The war is over. Jerusalem is in ruins and most of the remaining people are in captivity in Babylon. Ezekiel will be their prophet there. Jeremiah was given the opportunity to sit in Nebuchadnezzar’s court or to remain in Jerusalem with the few leftovers of the war. Jeremiah decided to remain in Jerusalem. Unfortunately the remaining stragglers decided to move to Egypt, much against Jeremiah’s warnings not to do so. Jeremiah went with them, and they all died in Egypt. Jeremiah died there with them.
Obadiah was a contemporary of Jeremiah, along with Zephaniah and Habakkuk. He probably stayed behind in Jerusalem with Jeremiah. We do not know this for sure, but it is a reasonable speculation. He is writing a very few years after the fall of Jerusalem. Babylon was the main aggressor against Judah, but their neighbor to the south, Edom, assisted the Babylonians in the battle against Judah, and they captured Judean territory and turned over the Jews that fled to Edom to escape the Babylonian war machine.
This action has deep historic roots. The Edomites are the children of Esau, Jacob’s twin brother. The two families have been at war from the beginning. A brief truce was achieved when Jacob returned to Israel from Harran, but it was short lived. Esau had ample reason to hate Jacob because of the way Jacob deceived him out of his birthright. The Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through their land during the wilderness journey from Egypt. Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel had anti-Edomite prophesies. Next week we will see that God has strong words about Esau. Obadiah prophesies the downfall of Edom
Obadiah means “Servant of God” or “Worshipper of God”. We do not know much more about Obadiah or the time of his ministry. Many scholars place him in the time of the fall of Jerusalem and the Babylonian exile. That would make him contemporary with Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and similar words are found in both prophets’ writings.
Edom was located just to the south of the Dead Sea and southern Judah. The nation was rooted in Esau, Jacob’s brother, and there has been continual animosity between the two tribes. I would suggest that the conflict between Islam and Judeo-Christian cultures has its roots back to the days of Jacob and Esau, and even earlier, between Ishmael and Isaac.
As noted last time, God does not reserve his oversight only of his chosen people, but over all peoples of the world. Edom vengefully assisted Nebuchadnezzar in the destruction of Jerusalem.
Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!”
O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
Prophecy Against Edom
“Thus says the Lord GOD: Because Edom acted revengefully against the house of Judah and has grievously offended in taking vengeance on them, 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. 14 And I will lay my vengeance upon Edom by the hand of my people Israel, and they shall do in Edom according to my anger and according to my wrath, and they shall know my vengeance, declares the Lord GOD.
Judgment on Edom
Thus says the LORD of hosts:
“Is wisdom no more in Teman?
Has counsel perished from the prudent?
Has their wisdom vanished?
Flee, turn back, dwell in the depths,
O inhabitants of Dedan!
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.
Leave your fatherless children; I will keep them alive;
and let your widows trust in me.”
For thus says the LORD: “If those who did not deserve to drink the cup must drink it, will you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, but you must drink. For I have sworn by myself, declares the LORD, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse, and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes.”
I have heard a message from the LORD,
and an envoy has been sent among the nations:
“Gather yourselves together and come against her,
and rise up for battle!
For behold, I will make you small among the nations,
despised among mankind.
The horror you inspire has deceived you,
and the pride of your heart,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
who hold the height of the hill.
Though you make your nest as high as the eagle's,
I will bring you down from there,
declares the LORD.
“Edom shall become a horror. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its disasters. As when Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities were overthrown, says the LORD, no man shall dwell there, no man shall sojourn in her. Behold, like a lion coming up from the jungle of the Jordan against a perennial pasture, I will suddenly make him run away from her. And I will appoint over her whomever I choose. For who is like me? Who will summon me? What shepherd can stand before me? Therefore hear the plan that the LORD has made against Edom and the purposes that he has formed against the inhabitants of Teman: Even the little ones of the flock shall be dragged away. Surely their fold shall be appalled at their fate. At the sound of their fall the earth shall tremble; the sound of their cry shall be heard at the Red Sea. Behold, one shall mount up and fly swiftly like an eagle and spread his wings against Bozrah, and the heart of the warriors of Edom shall be in that day like the heart of a woman in her birth pains.”
Although Nebuchadnezzar was used by God in the destruction of Israel, he paid the price of touching God’s chosen people by being destroyed himself by the Medes and the Persians. Even so, as Edom carried out God’s judgment on Israel, Edom will now be under God’s judgment, and soon fall to the invasion of the Nabataens.
Ezekiel 35:1-15 In this chapter we find expressed toward the Edomites, symbolized in Mount Seir, that same spirit of bitter condemnation that inspired the entire prophecy of Obadiah and the last several verses of Psalm 137.
