Part I. THE DESTRUCTION OF EDOM, AND THE CAUSE THEREOF.
§ 1. The heathen nations are summmoned to take vengeanee on Edom. In spite of her impregnable position, they shall bring her low and strip her of her wealth, being aided and encouraged by her own allies.
The vision of Obadiah. This is the title of the book, declaring from whom and through whom the revelation comes (Isaiah 1:1). Under the word "vision" in prophetic language is included, not only what the seer saw, the mental picture presented to his inner senses, but also all that he is commissioned to disclose or enunciate. Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom. The prophet declares that God speaks through him. One might have expected that the actual words of Jehovah would follow here instead of tidings heard from him. And this difficulty has led some to suppose these introductory words spurious or the insertion of a later hand, others to include them and the rest of the verse in a parenthesis, so as to begin the "vision" with God's words in Obadiah 1:2. But these suggestions are unnecessary. The prophet, as the mouthpiece of God, calls his own words the message of the Lord—signifies that what had been revealed to his mind he was bound to communicate to others as a direct warning from God. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, and bound by ties of blood to the Israelites; but they had always been their most bitter enemies (Amos 1:11). They are regarded as a type of the powers of the world hostile to true religion, whose end is destruction. We have heard. "We"—I myself and other prophets; or the Judaeans, the prophet identifying himself with his countrymen. Septuagint, ἤκουσα, I heard, so Jeremiah 49:14; Arabic, "ye have heard." A rumour; a report (Isaiah 53:1); ἀκοὴν; auditum (Vulgate). It means here "tidings" (comp. Matthew 24:6, ἀκοαί πολέμων: and Romans 10:16, Romans 10:17). An ambassador; a messenger; as though the prophet saw the minister of God's wrath going forth among the heathen to rouse them to war against Edom. Perowne thinks that there is an allusion to the composite character of Nebuchadnezzar's army with which he attacked the Edomites. The Septuagint renders, περιοχήν: so the Syriac, Chaldee, and Symmachus translate "message." This rendering is explained by the following clause. The heathen (goyim); the nations, as Jeremiah 49:2, Jeremiah 49:15. Arise ye, and let us rise. This has been taken as if "arise ye" were the herald's message, and "let us rise" the response of the nations echoing his words; but it is more forcible to consider the whole clause as the message, the ambassador joining himself with the heathen as their leader and comrade in the war of vengeance. Jeremiah 49:1-9 are incorporated in Jeremiah 49:7-22.
Behold, I have made thee small. Here is the effect of the summons. So in Jeremiah 49:15, "For, lo, I will make thee small." Jehovah is the Speaker, and he regards the future as past. What he determines is as good as accomplished. At this time the Edomites were a powerful nation, and possessed an almost impregnable seat at Petra. Small; in numbers, territory, honour.
Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:4
Edom had prided herself in the strength of her position; but this shall not secure her from destruction when the Lord wars against her.
Hath deceived; Septuagint, ἐπῆρε, "elated;" Vulgate, extulit. The pointing varies. In Obadiah 1:7 Jerome translates the word by illudere. The clefts; Septuagint, ὀπαῖς: Vulgate, scissuris. The word occurs in the parallel passage, Jeremiah 49:16, and in So Jeremiah 2:14, where it has the meaning of "refuge." Of the rook. This may be Sela, or Petra, as 2 Kings 14:7. The country inhabited by the Edomites lay on the eastern side of the Arabah, and extended from the south end of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf. It was a region of mountain and valley, difficult, and in many parts inaccessible from the west. Rock-hewn dwellings are found everywhere in those hills, the Edomites, when they expelled the aboriginal Troglodytes (Deuteronomy 2:12, Deuteronomy 2:22), having adopted their habitations and excavated new ones on the same model throughout the whole district. These were useful, not only as being secure from hostile attack, hut as cool retreats in the summer of that scorching tract, and offering a warm shelter in winter when fuel was scarce. Petra, the capital, lay completely hidden at the end of a rocky defile some two miles long, and could easily be defended against an enemy by a handful of men. (For a description of this remarkable place, see the Introduction, § I.)
Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle. The Hebrew gives "nest" as the subject of both clauses, thus: "Though thou exaltest … and settest thy nest." Job (Job 39:27, Job 39:28) speaks of the eagle making its nest in the highest rocks. The metaphor is found in Numbers 24:21; Habakkuk 2:9. Will I bring thee down (Amos 9:3). The seizure of Petra by the Nabathaeans is the judgment referred to in this part of the prophecy; the complete ruin is mentioned later (Habakkuk 2:18, etc.).
