3. Origin of Name
The name Edom, “red,” may have been derived from the red sandstone cliffs characteristic of the country. It was applied to Esau because of the color of his skin (Gen_25:25), or from the color of the pottage for which he sold his birthright (Gen_25:30). In Gen_36:8 Esau is equated with Edom as dwelling in Mt. Seir; and he is described as the father of Edom (Gen_36:9, Hebrew). The name however is probably much older. It may be traced in the records of the Twelfth Dynasty in Egypt. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters (Brit Mus No. 64) Udumu, or Edom, is named; and in Assyrian inscriptions the name Udumu occurs of a city and of a country. The latter may have been named from the former: this again may have been derived from a deity, Edom, who may be traced in such a name as Obed-edom (2Sa_6:10).
The children of Esau are said to have “destroyed” the Horites who dwelt in Seir before them (Gen_14:6; Deu_2:22). This only means that the Horites were subdued. Esau married the daughter of Anah, a Horite (Gen_36:20 – in Gen_36:2 he is called a Hivite); and the lists in this chapter show that the races intermingled. The Horite government was in the hands of “dukes” (Gen_36:29 f, the Revised Version (British and American) “chiefs”). They were succeeded by dukes of the house of Esau (Gen_36:40). This form of government gave way to that of an elective monarchy (Gen_36:31); and this had existed some time before Israel left the wilderness. The then reigning king would not permit Israel to pass through the land (Num_20:14; Num_21:4). Israel was forbidden to “abhor an Edomite,” on the ground that he was a brother; and children of the third generation might enter the assembly of the Lord (Deu_23:7 f). War with Edom was out of the question.
Some thirty years after the Exodus, Ramses III “smote the people of Seir.” The Israelites could not have been far off. We first hear of war between Israel and Edom under Saul (1Sa_14:47). David prosecuted the war with terrific energy, slaying 18,000 Edomites (so read instead of “Syrians”) in the Valley of Salt (2Sa_8:13 f) ; Joab remaining for six months in the country, which was garrisoned by Israelites, “until he had cut off every male in Edom” (1Ki_11:15 f). Hadad of the blood royal of Edom escaped to Egypt, and later became a source of trouble to Solomon (1Ki_11:14,1Ki_11:25). The conquest of Edom opened to Israel the ports of the Red Sea, whence the expeditions of Solomon and Jehoshaphat set out. In Jehoshaphat’s time the king is called a “deputy” (1Ki_22:47). Its king acknowledged the supremacy of Judah (2Ki_3:9, etc.). Under Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, Edom revolted. Jehoram defeated them at Zair, but was unable to quell the rebellion (2Ki_8:20). Amaziah invaded the country, slew 10,000 in the Valley of Salt, and took Sela which he named Joktheel (2Ki_14:7). Uzziah restored the Edomite port of Elath (2Ki_14:22). In the Syrian war Rezin regained Elath for Syria, and cast out the Jews. It was then permanently occupied by Syrians – here also probably we should read Edomites (2Ki_16:6). From the cuneiform inscriptions we learn that when Tiglath-pileser subdued Rezin, among the kings from whom he received homage at Damascus was Qaus-malaka of Edom (736 bc). Later Malik-ram paid homage to Sennacherib. To Ezarhaddon also they were compelled to render service. They gave what help they could to Nebuchadnezzar, and exulted in the destruction of Jerusalem, stirring the bitterest indignation in the hearts of the Jews (Lam_4:21; Eze_25:12; Eze_35:3; Oba_1:10). The Edomites pressed into the now empty lands in the South of Judah. In 300 bc Mt. Seir with its capital Petra fell into the hands of the Nabateans.
5. Idumaea and the Idumeans
West of the ‛Arabah the country they occupied came to be known by the Greek name Idumaea, and the people as Idumeans. Hebron, their chief city, was taken by Judas Maccabeus in 165 bc (1 Macc 4:29, 61; 5:65). In 126 bc the country was subdued by John Hyrcanus, who compelled the people to become Jews and to submit to circumcision. Antipater, governor of Idumaea, was made procurator of Judea, Samaria and Galilee by Julius Caesar. He paved the way to the throne for his son Herod the Great. With the fall of Judah under the Romans, Idumaea disappears from history.
The names of several Edomite deities are known: Hadad, Qaus, Kozé, and, possibly, Edom; but of the religion of Edom we are without information. The language differed little from Hebrew.
1–16. The Destruction of Edom. 1–9. The Punishment of Edom foretold
1. The vision of Obadiah.] This is the short Title of this short Book. It tells us the name of the Author, which is all that we know of him, and the nature of his work.
