Lesson 44: The Books of Haggai and Obadiah

Reading Preperation:
  • Haggai
  • Obadiah
Lesson Notes:
1. Introduction
The writings of Haggai and Obadiah are found in the book of the Prophets, a division in the Hebrew Bible. These divisions include: (1) the Law; (2) The Prophets, and (3) Hagiographa, mostly poetic books (see Nyman, Monte S., Footnote 4. Divine Ministry—The First Gospel. Orem, Utah: Granite Publishing and Distribution, L.L.C., 2003, 216). The writings of Hosea to Malachi, or the Twelve Prophets, are also referred to as the Minor Prophets due to the limited amount of their writings that have been preserved. The books of Haggai and Obadiah in the Hebrew Bible are found in this section.
While Haggai and Obadiah each prophesied in different time periods of the Old Testament, their words are here presented together. As it common with other prophets, their limited remarks also have dual implication (present and future events). While Haggai is addressing the present circumstances involving the delay of building the temple and Obadiah’s focus is on the conflict between Edom and Israel, their words also have important inferences for the future.
2. The Book of Haggai
In order to understand the writings of Haggai, it is important to understand the historical events that had transpired prior to Haggai being called as a prophet.
In 537 B.C., Cyrus, ruler of the Medes-Persians, defeated the Babylonians. The Jews who had been held captive in Babylon were, following the reading of the prophecy given previous by Isaiah naming Cyrus as the Lord servant, issued a decree allowing the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild their temple. He also arranged means to assist them in accomplishing this task (see Ezra 1:1-4).
Adam Clark states,
“Cyrus… [then] revoked [his] edict in the second year of his reign, through evil advice of his courtiers and other enemies of the Jews. After his death, Cambyses [his son] renewed the prohibition, but after the death of Cambyses, Darius, the son of Hystaspes, renewed the permission and Haggai was sent to encourage his countrymen to proceed with the work. Darius came to the throne about the year 521 B.C., and published his edict of permission for the Jews to rebuild the city and Temple in the second year of his reign, which was about the sixteenth [year] of their return from Babylon” (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967 [Nineteenth Printing March, 1991], 748).
The interruption in completing the temple over the past fourteen years was also due to other factors.
D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyers state,
[This included] the opposition of the Samaritans and local Landowners (see Ezra 4:1-5)… Morale [amongst the Jews] was low and men concentrated on the betterment of their own circumstances. To them it was an inappropriate time to spend effort and wealth on God’s house (Haggai 1:2)” (The New Bible Commentary: Revised. Edited by D. Guthrie and J.A. Motyers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1970, Third Edition, 78).
It was into this situation that the Prophet Haggai began his ministry.
2.1. Outline of the Book of Haggai
Sidney B. Sperry provides the following outline:
“Haggai Exhortations to the People Re: Building Temple
“I. A divine rebuke for religious indifference. The Jewish People are reproached for their selfishness and exhorted to build a house of the Lord (1:2-11).
“II. The Lord’s rebuke effective: building operations proceed on the Temple (1:12-15).
“III. The people exhorted to be strong, and the spirit of the Lord will attend them. The Temple to be filled with glory (2:1-9).
“IV. The people to be blessed on completion of the Temple. Haggai point out that the unclean is more contagious than the clean and that offerings cannot atone for his people’s indifference. Indifference will result in calamity, and zeal will assure their prosperity (2:10-19).
“V. Instruction of the Lord to Zerubbabel and the divine promise to choose him (2:20-23). Verses 21-23 offer difficult and are to be compared and considered with verses 6-9)”
(The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 392).
2.2. Haggai’s Message and the Lessons He Taught
2.2.1. Introduction to Haggai
Adam Clarke states,
“He [Haggai] was probably born in Babylon during the Captivity, and appears to have been the first prophet sent to the Jews after their return to the own land. He was sent particularly to encourage the Jews to proceed with the building of the Temple, which had been interrupted for about fourteen years” (Adam Clarke Commentary on the Bible. Abridged by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing, March, 1991], 748).