Obadiah 1:5, Obadiah 1:6
To prove the completeness of the destruction that shall befall Eden, the prophet supposes two eases of despoiling in which something would be left behind. It will be far worse than any mere raid of thieves; nothing will be spared.
Thieves... robbers. The former are ordinary thieves who pilfer secretly; the latter are robbers who act with violence, or members of a marauding expedition. How art thou cut off! An interposed ejaculation of the prophet, sympathizing with the Edomites for the utter desolation which he sees in vision. Septuagint, ποῦ ἄν ἀπεῤῥίφης; "Where wouldst thou have been east away?" taking a different reading; Vulgate, Quomodo conticuisses? "How wouldst thou have been silent?" i.e. for fear. Till they had enough. Would they not have taken such plunder as they wanted, and then decamped? The grape gatherers would leave some bunches untouched, which escaped their notice. There is no reference to the charitable law in Le 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21, which would not affect, or be known unto, these grape plunderers.
Obadiah contemplates Eden's ruin, in retribution of her plundering Jerusalem, and speaks of it as past. How are the things of Esau searched out! literally, how are the things searched out, Esau! i.e. the people and property that belong to Esau. The enemy leave no place unexamined. So in Zephaniah 1:12 the Lord says, "I will search Jerusalem with candles." (For "Esau" as equivalent to "Eden," see Genesis 25:30.) His hidden things (matspon, ἅπαξ λεγόμενον); hidden treasures; Septuagint, τὰ κεκρυμμένα αὐτοῦ. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:10) gives, "secret places." Keil notes that Petra was a great emporium of the trade between Arabia and Syria, and that in it great treasures were stored (Diod. Sic; 19.95).
In this dire calamity Eden shall be deserted by her friends and allies—a punishment for her behaviour to her sister Judah. The men of thy confederacy. The LXX. and the Vulgate annex these words to the following clause. The allies intended may be Moab, Ammon, Tyre, and Zidon, who joined together to resist Nebuchadnezzar, and were smitten by him (Jeremiah 27:3); or, as Perowne thinks, the Chaldeans themselves, who, though the Edomites had aided in the attack on Jerusalem, afterwards turned against them. Have brought thee even to the border; Septuagint, ἕως τῶν ὁρίων ἐξαπέστειλάν σε, "They sent thee forth unto thy borders;" Vulgate, Usque ad terminum emiserunt ii. Keil and others explain this to mean that the Edomites send ambassadors to their allies, asking help, but these messengers are conducted back to the frontier with their request not granted, because the allies are unwilling to entangle themselves in the fate of Eden. It is easier to understand the passage in this way—Thy very allies have assisted the enemy in ex-polling thee from thy borders, and refusing to receive fugitives who came to them. The men that were at peace with thee. Either the same as "the men of thy confederacy," or the neighbouring Arabian tribes who resorted to Petra for commercial reasons (comp. 4:17). The phrase here, literally, the men of thy peace, is found in Psalms 41:9 and Jot. Psalms 38:22. Have deceived thee, by not bringing the expected help; and have prevailed against thee, by actual violence. They that eat thy bread. The Hebrew is simply, "thy bread," i.e. the men of thy bread. Vulgate, qui comedunt tecum; the LXX. omits the words. The expression (comp. Psalms 41:9) implies the closest friendship, especially in Eastern lands, where such a tie is of general obligation. Have laid a wound under thee; rather, lay a snare under thee; Septuagint, ἔθηκαν ἔνερα ὑποκάτω σου, "they set snares under thee;" Vulgate, ponent insidias subter te (comp. Psalms 69:22). Another interpretation is this: "As thy bread (which they as friends were bound to offer) they lay a sling under thee," i.e. prepare an ambush for thee, like Jael did for Sisera. Pusey notes the climax in this verse—not confederates only, but friends; not friends only, but familiar friends, indebted to them. Those banded with them should expel them from their country; those at peace should prevail against them in war; those who ate their bread should requite them with treachery. There is none understanding in him; i.e. in Edom. The shock of this defection of allies and the sudden destruction that has overwhelmed them have deprived the Edomites of their wonted sagacity and prudence. They know not whither to turn or what to do. The following verse expands this thought.
Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:9
Their vaunted wisdom and their boasted courage shall fail, for God shall take them away. "Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat."
In that day; when Edom is abandoned by its friends. Destroy the wise men out of Edom. God shall take their wisdom from them, so that they shall be no more able to offer prudent counsel or suggest plans of safety (Isaiah 19:11-16; Isaiah 29:14; Isaiah 47:12, Isaiah 47:13). The Edomites were celebrated for wisdom or practical philosophy. Mount of Esau (Obadiah 1:9, Obadiah 1:19, Obadiah 1:21). Mount Seir—a designation of Edom from the nature of the country.
