Reading through the Bible together
This is the shortest book from a prophet in the Old Testament, only 21 verses. What guidance did Israel get from this short book and what help can it be to us today?
Obadiah’s message was against Edom, the descendants of Esau. The Israelites and the Edomites were the descendants of the two sons of Isaac (see Genesis 27). But the birthright incident created a lifelong hostility between these two “blood brothers” Jacob and Esau.
Edom’s history reflects the continuous unfolding of the law of “iniquities of the fathers upon the children” of generations to come (see Exodus 20:5). The Edomites hated the Israelites, long after Esau died, and the hostility continued especially after they refused permission to the children of Israel to take the shorter route through Edomite territory on their way to Canaan (see Numbers 20:14-21).
Obadiah’s description of Edom was graphic: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (v. 3). They were proud of their remarkably strong fortress on the top of a high mountain where numerous underground storage areas existed for catching rain water. This ancient fortress was called Sela, we know it today as Petra. People today can visit this ancient fortress, usually on horseback, through a mile long narrow passage that is sometimes no wider than outstretched arms. The Edomites were not only proud of their fortress, but felt very secure!
What lessons does Obadiah have for us today?
1. The story of Esau’s character and the pride of his descendants is a lesson for every family or nation that is motivated by pride. We see it in the generations that follow and in the history of nations. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
2. However, on this earth pride will not forever glory in what it accomplishes and does to others. “As you have done, it shall be done to you” (v. 15).
3. The fairness and goodness of God will have the final word: “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance and there shall be holiness” (v. 17).
Herbert Edgar Douglass, Th.D.