Obadiah - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

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Obadiah - Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible
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  Book Overview - Obadiah The Prophet.  His name means servant of the Lord, but we know nothing of him except what we can gather from his prophecy. The Time.  It was doubtless written after the fall of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar, 587 B. C. and before the destruction of Edom, five years later, which would make the date about 585 B. C. This would make him a contemporary of Jeremiah. The Occasion of the prophecy is the cruelty of the Edomites in rejoicing over the fall of Judah. The Jews.  It is said to be a favorite book with the Jews because of the vengeance which it pronounces upon Edom, their brother. Its chief importance lies in its predictions of doom upon Edom the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob and the type of the unchangeable hostility of the flesh to that which is born of the spirit. The Teachings.  (1) Jehovah is especially interested in Israel. (2) He will establish a new kingdom, with Judea and Jerusalem as the center and with holiness as the chief characteristic. Analysis.  I.   Edom's punishment, 1-9. 1.   She must fall, 1-4. 2.   Her allies will desert her, 5-7. 3.   Her wisdom will fail her, 8-9. II.   Edom's sin, 10-14 III.   Guilt of the nations, 15-16. IV.   Judah shall be restored, For Study and Discussion.  (1) The sin of pride. (2) The sin of rejoicing in another's misfortune. (3) Punishment according to our sin and of the same kind as was our sin. Chapter 1 Verse 1   The vision of Obadiah - , i. e., of “the worshiper of God.” The prophet would be known only by that which his name imports, that he worshiped God. He tells us in this double title, through whom the prophecy came, and from whom it came. His name authenticated the prophecy to the Jewish Church. Thenceforth, he chose to remain wholly hidden. He entitles it “a vision,” as the prophets were called “seers”  1 Samuel 9:9, although he relates, not the vision which he saw, but its substance and meaning. Probably the future was unfolded to him in the form of sights spread out before his mind, of which he spoke in words given to him by God. His language consists of a succession of pictures, which he may have seen, and, in his picture language, described. “As prophecy is called “the word,” because God spoke to the  prophets within, so it is called “vision,” because the prophet saw, with the eyes of the mind and by the light wherewith  they are illumined, what God willeth to be known to them.” The name expresses also the certainty of their knowledge. “Among the organs  of our senses, sight has the most evident knowledge of those things which are the object of our senses. Hence, the contemplation of the things which are true is called “vision,” on account of the evidence and assured certainty. On that ground the prophet was called “seer.”   Thus saith the Lord God concerning Edom - This second title states, that the whole which follows is from God. What immediately follows is said in Obadiah‘s own person; but all, whether so spoken or directly in the Person of God, was alike the word of God. God spake in or by the prophets, in both ways, since 2 Peter 1:21  “prophecy came not by the will of man, but holy men of God spake” as they   were “moved by the Holy Spirit.” Obadiah, in that he uses, in regard to his whole prophecy, words which other prophets use in delivering a direct message from God, ascribes the whole of his prophecy to God, as immediately as other prophets did any words which God commanded them to speak. The words are a rule for all prophecy, that all comes directly from God. We have heard a rumor - , rather, “a report;” literally “a hearing, a thing heard,” as Isaiah says Isaiah 53:1 , “Who hath believed our report? A “report” is certain or uncertain, according to the authority from whom it comes. This “report” was certainly true, since it was “from the Lord.” By the plural, we, Obadiah may have associated with himself, either other prophets of his own day as Joel and Amos, who, with those yet earlier, as Balaam and David, had prophesied against Edom, or the people, for whose sakes God made it known to him. In either case, the prop het does not stand alone for himself. He hears with “the goodly company of the prophets;” and the people of God hear in him, as Isaiah says again Isaiah 21:10,  “that which I have heard from the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you.”   And an ambassador is sent among the pagan - The “ambassador” is any agent, visible or invisible, sent by God. Human powers, who wish to stir up war, send human messengers. All things stand at God‘s command, and whatever or whomsoever He employs, is a messenger from Him. He uses our language to us. He may have employed an angel, as He says Psalm 78:49 , “He sent evil angels among them,” and as, through the permission given to a lying spirit  1 Kings 22:21-23. He executed His judgments upon Ahab, of his own free will believing the evil spirit, and disbelieving Himself. So Judges 9:23  “God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the men of Shechem,” allowing His rebellious spirit to bring about the punishment of evil men, by inflaming yet more the evil passions, of which they were slaves. Evil spirits, in their malice and rebellion, while stirring up the lust of conquest, are still G od‘s messengers, in that He overrules them; as, to Paul 2 Corinthians 12:7 , “the thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him,” was still the gift of God. “It was given me,” he says.   