Ellis T. Rasmussen states,
“The prophet Haggai recorded his efforts as an old man to arouse the people to work on the temple until its completion. The period involved was about 536 to 516 B.C., especially the last four of those years. Haggai seems to have been one who remembered the first temple (Hag.2:3), which had been built by Solomon about 1000 B.C. and destroyed by Babylonian invaders in 586 B.C. He must have been about eighty years old by the time of the ministry recorded here. The first revelation in his book, dated to the second year of Darius {Hystaspes]… would have been about 520 B.C. The name Haggai means ‘my festivals,’ which is appropriate to his concern with the temple, the place of sacred worship festivals and ceremonies. Nothing more is known of his personal life” (A Latter-Day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993, 676).
2.2.2. His Message
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“In the opening verse of Haggai we are given to understand that the prophet uttered the short addresses in the book, and there is little doubt that he did so. But it would seem very probable that there are only brief resumes of what he told his people. A prophet whose enthusiasm is such that he roués a dilatory people to build a temple would not likely be limited to such short statements. Either this is true or else we may conclude that the book contains only the formal revelations of the Lord to Haggai. Upon them the prophet based his exhortations and preaching to the people. After their reception, these short revelations would be written down and accompanied with a few brief historical notes. In this form they have come down to us” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 391).
Five Revelations [520 B.C.] Religious Indifference (Haggai 1:2-11).
A Divine rebuke for religious indifference:
The prophet Jeremiah had stated that seventy years following the captivity of the Jews by the Babylonians they would return to build their city and Temple (see Jeremiah 29:10). The Jews, aware of Jeremiah’s timeline, use this to defend their delay in rebuilding the Lord’s temple.
Haggai 1:2-5
2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built.
3 Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet, saying,
4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cielled [paneled] houses, and this house lie waste?
5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
What does it mean to “consider your ways?” The people had taken the time to provide for their own temporal needs, however they had neglected to give their attention to their spiritual needs and the building of a house for the Lord! They also sought to rationalize their feeble efforts. Each of us make decisions about how we are going to spend both our time and energy for daily we are bombarded with numerous choices with their accompanying promises. Due to the limited amount of free time we have and income, in order to get the greatest benefit from our resources, we must then prioritize our assets and how we are going to expend them, setting short and long term goals. When our focus is only on our temporal needs, we may do so at the neglect of our spiritual well-being.
Haggai 1:6-7
6 Ye have sown much, and bring to little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages eareth wages to put it into a bag with holes.
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways.
The Lord is reminding the people that when their focus is only on themselves their production is extremely limited. Were they to turn to the Lord for guidance and direction, He would then assist them. They had not understood this important directive of the Lord.
Doctrine and Covenants 82:10
10 I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.
Wherein had Israel been negligent?
Haggai 1:8-9
8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD.
9 Ye look for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house.
When the people are more focused upon their own temporal needs, to the neglect of their relationship with their Lord, it is an outward expression of their lack of gratitude and appreciation to Him for the blessings He has given to them. It is “as if” they don’t care about Him? He who cares so very much about us.
The words of Haggai were effective.
Haggai 1:12
12 Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua, the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear [revere] before the LORD.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“Haggai held the Melchizedek Priesthood and had notably higher functions to perform in relation to Israel’s religion that did Joshua, who, as high priest, had jurisdiction over the Aaronic Priesthood in the Hebrew Church. Zerubbabel ruled over his people as the pechah, or Persian Governor” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 392). Building Operations proceed on Temple (Haggai 1:12-15).
Haggai 1:13-14
13 Then spake the Haggai the LORD’S message… I am with you saith the LORD.
14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel… governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua… the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.
How pleased Haggai must have been as he viewed the response of the people to the words of the Lord as they “came and did work in the house of the LORD.” It is truly by our actions—what it is that occupies our time and energy– that we express to the Lord “who’s side we are truly on” (see Joshua 24:15). The Lord is equally pleased with the response of His people and states, “I am with you” (Haggai 1:13). In the final analysis of our lives, what will really be important, I believe, is how we respond to the requests of the Lord as given through his servants. Today was a good day for the children of Israel. The Temple will be filled with glory (Haggai 2:1-9).
Haggai 2:3-4
3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?
