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Bible: What Do Obadiah and Nahum Teach Us About the Judgments Upon Edom and Nineveh?

Updated on May 20, 2016

Edom and Its Neighbors




Edom's Fatal Flaw

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Obadiah's vision recounts the judgment upon one of Israel's bitterest enemies: Edom.

God summons many nations to "rise up against her for battle" (v. 1).

He tells this people that pride has deceived her into believing she is invincible as she dwells in the "clefts of the rock": the seemingly impregnable cliffs of Sela (Petra), her capital (vv. 2-3).

The LORD will bring her down from the heights, make her small among the nations, and cause the world's peoples to despise her greatly (vv. 2,4).

Using an apt analogy, Yahweh states that while thieves and/or gatherers normally leave something behind after their activities, "men at peace" with Esau will conquer Petra and completely despoil it (vv. 5-7).

The LORD asserts rhetorically that He will cut off wise men from Edom, cause dismay among the mighty men in Teman, and slaughter everyone from Esau's mountains (vv. 8-9).

Edom's violent mistreatment of Israel while enemies ransacked the people of God leads to her own destruction and shame (v. 10).

She did nothing to prevent Israel's capture and pillaging; in fact, she was "as one'' of the "strangers" (v. 11).

Yahweh delineates her misdeeds:

(1) gazing on them (in self-righteous contempt),

(2) rejoicing in their destruction,

(3) speaking proudly (v. 12),

(4) confiscating their property (v. 13),

(5) killing and/or capturing escapees (v. 14).

For her evildoing, she will suffer with all the nations during "the day of the LORD"; her deeds will receive a just reprisal (vv. 15-16).

Jerusalem, on the other hand, Yahweh will surely save and sanctify (v. 17).

He will also use Israel to judge Edom by fire [v. 18].

The "inhabitants of the South" and "Benjamin" will reclaim their lands (vv. 19-20), and certain deliverers under Yahweh's rule will judge the "mountains of Esau" (v. 21).


1. Who is Obadiah warning in this prophecy?

2. What is the name of this people's mountain fortress?

3. Why was Yahweh punishing her? What were her misdeeds?

4. To what period might Obadiah 19-21 be referring?

5. Whom will Yahweh save?

Nineveh: The "Bloody City"


Nineveh, the Capital

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Nahum 1

Nahum describes his book as a "burden" and a "vision" (v. 1)—an oracle (prophetic utterance) that came to him by way of a vision: a supernatural verbal message that accompanied a supernatural visual communication.

His prophecy concerns Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire, which escaped divine judgment during Jonah's day, but now faces God's wrath again.

Nahum, whose name means “comfort” or “compassion,” dwells in Elkosh (perhaps a small village in Galilee) at the time.

The prophet depicts God as jealous, avenging, and wrathful (v. 2), yet he also describes Him as slow to anger and great in power (v. 3).

When human beings ultimately reject His grace, Yahweh powerfully exercises his avenging wrath against them.

By judging the wicked, the LORD safeguards His holiness and righteousness.

[Yet one must note and remember that He does restrain His anger until the time that He must act.]

Here God shows mankind His disapproval of his actions by demonstrating how He "has His way with" nature (vv. 3b-5); consequently, Nahum's questions in verse six expect a chastened silence.

God's goodness and strength aid those who trust Him, but His wrath destroys His enemies (vv. 7-8).

Whatever opposing forces mankind raises up against Him will fail; their end will be sudden and absolute (vv. 9-10).

Nahum recognizes the appearance of such a one: a "wicked counselor" from Assyria (Nineveh) [v. 11].

Yahweh will free the afflicted Israel from his yoke (vv. 12-13); an ignominious death awaits this vile, idolatrous ruler at the LORD's hand (v. 14).

When a herald brings the good news, Judah celebrates His victory over the utterly confounded "wicked one" (v. 15).

Nineveh's Destroyers

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Nineveh's Destruction

Nahum 2

Again, identifying the characters is one of the interpreter's primary tasks.

Nahum introduces a certain "He who scatters" who comes up before "your" face (v. 1).

The former is probably Yahweh (or His instrument) who destroys Nineveh (the latter).

The prophet warns this city about the invasion through which Yahweh will restore Israel, the one whose "vine branches'' Assyria, the enemy, has emptied (v. 2).

Those whom God leads against Nineveh appear as a blazing, red army (vv. 3-4).

Historical records show that this invader originated from Media and Chaldea (see Archer, Old Testament Introduction, 353).

A "flood" of judgment causes Nineveh to surrender without a fight and to go away into captivity (vv. 5-7).

Once a place of rest and wealth, Nineveh is now desolate; its people depart, invaders despoil their homes, and the captives suffer (vv. 8-10).

As Yahweh declares His opposition to the wicked city (v. 13), Nahum questions, “Where are the ‘lairs of the lions of Assyria’ now?" (vv. 11-12).

Temple in Thebes, Egypt


An Ancient Egyptian City

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Nahum 3

The prophet pronounces doom upon the "bloody city," Nineveh (v. 1).

As Nineveh's enemies pass through her, Nahum sees in his vision all the havoc and blood they shed, and charges it all to the Assyrians' harlotry, i.e., unfaithfulness (vv. 2-4).

Yahweh's second "I am against you" pronouncement (see 2:13) focuses on the humiliation He will bring on the harlot, Assyria, by making known to every nation His displeasure with her.

All passersby will show disgust with her (vv. 5-7).

Nahum then compares Assyria to ancient Thebes.

Both sites were strongly guarded and constructed, and they had reliable allies; nevertheless, they also met with horrible loss of life and captivity (vv. 8-10).

Efforts to avoid destruction will not succeed, for fire will devour the city (vv. 11-15).

Nineveh's invaders work like locusts; they will plunder the land and then flee away (vv. 16-17).

Finally, the prophet addresses the king of Assyria, and informs him of the state of disarray and death in his land.

An incurable condition, it elicits joy (perhaps joyous contempt) among the nations the king had brought low (vv. 18-19).


1. Against whom did Nahum prophesy?

2. What attributes of God does he especially highlight?

3. Against which ruler does the LORD pass judgment?

4. Which nations does Yahweh bring against the city?

5. What was the specific cause of the city's fall?

6. How did this city compare with ancient Thebes?

7. What is a “burden?” A vision?

8. What does Nahum’s name mean?

© 2014 glynch1


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