THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET OBADIAH.
THE Scripture gives us no information concerning the life or death of this prophet, of the time when he lived, of his country, or his mission; all that the Jewish writers say concerning him is totally uncertain, and not at all to be relied upon. There is a great similarity in this small portion of his writings which remains, and what is contained in the forty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah; to which we refer the reader.
The destruction of Edom, for their pride, and for their wrong to Jacob. The salvation and victory of Jacob.
We have heard a rumour, &c.— See Jeremiah 49:14. Obadiah 1:3. Thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock] He that dwelleth, &c.—hath said in his heart, &c. St. Jerome informs us, that all the southern part of Palestine was full of caverns scooped out of the rocks, and of subterraneous abodes, where the inhabitants dwelt. The Edomites are here addressed by the prophet as inhabiting these caverns.
If thieves came, &c.— When thieves come to thee, when nightly robbers, when thou art laid to rest, will they not plunder as much as shall seem good to them? When the grape-gatherers shall come to thee, will they leave no grapes? Houbigant.
All the men, &c.— They have driven thee even to the border; all the men of thy confederacy have betrayed thee; have prevailed over thee: The men of thy peace, of thy bread, have spread a share under thee: There is no understanding in thee.
In the day that thou stoodest, &c.— Thou stoodest on the other side in the day that strangers, &c. The prophet considers the Chaldeans as preparing for the siege of Jerusalem, and demanding succours from the neighbouring people; particularly the Edomites.
But thou shouldest not have looked on— Houbigant reads the verbs in these verses in the imperative mood. Look not—rejoice not, &c. Instead of, Nor have laid hands on, &c. Obadiah 1:13. Houbigant reads, Be not thou sent against his army, when the day of his ruin is at hand. We have, under no affliction or calamity, more need of support and assistance from the good Spirit of God how to behave ourselves, than in those seasons, when they who have most maliciously persecuted us, and are in all considerations very bad men, fall under some extraordinary misery, and suffer as much as they desired to see us suffer. Thou shouldest not have rejoiced over the children of Judah, &c. If our joy has a mixture of insolence toward the persons of those who suffer (how justly soever), as men who have done us wrong, and so we are glad of their misery as a revenge for what they have done against us, we exceed our commission, and have no kind of warrant for such rejoicing. No degree of malice, or ill nature, or wickedness in other men, can excuse us for a defect of that charity and meekness and compassion, which ought ever to be inseparable from our religion.
For as ye have drunk, &c.— For as I have given my wine to drink in my holy mountain, so, &c.
The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions— Shall possess what they had before possessed; that is to say, their return from the Babylonish captivity.
And the captivity of this host— And those very children of Israel, who had been captives to the Canaanites, even to Zarephath, and the captives of Jerusalem, who shall have been in Sepharad, [that is to say, as some suppose, a province of Babylon] shall possess, &c. Houbigant. The prophet here foretels what might seem almost incredible; namely, that those very Jews who shall go into captivity, shall hereafter possess all the countries here mentioned; particularly those of the Edomites, whose kingdom they should destroy. All which, by universal agreement, was fulfilled in the primary sense under the Maccabees, who are literally meant by the saviours or deliverers mentioned in the next verse: but these were types of the Lord Jesus Christ and his Gospel ministers, and of the increase of his work unto the establishment of his universal reign.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, The vision of Obadiah concerning Edom, the inveterate enemy of God's people of old, and probably the type and figure of all the antichristian foes, whether Papal, Pagan, or Mahometan, which, like these of old, shall utterly be destroyed at the last.
1. An ambassador is sent among the heathen, to gather them together to battle against Idumea; either the prophet, or some other minister of Providence, or a herald dispatched by Nebuchadnezzar to summon his warriors to assemble, and his confederates to come to his assistance; see Jeremiah 49:14-15 for when God has work to do, he has in his hands instruments ever ready.