4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel,… and be strong, O Joshua; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts:
It would appear to me that there were those who recalling the “house [of the Lord] in her first glory”–an obvious reference to the house of the Lord which had been built by Solomon which was later destroyed—saw a great difference with the house they were building. There may have even been some who criticized the expenditure of effort and energy being directed toward building a temple that “in comparison [with Solomon’s temple was] as nothing.” The Lord reiterates His support of all those who are continuing to expend their efforts, for it is not enough to begin a task, as important as to begin is, the reward only comes to those who persevere until the job is finished, He reminds them, “for I am with you.”
Haggai 2:7, 9
7 … I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts.
9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.
In the final analysis, what really matters most about the house of the Lord is not its outward appearance, though we want it to be special to behold, is does it have the glory of the Lord? “To have the glory of the Lord” means that the Lord himself has accepted the humble offering of His servants and endowed it with his spirit. If He has not, even the grandeur and elegance equal to Solomon’s temple, would not be sufficient to make up for its absence. Without the glory of the Lord, it would be just another man-made structure. Temple Blessings (Haggai 2:10-19).
In order for the Temple to bless the people, they must become clean.
The prophet Haggai begins his fourth revelation from the Lord by inquiring of the priests regarding the law established under Moses governing what is holy or clean and unclean or defiled.
Haggai 2:12-13
12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any met, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No.
13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, I shall be unclean.
Following their accurate assessment, Haggai now makes a declaration regarding the cleanliness of the people and nation of Israel.
Haggai 2:14
14 Then answered Haggai, and said So is this people, and so is this nation before me, said the LORD; so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.
C.F. Keil clarifies the meaning of this verse,
“The nation, in its attitude towards the Lord, resembles, on the one hand, a man who carries holy flesh in the lappet of his garment, and on the other hand, a man who ha become unclean through touching a corpse… For Israel is utterly unclean on account of its neglect of the house of Jehovah, like a man who become unclean through touching a corpse. Everything that Israel takes hold of, or upon which it lays it hand, everything that it plants and cultivates is from the very first affected with the curse of uncleanness; and consequently even the sacrifices which it offers there upon the altar of Jehovah are unclean (Koehler)” (Quoted in Sperry, Sidney B. The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 399).
Under the Law of Moses (see Leviticus 6:24-29; Numbers 6:6; 19:11-16, 22), when an individual was determined to be “unclean,” there was a proscribed course of action that needed to be followed before the individual could be declared “clean”. How then was Israel going to become clean in the eyes of the Lord?
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“The prophet [points out]… that the failure of Israel’s crops and the curse that has hitherto prevailed (Haggai 2:15-18), are the Lord’s punishment for unfaithfulness, but he promises that from that time forward God’s blessings shall rest unto them. Israel’s slate was, in effect, wiped clean; what counted was their future conduct” (The Voice Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 399).
Haggai 2:19
19 Is the seed yet in the barn? Yea, as yet the vine and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.
Israel is again reminded that when they fail to be obedient to his commandments, they will be cursed. When they are obedient, He will remove their cursing and again bless them and their lands.
This is an important lesson for each of us to learn. When we today fail to honor the commandments the Lord has proscribed for our individual conduct and our relationship with others, we also will suffer the consequences of our disobedience. A feeling of gloom and unhappiness will come upon us and we will not prosper. When we honor his directives as given to us through his living prophet, we will be blessed with joy and peace, even though dark clouds may gather around us. Instructions of the Lord to Zerubbabal (Haggai 2:20-23).
Haggai 3:21-22
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth;
22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen;…
The LDS Bible Dictionary states,
“Zerubbabel. Born in Babylon (the name is Assyrian). Grandson of Jehoiachin, king of Judah, and son of Pedaiah (1 Chr.3:16-19); in Ezra 3:2 and elsewhere he is called “son of Shealtiel,” probably his nephew or legal heir. Zerubbabel was also known by the Persian name sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8, etc). When Cyrus gave permission to the Jews to return to Palestine, Zerubbabel was appointed ‘pekhah,’ or governor, as representative of the Jewish royal house (Ezra 1:8). He set up an altar in Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple (see Ezra 3:2, 8; 4:2-3; 5:2); being helped by Haggari (Hag.1:1-14; 2:1-23) and Zechariah (4:6-10). In the N.T. he is called Zorobabel” (LDS Bible Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979, 792).
Haggai 3:23
23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, said the LORD, and I will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.
What is the meaning of this revelation given to Zerubbabel?
