FOJ Note: The following article by Bob Westbrook of Trumpet Sounds
Ministry is a very enlightening expose on the book of Obadiah. I can highly
recommend it as a commendable source for understanding the Palestinian issue in
the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. (Darrell G. Young of Focus on
Jerusalem Prophecy Ministry) FOJ has provided a link to Trumpet Sounds on
the links page.
The prophetic book of Obadiah, though
the shortest in the Hebrew portion of the Bible, is no slouch in robust impact.
Only 21 verses, it can be read in just a few minutes. To digest it properly, it
may prove helpful to read it a number of times, from several different
translations, asking the Lord for insight. The theme of this book is 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 belittled, loathed, and devastated.
Obadiah is a book of recompense and deliverance, ending with "the Kingdom will
be the Lord's".
The object of the prophet's ire (actually, the Lord's ire) is
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 JPS translation of verse 10 is, "For the outrage to your brother
Jacob, disgrace shall engulf you, and you shall perish forever."
The book can be considered a formal indictment of charges
against Edom, as well as their accomplices. The indictment stipulates the most
severe capital offenses, with an equally severe sentence to be executed. Cruel,
sadistic, maniacal, unconscionable, and monstrous are the crimes of Edom against
One of the first questions asked when examining a prophetic
passage is to what time frame does the prophecy apply? Some of the oracles that
the prophets of God received applied to near term events, and others to far term
events. In the case of Obadiah, it is both, or more correctly, it is a vision
that in one glance encompasses a broad period of time. The abuses accumulate
over a long time, and the ultimate solution culminates in the establishment of
God's rule on earth.
Visions that prophets were given are not restricted to a thin
slice of time, but sometimes encompass a very expansive one. They saw events
that were to occur over a long time frame in a single scene. This is especially
evident in some of the Messianic prophecies, where events from both the first
and second comings of Messiah are communicated in one prophetic scene.
In Obadiah, a very broad chronological perspective is
portrayed, all the way from the time of the destruction of the first Temple, and
on through to the time of the end, or the Last Days. The indictment of Edom
contains charges of crimes at various points all along the way.
Some may be tempted to relegate the scope of the prophecy to
only the ancient Edomites. But given the futuristic scope of some portions, it
is clear it applies to modern "Edomites" as well. How do we know that Obadiah's
vision was not just against the Edomites of his day, but something future,
extending to our day and beyond? Verses 15-17 about the apocalyptic Day of the
Lord, and recovery of the Temple Mount, verses 19-20, geographic references to
land reclamation not yet achieved, and verse 21 about God's future rule from Mt.
Zion make that very clear.
This book, though brief, contains what I believe are
allusions to events as varied as the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem,
the first by the Babylonians and the second by the Romans, and carry on to the
Islamic seizure of the Temple Mount, and to Arab complicity in the Nazi
Holocaust, and finally to Palestinian terrorism, to the destruction of the
Muslim power base in Saudi Arabia, to the Jewish repossession of the Temple
Mount and all the land promised by God to Israel.
Who are the Edomites, in the modern setting? There are two
ways to determine this. The first is by comparing other Scriptures, and the
second is to examine the specific characteristics of this group of people.
The most compelling Scriptural evidence to identify the
Edomites is found in Ezekiel 36:5. The first fifteen verses of that chapter give
God's viewpoint of the preeminent issue of our day, the ownership and eventual
disposition of what the world calls the West Bank." Verse 5 describes a
conspiracy between the nations of the world and "Edom" to misappropriate that
land that God had granted to Jacob. Therefore, we can conclude that Edom, in the
modern context, is the West Bank Palestinians.
The book of Obadiah is also closely related to the prophecy
of Ezekiel 35, which is a prophecy against the same group of people. Unmatched
in scathing intensity, Ezekiel 35 functions in tandem with chapter 36. The
latter describes the conflict over Judea and Samaria, and the former describes
the fate of those who tried to steal that land from the Jews. The parties and
the issues parallel those in Obadiah.
Large chunks of Obadiah are repeated in Jeremiah 49, in the
oracle against Edom there. I am of the opinion that when portions are repeated
nearly verbatim in other places in the Bible, it is very significant, a
reinforcement of the importance of that message. In this case, the context in
Jeremiah is important, I believe, in regards to other events prophesied in that
same section of text.
In Jeremiah 48-49, Edom and several other neighbors of Israel
are addressed. These include Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Arabia, and portions of
these prophecies await future fulfillment. This provides additional support to
our understanding that portions of the Obadiah prophecy against Edom also await
future fulfillment. The core of the indictment, in the center of the book, is a
vigorous sevenfold vitriolic accusation. In verses 12-14, the repetitive use of
"you should not have" at the beginning of each charge, combined with a variation
on "on the day of their disaster" at the end of each, gives the effect of
a pounding jackhammer, a damning verbal drubbing.
