The Book of the Twelve (Minor Prophets) 12: Obadiah Sword of Heaven
The Setting - This book is the shortest in the Old Testament with just one chapter. Though it is a “single-shot” oracle, it is a 12-gage shotgun loaded with a powerful word of buckshot for the enemies of God. This prophet is not the Obadiah that was a steward to Ahab’s household (1Kgs 18). This “vision” seems to be set in the wake of the destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 B.C. when Judah was defeated and looted (2 Ki. 25; 2 Ch. 36:17-21) by the Babylonians (under Nebuchadnezzar). In this time, Edom joined in and gloated. Edomites were age-old enemies, dating even from the days of Jacob and Esau or “Edom” (Gen 36:1, 9). After Jerusalem fell, “Edom has acted against the house of Judah by taking vengeance, and has incurred grievous guilt, and avenged themselves” (Ez. 25:12). In the inter-testamental record we read (1 Esdras 4:45): “You also vowed to build the temple, which the Edomites burned when Judea was laid waste by the Chaldeans [Babylonians].” What Obadiah predicts is also found in Jeremiah 49:7ff, a near parallel passage: “For I will bring the disaster of Esau upon him at the time I punish him.” Malachi, later describes the judgment as having already happened, when God has made Esau’s “mountains into a wasteland” and “his inheritance of the desert jackals” (about 450 B.C., Mal. 1:3-4; cf. Ezek 32:29).
The Sections - Verses 1-9 anticipate a “day” of the Lord when Esau will be “cut down” in battle by the nations: “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to earth?’” (3). Verses 10-14 provide the reason for this judgment: “Because you violently slaughtered your relatives, the people of Jacob, shame will cover you, and you will be destroyed forever. You stood aloof while strangers took his army captive, and foreigners advanced to his gates. When they cast lots over Jerusalem, you behaved as though you were in league with them” (10-11). Verses 15-21 provide the promise of victory to God’s people: “But on Mount Zion there will be a remnant of those who escape, and it will be a holy place once again. The descendants of Jacob will conquer those who had conquered them” (17). The conclusion is that, “Those who have been delivered will go up on Mount Zion in order to rule over Esau’s mountain. Then the LORD will reign as King!” (21).
The Sermon - The central truth of Obadiah is the enemies of God will reap what they have sown and the Kingdom will prevail despite apparent defeats and disappointments in history. Matthew Henry observes: “God can easily lay those low that have magnified and exalted themselves, and will find out a way to do it.” This is vividly demonstrated even in the days of the last Edomite kingly line: the Herods. The sword of heaven came down upon Idumea (Isaiah 34:5). Just as the Edomite enemies were laid low, so shall all God’s enemies perish.
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more