Obadiah: Obadiah 18-In the Future, the Northern and Southern Kingdoms Will Reunite to Destroy the Nation of Edom Lesson # 19
Obadiah 18 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. (ESV)
“The house of Jacob shall be a fire” is asserting that Jacob’s descendants, i.e. the southern kingdom of Judah would be the instrument of God’s judgment or in other words, they would be the instrument by which God would exercise His wrath or righteous indignation against the Edomites.
This interpretation is indicated by the fact that destruction by fire in the Old Testament referred to divine punishment.
In other word, it referred to God exercising His wrath or righteous indignation against an individual or a nation (cf. Exo 15:7; Deut. 28:24; 32:22; Ps. 18:8; Lam. 1:13; Isa 10:17; 29:5, 6; Amos 1:4; Nah. 1:6, 10; Mal 4:1; Matt 3:12; Luke 3:17).
When Obadiah speaks of Jacob’s descendants, he is referring to the southern kingdom of Judah since the northern kingdom no longer existed as a result of being destroyed in 722 B.C. as a national entity by Assyria and those who survived the Assyrian invasion were all deported from the land.
Therefore, the only descendants of Jacob who remained in the land in Obadiah’s day and age in the sixth century B.C. was the southern kingdom.
“And the house of Joseph a flame” is out of the ordinary and unexpected since Joseph’s descendants is a reference to the northern kingdom of Israel which was no longer a national entity when Obadiah penned this prophecy in the sixth century B.C. since they were destroyed as a national entity by Assyria in 722 B.C.
The house of Joseph is a common designation in the Old Testament for the northern kingdom of Israel (Isa 11:12–14; Hos 1:11; Ps 77:15 ; Ezek. 37:15-23; Zech 10:6).
These ten tribes of Israel which separated from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin which formed the southern kingdom of Judah, were also referred to by the name Ephraim who was Joseph’s son.
This second prophetic declaration makes clear that the nation of Israel will be united in the future and will destroy Edom as a national entity.
“And the house of Esau stubble” presents a contrast with the previous two prophetic declarations and predicts that Esau’s descendants will as a certainty possess the characteristic quality of straw.
The contrast is thus between the nation of Israel being the instrument of God’s wrath in the future and the Edomites being the object of this wrath.
“They shall burn them” presents an inference from the first three prophetic declarations and declares that Jacob and Joseph’s descendants will burn Esau’s descendants.
Since Jacob and Joseph’s descendants are described as possessing the characteristic qualities of fire and a flame of fire respectively and Esau’s like straw, we can infer that Jacob and Joseph’s descendants will burn Esau’s descendants.
“And consume them” is the fifth prophetic declaration and presents the result of the fourth prophetic declaration and asserts Jacob and Joseph’s descendants will consume Esau’s descendants.
It is expressing the idea that Esau’s descendants will be consumed by Jacob and Joseph’s descendants, which means that Jacob and Joseph’s descendants will destroy Esau’s descendants or exterminate them so that none exists, which is indicated by the sixth prophetic declaration.
The northern and southern kingdoms will be reunited in the future and will be used by God to exercise His righteous indignation against the nation of Edom so as to destroy her as a national entity.
“And there shall be no survivor for the house of Esau” presents the result of the fifth and is expressing the idea that absolutely no remnant will exist with regards to Esau’s descendants as a result of Jacob and Joseph’s descendants consuming them like fire destroys straw.
In other words, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah will reunite in the future to be used by God to exercise His wrath against the nation of Edom so as to destroy the latter as a national entity.
“For the Lord has spoken” emphatically expresses the Lord’s determination to destroy Edom in the future as a national entity and also expresses God’s sovereign will and His righteous indignation towards the nation of Edom.
Furthermore, it also expresses His great love and concern for the nation of Israel and speaks of His faithfulness to His promises to the nation of Israel in the Abrahamic, Palestinian, Davidic and New covenants.
In fact, the term “Lord” (yhwh), which is the covenant-keeping personal name of God, is emphasizing the covenant relationship that Jacob and Joseph’s descendants, the nation of Israel possess with God.
