In vv.1-4 we read that pride was a serious problem for the Edomites, the decedents of Esau, twin brother of Jacob. Here, in vv.5-9, we see that they also boasted in their allies: those nations around them who were thought to be friendly.
“If thieves came to rob you during the night,
they would steal only as much as they wanted.
If grape pickers came to harvest your vineyards,
they would leave some behind for the poor.
But you will be totally destroyed!
How the people of Esau will be thoroughly plundered!
Their hidden valuables will be ransacked!
All your allies will force you from your homeland!
Your treaty partners will deceive you and overpower you.
Your trusted friends will set an ambush for you
that will take you by surprise!
At that time,” the LORD says,
“I will destroy the wise sages of Edom,
the advisers from Esau’s mountain.
Your warriors will be shattered, O Teman,
so that everyone will be destroyed from Esau’s mountain!”
In contrast to the standard practice at harvest time of leaving some produce for the poor, Obadiah speaks of Edom’s coming disaster being total and all-encompassing (vv.5-6).
As well as boasting in their physical location (v.3), it seems the Edomites also boasted in their perceived relationships with their neighbours and how this made them safe (v.7). It seems as if there is no end to what the Edomites could boast in.
Pastor and Bible commentator David Guzik, writes this,
“When God brings judgment against Edom, they will know the sting of treachery against them. The alliances they once trusted in would come to nothing, and they would be double-crossed by their former friends. The Edomites were proud of their political alliances, but God would break their pride and bring them low.”
People are fickle, aren’t they? If you go to any sports game you will see fans cheering their team on one minute, then lamenting the fact that “My grandma could have scored that!”, or “He couldn’t hit a beach ball with a cricket bat.” Heroes one minute, incompetent lucky-to-be-pro-sportsmen the next. The allies that Edom felt they had would surely turn on them, deceive them and overpower them.
This happened, too. This wasn’t some “stop it or I swear you will regret it” kind of warning. Walter L. Baker writes that
“The downfall referred to here probably occurred in the late sixth or early fifth century B.C. when the Nabateans went to the Edomites who took them in for a banquet. Once welcomed inside Edomite territory, the Nabateans turned against their ally and killed the guards.”
This turns into a total capitulation when we read that the wise sages, the advisers, and the warriors will be shattered…so that everyone will be destroyed from Esau’s mountain!
The lesson is that their arrogance led to their downfall, their boasting in worldly ways came to nothing when compared to the Sovereign power of the Lord. For you and for me then, what should we boast in? Should we boast at all? It didn’t work out too well for Edom, did it?
The Word says we should boast only in the Lord; His person, His works, His ways, His will. Really, are regular people like you and me worth boasting in? None of us are righteous by our own accord, all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before God (harsh, but true, see Isaiah 64.6).
There is, however, One worth boasting in, isn’t there?
One who brings hope for the future and for today.
There is One who took the nails, One who tore the veil, One spotless lamb.
One whose death defeated sin and evil’s hold on the world.
Let us boast only in the cross of Jesus Christ, as Paul writes to the Galatians:
“For those who are circumcised do not obey the law themselves, but they want you to be circumcised so that they can boast about your flesh. But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world”.