The vision] This word, like its cognate verb, when it is used with reference to prophetic revelation (e.g. Hab_1:1; Isa_1:1; Isa_2:1; Nah_1:1, comp. “seer,” 1Ch_21:9 and the explanation given in 1Sa_9:9, where however the Heb. word for “seer” is not the same) properly signifies that which appears as it were before the eyes of the prophet, the picture which is represented to his mind in prophetic ecstasy. In that strict sense, part at least of what here follows was the vision of Obadiah. He sees the Edomites in the rocky fastnesses of Petra, like the eagles on their crags (Oba_1:3-4). He beholds them taking part against the Israelites in the day of their calamity, and as a spectator of their actions cries out to them repeatedly, “Do it not” (Oba_1:11-14). But the word comes to be used in a wider sense, and is often, as here, the title of a whole Book, in which, together with visions proper, historical and other matter is contained (comp. Isa_1:1 with 2Ch_32:32).
Obadiah] i.e. servant, or worshipper of Jehovah.
Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom] This is not a second title of the Book. It does not stand as an independent sentence, but is closely connected with what follows. The word “her” at the end of the verse and the direct addresses without mention of name, Oba_1:2-5, refer to and require the word “Edom” in this clause. It is rather the opening announcement of the prophet, that all that he is about to utter is not his own word, but Jehovah’s. The remainder of the verse follows logically, rather than formally, upon this announcement. In Oba_1:2, Jehovah is introduced as the speaker.
We have heard] This has been taken to mean, “I, and other prophets of my own or earlier times,” or “I, and my countrymen,” implying, in this latter case, “that the tidings were of the greatest interest to Israel, and would afford it consolation.” (Delitzsch.) But the absence of the personal pronoun in the Hebrew, and the use of the singular number, “I have heard,” by Jeremiah in the parallel passage (Jer_49:14) seem rather to shew that “We” has here no special emphasis. To the prophet as a Jew the world was divided into two parts, his own countrymen and the heathen. “A rumour,” he says, “has reached us: a herald is sent to them.”
rumour] lit. hearing. The same Hebrew word is rendered “report” Isa_53:1, and elsewhere. (Mat_24:6.) It means here tidings (R.V.), or message. There is no idea of uncertainty as in the English word rumour.
ambassador] or a messenger (comp. Pro_13:17; Pro_25:13). The meaning of the word seems to be, to go on circuit; or as we should say to go round, from nation to nation. Jeremiah describes Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, as fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities thereof with “all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth of his dominion, and all the people” (Jer_34:1). His army would doubtless be of the same composite character when he subsequently turned his hand against Edom.
Arise ye, and let us rise up] This may either be taken as being throughout the address of the messenger or herald to the nations whom he visits, inciting them to arise, and associating himself with them in the invitation which he gives; or it may be the call of the herald and the response of the nations, heard as it were and recorded by the prophet—”Arise,” says he; “Let us arise,” say they. Or yet again, the words may be throughout those of the heathen exhorting one another to obey the summons of the herald, whose address to them is not recorded but left to be gathered by the reader from the effect which it produces. This last is most forcible and most in accordance with the graphic style of Obadiah. He hears the call to arms passing to and fro, brief and eager, “Arise ye,” “Let us arise,” as Jehovah’s herald pursues his onward course. The parallel passage in Jeremiah, however, if it is to be regarded as a version of them in prose, favours the first of these interpretations of the words.
I have made thee … thou art] Jehovah is now the speaker. “I have made thee small” in my purpose, which though its accomplishment is still future is as certain as though it were already executed. “Thou art,” already in inevitable destiny, “greatly despised.” There is nothing to commend the view of Calvin and others that Oba_1:2 is introduced to aggravate the pride of Edom: “Whereas I made thee small and despised, by the narrow territory which I assigned to thee, and the low place I gave thee among the nations of the earth, the pride of thine heart hath deceived thee,” &c. As a fact the Edomites had at this time acquired very considerable territory, and were a strong and formidable nation. If that had not been so, what need would there have been to summon “the nations” to chastise them?
the clefts of the rock] The word rock may here be a proper name, Selah or Petra; the reference would then be to the rock-hewn dwellings of that remarkable city. Perhaps, however, the reference is more general to the “clefts of the rock” which abounded and were used as habitations throughout Edom proper. The expression which occurs here and in Jer_49:16, is only found beside in Son_2:14, where it is used of the hiding-place of a dove.
Ewald renders this verse: “Thy heart’s haughtiness deceived thee, who inhabiteth in rock-clefts, his proud dwelling, who saith in his heart, who shall cast me down to the earth?”
