Edom: Downfall of a Proud Nation
Obadiah : The Rebuker of Ridicule
The vision of Obadiah,
This is what the Sovereign Lord says about Edom
We have heard a message from the Lord : An envoy was sent to the nations to say ,
“Rise and let us go against her for battle” - “See I will make you a small among the nations ; you will be utterly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks, and make your home on the heights . you who say to yourself , ‘who can bring me down to the ground ?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stors, from there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.
Obadiah verses 1 – 4
The name Obadiah means servant of the Lord or worshipper of Jehovah. Several Obadiahs are mentioned in the Old testament, but none of these can be identified for sure as the author of this book. Obadiah is the shortest book in the old testament, having only 21 verses. It was never quoted or even echoed in the New Testament.
The occasion of the book is disputed by Bible scholars. Two specific events in Israel’s history may serve as the historical background of Obadiah : a)The invasion of Jerusalem by Philistines and Arabs during the reign of Jehoram (835-841 B.C. ) In this case Obadiah would be a temporary Elisha . b) The Babylonian attacks on Jerusalem (605-586). Obadiah would then be a contemporary of Jeremiah.
Most scholars believed the great humiliation of Israel which the prophet mention was the siege of Jerusalem by the Babylonians beginning in 605 B.C. Thus, the book must have been written shortly after the fall of the city, perhaps while the Israelites were still in captivity in Babylon.
The Edomites trace their origin from Esau, the firstborn twin son of Isaac and Rebekkah who struggled with Jacob even while in the womb. Esau’s name means hairy. He is called Edom meaning red because of color of his skin or the red stew for which he sold his birthright to his brother Jacob. The twin brothers, Jacob and Esau went their separate ways. Esau’s descendants settled south of the Dead Sea and became known as the Edomites. Jacob’s descendants settled farther north, eventually developing into the covenant people known as the nation of Israel. Since then, bitter feelings had always existed between the two nations. Of all the enemies surrounding Israel and that harassed her over and over again during her history, Edom was probably the most hated. The thing that make this hatred between the two nations so tragic is that peoples of the two nations were brothers.
Sela was the capital of Edom – the central stronghold of the nation. The city was later known as Petra (both Sela and Petra mean “rock” or “cliff” ) For situation and natural beauty, Petra is unique among the cities of the earth. The site remained unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was depicted as “ a rose-red city half as old as time” in a Newdigate Prize-winning sonnet by John William Burgon.UNESCO has described it as ‘one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage” being in its list of World Heritage Site since 1985. Petra was chosen by the BBC as one of “the 40 places you have to see before you die” and was also included in the 2007 New Seven Wonders of the World. It was located deep down among the mountains of Seir , surrounded on all sides with richly colored rocks of matchless beauty and grandeur. It is accessible via a narrow gorge, over a mile long, called Siq, or cleft. This pass is one of the magnificent and romantic avenues of its kind in all nature. A tiny stream flows along much of the way. The chasm is both narrow and deep, oftentimes so contracted as to be almost dark at noonday. The rocks which it are tinted most beautifully with all the colors of the rainbow. On emerging from into the great hollow basin (which is over a mile long by two-thirds of a mile broad(, one is confronted by rockcarved dwellings, tombs, temples and other cuttings on every side.
The ruin of Edom.
The entire city of Edom and its environment were one of immense maze of richly colored mountains, cliffs, chasms, rocky shelves, narrow valleys, gorges. Plateaus, shady basins, sunny headlands; just the ideal for beauty and protection for a fortress of trade and commerce. Dwelling in difficult mountain terrain, Edom’s imposing, impregnable capital city of Petra was virtually inaccessible giving her a sense of security and self-sufficiency.
Moreover, Edom was home for many wise men and sages. She was situated on the King’s Highway which provided her with intellectual stimulation with India, Europe and North Africa. Amidst Edom’s pride, power and prosperity, Obadiah prophesied its desolation. Edom fell due to acts of treachery of previously trusted allies and close friends. These are nations and tribes who benefitted from Edom’s prosperity: “ those who eat your bread are one’s companions.
The Reason for Judgemant.
Ridicule spings from pride. When we ridicule others we reveal the spirit in ourselves. To ridicule demonstrates lack of brotherly love. It is often an evidence of real hate. Edom and Israel scorned and hated each other throughout their whole history. For centuries there existed between them a deep animosity. One notable example was the refusal of the Edomites to let the Israelites cross their land as they traveled toward the land of Canaan during the time of Exodus from Egypt. The final insult to Israel must have been Edom’s reaction during the downfall of Judah. Edom did not act as a brother but as a stranger and an enemy. What are the offenses commited by Edom against his brother Israel ? They refused to help the Jews in their hour of need . They ridicule the jews for their misfortune. They rejoiced in the destruction of Jerusalem..They raided Jerusalem together with other nations. They ransacked Jerusalem of its valuables. They rounded up the escaping Jews whom they either slaughtered or handed down to the enemies.
The Retribution on Edom and other nations.
The “day of the Lord” will bring judgement to Edom and other nations. Edom initially drank in celebration of Jerusalem’s fall along with her allies. Ultimately, however, it will be Edom along with the nations who have participated in Jerusalem’s destruction , who will be forced to drink from Jehovah’s “ cup of wrath.” God’s judgement to His people will only be temporary; but Edom will drink continually the bitter portion of God’s judgement.
God promised that travelers will no longer pass that way; the country would be so litter with slain that people would avoid the stench. But most importantly, God states that the country would never be rebuilt. Just as Edom had a perpetual hatred for Israel, their country would remain perpetually empty. That has remained basically true. Various countries have controlled the territory that was once Edom, but Edom as a nation disappeared. When the edict was made allowing people to return to homelands, Israel and many other countries rebuilt, but Edom never did. During the time of the Greks and Romans, the region was known as Idumea, which is Greek transliteration of Edom. The territory is currently controlled by Jordan.
Truly the proud will be humbled. No one can really rest his security upon one’s might and fortress. There is an end to all arrogance and pride.Surely we should fear the Lord who brings down judgement from heaven. .
This Bible study material is prepared by Ramil Dizon- a cellgroup leader of Grace BIble Church in Manila, Philippines.