Esau and Obadiah


In 587 BC, the Jews saw the city of Jerusalem fall to the Babylonians and the Temple, built by Solomon nearly 400 years before, destroyed. The experience of this devastating judgment was made all the more bitter because the Edomites, their brothers and next-door neighbours, not only did not come to the aid of the Jews but, far worse, rejoiced in their humiliation, mocked their pain, looted their goods, and handed over their survivors to the Babylonians. The book of Obadiah is a prophecy, probably given shortly after the fall of Jerusalem, which tells of the judgment of Edom and the restoration of God’s people…


The book of Obadiah does not mention the sins of Judah or the destruction of the Temple – it is emphatically not a “sanctuary” book about the relationship with the Father. Similarly, no mention is made of the Babylonians or of what to do in exile – Obadiah is not a “world” book about the relationship with the outsider. Rather, the book of Obadiah is all about the Edomites – about their pride and self-reliance and malice. This is a “land” book about relationship with the “brother”. But who is this “brother” (see vv.10, 12)? The whole book is spoken to or about Edom. But who is Edom?

Edom was the nation which grew from Esau. The story of the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob, the younger of whom, Jacob, was destined by God to rule the elder, is well-known, along with the incidents when Esau sold his birthright to Jacob and Jacob deceived his father Isaac into giving him, rather than Esau, the blessing due to the firstborn. Relations between the two nations which grew from Jacob, later known as Israel, and Esau (father of the Edomites) were rarely any better.


The book of Obadiah is about the particular wickedness of those who have been privileged by their closeness to the people of God and who should have known better than to persecute those people. The post-Christian media in the West. The Protestant-persecuting Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox church in some countries. Muslims who persecute Christians. All of these have enjoyed the privilege of being related to the church of Jesus Christ and thus their malice towards the church is all the more reprehensible.

Excerpts from Opening Up Obadiah by David P. Field
Available for download here.

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