Obadiah: Reasons Why Nations Fail

Edom (from the word for ground or red in Hebrew) was a red-colored mountainous region with rock carved cities (now in the Kingdom of Jordan), where camel caravan traffic brought delicacies from the east to the west. They had a mixed history we should remember to set the scene for Obadiah’s prophecy of destruction on them. First, they were descendants of Esau, and as such they had an ongoing battle with the children of Israel. Moses long ago asked to pass through the territory on his way to the Promised Land, and the Edomites refused them passage and threatened them with arms (Num. 20:14-21). When the children of Israel were established in their land, Israel attacked Edom under King Saul (2 Sam. 8:14) and King David (2 Kings 8:20-22). As Israel grew weaker in the Divided Kingdom, Edom was able to shake free in independence at the time of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20-22, about 840 BCE).

The Kingdom of Edom was well known as a bastion of security. The cities were nearly impregnable. Their reputation in was battle fierce. They had natural barriers protecting them, as well as world class skilled defense systems for the time. Their thriving capital at Petra was carved out of rock, and eventually housed some of the most luxurious buildings that stood in the ancient Near East (a theatre for 2000, etc.). They were noted for their national pride (Prov. 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”) and they defiantly rejected the God of Israel in favor of their own strength and position economically and militarily, with almost cultic devotion their own victories of the past.
Three unique prophecies haunted Edom: First, God promised to completely desolate the land. Their cities still exist, but they are eerie tourist destinations of deserted ruins (Ezekiel 35:3-4)! Second, God promised the caravans would cease and the economy of the people would die off (Ezekiel 35:7). Finally, God revealed that he would completely wipe out their national identity (Ezekiel 35:13; Obadiah 18). Today, there are no nations that identify Edom as their ancestry!

What are the reasons for Edomite failure according to Obadiah and what can we learn from them? First, they had great pride in their defenses (3,4). Next, they combined their pride with an unwise trust in allies (5-7). On top of that, they had misplaced trust in three things: Wisdom (discernment) of experts (8); Knowledge (forecasting) of prognosticators (8); and Might of military strategists (9). What finally caused God to turn from them, however, was the unmerciful treatment of God’s people (10-14). They watched as invaded and offered no help to protect God’s stated agenda (11). They rejoiced in the losses of God’s people (12). They looted God’s people (13) and set up traps (roadblocks) to snare God’s people (14). What was God’s Response to Edom (and other Godless Nations)? He will judge them with their own wickedness (15-17). He will Sap their life as they sponged the life of God’s people. Further, He will give their fortunes back to His own people (move His blessing! V.17) and cut the offenders off completely (18). He will give to their “allies and friends” their fortune (19,20) and restore His message and His people (21). YOU CAN SAVE A NATION!

God always offers nations the opportunity to follow Him. In a pluralistic and democratic nation, we do this by persuasion. We MUST be prepared to graciously and lovingly share Jesus with our neighbor, it will preserve our future as much as missiles and alliances!