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Obadiah 1:1-9

God’s Judgment on Edom

1:1 The vision 1  that Obadiah 2  saw. 3 

The Lord God 4  says this concerning 5  Edom: 6 

Edom’s Approaching Destruction

We have heard a report from the Lord.

An envoy was sent among the nations, saying, 7 

“Arise! Let us make war against Edom!” 8 

1:2 The Lord says, 9  “Look! I will 10  make you a weak nation; 11 

you will be greatly despised!

1:3 Your presumptuous heart 12  has deceived you –

you who reside in the safety of the rocky cliffs, 13 

whose home is high in the mountains. 14 

You think to yourself, 15 

‘No one can 16  bring me down to the ground!’ 17 

1:4 Even if you were to soar high like an eagle, 18 

even if you 19  were to make your nest among the stars,

I can bring you down even from there!” says the Lord.

1:5 “If thieves came to rob you 20  during the night, 21 

they would steal only as much as they wanted! 22 

If grape pickers came to harvest your vineyards, 23 

they would leave some behind for the poor! 24 

But you will be totally destroyed! 25 

1:6 How the people of Esau 26  will be thoroughly plundered! 27 

Their 28  hidden valuables will be ransacked! 29 

1:7 All your allies 30  will force 31  you from your homeland! 32 

Your treaty partners 33  will deceive you and overpower you.

Your trusted friends 34  will set an ambush 35  for 36  you

that will take you by surprise! 37 

1:8 At that time,” 38  the Lord says,

“I will destroy the wise sages of Edom! 39 

the advisers 40  from Esau’s mountain! 41 

1:9 Your warriors will be shattered, O Teman, 42 

so that 43  everyone 44  will be destroyed 45  from Esau’s mountain!

1 sn The date of the book of Obadiah is very difficult to determine. Since there is no direct indication of chronological setting clearly suggested by the book itself, and since the historical identity of the author is uncertain as well, a possible date for the book can be arrived at only on the basis of internal evidence. When did the hostile actions of Edom against Judah that are described in this book take place? Many nineteenth-century scholars linked the events of the book to a historical note found in 2 Kgs 8:20 (cf. 2 Chr 21:16-17): “In [Jehoram’s] days Edom rebelled from under the hand of Judah and established a king over themselves.” If this is the backdrop against which Obadiah should be read, it would suggest a ninth-century b.c. date for the book, since Jehoram reigned ca. 852-841 b.c. But the evidence presented for this view is not entirely convincing, and most contemporary Old Testament scholars reject a ninth-century scenario. A more popular view, held by many biblical scholars from Luther to the present, understands the historical situation presupposed in the book to be the Babylonian invasion of Judah in the sixth century (cf. Ps 137:7; Lam 4:18-22; Ezek 25:12-14; 35:1-15). Understood in this way, Obadiah would be describing a situation in which the Edomites assisted in the Babylonian sack of Jerusalem. Although it must be admitted that a sixth-century setting for the book of Obadiah cannot be proven, the details of the book fit reasonably well into such a context. Other views on the dating of the book, such as an eighth-century date in the time of Ahaz (ca. 732-716 b.c.) or a fifth-century date in the postexilic period, are less convincing. Parallels between the book of Obadiah and Jer 49:1-22 clearly suggest some kind of literary dependence, but it is not entirely clear whether Jeremiah drew on Obadiah or whether Obadiah drew upon Jeremiah, In any case, the close relationship between Obadiah and Jer 49 might suggest the sixth-century setting.

2 sn The name Obadiah in Hebrew means “servant of the Lord.” A dozen or so individuals in the OT have this name, none of whom may be safely identified with the author of this book. In reality we know very little about this prophet with regard to his exact identity or historical circumstances.

3 tn Heb “the vision of Obadiah” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV); TEV “This is the prophecy of Obadiah.”

4 tn Heb “Lord Lord.” The phrase אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה (’adonay yÿhvih) is customarily rendered by Jewish tradition as “Lord God.” Cf. NIV, TEV, NLT “Sovereign Lord.”

5 tn The Hebrew preposition לְ (lÿ) is better translated here “concerning” (so KJV, ASV, NASB, NRSV, NLT) or “about” (so NIV, NCV, TEV, CEV) Edom rather than “to” Edom, although much of the book does speak directly to Edom.

