Israel has lived alongside of Edom since they entered the Promised Land but has been in conflict with them from the start as well. In Numbers 20, Israel asked for permission to cross the territory of the Edomites but were denied with the threat of violence if Israel tried. Nevertheless, the Edomites were not conquered like the other people of the Promised Land because the Edomites were relatives of the Israelites.
The Edomites were descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Israel). Even centuries later, the Israelites were instructed to treat their relatives with favor. Deuteronomy 23:7 records – Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you.
While it may seem as though the destruction of the Edomites is insignificant compared to larger empires and tormentors such as Assyria and Babylon, Edom nevertheless is significant because of its relationship to Israel.
As was mentioned in the overview of Obadiah, scholars are uncertain of when the book was written. However, it is more likely that the book was written later rather than earlier. This puts the writing of the book after the destruction of Jerusalem
The Cause of Edom’s Destruction is Pride
Edom has witnessed the destruction of many nations over time and it has most likely even watched its brethren in Israel carried off by Nebuchadnezzar. Because it has survived such calamity it has become prideful. It thinks that it is not susceptible to destruction or perhaps that it is secure in the homes that they have made.
Not only will Edom be destroyed because of its pride, pride will be the cause of its downfall. It will not see disaster coming upon itself as it surrounds itself with those it thinks are its friends and allies. In the end, those friends and allies will stab them in the back and “set a trap” for them. Its destruction will not come from within but will nevertheless be unseen and unexpected because it will take place at the hands of those it least expects due to its pride.
Edom’s Destruction is Because it Ignored Israel
Aside from its pride, God’s greatest complaint against Edom is that it complacent and complicit in the destruction of Jerusalem. Some who date this book in the 800’s BC believe this attack refers to a much earlier and less destructive attack on Jerusalem but as has been mentioned it is much more likely that this is in reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction.
Regardless of the timing, Edom did not assist its “brother Jacob” and even participated in the violence against it. The Edomites may not feel any kinship with their very distant relatives – many times removed over at least a millennia – God still sees the relationship as an important one and expects them to value it.
Even if there was not a relationship that God still finds to be important, He is going to protect Israel against anyone who does violence against it. While Assyria and Babylon were both instruments of God’s punishment against Israel, they were eventually destroyed for their sin and violence against God’s people. Other prophets warned of their destruction. Edom is not a big player like Babylon but nevertheless it delights and participates in the destruction of Jerusalem. God responds in kind by destroying Edom entirely.