2. Edom shall be ruined, and all her confidences shall fail, for God is her enemy. Her heathen neighbours shall treat her as little and contemptible; and, though she flatters herself that they have the same high opinion of her as she has of herself, her pride hath deceived her, as it generally does those who fancy that others value them as much as they do themselves. She thought, because her situation was strong, amid high rocks, where nature as well as art contributed to her security, that she could there defy the impotent attacks of all her foes. Thus sinners, secure in self-confidence, despise the wrath which is ready to overtake them: but, though she was as high on the rock as the eagle's nest, yea, though her battlements reached to the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the Lord, before whose judgments the proudest sinner cannot stand. Her wealth shall become a prey to her enemies; and the ravages of the Chaldeans shall utterly spoil the country. Though robbers by night plunder a house, they leave some things behind, and the most careful grape-gatherers cannot glean every cluster; but these shall ransack every secret place, and spare nothing, leaving the land bare as a rock. Do the Edomites place dependence on their allies? they will disappoint their expectations: though they received their ambassadors with respect, and attended them to their borders, or joined their forces as auxiliaries, and marched to the borders of Edom as if to fight their enemies, receiving subsidies and provision from the Edomites, and pretending firm attachment to their cause, yet will they betray it, desert to their invaders, and turn their arms against those who hired them; who, while they lean on them as a support, shall feel from their pretended friendly arm, a secret mortal wound. Not all the wisdom of their wise men, nor the courage of their warriors, will then be able to avail them: God hath infatuated the counsels of the one, and panic fear seizes the others, doomed to the slaughter; so that not a man of them shall escape. Thus when God contends, he will surely overcome: our wisdom will prove folly, our strength weakness, our confidence delusion, when he is our foe.
2nd, If Edom's doom be heavy, her sins have provoked it; and, amidst all the other iniquities of that devoted people, none come deeper into the account than their violence against their brother Jacob, whose relation to them by blood, and the peculiar favour which God had shewn him, should have engaged their affection and assistance in the day of calamity; but too often we see that nearest relations shew us the least regard.
1. They had, with most malicious enmity, rejoiced in the ruin of Israel; and, in a variety of instances, helped forward their distress. God tells them what they should not have done, and therein upbraids them with what they had done. Instead of affording the Jews a friendly hand, or at least commiserating their calamity, and dropping a tear of tender compassion over their afflictions, they stood on the other side, not merely unconcerned spectators, but pleased with the scene, and helping forward the ruin of Jerusalem, when the Chaldeans entered the city, led the inhabitants captive, and divided the spoil; nay, they insulted the unhappy sufferers, and mocked at their distress. Eager to plunder, they rushed with the besiegers into the city, and pillaged whatever they laid their hands upon; and, with savage inhumanity, stood in the cross-way to seize the few who escaped from the Chaldean sword, and murdered them in cold blood, or delivered them up to their cruel enemies. For such atrocious wickedness,
2. Vengeance, such as their crimes deserved, descends upon them. The day of the Lord, that great and terrible day of wrath, approaches, when he will recompense the wickedness of the heathen, and Edom shall drink deep of the cup of his indignation. Since judgment had begun at the house of God, Edom must not think to escape! As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee; when other heathen nations are destroyed, Edom shall fall in the general ruin; and, while the Jews were only captives for a while, and would be again restored, and preserved still as a people, the Edomites' shame would be continual; they shall be cut off for ever, and be as though they had not been, their nation extirpated, and not a trace of them remaining. And thus shall the enemies of Christ and his church be at last destroyed for ever; and every antichristian foe shall be cast as a millstone into the sea, and sink, and never rise up again. Revelation 18:21.
3rdly, The same cloud, which looked so dark and terrible toward the Egyptians, afforded brightness and comfort to Israel's camp. Thus the destruction of the church's enemies, before threatened, is accompanied with great and precious promises to her friends, in which, to the latest ages, they may rejoice.
1. Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance. God will raise up a deliverer for them in distress, as, Cyrus, and afterwards Judas Maccabaeus; but a greater deliverance than these seems here intended, even that which Jesus hath obtained for his faithful people from the bondage of Satan, sin, and death.
2. And there shall be holiness, in the Gospel church, in consequence of the deliverance obtained for them: all Christ's faithful people shall partake of the sanctifying influences of his Spirit, and be made pure within; this being a distinguished part of the salvation which he has wrought, that we should be delivered from sin, as well as guilt and punishment.
3. The church of true believers shall be extended far and wide. The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions; as was spiritually the case when, by the preaching of the ministers of the Gospel, the gentiles gave themselves up unto the Lord: then, like fire, the word of God spread on every side, the hearts of sinners were pierced, their most beloved sins consumed, and the borders of the church were then greatly enlarged: and they shall continue to be so, till at last they shall spread from pole to pole; when the saviours, those who publish the glad tidings of salvation, shall go forth, clothed with divine energy, convincing men of sin, and turning them unto the Lord; and then the kingdoms of the world shall become the kingdoms of the Lord and his Christ.
Some suppose that the prophesy refers also to the conversion of the Jews in the last days, and to their return to their own land: that their borders will then be greatly enlarged; and, judgment being executed upon all the persecuting powers, Papal, Pagan, and Mahometan, Christ shall reign on mount Zion, and over his ancients gloriously. This, however, at least we are sure of, that the day of the Lord will come, which shall burn as an oven, when all the proud persecutors, and all who do wickedly, shall be consumed together, and God's despised and persecuted but faithful saints shall reign with Jesus their king in glory everlasting.