The Minor Prophets: Obadiah, part 2

23 May

This is part of an on-going series on the Minor Prophets; a bible study I wrote two years ago. For more information on this study, including permission to use it for your own group, please read the introduction.

(Click here for part 1 of the Obadiah study)


There are three clear sections in Obadiah:

  1. The first 9 verses are about what God thinks of Edom (Obadiah 1-9)
  2. The next 5 form God’s case against Edom (Obadiah 10-14)
  3. The final 7 verses are a prophecy of what’s going to happen to Edom (Obadiah 15-21)

Section 1 – Obadiah 1-9

KEY VERSE: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (verse 3)

Pride deceives. The Edomites were proud and self-reliant. They were so caught up in their pride and independence that they were blind to the disaster coming upon them. Their pride deceived them. It has been suggested that the lack of evidence of a God of Edom (in stark contrast to other nations of the time) means they had NO gods. No idols, no gods of fertility or harvest, and certainly no reverence of the One God, the God of their ancestors Abraham and Isaac. A nation with no gods was unheard of. Even having one god (like the Israelites) was rather odd.

God’s power is absolute. Nothing, and no one, is greater than him. He is omnipotent – ALL powerful. There is nowhere beyond his reach. No matter how well I stack up against another human being, I’m nothing next to God.

The sin of pride is thinking too well of yourself – believing you really are better than others. It is a form of deception, and that’s one reason why it’s so dangerous. If you start swallowing lies about yourself – even pleasant ones – you set yourself up for greater deception.

The Edomites were to be betrayed by those they counted as friends. They didn’t see it coming. This is the danger of great pride – we get so caught up in ourselves, swallowing the lies, that we become blind to reality. Pride deceives us. Pride deceives me. Pride deceives you. At some point reality WILL catch up with you, and if you stay caught up in self-deception, you won’t see it coming.

Pride deceives. One way to combat pride, therefore, is with truth – seeing things clearly.

  1. What areas of pride are you able to recognise in yourself?
  2. How can you inject some clarity, some truth, into these areas? (This isn’t about thinking you’re no good – that’s just buying into a whole other set of lies!)
  3. Self-reliance and independence were a way of life for the Edomites. Have cultural ideals of such as self-reliance or independence affected the way you interact with God?

Pride deceives. One way to combat pride, therefore, is with truth – seeing things clearly.

Section 2 – Obadiah 10-14

KEY VERSE: “you stood aloof” (verse 11)

Those three words, “you stood aloof,” catch my eye (and my heart) every time. How often have I stood aloof, unwilling to make any effort to help someone? Then there’s the rest…

  • Actively harming someone
  • Allowing them to be harmed by others (not intervening – harming them through my inaction)
  • Looking down on them when they’re having a tough time
  • Being happy when things go wrong for them
  • Laughing at their misfortune
  • Refusing to help them
  • Helping others harm them
  • Joining in the harassment, instead of sticking up for them
  • Benefitting from their misfortune

Um, yeah. I’ve done a lot of those things, if not all of them, on one level or another. These are things that deeply offend God! This stuff makes him really mad! Not that God is going to wipe me from existence, but it makes me think. How calloused my heart is to the needs of others?

I don’t want to allow pride, bitterness, resentment, or a grudge, to blind me to the needs of others.

I don’t want to be so caught up in my own “stuff” that I can’t help someone else.

This isn’t just about doing bad things to someone – it’s about NOT doing GOOD things. James 4:17 says it well: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

It’s also clear that it matters to God that Esau and Jacob were brothers – these nations have close blood ties and yet there is no care or concern there. Sometimes we can be most harsh to our family members, when they’re the ones we need to protect and look after the most.

Inaction can be a sin just as much as action can be. If I’m not aware of the needs around me, I can’t respond to them.

  1. Can you think of a specific time where you chose to act, and someone was helped by it?
  2. How can you start to be more aware of the needs of your family and friends?
  3. Is there anyone else you think God’s asking you to be more aware of?

Section 3 – Obadiah 15-21

KEY VERSE: “your deeds will return upon your own head” (verse 15)

I call this section “The Boomerang Effect”. All the centuries of anger and resentment and jealousy and bitterness than Edomites had harboured for centuries were about to return on their own heads. Hence, the Boomerang Effect. It’s a very Australian illustration, I know, but I reckon it’s okay to pull out a cliché every now and then. Something about the image of throwing a boomerang, and it returning to the one who threw it, spoke to me more clearly than “you reap what you sow” ever did.

Sowing seems a fairly sedate things to me. Throwing is so ACTIVE. You can throw with FEELING. There’s only so many ways to drop a seed on the ground – but there are so many different ways to act toward others. I can act with tenderness, with patience, with boredom, with condescension, with anger, with jealousy, with bitterness…  The Boomerang Effect says that these attitudes catch up with us eventually.

God uses another image – that of drinking. It makes me think of draining – their energy, their lives, will be drained away. They will be drained, just as they drained others.

God is clear that Edom isn’t the only nation who will be punished for the actions, but it seems to me that this book makes a big deal of the fact that they were brothers to Israel, and should have acted like it. They shouldn’t have been just like everyone else – they should have done better.

Ultimately, the Edomites disappeared from history. Pride blinded them, bitterness caused them to stand aloof, and even actively hurt those they should have protected. It all started with a hurt held on to, and ended with centuries of anger and bitterness returning on their own heads. THIS is why forgiveness is so important.

  1. Can you think of something you’ve held onto for a long time? A hurt, perhaps something someone close to you did or said. What feelings come up when you think about it?
  2. How could this haunt you if you continue to hang on to it? How many weeks/months/years of negative emotion are already piled up, ready to return on your head?
  3.  At its simplest, forgiveness is letting go – choosing to leave it up to God to make things right. If you’re ready to let go of the emotion piled up, try just telling God how you feel about it all.

Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Bible Resources


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2 responses to “The Minor Prophets: Obadiah, part 2

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