For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough 

1:1.  “The vision of Obadiah.  Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom; We have heard a rumor (message) from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.”

As the first sentence makes clear, God’s message to Obadiah was given in the form of a vision, and as the second sentence makes clear the message was the assurance of Edom’s doom.

An ambassador (herald, messenger) had been sent out to the nations to arouse them against Edom, and there can be little doubt that that messenger was the Holy Spirit, it being Obadiah’s task, not to arouse the nations against Edom, but to warn that sinful nation of the judgment of God that was about to fall upon it.

Chief amongst those nations used by God for Edom’s destruction were the Nabateans, and the Romans, together with the Jews under John Hyrcanus.

1:2.  “Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen (nations): thou art greatly despised.”

Edom’s fall hadn’t yet occurred, but it was so certain that God could speak of it as already accomplished.

Looking beyond the literal, we read in this the certainty of God’s destruction of the flesh, which today lords it over humanity with the same proud arrogance as did Edom over the surrounding nations. 

1:3.  The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?”

The land of Edom was one of craggy heights traversed by narrow defiles which made it almost impregnable, enabling one man to virtually hold an army at bay.  It is a dramatic picture of pride, and the realm over which it rules.  The man whose heart is filled with pride imagines himself master of all he surveys, and in his arrogance he thinks himself invulnerable.  Yet it is his pride that guarantees his ruin, for it heads the list of the seven things which God hates, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look...” Pr 6:16-17.  It was pride that brought about the fall of Lucifer, and it is pride that prevents men from acknowledging that they are sinners who need a Savior.  Nor is the lesson only for the unconverted.  Pride has wrought more harm in the life of more Christians than probably any other sin.  How many evangelists, elders, and teachers have allowed pride to render their spiritual gift useless!  What surprises will come at the Bema!

Pride begets in man’s heart the defiance of God which is expressed in the words of the Edomites, “Who shall bring me down to the ground?”  But God has written, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall,” Pr 16:18, and again, “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit,” Pr 29:23.

1:4.  “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set they nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord.”

As the eagle soared beyond reach of any enemy, and built her nest on inaccessible ledges, so did the Edomites imagine themselves to be invulnerable; but like all their kind, they left God out of the reckoning.  As we read in Amos 9:2-3 and Ps 139:7-12, there is no place man can go to be beyond the reach of the God Who was about to topple Edom from his lofty perch.

What has been written aforetime, however, is for our learning, and we are missing the point of this portion if we fail to see in Edom’s proud, arrogant, ill-founded pride and false sense of security, a picture of Christendom’s equally foolish pride and false confidence.  The God Who destroyed Edom is about to destroy all that constitutes this present evil world, that destruction coming in the impending Tribulation era, spiritual eyes being able to discern even now the cracks in the crumbling foundation of the whole social, political, financial, legal, military, and religious edifice which puny man has raised up in defiance of his Creator.

1:5.  “If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grape gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?”

Opinion is divided as to whether this portrays the rapacious character of the Edomites, or of the nations who will destroy them.  Both may be true, though it seems more likely that the description is of those who would spoil Edom.  God asked two rhetorical questions.  When robbers come do they not take only what they can carry away, and leave at least some of the victim’s goods?  When the grape gatherers come, do they not leave some gleanings?  But those whom God would send to plunder Edom would leave nothing.  He was to be utterly destroyed.

And so is it with the flesh.  It will rob the unbeliever of his soul, and bring him down to hell; and where permitted activity in the life of the believer, it will rob him of the reward that could have been his had he kept the flesh where it belongs - in the place of death, as it is written, “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh....” Ga 5:24.  The flesh is presently “crucified,” but it won’t be dead until the believer is home in heaven, and every time he permits it to come down from the cross it will wreak havoc in his life.

1:6.  “How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!”

The NEB translates this verse, “But see how Esau’s treasure is ransacked, his secret wealth hunted out!” and Taylor renders it, “Every nook and cranny will be searched and robbed and every treasure found and taken.”

