Obadiah / Micah

Mike continues his review of the Minor Prophets with a look at the times, message, book and applications from two eighth century BC prophets, Obadiah and Micah.
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In this chapter we will examine the lives and prophecies of Obadiah, the fourth in the series of the minor prophets, and Micah, the sixth prophet on the list given in the Hebrew Bible. I've chosen to study them this way because the fifth minor prophet mentioned is Jonah and his life and work was very different than Obadiah and Micah. Although all three lived at the same time, Obediah and Micah's books contain a prophetic message to or about God's people. Even though Jonah was considered a prophet his warnings were not directed at the Northern or Southern Kingdoms, but rather to the capitol city of the Assyrian Empire, Nineveh. Therefore, we will study the fourth and sixth minor prophets, Obadiah and Micah, now and do a two-part lesson on the fifth minor prophet, Jonah, starting next week.

I. Obadiah

1. The Prophet

The name Obadiah means "servant of Yahweh" or "worshipper of Yahweh." There were several other Obadiah's mentioned in the Old Testament.

  1. Obadiah the steward of King Ahab who ruled the Northern Kingdom with his wicked wife Queen Jezebel. This Obadiah was the steward of the king's house and was a devout man who hid and protected hundreds of prophets from Jezebel's persecution (I Kings 18:17-46).
  2. There was also an Obadiah who is listed in the genealogies of I Chronicles 3:21 as a descendant of Joab, the military leader who served King David.

There is not much information about the background of the prophet Obadiah other than the fact that he is grouped with prophets who lived in the 8th century B.C., and that his prophecies target the nation of Edom and their mistreatment of the Southern Kingdom, so it is assumed that he lived in or around Jerusalem. We don't have any information about Obediah's family, trade, or calling by God into ministry.

2. The Prophet's Time

Again, other than his placement along with other prophets who lived before the fall of the Northern Kingdom (721 B.C.) Obadiah's book does not mention events taking place at the time he lived. Some scholars put his time after the destruction of the Southern Kingdom in 586 B.C.

3. The Prophet's Message

Obadiah's prophecies are a judgement of God on the nation of Edom for their arrogance, violence, and lack of compassion toward their brother nation of Judah (Southern Kingdom) when they were attacked and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., some 200 years into the future! Obadiah pronounces Divine Judgment on Edom because, instead of defending or helping their ancient fraternal nation of Judah while besieged by the Babylonian army, Edom oppressed, mistreated, and took advantage of their dire situation.

A. The Edomites stood by when Jerusalem was attacked, even participated in the looting of the city.

"On the day that you stood aloof,
On the day that strangers carried off his wealth,
And foreigners entered his gate
And cast lots for Jerusalem—
You too were as one of them.
- Obadiah 1:11

B. Jeremiah suggests that Edom gloated and felt satisfaction at the Southern Kingdom's demise.

21Rejoice and be glad, O daughter of Edom,
Who dwells in the land of Uz;
But the cup will come around to you as well,
You will become drunk and make yourself naked.
22The punishment of your iniquity has been completed,
O daughter of Zion;
He will exile you no longer.
But He will punish your iniquity,
O daughter of Edom;
He will expose your sins!
- Lamentations 4:21-22

C. Edomites are accused of harboring hostility toward Judah, even during their time of calamity.

As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel because it was desolate, so I will do to you. You will be a desolation, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. Then they will know that I am the Lord."'
- Ezekiel 35:15

Obadiah's message, therefore, is that God will not forget or excuse Edom's cruel attitude and actions of exacerbating Judah's suffering in a time of crisis – their own judgment and suffering will come. The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother who settled in the region Southeast of the Dead Sea known as Edom in Mt. Seir. They had a sense of security about the natural protection that their territory afforded them:

  • The rugged mountain terrain offered a natural defense against invaders.
  • They built dwellings in the cliffs and coves that dotted their territory. These made it difficult to attack and capture.
  • They had little fertile agricultural land which did not offer much incentive for invaders to conquer.

