Summary: Obadiah’s "Day of the Lord" prophecy illustrates that true security is found in Jesus alone.
I hope that all of you enjoyed the last three weeks as much as I did. The prophetic implications of the three fall Jewish Feasts really fit in well with our study of the Old Testament prophets as we prepare for our study of the Book of Revelation. This morning we’ll return to our journey through some of the Old Testament prophets with the Book of Obadiah. Go ahead and turn in your Bibles to that small book which consists of only 21 verses in one chapter. You’ll find it right after Joel and Amos in your Bibles.
We really don’t know a whole lot about Obadiah. Although we find 12 other people in the Old Testament with the name Obadiah, it is not clear that any of them can be connected with the author of this prophetical book. According to the Jewish Talmud, Obadiah is said to have been a convert to Judaism from Edom, and a descendant of Eliphaz, the friend of Job. All we know for certain is the meaning of his name:
• Obadiah = “servant or worshipper of YHWH”
Much the same as we saw with Joel, there is nothing in the book that allows us to ascertain the date of its writing with any degree of certainty. There are two main possibilities – either around 845 BC during the reign of King Jehoram in Judah or around 586 BC after the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem.
Although we can’t be dogmatic about it, I tend to favor the earlier date:
• Date of book – likely during the reign of Jehoram around 845 BC
There are several things in the text that point to an early dating:
o The mention of Joseph in verse 18 indicates this was before Assyria dispersed the northern kingdom of Israel
o The lack of any mention of Assyria suggests an early date
o The placement of the Book in both our Old Testament and in the Tanakh suggest that the timing of Obadiah’s prophecy was in the same general pre-Assyrian time frame as Joel and Amos.
• Audience – the southern kingdom of Judah
The audience is identified clearly by the text itself. And, as we’ll see, this is a message of hope to a people who have continually been subject to the attacks of their enemies, particularly those from Edom.
• Subject – God’s judgment against Edom
This makes the Jewish tradition about Obadiah’s background really interesting. If Obadiah was indeed a convert to Judaism from Edom, then God used him to prophecy judgment to his own people. Since this entire prophecy deals with Edom, we need to take a few moments to examine some information about Edom.
o Descendants of Esau
Esau was Jacob’s fraternal twin brother. Jacob was renamed “Israel” by God and became the father of the nation of Israel. The names Esau and Edom come from a Hebrew word that means “red” and in Genesis we find that Esau becomes the father of the nation of Edom:
And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.)
Genesis 25:30 (ESV)
Eventually Esau’s descendants settled in a mountainous area southeast of Israel in what is modern day Jordan. It is also known in the Bible as Seir, Mount Seir, and Mount Esau.
o Enemies of Israel
Although Jacob had obtained Esau’s birthright and his blessing by deceit, the account in Genesis 33 reveals that Jacob and Esau eventually make peace and are reconciled. But that peace certainly isn’t passed down to their descendants. Among the evidence of the hostility of Edom towards Israel are these events:
They rejected Moses’ request to pass through their land (Numbers 20:14-20)
They opposed King Saul (1 Samuel 14:47)
They fought against David (1 Kings 11:14-17)
They rebelled against Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:8)
With that background in mind, let’s take a brief look at Obadiah’s prophecy.
THE SIN OF EDOM (vv. 1-10)
Read Obadiah 1-10.
• The root sin – pride
The people of Edom had been deceived because of the pride of their heart. For years, they had sat by and watched Israel be attacked and, as we’ll see in a moment, even participated in many of those attacks themselves. But because of their pride, they did not even consider that they could possibly be subject to God’s judgment.
Edom’s pride was reflected in the two major areas where they had placed their security:
o Military security (vv. 3, 4)
From the 13th century to the 6th century BC, the Edomites had settled in the mountainous region south of the Dead Sea. The capital of Petra was an almost impregnable fortress located in a valley which can only be reached though a narrow canyon with towering walls on each side. And there in Petra they had created large caves high up in the sandstone rocks. This is certainly what Obadiah was referring to when he described the people who lived in the clefts of the rocks in their lofty dwellings.