O Teman; Septuagint, οἱ ἐκ θαιμάν, "those from Thaeman;" Vulgate, a meridic, taking the word as an appellative; so the Chaldee. The southern district of Idumea was so called (see note on Amos 1:12). One of Job's friends, and the cleverest of them, was a Temanite (Job 2:11). To the end that. This judicial blindness is inflicted in order that all may perish. By slaughter. Murder at the hands of the enemy. The LXX; Vulgate, and Syriac connect these words with the following verse. But the Masoretic punctuation, as in the Anglican Version, is doubtless correct (see Keil).
§ 2. The cause of Edom's destruction. This punishment falls upon her as the result of the malice and unfriendliness which she has displayed to wards Israel in the time of calamity, in that she rejoiced at her sister's disaster and took part with her enemies.
For thy violence against thy brother Jacob. The special action to which Obadiah alludes, and which he particularizes in the following verses, occurred at the time of the invasion of Judaea by Philistines and Arabians during the reign of Jehoram, when the Edomites sided with the enemy, and acted as the prophet intimates (2 Chronicles 21:16, etc.; see Introduction, § III.). The iniquity of such conduct is aggravated by the fact that the victim was the "brother Jacob," who was commanded not to hate the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7). This enjoined friendship was not reciprocated by the descendants of Esau. Whether from envy at the superior privileges of Israel, or from other causes, the Edomites, from the time of Moses, had always been actively hostile to the Israelites. They had been subdued by David, but had lately rebelled and scoured their independence, and were always looking for an opportunity of revenging themselves on their conquerors (comp. Amos 1:11; Ezekiel 25:12; Ezekiel 35:5). Shame shall cover thee. Shame for the destruction that hath overtaken thee (Micah 7:10). Thou shalt be cut off forever (comp. Malachi 1:4; see Introduction, § I.). Terrible retribution fell on Idumea in the time of the Maccabees (see 1 Macc. 5:3; 2 Macc. 10:15, etc.; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12.8. 1), Before that time they had been dispossessed of Petra by the Nabathaeans.
The injuries complained of were committed lately, and the prophet could speak of them as well known (see note on Obadiah 1:10). In the day that thou stoodest; literally, in the day of thy standing, without note of time, but implying a past event here. On the other side. The words may denote either malicious unconcern, as Psalms 38:11 (12), or hostile opposition, as 2 Samuel 18:13. Besides the direct application to recent events, the clause intimates the usual attitude of the Edomites toward Israel. In the day that the strangers—Philistines and Arabians (2 Chronicles 21:16)—carried away captive his forces; rather, carried array his substance, as 2 Samuel 18:13; Genesis 34:29; Deuteronomy 8:17; Isaiah 8:4. Foreigners. The same as "strangers." Both words are usually applied to heathen enemies. Cast lots upon Jerusalem. Divided the captives and spoil of Jerusalem by lot (2 Chronicles 21:17; comp. Joel 3:3 10; Nab. Joel 3:10). Nothing is said of the total destruction of Jerusalem or the wholesale deportation of the inhabitants to Babylon, So that Obadiah cannot be referring to the Chaldean conquest. Thou wast as one of them; literally, thou, too, as one of them. In this expression the past is set before the mind as present.
The prophet complains of the malignant neutrality of the Edomites. Thou shouldest not have looked. In this and the two following verses, al with the future is wrongly translated. It should be rendered throughout, "do not look," "do not rejoice," etc. Obadiah, in view of the past behaviour of Edom, and looking forward to another and more fatal conquest of Jerusalem, warns the Edomitas against repeating this malicious conduct. Septuagint, μὴ ἐπίδης. Gaze not with pleasure, feast not thine eyes (Micah 7:10). The day of thy brother; i.e. when some great event befell him—explained further in the next clause. Compare "the day of Jerusalem" (Psalms 137:7). In the day that he became a stranger; Septuagint, ἐν ἡμέρα ἀλλοτρίων, "in the day of strangers;" Vulgate, in die peregrinationis ejus. The Anglican and Vulgate Versions signify, "in the day that he was carried captive into strange lands;" but most probably the expression should be rendered, "in the day of his calamity." Rejoiced over (comp. Job 31:29; Proverbs 17:5; Micah 7:8). Spoken proudly; literally, make thy mouth great; Septuagint, μὴ μεγαλοῤῥημονῇ, "do not boast;" Vulgate, non magnificabis os tuum. Utter a flood of mocking words, probably accompanied with derisive grimaces. There is a climax in this verse—first the complacent look, then the malicious pleasure, then words of insult and derision.