“The great strength of a position such as Selah’s was shewn during the war of the Independence of Greece, in the case of the monastery of Megaspelion, which was situated, like Selah, on the face of a precipice. Ibrahim Pasha was unable to bring its defenders down by assault from below, or above, and though ungarrisoned it baffled his utmost efforts.” Speaker’s Commentary.
Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle – Though like this bird thou get into the highest cliff of the highest rock, it will not avail thee. To defend thee, when Jehovah has determined thy destruction, thy deepest caves and highest rocks will be equally useless. See Jer_49:16.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
For thy violence against thy brother Jacob. Obadiah here confirms afresh Joel’s prophecy (Joe_3:19), “Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah.” This aggravates the sin of Esau, that it was against him, who was his brother by birth and by circumcision. The posterity of Esau followed in the steps of their father’s hatred to Jacob by violence against Jacob’s seed (Gen_27:41).
Jacob – not merely his own brother, but his twin brother: hence, the name Jacob is here put emphatically, not Israel. Compare Deu_23:7 for the opposite feeling which Jacob’s seed was commanded to entertain toward Edom’s, “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother.”
Shame shall cover thee – (Psa_35:26, “Let them be clothed with shame;” Psa_69:7 , “Shame hath covered my face”).
And thou shalt be cut off forever – (Isa_34:10; Eze_35:9; Mal_1:4). Idumea, as a nation, should be “cut off forever,” though the land should be again inhabited.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
In the day that thou stoodest on the other side – in an attitude of hostility, rather than exhibiting the sympathy which became a brother, feasting thine eyes (see Oba_1:12) with the misery of Jacob, and eagerly watching for his destruction. So Messiah, the antitype to Jerusalem, abandoned by His kinsmen (Psa_38:11).
In the day that the strangers – the Philistines; the Arabians in the reign of Jehoram, king of Judah, etc. (2Ch_21:16); the Syrians in the reign of Joash of Judah (2Ch_24:24); the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar (2Ch_36:1-23).
Carried away captive his forces – his “host” (Oba_1:20); the multitude of Jerusalem’s inhabitants.
And cast lots upon Jerusalem – (Joe_3:3). So Messiah, Jerusalem’s antitype, had his only earthly possessions cast lots for (Psa_22:18).
Even thou wast as one of them. There is no “wast” in the Hebrew, ‘Thou, too, as one of them!’ Edom was not one of them, an alien to Jacob or Israel: nay, he was his twin brother. The prophet graphically sets before himself and us Edom among the plunderers of Jerusalem, and exclaims, marveling at the unnatural sight, ‘What, thou too AS one of them!
Thou shouldest not have looked … have rejoiced … have spoken] rather, look not, rejoice not, speak not. In this verse it is the neutrality of Edom, spoken of as “standing on the other side” in the former part of Oba_1:11, that is condemned. In Oba_1:13-14 his active cooperation with the enemy, his being “as one of them,” is denounced. But in both cases there is a climax. In this verse the complacent looking on deepens into malicious joy, and malicious joy finds expression in derisive mockery. In the following verses, he who before had stood afar, draws near, “enters into the gate” with the victorious foe, “looks on the affliction,” as a close spectator of all its horrors, “lays hands on the spoil,” does not scruple to take part in the pillage of his brother, nor even to waylay the fugitives and deliver them up into the hand of the enemy. “He dehorts them from malicious rejoicing at their brother’s fall, first in look, then in word, then in act, in covetous participation of the spoil, and lastly in murder.” Pusey.
looked on the day] Comp. “the day of Jerusalem.” Psa_137:7. “Malicious gazing on human calamity, forgetful of man’s common origin, and common liability to ill, is the worst form of human hate. It was one of the contumelies of the Cross, They gaze, they look with joy upon Me. Psa_22:17.” Pusey.
became a stranger] i.e. was treated as a stranger, cruelly and unjustly: or was made a stranger by being carried into captivity. The clause however may mean “in the day of his calamity,” or “disaster,” R.V.
rejoiced] “He that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.” Pro_17:5.
spoken proudly] lit. “make thy mouth great” in derision and mockery. This may refer either to proud boastful words, or to mocking grimaces and contortions of the mouth.
