on Obadiah 1 :3
The pride of thine heart - St. Jerome observes that all the southern part of Palestine, from Eleutheropolis to Petra and Aialath, was full of caverns hewn out of the rocks, and that the people had subterranean dwellings similar to ovens. Here they are said to dwell in the clefts of the rock, in reference to the caverns above mentioned. In these they conceived themselves to be safe, and thought that no power brought against them could dislodge them from those fastnesses. Some think that by סלע sela, rock, Petra, the capital of Idumea, is intended.
on Obadiah 1 :3
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;
on Obadiah 1 :3
1:3 The pride - The Edomites were, as most mountaineers are, a rough hardy, and daring people. And proud above measure. Deceived thee - Magnifying thy strength above what really it is.