The long feud between the brother tribes of the children of Israel and the descendants of Esau which began at the birth of the twin ancestors, and continued with varied fortunes down to the extinction of both as distinct nationalities, forms the subject of Obadiah’s vision.

Esau selling his Birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup

The title of this Book in the Hebrew copies is usually “Sepher Obadiah” which means the Prophecy of the Prophet Obadiah. This book is the shortest book of the OT with 21 verses only. We do not know anything of the book’s author, except its name, Obadiah (meaning servant of Yehovah).

Many would place Obadiah into the time of king Jehoram of Judah (848 – 841 BC) under whose reign the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah (II Chronicles 21:8-10). In this case Obadiah would have been the first writing prophet in the history of Israel. Other observers, however, think that Obadiah lived and ministered at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC or even later as he obviously must have known this event.

This short prophetical book is about the nation of Edom; its people the Edomites were established to the south of the Israelites whose hatred for Israel will eventually lead to their destruction, a destruction that may not has a return; but as could be understood by following this study, its fate is still in suspense. The Lord was asked to remember in Psalms 137 against the Edomites who had asked that Jerusalem be razed to its foundations:

7 Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem’s fall, who said, “Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof!”
8 O daughter of Babylon who art to be destroyed, happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us.
9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones. Psalms 137:7-9

To call for the razing of the Temple of God “Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation thereof!” is a heavy crime against the God of the Most High. The Most High dwelled there and these Edomites cheered the Babylonians to burn it down? Madness! Just Madness!!!

Prophecies against Ammon and the Ammonites (Genesis 19:38; it is stated they descendants of Lot) have no promise of restoration; for the Lord have spoken it (Ezekiel 21:32, 25:10).

But for Edomites, and they shall know My vengeance: “And I will lay My vengeance upon Edom by the hand of My people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to Mine anger and according to My fury; and they shall know My vengeance, saith the Lord God,’ Ezekiel 25:14; indicating they’ll survive? Or, perhaps, their fate is still in the balance?

Historically, the children of Esau dwelt to the south of the children of Israel; in the mountains of Seir south of the Dead Sea down to the Gulf of Akaba. When the Israelites were on their journey from Egypt to Canaan the Edomites would not let them pass through their territory (Numbers 20:14-21).

Edom rejoiced over Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC (Psalms 137:7). When the Romans conquered Judea the Idumeans (Edomites) family of Herod reached the royal dignity. Since Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD the Edomites “disappeared” from history. But where did they go?

These are the names of Esau’s sons: Eliphaz (7) the son of Adah the wife of Esau, Reuel (4) the son of Basemath the wife of Esau (Genesis 36:10); and Jeush, Jaalam and Korah from Abolibamah (Genesis 36:18); so Esau had five sons and numerous grandsons.

One strong indication points to where they are today: in ancient times they live South of the children of Israel and would most probably today; that they are now in Spain, Portugal, Italy; and across the Atlantic: Mexico and the Latin Americas.


A parallel in Ezekiel Chapter 35

— a prophesy against Mount Seir
— a prophesy against all Edom

A Targum version of Obadiah as translated by Lenihan exists online here. The Targum is an indispensable source of understanding the Bible. Started by Ezra for those returning Jews from Babylon and for these returnees they could only understand the Sacred Text in Aramaic; hence the Targum is as if Ezra is speaking to us from the verses quoted.

The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom: We have heard a word from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent among the nations: “Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle” — the Edomites thought their land was unconquerable because of the defence system that they had built throughout their rocky mountains. Obadiah warns them that no matter how high up the mountains they go or how strong they make their defences, nothing will save them from the coming destruction;

Rashi: The vision of Obadiah: Why is Obadiah different that he was chosen to prophesy concerning Edom and did not prophesy any other prophecy? Our Sages of blessed memory stated: Obadiah was an Edomite proselyte. Said the Holy One, blessed be He: From them and in them will I bring upon them. Let Obadiah, who dwelt between two wicked people, Ahab and Jezebel, and did not learn from their deeds, come and impose retribution upon Esau, who dwelt between two righteous people, Isaac and Rebecca, and did not learn from their deeds.

