“For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever. 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.” — Obadiah 1:10-11
“Sibling rivalry” is a phrase many of us can identify with, especially if we have brothers or sisters or are parents of a sibling group. However, it is important to remember that it matters to God how we treat others — both inside and outside the family circle.
Recently, I skimmed through a humorous online post titled “18 Things Every Oldest Sibling Knows to be True.” It immediately became clear that the author felt being first in the family line-up comes with significant positives. For example, she stated that oldest children believe they have a right to boss younger siblings. They insist the front passenger seat of the car is reserved for them, and are convinced that their parents are far more strict with them than with the younger children. According to the article, older siblings feel protective of younger children in the family, but they also assume they have the right to make younger children do anything and everything for them for as long as possible.
The post concluded by stating that older siblings love their younger family members, even when they are “the most annoying people in the universe.” That caught my attention, because I had just been reading the Book of Obadiah. Love and concern for the wellbeing of others certainly were not evident in the family relationship referenced in Obadiah’s prophecy!
Obadiah’s message was directed to the Edomites. The family lines of Edom and Israel went back to a common forefather, Isaac. Esau (ancestor of the Edomites) and Jacob (ancestor of the Israelites) were twin brothers and sons of Isaac. Based on their shared ancestry, one might assume the Edomites would have immediately rushed to the defense of their northern brothers when Judah was invaded by Babylon. However, that was not the case. Animosity had repeatedly flared up between the two nations throughout their histories. And when Judah came under attack, the Edomites exulted over Judah’s distress, captured and delivered Israelite warriors into the hands of the enemy, and even participated in looting the defeated nation. Because Edom mistreated their brothers in Judah, God’s judgment was coming upon them.
All of us would readily condemn Edom’s treachery, betrayal, and looting. However, God also condemned Edom for pride, for failure to help Judah in a time of need, and for taking advantage of their brother nation’s vulnerable state. Through the prophet Obadiah, God told the Edomites, “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee” (verse 15).
As followers of Christ, we should demonstrate justice and mercy toward all. We may not agree with an individual’s perspective or condone his or her behavior, but God does not give us license to denigrate or belittle anyone. While we can and should oppose sin, we also should extend grace and pray for others, even those who are not doing right. Let us purpose to live as peace promoters and brothers (or sisters) to all. Remember what God told the Edomites, “As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee”!
The Edomites, to whom the prophecy of Obadiah was directed, lived in a mountainous region south of the Dead Sea that included the city of Petra. (That area is now in the nations of Israel and Jordan.) The Edomites made their dwelling places in high rocky cliffs that offered natural fortification. Their trust in their perceived military advantage was evidenced by their haughty and self-exalting attitude, and resulted in a series of wicked actions against the Children of Israel. These actions were doubly offensive because the Edomites were the descendants of Isaac through Esau, and thus possessed a shared ancestry with the very people they were mistreating.
The first of four main points in the Book of Obadiah occurs in verses 1-9. Through the prophet, God declared that retribution was coming to Edom through other nations that would rise up in battle against them. Edom’s pride was the cause of this judgment. The instrument of judgment would be Edom’s own military allies, and the result would be absolute destruction, with no Edomites surviving.
The second main point occurs in verses 10-14. God instructed the prophet to itemize the wicked actions taken by the Edomites against the Children of Israel in Jerusalem. Four actions were noted: the Edomites did not help the people of Judah to withstand the attack on Jerusalem; they rejoiced in Jerusalem’s downfall; they aided in pillaging the city afterward; and they gave over those who fled to Edom seeking refuge.
Thirdly, verse 15 contains a proclamation that the coming judgment was imminent. The phrase “all the heathen” indicates that the warnings regarding pride and judgment are universally applicable. Verses 16-18 provide a stark contrast between the judgment to be poured out on the wicked, and the deliverance provided to the righteous. Verse 18 repeats the prophecy that Edom would cease to exist as a result of this judgment.
Verses 19-21 contain Obadiah’s fourth and final point. These verses, which are yet to be fulfilled, promise a coming regathering and restoration of Jerusalem in which the harmful actions of Edom against Israel will be completely reversed. The capstone of this restoration, and the final note of the prophecy of Obadiah, is a beautiful phrase that points to the day when the Messiah will rule over Jerusalem, “the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.”
I. Introduction: The vision and theme (1:1)
II. The fact of Edom’s judgment (1:2-9)
A. The deception of Edom (1:2-4)
B. The destruction of Edom (1:5-9)
III. The cause of Edom’s judgment (1:10-14)
A. Violence to Judah (1:10-11)
B. Boasting over Judah (1:12-13)
C. Enslavement of Judah (1:14)
IV. The character of Edom’s judgment (1:15-18)
A. The imminence of judgment (1:15-16)
B. The completeness of judgment: time and extent (1:17-18)
V. The restoration of Israel (1:19-21)
A. The remnant’s return (1:19-20)
B. The kingdom’s advent (1:21)
God cares about how we treat others! As followers of Christ, we should promote and practice concern, justice, and mercy for all.