The material here expands on ideas found in a seminal form in Ezekiel 25:12-14. Edom has assisted and cheered on the Babylonians in their wanton destruction of the temple (cf. 1 Esdras 4:45). Ezekiel is our witness that the Edomites hoped to annex territory left open by the destruction of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah (verse 10), but they will not do so, he tells us, because God has other plans for that land. Those plans of God form the substance of the next chapter.
The Edomites in the Bible comprised what we may call . . . well, a special case. Israel did not like them very much. Indeed, the Lord had to command Israel not to despise the Edomites (Deuteronomy 23:7), a thing they were prompted to do, perhaps, on the excuse that the Lord Himself was said to hate Esau, the father of the Edomites (Malachi 1:2; Romans 9:13). Truth to tell, the Edomites were not easy to love. They had obstructed Israel’s path from Egypt during the days of Moses (Numbers 20:21). They were known to be without pity (Amos 1:11) and engaged in international slave trade (1:6,9). For Ezekiel, as for Obadiah, however, the major sin was their attempt to exploit Babylon’s destruction of Judah.
Ezekiel 36:1-15 As the previous oracle was addressed to Mount Seir in Edom, so this one (verses 1-15) is addressed to the mountains of Israel. It condemns all the nations that have set themselves against God’s people, but special attention is given, once again, to the Edomites (verse 5).
In verse 8 Ezekiel begins a series of several prophecies of the Israelites’ return to their homes. Whereas in Chapter 6 he had infallibly foretold to these same mountains the many sufferings that have since ensued, he now tells them, again infallibly, of the joys that lie ahead.
And why should God perform these mercies, in view of the fact that Israel has deserved all that it has suffered (verses 16-20)? Because of His own gracious election (verses 21-38). God will pour out all these new blessings on His people in order to testify to the gratuity and steadfastness of His choice. God will be faithful, even though Israel has not been faithful.
The most famous lines of this section are in verses 26-28, repetitious of 11:19-20 and reminiscent of Jeremiah 31:31-34. God will restore Israel, not because of the merits of Israel, but to vindicate His covenant fidelity. The gift of cleansing and a new heart is entirely God’s, but it will not be given except in the context of repentance (verse 31). Daily Reflections, by Patrick Henry Reardon
And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose heart goes after their detestable things and their abominations, I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, declares the Lord GOD.”
The New Covenant
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
1 The vision of Obadiah.
Edom Will Be Humbled
Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the LORD,
and a messenger has been sent among the nations:
“Rise up! Let us rise against her for battle!”
2 Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
you shall be utterly despised.
3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle,
though your nest is set among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,
declares the LORD.
5 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?
6 How Esau has been pillaged,
his treasures sought out!
7 All your allies have driven you to your border;
those at peace with you have deceived you;
they have prevailed against you;
those who eat your bread have set a trap beneath you—
you have no understanding.
8 Will I not on that day, declares the LORD,
destroy the wise men out of Edom,
and understanding out of Mount Esau?
9 And your mighty men shall be dismayed, O Teman,
so that every man from Mount Esau will be cut off by slaughter.
Edom's Violence Against Jacob
10 Because of the violence done to your brother Jacob,
shame shall cover you,
and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aloof,
on the day that strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.
12 But do not gloat over the day of your brother
in the day of his misfortune;
do not rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their ruin;
do not boast
in the day of distress.
13 Do not enter the gate of my people
in the day of their calamity;
do not gloat over his disaster
in the day of his calamity;
do not loot his wealth
in the day of his calamity.
14 Do not stand at the crossroads
to cut off his fugitives;
do not hand over his survivors
in the day of distress.
The Day of the Lord Is Near
15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the nations.
As you have done, it shall be done to you;
your deeds shall return on your own head.
16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain,
so all the nations shall drink continually;
they shall drink and swallow,
and shall be as though they had never been.
17 But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape,
and it shall be holy,
and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions.
18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire,
and the house of Joseph a flame,
and the house of Esau stubble;
they shall burn them and consume them,
and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau,
for the LORD has spoken.
The Kingdom of the Lord
19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,
and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines;
they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,
and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel
shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,
and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
shall possess the cities of the Negeb.
21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion
to rule Mount Esau,
and the kingdom shall be the LORD's.
Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are the post-exilic prophets. Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Two-thirds of the population died in the assault on Jerusalem. A third died in battle, a third died of starvation and pestilence as it was cooped up in the city for a year and a half with the Babylonian forces surrounding the city. Finally the walls were breached and the remaining one-third were marched 500 miles to Babylon where they served as slaves to Nebuchadnezzar. God told Jeremiah the captivity would last 70 years to allow the land to lay fallow for the Sabbaths ignored for 490 years.
2 Chronicles 36:20-21
He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
The Proclamation of Cyrus
2 Chronicles 36:22-26
Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him. Let him go up.’”