Monte S. and Ferres H. Nyman offer the following commentary,
“The Lord told [Zerubbbel]… not to worry about the threats of the surrounding nations and kings because the Lord would overthrow the throne of the heathen kingdoms and destroy their strength. He [Lord] further promised to make him as a signet, a ring showing that one has authority, because the Lord had chosen him [Haggai 2:21-23]. This promise exemplifies the adage that two people can do anything if one of them is the Lord. This promise may also have Messianic overtones—as Zerubbabel appears in the genealogy of Christ, who was the real governor of Judah (Matthew 1:12-13; Luke 3:27)” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 120).
No more is known about the Prophet Haggai other than the verses which remain in our scriptures today. However it was no doubt because of his words of admonishment and promises as the Lord’s anointed servant, that the leaders and people did rally and the temple construction was completed a few years later (516 B.C.). The temple became known as the Temple of Zerubbel or the Second temple.
The LDS Bible Dictionary notes,
“Temple… This structure [Temple of Zerubbel] was partially burned in 37 B.C., and was subsequently partially rebuilt by Herod the Great, although the rebuilding continued until A.D. 64. It was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.” (Temple. LDS Bible Dictionary. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979, 781).
The Temple of Zerubbel, partially rebuilt by Herod the Great, was the temple where Jesus Christ taught and worshipped during his mortal life.
2.3. Latter day Parallel
Those who are familiar with LDS Church history will recognize some of the challenges that Haggai faced regarding the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem with the problems Joseph Smith and Latter-day Saints encountered in building their Temple at Kirtland, Ohio.
The Lord directed Joseph Smith to leave New York with the members of His Church in a revelation Joseph received at a conference of the church in January 2, 1831.
Doctrine and Covenants 38:31-32
31 And that you might escape the power of the enemy, and be gathered unto me a righteous people, without spot and blameless—
32 Wherefore, for this cause I gave unto you the commandment that ye should go to the Ohio; and there I will give you my law; and there you shall be endowed with power from on high;
In 1831, the members of the Church and their families following the direction of the Lord left their homes and farms and gathered to Ohio. In December 27, 1832, the Lord gave a revelation to Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, known as Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88. In this revelation the Lord directed Joseph Smith and those who are gathered with him to build a temple.
Doctrine and Covenants 88:119
119 Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God.
The financial condition of the membership of the Church at the time was one of extreme poverty. Many had lost their homes and farms when they had left New York to move to Ohio during the winter of 1831. They were just now getting established when they received this directive from their prophet.
Due to their extreme poverty and trying to get the Church and themselves established in Ohio, it is not surprising that six months had passed since Joseph had received the revelation to build the temple and not one shovelful had been turned towards this project.
On June 1, 1833, Joseph Smith received the following revelation from the Lord known as Section 95 in the Doctrine and Covenants.
Doctrine and Covenants 95:1-3
1 Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you whom I love, and whom I love I also chasten that their sins may be forgiven, for with the chastisement I prepare a way for their deliverance in all things out of temptation, and I have loved you—
2 Wherefore, ye must needs e chastened and stand rebuked before my face.
3 For ye have sinned against me a very grievous sin, in that you have not considered the great commandment in all things, that I have given unto you concerning the building of mine house.
While the members of the church had been focused upon getting themselves established, they had neglected to attend to the directive of the Lord to commence building His house.
The Lord gives further insight regarding the necessity of building His house and its importance to building His kingdom on earth.
Doctrine and Covenants 95:4
4 For the preparation wherewith I design to prepare mine apostles to prune my vineyard for the last time,…
Joseph Fielding McConkie and Craig J. Ostler state,
“‘Apostles’ as used in this text has reference to those who go forth at the direction of the Lord to testify of his restored gospel, It does not refer to the office of apostle which had not yet been restored. It was in the Kirtland Temple that the elders were instructed in the principles of the gospel and endowed with the power of God. Both experiences were fundamental to their preparation to represent the Lord” (Revelations of the Restoration. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000, 689-690).
One of the Lord’s purposes for the building of the temple was so that the missionaries could be taught so that they might be prepared to go forth and share the gospel throughout the world. Another important reason for the Lord requiring the Saints to build the Kirtland Temple was so that individuals who anciently had held priesthood keys would have a sacred place to come and bestow these keys upon His servant, Joseph (see Doctrine and Covenants 110).
