Of the five one-chapter books in the Bible, Obadiah is the only one in the Old Testament. We know very little about the prophet who wrote it, other than the meaning of his name, “servant of the Lord”. Obadiah answered the call to serve the Lord by delivering this message, and then he faded into the background. The other details of his life are lost to history.
Obadiah is a small book about a big problem: Pride. It was pride that brought down the judgment of God on the nation of Edom, Judah’s southern neighbor. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (born to Isaac and Rebekah). Through Esau came the Edomites and through Jacob came the Israelites. Those twin boys were born to the same parents, they grew up in the same home, and yet they were very different. Esau was a man interested in the things of the world and Jacob, though far from perfect, was more interested in the things of God. Their descendants followed suit, and those nations may have been neighbors but they were not friends.
Edom had a history of arrogance and a “don’t-care” attitude concerning their relatives, the Israelites. The capital of Edom was the fortress city of Sela (meaning “the clefts of the rock”, v.3), later known as Petra. It was thought to be an impregnable stronghold because it was cut into the rock cliffs and accessible only though a narrow gap. They thought no one could defeat them (v.3): “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
From their mountain fortress, the Edomites looked down on God’s chosen people, the Jews, watching as they were harassed and mistreated — and they did nothing to help. Verses 10-14 tell the story of Jerusalem’s destruction, when the Edomites “stood aloof” (v.11) while the enemy ravaged their neighbors. Worse than their apathy was their happiness at Jerusalem’s downfall; they “gloated…rejoiced…boasted” (v.12). Verses 13-14 indicate that they even went in after the enemy was gone to loot the city and oppress the survivors. But God is fiercely protective of His people, and He would not let Edom get away with their treachery.
Verse 4 is His chilling pronouncement: “Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, declares the Lord.” Verse 18 says that the Edomites would cease to exist as a nation: “There shall be no survivor for the house of Esau.” Just a few years after God told them that, the Edomites were conquered by the Arabs (Caldeans) in the 6th Century B.C. and by the Nabateans in the 3rd Century B.C. — and the Edomites were annihilated. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD the Edomites disappeared from history.
This should serve as a warning to any nation, corporation, church, family, or individual that pride destroys. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride will turn your heart against God: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6).
Search your heart today — are you trusting in your own strength, your self-confidence, your money, your technology, or your wisdom instead of trusting in God? Humble yourself before Him, or you may be shocked one day to find yourself involuntarily, forcibly humbled.