hands shackled August 5 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Jeremiah 48:1-49:13; Obadiah; Jeremiah 49:14-33

The Punishment of Nations

How do we react when people are taken away in handcuffs? Some pity them, while others rejoice. What if we were next? We all recoil at the thought of judgment. Some 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. No person or nation who is guilty of wickedness will escape forever—God has set a day and an hour for judgment, although we may not know when it is. We can't afford to ignore our behavior.

Since the death of King Josiah in 609 B.C., the nation of Judah ignored her bad behavior. The new world power, Babylon, had already attacked twice and carried away Judah's kings, nobles, princes, temple treasures, and many of her people. There was still much wickedness, idolatry, and injustice in Judah, but the leadership did not care. They were like poor shepherds who didn't keep watch over their flocks so they wouldn't be attacked and devoured.

In today's Bible reading, we see other nations in the Middle East who will 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, are wicked, proud, and confident. They will soon be destroyed, but God promises in His grace that someday they will be restored. Edom will not fall at this time but will fall soon in the 4th or 5th centuries, B.C., at the hands of the Nabateans, a nomadic tribal nation (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, edited 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), is a neighbor to Judah. He is especially responsible for his wickedness towards Israel because he is related by birth (they were both descendants from Isaac).

There is some debate by scholars as to when the events of Obadiah, concerning the destruction of Edom, occurred. Some think they were fulfilled in the days of King Jehoram when the Philistines and Arabs of Ethiopia came against Judah (2Chronicles 21:16-17). This happened just after Edom’s revolt. Given the events described in today’s Bible reading (Jeremiah 49:14-33), however, it appears Obadiah refers to Nebuchadnezzar's final attack to destroy Judah in 586 B.C. Edom lets Babylon do the dirty work (i.e., fight the battles) while he waits until Judah is weak. Then, like a vulture, he picks what is left of his brother nation. Some businesses and people do this today; they wait for weakness on the part of others and then swoop in like a vulture to snatch up what they can.

Edom rejoices at Judah’s fall. The prophecy of Obadiah informs us that Edom’s leaders are drinking and rejoicing in Jerusalem when their brother nation falls. He profits from Jerusalem’s destruction, but God is angry. Because he stands idly by when Judah is attacked and destroyed, and because he rejoices in her destruction, God vows to destroy Edom so that his people will never be a distinct nation again. This is fulfilled during the intertestamental period of the Bible when Nabateans (desert tribesmen) drive 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 Hyrcanus I, a Maccabean, subjugated the Idumeans and made them accept Judaism” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the Old Testament, p.1198). A lesson we might learn from this is to not rejoice in the misfortune of others but help them if we can (Proverbs 24:17-18).

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 carefree 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 turn from our sins and seek the LORD (more...).
  • Are we our brother’s keeper? The answer is yes. We aren't responsible for His sins, but we shouldn't sit idly by when calamity comes upon Him.
  • We mustn't rejoice in the calamity of others. God may withhold their judgment and punish us. Let's fear the LORD and walk humbly before Him. We can commit all judgment to God, for He will make all things right in the end.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: What happens if we Scorn God's Message? That is the topic of discussion in our Next Lesson in the book of Jeremiah.

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