Obadiah 1:3
The pride of your heart has deceived you, you that dwell in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that said in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
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1:1-16 This prophecy is against Edom. Its destruction seems to have been typical, as their father Esau's rejection; and to refer to the destruction of the enemies of the gospel church. See the prediction of the success of that war; Edom shall be spoiled, and brought down. All the enemies of God's church shall be disappointed in the things they stay themselves on. God can easily lay those low who magnify and exalt themselves; and will do it. Carnal security ripens men for ruin, and makes the ruin worse when it comes. Treasures on earth cannot be so safely laid up but that thieves may break through and steal; it is therefore our wisdom to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Those that make flesh their trust, arm it against themselves. The God of our covenant will never deceive us: but if we trust men with whom we join ourselves, it may prove to us a wound and dishonour. God will justly deny those understanding to keep out of danger, who will not use their understandings to keep out of sin. All violence, all unrighteousness, is sin; but it makes the violence far worse, if it be done against any of God's people. Their barbarous conduct towards Judah and Jerusalem, is charged upon them. In reflecting on ourselves, it is good to consider what we should have done; to compare our practice with the Scripture rule. Sin, thus looked upon in the glass of the commandment, will appear exceedingly sinful. Those have a great deal to answer for, who are idle spectators of the troubles of their neighbours, when able to be active helpers. Those make themselves poor, who think to make themselves rich by the ruin of the people of God; and those deceive themselves, who call all that their own on which they can lay their hands in a day of calamity. Though judgment begins at the house of God, it shall not end there. Let sorrowful believers and insolent oppressors know, that the troubles of the righteous will soon end, but those of the wicked will be eternal.The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee - Not the strength of its mountain-fastnesses, strong though they were, deceived Edom, but "the pride of his heart." That strength was but the occasion which called forth the "pride." Yet, it was strong in its abode. God, as it were, admits it to them. "Dweller in the clefts of the rocks, the loftiness of his habitation." "The whole southern country of the Edomites," says Jerome, "from Eleutheropolis to Petra and Selah (which are the possessions of Esau), hath minute dwellings in caves; and on account of the oppressive heat of the sun, as being a southern province, hath under ground cottages." Its inhabitants, whom Edom expelled Deuteronomy 2:12, were hence called Horites, i. e., dwellers in caves. Its chief city was called Selah or Petra, "rock." It was a city single of its kind amid the works of man . "The eagles" placed their nests in the rocky caves at a height of several hundred feet above the level of the valley .... The power of the conception which would frame a range of mountain-rocks into a memorial of the human name, which, once of noble name and high bepraised, sought, through might of its own, to clothe itself with the imperishablness of the eternal Word, is here the same as in the contemporary monuments of the temple-rocks of Elephantine or at least those of the Egyptian Thebes." The ornamental buildings, so often admired by travelers, belong to a later date.

Those nests in the rocks, piled over one another, meeting you in every recess, lining each fresh winding of the valleys, as each opened on the discoverer , often at heights, where (now that the face of the rock and its approach, probably hewn in it, have crumbled away) you can scarcely imagine how human foot ever climbed , must have been the work of the first hardy mountaineers, whose feet were like the chamois.

Such habitations imply, not an uncivilized, only a hardy, active, people. In those narrow valleys, so scorched by a southern sun, they were at once the coolest summer dwellings, and, amid the dearth of fire-wood, the warmest in winter. The dwellings of the living and the sepulchres of the dead were, apparently, hewn out in the same soft red sandstone-rock, and perhaps some of the dwellings of the earlier rock-dwellers were converted into graves by the Nabataeans and their successors who lived in the valley. The central space has traces of other human habitations . "The ground is covered with heaps of hewn stones, foundations of buildings and vestiges of paved streets, all clearly indicating that a large city once existed here" . "They occupy two miles in circumference, affording room in an oriental city for 30,000 or 40,000 inhabitants."

Its theater held "above 3,000." Probably this city belonged altogether to the later, Nabataean, Roman, or Christian times. Its existence illustrates the extent of the ancient city of the rock. The whole space, rocks and valleys, imbedded in the mountains which girt it in, lay invisible even from the summit of Mount Hor . So nestled was it in its rocks, that an enemy could only know of its existence, an army could only approach it, through treachery. Two known approaches only, from the east and west, enter into it.

The least remarkable is described as lying amid "wild fantastic mountains," "rocks in towering masses," "over steep and slippery passes," or "winding in recesses below." Six hours of such passes led to the western side of Petra. The Greeks spoke of it as two days' journey from their "world" Approach how you would, the road lay through defiles .