Arise ye and let us rise - He who rouseth them, says, “Arise ye,” and they quickly echo the words, “and let us arise.” The will of God is fulfilled at once. While eager to accomplish their own ends, they fulfill, the more, the purpose of God. Whether, the first agent is man‘s own passions, or the evil spirit who stirs them, the impulse spreads from the one or the few to the many. But all catch the spark, cast in among them. The summons finds a ready response. “Arise,” is the commend of God, however given; “let us arise,” is the eager response of man‘s avarice or pride or ambition, fulfilling impetuously the secret will of God; as a tiger, let loose upon man by man, fulfills the will of its owner, while sating its own thirst for blood. So Isaiah hearsIsaiah 13:4  “the noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people, a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of natio ns gathered together.” The Medes and Persians thought at that time of nothing less, than that they were instruments of the One God, whom they knew not. But Isaiah continues; “The Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle;” and, when it was fulfilled, Cyrus saw and owned it Ezra 1:1-2.  Verse 2   Behold, I have made thee small - God, having declared His future judgments upon Edom, assigns the first ground of those judgments. Pride was the root of Edom‘s sin, then envy; then followed exultation at his brother‘s fall, hard -heartedness and bloodshed. All this was against  the disposit ion of God‘s Providence for him. God had made him small, in numbers, in honor, in territory. Edom was a wild mountain people. It was strongly guarded in the rock-girt dwelling, which God had assigned it. Like the Swiss or the Tyrolese of old, or the inhabitants of Mount Caucasus now, it had strength for resistance through the advantages of its situation, not for aggression, unless it were that of a robber-horde. But lowness, as people use it, is the mother either of lowliness or pride. A low estate, acquiesced in by the grace of God, is the parent of lowliness; when rebelled against, it generates a greater intensity of pride than greatness, because that pride is against nature itself and God‘s appointment. The pride of human greatness, sinful as it is, is allied to a natural nobility of character. Copying pervertedly the greatness of God, the soul, when it receives the Spirit of God, casts off the slough, and retains its nobility transfigured by grace. The conceit of littleness has the hideousness of those monstrous combinations, the more hideous, because unnatural, not a corruption only but a distortion of nature. Edom never attempted anything of moment by itself. “Thou art greatly despised.” Weakness, in itself, is neither despicable nor “despised.” It is de spised only, when it vaunts itself to be, what it is not. God tells Edom what, amid its pride, it was in itself, “despicable;” what it would thereafter be, “despised”.   Verse 3   The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee - Not the strength of its mountain-fastnesses, strong though they were, deceived Edom, but “the pride of his heart.” That strength was but the occasion which called forth the “pride.” Yet, it was strong in its abode. God, as it were, admits it to them. “Dweller in the clefts of the rocks, the loftiness of his habitation.” “The whole southern country of the Edomites,” says Jerome, “from Eleutheropolis to Petra and Selah (which are the possessions of Esau), hath minute dwellings in caves; and on account of the oppressive heat of the sun, as be ing a southern province, hath under ground cottages.” Its inhabitants, whom Edom expelled Deuteronomy 2:12, were hence called Horites, i. e., dwellers in caves. Its chief city was called Selah or Petra, “rock.” It was a city single of its kind amid the works of man. “The eagles” placed their nests in the rocky caves at a height of several hundred feet above the level of the valley … . The power of the concept ion which would frame a range of mountain-rocks into a memorial of the human name, which, once of noble name and high bepraised, sought, through might of its own, to clothe itself with the imperishablness of the eternal Word, is here the same as in the contemporary monuments of the temple-rocks of Elephantine or at least those of the Egyptian Thebes.” The ornamental buildings, so often admired by travelers, belong to a later date. Those nests in the rocks, piled over one another, meeting you in every recess, lining each fresh winding of the valleys, as each opened on the discoverer, often at heights, where (now that the face of the rock and its approach, probably hewn in it, have crumbled away) you can scarcely imagine how human foot ever climbed, must have been the work of the first hardy mountaineers, whose feet were like the chamois. Such habitations imply, not an uncivilized, only a hardy, active, people. In those narrow valleys, so scorched by a southern sun, they were at once the coolest summer dwellings, and, amid the dearth of fire-wood, the warmest in winter. The dwellings of the living and the sepulchres of the dead were, apparently, hewn out in the same soft red sandstone-rock, and perhaps some of the dwellings of the earlier rock-dwellers were converted into graves by the Nabataeans and their successors who lived in the valley. The central space has traces of other human habitations. “The ground is covered with heaps of hewn stones, foundations of buildings and vestiges of paved streets, all clearly indicating that a large city once existed here”. “They occupy two miles in circumference, affording room in an oriental city for 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants.”   