Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 10-16 (Obadiah 1:10-16)

When we have read Edom?s doom, no less than utter ruin, it is natural to ask, Why, what evil has he done? What is the ground of God?s controversy with him? Many things, no doubt, were amiss in Edom; they were a sinful people, and a people laden with iniquity. But that one single crime which is laid to their charge, as filling their measure and bringing this ruin upon them, that for which they here stand indicted, of which they are convicted, and for which they are condemned, is the injury they had done to the people of God (Obad. 1:10): ?It is for thy violence against thy brother Jacob, that ancient and hereditary grudge which thou hast borne to the people of Israel, that all this shame shall cover thee and thou shalt be cut off for ever.? Note, Injuries to men are affronts to God, the righteous God, that loveth righteousness and hateth wickedness; and, as the Judge of all the earth, he will give redress to those that suffer wrong and take vengeance on those that do wrong. All violence, all unrighteousness, is sin; but it is a great aggravation of the violence if it be done either, 1. Against any of our own people; it is violence against thy brother, thy near relation, to whom thou shouldst be a goöl?a redeemer, whom it is thy duty to right if others wronged him; how wicked is it then for thee thyself to wrong him! Thou slanderest and abusest thy own mother?s son; this makes the sin exceedingly sinful, Ps. 50:20. Or, 2. Much more if it be done against any of God?s people; ?it is thy brother Jacob that is in covenant with God, and dear to him. Thou hatest him whom God has loved, and because God espouses and will plead with jealousy, and in whose interests God is pleased so far to interest himself that he takes the violence done to him as done to himself. Whoso touches Jacob touches the apple of the eye of Jacob?s God.? So that it is crimen laesae majestatis?high treason, for which, as for high treason, let Edom expect an ignominious punishment: Shame shall cover thee, and a ruining one; thou shalt be cut off for ever.

In the Obad. 1:12-16 we are told more particularly,

I. What the violence was which Edom did against his brother Jacob, and what are the proofs of this charge. It does not appear that the Edomites did themselves invade Israel, but that was more for want of power than will; they had malice enough to do it, but were not a match for them. But that which is laid to their charge is their barbarous conduct towards Judah and Jerusalem when they were in distress, and ready to be destroyed, probably by the Chaldeans, or upon occasion of some other of the calamities of the Jews; for this seems to have been always their temper towards them. See this charged upon the Edomites (Ps. 137:7), that in the day of Jerusalem they said, Rase it, rase it, and Ezek. 25:12. They are here told particularly what they did, by being told what they should not have done (Obad. 1:12-14): ?Thou shouldst not have looked, thou shouldst not have entered; but thou didst so.? Note, In reflecting upon ourselves it is good to compare what we have done with what we should have done, our practice with the rule, that we may discover wherein we have done amiss, have done those things which we ought not to have done. We should not have been where we were at such a time, should not have been in such and such company, should not have said what we said, nor have taken the liberty that we took. Sin thus looked upon, in the glass of the commandment, will appear exceedingly sinful. Let us see,

1. What was the case of Judah and Jerusalem when the Edomites behaved themselves thus basely and insulted over them. (1.) It was a day of distress with them (Obad. 1:12): It was the day of their calamity, so it is called three times, Obad. 1:13. With the Edomites it was a day of prosperity and peace when with the Israelites it was a day of distress and calamity, for judgment commonly begins at the house of God. Children are corrected when strangers are let alone. (2.) It was the day of their destruction (Obad. 1:12), when both city and country were laid waste, were laid in ruins. (3.) It was a day when foreigners entered into the gates of Jerusalem, when the city, after a long siege, was broken up, and the great officers of the king of Babylon?s army came, and sat in the gates, as judges of the land; when they cast lots upon the spoils of Jerusalem, as the soldiers on Christ?s garments, what shares each of the conquerors shall have, what shares of the lands, what shares of the goods; or they cast lots to determine when and where they should attack it. (4.) It was a day when the strangers carried away captive his forces (Obad. 1:11), took the men of war prisoners of war, and carried them off, in poverty and shame, to their own country, or such a multitude of captives that they were as an army. (5.) ?It was a day when thy brother himself, that had long been at home, at rest in his own land, became a stranger, an exile in a strange land.? Now, when this was the woeful case of the Jews, the Edomites, their neighbours and brethren, should have pitied them and helped them, condoled with them and comforted them, and should have trembled to think that their own turn would come next; for, if this was done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? But,

