A Battle Between Brothers
Read Obadiah 1:17-18 (ESV)
But in Mount Zion there shall be those who escape, and it shall be holy, and the house of Jacob shall possess their own possessions. The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau, for the LORD has spoken.
Do you feel like siblings should take responsibility for each other and be each other’s keepers? Why or why not?
Once upon a time (Genesis 25), a woman named Rebekah was pregnant with twin sons. Her husband was Isaac, the son of Abraham. The two boys were wrestling with each other even in the womb. God told her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two people from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).
God’s word concerning the boys was true, of course. The older boy was Esau, the future father of the Edomites. The younger boy was Jacob, the future father of Israel. Esau sold Jacob his birthright and Jacob tricked his elderly father into giving him the blessing of the firstborn that belonged to Esau. Thus, the younger son became stronger and more prominent than the older brother. It was the younger, Jacob, who inherited the promise from God. It was his line that would be God’s chosen people, not Esau’s.
When the Israelites fled Egypt with Moses, they asked the Edomite king to let them pass through his land on their escape to freedom but the king refused (Numbers 20:14-21). Even though the two kingdoms descended from brothers, they were not allies. King Saul fought with Edom, as did King David. David was actually able to conquer them and make them slaves of Israel for a time (God’s prophecy of the older serving the younger is seen as fulfilled here).
The book of Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It is only one chapter with 21 verses, and we don’t know much else about the prophet Obadiah. But his message packed a powerful punch. Israel’s brother nation, Edom, was going to be utterly destroyed and completely wiped out of history. All throughout the books of the prophets, we have read of God’s promise to discipline Israel and bring them judgment for their sin. But always, there was the Scarlet Thread of redemption. Always there was the promise that God would preserve a remnant of His people.
In today’s verses, Obadiah repeated the promise for the people of Israel and showed us that Scarlet Thread of redemption. When the Messiah comes, He will establish His kingdom and the house of Jacob and Joseph will get back what had always been promised to them. But Esau’s house, even though he was also a descendant of Abraham, had no such promise. Instead of a remnant, there would be no survivors.
Why such a harsh punishment? Obadiah 1:10 explained that “because of the violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.” Verses 11-14 explain that Edom did not come to his brother’s defense but rather gloated over Judah’s misfortune. Even worse, they raided and looted Judah after it fell to the Babylonians, possibly even aiding Babylon in the capture of the Israelite people.
The battle between Esau and Jacob reminds me of the battle between the first two brothers in history, Cain and Abel. After Cain killed his brother Abel, God asked Cain about his brother’s whereabouts. Cain’s response was cold-hearted and showed no concern for his sibling: “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). God’s response was strict punishment: “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:10-12). Clearly, God cared about human life and brothers taking care of brothers. We see this also in Deuteronomy 23:7 in which God commanded Israel “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.” Despite all that Edom did to betray Israel, God commanded Israel to treat Edomites fairly.
Friends, God cares about family. After all, God is the one who created the family! We should care about and be loyal to our flesh and blood siblings. But we are also a family in Christ. We should care about our spiritual brothers and sisters. Are we our brothers’ keepers? Should we care about their well-being and seek to protect them from evil? Yes! Our spiritual family should be our allies, not our enemies.
Lord, thank You for the gift of family. Help me to love and care for my brothers and sisters (either by blood or in Christ) as You do. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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