This happened in 538 BC. Many of the exiles returned to Jerusalem with the intent of restoring the Temple of God. We read in Nehemiah that they found considerable opposition to their plans by the transplanted inhabitants of the land, and so they busied themselves building home for themselves. The Temple could wait.
In 520 BC the Lord sent the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to Jerusalem to tell the people it was about time they begin work on the Temple (Haggai), and to provide a vision of the ultimate glory of Jerusalem as God’s holy city (Zechariah). Here we pick up the prophecy of Haggai.
The Command to Rebuild the Temple
1:1-6 In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest: “Thus says the LORD of hosts: These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the LORD.” Then the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.
There is a price paid for taking God’s commands lightly.
1:7-11 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Consider your ways. Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified, says the LORD. You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the LORD of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house. Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought on the land and the hills, on the grain, the new wine, the oil, on what the ground brings forth, on man and beast, and on all their labors.”
Mother nature herself helps deliver God’s punishments on his faithless people.
Suddenly The People Begin to Obey the Lord
1:12-15 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people feared the LORD. Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD's message, “I am with you, declares the LORD.” And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the month, in the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.
Zerubbabel was the grandson of Jehoiachin, king of Israel at the time of captivity. Nebuchadnezzar took pity on him and seated him in the royal palace for life. He was king in the line of David, so Zerubbabel is in the royal line leading to Jesus. His name may mean ‘seed of Babylon’ or ‘shoot from Babylon’. He was made governor of Israel, and he was a faithful leader. He is a model of the coming Messiah, as we see at the end of this prophesy. Joshua was the high priest who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel and he was also a model of the Messiah, who would also be a priest (See Zechariah 3).
With such faithful leadership and the encouragement of the prophet Haggai, the people enthusiastically begin the rebuilding of the Temple in earnest. With such a dramatic response some theologians such as Jerome, postulated that Haggai may have been an angel masquerading in a human body. We know this could only happen under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Coming Glory of the Temple
2:1-5 In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the LORD. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the LORD. Work, for I am with you, declares the LORD of hosts, according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not.
Probably there were not many returning exiles that did remember the original Temple. This is 66 years after the war and captivity. To see the Temple with adult eyes they would have had to be at least 12 year old. Not many in that day and age could withstand a 500 mile journey along the edge of the Arabian desert. But there may have been some that did.
The task of rebuilding was formidable. Hardly one stone stood on another. And the stones were heavy. Three times Haggai encourages them to ‘be strong’. This is not unlike the works any of us undertake for the Lord. But God promises his Spirit will be in their midst.
2:6-9 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.’”
God determines the longevity of rulers and of nations. There have been many upheavals throughout history, We seem to be living through several of them.
The rise and fall of Communism in the Soviet union.
The First and Second world wars with Germany, and then Germany and Japan.
The coming Muslin invasion of the West.
The dissolution of the United States as ‘E Pluribus Unum’.
It looks like the Lord is shaking all the nations today. Interestingly God’s goal is to bring the treasures of the nations to his house, understood here as the Temple in Jerusalem.
The Mountain of the Lord
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.
It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go forth the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
The Future Glory of Israel
Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
For behold, darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
but the LORD will arise upon you,
and his glory will be seen upon you.
And nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your rising.
Your sun shall no more go down,
nor your moon withdraw itself;
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of mourning shall be ended.
Your people shall all be righteous;
they shall possess the land forever,
the branch of my planting, the work of my hands,
that I might be glorified.
The least one shall become a clan,
and the smallest one a mighty nation;
I am the LORD;
in its time I will hasten it.
Blessings for a Defiled People
2:10-19 On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’” The priests answered and said, “No.” Then Haggai said, “If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?” The priests answered and said, “It does become unclean.” Then Haggai answered and said, “So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the LORD, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the LORD. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the LORD's temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you.”
The people are not pure. They are like the rest of us. Some get discouraged. Some are not fully committed to the task. Some doubt that God will bless their efforts. Haggai warns them not to let their discouragement rub off on their fellow workers. Holiness is not transferable. We should strive for holiness before God. Impurity, however, is transferable and can spread through the whole community like wildfire. It impoverishes everyone. It holds back God’s generosity.
Zerubbabel Chosen as a Signet
2:20-23 The word of the LORD came a second time to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, “Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders. And the horses and their riders shall go down, every one by the sword of his brother. On that day, declares the LORD of hosts, I will take you, O Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel, declares the LORD, and make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you, declares the LORD of hosts.”
Here God greatly honors his faithful servant, Zerubbabel. He will be like a signet ring. He is a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah. There will be a huge time gap of about 500 years, but the true Messiah will appear and initiate the New Jerusalem.
The Temple was finished in four years, in 516 BC. It was 70 years after the fall of Jerusalem. It will stand for 586 more years until it is destroyed by Titus and the Romans. But by that time a new kingdom will have been initiated that will require no Temple, because God will be filling the kingdom with himself.