived during the time of King Ahab of the House of Israel, along with the great prophet Elijah between 874 and 853 BC. King Ahab himself was an idol worshipper. During his time, Israel was in famine and in chaos, no one worshipped God anymore except the 7,000 reserved by God (1 Ki 19:18). Obadiah was also in charge of the king's palace and a devout believer in the Lord (1 Ki 18:3). And during those times too, all the known prophets of the Lord were being killed by the order of Jezebel, the wife of King Ahab. Then Obadiah hid a hundred prophets in two caves, fifty in each cave (1 Ki 18:4) and thus, survived.

Obadiah's life can be described as a difficult balancing act between serving the pagan king and keeping his faith and saving the prophets of God. Then God showed him a vision, not about the events concerning the spiritual decay of Israel but about the downfall of her old nemesis and a brother, Esau or Edom. So, although the book is very short, it provides valuable information about this main enemy of the nation of Israel. God was telling Obadiah that the House of Israel will suffer terribly because of their sins and will fall under her enemies. But soon God is promising redemption and eventual fall of the enemies that brought her down.

Backgrounder on Edom (Esau)

Understanding Edom's early beginnings with his brother Israel will help us understand the prophecies against Edom by Obadiah. Edom was the twin brother of Jacob or Israel. Their father was Isaac, the son of Abraham.

Gen 25:24-26
24 When the time came for her
[Rebekah] to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. 25 The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau . 26 After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.

Let us visit once more how these two brothers became enemies until the last days.

By birth right, Edom should be the recipient of physical promises of God to patriarch Abraham that were passed on to the firstborn. However, Edom lost that birthright when he sold it to Jacob. Read this account in Gen 25:29-34--

29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, "Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I'm famished!" (That is why he was also called Edom.)
31 Jacob replied, "First sell me your birthright ."
32 "Look, I am about to die," Esau said. "What good is the birthright to me?"
33 But Jacob said, "Swear to me first." So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.
34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.
So Esau despised his birthright.

The birthright promise of God is a very holy blessing that was a product of the great faith of Abraham. It is valued more than the life of Isaac or the lives of peoples numbering like the sands on the seashore and the stars in heaven. It is more than world economic and military power. And therefore it was great sin to despise it or take it for granted. It is a direct rejection of God's wonderful plan over His nation. For Esau to threat his birthright as a mere equivalent to food to satisfy his hunger is an insult to God's blessings. That is why, it is written,

Mal 1:2-3
"Was not Esau Jacob's brother?" the LORD says. "Yet I have loved Jacob, 3 but Esau I have hated, and I have turned his mountains into a wasteland and left his inheritance to the desert jackals."

Understanding the enmity among Eve's generation

After Adam and Eve disobeyed God, God pronounced judgment on the serpent or the Devil who tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He said,

Gen 3:15
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

When God mentioned "the woman," He was not only referring to Eve but also unto all human beings culminating in the Second Coming of Christ because she is the mother of all peoples. It is Jesus Christ in His Second Coming that will fulfill the finality of crushing the heads of His enemies. It is Jesus against all the enemies headed by the serpent, the Devil living in the Antichrist. It is very important to understand that in between this judgment on the serpent and the Second Coming of Christ, there shall be a continuing war or enmity among and between Eve’s generations, between the good and the evil. That is the first part of the curse, limited to Eve’s generations. The second part “and between your offspring and hers” refers to the singular “offspring” (or seed) who is Christ.

Gal 3:16
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.

The prophecy in Gen 3:15 above tells us that there shall always be an equivalent evil seed for every good seed in all of Eve’s generation. So even among the chosen apostles of Jesus, one was evil. That is a result of the curse, the rule of equal level of playing field between good and evil“And I will put enmity between you and the woman.” Immediately, one of Eve’s sons, Cain, committed the first murder against the godly Abel. It continued until the time of Noah and his sons, Shem and Japheth against Ham, then to Isaac against Ishmael, Jacob against Esau. Jacob became Israel, and Esau became Edom, meaning red. Another perfect example of how the level playing field between good and evil at play is when Job was allowed by God to be punished by Satan to the point of death. Satan accused God of giving the best of everything to Job without him experiencing troubles. Satan was literally demanding an equal chance for him to test Job. So God allowed Satan to test Job. Then Job suffered tremendously, losing all his children, his wealth, and everything except his life and his wife. However Job still prevailed in the end for not giving up. Like Job, we should persevere and rejoice since regardless of all the evil in this world and continuing enmity between evil and the human race, all things still work together for good for those who love Him, according to God’s Divine Plan for man! That’s because of the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ as the second half of the curse promised solution to all the sins and sufferings– “..he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Like Job, it is every man’s free will to choose his destiny, to choose between good and evil; and because of the curse and Satan's fury, God is able to display His justice, mercy, forgiveness and great love for every man who has chosen the wrong path.

Esau vs. Jacob - the mother of all enmities

Esau hated not only his brother but also his parents as well. He did everything his parents never wanted him to do, such as marrying foreign women.

Gen 28:8-9
8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

Clearly Esau was never a good son, not deserving to receive God's blessing. There was no remorse in his heart and he had no respect towards his parents. Notice how enmity, an evil for good fulfilled in Esau's life? There was a continuing enmity between brothers as spoken to the woman and the serpent. So Esau married the daughter of Ishmael, the half brother of Isaac, his father whose mother is an Egyptian maidservant, Hagar (Gen 16:1). Esau and Ishmael had become one blood and one force against Israel. Besides the Ishmaelite women, Esau also married Hittite women earlier.

