Watson's Web

Obadiah: Divine Geopolitics

When I went to bed last night, I was asking the Lord about what to write about. I had not done any real spiritual writing for a week or so and really did not know what to say. Right away the word Obidiah came to mind. Its not a book I had read for a couple of years. 

This book is noteworthy for two reasons. First, this is the shortest book in the Old Testament, second it is the only book directed exclusively to a foreign nation (Edom). Little is known about the Prophet himself. His name means Servant of the Lord. There are divergent traditions about who he was and when he lived. The most reliable are probably the Rabbinic Traditions that place him around the time of King Ahab and make him a descendant of Eliphaz the (the shaky friend of Job). The words against Edom are very similar, nearly identical to words uttered by Jeremiah and this has caused some scholars to wonder who was quoting whom. I stands to reason that Obidiah is probably an older book that Jeremiah was quoting him in some passages.But it is hardly impossible that the Lord have the exact same word to each prophet many years apart. 

The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle. Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised. 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? Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD. 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 grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes? 
(Oba 1:1-5)

The Lord was very angry with Edom and for good reason. They had become proud, arrogant and like most who fall for this sin, you can't tell them anything. But the Lord had was stirring up trouble for Edom whom no one really liked. As the prophet said, they were greatly despised. Undoubtedly, their arrogance had become a stumbling block to their ancient geopolitical relationships. Not only that, but their pride had deceived them. This is always the stumbling block with those who think too highly of themselves, they become self-deceived and fall into the trap of the devil. You see, where the Edomites dwelt was in a region that was hilly and rocky. They knew that they could hold off a major Army based upon the terrain and geography. This pride made them believe they were impregnable to a successful attack. The rocks of Petra were part of the Edomite Kingdom. 

Think of the Edomites as kind of like children who were playing 'King of the Mountain' taunting others to 'take me if you can'. The Edomites were also a very wise and were known for their ability to turn a phrase and solve riddles. This too contributed to the arrogance of the Edomites. But as the scripture saith, pride goeth before a fall
 and Obadiah was sent to tell the Edomites that they were headed for just such a fall. How were they to be brought down? The men of their confederacy were going to do it. In short their allies with whom they worked with were going to betray them.

They have sent thee out even to the border: all the men of thy confederacy have deceived thee: the men of thy peace have prevailed against thee: they that eat with thee shall lay snares under thee: there is no wisdom in him. Shall not I in that day, saith the Lord, destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau? 
(Oba 1:7-8)

Well, Pride was not the only sin of Edom. It was also the fact that when Jacob (Israel) was in trouble, they did not help him. The prophet calls the Edomites and Jacob 'brothers' for a very good reason. Edom, were descendants of Esau... and Jacob was his twin brother.

For the slaughter and for the iniquity against thy brother Jacob, confusion shall cover thee, and thou shalt perish for ever. In the day when thou stoodest against him, when strangers carried away his army captive, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem: thou also wast as one of them. 
(Oba 1:10-11)
In ancient days, when they say carry away people captive they mean they would become slaves, often sold off as such to rich merchants. They were considered war booty.  Later we note how the Edomites were to intercept the fleeing Jews in order to kill them (vs. 14). But that did not sum up Edom's sins against his own brother (the Lord was sore displeased with this).

But thou shalt not look on in the day of thy brother, in the day of his leaving his country: and thou shalt not rejoice over the children of Juda, in the day of their destruction: and thou shalt not magnify thy mouth in the day of distress. Neither shalt thou enter into the gate of my people in the day of their ruin: neither shalt thou also look on in his evils in the day of his calamity: and thou shalt not be sent out against his army in the day of his desolation. Neither shalt thou stand in the crossways to kill them that flee: and thou shalt not shut up them that remain of him in the day of tribulation. For the day of the Lord is at hand upon all nations: as thou hast done, so shall it be done to thee: he will turn thy reward upon thy own head. 
(Oba 1:12-15)

This passage is interesting in that the tense used is ambiguous. In short, the prophet appears to be referring to both a past event and one that is future (to him). Here is what Kiel And Deiltizsch commentary describes it.