“Behold, I have made thee small among the nations; thou art greatly despised. — thou art greatly despised; a parallel in Jeremiah 49:15 “For lo, I will make thee small among the heathen and despised among men,” as the term beaners (Latinx or Latinos?) could allude to.

Rashi: Behold I have made you small: In contrast with what his father called him, his big son, and his mother called him her big son, the Holy One, blessed be He, says: In My eyes, he is small. And our Sages expounded: small for they have neither script nor language;

The Targum (translated by Lenihan): Behold, I will make you weak among the nations. You are highly contemptible.

The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high, that saith in his heart, ‘Who shall bring me down to the ground?’

The Targum: The wickedness of your heart has led you astray. For you are like an eagle that dwells in the teeth of the rock, whose dwelling-place is in the heights, who says in his heart, “Who will bring me down to earth?”

one Report by McKinsey says of the 60 millions Latinos in US, they often live in ‘deserts’ where adequate housing, groceries are hard to find. “Nearly 9 in 10 of the Latino residents in such communities lived in five states: California, Florida, New Jersey, New York and Texas.”

McKinsey: Latinos are projected to make up 22.4 percent of the US labor force by 2030 and more than 30 percent by 2060 (Latinos population to 111.2 million by ’60). 

Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, from thence will I bring thee down,” saith the Lord.

— Esau was the firstborn, set to exalt thyself as an eagle and favored by his father Isaac for the birthrights, but Jacob coveted it and stole it from under him, and he was brought down like a pigeon. Also, like Herod the Great, an Idumean, he was a great eagle with his famed cruelty over the Jews as king over Judea; shall come up and fly as the eagle but he, too, would be brought down.

Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer; when he set foot in the Americas on October 12, 1492, claimed the land for King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain

“If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night (how thou art cut off!), would they not have stolen till they had enough? If the grape-gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?

Rashi: come upon you: Heb; lit., came to you.

How were you silent?: Why were you sleeping soundly and still until they stole all they desired?

would (the vintagers) not leave over some gleaning grapes? But these will not leave you anything, for they will search and reveal and seek out your hidden things.

The Targum: If thieves came upon you, if plunderers of the night – How then would you sleep until they had stolen their fill! And if robbers, as grape-cutters, came upon you – Would they not leave gleanings?

How the things of Esau are searched out! How his hidden things are sought out!

Rashi: were revealed: Jonathan rendered: were revealed, and it is an Aramaic expression: נִבְעוּ means “sought out.” Cf. (Isa. 21: 12) “If you will request, request (א ִם תִּבְעָיוּן בְּעָיוּ).”

Allegorical representation of the Spanish Armada, June to September 1588, showing Queen Elizabeth I and her army watching the action off Portland Bill (the Queen was in London)
The Spanish Armada, defeated by Queen Elizabeth I and her Royal Navy, 1588, when the British emerged to become the top dog and ruled the waves

The Targum: How then has Esau been ransacked! His hidden things have been revealed.

All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border; the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee and prevailed against thee. They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee; there is no understanding in him.

Rashi: Until the border… escorted you: Those who promised to aid you, came with you and escorted you to the border of your land, to the boundary, whence they came upon you in war, and with this they enticed you and succeeded.

they prevailed against you: to entice you to leave, and they deserted you.

your food they lay as a wound under you: Even your food your brother Jacob made for you as a wound, for he gave you bread and a pottage of lentils, and thereby you despised the birthright.

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?

Americans moving westward after they bought the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803

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.

Rashi: And your mighty men shall be dismayed: They shall be dismayed and frightened to flee to the land of Israel [Malbim : to the land of Edom]. And Jonathan rendered: And your mighty men shall be dismayed, dwellers of the southland.

in order that every man be cut off: i.e, every mighty man. [from Targum Jonathan]

from the mountain of Esau by slaughter: By the great slaughter that will come upon them.

