Edom is the nation against which this prophecy is levelled, and which, some think, is put for all the enemies of Israel, that shall be brought down first or last. The rabbin by Edom understand Rome. Rome Christians they understand it of, and have an implacable enmity to it a such; but, if we understand it of Rome antichristian, we shall find the passages of it applicable enough. And though Edom was mortified in the times of the Maccabees, as it had been before by Jehoshaphat, yet its destruction seems to have been typical, as their father Esau’s rejection, and to have had further reference to the destruction of the enemies of the gospel-church; for so shall all God’s enemies perish; and we find (Isa. 34:5) the sword of the Lord coming down upon Idumea, to signify the general day of God’s recompences for the controversy of Zion, Obad. 1:8. Some have well observed that it could not but be a great temptation to the people of Israel, when they saw themselves, who were the children of beloved Jacob, in trouble, and the Edomites, not only prospering, but triumphing over them in their troubles; and therefore God gives them a prospect of the destruction of Edom, which should be total and final, and of a happy issue of their own correction. Now we may observe here,
I. A declaration of war against Edom, (Obad. 1:1): “We have heard a rumour, or rather an order, from the Lord, the God of hosts; he has given the word of command; it is his counsel and decree, which can neither be reversed nor resisted, that all who do mischief to his people shall certainly bring mischief upon themselves. We have heard a report that God is raised up out of his holy habitation, and is preparing his throne for judgment; and an ambassador is sent among the heathen,” a herald rather, some minister or messenger of Providence, to alarm the nations, or the Lord’s prophets, who gave each nation its burden. Those whom God employs cry to each other, Arise ye, stir up yourselves and one another, and let us rise up against Edom in battle. The confederate forces under Nebuchadnezzar thus animate themselves and one another to make a descent upon that country: Gather yourselves together, and come against her; so it is in the parallel place, Jer. 49:14. Note, When God has bloody work to do among the enemies of his church he will find out and fit up both hands and hearts to do it.
II. A prediction of the success of that war. Edom shall certainly be subdued, and spoiled, and brought down; for all her confidences shall fail her and stand her in no stead, and in like manner shall all the enemies of God’s church be disappointed in those things which they stayed themselves upon.
1. Do they depend upon their grandeur, the figure they make among the nations, their influence upon them, and interest in them? That shall dwindle (Obad. 1:2): “Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen, so that none of thy neighbours will court thy friendship, or court an alliance with thee; thou art greatly despised among them, and looked upon with contempt, as an infatuated and unfaithful nation.” And thus (Obad. 1:3) the pride of thy heart has deceived thee. Note, (1.) Those that think well of themselves are apt to fancy that others think well of them too; but, when they come to make trial of them, they will find themselves mistaken, and thus their pride deceives them and by it slays them. (2.) God can easily lay those low that have magnified and exalted themselves, and will find out a way to do it, for he resists the proud; and we often see those small and greatly despised who once looked very big and were greatly caressed and admired.
2. Do they depend upon the fortifications of their country, both by nature and art, and glory in the advantages they have thereby? Those also shall deceive them. They dwelt in the clefts of the rock, as an eagle in her nest, and their habitation was high, not only exalted above their neighbours, which was the matter of their pride, but fortified against their enemies, which was the matter of their security, so high as to be out of the reach of danger. Now observe, (1.) What Edom says in the pride of his heart: Who shall bring me down to the ground? He speaks with a confidence of his own strength, and a contempt of God’s judgments, as if almighty power itself could not overpower him. As for all his enemies, even God himself, he puffs at them (Ps. 10:5), sets them all at defiance. Their father Esau had sold his birthright, and yet they lifted up themselves, as if to them had still pertained the excellency of dignity and power. Many forfeit their privileges, and yet boast of them. Because Edom is high and lifted up, he imagines none can bring him down. Note, Carnal security is a sin that most easily besets men in the day of their pomp, power, and prosperity, and does, as much as any thing, both ripen men for ruin and aggravate it when it comes. (2.) What God says to this, Obad. 1:4. If men will dare to challenge Omnipotence, their challenge shall be taken up: Who shall bring me down? says Edom. “I will,” says God. “Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle that soars high and builds high, nay, though thou set thy nest among stars, higher than ever any eagle flew, it is but in thy own imagination, and thence will I bring thee down.” This we had Jer. 49:15, 16. Note, Sinners will certainly be made ashamed of their pride and security of their pride when it has a fall and of their security when their confidences fail their expectation.