6 sn The name Edom derives from a Hebrew root that means “red.” Edom was located to the south of the Dead Sea in an area with numerous rocky crags that provided ideal military advantages for protection. Much of the sandstone of this area has a reddish color. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (Gen 25:19-26).

7 tn Although the word “saying” is not in the Hebrew text, it has been supplied in the translation because what follows seems to be the content of the envoy’s message. Cf. ASV, NASB, NCV, all of which supply “saying”; NIV, NLT “to say.”

8 tn Heb “Arise, and let us arise against her in battle!” The term “Edom” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation to specify the otherwise ambiguous referent of the term “her.”

9 tn The introductory phrase “the Lord says” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation to clarify the identity of the speaker.

10 tn The Hebrew perfect verb form used here usually describes past events. However, here and several times in the following verses it is best understood as portraying certain fulfillment of events that at the time of writing were still future. It is the perfect of certitude. See GKC 312-13 §106.n; Joüon 2:363 §112.h.

11 sn Heb “I will make you small among the nations” (so NAB, NASB, NIV); NRSV “least among the nations”; NCV “the smallest of nations.”

12 tn Heb “the presumption of your heart”; NAB, NIV “the pride of your heart”; NASB “arrogance of your heart.”

13 tn Heb “in the concealed places of the rock”; KJV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV “in the clefts of the rock”; NCV “the hollow places of the cliff”; CEV “a mountain fortress.”

sn The word rock in Hebrew (סֶלַע, sela’) is a wordplay on Sela, the name of a prominent Edomite city. Its impregnability was a cause for arrogance on the part of its ancient inhabitants.

14 tn Heb “on high (is) his dwelling”; NASB “in the loftiness of your dwelling place”; NRSV “whose dwelling (abode NAB) is in the heights.”

15 tn Heb “the one who says in his heart.”

16 tn The Hebrew imperfect verb used here is best understood in a modal sense (“Who can bring me down?”) rather than in the sense of a simple future (“Who will bring me down?”). So also in v. 4 (“I can bring you down”). The question is not so much whether this will happen at some time in the future, but whether it even lies in the realm of possible events. In their hubris the Edomites were boasting that no one had the capability of breaching their impregnable defenses. However, their pride caused them to fail to consider the vast capabilities of Yahweh as warrior.

17 tn Heb “Who can bring me down?” This rhetorical question implies a negative answer: “No one!”

18 sn The eagle was often used in the ancient Near East as a symbol of strength and swiftness.

19 tc The present translation follows the reading תָּשִׂים (tasim; active) rather than שִׁים (sim; passive) of the MT (“and your nest be set among the stars,” NAB). Cf. LXX, Syriac, Vg.

20 sn Obadiah uses two illustrations to show the totality of Edom’s approaching destruction. Both robbers and harvesters would have left at least something behind. Such will not be the case, however, with the calamity that is about to befall Edom. A virtually identical saying appears in Jer 49:9-10.

21 tn Heb “If thieves came to you, or if plunderers of the night” (NRSV similar). The repetition here adds rhetorical emphasis.

22 tn Heb “Would they not have stolen only their sufficiency?” The rhetorical question is used to make an emphatic assertion, which is perhaps best represented by the indicative form in the translation.

23 tn Heb “If grape pickers came to you.” The phrase “to harvest your vineyards” does not appear in the Hebrew, but is supplied in the translation to clarify the point of the entire simile which is assumed.

24 tn Heb “Would they not have left some gleanings?” The rhetorical question makes an emphatic assertion, which for the sake of clarity is represented by the indicative form in the translation. The implied answer to these rhetorical questions is “yes.” The fact that something would have remained after the imagined acts of theft or harvest stands in stark contrast to the totality of Edom’s destruction as predicted by Obadiah. Edom will be so decimated as a result of God’s judgment that nothing at all will be left

sn According to the Mosaic law, harvesters were required to leave some grain behind in the fields for the poor (Lev 19:9; 23:22; see also Ruth 2); there was a similar practice with grapes and olives (Lev 19:10; Deut 24:21). Regarding gleanings left behind from grapes, see Judg 8:2; Jer 6:9; 49:9; Mic 7:1.

