The book of Obadiah, although the shortest of the twelve minor prophets, has much to teach us today about spiritual arrogance and unfaithfulness. Looking forward to Christ, this short book explains the Lord’s judgment. The following has been adapted from The Lutheran Bible Companion.
Summary & Commentary
Esau and his descendants have been arrogant and worldly since Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew. The nation has a long record of hostility toward God’s people Israel and, by extension, toward God. Obadiah announces God’s judgment on Edom’s behavior. Yet it is easy to forget that God, in His mercy, has given Edom a long time to repent and come to Him. The centuries that have passed demonstrate God’s patience with Edom.
After years of indifference punctuated by hostility, Edom faces a choice when God sends Babylon to punish Israel. Edom could show the compassion Jesus later described in Matthew 25:34–40. Instead, Edom chooses destructive, self-serving action. The underlying spiritual hostility that led to such a choice seals Edom’s fate.
God will judge nations and individuals according to their deeds, and all will come up short (Romans 3:9–20).
Throughout history, God has used nations such as Edom and Israel as object lessons. Edom paid the price for spiritual arrogance and indifference; Israel was punished for unfaithfulness. However, God remained faithful to His people. He kept His promises and preserved a faithful remnant.
Specific Law Themes
The Edomites offend the Lord in part because of the pride they take in their
security, as though the ruggedness of their homeland will shield them indefinitely from judgment. As a consequence, the Lord will see to it that foreigners pillage their dwellings even as the Edomites have pillaged Judah. Just as the Lord has set aside a Day of Judgment for the nations, He will also set one for Edom.
Specific Gospel Themes
The entire Book of Obadiah is promissory to Israel. The one major prophetic theme that is missing is judgment on Israel. The day of the Lord calls down divine judgment upon His nation’s foes and assures His people that the God who is surely on their side will eventually set all things straight. Those who escape the current trials shall dwell in a renewed kingdom even as those who suffer now, awaiting Christ’s reappearing, will rejoice in the kingdom of heaven.
Like sinful Judah, we fall prey to the consequences of our sins, including the taunts and gloating of sinners today. Like Edom, God gives us opportunities (Ephesians 2:10) to either participate in His good work of compassion or to turn our backs on those in need. He has already extended His compassion toward us in the sacrifice and blessing of Jesus. There are times when we are spiritually arrogant and deserve punishment. But God keeps calling us to repentance and to believe His promise of salvation. To all who listen to His Word, He has given the privilege of serving as witnesses to point others to His grace in the one Savior, Jesus Christ. God continues patiently to offer our world His grace and postpones judgment so that more people may repent (2 Peter 3:9). “Now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Read more in the study on Obadiah.
Blog post adapted from Lutheran Bible Companion, Volume 1: Introduction and Old Testament, pages 899-900, copyright © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.