What does Obadiah 1:5 mean?
ESV: If thieves came to you, if plunderers came by night— how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only enough for themselves? If grape gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?
NIV: If thieves came to you, if robbers in the night-- oh, what a disaster awaits you!-- would they not steal only as much as they wanted? If grape pickers came to you, would they not leave a few grapes?
NASB: 'If thieves came to you, If robbers by night— Oh how you will be ruined!— Would they not steal only until they had enough? If grape-pickers came to you, Would they not leave some gleanings?
CSB: If thieves came to you, if marauders by night -- how ravaged you would be! -- wouldn't they steal only what they wanted? If grape harvesters came to you, wouldn't they leave a few grapes?
NLT: 'If thieves came at night and robbed you (what a disaster awaits you!), they would not take everything. Those who harvest grapes always leave a few for the poor. But your enemies will wipe you out completely!
KJV: If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?
NKJV: “If thieves had come to you, If robbers by night— Oh, how you will be cut off!— Would they not have stolen till they had enough? If grape-gatherers had come to you, Would they not have left some gleanings?
Verse Commentary:
This verse provides additional details of the coming judgment on Edom. Even though Edom and Israel were descended from brothers, Edom had long persecuted Israel. When this prophecy was spoken, Edom was wealthy and well-defended. Israel, on the other hand, had just been defeated—for the third time in a few decades—by foreign armies. Rather than helping their "brother" nation, the Edomites actually helped the invaders. As a result, this verse is both an accusation and a prediction.

A typical thief will only steal what they want and then leave. A typical harvester will take good grapes, but leave bits and pieces behind for the poor. A thief who steals everything, or who burns down the house, is acting out of spite. The same would be true of a harvester who purposefully leaves nothing for the poor to collect. When a foreign nation attacked Israel, Edom joined in the looting. Even though they were already wealthy, and Israel was already destitute, the Edomites robbed the Jews.

At the same time, this verse is a prediction of what will happen to Edom. A common theme of Old Testament prophecy is the idea of reaping what is sown. That is, the crimes of a nation are often exactly what they will suffer when judgment comes. In the case of Edom, their judgment will include being completely and totally ruined. Thieves might steal, but Edom would see everything they had taken away. Malachi 1:3–4, written some time later, describes Edom's cities as abandoned.
Verse Context:
Obadiah 1:1–9 predicts the total destruction of Edom, a long-standing enemy of Israel. Despite Edom's strategic location, pride, and wealth, this prophecy warns that they will be completely ruined. The people of Edom committed heinous crimes against Israel, even helping Israel's enemies capture Jewish refugees. This passage specifically mentions how the coming wrath will undo all of Edom's proudest achievements.
Chapter Summary:
The nation of Edom grew from Esau, the brother of Jacob. Jacob would later be re-named ''Israel.'' Despite being so closely related, Israel had few long-term enemies as spiteful as the Edomites. In the short prophecy given by Obadiah, Edom is warned of God's judgment. Edom is particularly condemned for aiding Israel's enemies in a time of war. This warning is extended to all nations that reject God: judgment for your sin is coming, but God will be merciful to those who obey Him.
Chapter Context:
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament, with only one chapter of 21 verses. In just a few words, it delivers a warning of judgment on Edom, one of Israel's oldest enemies. This passage also warns every nation that defies God that there will be a reckoning. The end of Obadiah's prophecy involves the division of land during the end times.
Book Summary:
Obadiah is an excellent introduction to Old Testament prophecy. In just 21 verses, it covers all of the typical contents found in the prophets. Themes of wrongdoing, imminent judgment, God's mercy, and His restoration are all found in this short book. Reading Obadiah is somewhat like reading the dust jacket of a much larger novel. Obadiah is also interesting in that it is not addressed to Israel, but to the nation of Edom.
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