Obadiah’s message is an invective against Edom, followed by a description of the eventual salvation of Jerusalem. The charges leveled against Edom show that it was written after Jerusalem had been invaded, and some of the people there had then been carried off into captivity. This has led many writers to assume that Obadiah was therefore describing the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, thus making him a contemporary of Jeremiah. Indeed, Jeremiah 49:7-22 even parallels Obad. 1-16. However, if Obadiah did live during Jeremiah’s time, then we must ask ourselves why would he only write against Edom when so many other things were going on? Edom was at best a side show. On the other hand, there was another time in history when Edom was much closer to center stage. That was during the reign of Jehoram of Judah (851-843 BC), when the Edomites had been subservient to Judah, but then a coalition of Philistines and Arabians attacked Judah and conquered Jerusalem, and the Edomites used that opportunity to break away from Judah. This event is described in II Chron. 21:8-20.
Interestingly, at roughly this time (perhaps only a decade earlier) there had been an officer of Ahab, the much hated king of Israel, whose name was Obadiah. When Ahab was trying to kill Elijah, he sent Obadiah to look for him. Obadiah had been a very faithful man, and during the persecutions of believers by Jezebel, he had hidden one hundred of them in a cave and had fed them. So when he ran into Elijah, he bowed down before him, begging for his life.1 Could this have been the same Obadiah who wrote this short Biblical book? Perhaps, and there is some support for that in the text itself, especially verse 17 where he mentions the “house of Joseph,” thus indicating that he may have some special attachment to the northern tribes; but it is also possible that there was someone else with the same name in Judah, who was therefore closer to the impact of the events that had taken place there with the sack of Jerusalem, and who then penned this short book. In any case, I believe that we can place the activity of this prophet during the time of Jehoram, and say that his invective against Edom was triggered by those events. And the parallel with Jeremiah 49:7-22 is likely due to the fact that Jeremiah (part of the priestly cast with access to the temple library) would have been familiar with Obadiah’s work, and found part of Obadiah’s message applicable for the times in which Jeremiah was living, and the message that he wanted to deliver.
Obadiah describes the fate that will befall Edom, and the restoration of Jerusalem.
- 1. The vision of Obadiah;2 Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Edom, We have heard a report from Yahweh, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: Arise and let us rise up against them in war!
2. Behold, I have made you small among the nations, you are very despised.
3. The presumption of your heart has deceived you; you who dwell in the retreats of the Petra,3 whose habitation is high, who says in his heart, Who will bring me down to earth?
4. If you rise up like an eagle, and if you place your nest among the stars, I will bring you down from there, says Yahweh.
5. If thieves came upon you, if nighttime spoilers (came), how would you remain silent? Will they not steal as much as they want? If grape gatherers came upon you, would they not leave something to glean?
6. How Esau was sought out, (how) his hidden things were searched out!
7. All your allies sent you forth to the border; your friends deceived you (and) overcame you; they put your bread under you as a net. 4 They have no understanding.
8. In that day, says Yahweh, shall I not destroy wise men from Edom, and discernment from the mountain of Esau?
9. And your mighty men will be dismayed, Oh Teman, so that each man will be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter;
10. Because of the violence of your brother, Jacob, shame will cover you, and you will be cut off forever.
11. On the day that you stood opposed; on the day that strangers captured his army and foreigners entered his gates and they cast lots for Jerusalem; you were also as one of them.
12. And on the day of your brother, on the day of his misfortune, do not look (at him); and do not rejoice concerning the children of Judah on the day of their destruction, and do not brag on the day of (their) distress.
13. Do not come into the gate of my people on the day of their calamity; do not even look at their affliction on the day of their calamity; and do not hold out your hand for their possessions on the day of their calamity.
14. And do not stand at the crossroads to cut off their fugitives, and do not deliver up their survivors on the day of distress.
15. For the day of Yahweh is close for all the nations; as you have done, so will be done to you. Your recompense will return upon your head.
16. For as you drank upon my holy mountain, all the nations will drink continuously, and they will drink and they will swallow, and they will become as though they had not existed.
17. And on Mount Zion there will be deliverance,5 and it will be a sacred area,6 and the house of Jacob 7 will take possession of those who had possessed them.8
18. And the house of Jacob will be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau will become stubble, and they will set them on fire and consume them, and there will not be any survivors of the house of Esau, for Yahweh has spoken.
19. And those of the Negev9 will possess the mountain of Esau, and those of the plain (will possess) the Philistines, and they will possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria, and (they of) Benjamin (will possess) Gilead.
20. And those exiled to Halah,10 of the children of Israel, will possess11 the (land of) the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and those exiled from Jerusalem, who are in Sepharad will inherit the cities of the Negev.
21. And the saviors12 on Mount Zion will go up to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom will belong to Yahweh.
1. Cf. I Kings 18:1-16.
2. The name means “servant of Yahweh.” It appears from Rashi’s comments that Jewish tradition regarded him as the functionary of King Ahab of Israel mentioned in the introduction, and they explain his special interest in the fate of Edom by saying that Obadiah himself had been a proselyte from Edom.
3. Petra was also known as Seir, and the Israelites passed through there during their wanderings after they left Egypt (Deut. 1:44). Thus it had been a place of refuge for many centuries. However, it did not become a separate kingdom until the Nabateans settled there in the 4th century BC.
4. The word “net” is a guess. It is one of the suggestions presented in the BDB sub II. מזר. In any case, this is not the word for “wound” as assumed in the KJV and certain other versions. This word has the same form, but comes from a different root, and the meaning is unknown. It is a hapax legomenon.
5. This phrase occurs in Joel 2:32.
6. This idea of the sacred area on Mount Zion is also in Joel 3:17.
7. Note that the term “house of Jacob” always refers to the entire nation of Israel (all 12 tribes). Therefore, this is another prophet who envisions the time when the entire house of Israel is gathered.
8. In the KJV the last part of this verse reads “. . . possess their possessions.” The word which they translate as “possessions,” is מורשיהם. As it is pointed in the Masoretic text, it is to be read as “possessions,” but, as we will see on other occasions, the Masoretic vowel pointing, which was done hundreds of years after the text was originally written, may not be correct. The LXX and other versions indicate that the word was understood, prior to the time of the Masoretes, to be a hif’il participle, and is therefore to be read as a form which must then be translated as “those who had possessed them.” See also the footnotes to this verse in the BHS. As translated above, it now can be compared with the same theological idea as we find in Isa. 14:2 and II Nephi 24:2.
9. Or “south.”
10. The text of the MT appears rather corrupted at this point, so I am following suggested emendations in the footnotes of the BHS, which suggests that Halah is the intended word. Halah is mentioned in II Kings 18:11 as one of the places where the people of the northern kingdom were settled by the Assyrians.
11. This reading also follows an emendation recommended in the footnotes of the BHS.
12. It is not clear whether this word should be translated as “saviors” or as “those who have been rescued.” The LXX supports the latter reading.
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