A Nation Condemned: A Survey of the Book of Obadiah

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

It is important to consider from time to time the things found in the Old Testament. In Romans 15:4 Paul said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We can find hope and encouragement by looking at the examples in the Old Testament so we will not fall to the same temptations as those in times past (1 Cor. 10:6). By studying the book of Obadiah, we will be able to evaluate the attitude and treatment of others God desires.

As we open our Bibles to study the text in Obadiah, it is evident that this book is very short. I feel that there are those who will not take the time to study this book with much thought because of its concision. This is the wrong attitude to have towards God’s word. In the first verse of Obadiah we find the phrase “Thus says the Lord God.” We need to remember that this book is God’s inspired word just as much as any other book in the Bible. Therefore we need to look at the things revealed by God to have a better understanding of His will and His mind (1 Cor. 2:10-13). God has spoken, therefore we need to listen and make application!

Obadiah is the account of a vision that Obadiah had (vs. 1) concerning the nation of Edom. Remember that the people of Edom are the descendents of Esau (Gen. 36:6-8). In the first two verses of the book of Obadiah, we read how judgment had already been passed upon Edom. God said Edom would be made small among the nations, to the point where there would be no survivors (Obadiah 18). God shows His power, authority, and Majesty in the realm of mankind. Nebuchadnezzar learned this when he was humbled by God due to his pride in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar, who wrote the declaration of Daniel 4, is warned and informed that God rules in the “realm of mankind” (Dan. 4:1, 25). God will pass judgment and give the power to whomever He desires. Edom was found wanting on God’s balance and was therefore punished by God.

Reasons for Destruction

Pride. One of the reasons for the destruction of Edom was the pride the nation bore. It is interesting to note that the land in which the Edomites dwelt contributed to their prideful attitude. Obadiah makes mention of this in Obadiah vs. 3-4:

“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the earth?’ Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.

As Christians today, we need to constantly remember that every good thing is from God (James 1:17). We live in a country that is richly blessed. This is evident by our homes, our clothes, our libraries, and even our accustomed meals! Let us remember the example of the Edomites and how they allowed their surroundings to affect their attitudes.

The Edomites had allowed their pride to deceive them to the point where they thought that they were invincible (Obadiah 3). When a person acquires a pride like this, that person needs to watch out before he/she is destroyed! The Preacher said in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Those who have pride and believes that they are more than what they truly are will be punished (Prov. 16:5). The type of people that God desires is the meek and humble. God will draw near to those who have a humble spirit, but will reject those who are proud (James 4:6-10; 1 Pet. 5:5-7). God has the power to humble those “who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37). It is better to be exalted by the Lord than to be exalted by self and be abased by God!

Edom’s Treatment to Israel. The treatment that one extends to another is viewed by God. We find in Matthew 5:44, Jesus instructed the disciples to love their enemies and pray for those that may persecute them. The individual ought to show kindness and love toward others. John encouraged the brethren to love one another just as God has loved us (1 John 4:11). God also sees the actions that a nation bestows upon other nations.

Obadiah records for us some of the things that the nation of Edom did to Israel. In verse 10 it is noted that Edom had shown violence toward Israel. Amos also notes this violence shown by Edom in Amos 1:11. God speaking through Amos said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, While he stifled his compassion; His anger also tore continually, And he maintained his fury forever.” Such actions ought not to have occurred against the nation of Israel. Because Edom acted against the Lord’s people, God would punish the nation.

Obadiah also records for us that Edom acted as the other nations when they cast lots for Jerusalem and carried off the wealth of Israel. Edom, who was considered as brethren of Israel (Amos 1:11), did not help defend Israel but aided their enemies to be victorious. Joel mentions God would judge all of the nations that bartered with the children of Israel (Joel 3:3). God said He would judge those nations and Edom was to be one of them!

God warned the Edomites not to: rejoice and gloat because of the punishment that was to be executed upon Judah, to enter the gates of God’s people to loot Judah’s wealth, or to cut down the fugitives and enslave the survivors in Obadiah verses 12-14. Judgment was coming upon Edom and the nation would reap what it had sown (Obadiah 15-18). The destruction of Edom would be so thorough that it would be as if the nation had never existed! We can turn on the televisions and see how much trouble is going on between many of the Middle Eastern nations, but you will never hear of any problems with the Edomites because there is no one left of Esau’s lineage. God said that Edom would be destroyed and it was so!

Applications for Us

There are applications Christians today can make. Christians need to remember to associate with the humble and to be humble as well (Romans 12:16; James 4:10). When we have this mind set of being humble, we will put others’ needs before our own. This mind set will aid us to do the things that God would have us to do. One day we will reap what we have sown, therefore let us do good to others (Gal. 6:7-10). These are lessons that we can find in the book of Obadiah. Let us take these things, which God has spoken and preserved for us, and make application to ourselves that we may grow to be stronger and more mature Christians in the Lord’s body!

There will be a day where each person will give an account of the things that he/she has done in this life (Romans 14:12). Edom did evil in the sight of the Lord and was punished; let their example warn us of the severity of God. There are individuals that will say that God loves us too much to send us to hell. Did God preserve Edom, the ancient world, the angels that sinned, Sodom and Gomorrah, or anyone else that disobeyed God? The answer is no! We can read of passages like 2 Peter 2:4-10 and see how God will bring judgment upon the unrighteous. God said that judgment is coming! Will we obey the words of God, or reject Him?


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