The Targum: And your warriors who dwell in the south shall be smashed, in order to destroy any man with the mark of the City of Esau, through slaughter.

10 “For thy violence against thy brother Jacob, shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.

— “Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever . . . and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken.”

Rashi: Because of the violence of your brother Jacob: Because of the violence you inflicted upon Jacob.

11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side—in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem” even thou wast as one of them.

Rashi: On the day you stood from afar: that you did not come to aid him.

you, too, are like one of them: I account it for you as though you were one of their attackers. “Raze it, raze it.”

The Targum: On the day you stood aside, on the day the nations plundered his possessions and strangers entered his forts and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even you were like one of them.

12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; 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.

Rashi: And you should not have looked on the day of your brother: You should not have looked and stood from afar.

on the day of his being delivered: Heb. נָכְרוֹ. On the day of his being delivered into the hands of the heathens. And so does Scripture state concerning Saul: (I Sam. 23:7) “ נִכַּר אֹתו ֹאֱלֹהִים בְּיָדְי”, “He has delivered him into my hand.”

13 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.

Dwellers of the Southland – Anachronous map of the Spanish Empire (RED Territories until the Spanish American wars of independence (1808–1833))

Rashi: and you should not have stretched out upon their possessions: You should not have stretched out your hand upon their possessions. So did Jonathan render. And this is an ellipsis, to which we must add: “your hands.”

The Targum: And that you entered the gates of my nation on the day of their destruction, and that even you watched his affliction of the day of his destruction, and that you laid your hand on his possessions on the day of his destruction.

14 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 remained in the day of distress.

Rashi: And you should not have stood by the gap: Heb. הַפֶּרֶק. The place through which the escapees emerge to escape, and in French they call it “trou.”

And you should not have stood by the gap: From here [we learn] that one may not interrupt between one paragraph and another in reading the “Shma.” [Haggadah of Rabbi Akiva]

15 “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.

Spain and Mexico losing their territories after Napoleon, broke but wanting France to fight the Russians and British, was forced to sell Louisiana to the American in 1803, but ended defeated by the Russians in 1812 and by the British at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815

16 For as ye have drunk upon My holy mountain, so shall all the nations drink continually; yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.

Rashi: For, as you drank on My Holy Mount: Just as you rejoiced concerning the destruction of My Holy Mount. [from Jonathan]

and be stunned: Heb. יְלָעוּ. As the Targum renders: וְיִסְתַּלְעֲמוּן, an expression of confusion, amazement, and benumbing the mind; etourdissant in French – stunning.

17 “But upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.

Rashi: those who inherited them: The possessions of the people who inherited them. [from Targum Jonathan]

The Targum: And in Mount Zion there will be deliverance, and they will be holy. And the House of Jacob shall inherit the possessions of the nations who had inherited from them.

18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble; and they shall kindle them and devour them. And there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau, for the Lord hath spoken it.”

Reuben, firstborn but drunk, climbed up to his father’s bed, hence lost his birthright, defeated at the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon exiled to the island of St Helena

Rashi: for the Lord has spoken: Now where did He speak? (Num. 24:19) “Out of Jacob shall come a ruler, and he shall destroy him that remains in the city.” [from Mechilta Bo 12:16, Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer ch.37]

— Oh, wait; is “there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau,” meaning an end of any survival for the house of Esau, which seems contrary to Ezekiel 25:14? Or, perhaps according to Rashi above, verse 10, only those “that remains in the city” won’t survive?

And the House of Jacob shall be mighty as fire and the House of Joseph as strong as flame and the House of Esau as weak as straw. And they shall dominate them and kill them and there will no survivor for the House of Esau, for the Lord has decreed it so.

19 And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau, and they of the plain the Philistines. And they shall possess the fields of Ephraim and the fields of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.