However, over time, Obadiah's prophecies of their judgment and elimination were realized.

A. During the Hellenistic period (after Alexander the Great – 323-31 B.C.) an Arab group called the Nabateans expanded into Edomite territory and built the prominent city of Petra (modern day Jordan).

B. The Roman Empire annexed the Nabatean Kingdom (including former Edomite territory) in 106 AD and the region became a province of Arabia.

C. Arab conquest – with the rise of Islam in the 7th century AD the Edomite region became a part of the Islamic caliphate.

  • Caliphate = successor or next in line.
  • Islamic caliphate = political and religious state comprising the Muslim community and lands under the control after the death of Muhammad – 602 AD.

The distinct identity of the Edomites was eventually absorbed into the Arab population. In this way Obadiah's prophesies about Edom's eventual destruction were fulfilled in time.

4. The Prophet's Book

The Book of Obadiah in the Old Testament is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible, consisting of only one chapter with 21 verses. Here is a brief outline of the book:

I. Introduction (Obadiah 1:1-4)

  • Salutation and identification of the prophet.
1The vision of Obadiah.
Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom—
We have heard a report from the Lord,
And an envoy has been sent among the nations saying,
"Arise and let us go against her for battle"—
2"Behold, I will make you small among the nations;
You are greatly despised.
3"The arrogance of your heart has deceived you,
You who live in the clefts of the rock,
In the loftiness of your dwelling place,
Who say in your heart,
'Who will bring me down to earth?'
4"Though you build high like the eagle,
Though you set your nest among the stars,
From there I will bring you down,"
declares the Lord.
- Obadiah 1:1-4

II. Judgment Against Edom (Obadiah 1:5-14)

  • Pronouncement of God's judgment against Edom for their pride, arrogance, and violence.
  • Descriptions of the coming destruction and the futility of Edom's perceived strength.

III. Reasons for Edom's Judgment (Obadiah 1:15-16)

  • Explanation of the reasons behind Edom's judgment, emphasizing their actions against their brother nation, Israel.

IV. Day of the Lord (Obadiah 1:17-21)

  • The announcement of the "Day of the Lord" when God will judge all nations.
  • The promise of restoration for Israel and the establishment of God's kingdom.
  • The final victory of the house of Jacob.

V. Conclusion (Obadiah 1:21)

  • The kingdom belongs to the Lord.

The Book of Obadiah primarily focuses on the judgment of Edom for their mistreatment of Israel. It emphasizes the consequences of pride, violence, and lack of compassion. The prophecy concludes with a message of hope for the restoration of Israel and the establishment of God's kingdom. The themes of Divine judgment and ultimate restoration are common elements found in many prophetic books in the Old Testament.

5. The Prophet's Lessons

A. Don't rejoice over your enemy's failure.

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
- Proverbs 24:17

Why not rejoice?

  1. We are all sinners – the judgement could be on you.
  2. We are supposed to love and pray for our enemies, not laugh at their judgement.
  3. We can be thankful that justice is meted out, but gloating is fleshly, full of pride and not Christ-like.

B. We have a responsibility to help others.

Edom was judged and punished primarily for the fact that they refused to help their brethren when it was needed and when they had the chance. The fact that they used Judah's hardship to take advantage only made it worse. There are any number of causes that randomly solicit our help every day, however there are times when our family, our church, or our neighbors need help – the credibility of our faith is tested, and we are judged in moments like these.

C. Take advantage of every opportunity to make peace.

The historical enmity between Israel and Edom led to both their downfalls.

  • Israel did not get help from Edom and fell to the Babylonians.
  • Edom was absorbed into the Arab nation because God did not preserve them (judgment).

Take advantage of opportunities to convert enemies into friends because you never have too many friends.

