Israel and Edom had a rocky relationship for centuries. You see, Israel comes from the descendants of Jacob, while Edom came from Esau. These brothers, Jacob and Esau, were always at odds with each other, even from birth (Genesis 25:21-28). While God did give a blessing to Esau and his descendants (see Genesis 36 & Hebrews 11:20), Jacob was the “child of promise” through whom salvation would come. The promise given to Abraham would be fulfilled through Israel, not Edom. Obviously that would cause competition and strife between these neighboring countries. So when Babylon came and destroyed Jerusalem in 586AD, Edom rejoiced. Not only were they thrilled at Israel’s destruction, they joined in the violence and plundered the unprotected villages of Israel.
The prophecy of Obadiah is a message of impending judgment on Edom for their sin. Essentially, Obadiah says “Hold off on being so smug about Israel’s destruction. If God would judge the children of promise like this, what makes you think you’re so safe?! Israel has been disciplined but will be restored while you will be utterly destroyed and wiped off the map.”
We don’t know anything about who Obadiah was other than “a prophet.” But this short book (only 21 verses long!) packs a punch. After a brief introduction, verses 2-9 describe the judgment Edom will receive from the LORD’s hand while verses 10-14 explain what Edom has done to earn such judgment. Verses 15-16 pivot from judgment on Edom to “the Day of the LORD,” which will bring judgment upon all nations. But verses 17-21 proclaim salvation for Israel, who are the “children of promise.”
This is not a popular message. It wasn’t popular back then, and it isn’t today. Remember, true prophets were almost always rejected and despised. Judgment is a hard thing to talk about, but God is Holy and people are sinners who have become enemies of God. We do not honor him, we resist him and have set up our own little kingdoms where we have dominion and call the shots. There will be a day when each of us will need to give an account for our life.
But for the children of promise, there is salvation. They will look to Mount Zion, that holy mountain in Jerusalem where Jesus atoned for sin on the cross. Romans 9:6-8 tells us that “not all Israel is true Israel,” and Romans 11:13-18 points to Gentiles as “ingrafted branches” into the root of Israel. In the same way, Galatians 3:28-29 tells the glorious truth that because of the gospel, “There is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” The gospel truly is good news of great joy for all people.