Gen 26:34-35
34 When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. 35 They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah.

Edom represents all the enemies of Israel. The enemies of Israel therefore are confined against the generations of his brother Esau under the curse, enmity between the good and evil. So the enmity grew from brothers to tribes, then to kingdoms when Israel became a kingdom. Edom's culture allowed the men to marry women of other races and so they were all over the kingdoms around Israel. They can be Ishmaelites, Egyptians, Hittites or Canaanites, etc. Unlike Israel, his brother with one solid kingdom, Edom's kingdom had and undefined boundary and also was established much earlier than Israel was (Gen 36:31). Their known concentration during the time of Israel's kings was in Seir, the hill country southeast of the House of Judah. But some of Edom's territories even extend to as far as the "river," during the time of Shaul from Rehoboth who ruled Edom (Gen 36:37). The "river" was the great Euphrates River traversing ancient Assyria and Babylon, now Iraq. Rehoboth was one of the cities founded by Nimrod alongside Nineveh, the capital of Assyria and Babylon (Gen 10:9-12). Therefore, Edom also represents Assyria and Babylon, the kingdoms who totally destroyed the House of Israel and the House of Judah respectively. Today, Edom had expanded its territory further north to what is now Russia. This is the world's largest country and the second most powerful nation on earth.

Going back, Esau demanded a blessing from his dying father Isaac after he was tricked by his younger brother Jacob who already received all the good birthright blessings earlier. Read Gen 27: 27-29 about Jacob's blessing. It was the will of God that Esau can not receive the blessing since he already sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Isaac prophesied the future for Esau who was crying and pleading for a blessing:

Gen 27:39-40
39 His father Isaac answered him, "Your dwelling will be away from the earth's richness, away from the dew of heaven above. 40 You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck."

It was more of a curse than a blessing as a result of Esau selling his birthright in exchange of material food and drink. Esau was so furious that he threatened to kill Jacob after the days of mourning of Isaac's death is completed (Gen 27:41). But Rebekah came to know of his plot and helped Jacob escape. So prior to the last days, Esau or Edom will be subject to Israel but later in the end, he will set himself free from Israel's control (you will throw his yoke from off your neck) and then destroy his own brother. We have learned that Israel are the European Union and the United States, who is also the modern Egypt. The House of Judah is now Israel in the Middle East. Unless the House of Judah is specified, the prophecies about Israel involve all the tribes combined as one, the EU, Israel and the US. Read also Israel, The Divided House for more details.

Until the end of time, that old hatred of Esau against his brother will continue. That explains why Israel today has many enemies. That is why in the future, the West too will be trodden down by her enemies-- the descendants of Edom. Truly, it is the enmity that lasts for ages, the mother of all enmities that will culminate with the mother of all battles and the defeat of evil.

Obadiah's prophecies on Edom

The maltreatment of Esau towards Israel in the last days is what Obadiah is writing about. It is the rekindling of Esau's old grudge against Jacob. Obadiah was actually prophesying the fate of Assyria, Babylon and the other enemies of Israel in the last days as they were all the descendants of Edom. Below is the book in full.

Gen 1: 1-14
This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom —
We have heard a message from the LORD: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, "Rise, and let us go against her for battle"—
2 "See, I will make you small among the nations; you will be utterly despised. 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?' 4 Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the LORD.
5 "If thieves came to you, if robbers in the night — Oh, what a disaster awaits you — would they not steal only as much as they wanted? If grape pickers came to you, would they not leave a few grapes? 6 But how Esau will be ransacked, his hidden treasures pillaged! 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, but you will not detect it.
8 "In that day," declares the LORD, "will I not destroy the wise men of Edom, men of understanding in the mountains of Esau? 9 Your warriors, O Teman, will be terrified, and everyone in Esau's mountains will be cut down in the slaughter. 10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. 11 On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them. 12 You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble. 13 You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14 You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.

Verses 3 and 4 are about the words of pride of the Antichrist himself boasting about his power and his kingdom. Read also Isa 10:13-14 and the prophet John describing the Antichrist's power in Rev 13:4, that no nation can make war against him.

The Day of the Lord

Again, the downfall of Edom are happening in the Day of the Lord and is coming near. It will be the battle of the Lord, the mother of all battles. This is to prove that Obadiah was not only telling us about past events but also things that are yet to come.

Obad 1: 15-21
15 "The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head. 16 Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually; they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance. 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. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau." The LORD has spoken.
19 People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau, and people from the foothills will possess the land of the Philistines. They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria, and Benjamin will possess Gilead. 20 This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess [the land] as far as Zarephath; the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the towns of the Negev. 21 Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be the LORD's.

In verse 17, it says, "There will be no survivors from the house of Esau." which is in contrary to the prophecy of Amos that there will be "remnant of Edom". The prophecy of Obadiah is about physical survivors of Edom after the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord while Amos' prophecy is about Edom as a kingdom and as people who have been saved spiritually.

Amos 9:11-12
11 "In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be, 12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name," declares the LORD, who will do these things.

When Obadiah wrote about the houses of Jacob and Joseph being a destroying fires, he was actually telling us about the coming army of God defeating the enemy. Read Greenland: The Camp of God's Army - Part 1 and Part 2 for more on God's army.

However in the end, God will reunite all His people under one nation. There will be a happy ending for all God's people, to those who feared Him, whether they are from Israel, Egypt or from Edom because their present generation all came from the same father, Abraham. And they will all be equal.

Isa 19:23-25
23 In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. 24 In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. 25 The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork , and Israel my inheritance."

Praise be to God for His great plan for all men.

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