The Book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament at only 21 verses. But Obadiah’s theme could have been lifted directly from the pages of the Jerusalem Post.
It is all about the abuse of God’s people, God’s land, and God’s Holy Hill, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
The villain, the guilty party, will end up devastated. Obadiah identifies the guilty party as Israel’s twin brother Esau (Edom), and his physical and spiritual descendants.
Obadiah accuses Edom of “violence against your brother Jacob.” (v 10) This is not an isolated incident of violence, but systematic, repetitive, unrelenting violence.
The Book of Obadiah reads as a formal indictment against Edom and their allies. One of the first things to examine in prophecy is the time frame in which it applies. Some prophecies were given for the near-term, others are for the long term. In Obadiah’s case, it is both.
Or, put another way, Obadiah looks at Edom from beginning to end in a glance. The abuses accumulate throughout history, and end with the establishment of God’s rule on earth. It is a broad chronological perspective ranging from the Destruction of the First Temple to the end of days.
Visions that prophets were given are not always restricted to a thin slice of time. Some encompass a very long period of time, as is the case in the Messianic prophecies.
Some were fulfilled at Jesus’ First Advent, others will be fulfilled in His Second. Some verses contain prophecies that address both Advents in the same verse.
Who is Edom today? I believe the Bible answers that question. The ancient Edomites were the descendants of Edom, or Esau. The area known as Edom eventually became known as Idumea.
King Herod was an Idumean, or Edomite, puppet king who was installed by the Romans. Edom—or Idumea, bordered what is today the West Bank.
Genesis 25 tells the story of Esau trading his birthright, as Isaac’s eldest son, to Jacob, his younger twin brother.
In Genesis 25:30 God renamed Esau to Edom: “And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name called Edom.”
Ezekiel picks up where Obadiah leaves off, identifying the modern Edomites in Ezekiel 36:5.
“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Surely in the fire of My jealousy I have spoken against the rest of the nations, and against all Edom, who appropriated My land for themselves as a possession with wholehearted joy and with scorn of soul, to drive it out for a prey.”(NASB)
Obadiah further illuminates Edom’s identity in his indictment, delivering four ‘you should not haves’.
Verse 14 says, “Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.”
When, during a deadly time in Jewish history, a time of death and destruction, did the Palestinians serve as accomplices of the agents of death by not allowing Jews to come to their place of refuge?
A better question would be, when didn’t they? Edom has much to answer for. But there is a specific historical point that eclipses all others.
The Arab riots of the late 1930’s forced the British to restrict Jewish immigration to their ancestral homeland during the Holocaust. Had it not been for Arab rioting and violence, the British would not have enacted those policies. Therefore, Edom was responsible for “killing those who tried to escape.”
The Nazis were the hatchet men, but the Palestinians were accessories and accomplices. Palestinian leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem during the Nazi era, played a major role in the Holocaust.
al-Husseini lived in Berlin during the war years. He worked closely with Hitler to help achieve the Nazi Final Solution to the Jewish Question. He even personally recruited Bosnian Muslims who formed a whole division of the Nazi Waffen SS.
While Jewish immigration was tightly restricted during the Nazi era, Arabs were under no immigration limits. Arabs flooded into the Holy Land to help the British keep out the Jews.
Obadiah notes in his indictment:
“Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;” (v 13)
Let’s tick off the charges in Obadiah’s indictment and see if there is any validity to identifying ‘Edom’ with the Palestinian Arabs of the last days.
Verse 10 indicts Edom of violence against ‘thy brother, Jacob’. Jacob’s descendants are modern Israel.
Verse 12 indicts Edom for celebrating Israel’s catastrophes; “Neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.”
Compare that verse to images of chanting crowds of Palestinians dancing for joy at the news of a new bombing attack against Israeli civilians. Or the cheering crowds that celebrated Saddam’s missile attacks on Israel during the 1991 Gulf War.
Verse 13 indicts Edom for ‘entering the gates of my people’. When the British Mandate ended in 1948, the Arabs immediately seized the Old City of Jerusalem.
It took until 1967 for the Jews to re-take the city. They still have no control over the Jewish Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Jerusalem, and the Temple Mount, remain at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict, as God said they would.
Verse 14 indicts Edom for handing over Jews in their day of trouble. Verse 21 says that, in the last days, “Saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.”
The mount of Esau upon the mount of Zion can only refer to the al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. And completing Obadiah’s identification of Edom as the Palestinian people is his mention of the emblem of the Palestinian Authority.
“Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.”
The PA’s official emblem is the eagle.
In verses 10-11 of Obadiah, the prophet jumps forward to the last days. He writes: “Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau? And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.”
The word ‘Teman’ means south. And the ‘mount of Esau’, in context, is located on mount Zion. Let’s take another look at what the verse is saying. “Your mighty allies in the south (the Saudis?) will be neutralized, and those who try to keep possession of al Aqsa will be slaughtered.”
In verse 11, Obadiah writes, “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.”
But how strong a case does Obadiah make for ‘Edom’ being representative of the modern Palestinian people? The word rendered chosen by Obadiah and rendered in English as ‘violence’ in verse 11 is translated from the Hebrew word ‘chamac.’
‘Chamac’ transliterated into modern Hebrew, is pronounced, ‘Hamas’.