Summary: Obadiah addressed his prophecy to the people of Edom because of what they wouldn’t do. What were those things?
It was a tragedy; the city of God was attacked and destroyed. The holy things were profaned the sacred things were destroyed and the people were imprisoned. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise for over a hundred years the prophets had been warning the people that if they continued in their evil ways that God would remove his hand of protection from their nation and bad things would happen. They didn’t, he did and sure enough bad things happened. The people of Israel, God’s chosen people were conquered by the Babylonians and taken into captivity. Their holy city Jerusalem was destroyed and the temple was devastated. Under King David and then his son Solomon Israel had been one of the most powerful forces in the ancient world. The temple they built to honour God was spoken of throughout the known world. And now it was all in ruins. And the sad part was this wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, Israel was supposed to remain prosperous and her people were supposed to remain free, but now that’s not what happened.
And whose fault was that? Well some might have blamed God, after all he was supposed to be in control, and he was supposed to be taking care of his people. So if he didn’t then he must be at fault. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Well maybe, or not.
If I was to tell you, “You shouldn’t play on the street because it’s really dangerous and if you play on the street there’s a pretty good chance that you will get run over and could get hurt really bad.” And you say “tough, I’ll play where ever I want to play and you’re not going to stop me, nah, nah, nah.” And then you go out and play on the street and get hit by a car and get hurt really bad, whose fault is that? Perhaps you would say, “Well you could have stopped me if you’d really wanted to. You could have tied me up and not let me go out on the street, or you could have been more forceful in your arguments, so then maybe I would have believed you.” Would that have made it my fault? No, it was your choice and you made it and so you have to own the consequences.
God had sent prophet after prophet to tell the people of Israel that if they did not change their evil ways, if they didn’t stop worshipping false gods and living morally bankrupt lives that they would have to pay the consequences. And they chose to ignore that message and sometimes even punished the messenger. Do you remember what Jesus said about Jerusalem? No? Let me remind you, Matthew 23:37 “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! And people say that Halifax is a tough city to have a church in.
As a result of Israel’s gross disobedience God removed his hand of protection and the Babylonians swept in and conquered the Kingdom. It was not a pretty picture. And I’m sure that many people blamed God and wondered if he had fallen off his throne and whether or not he was even still in control.
And that is the situation that Obadiah is addressing in the 31st book of the Old Testament. The author is named, obviously Obadiah and that’s all we know about him. His name means Servant of Jehovah. There are a dozen people by this name mentioned in the Bible but there is not indication that they are the prophet. Obadiah may seem like a strange name now but it was probably fairly common then. When was then? The book was probably written somewhere between 605 and 587 BC.
Why was it written? Interesting concept here. Obadiah is pronouncing Judgement upon Edom. While most of the prophets wrote directly to the Israelites this particular book is addressed to their neighbours the Edomites, or people of Edom. And it would appear that God is not very happy with them. We gotta go back to the beginning of the story to see what’s happening here.
So let’s go back, way back. You might recall that the story of the people of Israel began with Abraham who was told that he and his wife would have a child, even though they were in their nineties, and while that might seem a little far fetched they had a son whom they called Isaac. Isaac grew up and got married and he and his wife Rebekah had paternal twin boys, that’s non identical. One son was named Jacob, a name that would later be changed to Israel and the other’s son’s name was Esau. And there’s a whole story there that I will tell you later on. Esau also had a nickname because of his ruddy complexion and reddish hair he was call Red, well actually that would have been a little strange because nobody around him spoke English so they would have had no idea what people were calling him, what they actually called him was the Hebrew word for red which was Edom.