II. Micah

1. The Prophet

The word of the Lord which came to Micah of Moresheth in the days of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
- Micah 1:1

The name Micah, means "Who is like Yahweh?" (Chapter 1:1). He is identified as Micah of Mosesheth, a town in south-western Judah, which distinguishes him from another prophet called Micah in I Kings 22. Micah prophesied in the years between 735-700 B.C., which means he was witness to the destruction of the Northern Kingdom by Assyria (721 B.C.).

Again, in verse 1 he mentions the kings who reigned during his lifetime – Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah who were all rulers of the Southern Kingdom. He was a contemporary of Hosea who preached in the Northern Kingdom, as well as Isaiah who preached in the Southern Kingdom.

Verse 1 also describes that his calling by God occurred during the reign of the kings of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekaih, and that he would address both Samaria in the north as well as Jerusalem in the south with his messages from God. Other than the time and place of his ministry, Micah's book contains no other personal info about the prophet, his family, or the other details of his life.

2. The Prophet's Times

Micah preached to both the Northern and Southern Kingdom during a time of political and military upheaval, as well as social corruption, idolatry, and unfaithfulness. For example:

A. Northern Kingdom

Samaria was under the threat of invasion by Assyria which finally took place in 721 B.C. There were political upheavals, assassinations, and instability among the people. There was also widespread idolatry, social injustice, and broad immorality as the nation drifted away from God's commands, not only for proper worship, but also moral conduct in business and personal relationships (lying, adultery, theft, etc.).

B. Southern Kingdom

Judah also faced the threat from Assyria, they were spared from defeat by God during the reign of Hezekiah (an angel decimated Sennacherib's army – 185,000 soldiers were killed in one night. II Kings 19:35; Isaiah 37:36). However, the Southern Kingdom continued mixing pagan worship with the worship of Jehovah (syncretism). There was economic exploitation of the poor, leaders failed to uphold justice, and political corruption.

Micah was sent to both kingdoms:

  • North – warned about the leader's disobedience to God and its consequences, corruption, as well as the need for repentance.
  • South – preached about the importance of justice, mercy, and humility. He also called for repentance of the impending judgement of God.

3. The Prophet's Message

Messages to the Norther Kingdom (Israel):

1. Denunciation of Social Injustice:

  • Micah condemned the Northern Kingdom for its social injustices, including oppression of the poor, bribery, and corruption. Leaders and elites were criticized for exploiting the vulnerable (Micah 2:1-2, Micah 3:1-3).

2. Warning of Divine Judgment:

  • Micah prophesied about the impending judgment of God on Israel due to their disobedience. The Assyrian threat was looming, and Micah warned that it was a consequence of the people's unfaithfulness (Micah 5:5-6).

3. Call for Repentance:

  • Despite the message of judgment, Micah called the people to repentance. He urged them to turn away from their sinful practices, return to God, and seek justice and righteousness (Micah 6:6-8).

Messages to the Southern Kingdom (Judah):

1. Warning Against Injustice in Judah:

  • Micah addressed similar issues of social injustice and corruption in Judah. He criticized leaders, judges, and prophets for their role in perpetuating unethical behavior (Micah 3:9-11, Micah 7:3-7).

2. Assurance of Divine Judgment:

  • Just as in the Northern Kingdom, Micah warned Judah about the consequences of their actions. The impending Babylonian exile was foretold as a divine judgment for their disobedience (Micah 4:10, Micah 7:11-13).

3. Hope for Restoration:

  • Amidst the messages of judgment, Micah also conveyed messages of hope and restoration. He prophesied about the future regathering of a remnant and the establishment of God's peaceful and righteous kingdom (Micah 4:1-4, Micah 52-4).

4. Call for Repentance:

  • Similar to his message to Israel, Micah called for repentance in Judah. He urged the people to turn away from idolatry, false prophets, and dishonest practices and to embrace justice and mercy (Micah 6:9-16).

Universal Themes:

1. Universal Message of Justice:

  • Micah's message transcended national boundaries. He spoke universally about the importance of justice, mercy, and humility before God, emphasizing that these principles applied to all nations (Micah 4:1-4, Micah 6:8).