The Greeks knew but of "one ascent to it, and that," (as they deemed) "made by hand;" (that from the east) The Muslims now think the Sik or chasm, the two miles of ravine by which it is approached, to be supernatural, made by the rod of Moses when he struck the rock . Demetrius, "the Besieger" , at the head of 8,000 men, (the 4,000 infantry selected for their swiftness of foot from the whole army) made repeated assaults on the place, but "those within had an easy victory from its commanding height" . "A few hundred men might defend the entrance against a large army."

Its width is described as from 10 to 30 feet , "a rent in a mountain-wall, a magnificent gorge, a mile and a half long, winding like the most flexible of rivers, between rocks almost precipitous, but that they overlap and crumble and crack, as if they would crash over you. The blue sky only just visible above. The valley opens, but contracts again. Then it is honey-combed with cavities of all shapes and sizes. Closing once more, it opens in the area of Petra itself, the torrent-bed passing now through absolute desolation and silence, though strewn with the fragments which shew that you once entered on a splendid and busy city, gathered along in the rocky banks, as along the quays of some great northern river."

Beyond this immediate rampart of rocks, there lay between it and the Eastern Empires that vast plateau, almost unapproachable by an enemy who knew not its hidden artificial reservoirs of waters. But even the entrance gained, what gain beside, unless the people and its wealth were betrayed to a surprise? Striking as the rock-girt Petra was, a gem in its mountain-setting, far more marvelous was it, when, as in the prophet's time, the rock itself was Petra. Inside the defile, an invader would be outside the city yet. He might himself become the besieged, rather than the besieger. In which of these eyries along all those ravines were the eagles to be found? From which of those lairs might not Edom's lion-sons burst out upon them? Multitudes gave the invaders no advantage in scaling those mountain-sides, where, observed themselves by an unseen enemy, they would at last have to fight man to man. What a bivouac were it, in that narrow spot, themselves encircled by an enemy everywhere, anywhere, and visibly nowhere, among those thousand caves, each larger cave, may be, an ambuscade! In man's sight Edom's boast was well-founded; but what before God?

That saith in his heart - The heart has its own language, as distinct and as definite as that formed by the lips, mostly deeper, often truer. It needeth not the language of the lips, to offend God. Since He answers the heart which seeks Him, so also He replies in displeasure to the heart which despises Him. "Who shall bring me down to the earth?" Such is the language of all self-sufficient security. "Can Alexander fly?" answered the Bactrian chief from another Petra. On the second night he was prisoner or slain . Edom probably, under his who? included God Himself, who to him was the God of the Jews only. Yet, men now, too, include God in their defiance, and scarcely veil it from themselves by speaking of "fortune" rather than God; or, if of a coarser sort, they do not even veil it, as in that common terrible saying, "He fears neither God nor devil." God answers his thought;

3. clefts of … rock—(So 2:14; Jer 48:28). The cities of Edom, and among them Petra (Hebrew, sela, meaning "rock," 2Ki 14:7, Margin), the capital, in the Wady Musa, consisted of houses mostly cut in the rocks. The pride of thy heart: the Edomites were, as most mountaineers are, a rough, hardy, and daring people; necessitated sometimes to extraordinary adventures, and many times succeeded in attempts which others would not venture upon; hence they did swell in pride and confidence, and their hearts were bigger than their achievements, and they proud above measure.

Hath deceived thee; magnifying thy strength above what really it is.

Thou, people of Edom,

that dwellest in the clefts of the rock; houses, fortresses, towns, and cities, built upon inaccessible rocks, which neither could be undermined nor scaled. Or: dwellest in dark deep, and unsearchable caves amidst the rocks.

That saith in his heart; who think with themselves, and are upon report of an invasion ready to say,

Who shalt bring me down to the ground? it is not possible for armies to approach to us, nor bring their engines to shake or batter our walls. Who shall? i.e. none can. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee,.... The Edomites were proud of their wealth and riches, which they had by robberies amassed together; and of their military skill and courage, and of their friends and allies; and especially of their fortresses and fastnesses, both natural and artificial; and therefore thought themselves secure, and that no enemy could come at them to hurt them, and this deceived them:

thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock; their country was called Arabia Petraea, the rocky; and their metropolis Petra, the rock: Jerom says that they that inhabited the southern part of the country dwelt in caves cut out of the rock, to screen them from the heat of the sun: or, "thou that dwellest in the circumferences of the rock" (p); round about it, on the top of it, in a tower built there, as Kimchi and Ben Melech. Aben Ezra thinks that "caph", the note of similitude, is wanting; and that the sense is, thou thoughtest that Mount Seir could secure thee, as they that dwell in the clefts of a rock:

whose habitation is high; upon high rocks and mountains, such as Mount Seir was, where Esau dwelt, and his posterity after, him. The Targum is,

"thou art like to an eagle that dwells in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is in a high place;''

this they were proud of, thinking themselves safe, which deceived them; hence it follows:

that saith in his heart, who shall bring me down to the ground? what enemy, ever so warlike and powerful, will venture to invade my land, or besiege me in my strong hold? or, if he should, he can never take it, or take me from hence, conquer and subdue me. Of the pride, confidence, and security of mystical Edom or antichrist, see Revelation 18:7.