Doctrine and Covenants 95:11
11 Verily I say unto you, it is my will that you should build a house. If you keep my commandments you shall have power to build it.
The Lord reiterates His desire that a temple be built. Conditional upon their keeping His commandments meant that if they will put their trust in Him and gave their means and efforts towards building the temple, in turn He will give them the power to accomplish this task.
Doctrine and Covenants 95:13-15
13 Now here is wisdom, and the mind of the Lord—let the house be built, not after the manner of the world,…
14 Therefore, let it be built after the manner which I shall show unto three of you,…
15 And the size thereof shall be fifty and five feet in width, and let it be sixty-five feet in length, in the inner court thereof.
In the above verses the Lord is giving to Joseph and others the measurements of the building. In other words, He is telling them, “Let’s begin and I will tell you exactly how to construct the temple so that you may successfully accomplish my commandment.”
The Lord is telling Joseph and the Saints: I love you. Because I love you, I am going to inform you of your error so that you may know where you have erred. As you take the steps to repent, I am going to bless you with strength to overcome your error so that I may then forgive you.
The History of the Church records,
“June 5,[1833]—George A. Smith hauled the first load of stone for the Temple, and Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls of the Lord’s house and finished the same with their own hands…
“On the same day (July 23rd), while the brethren in Missouri were preparing to leave the country through the violence of the mob, the corner stones of the Lord’s House were laid in Kirtland, after the order of the Holy Priesthood” (History of the Church 1. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1969, Second Edition Revised, 353, 400).
Elwin C. Robinson notes,
“September 4, 1833. Temple work makes great progress. Joseph Smith hopes to be finished by spring 1834 so ‘we can have a place to worship where we shall not be molested.’ Joseph Smith labors with his own hands.
“September 25, 1833. Members are so poor that “there is not a scraper and hardly a plow that could be found among the Saints’ to dig temple foundation.
“October 10, 1833. Temple construction is discontinued for the winter due to lack of materials. Workers plan to recommence ‘early in the spring.’
“Fall-Winter, 1833-34. Men stand guard at night to protect temple walls from mob destruction. Walls are still being built” (The First Mormon Temple. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1997, 150-151).
Money, materials, persecution, and other diversions extended the time that it took to build the Kirtland Temple and it will take another two years to complete.
Church History in the Fullness of Times states,
“Zion’s camp also interrupted the work during the summer of 1834, since few workmen were available and funds were diverted to aid the distressed Missouri Saints. When the brethren returned from Zion’s Camp, work progressed more rapidly. That fall [1834] Joseph Smith wrote, ‘Great exertions were made to expedite the work of the Lord’s house, and notwithstanding it was commenced almost with noting, as to means, yet the way opened as we proceeded and the Saints rejoiced.’ The walls were about four feet high in the fall of 1834, but rose quickly during the winter. By November 1835 the exterior plastering commenced; crushed glass ware was mixed with the stucco to make the walls glisten. Under Brigham Young’s direction, the interior was finished during February of 1836. The sisters made the curtains and carpets.
“In addition to their great personal efforts, the Saints spent from forty to sixty thousand dollars on the temple. Because they were so willing to sacrifice in building the temple, the Lord poured out great blessings upon them” (Church History in the Fullness of Times. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989, 163-164).
Elwin C. Robinson states,
“March 27, 1836. Temple is dedicated… Several people see visions, prophesy, and speak in tongues. Angels are seen hovering around the temple exterior. A mighty rushing wind is heard” (The First Mormon Temple. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1997, 157).
One week later on April 3, 1836, the Savior appears to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the newly dedicated temple at Kirtland, Ohio.
Doctrine and Covenants 110:7
7 For behold, I have accepted this house, and my name shall be here; and I will manifest myself to my people in mercy in this house.
At this time, beside the Lord himself appearing to Joseph and Oliver, Moses (110:11), then Elias (110:12), and Elijah (110:13), each appeared to them and bestowed upon them the keys of authority which they had held anciently.
With the dedication of the temple and the restoration of sacred keys, the dual purpose of the Lord for requiring the Saints to build the Kirtland Temple during these most difficult and trying three years had been fulfilled.