The warning in Oba_1:12-14 is only intelligible on the supposition, that Obadiah has not any particular conquest and plundering of Jerusalem in his mind, whether a future one or one that has already occurred, but regards this as an event that not only has already taken place, but will take place again: that is to say, on the assumption that he rises from the particular historical event to the idea which it embodied, and that, starting from this, he sees in the existing case all subsequent cases of a similar kind. From this ideal standpoint he could warn Edom of what it had already done, and designate the disastrous day which had come upon Judah and Jerusalem by different expressions as a day of the greatest calamity; for what Edom had done, and what had befallen Judah, were types of the future development of the fate of Judah and of the attitude of Edom towards it, which go on fulfilling themselves more and more until the day of the Lord upon all nations, upon the near approach of which Obadiah founds his warning in Oba_1:15. - K & D Commentary

Since I don't speak Hebrew, I have to rely on those who do and really get down to breaking it down, the K&D commentary always does that very well. 

The truth here is that Edom had become cruel and rejoiced at the calamity of others. This is something that God really hates. Let me tell you something, I cringed when I heard people I knew shout for joy at the evils we did in both Gulf Wars. People who never meant the US any harm their calamity was rejoiced over when a missiles struck or when our troops went in and gunned down fleeing and surrendering Iraqi's.  Brothers, when someone else is catching hell, if you want to join them in their trouble, you only have to gloat, mock and cheer at their calamity.  This was one of Edom's sins.

 ...and thou shalt not rejoice over the children of Juda, in the day of their destruction: and thou shalt not magnify thy mouth in the day of distress. 
(Oba 1:12b)

It was for these sins that Edom was going to be (and shall be) severely punished by the Lord. Let us note the thoroughness of God in all of this. He is not just going to deal with Edom, but will be so with all nations. Let us not the Justice of God in all this.

For the day of the Lord is at hand upon all nations: as thou hast done, so shall it be done to thee: he will turn thy reward upon thy own head. 
(Oba 1:15)

But Obadiah also shows us that God is merciful as well and leaving us all hope.

And in mount Sion shall be salvation, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess those that possessed them. 
(Oba 1:17)

God is going to restore the whole back to Israel on the day when the Lord Judges the nations and his house. 

And saviours shall come up into mount Sion to judge the mount of Esau: and the kingdom shall be for the Lord. 
(Oba 1:21)

Yes, brothers God is very much interested in Geopolitics. The prophets of old talked about it quite a bit. Prophets like Obadiah and Jonah, they were sent to foreign nations to speak the word of the Lord to warn the nations of their sins and to give comfort to God's people who were often at the brunt end of these nations actions (as a judgment against Israel's own sins).

In closing, I would like to say that we Christians should be morally outraged at many of the happening in our world. Weather it be a chemical attack in Syria, a Church bombing in Egypt, a vanload of children abducted in the US to be sold off to sex slavery in the Middle East, a bomb going off in a crowded market or sports event. These are all things that should outrage us. But let's always be aware that mankind’s subjective and 'politically convenient' outrage does not work the righteousness of God.

Too often, it serves a purpose that is opposed to God's. Let us all remember the lesson of Edom and know that geopolitical arrogance comes at a very high price and that many nations for too long have sat idly by while God's people were sold into slavery, or were delivered into the hands of their enemies or had reports about massacres (as in China) carefully swept from the US headlines because of a political decision. There was no outrage in those instances and in some instances, rather collusion with the crimes. Moral outrage just to go to war is not outrage, its outrageous. Geopolitical arrogance will only win you God's judgment and your geopolitical friends can quickly turn and become your enemies just when you need them most and your back is turned.

Let a wise man pause and consider that.


Mark S. Watson