(p) "in gyris, sive circuitionibus petrae", so some in Vatablus.

The {c} pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?

(c) Which despises all others in respect of yourself, and yet you are but a handful in comparison with others, and you are shut up among the hills as separate from the rest of the world.

3. the clefts of the rock] The word rock may here be a proper name, Selah or Petra; the reference would then be to the rock-hewn dwellings of that remarkable city. Perhaps, however, the reference is more general to the “clefts of the rock” which abounded and were used as habitations throughout Edom proper. The expression which occurs here and in Jeremiah 49:16, is only found beside in Song of Solomon 2:14, where it is used of the hiding-place of a dove.

Ewald renders this verse: “Thy heart’s haughtiness deceived thee, who inhabiteth in rock-clefts, his proud dwelling, who saith in his heart, who shall cast me down to the earth?”

“The great strength of a position such as Selah’s was shewn during the war of the Independence of Greece, in the case of the monastery of Megaspelion, which was situated, like Selah, on the face of a precipice. Ibrahim Pasha was unable to bring its defenders down by assault from below, or above, and though ungarrisoned it baffled his utmost efforts.” Speaker’s Commentary.

For a description of Petra and the approach to it, see note A, below.


The following graphic description of Petra from the pen of the late Dean Stanley, is taken by permission of the publishers from his well-known work, Sinai and Palestine:—

“You descend from those wide downs and those white cliffs which I have before described as forming the background of the Red City when seen from the west, and before you opens a deep cleft between rocks of red sandstone rising perpendicularly to the height of one, two, or three hundred feet. This is the Sîk, or ‘cleft;’ through this flows—if one may use the expression—the dry torrent, which, rising in the mountains half-an-hour hence, gives the name by which alone Petra is now known amongst the Arabs—Wâdy Mûsa. ‘For,’—so Sheykh Mohammed tells us—‘as surely as Jebel Hârûn (the Mountain of Aaron) is so called from the burial-place of Aaron, is Wâdy Mûsa (the Valley of Moses) so called from the cleft being made by the rod of Moses when he brought the stream through into the valley beyond.’ It is, indeed, a place worthy of the scene, and one could long to believe it. Follow me, then, down this magnificent gorge—the most magnificent, beyond all doubt, which I have ever beheld. The rocks are almost precipitous, or rather, they would be, if they did not, like their brethren in all this region, overlap, and crumble, and crack, as if they would crash over you. The gorge is about a mile and a half long, and the opening of the cliffs at the top is throughout almost as narrow as the narrowest part of the defile of Pfeffers, which, in dimensions and form, it more resembles than any other of my acquaintance. At its very first entrance you pass under the arch which, though greatly broken, still spans the chasm—meant apparently to indicate the approach to the city. You pass under this along the bed of the torrent, now rough with stones, but once a regular paved road like the Appian Way, the pavement still remaining at intervals in the bed of the stream—the stream, meanwhile, which now has its own wild way, being then diverted from its course along troughs hewn in the rock above, or conducted through earthenware pipes, still traceable. These, and a few niches for statues now gone, are the only traces of human hand. What a sight it must have been, when all these were perfect! A road, level and smooth, running through these tremendous rocks, and the blue sky just visible above, the green caper-plant and wild ivy hanging in festoons over the heads of the travellers as they wind along, the flowering oleander fringing then, as now, this marvellous highway like the border of a garden walk. You move on; and the ravine, and with it the road,—and with the road in old times the caravans of India,—winds as if it were the most flexible of rivers, instead of being in truth a rent through a mountain wall. In this respect, in its sinuosity, it differs from any other like gorge I ever saw. The peculiarity is, perhaps, occasioned by the singularly friable character of the cliffs, the same character that has caused the thousand excavations beyond; and the effect is, that instead of the uniform character of most ravines, you are constantly turning round corners, and catching new lights and new aspects, in which to view the cliffs themselves. They are, for the most part, deeply red, and when you see their tops emerging from the shade and glowing in the sunshine I could almost forgive the exaggeration that calls them scarlet. But in fact they are of the darker hues which in the shadow amount almost to black, and such is their colour at the point to which I have brought you, after a mile or more through the defile—the cliffs overarching in their narrowest contraction—when, suddenly through the narrow opening left between the two dark walls of another turn of the gorge, you see a pale pink front of pillars and sculptured figures closing your view from top to bottom. You rush towards it, you find yourself at the end of the defile, and in the presence of an excavated temple, which remains almost entirely perfect between the two flanks of dark rock out of which it is hewn; its preservation and its peculiarly light and rosy tint being alike due to its singular position facing the ravine or rather wall of rock, through which the ravine issues, and thus sheltered beyond any other building (if one may so call it) from the wear-and-tear of weather, which has effaced, though not defaced, the features, and tanned the complexion of all the other temples.