In this verse it is the making common cause with the enemy in the plundering of Jerusalem that is complained of. Thou shouldest not have entered. Do not enter; so below, "do not look," "lay not hands" (see note on Obadiah 1:12). The gate of my people; i.e. Jerusalem, the capital, as Micah 1:9. In the day of their calamity, repeated thrice with sorrowful emphasis, as making the Edomites' conduct more reproachful. Yea, thou shouldest not have looked. Hebrew, "look not thou also"—thou, as well as the alien enemies. What is natural in them is a crime in thee (comp. Psalms 22:17). Their affliction; Septuagint, τὴν συναγωγὴν αὐτῶν, "their gathering"—a different reading from the Masoretic. Substance, as in Micah 1:11. This was a further aggravation; they helped to plunder Jerusalem. Septuagint, μὴ μεγαλοῤῥημονῇ, "Do not set upon their host;" Vulgate, Et non emitteris adverus exercitum ejus. This implies a warning against being instigated by the enemy to attack the Jewish forces. But the rendering in the text is doubtless correct.
The climax of injury is the cutting off of fugitives, and delivering them into captivity. Neither shouldst thou have stood in the crossway; and stand not thou is the crossway. The Edomites, as neighbours, would know all the passes into the wilderness by which the Judaeans would seek to escape. Neither shouldst thou have delivered up; and deliver not up; Septuagint, νηδὲ συγκλείσῃς,, "shut not up;" Vulgate, et non concludes. So Pusey, "shut not up," i.e. with the enemy, driving them back upon their pursuers (comp. Psalms 31:8). The Hebrew word implies both meanings—"to deliver over to confinement;" and the meaning here is—do not seize on the people to give them over into captivity (comp. Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9). Those of his that did remain. Those whom the invaders had spared.
Obadiah 1:15, Obadiah 1:16
§ 3. The warning given in the first section (vers, 1-9) is supplemented by the announcement that in the day of the Lord, Edom and all the enemies of Israel shall be remembered, and shall suffer just retribution, meeting with the fate which they had inflicted on others.
The day of the Lord. This is not primarily the final day of judgment, but the time when "Jehovah reveals his majesty and omnipotence in a glorious manner, to overthrow all ungodly powers, and to complete his kingdom" (Keil). It is announced by Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1, Joel 2:31; Zephaniah 1:14; but the notion of a judgment to fall on Gentile nations, and to issue in the establishment of the kingdom of God, was familiar long before. Balaam had seen it in dim vision (Numbers 24:17-24); Hannah had anticipated the destruction that would accompany it (1 Samuel 2:9, 1 Samuel 2:10); so had David (2 Samuel 23:5-7) in his last words; it is clearly predicted in the Psalms (see Psalms 2:1-12 and Psalms 110:1-7.) (Knabenbauer). Is near. Because every such judgment upon individual nations is typical of the great day and preparative of it. As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee (comp. 1:7; Psalms 137:8; Jeremiah 50:15). This law of retribution was the ideal of heathen justice, according to the Rhadamanthian rule, "If a man should suffer what he hath done, then there would be strict justice" (Aristotle, 'Eth. Nic.' 5.5. 3). Thy reward (Joel 3:7 [4:7, Hebrew]; better, that which thou hast performed—thy work or dealing, Upon thine own head. Like a stone cast towards heaven (comp. Psalms 7:16; Esther 9:25).