Rashi: And [the inhabitants of] the southland shall inherit: Israel, who were dwelling in the south of Eretz Israel, shall inherit the mountain of Esau, which is at the southern boundary; and the people of the plain shall inherit the land of the Philistines and Mt. Ephraim and Mt. Shomeron.

— and Benjamin with [the inhabitants of] Gilead: And the children of Manasseh, whose territory was the land of Gilead, shall spread beyond the borders of Eretz Israel on the east.

20 And the captives of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad (בִּסְפָרַ֑ד Hebrew 5614) shall possess the cities of the south.

Rashi: And this exiled host: Heb. הַחֵל. Jonathan renders: This people. הַחֵל, An expression of a host. Cf. (Isa. 36:2) “And he came to Jerusalem with an army (חֵיל) of a great multitude,” which deals with Rabshakeh, only that this one is missing a “yud.” It is also possible to explain גָלֻת הַחֵל as “the exile of this valley.”

— who are with the Canaanites as far as Zarephath: The exile which is of the children of Israel who were exiled from the ten tribes to the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath

— and the exile of Jerusalem which is in Sepharad: who are of the people of Judah who were exiled to Sepharad – they shall inherit the cities of the southland, which are in the Southern part of Eretz Israel. The exegetes [a person who interprets text, especially the Scriptures] claim that Zarephath is the kingdom called France in French.

— Jonathan renders: Spain (Rashi quoting the Targum: Sepharad shall inherit the cities of the Southland as Spain); the Targums identified Sepharad with Spain, hence, Spanish Jews are called Sephardim;

Peshitta (Lamsa): The first exiles, that is, of the children of Israel, shall possess the land from Canaan as far as Zarephath; and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Spain shall possess the cities of the south.

Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: Sepharad is the name of a place; the modern Jews understand it of Spain, and accordingly, “at the present day the Spanish Jews, who form the chief of the two great sections into which the Jewish nation is divided, are called by the Jews themselves the Sephardim, German Jews being known as the Ashkenazim.”

Geneva Study Bible: by Zarephath, France; and by Sepharad, Spain;

21 And saviors shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’S.

Wikipedia: Sepharad (/sɛfəræd/or səˈfɛərəd/ Hebrew: סְפָרַד Sp̄āraḏ; also Sefarad, Sephared, Sfard) is the Hebrew name for Spain. A place called Sepharad, probably referring to Sardis in Lydia (‘Sfard’ in Lydian), in the Book of Obadiah (Obadiah 1:20, 6th century BC) of the Hebrew Bible. The name was later applied to Spain.

Rashi: shall ascend: Princes of Israel as saviors on Mt. Zion.

to judge the mountain of Esau: to exact retribution from the mountain of Esau for what they did to Israel.

to judge: Heb. לִשְׁפֹּט. joustiser in O.F.

— the mountain of Esau: Jonathan renders: the great city of Esau.

and the Lord shall have the kingdom: This teaches you that His kingdom will not be complete until He exacts retribution from Amalek.

Final decision seems to be still in suspense, yet to be decided, if this is the correct understanding, until the saints would come to Mount Zion to judge the house of Esau? Any other possible observations?

More on Esau: Ezekiel 20:45-21:1-5; Ezekiel 35

~ by Joel Huan on October 13, 2021.

5 Responses to “Obadiah”

  1. […] For more on the enemy from the South, see A Sword from the South!For more about the South, a prophecy of Esau or Edom, see Obadiah […]

  2. […] For more on the enemy from the South, see A Sword from the South!For more about the South, a prophecy of Esau or Edom, see Obadiah […]

  3. […] For more on the enemy from the South, see A Sword from the South!For more about the South, a prophecy of Esau or Edom, see Obadiah […]

  4. […] For more on the enemy from the South, see A Sword from the South!For more about the South, a prophecy of Esau or Edom, see Obadiah […]

  5. […] For more about the South, a prophecy of Esau or Edom, see Obadiah […]

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