Esau was the twin brother of Jacob, who became Israel, and from whom came the nation itself. Esau’s descendants became a primary enemy of Jacob’s descendants. They turned away from Jacob and Jacob’s God and joined with Israel’s enemies to destroy her. All the way back to Abraham, God had promised to bless those who bless Abraham’s descendants and to curse those who curse them. Edom, the descendants of Esau, joined with those who cursed Israel. Obadiah 1:8-9 tells us that God will not intervene to save Edom when all of her so-called allies betray her and refuse to help her in her hour of need. As Edom cursed Israel, God cursed Edom. God says, “Will I not on that day, declares the Lord, destroy the wise men out of Edom and understanding out of Mount Esau? And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman, so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.”

The Edomites were wise in their own eyes only. Eliphaz, the misguided counselor of Job, was from Teman.  Eliphaz thought he knew the answer to all of Job’s problems. He was dead wrong. The pride and arrogance of the Edomites prevented them from seeing the truth. Although we have some wise sayings from ancient civilizations, we have none from Edom. Jeremiah made a similar charge against Edom. He writes in Jeremiah 49:7, “Concerning Edom. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Is wisdom no more in Teman? Has counsel perished from the prudent? Has their wisdom vanished?” Jeremiah’s assumed answer is “No,” there is no more wisdom in Edom. And “Yes,” their wisdom has vanished. Isaiah 5:21 speaks the truth when he says, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” Woe might even be too mild of a word for the Edomites who turned against their Israel kin. God says they will be destroyed, dismayed, and cut off.

Whatever Obadiah means by the three different phrases, we can see by the inclusion of the phrase “by slaughter” the conclusive nature of the destruction. Raabe recognized this and said the phrase “by slaughter” means “every Edomite will be killed and thus eliminated from the land. The clause furthermore seems to imply the eradication of the Edomites’ remnant and memory. Two passages in Ezekiel’s oracles against Edom provide close parallels.”[1] One of the passages in Ezekiel that Raabe is referring to is Ezekiel 25:13, “Therefore thus says the Lord God, I will stretch out my hand against Edom and cut off from it man and beast. And I will make it desolate; from Teman even to Dedan, they shall fall by the sword.” Raabe even refers to a commentator who suggested that the phrase could include denial of the afterlife.  God promised Abraham that all those that blessed his descendants would be blessed. Those that cursed them will be cursed. I’m always glad to see American support the new nation of Israel.

[1] Raabe, Paul R. 2008. Obadiah: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 24D. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.