As ye have drunk. There are two interpretations of this passage. By the first, the people addressed are considered to be the Jews, and the word "drunk" is taken metaphorically in both clauses (see note on Nahum 3:11). The meaning is then this—As ye Jews, who are upon my holy mountain, the people of election, have not escaped from suffering the wrath of God, so all the nations shell feel the same, and that to a much more terrible extent. Confirmatory of this explanation is the language of Jeremiah, who (Jeremiah 25:15-29) bids all the nations to drink the cup of God's wrath, beginning at Jerusalem and passing on to Edom, and then says, in answer to any who refuse the offered draught, "Lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished?" The same notion is found also in Jeremiah 49:12 and Lamentations 4:21, etc. But there are objections to this view of the passage. The previous verse enunciated the doctrine of retribution; this verse confirms the former with the words, "for as ye," etc. It would be no proof of the lex talionis on the Edomites to cite what had happened to the Jews. What is wanted is an assertion that what they had done should be repaid to them in like coin, Besides, the prophecy is nominally addressed to the Edomites, not to the Jews, and it would he most harsh to change the subject suddenly here. "Upon my mountain" cannot be equivalent to "ye who are upon my mountain;" nor is such an expression ever used to signify "Judaeans." It is best, therefore, to take the clause as referring to the Edomites and their comrades, who, after their victory, indulged in unseemly revelry, and profaned the mountain hallowed by God's presence in the temple with their idolatrous festival The "drinking" in this first clause is literal; in the following clause it is figurative. Septuaguint, ἔπιες, "thou didst drink," which makes the connection of the subject here with that in Lamentations 4:15 more evident, and it has probably been altered by the translators for that purpose. So shall all the heathen drink continually. The prophet plays on the word "drink." The nations shall drink, not wine, but the wrath of God (Psalms 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15). The nations are spoken of here because Edom is taken as a type of all nations hostile to God, and the retribution that falls on him is extended to all who assume his attitude towards God's people (Keil). Continually; Vulgate, jugiter, perpetually, in uninterrupted succession. The LXX. has οἶνον, by a mistaken reading. They shall swallow down; drink a full draught; Septuagint, καταβήσονται, they shall go down." They shall be as though they had not been. They shall drain the wrath of God till they utterly perish, till, as nations, they exist no more (comp. Ezekiel 26:21; Ezekiel 27:36). Septuagint, καθὼς οὐχ ὑπάρχοντες, as if not, being" (comp. Ecclus. 38:11; 44:9). (For the accomplishment of this prophecy against Edom, see Introduction, § L)
Part II. THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.
§ 1. While judgment falls upon heathen nations, the house of Jacob shall be delivered, shall add to its possessions, and spread far and wide.
Upon Mount Zion. Once desecrated by the idolatrous revelry of the Edomites and the other nations, now the seat of Jehovah (Joel 3:17) and the kingdom. Deliverance (peletah); Septuagint, σωτηρία. Abstract for concrete, and to be rendered, "those that escape," or "those that are saved;" i.e. a remnant that shall escape destruction (comp. Joel 2:32; Amos 9:8). There shall be holiness; rather, it (Mount Zion) shall be holy; so Septuagint, καὶ ἔσται ἄγιον: Hebrew, kodesh, "a sanctuary," where the heathen shall not come (Isaiah 52:1; comp. Joel 3:17 [4:17, Hebrew]; Revelation 21:27). The house of Jacob. Judah and Benjamin, the holy seed, in whom the kingdom of the Lord should be established (comp. Obadiah 1:18). The northern kingdom is not mentioned. Shall possess their possessions; Septuagint, κατακληρονομήσουσιν ὁ οἶκος ἰακὼβ τοὺς κατακληρονομὴσουσιν ὁ αὐτούς, "The house of Jacob shall take for an inheritance those who took them for an inheritance;" Vulgate, Possidebit domus Jacob eos qui se possederant. These versions must have used a different punctuation from that of the Masoretic text—morishehem for morashehom (comp. Numbers 24:18, Numbers 24:19). The Hebrew pronoun is ambiguous, and "their possessions" may mean either those that the Jews themselves had lost, or those of the Edomites. But nothing is said of Israel being carried away captive and losing its country; and, though the prophet may have looked forward to such a catastrophe and to a future restoration, thin is not the subject here. The possessions referred to are those of the enemy represented by the Edomites, and those which the Jews had lost since the days of David and Solomon; and "the house of Jacob" signifies, not merely the earthly kingdom of Judah, but "the people of God, who are eventually to obtain the dominion of the world" (Keil); Mark 16:15.
The last clause of the preceding verse is here expanded and more fully explained. The house of Jacob … the house of Joseph. The kingdoms of Judah and Israel, the two and the ten tribes united once more, In Psalms 77:15 the whole people are called "the sons of Jacob and Joseph." So elsewhere. The reunion of the tribes is mentioned in Hosea 1:11; Ezekiel 37:19; Zechariah 10:6. The future salvation is to be for all. For stubble, which the Israelites used rather than wood for lighting fires and heating ovens (Matthew 6:30). (For the image of fire consuming the ungodly as stubble, see Exodus 15:7; Isaiah 5:24; Nahum 1:10.) They shall kindle in them. This may mean, the Israelites "shall burn among" the Edomites; but more probably is merely a repetition of what has gone before: the Jews shall consume the Edomites. There shall not be any remaining. This refers to the total annihilation of the Edomites under John Hyrcauus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12.8. 6; 13.9, 1), and is a punishment quite distinct from their defeat at the hands of the Nabathaeans predicted in verses 1-9 (see Introduction, § I.). The LXX. gives, οὐκ ἕσται πυροφόρος ( τυρφόρος, Alex.); St. Jerome reads, πυροφόρος, which he translated frumentarius. Many of the Fathers read, πυρφόρος: thus, too, the Arabic and Coptic Versions. Schleusner, sub voce, thinks that the LXX. had in view the Greek proverb, οὐδέ πυρφόρος, which is used to express the idea that not even a single survivor remains (see Herod; 8.6). For the Lord hath spoken it (Joel 3:8).
