Notes on the Prophecy of Obadiah

The Doom Of Edom

In one chapter God has embodied for us such part of the ministry of Obadiah the prophet as He foresaw would be for our admonition and edification. Brief as it is, its twenty-one verses are fraught with needed instruction, and may well be laid to heart by each saint of the Lord.

Who Obadiah was, where he was born, of what tribe and family in Israel, his occupation, and the exact time in which he lived—all these are matters which God has not been pleased to reveal. There was Obadiah in the court of king Ahab, of whose care for the persecuted prophets of the Lord we have knowledge; but he is not to be confounded with the writer of the little book now before us. Other Obadiahs are briefly mentioned in 1st and 2nd Chronicles; but whether any of them is identical with the prophet, we have no means of determining—nor is it at all important that we should know. It is the message, not the bearer of it, that God would occupy us with.

The first sixteen verses are concerned with the sin and the doom of Edom. The last five verses set forth the deliverance that is to come to the house of Jacob when the house of Esau shall have fallen to rise no more.

Many important lessons are connected with the history of the two sons of Isaac and that of their respective houses. Before either child was born God made choice of Jacob, saying, “The elder shall serve the younger.” It was electing grace, and wondrous grace, surely! For who so unworthy as cowardly Jacob; and who, from certain worldly standpoints, more to be admired than the apparently brave and magnanimous Esau? But God chose Jacob, and thus manifested His purpose of grace. Let the reader be clear as to what is here spoken of. It was not a question of selecting Jacob for heaven and reprobating Esau to hell. Theologians have so dreamed; but not in this way does Scripture speak. God chose Jacob to inherit the blessing of Abraham, and to be the conservator of the promise. In so doing He made Esau subject to his brother. It was the carrying out of a principle often noticed in the book of Genesis—the setting aside of the elder, and the giving the birthright to the younger; thus reminding us that God ever sets aside the first man to make the Second Man first. For “that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:46). This mystery is told out in the cases of Cain and Abel, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob, Reuben and Joseph, and of Manasseh and Ephraim.

In accordance with this, Esau and the race that bears his name figure in Scripture as types of the flesh; Jacob, as the new man learning to overcome by discipline. When in the last book of the Old Testament God sums up, as it were, concerning the two families, He declares, “I have loved Jacob, and hated Esau.”

In reading the prophecy of Obadiah, we may trace throughout a typical as well as a natural bearing. What is said of Edom coalesces with the condemnation and final doom of the flesh— that hateful thing which ever vaunts itself, even in the breast of the believer, against all that is of God, but which shall at last be utterly destroyed, and become as though it had not existed. The future triumph of the house of Jacob, in the day of the glory of the kingdom, bespeaks the final enlargement and blessing when the flesh is overcome forever, and the man according to God alone remains.

From the Lord a report had come concerning Edom, as a result of which an ambassador was sent among the nations, with a view to raising up their armies against the mount of Esau. Though once all-powerful, he was to be made small among them, and greatly despised.

Edom had ever been the enemy of Israel, even as the flesh lusteth continually against the Spirit. When calamity came upon the house of Jacob, Edom had rejoiced. But now upon him judgment unsparing was to fall. This, no doubt, goes on to the time of the end; for it is just before the kingdom is established that Edom’s power is to be utterly broken. There will be a people of his lineage dwelling in Idumea in the day of the last great coalition against Israel; but they will be overthrown: and when the rest of the world is brought into blessing under Messiah’s rule, they will be blotted out from under heaven.

As with the flesh, so with Edom; his pride was insufferable. Dwelling in his Idumean heights and rocky fortresses, he considered himself invulnerable, and secure against all attack. But Jehovah declares, “The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee… Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down” (vers. 3, 4). No power can avail when the Lord’s set time for his destruction is come. Edom has fallen into the condemnation of the devil, exalting himself, and seeking his own glory. On the part of the creature this is rebellion against God, and cannot go unpunished.

Nor will his desolation come as though thieves had broken in to steal, for having enough they would have left something remaining; but in the day that Esau’s hidden things are searched out, there shall be no gleanings left. His destruction shall be complete (vers. 5, 6). Deceived by his own allies, and betrayed by those in whom he had trusted, the wise shall be destroyed out of the mount of Esau, and the mighty men of Teman shall be dismayed. None shall be spared, but every one cut off by slaughter (vers. 7-9).

His violence against his brother Jacob has well merited such stern dealing. When Israel came out of Egypt, no ties of relationship served to cause the heart of the king of Edom to be kindly disposed to the Canaan-bound pilgrims, but they were forced to compass his land, thus adding much to the toil and weariness of their journey. From that day on, the seed of Esau had ever been the inveterate enemies of Jehovah’s favored people.

When the hour of Jacob’s calamity struck, Edom stood complacently to one side, delighting in the ignominy to which his brother was subjected. The desolation of Jerusalem caused him, not grief, but joy. He joined with the Babylonians in casting lots for a division of the spoil (vers. 10, 11). All this Jehovah’s eye had seen, and it was an offence to Him, as being the very opposite of that love which rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth. His sentence is, “Thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress. Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of My people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity; neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress” (vers. 12-14). Because of having acted so contrary to every brotherly instinct, he should reap as he had sown, and judgment unsparing would soon overtake him, until of Edom it could be said, “They shall be as though they had not been” (vers. 15, 16). When other nations, such as Egypt, Assyria, and even Sodom and Gomorrah, are restored and brought into blessing in the millennial kingdom, Edom shall have fallen to rise no more.

In this, how suited a picture we have of the carnal mind and its final destruction! Ever the enemy of the new life imparted to the children of God, because not subject to His law, as in its very nature it cannot be; rejoicing in impiety, and lifting up its haughty head in defiance of all that is holy, how much sorrow and secret anguish has its presence cost every conscientious saint! But soon it shall be cast down to rise no more; soon the bodies of our humiliation shall be made like unto the body of Christ’s glory; and then shall the flesh and sin have… vanished forevermore.

There are those who idly dream of a present destruction of the carnal mind, or a short cut to Canaan across the land of Edom; but it is all a delusion. Esau’s doom comes when Christ appears to reign, as the end of the flesh in the believer will come at the redemption of our bodies when made like Himself.

Synchronizing with the fall of Edom shall be the salvation of Israel, when “upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness” (or, it shall be holy). Then shall Jacob come into his rightful inheritance, and shall devour the house of Esau as fire devours the stubble, till “there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it” (vers. 17, 18). In that day the lands of all their former enemies, who had been for so long as thorns in their sides, shall become Israel’s possession, “and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s” (vers. 19-21).

So may the believer look on with joyful confidence to the hour when the flesh and all that now disturbs and distresses shall be overthrown forever, and Christ alone shall be exalted. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”