Here is the final charge in that indictment against Edom:
"You shouldn't have stood at the crossroads, killing those who tried to escape.
You shouldn't have captured the survivors, handing them over to their enemies in
that terrible time of trouble." (v 14, NLT)
When, during a terrible time for the Jewish people, a time of
death, were the Arabs accomplices of the agents of death by not allowing Jews to
come to their place of refuge? In the 1930s and 1940s, the Jewish people faced
the worse crisis in their history. Simultaneously, the Lord had been opening the
doors to their Promised Land once again through the Zionist movement. But the
British heartlessly slammed the doors shut at that most critical time, primarily
because of the influence of the Arabs. Succumbing to political pressure and
physical duress, the Brits did not allow Jews to enter into their land,
abandoning them to mass death in Europe under the Nazi scourge. 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
Obadiah's repetitive emphasis on "the day of their disaster",
"day of their calamity", "day of their destruction", "day of their trouble",
"day of their misfortune", "day of their ruin", "day of their anguish", does
seem evocative of the Holocaust. (and of today’s Middle East Conflict) It
was utmost catastrophe the Jews suffered at the climax of their long period of
calamitous exile, just prior to the repossession of their ancient homeland.
Though the Nazis were the chief slaughterers of Jews, the
Palestinians were accessories and accomplices. The Palestinian leader Haj Amin
al-Husseini, mufti of Jerusalem, was the dastardly notorious agitator of
violence against Palestinian Jews in the 1920s and 1930s. Later, seeing a
potential ally for his homicide campaign with the rise of Hitler, Husseini
played no small part in the Holocaust. Living in Berlin during the war, he
became very chummy with Hitler. Husseini worked together with him on various
efforts, encouraging him to more forceful ruination of the Jews. To cite the
details of this would be too involved for this article, but Husseini's guilt has
been well-documented, including the development of a Bosnian Muslim division of
the Waffen SS he personally recruited for Hitler.
Recalling that Obadiah takes a long view of Edom's crimes
over time, we understand that the brutal mistreatment of the Jews is not a
recent phenomenon. The previous verse in the list of indictments says, "You
shouldn't have plundered the land of Israel when they were suffering such
calamity. You shouldn't have gloated over the destruction of your relatives,
looting their homes and making yourselves rich at their expense." (v 13 NLT) The
extended calamity, when Israel was expelled from their land, began in 70 AD, and
ended with the Holocaust.
God takes issue with the way that Jacob's close relative
gloated, plundered, and looted during the time of his exile. According to the
Divine view, Israel never relinquished ownership of that land, even after such a
long time of absence. The Palestinians, who even today continue to make
illegitimate claim to Israel's property, are guilty of pillaging that which does
not rightfully belong to them. They seized Israel's goods and lands, just as
verse 13 says.
To summarize, here is a list of several detailed
characteristics of the Edomites that match the modern Muslim Palestinians.
(1) Violence against Jacob (v 10) "For the slaughter and
violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut
off forever." (Obadiah 1:10 NRSV) "Because of the murderous history compiled
against your brother Jacob..." (The Message) Is there a more fitting description
than "slaughter and violence' for the way the Arabs have treated the Jews for
decades, if not centuries?
(2) Celebrating disasters that befell the Jews (v 12) We have
seen on this on our evening newscasts, the Palestinians partying in the streets
after ghastly terror attacks. And even today, many Palestinians laud the
Holocaust, wishing Hitler had finished the job.
(3) Handing over Jewish survivors in the day of their trouble
(v 14) They did this in the 1930s and 1940s, forcing the British to enact laws
of very little immigration during the mandate.
(4) "They entered the gates of my people" (v 13) The
Palestinians took possession of land not theirs, including the Old City of
Jerusalem for a time.
(5) Exhibiting an excessive arrogance, making them despised
by people all over the world (v 2-4)
(6) Like an eagle (on the emblem of the Palestinian
authority) (v 4)
(7) Gleefully, mockingly, reveling on God's holy hill - the
Temple Mount (v 16) The Islamic preachers in the mosque there consistently spew
out the worst kind of anti-Jew hate speech in their Friday sermons.
(8) Something symbolically called "Mount Esau" up on the
Temple Mount - the structures there that represent the power of the Islamic
deity (v 21)
(9) Israel is to finally recover much territory from them (v
The illegitimate Palestinian claims are being made in the
name of a fraudulent deity. Edom has become identified with the Islamic "god"
named Allah, and this is also implied in the prophecy of Obadiah.