Its theater held “above 3,000.” Probably this city belonged altogether to the later, Nabataean,  Roman, or Christian times. Its existence illustrates the extent of the ancient city of the rock. The whole space, rocks and valleys, imbedded in the mountains which girt it in, lay invisible even from the summit of Mount Hor. So nestled was it in its rocks, that an enemy could only know of its existence, an army could only approach it, through treachery. Two known approaches only, from the east and west, enter into it.  The least remarkable is described as lying amid “wild fantastic mountains,” “rocks in to wering masses,” “over steep and slippery passes,” or “winding in recesses below.” Six hours of such passes led to the western side of Petra. The Greeks spoke of it as two days‘ journey from their “world” Approach how you would, the road lay through defiles . The Greeks knew but of “one ascent to it, and that,” (as they deemed) “made by hand;” (that from the east) The Muslims now think the Sik or chasm, the two miles of ravine by which it is approached, to be supernatural, made by the rod of Moses when he struck the rock. Demetrius, “the Besieger”, at the head of 8,000 men, (the 4,000 infantry selected for their swiftness of foot from the whole army) made repeated assaults on the place, but “those within had an easy victory from its commanding height”. “A few hundred men might defend the entrance against a large army.”   Its width is described as from 10 to 30 feet, “a rent in a mountain -wall, a magnificent gorge, a mile and a half long, winding like the most flexible of rivers, between rocks almost precipitous, but that they overlap and crumble and crack, as if they would crash over you. The blue sky only  just visible above. The valley opens, but contracts again. Then it is honey-combed with cavities of all shapes and sizes. Closing once more, it opens in the area of Petra itself, the torrent-bed passing now through absolute desolation and silence, though strewn with the fragments which shew that you once entered on a splendid and busy city, gathered along in the rocky banks, as along the quays of some great north ern river.”  Beyond this immediate rampart of rocks, there lay between it and the Eastern Empires that vast plateau, almost unapproachable by an enemy who knew not its hidden artificial reservoirs of waters. But even the entrance gained, what gain beside, unless the people and its wealth were betrayed to a surprise? Striking as the rock-girt Petra was, a gem in its mountain-setting, far more marvelous was it, when, as in the prophet‘s time, the rock itself was Petra. Inside the defile, an invader would be outside the city yet. He might himself become the besieged, rather than the besieger. In which of these eyries along all those ravines were the eagles to be found? From which of those lairs might not Edom‘s lion -sons burst out upon them? Multitudes gave the invaders no advantage in scaling those mountain-sides, where, observed themselves by an unseen enemy, they would at last have to fight man to man. What a bivouac were it, in that narrow spot, themselves encircled by an enemy everywhere, anywhere, and visibly nowhere, among those thousand caves, each larger cave, may be, an ambuscade! In man‘s sight Edom‘s boast was well-founded; but what before God? That saith in his heart - The heart has its own language, as distinct and as definite as that formed by the lips, mostly deeper, often truer. It needeth not the language of the lips, to offend God. Since He answers the heart which seeks Him, so also He replies in displeasure to the heart which despises Him. “Who shall bring me down to the earth?” Such is the lang uage of all self- sufficient security. “Can Alexander fly?” answered the Bactrian chief from another Petra. On the second night he was prisoner or slain. Edom probably, under his who? included God Himself, who to him was the God of the Jews only. Yet, men now, too, include God in their defiance, and scarcely veil it from themselves by speaking of “fortune” rather than God; or, if of a coarser sort, they do not even veil it, as in that common terrible saying, “He fears neither God nor devil.” God answers his thought; Verse 4   Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle - (or, thy nest) The eagle builds its nest in places nearly inaccessible to man. The Edomites were a race of eagles. It is not the language of poetry or exaggeration; but is poetic, because so true. “And though thou set thy nest in the stars.” This is men‘s language, strange as it is. “I shall touch the stars with my crown;” “I shall strike the stars with my lofty crown;” “since I have touched heaven with my lance.” As Job says  Job 20:6-7 , “Though his excellency mount up to the heavens and his head reacheth unto the clouds,” yet,” he shall perish forever, like his own dung.” And Isaiah to the king of Bab ylon, the type of Anti Christ and of the Evil one Isaiah 14:13, Isaiah 14:11 , “Thou hast said in thy heart, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; thy pomp is brought down to the grave, the worm is spread
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