Joseph Fielding Smith states,
“This prophetic utterance [see Doctrine and Covenants 105:33] about the elders obtaining an endowment in the temple at Kirtland is of double meaning. First, there were to come from on high essential blessings for the saints, which up to that time had not been revealed. Second, the elders were to receive greater powers that they might be better qualified to teach. It was made known by many manifestation of divine power at the dedication that the temple had been accepted as the house of the Lord” (Doctrines of Salvation 2. Compiled by Bruce R. McConkie. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955 [20th Printing, 1978], 241-242).
Just as Haggai and others rejoiced with the completion of the Temple in Jerusalem, likewise did the Saints in Kirtland. The hardships and sacrifices which had been made by the people were celebrated with the outpouring of glory and revelation by the Lord.
3. The Book of Obadiah
3.1. Background
3.1.1. Who is Obadiah?
There are several individuals named Obadiah who are identified in the Old Testament. The individual named Obadiah who is of our interest on the list in “Who’s Who in the Old Testament is identified as follows by its authors.
Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen state,
Obadiah is “a prophet of the Lord who prophesied the downfall of Edom—a worldly kingdom of degeneracy and godless values” (Old Testament Who’s Who. American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications Inc., 2009, 146-147),
Obadiah is identified by the Hebrews as one of the twelve prophets. As previously noted, we should not assume that his brief record, the shortest in the King James Bible, contains all of his words to the people. As with prior prophets, we shall focus our attention upon his writings and the message he taught during his day, as well as to ours.
Sidney B. Sperry states,
“Obadiah is another prophet of whose life and ministry we know little or nothing beyond what can be deduced from the twenty-one verse of his prophecy… Obadiah’s name… signifies ‘worshiper of Jehovah’ [Hebrew] or “servant of Jehovah” [Greek]… The caption of the prophecy, The vision of Obadiah, implies to the author the fact that Obadiah was a seer—a seer in the sense that he saw the future with supernatural objectivity as distinguished from his own thinking and imagining. He was what the Hebrews called a chozeh or gazar” (The Voice of Israel’s Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1952, 317).
3.1.2. Time of His writings
Duane S. Crowther observes,
“Scholar differ in their opinion of to which periods Obadiah belonged. Obadiah apparently prophesied just after Jerusalem was plundered (vs.11). Four such plundering took place:
1. By the Philistines and Arabians, in the reign of Jehoram c. 850-845 B.C. (2 Chronicles 21:8, 16; Amos 1:6).
2. By Israel in the reign of Amaziah c. 797-792 B.C. (2 Chronicles 25:11-12, 23-24).
3. By Edom and the Philistines, in the reign of Ahaz c. 734-728 B.C. (2 Chronicles 28:16-21).
4. By the Babylonians, who destroyed Jerusalem c. 598-587 B.C. in the reign of King Zedekiah. (2 Chronicles 35:11-21).
Since he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, most scholars place him in the reign of Zedekiah, when Babylonia destroyed Jerusalem… If this date is properly established, Obadiah prophesied during the later period of Jeremiah’s ministry”
(Prophets & Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 425).
The date would be 598-587 B.C.?
3.2. Outline of the Book of Obadiah
Duane S. Crowther provides the following outline:
I. The Approaching Destruction of Edom

1. Edom shall be destroyed. (1-9)

A. The heathen shall rise up against them in battle. (1-2).
B. The nations which had been at peace with thee have deceived thee. (7)
C. Thy wise and might men shall be slaughtered. (8-9)
2. Edom will be cut off forever because of its violence against Judah. (3-14)
(Interpretive Note: The prophecies against Edom in that day have by some been interpreted as a prophecy of the final destruction of the wicked…
Doctrine and Covenants 1:36
36 And the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world.
Edom has been known as Idumea since the days of the Maccabees.)
II. The Glory of Israel in the Last Days

1. The day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen. (13-16).
2. There shall be deliverance and holiness upon Mt. Zion, and the house of Jacob shall posses their possessions. (17)
3. The house of Israel will be as a flame and burn Esau as stubble. (18)
4, The children of Israel shall possess the lands of their neighbors. (18-20)
5. Saviors shall come upon mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s. (21)
(Prophets and Prophecies of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1966, 426).
3.3. Obadiah’s Message and the Lessons He Taught
Since Obadiah’s message is directed to Edom, both present and future, it is important that we answer the question, “Who was Edom during the days of Obadiah?”