Judah and Benjamin between them shall possess the whole territory that once belonged to the children of Israel. In Joshua 15:21, Joshua 15:33, Joshua 15:48, the inheritance of Judah is distributed into three portions—the south, the plain, and the mountains; the same divisions are noticeable here (see note on Zechariah 7:7). They of the south. The inhabitants of the Negeb, "the dry country" the southern part of Judah, shall take possession of Idumea (Amos 9:12). They of the plain. Of the Shephelah, or "low land"—the maritime plain and the country held by the Philistines (2 Chronicles 28:18; Zephaniah 2:7). And they shall possess. The Judaeans not already mentioned, i.e. those of the mountains, shall take the territory of the ten tribes. The fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria. The country, and the capital. Septuagint, τὸ ὄρος εφραὶμ καὶ τὸ πεδίον σαμαρείας, "the Mount of Ephraim and the Plain of Samaria." Others translate, "Ephraim shall possess the field of Samaria," considering that otherwise Ephraim would be excluded from the restored kingdom, and Judah would inherit the territory of Ephraim, in violation of the covenant. But the Israelites proper were merged in the Judaeans at the return; and if Benjamin possesses Gilead, it is not unnatural that Judah should extend northward to Samaria. And Benjamin shall possess Gilead. Benjamin, the other portion of the house of Jacob, whose territory originally reached to the river, shall possess all the territory on the other side of Jordan. Thus the restored people shall, in accordance with the promise in Genesis 28:14, "spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south" (comp. Isaiah 54:1-3). Obadiah sees the twelve tribes, once more united, extending their territory on every side; and, to make this evident, he gives certain examples, using Judah and Benjamin as equivalent to "the people of God," and their enlargement as denoting the majestic progress of the kingdom of God.
And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; Septuagint, καὶ τῆς μετοικεσίας ἡ ἀρχὴ αὔτη τοῖς υἱοῖς ισραὴλ γῆ τῶν χαναναίων ἕως σαρεπτῶν, "And this shall be the beginning of the captivity of the children of Israel, the land of the Canaanites as far as Sarepta." This would imply that the Ephraimitas should be the first to go into exile, and on their return should occupy the territory of the Canaanites on the north. But ἀρχὴ may mean "domain." Vulgate, Et transmigratio exercitus hujus filiorum Israel, omnia loca Chananaeorum usque ad Sareptam. The general meaning is that Jewish captives, who have been taken to other lands, shall return and possess the cities of the south. The sentence in the Hebrew is incomplete. Our translators supply, "shall possess." Pusey renders, "which are among the Canaanites;" and this seems to be correct, making "shall possess the cities of the south" the predicate of both clauses. So the first portion of the verse means, as Henderson says, the number of Israelitish captives which were found in Phoenicia, into which they had been sold at different times as slaves (comp. Obadiah 1:11, Obadiah 1:14; Joel 3:6, Joel 3:7). This host. Not a general deportation, but only the portion of the people referred to. From this expression some have inferred that Obadiah himself was one of this body. This is possible, but not necessary. The captives who are among the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; as far as Zarephath, were probably placed there for safe keeping before being sold into Greece and other countries. Zarepbath ("Melting house"), the Sarepta of St. Luke (Luke 4:26), now Surafend or Sarafend, and celebrated in the history of Elijah (1 Kings 17:9, etc.), lay between Tyre and Sidon, a little inland, and was a town of some importance, as its ruins prove. The captivity of Jerusalem. The captives from Jerusalem. Which is in Sepharad; Septuagint, ἕως ἐφραθά "as far as Ephrathah;" Vulgate, quae in Bosphoro est. The name occurs nowhere else in the Bible, and its identification cannot be established. Jerome suggests, in his commentary, that it is the Assyrian for "boundary," and not a proper name at all. The Peshito and the rabbins And modern Jews interpret it as "Spain." Keil supposes it to be "Sparta;" Pusey, "Sardis." For this last explanation some ground has been found in an inscription of Nakshi-Rustam, where a place called Cparda occurs in a list of tribes between Cappadocia and Ionia; and Cparda is considered to be the Persian form of Sardis. A further confirmation of this identification is found in the complaint of Joel
. The judges had a twofold character—they were deliverers and governors, as in the present ease. Here the immediate reference is to Zerubbabel and the valiant Maccabees, who severely punished the Idumeans (2 Macc. 10:15, etc.; Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13.9. 1). But all these "saviours" are types and forerunners of the Messiah, "the Saviour which is Christ the Lord?" Shall come up. Not from exile, but simply as ascending a hill, and taking their seat there. Mount Zion. The seat of the kingdom of God, in contrast with "the mount of Esau," the type of the enemies of Israel and of God. To judge; LXX; τοῦ ἐκδικῆσαι, "to take vengeance on." But the "judging" is not only the taking of vengeance on Edom and that which it represents, the expression includes the notion of governing; so that the prophet looks forward to the time when the heathen shall submit themselves to the dominion of the people of God, and, as the following clause foretells, "the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ" (Revelation 11:15). The kingdom shall be the Lord's. No earthly accomplishment could fulfil this great announcement. The kingdom can be Jehovah's; he can show himself as Ruler of the world, and be acknowledged as such by the nations, only under Christ. This is "the sceptre of Judah" of which Jacob spoke (Genesis 49:10); this is the throne of David which was to be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16); this is what all the prophets fore, w, what we are still expecting, what we daily pray for, as we say, "thy kingdom come"—when "the Lord shall be King over all the earth, and there shall be one Lord, and his name one" (Zechariah 14:9).
