Knowing the date for the writing of the Book of Obadiah is not critical for our application of its message for us. We are more concerned with two historical dates. First, the coming invasion of Jerusalem and second, the identification of the people of Moab. The coming invasion of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, about 607 or 586 B.C. could have supplied the imminent crisis described by Obadiah. However, of particular importance is the fact that the Moabites were the direct descendants of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. Hence, from Obadiah’s point of view a brother betrayed his brother. We cite two examples, explained in detail below. The first relates to the way Moab responded to Israel’s need following the exodus from Egypt. Another had to do with Moab’s actions when Jerusalem was under attack.
As for the general application for us, we can note several changes in our own country that are causes for concern. In regard to families, some people—misguided as far as we are concerned—are making an all-out assault on our definition of marriage. The idea of one man and one woman is falling by the wayside, legally and practically. Also, the question of the sanctity of life is bring rejected . The flood of abortions is a case in point. According to estimates by the National Right to Life Committee the United States has experienced nearly 55 million abortions since Roe v. Wade became the law in 1973. The murder of innocent babies continues unabated with no end in sight. Especially heinous is allowing doctors to perform partial birth abortions, described in detail on internet presentations. Obadiah’s message posses pertinent principles for today.
In his writing, Obadiah prophesied a long-delayed judgment (vv. 1-4). The vision given to him concerned the judgment against Edom, the descendants of Esau as noted above. The divine indictment of Moab is the only one not centered on Judah or Israel. The prophet had heard a “rumor” or report from the Lord of a strange divine development, namely God sent “an ambassador” to the nations to send their armies against Edom. He recounted the charges against the Edomites. It centered in their pride. By inhabiting the mountainous regions to the east and south of the Jordan River, attacks against them were difficult. Invaders could not build ramparts to breach protecting walls. Moabites even bragged that no one could bring them down to the ground. Petra, their main city, was easily accessible only by a two-mile long passage to the city which was hewn from solid rock. Nevertheless, God promised to “bring” them down.
God promised the nation a judgment based on intensive accountability (vv. 10-12). God noted Edom’s condescending treatment of Israel. Their first violation of brotherly compassion occurred when Israel needed a helping hand. Following their being freed from Egyptian bondage, their journey to Canaan put Edom squarely in the way. They refused to grant Israel passage through their land (Num. 20:14-20). They also collaborated with the Philistines (2 Chron. 21:16).
As through that were not bad enough, Edom had been guilty of treason (vv. 13-14). Three times does the Bible refer to the calamity suffered by Jerusalem when the city was attacked. Edom entered the city (v. 13) and “laid hands on their substance,” apparently collecting it as the spoils of war. To compound a despicable situation, they “stood in the crossway,” captured fleeing Israelites, and handed them over to the invaders (v. 14).
Nevertheless, Obadiah foretold the time of a Jewish restoration (vv. 17-18, 21). From Mt. Zion (Jerusalem) deliverance would come, providing a freedom based on holiness. The house of Jacob (Judah) and the tribes of Israel (Joseph) would be resurrected from the ashes of history to establish anew order for the nations. In the process, the house of Esau, the Edomites, would be destroyed. Obadiah also foretold the restoration of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity and the rise of many notable governors. Above all, he spoke of the Lord who shall be King, Jesus the Son of God.
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