Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 48 Obadiah
Obad v.3,4 The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks and make your home on the heights, you who say to yourself, `Who can bring me down to the ground?’ Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,” declares the LORD.
The reader who comes to Obadiah for the first time might be excused for reading it and then thinking, “That’s it? Where’s the rest? Why are these two pages worthy of being included in the canon of Scripture?” These questions are even more pertinent when you realise that verses 1 to 4 at least appear almost as copies of Jeremiah 49:14-16. Did the Lord inspire him? Did Jeremiah inspire him? Did the Lord through Jeremiah inspire him? Questions even arise over the date of his writing. The only clue appears in verses 11 and 12 where Edom is accused of sitting back smugly when Judah and Jerusalem were pillaged. This together with the Jeremiah parallel would suggest some time after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC, and yet, it has been suggested before 553BC when Babylon came against Edom.
But then there is the very subject matter of these mere 21 verses – Edom. Edom was a territory in the mountains to the south east of the Dead Sea. Descended from Esau (see Gen 36:1,9,43), these blood relatives of Jacob (Israel) had historically opposed Israel, from the earliest days when they refused to let Israel pass through their land (see Num 20). When Judah and Jerusalem were ransacked by Nebuchadnezzar, it would appear that they looked down on them with no compassion and themselves felt they were impregnable in their mountain fortresses.
When the prophet refers to “The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rocks,” (v.3) it may be that he was speaking more specifically than just the fact that they lived in the mountains for Sela was the capital of Edom and perhaps later Petra, and both Sela and Petra mean “rock” or “cliff”, It was this pride that the Lord specifically spoke against (v.3,4) and because of that they too would be pillaged with nothing being left (see v.5,6). There in the mountain caves they hid their riches (v.6), but their friends and neighbours will turn against them (v.7). They thought they were so clever, so wise, but all that would be brought to an end (v.8). Their warriors, so adept at coming down from the mountains and marauding others, will be cut down (v.9).
And why is all this happening? “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob.” (v.10) Because, “you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.” (v.11) They clearly derided Judah and laughed over that had happened to them: “You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction, nor boast so much in the day of their trouble.” (v.12) Indeed they should not have gone down from their mountain fortresses and traveled up country to join in their downfall: “You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor look down on them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.” (v.13) But it was worse, for they had picked off random survivors: “You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.” (v.14)
Yes, the Lord had seen and catalogued all of their activity against His chosen people, and for that reason He was holding them accountable and declares this general principle in respect of His people: “The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.” (v.15) There it is spelled out so clearly for all history to see: what you do to Israel will be done to you! And if bad was done to Israel, destruction will come to those who bring it (v.16). Jerusalem will be blessed (v.17) and be the cause of the downfall of those who oppose them – starting with Edom! (v.18) Those who are presently in exile will return and will triumph and this land will be theirs (v.19-21).
So why did we choose v.3 & 4 as highlights in this shortest book of the Bible? Because pride and a false security (not based on the Lord) was at the heart of their actions, which led them to look down on God’s people and even work for their destruction, and this the Lord will not tolerate!
For us, it may not be so much that we either look down on or even speak against Israel (although both are wrong), so much as in this materialistic world we can gain a sense of false security from our ‘things’ and our affluence (certainly compared to large parts of the world) and even our history, and in so doing we fail to trust the Lord. True security only comes from truly trusting and knowing the Lord.