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Bible Study, The Minor Prophets: Obadiah

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Posted on CCPC's website 2022

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

      This is a long term, in depth, wide focus study of the Minor Prophets, drawing as much from the history of their times as possible, as well as looking at the original language of the prophet.
      Which for Obadiah will be:
“But on Mount Zion will be deliverance; it will be holy, and Jacob will possess his inheritance.”

      Stand by, we'll get to the finer points of all that shortly.

      Here, again, we don't know a lot about the prophet, other than his name means “servant of Yah (a shortened form of YHWH)”.
      Is this the same Obadiah that worked for the king and that hid a group of prophets from the persecution of the queen in 1 Kings 18? It is a reasonable assumption, but it is not clearly stated in the text, although in the passage, Obadiah makes a good case for his own faithfulness to God in spite of his employer, and Elijah seems to know it to be the truth.
      There are other Obadiah's mentioned in the OT, including one in 2 Kings 8 which could not be the same Obadiah that worked for Ahab. There's another one mentioned in Ezra 8 and the ones with other jobs in Nehemiah 10:5 and 12:25. But it is unlikely that they were our Obadiah.

      The speculation that the prophet Obadiah was an Edomite (a descendant of Esau (see Genesis 25 and following) in a land due south of Israel) convert is exactly that, speculation.
      The vision outlined in the book's few verses is specific and refers to several cities in the region of Edom, however, the scribe simply records the vision that is attributed in verse one to Obadiah without explaining anything about it or him.
      Also, there is no definite time where we can identify the book. Some of his images recall those from Jeremiah, but was Obadiah quoting him, or was it the other way around?

      “hazown ‘obad·yah” (The vision of Obadiah), “koh 'amar” (thus saith (literally: 'the message of')) ’adonay YHWH, for Edom - “shemuah” (report / news (this is more than a rumor or gossip, this is credible information from a reliable source)) heard from YHWH and a “wesir” (official messenger / ambassador) to the people / nations has been sent to say: “qumu” (stand up) “we·na·qu·mah” (let us rise and stand) “‘ale ha” (against / 'toward') for war / battle.
      The word for 'report' was also used in 1 Samuel 11: 22 concerning the sons of Eli.
      The idea that the prophet would be an official messenger to the various gentile nations is somewhat unique. Other prophets have been sent, we'll come to Jonah in his turn, but usually the prophets speak 'as a voice in the wilderness' and not as an 'envoy' to the seats of power. Let's be clear here, the ambassador is going to the other nations to tell them to attack Edom.
      Obadiah is giving Edom a warning of what's to come.

      We'll just state it right here, when Obadiah says “Jacob” he means the descendants of Esau's twin brother from the Genesis story.

      The translations get part of the flavor of verse 2.
      However, the word for 'small' is “qaton” which also means 'insignificant / unimportant', and they will be regarded with contempt.

3 and 4
      Paraphrase: These cliff dwellers have been believing their own propaganda. No matter how high they think they are, there is One who can bring them down.

      The translations know their thieves and gleaners.

Gleaning a tangent:
      We'll start with Deuteronomy 24 : 19. Yes, it is specified in the law that when a farmer harvests a field, he is not to strip it bare. Any remaining grain is to be left for the poor, who are allowed to take it. The practice comes into play in the lineage of Christ when Ruth went into Boaz's fields to collect the leftover barley. See Ruth 2.
      The practice of gleaning is well documented throughout OT, and even the gleaning of grapes as in Judges 8.

      In the New Testament, there are several parables about farms and the harvest, but no direct mention of gleaners. The practice was simply part of agriculture at the time, so when the Sower from Mark 4 sowed his seed, and then the harvester from Matthew 13 have done their work, the gleaner will come through and do their work in the Lord's field.
End tangent
      Compare Jeremiah 49: 9,10 and later also verses 14-16.

      Oh how “chaphas” (searched) ‘esaw, and “nib·‘u” (sought out) “mas·pu·naw” (hidden things)

      Paraphrase: they'll be forced out, your own men will turn on you, and win, the ones you trust in your home, will ambush you when you least expect it.
      To put it another way, Edom's own arrogance and overconfidence is their undoing.

      Shall I not in that day, says YHWH, “we·ha·’a·bad·tî” (I will destroy) “ha·ka·mim” (the wise (the translations say 'wise men', but the term is used inclusively in places like Proverbs 1: 6 and 15: 2 and 7)) from Edom and “tebunah” (understanding) from the mountains of Esau

      “we·hat·tu” ('to be' terrified / dismayed / 'unmanned') “gib·bo·w·re·ka” (warriors) Teman (Esau's grandson / tribe in Edom, see Genesis 36 : 9 and following), to the end that 'Esau is cut off' by “miq·qa·tel” (slaughter).

      Remember, there is no prophecy that a 'remnant of Esau' will be scattered and preserved. Verse nine is implying genocide, which is reinforced in the next voice.

      “me·ha·mas” ('for' violence) against your brother Jacob, “busah” (shame) will cover you, and “we nik·ra·ta” (cut down / cut off) “le·‘o·lam” (forever).

11 through 14
      History lesson.
      they are reminded that they stood by when 'strangers' captured Jerusalem, even gambling over the spoils, 'as if you were one of them'.
      They also took part in the sacking of the city.
      And kept those fleeing from the enemy from escaping capture.

      'for near is the Day of the Lord u(pon all nations'...
      “ka 'a ser” (which / as) “‘a·si·ta” (you have done), “yê·‘a·seh” (to do / accomplished) “lak” (to you), “ge·mul·ka” (recompense (legal implications of a penalty)) shall return “ge·mul·ka” (on your head)

      Paraphrase: 'the Edomites must have had a party in Jerusalem after the invasion' and the nations will drink, and be as though they were never there.
      They'll party, and vanish.

      But on Mount Zion (one of the mountains of Jerusalem, south and west of the Temple Mount) shall be “pe·le·tah” (escape /deliverance), and “qo des” (holy) and the 'house of Jacob' shall take their possessions.

      Paraphrase: the houses of Jacob and Joseph will be a flame, but Esau will be “le qas” (stubble / chaffe) and they will kindle fire, and Esau will be “wa·’a·ka·lum” (devour / consume) none of Esau will remain, says YHWH.

19 - 21
      The list of property transfer includes many of the areas around Israel and Judah, not just Edom.
      The Negev is the desert region south of modern Israel, it blends into the Sinai to the southwest and the Arabian desert to the east, and includes the city built into the mountains, Petra.
      The Philistine Lowland is along the coast of the Mediterranean.
      Gilead is the land east of the Jordan between the Dead Sea and Galilee.
      Zarephath (Sarapeta) is a coastal city in today's Lebanon just south of Sidon.
      It is possible that Sephared was an Assyrian city northeast of Nineveh where some captives were taken.
      It is interesting to see Mount Zion being the seat of judgment for 'the Mountains of the Negev'.

End Obadiah

Selected Sources for this book:

Two looks at Edom:


Sources used throughout entire study:
Bible Hub Interlinear pages:

the 1611 KJV

The Minor Prophets Study Index page.

NOTE: The Bible Study Lesson presented above is posted as a reference document to begin a conversation of the topic. And that's it. Please accept it at such.

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