The servant of Jehovah.
The names given by the Hebrews were usually significant. The appellation of this prophet was very commonly used, and is indicative of the fervid and practical piety of the Israelitish people. Obadiah means "the Servant or Worshipper of Jehovah."
I. THE NAME IS DESCRIPTIVE OF PERSONAL PIETY. Whilst the ungodly and irreligious are servants of sin, the pious are emphatically the Lord's bondsmen and devotees.
1. Piety involves relation to a living God. The personality of the Deity is assumed in this designation.
2. Piety is practical in its character. The Lord's people offer service to him whom they profess to revere, consecrating their powers to secure the ends which are approved by him.
3. Piety is voluntary and cheerful in its nature. In a sense all men are under Divine authority. But the giving of a name like this implies a distinction among men, a willing devotion on the part of the pious to the holy service of the Supreme.
II. THE NAME IS DESCRIPTIVE OF OFFICIAL RELATION AND ACTIVITY. It is true that there are those who are incapacitated for service, who yet are God's in heart. "They also serve who only stand and wait." Yet, in the case of men possessed of ordinary faculties, and enjoying ordinary opportunities, the felt obligation will express itself in obedience and in zeal and energy.
1. The servant of the Lord receives his instructions from his Master, with whom he is in intimate communication.
2. The servant of the Lord is the agent in conveying the Master's will to his fellow men. This was especially the vocation of the prophet, who spoke forth the mind of the Almighty to the righteous and to the wicked, whether they would hear or forbear.
The designation sometimes given to the prophet, "the seer," corresponds with language which is in many places employed to denote the act of communion with God, by which the honoured servant was qualified for discharging his sacred office. The process and its results are thus brought very strikingly before our mind.
I. THE REVELATION. There is something to be seen, something which is hidden from the minds of ordinary men, something from which, therefore, the veil must be withdrawn, if the spiritual eye is to gaze upon it. How God makes himself, his character, his purposes, known to those whom he selects for this special privilege, we do not know. But, unless Scripture is misleading and deceptive, such a revelation has taken place. Especially to the prophets, things otherwise unseen, unknown, have been revealed.
II. THE INSIGHT. Unless there is an eye, the light shines in vain; indeed, light is but an undulation of ether which it needs the susceptible optic nerve to appreciate. And in order that God may make his counsels known to men, there must be not only objective revelation, but subjective inspiration. The spiritual faculty needs to be quickened, that in God's light we may see light. The action of the Holy Spirit upon the mind of the prophet brought that mind into a receptive state, so that the Divine rays occasioned human illumination. The prophet saw the mind, the will, the intentions, of the Eternal.
III. THE PROPHECY. Because the spiritual eye discerned the spiritual reality, the seer became the prophet. What his eyes had seen he was thus enabled to communicate for the information, the warning, the encouragement, of his fellow men.
Obadiah 1:3, Obadiah 1:4
The deceptiveness of human pride.
The prophecies of Obadiah were mainly addressed to the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, a wild and warlike people who inhabited the mountainous region to the south of the Dead Sea. Their hostility and treachery towards their kinsmen, the descendants of Israel, were the occasion of the threatenings with which this book abounds. Fancying themselves secure and impregnable in their singular mountain fastnesses, they deemed their neighbours altogether incapable of chastising their perfy and enmity. But man is only man, and not God; and this lesson Obadiah brings before the inhabitants of Idumea in the glowing and poetical language of the text.
