Don’t let this tiny book fool you into dismissing it as insignificant. God spent some twenty-one verses of his Word on a vision from a little-known prophet named Obadiah, addressed to the nation of Edom. So why is this little book in the Bible?
Edom was the nation that came from a man named Esau (Genesis 25:30). Esau was the twin of Jacob, the man who God renamed Israel and whose sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. The nation of Israel was God’s chosen instrument to bring blessing to the entire world (Genesis 12:3).
However, hatred and opposition brewed between Esau and Jacob from their birth (Genesis 27:41), the enmity between these brothers continued for generations. The Edomites ceaselessly opposed Israel (Numbers 20:14-21, Judges 11:17-18, 1 Samuel 22, 1 Kings 11:14-25, 2 Kings 8:20, 2 Chronicles 20). In fact, when Jerusalem (the capital of Israel) fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC, the Edomites plundered their brothers, and gloated over their fall (Lamentations 4:21-22).
The nations that came from these two men represented two peoples: those who trust in the LORD, and those who don’t—those who love God, and those who oppose God’s people.
The events prophesied in Obadiah fulfill a promise spoken over Jacob way back in Genesis 27:29: “Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you!”
Obadiah bears witness to God’s faithfulness to all his promises. Obadiah’s prophecy records God’s promise to punish Edom—both annihilating the nation altogether (Obadiah 9, 10, 18), and giving their land to Israel. Throughout the Old Testament, God promises vengeance on Edom for mistreating his people (Ezekiel 36:5-7; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:9, 11; 9:11-12; Malachi 1:4). Obadiah was written to comfort God’s people, reminding them God would be true to his promise.
History tells us he was faithful: “All three of these nations (Ammon, Moab, and Edom) have disappeared as separate nations into the Arab peoples.” The nation of Edom no longer exists.
Obadiah warns the arrogant that no one soars higher than the Lord, and we find our safety in humbly submitting to King Jesus.
God fulfilled his promise to bless the world through Israel. Jesus Christ is the promised blessing, who provides the escape from God’s wrath (Obadiah 1:17) through his sacrificial death for all who trust in him. The story of the Bible tells us that in the end, every knee from every nation will bow to king Jesus, and those who oppose his kingdom will be punished eternally.
But why is Obadiah important to us today? Part of Obadiah’s prophecy remains unfulfilled. At the center of the book, we find the phrase, “the day of the LORD is near upon the nations” (Obadiah 1:15 ESV). In the Bible, the day of the LORD refers to the day of final judgment, the expiration date of this present age, when God puts all things right.
Edom represents those who say in their hearts, “nothing can bring me down” (Obadiah 1:3), and who live independently of God and oppose his people. On the day of the LORD God will finally humble the proud.
Obadiah warns the arrogant that no one soars higher than the Lord, and we find our safety in humbly submitting to King Jesus. Obadiah also comforts God’s people who face oppression and persecution that in the end, God will curse those who have cursed his people.
James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (ESV). Obadiah exists because the day of the LORD is still on its way. Will you be one who says, “Nothing can bring me down,” or “I have fallen on the mercy of Jesus and he will bear me to safety”?
1. Taken from the ESV® MacArthur Study Bible, copyright ©2010 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Page 1157.