Obadiah prophesies against Edom, whose conduct towards Jacob typifies the general attitude of hostile nations to God’s people, and threatens retribution for all its crimes. These verses are introductory.
I. The nature of the message. God speaks in manifold ways and divers forms to adapt his revelations to men.
- 1. A vision. God first opens their eyes, and if they have not real visions, they have fresh light and new life poured into the soul. All God’s servants have heard and seen God in Christ; have enlarged views of truth and duty; and rejoice in spiritual illumination. “We speak that we know, and testify that we have seen.”
- 2. A report. To impress our minds God often appeals to the senses, speaks to the eye and ear. (a) A true report, not a mere rumour originating with men; but authentic and Divine. “From the Lord.” (b) A prevalent report. “We have heard.” The prophet identifies others, of earlier or those of his own date, with himself. God’s judgments are known in the earth by various means. Men are not kept in the dark. If the wicked despise them the righteous shall be warned.” Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets.”
- 3. A judgment. Those who desert God and renounce spiritual interests to gratify animal passions will be disgraced. And when posterity indulge the spirit, perpetuate and multiply the sins, of their ancestors, as Edomites walked in the steps of Esau, then God will make an example of them. “And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom, by the hand of my people Israel.”
II. The execution of the message. God’s word is not empty sound. God changes not, and his servants must not alter their message. “Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom.”
- 1. By an ambassador. “An ambassador is sent.” Whether this ambassador be the prophet himself, or another servant, or celestial messenger, matters little. God has agents visible and invisible. Evil spirits and wicked men are permitted to stir up nations to battle. We are ambassadors from God to beseech you to take heed and escape the judgment.
- 2. By other nations. There is first a rumour, then the ambassador, followed by the gathering of nations. Though eager to accomplish their own ends, and engrossed in their own pursuits, yet when God calls, “Arise ye,” they respond, “Let us rise up against her in battle.” The Medes and Persians, the Russians and Turks, are under the control of God Almighty. He can create war or cause it to cease. He has absolute dominion over the human heart, and can turn it at his pleasure. One wicked man punishes another; one sinful nation administers justice to another. “He maketh the wrath of man to praise him.”
III. The consequences of this execution. “Behold. I have made thee small among the heathen.” The greatness of the calamity is set forth by its effects.
- 1. Small in territory. Edom extended from Dedan of Arabia to Bozrah in the north (Jer. 49:8-13). But the enemy “laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness” (Mal. 1:3). He was robbed of his dominions, and subdued by the heathen.
- 2. Small in number. They were noted for riches and power (Gen. 36:7-31); blessed with men and possessions: but were made small and sadly reduced in war (2Ki. 14:7).
- 3. Small in honour. Not merely despised, but “greatly despised.” This mighty nation was made insignificant in itself, and despicable in the sight of others. Proud men are worthless in character, and ridiculed by inferiors. They wrongly estimate themselves, and are lightly esteemed by others. Humiliation and shame will ever be the result of their pride and defiance of God. God exalts and abases, makes great and makes small. “For lo, I will make thee small among the heathen, and despised among men.”
“My pride fell with my fortunes” [Shakespeare].