3. Do they depend upon their wealth and treasure, the abundance of which is looked upon as the sinews of war? Isa. their money their defence? Isa. that their strong city? It is so only in their own conceit, for it shall rather expose them than protect them; it shall be made a prey to the enemy, and they for the sake of it, Obad. 1:5, 6. Much to this purport we had Jer. 49:9, 10. Only here comes in, in a parenthesis, How art thou cut off! thou and all thy stores. The prophet foretels it, but laments it, that the thread of their prosperity was cut off. How art thou fallen, and how great is thy fall! How art thou stupefied! so the Chaldee words it. How senseless art thou under these desolating judgments, as if they were but common strokes! But he shows that it should be an utter ruin, not a usual calamity; for, (1.) It is indeed a usual calamity for those that have wealth to have it stolen, and to lose a little out of their great deal. Thieves come to them (for where the carcase is, there will the birds of prey be gathered together), robbers come by night, and they steal till they have enough, what they have occasion for, what they have a mind for; they steal no more than they think they can carry away, and out of a great stock it is scarcely missed. Those that rob orchards, or vineyards, carry off what they think fit; but they leave some grapes, some fruit for the owner, who easily bears his loss perhaps and soon recruits it. But, (2.) It shall not be so with Edom; his wealth shall all be taken away, and nothing shall escape the hands of the destroying army, not that which is most precious and valuable, Obad. 1:6. How are the things of Esau, the things he sets his heart upon and places his happiness in, his good things, his best things, how are these things, which were so carefully treasured up and concealed, now searched out by the enemy and seized! How are the hidden things, his hidden treasures, plundered, rifled, and sought up! His hoards, that had not see the light for many years, are now a spoil to the enemy. Note, Treasures on earth, though ever so fast locked up and ever so artfully hidden, cannot be so safely laid up but that thieves may break through and steal; it is therefore our wisdom to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven.
4. Do they depend upon their alliances with neighbouring states and potentates? Those also shall fail them (Obad. 1:7): “The men of thy confederacy, all of them, the Ammonites and Moabites, and other thy high allies that were at peace with thee, that entered into a league offensive and defensive with thee, that solemnly engaged not only to do thee no hurt, but to do thee all the service the could, did eat thy bread, were magnificently treated and entertained by thee, lived upon thee; their soldiers had free quarter in thy country, and took pay as thy auxiliaries; they brought thee even to the border of thy land, were very respectful to thy ambassadors, and brought them on their way home, even to the utmost limits of their country; they seemed forward to serve thee with their forces when thou hadst occasion for them, and came along with thee to the border, till thou wast just ready to engage the invading enemy; but then,” (1.) “They had deceived thee; they flew back and retreated when thou wast in extremity, and proved as a broken reed to the traveller that is weary, and as the brooks in summer to the traveller that is thirsty; they bear no weight, yield no relief.” Nay, (2.) “They have prevailed against thee; they were too hard for thee in the treaty imposed upon thee, and by cheating thee ruined thee, brought thee into danger, and there left thee an easy prey to thy enemy.” Note, Those that make flesh their arm arm it against them. Yet this was not the worst. (3.) “They have laid a wound under thee; that is, they have laid that under thee for a stay and support, for a foundation to rely on, for a pillow to repose on, which will prove a wound to thee; not as thorns only, but as swords.” If God lay under us the arms of his power and love, these will be firm and easy under us; the God of our covenant will never deceive us. But if we trust to the men of our confederacy, and what they will lay under us, it may prove to us a wound and dishonour. And observe the just censure here passed upon Edom for trusting to those who thus played tricks with him: “There is no understanding in him, or else he would never have put it into their power to betray him by putting such a confidence in them.” Note, Those show they have no understanding in them who, when they are encouraged to trust in the Creator, put a cheat upon themselves by reposing a confidence in the creature.
5. Do they depend upon the politics of their counsellors? These shall fail them, Obad. 1:8. Edom had been famous for great statesmen, men of learning and experience, that sat at the help of government, and were masters of all the arts of management, that in all treaties used to outwit their neighbours; but now the counsellors have become fools, and the wise God makes them so: Shall I not in that day destroy the wise men out of Edom? As men they shall fall by the sword in common with others (Ps. 49:10), and their wisdom shall not secure them; as wise men they shall be infatuated in all their counsels; their best-laid designs shall be baffled, their measures broken, and those very projects by which they thought to establish themselves and the public interests shall be the ruin of both. Thus wisdom perishes from Teman, as it is in the parallel place, Jer. 49:7. This was, (1.) The just punishment of their folly in trusting to an arm of flesh: There is no understanding in them, Obad. 1:7. They have not sense to trust in a living God, and a God of truth, but put confidence in men that are frail, fickle, and false; and therefore God will destroy their understanding. Note, God will justly deny those understanding to keep out of the way of danger that will not use their understanding to keep out of the way of sin. He that will be foolish, let him be foolish still. (2.) It was the forerunner of their destruction. A nation is certainly marked for ruin when God hides the things that belong to its peace from the eyes of those that are entrusted with its counsels. Quos Deus vult perdere, eos dementat—God infatuates those whom he designs to destroy. Job 12:17.
6. Do they depend upon the strength and courage of their soldiers? They are not only able-bodied, but men of spirit and courage, that can face an enemy and stand their ground; but now (Obad. 1:9), Thy mighty men, O Teman! shall be dismayed; their courage shall fail them, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter, and none escape. The weak, and feeble, and unarmed must fall of course into the hand of the destroyer when the mighty men are dismayed, and not only lose the day, but lose their lives, because they have lost their spirit. Howl, fir-trees, if the cedars be shaken. Note, The death or disuniting of the mighty often proves the death and destruction of the many; and it is in vain to depend upon mighty men for our protection if we have not an almighty God for us, much less if we have an almighty God against us.