For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head. - Obadiah 15 (ESV)

Obadiah is a one-chapter prophecy directed against Edom, a kingdom south of Israel and descended from Jacob’s brother Esau. Obadiah appears to be written after Judah had been defeated by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon around the sixth century before Christ. Edom had aided and encouraged Babylon in their attack against Judah, seeking to take advantage of Judah’s defeat.

The Big Idea of Obadiah

I have taught that the big idea of Obadiah is the following: Yahweh will avenge Israel on Edom. Obadiah says that Yahweh will avenge his people on Edom for Edom's taking advantage of Jerusalem's defeat. But Edom will be judged by Yahweh and will have the same and more done to her as she did to Israel. In Obadiah, Yahwheh wants to to humble Edom, encouraing the Israelites who were aware of the message in the process. Obadiah give hopes for God's people and emphasizes Yahweh's justice and power to strike down enemy nations. Modern readers are reminded of God's justice and power to defeat his people's enemies. We also share in common the need for Yahweh to execute vengeance where we cannot, since we are too small and insignificant in this world to assert our own dominance. We must trust in God like the people had to during Obadiah's time.

An Outline of Obadiah

Edom Will Be Humiliated (1-14)

The first fourteen verses of Obadiah are an oracle against the pride of Edom. Yahweh speaks through Obadiah about Edom, telling Edom that her pride has deceived her and that Yahweh is going to cast her down from her self-exalted place. Yahweh tells Edom that she will be completely desolated, not just robbed. Edom will be so destroyed that the wise and mighty will have no recourse.

Why is this the case? It is because of the violence done to Edom’s brother, Jacob. Yahweh charges Edom with aiding and abetting Judah’s destroyers. So Yahweh warns Edom not to gloat over Judah’s misfortune or to scavenge the leftovers from Judah’s pillaging. The threat of Yahweh’s punishment of Edom hangs thick in the air at the end of this section.

 Israel Will Be Exalted (15-21)

Verses 15-21 of Obadiah seem to continue the same oracle with which the book begins but with a switching of gears. While Edom will be humiliated, Israel will be exalted. Yahweh describes the day of Yahweh as coming near upon all nations. The deeds of those who have done evil will return on their heads, and instead of Jacob being burned, destroyed, and dispossessed, Jacob will be the burner, destroyer, and dispossesser. In the end, the kingdom of Israel will rule and Yahweh will be over the kingdom. 

Benefits of Obadiah

Yahweh’s message through Obadiah ought to be a balm to the humble who trust in God and a terror to those who exalt themselves against God. Yahweh is at pains to put the nation of Edom in its place. Edom had exalted itself against Israel, taking advantage of the situation to kick her when she was down. But Edom did not consider God.

Why do we not consider God? Why and how are we so prone to live and move and relate to one another as though God were not there? He is there, and God is just, and God does care what happens in the world. More than that, God is invested in the world. There is no indifference on his part. It is too easy to think that judgment is never coming because it has not happened yet. But judgment is coming.

Obadiah reminds us and demonstrates for us that God does judge in the world and he does not always wait until the end of time to render his judgment. Edom has been judged. Her pride has been brought low. She is a nation no longer, at least not as she was.

We are not so far removed from the time and place of Edom and Obadiah as we might imagine. We commit and witness the sins of Edom all around us daily. Edom did not consider God. Edom pursued its own ends at the expense of God’s people. Edom’s pride deceived her into thinking that she could leverage opportunities to increase in power and prosperity without giving any account to a higher authority. But there was a higher authority in the time of Edom, and that higher authority made his will and decree clear. There is a higher authority in our day, and he has made his will and decree clear. Every knee must bow to Jesus Christ in confession and repentance of sin or pay an eternity for it.

But for those of us who are in Christ and who humble ourselves before him, Obadiah’s message is a soothing balm in tumultuous times. God may allow his people to suffer, but he does not fail to observe the wrongs done to them. Pride may prosper for a moment, but God’s justice is forever. God’s people may suffer for a moment, but God’s promises are forever. What a comfort that our suffering is limited but God’s promises are not! What a comfort that man’s highest pride and most egregious self-exaltation is momentary, but God’s justice and mercy are endless!

Those of us who have trusted in Christ Jesus need not be concerned that the evil we see perpetrated in the world will last. Sin does not last. It has an expiration date. Sin and evil are having a good run in the world, but that run will end. In the end, and forever, God’s truth, justice, and righteousness will reign over all and in all.

Obadiah, then, is perhaps a surprising place for today’s Christians to derive comfort and hope. It is an easily overlooked book whose content seems like an old text message: the information is no longer relevant. But that is not true; gloriously, that is not true. Instead, Obadiah demonstrates the power and faithfulness of God to his people in the past, which serves as proof and reminder of his power and faithfulness to his people in the present. And from this we can derive great benefit. Thank God that he avenged his people on Edom so that we could trust in his redeeming work for us today.

On Obadiah and Living for God Through Christ