2. Hope for the Future:

  • Micah's prophecies included glimpses of a hopeful future, envisioning a time when God's kingdom would be established, and justice and righteousness would prevail (Micah 4:6-7, Micah 5:7-15).

Note that Micah doesn't organize his material with all prophecies concerning the north in one chapter and material about the Southern Kingdom in another chapter but speaks on topics referring to North and South in different parts of his book.

There are two well-known passages found in the book of Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
- Micah 6:8

Jesus refers to it while admonishing the Pharisees for their spiritual blindness and legalism (Matthew 23:23).

"But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
His goings forth are from long ago,
From the days of eternity."
- Micah 5:2

The famous prophecy concerning the Messiah's birthplace – quoted by priests to king Herod when he inquired about the Messiah's place of birth (Matthew 2:1-6).

4. The Prophet's Book

Here is a brief outline of Micah's book into 7 sections:

1. Introduction (Micah 1:1-4)

  • Identifies Micah as the prophet and sets the context for his prophecies.
  • Describes the coming judgment on both the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah).

2. Judgment Against Israel (Micah 1:5-16)

  • Pronounces judgment on Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and the surrounding regions.
  • Uses wordplays and puns to emphasize the destruction that will come upon Israel.

3. Woes Against the Corrupt Leaders (Micah 2:1-13)

  • Condemns the leaders and wealthy elite for their social injustices, oppression of the poor, and dishonest practices.
  • Pronounces "woes" against those who plan evil and covet fields and homes.

4. The Future Kingdom (Micah 3:1-4:13)

  • Denounces corrupt leaders, false prophets, and corrupt judges.
  • Promises a future restoration and the establishment of God's kingdom where justice and peace will prevail.

5. Birthplace of the Messiah (Micah 5:1-6)

  • Foretells the birthplace of the Messiah in Bethlehem.
  • Describes the ruler who will come from Bethlehem and bring peace to the people.

6. God's Case Against Israel (Micah 6:1-16)

  • Presents a courtroom-like setting where God brings a case against His people.
  • Emphasizes the importance of justice, mercy, and humility, rather than ritual sacrifices.

7. Hope Amidst Judgment (Micah 7:1-20)

  • Micah laments the moral and social decay in society.
  • Expresses hope in God's mercy and the eventual restoration of His people.
  • Ends with a prayer for God's intervention and salvation.

The Book of Micah is a mix of judgment and hope, addressing both the sins of the people and the promise of future redemption. It highlights the importance of justice, mercy, and humility in the context of a covenant relationship with God.

5. The Prophet's Lessons for Today

A. True Believers Practice True Worship.

Micah challenged the idea that ritualistic practices alone fulfill God's requirements. Instead, he emphasized the importance of a genuine and humble relationship with God. Believers were encouraged to prioritize a sincere heart for God, seeking Him in humility, repentance, and obedience, rather than relying solely on external religious observances. True worship has both components.

B. Our Worship Practices are Witnessed by our Commitment to Justice and Mercy.

Micah emphasizes the importance of justice, mercy, and ethical conduct. Believers today are reminded of their responsibility to act justly, show mercy, and uphold righteousness in their interactions with others. In this way, our spiritual exercises like prayer, praise and communion are made acceptable to God and seen as legitimate by non-believers. Even if some don't believe, they can't deny the sincerity of our belief.

C. As believers We Have a True Hope for Salvation.

Despite the messages of judgment and the consequences of disobedience, Micah also presented a message of hope and future restoration. Believers today can draw encouragement from the assurance that God is a God of redemption. No matter how dire the circumstances, there is hope for renewal, forgiveness, and a future for those who continually return to Him for forgiveness and restoration. Micah's book encourages believers to persevere in faith, trusting that God's ultimate plan is to save us and keep us with Him forever in heaven. That's what He wants, and what He will accomplish for us. We should trust that He will succeed.