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And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it. (Obadiah 1:18)

Question - It seems like Obadiah 1:18 is saying that every Edomite will be killed and there is no chance of them being saved. I tried to go into the Hebrew but it seems to be saying again that all Edomites will be killed. My question is Obadiah 1:18 literally stating that all people of Esau will be killed? Different commentaries say different things.

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Since "burning of stubble" is a metaphor (drawing on the way farmers sometimes clear their fields), the question is one of how literally the metaphor should be taken.

In practice, stubble-burning doesn't necessarily destroy every stem. In history, though the Edomites were not killed off as described, they did disappear as a people. To cut a long story short, they were forcibly converted to Judaism by the Hasmonean kings of later Judah and turned into the Jews of the Roman province of Idumaea.

The expression "house of Edom" refers to the Edomites as a community. So Isuggest that the threat of being devoured and ceasing to exist is being directed at the community.

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The answer is "Yes" and "No". It depends upon the period of time we examine. Obadiah does not identify when he prophesied - it could have either been:

  • in the 9th century BC when Edom revolted (2 Kings 8:20-22)
  • in the 6th century BC when Jerusalem was destroyed under Nebuchadnezzar

The similarity between the language of Obadiah and the prophecies of Jer 49:7-22, Eze 25:12-14 makes the later date more probable. The prophecy was either directed at:

  • the "short" term - before Jesus' first Advent
  • the longer term - before Jesus' second Advent

If the former fulfilment is sought, the usual candidate is the attack by John Hycauus just before 100 BC as per the Pulpit commentary:

There shall not be any remaining. This refers to the total annihilation of the Edomites under John Hyrcauus (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 12:08. 6; 13:9, 1), and is a punishment quite distinct from their defeat at the hands of the Nabathaeans predicted in vers. 1-9

However, this did not destroy the Edomites. However, their community was destroyed when their territory was sacked and their survivors were forcibly converted to Jewry.

However, this cannot be the fulfilment because of the next part of the same prophecy which reads (V20, b & 21):

and the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad will possess the cities of the Negev. The deliverers will ascend Mount Zion to rule over the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will belong to the LORD.

Notice that the last part of the prophecy is certainly unfulfilled but will presumably be fulfilled at Jesus' second return as per Rev 11:15.

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  • This is a case where it is simply not possible to say both "yes" and "no." If one chooses to see "house of Esau" as representing literal descendants of Esau, then if at any time it had been completely destroyed it could never have existed again.
    – Biblasia
    Mar 18, 2023 at 10:06
  • @Biblasia - that is true; but the answer still depends upon whether one means that all biological descendants are destroyed or whether it means that no one now calls themself an Edomite. In any case, as pointed out above, the kingdom does not yet belong to the LORD.
    – Dottard
    Mar 18, 2023 at 10:13
  • To me (with an historian's eye) the setting has to be post-Fall of Jerusalem. See extreme conditions of vv11-14,. Mar 18, 2023 at 11:31
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The two houses, that of Jacob and that of Esau, are representative of the two great classes of people: the righteous, and the wicked.

The "house of Jacob" refers to the Israelites, for "Israel" was the new name which God gave Jacob following his night of wrestling with God as he was in fear of Esau.

The Bible indicates that we may become part of "Israel" by accepting the truth. All of the covenant promises are for "Israel"--including salvation. For example, consider this:

And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: (Romans 11:26, KJV)

But that this does not mean literally all those who are born as Israelites is made plain two chapters earlier.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: (Romans 9:6, KJV)

In other words, "Israel" is symbolic of the righteous. This is why Revelation addresses the saved as coming from the twelve tribes of "Israel"--with nary a mention of any non-Israelite tribe or group of people in heaven.

The "house of Esau" refers to those who are not part of Jacob, or "Israel." We might remember the text where these two classes are compared, which says:

As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. (Romans 9:13, KJV)

Again, "Esau" stands for the great class of the wicked here. God is not saying He will accept "Israel" and reject Edom, Moab, Ammon, Babylon, Ninevah, etc. In that single name "Esau", all those who are among the unsaved are represented.

Conclusion

Will every single person of this "house of Esau" be destroyed? Yes. Only the righteous will be permitted to live in the consuming fire of God's presence, the "everlasting burnings" according to Isaiah 33:14 (cf. Isaiah 43:2 & Psalm 15) in the new earth. The wicked, represented in Obadiah as "the house of Esau," will all be destroyed.

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    Good points, but wrong conclusion. The Bible describes Jacob the deceiver just as bad as Esau. God said: “Two peoples are in your womb, and two nations shall be separated from your womb, and one nation shall be stronger than the other nation, and the greater shall be subject to the lesser.” Jesus also said: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave ”. Jonah prophesied that Nineveh would be turned upside down. And it was, but not the way he thought. Why Edom should be different? Mar 19, 2023 at 1:47
  • “Moab is My washbasin; upon Edom I toss My sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.” Mar 19, 2023 at 1:57
  • “(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)” Mar 19, 2023 at 1:58
  • “Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!” Mar 19, 2023 at 1:59

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