Welcome to the shortest book of the bible! As noted Sunday, Jerusalem fell in 586 BCE to the Babylonians, and the southern neighbour Edom participated in the pillaging, ‘piling on’ to use a football term. Edom, land of red soil, mountain passes to the gulf and African trade, is always a rival of Jacob, and associated with Esau, his brother. The accusations are that Edom’s alliance with Babylon feels like betrayal to the prophet, to be avenged by God in time.
The opening adopts by-now familiar diction – in fact, scholars argue whether Jeremiah 49 echoes Obadiah, or vice versa. The tone is that of a taunt song, or trash-talking between fans of two sports teams in our time. How do we live and sing as a remnant with all the resentment about the past, and hopes and ambitions for a future not currently attainable?
The closing is a geographic tour of an idealized future state of Israel – must it be read in a Zionist frame, or must it be read in a messianic one? Is the latter necessarily a vision of Christianity superceding Judaism? What’s your version?
1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom: We have heard a report from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: ‘Rise up! Let us rise against it for battle!’
2 I will surely make you least among the nations; you shall be utterly despised.
3 Your proud heart has deceived you, you that live in the clefts of the rock,* whose dwelling is in the heights. You say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?’
4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the LORD. 5
If thieves came to you, if plunderers by night —how you have been destroyed!— would they not steal only what they wanted? If grape-gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?
6 How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures searched out!
7 All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; those who ate* your bread have set a trap for you— there is no understanding of it.
8 On that day, says the LORD, I will destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau.
9 Your warriors shall be shattered, O Teman, so that everyone from Mount Esau will be cut off.
10 For the slaughter and violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off for ever.
11 On the day that you stood aside, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were like one of them.
12 But you should not have gloated* over* your brother on the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah on the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted on the day of distress.
13 You should not have entered the gate of my people on the day of their calamity; you should not have joined in the gloating over Judah’s* disaster on the day of his calamity; you should not have looted his goods on the day of his calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossings to cut off his fugitives; you should not have handed over his survivors on the day of distress.
15 For the day of the LORD is near against all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.
16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, all the nations around you shall drink; they shall drink and gulp down,* and shall be as though they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall take possession of those who dispossessed them.
18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor of the house of Esau; for the LORD has spoken.
19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah* shall possess* Phoenicia as far as Zarephath; and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the towns of the Negeb.
21 Those who have been saved* shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.