This I only saw by degrees, coming upon it from the west; but to the travellers of old times, and to those who, like Burckhardt in modern times, came down the defile, not knowing what they were to see, and meeting with this as the first image of the Red City, I cannot conceive anything more striking. There is nothing of peculiar grace or grandeur in the temple itself—(the Khazné, or Treasury, it is called)—it is of the most debased style of Roman architecture; but under the circumstances, I almost think one is more startled by finding in these wild and impracticable mountains a production of the last effort of a decaying and over-refined civilisation. than if it were something which, by its better and simpler taste, mounted more nearly to the source where Art and Nature were one.

Probably anyone who entered Petra this way, would be so electrified by this apparition (which I cannot doubt to have been evoked there purposely, as you would place a fountain or an obelisk at the end of an avenue), as to have no eyes to behold or sense to appreciate anything else. Still, I must take you to the end. The Sîk, though it opens here, yet contracts once more, and it is in this last stage that those red and purple variegations, which I have before described, appear in their most gorgeous hues; and here also begins, what must have been properly the Street of Tombs, the Appian Way of Petra. Here they are most numerous, the rock is honeycombed with cavities of all shapes and sizes, and through these you advance till the defile once more opens, and you see—strange and unexpected sight!—with tombs above, below, and in front, a Greek Theatre hewn out of the rock, its tiers of seats literally red and purple alternately, in the native rock. Once more the defile closes with its excavations, and once more opens in the area of Petra itself; the torrent-bed passing now through absolute desolation and silence, though strewn with the fragments which shew that you once entered on a splendid and busy city gathered along in the rocky banks, as along the quays of some great northern river.”Verses 3, 4. - Edom had prided herself in the strength of her position; but this shall not secure her from destruction when the Lord wars against her. Verse 3. - Hath deceived; Septuagint, ἐπῆρε, "elated;" Vulgate, extulit. The pointing varies. In ver. 7 Jerome translates the word by illudere. The clefts; Septuagint, ὀπαῖς: Vulgate, scissuris. The word occurs in the parallel passage, Jeremiah 49:16, and in Song of Solomon 2:14, where it has the meaning of "refuge." Of the rook. This may be Sela, or Petra, as 2 Kings 14:7. The country inhabited by the Edomites lay on the eastern side of the Arabah, and extended from the south end of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf. It was a region of mountain and valley, difficult, and in many parts inaccessible from the west. Rock-hewn dwellings are found everywhere in those hills, the Edomites, when they expelled the aboriginal Troglodytes (Deuteronomy 2:12, 22), having adopted their habitations and excavated new ones on the same model throughout the whole district. These were useful, not only as being secure from hostile attack, but as cool retreats in the summer of that scorching tract, and offering a warm shelter in winter when fuel was scarce. Petra, the capital, lay completely hidden at the end of a rocky defile some two miles long, and could easily be defended against an enemy by a handful of men. (For a description of this remarkable place, see the Introduction, § I.) Verse 4. - Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle. The Hebrew gives "nest" as the subject of both clauses, thus: "Though thou exaltest... and settest thy nest." Job (Job 39:27, 28) speaks of the eagle making its nest in the highest rocks. The metaphor is found in Numbers 24:21; Habakkuk 2:9. Will I bring thee down (Amos 9:3). The seizure of Petra by the Nabathaeans is the judgment referred to in this part of the prophecy; the complete ruin is mentioned later (vers. 18, etc.). Joel 3:21 does not contain the announcement of a still further punishment upon Egypt and Edom, but simply the thought with which the proclamation of the judgment closes - namely, that the eternal desolation of the world-kingdoms mentioned here will wipe out all the wrong which they have done to the people of God, and which has hitherto remained unpunished. But Zion will rejoice in the eternal reign of its God. Jehovah dwells upon Zion, when He manifests Himself to all the world as the King of His people, on the one hand by the annihilation of His foes, and on the other hand by the perfecting of His kingdom in glory.
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