God is judging Israel’s enemies because of their pride and arrogance in that they mistreated God’s people and stood as a prime enemy of Israel throughout their existence and wouldn’t even recognize the rights of the Jews to live in their land in peace. God promised total nihilation of this nation according to Obadiah. Usually, when nations are conquered and their cities are sacked, there is always a remnant left. That won’t be the way with Edom. Obadiah 1:5-6 says, “If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?  How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures sought out!” Plunderers only take what they can carry away. Grape gatherers always miss some of the fruit. But that won’t be the way in Edom. They will be destroyed. The Handbook for translators explains, “The meaning of the verse is: when a country undergoes some kind of defeat, the destruction is only partial in most cases; but in the case of Edom, it will be much more severe—your enemies have wiped you out completely. Just as Edom’s pride was pictured as greater than normal in verses 3 and 4, so here her destruction is pictured as more severe.”[1]

Whereas the Nabateans routed Edom and took their homes in Petra, the remnant moved to an area in the promised land called Idumea which became their home. But by the time of Christ, the last of the Idumeans to appear in history was Herod the Great. Herod was the king of the Jews as designated by Caesar. He was a madman whole killed his wife and two of his sons because he was afraid they plotted to take the throne. In his hatred and persecution of the Jews, he attempted to kill all the babies in Jerusalem to assassinate what the Jews believed could have been the birth of the King of Israel.

The “treasures” of Edom, as mentioned in the verse, would all be searched out and taken. Smith says, “The purpose of the search of Edom would be to locate the nation’s ‘hidden treasures.’ Edom’s mountains afforded numerous places to hide the loot taken in raids or the tax from transporting goods along roads controlled by Edom. Edom thought their treasures were secure. But the prophet said such treasures would be pillaged.”[2] Jeremiah endorses this prophecy against Edom. He writes, in Jeremiah 49:8-10, “For I will bring the calamity of Esau upon him, the time when I punish him.  If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings? If thieves came by night, would they not destroy only enough for themselves?  But I have stripped Esau bare; I have uncovered his hiding places, and he is not able to conceal himself. His children are destroyed, and his brothers, and his neighbors; and he is no more.”

I’ve been listening to a lot of Church history books on my kindle audible. On nearly every page we read about the murder of those who hated the new Christian faith. Some of the stories are frightening. See Foxes Book of Martyrs. But was even more surprising to me that Christians kill Christians because of differing theologies. The inquisitions were horrendous. Then the murder of those translating the Bible into English or other common languages. Then protestants killed protestants because of the mode of baptism or the meaning of the Lord’s supper. God’s judgment on the Edomites who waged war against their distant relatives, the Israelites, met with extreme judgment from God. I wonder if Bridger is right. He looks at Paul’s words from 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 and comments, “The apostle Paul underlined that truth centuries later when he spoke of the final day of judgment for all nations, when ‘the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.’ God will destroy his enemies completely.”[3]

[1] Clark, David J., and Norm Mundhenk. 1982. A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Obadiah. UBS Handbook Series. London; New York: United Bible Societies.

[2] Smith, Billy K., and Franklin S. Page. 1995. Amos, Obadiah, Jonah. Vol. 19B. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[3] Bridger, Gordon. 2010. The Message of Obadiah, Nahum and Zephaniah: The Kindness and Severity of God. Edited by Alec Motyer and Derek Tidball. The Bible Speaks Today. Nottingham, England: Inter-Varsity Press.