I. SELF-EXALTATION. This was the state of mind in which the Edomites defied the people of Jehovah. Their homes were literally in the clefts of the rocks, where caves sheltered them at an elevation above those passing through the defile below, which seemed to secure their exemption from the assaults of their foes. They compared themselves with the eagle, which chooses the loftiest peaks for his dwelling place. Nay, they seemed to disdain the earth, and to dwell among the stars. All this is indicative of human pride. Men too often flatter themselves that physical strength, mental powers, social position, political alliances, raising them above the common herd, raise them also above the common lot.
II. SELF-CONFIDENCE. "Who," say the Edomites, "who shall bring us down to the ground?" Men measure their strength with their fellow men, and draw from the comparison most delusive conclusions. Because they are superior to one, they fancy themselves superior to all; and because they believe themselves above the reach of human enemies, they believe themselves above the reach of God himself. It is a sin to which strong natures are especially exposed. The powerful and the prosperous are tempted to place confidence both in their own wisdom and ability and in their own good fortune. But "let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
III. HUMILIATION. We are assured upon the highest authority that "a haughty spirit cometh before a fall." In the plenitude of their power and pride, the Edomites heard a voice from heaven saying, "I will bring thee down." A retributive providence is a reality. Even the heathen believed in Nemesis, and regarded boastfulness as tempting adversity. The instrument employed in humbling the proud may be human, as in the case of the Edomites, but the power that chastises is Divine. It is ever true under the government of God that he abases the proud and gives grace unto the lowly.
The treacherous betrayed.
The Edomites had turned against their own kinsmen, the children of Israel, had leagued with Israel's enemies, and aided in bringing about Israel's calamities. They had chosen for their allies heathen nations in their own vicinity, relying upon their fidelity and support. The prophet is inspired to assure them that the confederacies they have formed shall fail them, that the friends in whom they have trusted shall prove false, and that Edom shall suffer the reward of perfidy in desertion and subjection.
I. TO DESERT AND TO INJURE THE FRIENDS OF GOD IS TO INCUR THE DISPLEASURE OF GOD. The sons of Israel were the chosen and beloved people, and, notwithstanding their frequent unfaithfulness, they were the objects of Divine regard and interest and love. Those who attacked the Israelites attacked him who was in reality their King. Israel was a theocracy, and the anger of the King was enkindled against those who, like these Edomites, treated with injustice the beloved nation.
II. TO FORM A LEAGUE WITH GOD'S ENEMIES WILL NEVER CONDUCE TO PROSPERITY: THEY WILL BECOME INSTRUMENTS OF DIVINE RETRIBUTION. The Edomites were attacked, wounded, disgraced, and despised by the very people whose friendship they had courted in preference to that of God's own chosen nation. Their confidence was in vain; the prop upon which they leaned proved a spear to pierce them. Their fancied wisdom brought them to utter perplexity and ruin.
APPLICATION. No alliance with wicked men can serve any holy purpose. It may promise well, but the reality will not correspond with the promise. The friendship of sinners is illusive, seductive, and vain. "The companion of fools shall be destroyed."
Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:9
Wisdom and power of no avail against God.
Of all their possessions men are most prone to rely upon and to boast of their physical prowess and their intellectual sagacity. It is thought that great power, directed by consummate prudence and wisdom, is of all things earthly the most trustworthy, the most unfailing. Yet warnings are in Scripture often addressed to men to dissuade them from an undue confidence even in gifts and qualities so rare and admirable as these. The sons of Esau are in this passage admonished that, if they trust to their own wisdom and their own strength for safety, protection, and deliverance, their trust shall be disappointed.
I. HUMAN POWER AND WISDOM ARE ALWAYS IN THEMSELVES VERY LIMITED. What is the might of man when compared with the great forces of nature—the earthquake, the tempestuous sea, etc.? And before how many speculative difficulties and practical problems does the wisdom of man confess itself utterly baffled! It is strange that whilst, looking at the general law, men are always ready to confess their physical and intellectual impotency, when they come to particular cases calling for strength and wisdom they are so ready to confide in that which they have every reason to distrust.
II. HUMAN POWER AND WISDOM ARE OFTEN MISDIRECTED. Good in themselves, and admirable instances of the creative skill of God himself, these qualities are especially liable to abuse. Such is the case when power is employed in the cause of injustice and oppression, when wisdom is misused to defeat the designs of truth and charity. Often in the history of other nations than Edom has this misuse been exhibited. We are too prone to admire and extol strength and sagacity superior to our own; but