2. See what was the conduct of the Edomites towards them when they were in this distress, for which they are here condemned. (1.) They looked with pleasure upon the affliction of God?s people; they stood on the other side (Obad. 1:11), afar off, when they should have come in to the relief of their distressed neighbours, and looked upon them, and their day, looked on their affliction (Obad. 1:12, 13), with a careless unconcerned eye, as the priest and Levite looked upon the wounded man, and passed by on the other side. Those have a great deal to answer for that are idle spectators of the troubles and afflictions of their neighbours, when they are capable of being their active helpers. But this was not all; they looked upon it with a scornful eye, with an eye of complacency and satisfaction; they looked and laughed to see Israel in distress, saying, Aha! so we would have it. They fed their eyes with the rueful spectacle of Jerusalem?s ruin, and looked at it as those that had long looked for it and often wished to see it. Note, We must take heed with what eye we look upon the afflictions of our brethren; and, if we cannot look upon them with a gracious eye of sympathy and tenderness, it is better not to look upon them at all: Thou shouldst not have looked as thou didst upon the day of thy brother. (2.) They triumphed and insulted over them, upbraided their brethren with their sorrows, and made themselves and their companions merry with them. They rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction. They had not the good manners to conceal the pleasure they took in Judah?s destruction and to dissemble it, but openly declared it, and rudely and insolently declared it to them; they rejoiced over them, crowed, and hectored, and trampled upon them. Those have the spirit of Edomites that can rejoice over any, especially over Israelites, in the day of their calamity. (3.) They spoke proudly-magnified the mouth (so the word is), against Israel, talked with a great disdain of the suffering Israelites, and with an air of haughtiness of the present safety and prosperity of Edom, as it if might be inferred from their present different state that the tables were turned, and now Esau was beloved, and the favourite of heaven, and Jacob hated and rejected. Note, Those must expect to be in some way or other effectually humbled and mortified themselves that are puffed up and made proud by the humiliations and mortifications of others. (4.) They went further yet, for they entered into the gate of God?s people in the day of their calamity, and laid hands on their substance. Though they did not help to conquer them, they helped to plunder them, and put in for a share in the prey, Obad. 1:13. Jerusalem was thrown open, and then they entered in; its wealth was thrown about, and they seized it for themselves, excusing it with this, that they might as well take it as let it be lost; whereas it was taking what was not their own. Babylon lays Jerusalem waste, but Edom, by meddling with the spoil, becomes particeps criminis?partaker of the crime, and shall be reckoned with as an accessary ex post facto?after the fact. Note, Those do but impoverish themselves that think to enrich themselves by the ruins of the people of God; and those deceive themselves who think they may call all that substance their own which they can lay their hands on in a day of calamity. (5.) They did yet worse things; they not only robbed their brethren, but murdered them, in the day of their calamity; laid hands not only on their substan 54d2 ce, but on their persons, Obad. 1:14. When the victorious sword of the Chaldeans was making bloody work among the Jews many made their escape, and were in a fair way to save themselves by flight; but the Edomites basely intercepted them, stood in the cross-way where several roads met, by each of which the trembling Israelites were making the best of their way from the fury of the pursuers, and there they stopped them: some they barbarously and cowardlike cut off themselves; others they took prisoners, and delivered up to the pursuers, only to ingratiate themselves with them, because they were now the conquerors. They should not have been thus cruel to those that lay at their mercy, and never had done, nor were every likely to do, them any hurt; they should not have betrayed those whom they had such a fair opportunity to protect; but such are the tender mercies of the wicked. One cannot read this without a high degree of compassion towards those who were thus basely abused, who when they fled from the sword of an open enemy, and thought they had got out of the reach of it, fell upon and fell by the sword of a treacherous neighbour, whom they were not apprehensive of any danger from. Nor can one read this without a high degree of indignation towards those who were so perfectly lost to all humanity as to exercise such cruelty upon such proper objects of compassion. (6.) In all this they joined with the open enemies and persecutors of Israel: Even thou wast as one of them, an accessary equally guilty with the principals. He that joins in with the evil doers, and is aiding and abetting in their evil deeds, shall be reckoned, and shall be reckoned with, as one of them.

II. What the shame is that shall cover them for this violence of theirs. 1. They shall soon find that the cup is going round, even the cup of trembling; and, when they come to be in the same calamitous condition that the Israel of God is now in, they will be ashamed to remember how they triumphed over them (Obad. 1:15): The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen, when God will recompense tribulation to the troublers of his church. Though judgment begin at the house of God, it shall not end there. This should effectually restrain us from triumphing over others in their misery, that we know not how soon it may be our own case. 2. Their enmity to the people of God, and the injuries they had done them, shall be recompensed into their own bosoms: As thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee. The righteous God will render both to nations and to particular persons according to their works; and the punishment is often made exactly to answer to the sin, and those that have abused others come to be themselves abused in like manner. The just and jealous God will find out a time and way to avenge the wrongs done to his people on those that have been injurious to them. As you have drunk upon my holy mountain (Obad. 1:16), that is, as God?s professing people, who inhabit his holy mountain, have drunk deeply of the cup of affliction (and their being of the holy mountain would not excuse them), so shall all the heathen drink, in their turn, of the same bitter cup; for, if God bring evil on the city that is called by his name, shall those be unpunished that never knew his name? See Jer. 25:29. And it is part of the burden of Edom (Jer. 49:12), Those whose judgment was not to drink of the cup (who had reason to promise themselves an exemption from it) have assuredly drunken, and shall Edom that is the generation of God?s wrath go unpunished? No, thou shalt surely drink of it; the cup of trembling shall be taken out of the hand of God?s people, and put into the hand of those that afflict them, Isa. 51:22, 23. Nay, they may expect their case to be worse in the day of their distress than that of Israel was in their day; for, (1.) The afflictions of God?s people were but for a moment, and soon had an end, but their enemies shall drink continually the wine of God?s wrath, Rev. 14:10. (2.) The dregs of the cup are reserved for the wicked of the earth (Ps. 75:8); they shall drink and swallow down, or sup up (as the margin reads it), shall drink it to the bottom. (3.) The people of God, though they may be made to drink of the wine of astonishment for a while (Ps. 60:3), shall yet recover, and come to themselves again; but the heathen shall drink and be as though they had not been; there shall be neither any remains nor any remembrance of them, but they shall be wholly extirpated and rooted out. So let all thy enemies perish, O Lord! so they shall perish, if the turn not.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary