The book of Obadiah is largely ignored. Why? Well, it is in the Old Testament, it is in the Minor Prophets, it is about a people long gone, and it is a small book. But why is it there? It has a major message.
On the surface it is a battle between brothers Edom (Esau) and Israel (Jacob). But in the larger picture, it is a battle between good and evil, between the spirit and the flesh, short-term pleasure and eternal reward. It is the power of man against God – heaven against hell. Notice that the Herods and Romans were Edomites.* Herod the Great tried to kill Jesus with the slaughter of the children. [Matt 2:16-18] Esau vs. Jacob was part of the Christmas story.
The Edomites were gloating and assisting in the demise of Israel during the Babylonian conquest of 586 AD, looking after their own short-term interest over God’s plan. It started with Esau looking after himself and selling his birthright for a bowl of red porridge, thus rejecting God’s plan. For Esau it was the lure of short-term gain of the flesh, the here-and-now, and immediate comfort over the long-term joy God has promised as was the perspective of Jacob.
Jesus instructs, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [Matt 6:19-21 NRSV]
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*Edomites were called Idumeans (Mark 3.8) and from them came Herod the Great.