25 tn Heb “O how you will be cut off.” This emotional interjection functions rhetorically as the prophet’s announcement of judgment on Edom. In Hebrew this statement actually appears between the first and second metaphors, that is, in the middle of this verse. As the point of the comparison, one would expect it to follow both of the two metaphors; however, Obadiah interrupts his own sentence to interject his emphatic exclamation that cannot wait until the end of the sentence. This emphatic sentence structure is eloquent in Hebrew but awkward in English. Since this emphatic assertion is the point of his comparison, it appears at the end of the sentence in this translation, where one normally expects to find the concluding point of a metaphorical comparison.

26 tn Heb “Esau.” The name Esau here is a synecdoche of part for whole referring to the Edomites. Cf. “Jacob” in v. 10, where the meaning is “Israelites.”

27 tn Heb “How Esau will be searched!”; NAB “How they search Esau.” The Hebrew verb חָפַשׂ (khafas, “to search out”) is used metonymically here for plundering the hidden valuables of a conquered people (e.g., 1 Kgs 20:6).

28 tn Heb “his” (so KJV, NASB, NIV, NRSV); this is singular agreeing with “Esau” in the previous line.

29 tn Heb “searched out” (so NASB, NRSV); NIV “pillaged”; TEV “looted”; NLT “found and taken.” This pictures the violent action of conquering warriors ransacking the city in order to loot and plunder its valuables.

30 tn Heb “All the men of your covenant”; KJV, ASV “the men of thy confederacy.” In Hebrew “they will send you unto the border” and “all the men of your covenant” appear in two separate poetic lines (cf. NAB “To the border they drive you – all your allies”). Since the second is a noun clause functioning as the subject of the first clause, the two are rendered as a single sentence in the translation.

31 tn Heb “send”; NASB “send you forth”; NAB “drive”; NIV “force.”

32 tn Heb “to the border” (so NASB, NIV, NRSV).

33 tn Heb “the men of your peace.” This expression refers to a political/military alliance or covenant of friendship.

34 tn Heb “your bread,” which makes little sense in the context. The Hebrew word can be revocalized to read “those who eat bread with you,” i.e., “your friends.” Cf. KJV “they that eat thy bread”; NIV “those who eat your bread”; TEV “Those friends who ate with you.”

35 tn Heb “set a trap” (so NIV, NRSV). The meaning of the Hebrew word מָזוֹר (mazor; here translated “ambush”) is uncertain; it occurs nowhere else in the Hebrew Bible. The word probably refers to something “spread out” for purposes of entrapment, such as a net. Other possibilities include “trap,” “fetter,” or “stumbling block.”

36 tn Heb “beneath” (so NAB).

37 tn Heb “there is no understanding in him.”

38 tn Heb “in that day” (so KJV, NIV); NAB, NASB, NRSV “on that day.”

39 tn Heb “Will I not destroy those who are wise from Edom?” The rhetorical question functions as an emphatic affirmation. For the sake of clarity this has been represented by the emphatic indicative in the translation.

40 tn Heb “understanding”; NIV “men of understanding.” This undoubtedly refers to members of the royal court who offered political and military advice to the Edomite kings. In the ancient Near East, such men of wisdom were often associated with divination and occultic practices (cf. Isa 3:3, 47:10, 13). The Edomites were also renown in the ancient Near East as a center of traditional sagacity and wisdom; perhaps that is referred to here (cf. Jer 49:7).

41 tn Heb “and understanding from the mountain of Esau.” The phrase “I will remove the men of…” does not appear in the Hebrew but is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness. Here “understanding” is a synecdoche of part for whole; the faculty of understanding is put for the wise men who possess it.

42 sn Teman, like Sela, was a prominent city of Edom. The name Teman is derived from the name of a grandson of Esau (cf. Gen 36:11). Here it is a synecdoche of part for whole, standing for all of Edom.

43 tn The Hebrew word used here (לְמַעַן, lÿmaan) usually expresses purpose. The sense in this context, however, is more likely that of result.

44 tn Heb “a man,” meaning “every single person” here; cf. KJV “every one.”

45 tn Heb “cut off” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV); NIV, NLT “cut down”; CEV “wiped out.”

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