Esau is substituted here for Edom, just as Seir is also another name for the same land and people, raising the question, Why this variety of names for the same place and person?  The answer is simple.  The flesh uses a multitude of disguises to hide its true nature, hence the need for vigilance on the part of the believer.

Edom’s day of reckoning had come, as will also that of the flesh.  The day of his death ends the activity of the flesh in the life of every man, and only then will be revealed how utterly evil the flesh is, for the unbeliever will discover with horror that it has brought him down to hell, while the believer will learn how subtle were its workings, and the extent to which it has robbed him of eternal reward.

But the searching out of Edom’s “hidden things” goes far beyond the literal discovery and seizure of his ill-gotten gains.  It declares the truth that a day of exposure and judgment awaits every man.  For the believer, that judgment will be at the Bema, Christ’s appraisal of the life separating as worthless wood, hay, and stubble everything that was of the flesh, and leaving for reward the equivalent of the gold, silver, and precious stones, 1 Cor 3:12 - everything in the life that was of the Spirit, and done therefore for Christ’s glory.

For the unbeliever, his judgment will be a thousand years later, at the great white throne, Re 20:11, where every thought, word, and deed will be exposed and appraised, that judgment revealing the dreadful fact that he had allowed the flesh to lead him through life, keeping him occupied with the worthless things of earth, so that he neglected to obtain the salvation of his soul by confessing himself a sinner, and trusting in Christ as his Savior.  Instead of enjoying eternal bliss in heaven, he will be cast into the unquenchable flame of the lake of fire where he will bewail eternally the folly that led him on earth to grasp Satan’s worthless baubles, and by that vain pursuit cast away what was priceless: the salvation of his soul.

1:7.  “All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound (trap or snare) under thee: there is none understanding in him.”

“Confederacy” is literally allies.  All those whom Edom trusted as confederates or allies, were in fact secretly enemies, and by their machinations would bring him “to the border,” that is, to the end of his existence.  He was about to be destroyed.  This appears to have occurred between the sixth and fifth centuries BC, when the Nabateans, inhabitants of northern Arabia, conquered the Edomites, the few who remained in Edom being absorbed by the conquerors; and others who fled into southern Judea (Gr. Idumea) then became known as Idumeans, who around 120 BC were compelled to become circumcised and to adopt the Jewish religion.  In 70 AD they supported the Jews in their fatal rebellion against Rome, in the course of which most of them were slaughtered, and thus ended the existence of the Edomites, there being no historical record of them thereafter.

“... there is none understanding in him” appears to be the declaration of the fact that until the end actually came, none of them had even a suspicion that it was imminent.  Christendom is likewise totally ignorant of the fact that her end is near.  In her complacent self-confidence she not only refuses to read the Scriptures which so clearly announce her fate, but she mocks those who do read and who try to warn her.

1:8.  “Shall I not in that day, saith the Lord, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?”

The term “wise men” here seems to refer to those who thought themselves wise, or who were accounted wise by their fellows, when in fact their wasn’t a wise man among them.  The two names Edom and Esau continue to point to the variety of disguises employed by the flesh in order to hide its true character.

Only spiritual men understand how utterly lacking in true wisdom are those who control Christendom and the rest of the world today.  They babble about bringing in their own Utopia, but fail to see that the whole great structure raised by man is about to crash in ruins upon their guilty heads.

1:9.”  And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.”

Teman appears to have been a place renowned for its valiant men, but in the destruction brought by God they would be terror-stricken and feeble, helpless to deliver the doomed nation.  Man would be powerless to stop the slaughter once God began to destroy Edom.  He will be equally helpless to stop the destruction that will bring today’s world to ruin in the swiftly approaching Tribulation.

1:10.  “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.”

The “violence” began when Esau vowed to kill Jacob, see Ge 27:41, and continued through the years when each had become a nation, the hatred of Edom for Israel being displayed in Edom’s refusal to allow Israel passage through his land on the way from Egypt to Canaan, Nu 20:14-21.