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Edom is another name for Esau, Jacob’s brother. The Greek form of the word Edom is Idumea. Those who settled in Edom were close kin to the residents of Judah… [Edom… called Arabah [extended] from the northern end of the Gulf of Elath to near the southern end of the Dead Sea-see Peloubet 161]” (Old Testament student manual:1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 258).
You will recall from Chapter Seven of this text that there was a reconciliation reached between the two brothers, however as history records, the relationship between the descendants’ of Esau and Jacob was one of bitter animosity and open hostility between the two nations.
Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary states,
“Esau’s bitter hatred of his brother Jacob fraudulently obtaining his blessing appears to have been inherited by his latest posterity. The Edomites peremptorily refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their land. Num. 20:18-21. For a long period we hear no more of the Edomites. They were then attacked and defeated by Saul, 1 Sam.14:47, and some forty years later by David. 2 Sam. 8:13-14. In the reign of Jehoshaphat (B.C. 872) the Edomites attempted to invade Israel, but failed. 2 Chron. 20:22. They joined Nebuchadnezzar when that king besieged Jerusalem. For their cruelty this time they were fearfully denounced by the later prophets. Isa. 34:5-8; 63:1-4; Jer. 49:17. After this they settled in southern Palestine, and for more than four centuries continued to prosper. But during the warlike rule of the Maccabees they were again completely subdued, and even forced to conform to Jewish laws and rites, and submit to the government of Jewish prefects. The Edomites were now incorporated with the Jewish nation. They were idolaters. 2 Chron. 25:14-15, 20. Their habits were singular” (Peloubet’s Bible Dictionary. Philadelphia, Pa.: The John C. Winston Company, 1947, 161).
The Old Testament student manual states,
“Because of their wickedness and lasting hatred for Israel, Edom [or Idumea], like Babylon, became a symbol of the world (see above Doctrine and Covenants 1:36)” (Old Testament student manual: 1 Kings—Malachi. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, Second Edition, 258).
Obadiah 1:1-2
1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the LORD God concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour [communication] from the LORD, and… an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her [Edom] in battle.
2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.
A nation is going to “rise up” against Edom in battle due to her being “small” [limited military?] compared to other nations and also she is “greatly despised” by others.
Obadiah 1:3-4
3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived them,… that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle,… thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.
Edom pending destruction is due to her haughtiness and false pride which has caused her to believe that she is invincible to her enemies. Her defeat, the result of her wickedness, will be orchestrated by the Lord through her enemies.
Obadiah 1:7
7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border; the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee;…
Adam Clarke states,
“All thy men of thy confederacy. The Chaldeans are here intended, to whom the Idumeans were attached, and whom agents they became in exercising cruelties upon the Jews” (Adam Clarke Commentary on the Bible. Abridges by Ralph Earle. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1967, [Nineteenth Printing March 1991], 730).
Those nations with whom Edom had formed a military alliances will not keep their agreement to protect her, but instead will abandon her at her hour of need.
Obadiah 1:10
10 For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever.
Edom’s shame was, like Esau before her, she did not honor the commandments of the Lord herself, but instead turned against Judah and sought to destroy her. She did not receive the words of the prophets, and repent, but instead became a nation of idolatry and wickedness.
Obadiah 1:11
11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the stranger carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou was as one of them.
In this verse as well as the following verses (12-14), the Lord specifies Edom’s actions against Judah. These included: not rendering assistance when they were under attack; taking spoils from her people; rejoicing over their defeat; and not only cutting off the retreat from those who were trying to get away from their captors, but also delivering up those who had escaped from the battle to their enemy!
Obadiah 1:15
15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all heathen [people who have chosen not to join God’s kingdom]: as thou hast done, so shall be done unto thee; thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
This is the law of the Lord unto all, nations or individuals, who chose not to join the Lord’s kingdom. For Edom, as well as all who rebel against the Lord, their day of judgment will come. At that time they will then receive the same judgment that they rendered against the Lord’s people. When we speak of the coming judgment day, it will either be a time of fear and trembling or a day of rejoicing, dependent upon how we have chosen to live our lives during our mortal existence.
