What does it mean “not have looked on” in Obadiah 1:12?                             By Jack Kettler                                       


“But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.” (Obadiah 1:12)


Who is Obadiah speaking to in 1:12? In addition, who is Edom’s brother? In this study, these three questions will be answered.


Obadiah’s prophecy is against Edom, and this is established by Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:


“This prophecy is against Edom.” (1)




A number of dates have been given for the prophecy of Obadiah. But, more than likely, it was written after Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., prior to the fall of Edom in 553 B.C. In Obadiah’s prophecy, he condemned the Edomites, descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau for delighting in the destruction of Judea by the Babylonians.


Key Themes:


·         Judgment is coming to Edom in particular.

·         Edom and other nations will experience God’s judgment.

·         Every effort of a man trying to be safe from judgment will fail.

·         Israel’s enemies will be put to shame.

·         God’s justice is stringent and just.

·         Finally, Israel will experience God’s deliverance.

·         Future restoration, Yahweh will establish His eternal kingdom.


To answer the beginning question about looking on the Strong’s Lexicon will be consulted:



תֵּ֤רֶא (tê·re)

Verb - Qal - Imperfect Jussive - second person masculine singular

Strong's Hebrew 7200: 1 to see, look at, inspect, perceive, consider 1a) (Qal) 1a1) to see 1a2) to see, perceive 1a3) to see, have vision 1a4) to look at, see, regard, look after, see after, learn about, observe, watch, look upon, look out, find out 1a5) to see, observe, consider, look at, give attention to, discern, distinguish 1a6) to look at, gaze at 1b) (Niphal) 1b1) to appear, present oneself 1b2) to be seen 1b3) to be visible 1c) (Pual) to be seen 1d) (Hiphil) 1d1) to cause to see, show 1d2) to cause to look intently at, behold, cause to gaze at 1e) (Hophal) 1e1) to be caused to see, be shown 1e2) to be exhibited to 1f) (Hithpael) to look at each other, face.”


As seen from Strong’s gloat, (tê·re) is a better translation of the Hebrew word.


The Pulpit Commentary agrees with Strong’s Lexicon on the translation of tê·re:


“Verse 12. - The prophet complains of the malignant neutrality of the Edomites. Thou shouldest not have looked. In this and the two following verses, al with the future is wrongly translated. It should be rendered throughout, “do not look,” “do not rejoice,” etc. Obadiah, in view of the past behaviour of Edom, and looking forward to another and more fatal conquest of Jerusalem, warns the Edomitas against repeating this malicious conduct. Septuagint, μὴ ἐπίδης. Gaze not with pleasure, feast not thine eyes (Micah 7:10). The day of thy brother; i.e. when some great event befell him - explained further in the next clause. Compare “the day of Jerusalem” (Psalm 137:7). In the day that he became a stranger; Septuagint, ἐν ἡμέρα ἀλλοτρίων, “in the day of strangers;” Vulgate, in die peregrinationis ejus. The Anglican and Vulgate Versions signify, “in the day that he was carried captive into strange lands;” but most probably the expression should be rendered, “in the day of his calamity.” Rejoiced over (comp. Job 31:29; Proverbs 17:5; Micah 7:8). Spoken proudly; literally, make thy mouth great; Septuagint, μὴ μεγαλοῥῤημονῇ, “do not boast;” Vulgate, non magnificabis os tuum. Utter a flood of mocking words, probably accompanied with derisive grimaces. There is a climax in this verse - first the complacent look, then the malicious pleasure, then words of insult and derision. Obadiah 1:12” 


The Pulpit Commentary suggests that (tê·re) can be translated “do not boast,” is supported by the context.


The three questions in closing:


The phrase “not have looked on” can better be translated as “gloat” or “do not boast” in Obadiah 1:12. 


Who is Obadiah speaking to in 1:12? The prophet is speaking to the people of Edom, warning them of coming judgment. In addition, who is Edom’s brother? Edom’s brother was Esau, who was the brother of Jacob, and who was the father of the nation Israel, and at this point in time, referred to Judah, which suffered judgment by the Babylonians. 


“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)




1.      Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary, Obadiah, (Nashville, Tennessee, Thomas Nelson), p. 1392.

2.      H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Obadiah, Vol. 14., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 4.

Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at: https://www.amazon.com/Books-Jack-Kettler/s?rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AJack+Kettler