Prophecy and the Prophets

By Barnard C. Taylor

Part II - A Story of the Individual Prophets

Chapter 8



Parallel reading: 2 Kings 8:16-24; 2 Chronicles 21:5-17; 2 Kings 25; Jeremiah 52. Compare a similar prophecy in Jeremiah 49:7-22.

1. Date and Historical Occasion

Some think that Obadiah prophesied during the reign of Jehoram king of Judah, when the Edomites rebelled against the authority of Jehoram, and withstood his attack upon them, about 845 B. C. There is more reason for taking the view that the book belongs to the time immediately after the fall of Jerusalem. (586.) Some of the peoples around Judah had aided the army of Nebuchadrezzar in subduing Judah a few years before. (2 Kings 24:2.) It may be easily seen that Edom would be glad to share in the despoiling of her old enemy and former ruler. Edom itself afterwards was invaded by enemies, and ceased to exist as an independent people in the days of the Maccabees.

2. The Theme of the Prophecy

This prophecy is concerned wholly about Edom in its relation to Judah. It is the smallest of the prophets, but contains important truth. Edom is condemned for taking part in the overthrow of Judah. When Jerusalem was spoiled, the Edomites shared in the plunder. Obadiah condemns them for their hostility, declares their rocky fastnesses will not protect them, predicts an invasion of their land and the utter destruction of the whole people. Connected with the threat against Edom there is a prediction of the establishment and prosperity of God’s people.

3. The Course of Thought

Messengers are sent to the other nations to summon them to make war upon Edom, ver. 1. Edom thought herself perfectly safe among her lofty crags, but Jehovah would bring her down, and all her treasures would be carried off, far more thoroughly than robbers would do, or grape-gatherers, ver. 3-6. Edom’s former allies will not help her, ver. 7. Her own famous wisdom will utterly fail to deliver her, ver. 8, 9.

The reason for this destruction is that Edom had committed violence upon Judah. When Jerusalem was taken, the Edomites had entered the city with the enemy, had shared the spoil, had rejoiced in Judah’s calamity, had stood at the crossroads to intercept any that fled, and delivered all the captives they caught into the hand of the chief enemy, ver. 10-14.

Because the “day of Jehovah,” that awful day of punishment, is coming upon all the heathen nations, Edom especially will perish for her act, ver. 15, 16.

In the rest of the prophecy there is presented, in strong contrast with the destruction of Edom, the permanence and wide possessions of Jacob. It is to be noticed that the prophet uses the names of the two brothers, Jacob and Esau, founders of the two peoples, thus calling attention to the original promise of God that the older should serve the younger, and promising now that Jacob shall continue to hold the possessions given him, which Esau cannot take.

Jacob shall be as fire consuming the whole of Esau as stubble. There shall not be even a remnant left to Edom. In the case of almost all the other enemies of Israel there is something of hope held out that they will after punishment come into the favor of God. Edom shall perish.

The translation of ver. 19 obscures the thought, which is quite expressive. The prediction is that instead of the Negeb (“south”) being a district held only in part by Judah, it shall be fully inhabited by God’s people, and its inhabitants shall extend their possessions to the land where Esau dwells; the Shephelah (“the plain”), the strip of hilly land lying between the highland of Judah and the plain of Philistia, sometimes occupied by the Philistines, sometimes by Judah, the scene of so many conflicts, shall not only be inhabited by Judah, but its inhabitants shall extend their possessions to the very land of Philistia. So all the upper part of the land, and the east of the Jordan, shall be occupied by the people of Jacob. They shall be far from being dispossessed by Esau.

The language of ver. 20 is obscure, but the general thought is clear. The Israelites who should be taken captive, would again return and possess the whole of the land that God had given to them. When Zion should be inhabited by the saved of God’s people, Edom should be condemned. This would result from the great fact that the right of kingship belongs to Jehovah. He is sovereign over nations.