1:11.  “In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.”

While some have understood this to have been at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC, it is more likely to refer to the much earlier plundering of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians recorded in 2 Chr 21:16-17,  in the days of Jehoram who reigned from 848 till 841 BC, for relative to the sack of Jerusalem in 586 BC, only the Babylonians were involved.  What is referred to here in verse 11 is believed by many to have occurred at the time when Edom rebelled against Judah as recorded in 2 Ki 8:20-22, at which time he may have joined the Philistines and Arabians in their attack on the city.

1:12.  “But thou shouldest not have looked (gloated) on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly (boasted) in the day of distress.”

This continues to refer to Edom’s conduct at the time of the sack of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians.  Keeping in mind that Israel is called God’s son, “Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn,” Ex 4:22; “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt,” Hos 11:1; and remembering that the ultimate application is to the Lord Jesus Christ, “... that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son,” Mt 2:15, it isn’t difficult to see in Edom’s gloating at the suffering of Israel, a foreshadowing of a greater sin: the gloating of Israel at the sufferings of the Lord while He hung on the cross.  Nor is it difficult to see in God’s destruction of Edom for that sin, a foreshadowing of His  destruction of Israel in AD 70 for their greater sin.

1:13.  “Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldst not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;”

The context here is the same as in verse 12, and confirms that Edom had joined the Philistines and Arabians in plundering Jerusalem - activity which provoked God’s anger, and which He was about to punish by destroying Edom.  A similar day of reckoning awaits all who have taken sides with the world, the flesh, and the devil against Christ, that ultimate day of reckoning being at the great white throne, from which the offenders will be banished into the eternal torment of the lake of fire, Re 20:11-15.

Those who read this would do well to examine themselves as to whether they are on God’s side, or Satan’s,” the Lord Himself declaring, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad,” Mt 12:30.  There is no neutral ground with God.  We are saved or lost; going to heaven or to hell; children of God or of Satan.

1:14.  “Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.”

Edom had watched at the crossway (also translated parting of the ways) slaying all who came there having escaped the sword of the enemy in Jerusalem; and in this God would have us see that activity of the flesh which also watches “at the crossway,” that is, the moment when a man comes face to face with the necessity of trusting Christ as Savior.  How many, brought to that parting of the ways, have been persuaded by the flesh to continue on the broad way that leads to hell, instead of turning on to the narrow way that leads to heaven!  Countless multitudes will bewail eternally the folly that resulted in their being slain by the flesh at that fateful dividing of the ways where God begged them to accept His priceless gift of eternal life.

The second half of the verse points to another activity of the flesh: delivering up “those of his that did remain (had escaped) in the day of distress.”   These escapees represent believers, and their destruction at the hand of the Edomites sounds the warning that believers may also fall victim to the flesh, though it must be emphasized that a believer can never lose his salvation.  He may, however, allow the flesh to entice him into sin which ruins his testimony, and ends his ability to serve the Lord, Ananias and Sapphira being examples, Ac 5:1-10.  Not all such victims die immediately, but they are as good as dead relative to rendering effective service to Christ and laying up for themselves an eternal reward.

The flesh is as terrible a foe to the saint as to the sinner.

1:15.  “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen (nations): as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.”

The day of the Lord is that long era that will begin after the rapture of the Church and that will continue till the coming of the new heavens and new earth; so clearly this verse is speaking, not of past events, but of those still future, and now very near.  Specifically it is speaking of the seven years of the Tribulation which will begin soon after the removal of the Church, the final three and a half years of which will be a time of unprecedented trouble for the world, as God unleashes His fierce judgments upon the earth.  That time of trouble will conclude with Christ’s judgment of those who will have survived its horrors; unbelievers being banished into hell, and believers passing into the enjoyment of millennial blessings.