It indicates that this prophecy of Edom’s destruction in the future by Israel is a revelation from God expressing God’s concern for the nation of Israel in that He intervenes in the affairs of this nation.
Obadiah 18 “In fact, Jacob’s descendants will as a certainty possess the characteristic quality of fire. Even, Joseph’s descendants will certainly possess the characteristic quality of a flame. However, Esau’s descendants will as a certainty possess the characteristic quality of straw. Therefore, they will certainly burn them so as to consume them. Consequently, absolutely no remnant will exist with regards to Esau’s descendants!” Indeed, the Lord has issued the decree. (Author’s translation)
Obadiah 18 contains six prophetic declarations which serve to advance upon and intensify the previous one at the end of verse 17.
This would indicate that not only will Jacob’s descendants, southern kingdom of Judah, possess their own land inheritance but they will also in the future reunite with Joseph’s descendants, the northern kingdom of Israel, and will be the instrument God will use to wipe out the Edomites.
Obadiah 18 is not the only Old Testament passage which reveals that the northern and southern kingdoms would be united in the last days since Ezekiel 37:16-28 teaches this as well.
There are three interpretations regarding the fulfillment of these prophecies recorded in Obadiah 18.
The first is that some believe that these prophecies were fulfilled in the sixth century B.C. by the Babylonians.
The three invasions led by Nebuchadnezzar (605, 597 and 586 B.C.), the invasions led by Nabonidus (556-539 B.C.) and one of his successors.
Some contend that these prophecies have been fulfilled in the second century B.C. since the Edomites were eventually driven out of their homeland by the Nabateans in the fourth century B.C. and they settled in the Negev and southern Judah.
In the second century, this remnant of Edomites who were known then as Idumeans, were defeated by the Maccabeans and Hasmoneans.
There are several factors which make clear that none of these interpretations can be correct.
First, the text of Obadiah 18 makes clear that the Jews will be God’s instrument to exterminate the descendants of Esau.
Furthermore, it makes clear that the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah will be reunited in the future to destroy Edom as a national entity to the extent that there will be no remnant whatsoever among Esau’s descendants or in other words, they will be exterminated.
Each of these interpretations have other nations such as Babylon destroying Esau’s descendants.
Israel or the southern kingdom of Judah when she returned from exile in Babylon never wiped out the Edomites in the sixth century B.C.
The northern kingdom as we noted never returned to the land.
Furthermore, nowhere in the past has the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel been reunited to destroy Edom as a national entity and leaving absolutely no remnant among Esau’s descendants.
However, Obadiah 18 does make clear that the ten tribes which formed the northern kingdom of Israel will in the future be reunited with those tribes which formed the southern kingdom of Judah, which were Judah and Benjamin.
Never in Israel’s history have these two kingdoms been reunited and wiped out the Edomite people.
Furthermore, Obadiah 20-21, which advances upon Obadiah 18-19 reveal that Israel’s borders will be extended because of this destruction of the Edomites and other nations.
These borders are described in Obadiah 20-21.
We know that Israel will inherit a large area of real estate during the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, which includes the lands mentioned in Obadiah 20-21.
Therefore, it would appear that the six prophecies contained in Obadiah 18 will find their fulfillment in the future during the Second Advent of Jesus Christ.
At that time, Jesus Christ will bring to an end the seventieth week of Daniel and the times of the Gentiles.
He will destroy the Tribulational armies, have Antichrist and the False Prophet thrown into the Lake of Fire (Rev. 19:11-19), will imprison Satan for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3) and will establish His millennial reign on planet earth (Rev. 20:4-6).
Though it is true that Edom eventually lost her national identity a long time ago, Daniel 11:40-45, Isaiah 11:10-12:6 and 63:1-6 reveal that Edom will be a national entity again during the seventieth week of Daniel.
This is not something new in history that God has done since the nation of Israel was not a national entity from 70 A.D. to the twentieth century but in 1948 she became a national entity again with borders and a central government and military.