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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

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Obadiah - Introduction

OBADIAH IS THE SHORTEST BOOK in the Bible, containing only 291 Heb words. Nonetheless, like all prophetic books, it is meant to be read, read again, and studied. The book's main topic is the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, and the putative actions of Edom against Judah at the time. The Edomites, the central characters of the book, were regarded as kin to the Israelites, since they were supposedly descended from Esau, Jacob's brother (see Gen. 25.30; 36.8; Num. 20.14; Deut. 2.4, 8, passim). In Obadiah, Edom serves both as a reference to the nation of that name that was considered to be Israel's brother—a motif explicitly mentioned in Obadiah 10—and also to the nations in general. Subsequently, Jews identified Edom with Rome and later with Christendom. For them, the book of Obadiah referred at least in part to the events associated with the destruction of the Second Temple (cf. Radak), or to future events associated with the coming of the messianic era (e.g., Abravanel). Of course, ancient and medieval Christian readers were convinced that they were (the true) Israel, not Edom (cf. Rom. 9.6–13 ).

According to the book, the Edomites did not behave as brothers to the people of Judah in their worst hour but rather joined the enemy forces (cf. Ps. 137.7; Lam. 4.21–22 ). The book of Obadiah presents therefore a major confrontation between the LORD and Edom (and the nations it represents) that is in sharp contrast to God's relation with Judah/Israel, which will enjoy an eventual utopian future that will be consistent with God's kingdom on earth.

Some scholars differentiate between an original book of Obadiah and the present book, which they view as an expansion around an earlier core. Others emphasize the coherence of the text as it stands. The present book was composed in the postmonarchic period, as the references to the fall of Jerusalem, the exile, and the exilic community in Sardis (a city in modern Turkey that was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Lydia) demonstrate.

There are clear similarities between Obadiah 1–7 and Jer. 49.7–22 (or more precisely Jer. 49.7a, 14–16, 9–10 ). According to some, the author of the book of Obadiah borrowed from Jeremiah; according to others the opposite happened. More likely, however, the author of both texts borrowed from a common text whose full length and precise wording are unrecoverable.

The book of Obadiah is read as the haftarah for the parashah of Va‐yishlaπ (Gen. 32.4–36.43 ) in the Sephardic and Yemenite traditions; the Ashkenazic traditions read Hos. 11.7–12.12 instead of, or in addition to, Obadiah. Gen. chs 32–33 tells of the meeting between Jacob and Esau after Jacob's sojourn with Laban.

The book begins with an introduction (v. 1 ), then moves to a set of passages each of which deals with Edom's condemnation and judgment (vv. 2–4, 5–7, 8–15 ). By the end it becomes clear that Edom also stands for all the nations other than Israel. The theme of the judgment of the nations, and of Edom as a paradigm for the nations, is intertwined with that of Zion's glorious future in vv. 15b–18 . The book concludes (vv. 19–21 ) with an image of an ideal future in which Israel is restored and the dominion is the LORD's (v. 21 ).

[EHUD BEN ZVI]

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