The evidence for this is the final verse. To quote from the
JPS translation: "For liberators shall march up on Mount Zion to wreak judgment
on Mount Esau." What do we see here? Something called "Mount Esau" is up on the
Temple Mount. But the Temple Mount will be liberated from this offending
obstacle. Mount Esau is, I believe, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa
Mosque. Some group of men will go up as liberators to "wreak judgment on Mount
Esau." Those illicit edifices will be obliterated.
Mount Esau is physically located in what is today southern
Jordan. But Mount Esau/Mount Seir is spiritually the evil enemy stronghold now
on the Temple Mount. It is not the Temple Mount itself, but that last verse says
that warriors will ascend the Temple Mount to "wreak judgment" on Mount Esau,
that is, eradicating those offensive structures from God's Holy Hill.
If Mount Esau is the Islamic "holy places", this gives us
clues about understanding other aspects of Obadiah. Another ally of the
Palestinians, one that exerts a great deal of influence on world affairs, is
also apparently alluded to in the prophecy. The Stone Edition Tanach translates
verse 9 as "Your mighty ones to the south will be broken, so that every man will
be cut off from the Mountain of Esau by the slaughter."
Who are the mighty ones to the south? The Saudis, keepers
of the so-called "holy cities" of Mecca and Medina. They are called "mighty
ones" because of their political and financial clout from the sale of oil. Since
the 1920s, they have operated a scheme of virtual extortion of the Western
world, forcing powerful nations to fall in line with their demands. In verse 9,
most translations don't say "south", they say Teman, which means south.
Surprisingly, in Islamic theology, Teman is associated with Medina, one of
their holy cities. It does not matter that the historical connection is
shaky at best, but what matters is that the Muslims themselves make the
connection. So this reinforces even more the idea that this verse is referring
to the Saudis, and to the power of Islam itself.
Recall that "Mount Esau", from v 21, is apparently Al Aqsa
Mosque and Dome of the Rock. So, let me propose a paraphrase of v 10: "Your
mighty allies in the south, the Saudis, will be broken, and every man will be
cut off from Al Aqsa."
It is indeed the Arab Muslims who have seized the Temple
Mount, and it is they that have committed prolonged violence against "their
brother Jacob." In fact, in verse 10, where the primary charge against Edom is
leveled, the root Hebrew word for "violence" there is transliterated Hamas!
Hamas is the Islamic Resistance Movement, the primary Palestinian terrorist
organization. This play on words, which Obadiah did not know, but God did,
demonstrates His condemnation of Islamic terror against Israel.
It is not just Islam that will be the object of God's
judgment, it is the entire rebellious world. Immediately after the sevenfold
list of charges against Edom, the verdict is read in verses 15 and 16. This
verdict, on "all the nations", implies that the whole world is culpable in the
crimes against the Jews. "The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you
have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head.
Just as you drank on my holy hill, so all the nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink and be as if they had never been." (Obadiah 1:15-16
Notice the emphasis on the Temple Mount, "my holy hill".
Because this is the place where God indicated His name would dwell forever,
because it is the place from which the Son will reign as King (Psalm 2:5-7), and
because the nations of the world have joined forces in their evil attempts to
commandeer that place, they will drink the full portion of the cup of His
vindictive wrath. In the end, they will be as if they never existed.
Verses 19-20 of Obadiah are a marvelous recitation of very
specific geographic promises of land recovery. Much of this land still in the
hands of the Arabs, including the Gaza strip, the West Bank, portions of western
Jordan in both the north and south, and portions of southern Lebanon.
These are especially interesting because they do not coincide
with Israel's ultimate borders, which will extend much farther than this.
Therefore, we can conclude, and this is corroborated by other prophecies, that
the very detailed land repossession described in Obadiah is an interim phase,
prior to what we call the Kingdom age. It's my opinion that this will be
accomplished in a massive Arab/Israeli war, perhaps very soon.
The utter annihilation of Edom visualized to Obadiah was such
a shock to the prophet that when writing it down, overcome with the trauma, he
interrupted himself to interject "Oh, what a disaster awaits you!" (v 5) Edom
would be betrayed by allies, despised by the world, covered with shame,
ransacked, pillaged, and obliterated. Yet it is only through God's prosecution
of long-standing crimes, and the execution of justice for those crimes, that
Edom's fate is determined. It is not an unjust fate.
Obadiah is not all a message of doom, as expressed by the
Message Bible: "But not so on Mount Zion--there's respite there! a safe and holy
place! The family of Jacob will take back their possessions from those who took
them from them." (v 17) Ultimately, Obadiah is a message of recovery,
restoration, and dominion.
Bob Westbrook 1/19/04