Since, however, Obadiah is still addressing Edom, one indicated conclusion is that Edom will still exist in the Tribulation, his punishment being in direct relation to his sins against others.  This, then, would indicate that though there has been no historical record of Edom since 70 AD, he must still exist, and will be revealed again in the Tribulation.  An alternative view is that what Christ will judge will be all that the flesh has produced in the lives of those assembled before Him for judgment at the end of the Tribulation.

1:16.  “For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain (Jerusalem), so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.”

Some understand ye to refer to Israel, and translate the verse as, “The cup of vengeance you, my people, have drunk, there on that mountain which is my sanctuary, all the heathen shall drink henceforward.”  Others translate it, “For as you, [Edom,] have drunk upon the mountain of My holiness [desecrating it in the wild revelry of the destroyers], so shall all the nations drink continually, [in turn, of My wrath].” 

Since the subject is clearly the vengeance of God that will fall upon Edom and others who have molested Israel, the latter translation appears to be correct.  In the attack on Jerusalem by the Philistines, Arabians, and Edom, Israel had been forced to drink the cup of vengeance filled to overflowing by her attackers, but what is written in Zec 2:8 remains true for all time, “For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you (Israel): for he that toucheth you (Israel) toucheth the apple (pupil) of his (God’s) eye.”  It is one thing for God to chastise His child, but a very different thing for another to wantonly afflict that child - the very offence of which Edom and the nations were guilty.

“... so shall the heathen drink continually.”  Israel, for a little while, had had to suffer the wrath of her enemies as part of her punishment for having sinned against God, but now those enemies learned that they would suffer the wrath of God eternally.  And besides this eternal and individual recompense of their evil was the earthly and corporate: they would cease to exist as nations.  It would be as though they had never been, so complete would be God’s extirpation of them.

In this connection it is instructive to read the metaphoric description of the Lord’s final judgment upon Edom as recorded in Isa 63:1-6, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah?  this that is glorious in his apparel, traveling in the greatness of his strength?  I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save.  Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.  For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come.  And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.  And I will tread down the people in mine anger, and make them drunk in my fury, and I will bring down their strength to the earth.”

1:17.  “But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.”

Out of the terrible Tribulation judgments will emerge a believing remnant of Israel and of the nations, made holy through  faith in Christ, as is every believer; and they will then enter into the enjoyment of their God-given inheritance in the Millennium.

“... possess their possessions” is understood by some to mean that Israel will make their own what had formerly been possessed by their enemies; others take it to mean that Israel will take possession of what God allots them.  In a sense both are true, for with every unbeliever then banished into hell, what had been theirs will be left on earth for the enjoyment of the believing remnant of Israel and of the nations.  This points up the folly of laying up treasure on earth.  At the end of earthly life all of it will remain on earth to become the possession of others.  He is a wise man who lays up for himself treasure in heaven.

Israel’s being described as “the house of Jacob” probably means that in the Millennium Israel will no longer be divided into two parts, God never having recognized the division that occurred in the days of Jeroboam.  But since the name Jacob is related to what is of the flesh, as Israel is to what is of the Spirit, the further truth being declared may be that millennial blessings are for God’s earthly people Israel; and heavenly blessings for His spiritual people, the Church during this present Church age.

In essence it comes down to the fact that Jacob, the man who had had the faith to buy the birthright (Jacob did not steal it from Esau - he bought it), and who in the Millennium will have become a great nation, will enter into the enjoyment of all that is entailed by the birthright.

1:18.  “And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord hath spoken it.”

Here Jacob may refer to the Israel living on the millennial earth; while the name Joseph may be meant to emphasize that that Israel will be the once despised nation now exalted to the place of glorious dominion over all the millennial nations.  Both will be the cause of Edom’s destruction, his persecution of Israel being simply the expression of his hatred, not only of God’s people, but of God Himself.  He who makes God his enemy will perish.  (Some understand Jacob here to refer to the southern kingdom, Judah; and Joseph, to the northern kingdom Israel).

Esau’s destruction was guaranteed by that same God.