Obadiah 1:17
17 But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
Obadiah offers a message of hope to those who will yet embrace the Lord and His teachings and enter into a covenant of faithfulness with Him. In vision, he sees the latter days when the storms shall gather and destruction will be pour out by the Lord. At that time, it will be “Upon mount Zion” where those who have chosen to become the Lord’s covenant people will gather, for it will be a place of peace and refuge from the calamities that will occur.
Obadiah 1:18
18 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.
Monte S. and Farres H. Nyman state,
“Obadiah describes the house of Jacob as a fire and the house of Joseph as a flame, with the house of Esau being as stubble… the The house of Jacob through the tribe of Joseph will consume the house of Esau as fire destroys a field of grain stubble. This unusual analogy probably refers to the absorption of house of Esau into the house of Israel by means of the ambassadors [missionaries] sent among them to teach the gospel, as mentioned in verse 1… Those who are not converted will be destroyed at Christ’s second coming” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 66-67).
Obadiah 1:19-20
19 And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the field of Ephraim, and the field of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.
Monte S. and Farres H. Nyman state,
“Verses 19 and 20 discuss the house of Israel possessing various surrounding nations. What happens to Edom as a nation will happen to all other ntions of the heathen or gentiles. When it is remembered that father Abraham was given all of those lands,it is logical that this occupation describes the fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham. Those who are destroyed and didn’t hear the gospel will have such an opportunity elsewhere” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 67).
Obadiah 1:21
21 And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shell be the LORD’s.
In April, 1842, Joseph Smith referenced the above verse in Obadiah noting that as we seek after the names of our kindred dead and present them “to be baptized for our dead” (see Teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 223), we then become to them “as it were” saviors on mount Zion.
Monte S. and Farress H. Nyman note,
“In the context of Obadiah, work for the dead ancestors of Edom will also be done in the temples established through the restoration of the gospel to the house of Joseph in America. The millions of people of the lineage of Edom, and other surrounding nations who have not had the opportunity to hear the gospel in this life, will hear it in the spirit world and will then be save through the ordinances performed in the temples built in the latter days.
“… it is to Obadiah that we turn to for biblical confirmation of the concept of the descendants of Joseph, son of Jacob, becoming saviors on Mount Zion through vicarious work of the dead in the latter-day temples. This smallest of biblical writers will be more appreciated by the posterity of Edom as they recognize the contribution he made to an understanding of their future and final message of hope” (The Words of the Twelve Prophets. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990, 68-69).
How grateful we are for the words of Obadiah and his message of hope to Edom and all who seek to know the truth. Through the ordinances of the temple, all, including Edom, who did not have the opportunity to receive the blessings of the gospel during their mortal life, can have their work done for them in the temples the Lord has established in these latter days. In this manner, all who choose to obey the Lord and to keep His commandments, living or dead, will have opportunity given to them.
4. Conclusions
The phrase, “great things can come in small packages” may have also referenced the writings of Haggai and Obadiah. Both addressed the blessings that come to the people when a temple is established in their midst. For Judah the completion of their temple marked an important milestone for them for once again the house of the Lord was established in their city. It was the temple that was constructed during the time of Haggai that Herod would modify and would be established when Jesus Christ was upon the earth. Twice He would cleanse the temple and drive out the money changers and those who had polluted the exterior of His Father’s house.
While Obadiah’s words were directed at Edom and all who sought to destroy the chosen of the Lord’s people, and to reject the commandments of the Lord, there was also hope for them. It would require them to hearken to the message of the ambassador [missionaries] and make and keep sacred covenants. Through the establishment of modern day temples, those who had died could have work done for them by those who would serve in the latter days as “saviors on mount Zion.”
James E. Talmage wrote,
“Material belongings, relative wealth or poverty, physical environment—the things on which we are prone to set our heart and anchor our aspirations, the things for which we sweat and strive, ofttimes at the sacrifice of happiness and the forfeiture of real success—these are after all are but externals, the worth of which in the reckoning to come shall be counted in terms of the use we have made of them” (The Vitality of Mormonism. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957, 338).
We are reminded of the words of Haggai who counseled each of us to “Consider your ways” (Haggai 1:5, 7) and Obadiah who instructed us that “as thou hast done, It shall be done unto thee” (Obadiah 1:15) that we should make our choices wisely. When we choose to follow the Lord, we shall not go wrong.