It follows, Thou shouldest not enter the gates of my people in the day of their destruction, nor shouldest thou look on in their calamity. Probably the Idumeans had made an irruption in company with the Assyrians and Chaldeans, when they ought to have remained at home, and there to lament the slaughter of their brethren. For if I cannot save my friend from death or from a calamity, I shall yet withdraw myself, for I could not bear to look on: but were I constrained to look on my friend, and be not able to succor him in his necessity, I should rather close my eyes; for there is in the eyes, we know, the tenderest sympathy. As then the Idumeans willingly went forth and entered Jerusalem with the enemies, it was hence evident that they were no better than wild beasts. Thou shouldest not then, he says, enter the gates of my people in the day of slaughter, nor shouldest thou especially then, look on. He again repeats גם אתה gam ate, thou also, or, especially thou: “If other neighbors do this, yet thou shouldest abstain, for thou art of the same blood; if thou can’t not bring help, show at least some token of grief and of sympathy: but as thou willingly and gladly lookest on their calamities, it is quite evident that there is not in thee a particle of right feeling.”
He afterwards adds, Thou shouldest not stretch forth thy hand to his substance. Here he accuses the Idumeans of having been implicated in taking the spoils with other enemies, as though he said, “Ye have not only suffered your brethren to be pillaged, but ye became robbers yourselves. Ye ought to have felt sorrow in seeing them distressed by foreign enemies; but ye have plundered with them, and enriched yourselves with spoils; this certainly is by no means to be endured.”
It follows, And thou shouldest not stand on the going forth. The word פרק perek signifies to break, to dissipate, to rend; hence פרק perek, as a noun, in Hebrew means rending and breaking. Therefore some take it metaphorically for a place where two ways meet, when one road is cut or divided into two. When the two meet then there is a going forth by two ways; hence they take פרק, perek, for such a place. But we may simply take it for the rending of the people. Though I am certainly pleased with the first explanation, yet I do not confine the word to that meaning; and I prefer the idea of going forth, as it harmonizes better with the context: Thou hast stood then on the going forth; and for what purpose? To destroy those who had escaped, and to stop or to deliver up his remaining captives in the day of affliction. In short, the Prophet means that the Idumeans occupied all the ways, to intercept the miserable exiles, to whom flight was the only way of safety.
As then the miserable Jews tried by winding outlets to provide for their own safety, the Prophet says that they were intercepted by the Idumeans, lest any of them should escape, and that they were stopped, that afterwards they might be slain by their enemies. Inasmuch as the Assyrians and the Chaldeans were a people far remote from Judea, it is probable that the roads were unknown to them, and that they were afraid of being entrapped; but the Idumeans, who were familiarly acquainted with all their roads, could stand at all the outlets. Some give the following explanation, but it is too frigid: Thou shouldest not stand for the rending of thy brethren, that is, thou should not stand still, but strive to extend a helping hand to the distressed: but this, as I have said, is too frigid and strained. Thou shouldest not then stand on the going forth of the roads to destroy We now see what the Prophet had in view; to destroy, he says, and whom did they destroy? Even those who had already escaped. Expressly then is pointed out here the cruelty to which I have referred, that the Idumeans were not contented with the ruin of the city, and the great slaughter which had been made; but in case any had stealthily escaped, they occupied the outlets of the roads, that they might not flee away: and the same thing is meant when he adds, that all were betrayed or stopped who had remained alive in the day of affliction.
We now understand the Prophet’s meaning; — that the Idumeans could not complain that God was too severe with them, when he reduced them to nothing, because they had given examples of extreme cruelty towards their own brethren, and at a time when their calamities ought to have obliterated all hatred and old enmities, as it is usually the case even with men the most alienated from one another.
Jamieson, Fausset, & Brown
Stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his (Judah’s).
That did escape. The Jews naturally fled by the crossways (Maurer translates, ‘narrow mountain passes’) well known to them, to escape to the desert, and through Edom to Egypt; but the Edomites stood ready to intercept the fugitives, and either kill or ‘deliver them up’ to the foe.
Neither shouldest thou have delivered up – or ‘shut up’ – i:e., intercept, prevent the escape of, so as to deliver them up. Thus Edom, from malicious looks, proceeded on to malicious words, and from words to deeds-deeds of covetousness, spoliation, and murder.
The day of the Lord] The order of the words, “for near is the day of the Lord,” accords with the fact that the day of the Lord is here spoken of as something already known and familiar. It was first revealed to the prophet Joel (Joe_1:15; Joe_2:1; Joe_2:31 [Heb, 3:4]). There as here it had reference first to some nearer typical visitation and judgment, but included the great final day into which the prophet’s view here expands.
as thou hast done] comp. Eze_35:15 and Psa_137:8.
thy reward] rather, thy work; dealing, R.V. Comp. Joe_3:7 [Heb., 4:7].