Since the section beginning with verse 15 relates to what will be at the end of the Tribulation, what is written here in verse 18 clearly points to a yet future destruction of Edom by Israel, a fact which negates any idea that Edom has already been destroyed.  It tends to support what has already been considered, i.e., that there are today amongst the Arabs many who are, in fact, Edomites, their identity to be revealed by God in the Tribulation, along with His revelation of the identity of each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

1:19.  “And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.”

Since this will be in the Millennium, it declares that all of God’s promises to Israel will be fulfilled in that glorious age: she will have undisputed possession of all of Canaan, every false claimant to any part of the land having been driven out; and in addition, her dominion will extend over the whole earth.

As for the details of this verse, “they of the south” can scarcely be any other than the Israelites who will be dwelling in the south of the land in the Millennium; and their possessing “the mount of Esau,” declares that their territory will include the former territory of Edom, the land of Seir, as foretold by Balaam in Nu 24:17-18; while “they of the plain the Philistines” means that the Israelites of the Judean lowlands will also possess what had formerly been the land of the Philistines.

“... they shall possess the fields of Ephraim,” at first glance appears to be redundant, for it describes the territory assigned to Ephraim in the initial apportionment of the land in the days of Joshua.  The special mention of it here, however, may be related to the meaning of the name Ephraim, which is double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, the lesson being conveyed being that in the Millennium, not only the land of Israel, but the whole world, will be phenomenally fruitful.

“... the fields of Samaria” is literally the portion that had been originally assigned to Manasseh, and since Manasseh means causing to forget, the truth being taught may be that in her enjoyment of the Millennium Israel will forget all her former travail.

“... and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.”  Since Benjamin means son of the right hand; and Gilead heap of witness: rolling for ever, the truth being expressed in this may be that Israel, as the earthly son of God’s right hand, will possess that land which will be for ever uniquely associated with the earthly activity of the true Son of the right hand, the Lord Jesus Christ, Whose vicarious death and resurrection have made eternal blessing available to all willing to trust Him as Savior. 

Literally, it means that Benjamin will spread out eastward over the Jordan and possess the former territory of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, they in turn taking possession of the lands formerly occupied by Moab and Ammon.

1:20.  “And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath (the Sarepta of Lk 4:26); and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.”

“... the captivity of this host of the children of Israel” is literally those Israelites who had been carried captive in 722 BC by the Assyrians, from Samaria to Halah, an Assyrian city, see 2 Ki 17:6; 18:11; 1 Chr 5:26.  The Millennium will find them also, repentant and forgiven, brought back into the land to enjoy the blessings so long delayed by their own rebellion against Jehovah.  Zarephath, located on the coast between Tyre and Sidon, and meaning place of refining: she hath refined, marks the north western limit of Canaan, the Canaanites being another enemy dispossessed by God so that His redeemed people Israel could enjoy that land.

Sepharad is a place of unknown location to which the captives of Jerusalem were taken.  Some believe it to have been identical with Sardis in Asia Minor.  Interestingly, the name means end of wandering: end of spreading out.  From every place to which the Jews have been scattered they will be brought back in the Millennium to wander no more, and to inherit the portion given them by God. 

1:21.  “And the saviors (judges) shall come up on mount Zion to judge (rule) the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”

In the Millennium Jerusalem will be the center, not only of the government of Israel, but of the whole world.  The government of Edom - the land once occupied by the Edomites, but now given to Israel - will then be in the godly hands of Christ’s regent, rather than in the hands of such lawless men as ruled in defiance of God in Obadiah’s day.

In the Millennium the activity of the flesh will be restrained, as the Lord Jesus Christ, no longer as the Lamb, but as the mighty Lion of Judah, rules the world with a rod of iron for the Father’s glory, and the blessing of men.

One obvious lesson being taught in the destruction of Edom, and the ultimate vindication and blessing of Israel, is that pride will bring men to eternal destruction under the judgment of God; but repentant faith in Christ, to eternal peace and blessing.



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough