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Summary: A look at the key verse of Obadiah

But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and the house of Jacob will possess its inheritance.--Obadiah 17


The name for this book, in Hebrew, is hydbu, which means, “Servant of Yahweh.” It’s Greek title is OBDIOU, which is a transliteration of the Hebrew name, and explains our English translation, Obadiah.

We know nothing about the prophet who writes this book, neither are we certain of the exact date for the writing. But what we are sure about is this: The prophecy focuses on two things—judgment against Edom and salvation for Judah once this time of persecution and hardship has passed.

Now, given the historical events along any time line that you choose, one might ask why was God’s judgment so hot against Edom as opposed to those nations more directly responsible for Judah’s troubles. But central to our understanding of this Word of God is in learning about the relationship between Edom and Judah. Obadiah frames this as a struggle between two nations, which is true. But when you go beyond the surface, there’s more to this struggle. When you trace the relationship between Judah and Edom back to its roots, you’ll discover that this is a family crisis; this is a struggle between brothers that escalated into a struggle between nations.

The strife between Judah and Edom had its beginning in the womb of Rebekah, the wife of Isaac. Isaac and Rebekah had been trying to have children for some time without success. And so Isaac prayed to the Lord on Rebekah’s behalf, and asked that God permit her to bear children. And God granted Isaac’s request. Rebekah became preg-nant with not one child, but two. But as the children grew within her womb, Rebekah experienced unusual discomfort and, concerned that something may be wrong, she went to God for understanding as to what her discomfort meant. And God told her, “Rebekah, there are two nations in your womb; two manner of people will be born by you. One will be stronger than the other and, in fact, the older child will serve the younger child.”

These children hardly knew a time when they did not struggle. They were born strug-gling with each other. The Bible says that when the first one came out of his mother’s womb, the second one was grabbing at his heel. The older son was named Esau and the younger son was called Jacob. They struggled in their youth. Though they were twins, they were different from each other. There were physical differences—Esau was a rugged individual, but Jacob had a more fair appearance. They had different interests—Esau was a hunter and an outdoorsman, but Jacob preferred the comforts of his tent. But the biggest difference between Jacob and Esau was that Esau didn’t appreciate what he had and Jacob specialized in taking advantage of people who didn’t know how to appreciate what they had. Because of his lack of appreciation, the Bible says that Esau gave up his birthright to his brother for a plate of food.

Church, it’s always bad when we can’t appreciate what we have; it’s sad when we place so little value on what we have that we’re willing to give it up for short-term pleasure. Some of us forfeit our integrity, forfeit our morals, forfeit our spirituality chasing behind short-term pleasure. And the sad thing is that most of us who do that are just like Esau —we don’t realize what we’ve lost until it’s gone. And though we may long for it, though we may cry over it, once it’s gone, it can’t come back again.

Esau and Jacob struggled throughout their lives. The struggle got so bad that Jacob had to run for his life. And what we find when we read Obadiah is that the struggle that began with Jacob and Esau continued through their descendants, Judah and Edom. While the Bible records that Jacob and Esau made peace at a place called Peniel, when they parted from each other, Jacob still didn’t trust Esau, and their children kept up the conflict that their parents had started. In the years that followed, Esau’s offspring became the nation of Edom, and Edom was particularly hostile toward Jacob’s offspring, Judah. The writer of Numbers tells us that, when Moses and the children of Israel tried to pass through Edom on their way to Canaan, Edom refused them safe passage and forced them to go around. I Samuel 22 tells how Edom helped to stir up and keep up confusion between Saul and David; II Samuel 8 tells us how Edom sided with the Philistines against Israel and tried to destroy her. From one generation to the next, the children of Esau did what they could to hurt the children of Jacob. But in every situation, God blessed the children of Jacob and caused her to overcome. In every situation, God proved to be the difference-Maker.

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