As ye have drunk] This is commonly interpreted to mean, “As ye Edomites have drunk in triumphant revelry and carousal on my holy mountain, rejoicing with unhallowed joy over its destruction, so shall (ye and) all the nations drink continually the wine of God’s wrath and indignation.” But it is better to understand the first clause as referring to the Jews: “As ye have drunk (who are) upon my holy mountain; as even you, who are my chosen people and inhabit the mountain consecrated by my presence, have not escaped the cup of my wrath, so all the nations shall drink of that same cup, not with a passing salutary draught as you have done, but with a continuous swallowing down, till they have wrung out the dregs thereof and been brought to nothing by their consuming power.” The “drinking” is thus the same in both clauses and not as in the other interpretation, literal in the first clause, and figurative in the second. Thus too the word “continually” has its proper force, by virtue of the contrast which it suggests between the Jews, for whom the bitter draught was only temporary, for amendment and not for destruction, and the heathen who were to drink on till they perished. And this view of the words is strikingly confirmed by the parallel passages in Jeremiah. To that prophet the commission is given by God, “Take the wine cup of this fury at mine hand, and cause all the nations to whom I send thee to drink it.” Beginning with “Jerusalem and the cities of Judah” the prophet passes the cup in turn to Edom. And if the nations refuse to take the cup, he is to answer them by Obadiah’s argument that even God’s holy mountain has not escaped: “ye shall certainly drink. For do I begin to bring evil on the city which is called by my name and should ye be utterly unpunished?” (Jer_25:15-29). Again in the chapter in which, as we have seen, Jeremiah has much in common with Obadiah, he uses the figure of the cup of judgment with reference both to Jews and Edomites as though he had so understood it here. “Behold,” he says, “they whose judgment was not to drink of the cup have assuredly drunken, and art thou he that shall altogether go unpunished?” Jer_49:12. And once more in the book of Lamentations he prophesies, “the cup also (of which we have drunk) shall pass through unto thee,” and then draws, in the following verse, the same contrast in plain language between the punishment of Israel and of Edom, which is here drawn by Obadiah by the figure of the single and the continuous draught. “The punishment of thine iniquity is accomplished, O daughter of Zion; he will no more carry thee away into captivity. He will visit thine iniquity, O daughter of Edom; he will discover thy sins” (Jer_4:21-22).
For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the Heathen drink continually,…. Which is either spoken to the Edomites; and the sense be, according to the Targum,
“as ye have rejoiced at the blow (given unto or at the subversion and destruction) of the mountain of my holiness, all people shall drink the cup of their vengeance;”
or punishment; and to the same sense Jarchi and Japhet interpret it; and so Kimchi,
“as ye have made a feast, rejoicing at the destruction of my holy mountain, so thou and all nations shall drink of the cup of trembling;”
but Aben Ezra thinks the words are spoken to the Israelites,
“as ye have drank the cup, so shall all nations;”
the cup of vengeance began with them, and so went round the nations, according to the prophecy in Jer_25:17, &c. for, if judgment begins at the house and people of God, it may be expected it will reach to others; wherefore Edom had no reason to rejoice at the destruction of the Jews, since they might be assured by that the same would be their case before long; and with this difference, that whereas the Jews only drank this cup for a while, during the seventy years’ captivity, these nations, and the Edomites among the rest, should be “continually” drinking it:
yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down; not only drink of the cup, but drink it up; not only take it into their mouths, but swallow it down their throats; not only sip at it, but “sup it up”, as it may be rendered. The phrase denotes the fulness of their punishment, and their utter and entire ruin and destruction, which the next clause confirms:
and they shall be as though they had not been; as now are the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, and so the Edomites; their names are not heard of in the world, only as they are read in the Bible; and thus it shall be with mystical Babylon or Edom, it shall be thrown down, and found no more, Rev_18:21.
But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance] Unlike Edom (Oba_1:9) and the other heathen nations (Oba_1:16) whose destruction will be complete, Israel even in her worst calamities shall have “a deliverance,” i. e. remnant of the people, who shall escape destruction and be delivered out of trouble, to be as it were a fresh nucleus and starting-point of the nation. The word here rendered “deliverance” occurs in Exo_10:5, “that which is escaped,” to denote the remnant of the fruits of the earth left by the plague of hail. It is used in the same sense as here in Isa_37:31-32, “that is escaped,” “they that escape;” and in Joe_2:32 [Heb_3:5].
there shall be holiness] rather (margin, and R.V.), it (Mount Zion) shall be holy, lit. “holiness,” comp. Joe_3:17 [Heb., 4:17]; Rev_21:27.
their possessions] Not the possessions of Edom and of the heathen—that is spoken of in the following verses, but their own possessions. “When the children of Israel shall have returned from exile God will at the same time restore to them their ancient country, so as for them to possess whatever had been promised to their father Abraham.” Calvin.