The Gospel in Obadiah

This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

Hope and Salvation

As an oracle of judgment, Obadiah presents unique challenges for gospel application. Nahum, along with Obadiah, consists entirely of an oracle—though Obadiah makes more explicit mention of salvation and hope (Obad. 17–21). Furthermore, there are indications that a remnant of Edom will be saved and ruled over by God as part of his people.

This hope is reflected in various ways. First, Obadiah may be an extended elaboration on Amos 9:11–12, the passage immediately preceding Obadiah in the Bible. The restoration of David’s kingship through Israel’s Messiah would not only restore the fortunes of Judah but would include a remnant of Edom (Deut. 28:9–10; Amos 9:11–12). The similarity between the two passages would implicitly remind the reader that a remnant of Edom will be among those from all nations who will worship the Lord in his consummated kingdom.

Second, Obadiah underscores God’s grace from a redemptive-historical perspective. For the Judah-Edom relationship must be read against its origins in the Jacob-Esau relationship. The two strove against each other even before birth, but God sovereignly chose the younger to be served by the older (Gen. 25:22 ff.). This sovereign act of God came to epitomize his electing grace in both the Old Testament (Mal. 1:2–3) and the New Testament (Rom. 9:13).

Only By Grace

Jacob was designated heir of the covenant God made with Abraham— that God would bless him and, through him, bless the nations (Gen. 12:2–3; Ex. 2:24; Lev. 26:42). Nevertheless Jacob strove to obtain those promises unethically and self-reliantly—and his receiving them despite his conniving is a vivid demonstration of God’s grace. For his part Esau, rather than living by faith in the promises God made to and through Jacob, lived by his appetites and chose rivalry with his brother instead. This pattern of antipathy repeatedly characterized the historic relations between the descendants of the two brothers (e.g., Num. 20:14–21; 2 Kings 16:6; Ezek. 25:12–13) and established the trajectory of the Judah-Edom relationship seen in Obadiah. But even though the “house” (nation and kingship) of Esau will be no more (Obad. 18), God will also graciously save a remnant of Edom for his kingdom (see above). For both the house of Jacob and the house of Esau, the blessings experienced are due only to the grace of God.

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There are two general ways in which the New Testament takes up the Jacob-Edom dynamic. First, the descendants of Abraham, and therefore the rightful heirs to the promises to Abraham, are those who do the works of Abraham by believing in Jesus Christ (John 8:39–47). As such, followers of Jesus inherit the promises continued through Jacob/Israel (Gal. 3:7; Rom. 2:28; 9:6–18; cf. Heb. 12:15–17). Second, and foundational to the first, is that Jesus Christ himself is the promised Seed of Abraham (Gal. 3:16). Through him every divine promise has been, is being, and will be fulfilled (2 Cor. 1:20). The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant come to believers in Christ (Gal. 3:14). Even though he was harassed by his brothers (Mark 3:21), he has led free a host of captives (Eph. 4:8) and restored the fortunes of Judah.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

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New Testament

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