hands shackled August 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Jeremiah 48:1-49:13; Obadiah; Jeremiah 49:14-33

The Punishment of Nations

How do we react when people are taken away in shackles? Some pity the poor souls while others rejoice. What if we might be next? We all recoil at the thought of judgment. We might think, “Surely not us. We are secure, we are powerful, and we are rich. However, we may not be as secure as we think; unrighteousness and injustices are eventually judged because God is righteous. No person or nation who is guilty of wickedness will escape forever. There is a day and an hour for judgment, though we may not know when it is. We cannot afford to be complacent.

The nation of Judah had been complacent. Her northern sister nation, Israel, had already been taken captive by the Assyrians and her people were exiled to their land. Nebuchadnezzar, from the new world power of Babylon, had already attacked twice and carried away Judah's kings, nobles, princes, temple treasuries, and many of her people. There was still much wickedness and injustice in Judah, but the leadership did not care. They were like poor shepherds who do not keep watch over their flocks so that they will not be attacked and devoured.

Other nations in the Middle East would also soon fall to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon: Egypt, Moab and Ammon (now the nation of Jordan), Syria, Kedar and Hazor (nomadic tribes in the Arabian Desert), and Elam (which is now Iran). They, too, were wicked and proud and complacent. They would soon be destroyed but someday restored. Edom would not fall at that time, but would fall shortly thereafter in the 4th or 5th centuries at the hands of the Nabateans, a nomadic tribal nation (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, pp. 1453-1454). God’s judgment may not always be immediate, but it is certain.

Edom, a nation born from Esau, Jacob’s brother (Genesis 25:25-26), was a brother nation to Judah. She was especially culpable for her wickedness towards Israel because she was related by birth (they were both descendants from Isaac). There is some debate by scholars as to whether the events of Obadiah were fulfilled in the days of King Jehoram, when the Philistines and Arabs of Ethiopia came against Judah (2Chronicles 21:16-17), which happened just after Edom’s revolt, or when Nebuchadnezzar came to destroy Judah in 586 B.C. It seems the latter is preferable, given the events described in today’s reading. Apparently, Edom, in her wisdom, let other nations do the dirty work (i.e., fight the battles) while she waited until Judah was weak. Then, like a vulture she picked what was left of Judah. Some businesses and people do this today; they wait for weakness on the part of others and then swoop in like a vulture and snatch up what they can. Edom rejoiced at Judah’s fall. We are not to rejoice in the misfortune of others but help them if we can (Proverbs 24:17-18). The prophecy of Obadiah informs us that Edom’s leaders were drinking and rejoicing in Jerusalem at her downfall. She profited from Jerusalem’s destruction, but God was not at all happy. Because she stood idly by when Judah was being attacked and destroyed, and even rejoiced in her destruction, God vowed to destroy Edom so that her people would never be a distinct national group again. This was fulfilled during the intertestamental period of the Bible, when Nabateans (desert tribesmen) drove the Edomites from the land. “The people of Edom were forced to migrate to southern Judah where they were called Idumeans. In 125 B.C. John Hryranus I, a Maccabean, subjugated the Idumeans and made them accept Judaism,” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.1199).

Lessons to live by:

  • If we are Christians and act wickedly, we must remember that God will discipline us first before he judges others. We must not be complacent about our lives. We must fear the LORD and continue to walk in his ways if we want his blessings.
  • If we are not Christians, remember that God will ultimately judge all nations and people. Today is a good time to seek the LORD and repent (more...).
  • Am I my brother’s keeper? The answer is yes. You may not be responsible for his sins, but you should not sit idly by when calamity comes upon him.
  • Do not rejoice in the calamity of others. God may withhold their judgment and punish you. Fear the LORD. Walk humbly before Him. Commit all judgment to God, for he will make all things right in the end.

Today’s Bible memory verse: Proverbs 17:5 “He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker; whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.” (NIV)

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