Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | June 14, 2010

A Taste of the Minor Prophets: Obadiah

This year we will look at the 12 so-called “Minor Prophets.”  These are the last 12 books of the Old Testament, starting with Hosea, ending with Malachi.  They’re called “minor” not because of their importance, but because of their relative size to other prophetic books, like Isaiah or Jeremiah.  Each month will highlight one of these prophets and hopefully spur you on to a more in-depth reading and study of your own.

This month, Obadiah.  Luther lectured on Obadiah in 1525, saying (LW 18:190):

“The interpreters are not agreed as to when Obadiah prophesied. They make various judgments about him, since he mentions at the beginning of his prophecy neither the time nor the king under whom he prophesied. This, however, is something one may notice in the books of several of the prophets. Jerome says that this was the Obadiah who, under wicked Ahab and Jezebel, feared for the hundred prophets in the caves, as it is recorded in I Kings 18:3–4. As a result of this [according to Jerome] Obadiah received the gift of prophecy. But this is much like the dreams of old women—like many other points of Jerome whenever he makes rash judgments about sacred matters. In their own commentaries, the Jews draw a different conclusion. To me it seems certain that he prophesied after the Babylonian captivity and that he took his prophecy from Jeremiah, which certain points in this prophet indicate. Also there are clear-cut details that convince me that he was a contemporary of Jeremiah. He sets up his prophecy against the Edomites who were boasting about and taking great pleasure in the destruction and abduction of Jews at the time of the Babylonian captivity. This we can see in Ps. 137:7: “Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, ‘Raze it, raze it! Down to its foundations!’ ” This means: “Remember, O Lord, and avenge that reviling of the Edomites with which they insult in the time of adversity Your people as they were being led captive. Remember what kind of people they were when Jerusalem was being destroyed.” As I have said, this is the consideration that moves me to think that Obadiah was a contemporary of Jeremiah. Here is a summary of the prophet: Against the Edomites he prophecies that the vengeance of God would occur because the Edomites were quite delighted at the time of the Babylonian captivity that the Jews were being grievously afflicted and led into captivity. Yet, because the Edomites were brothers of the Jews, they should have showed compassion. Then, from the destruction of those nations which by the judgment of God had destroyed the kingdom of Judah, he goes over to the kingdom of Christ, which is going to come through the Gospel and in which the remnants of Ephraim, Israel, and others were to flourish. Thus the transition will not appear abrupt, and everything fits together well—which somehow coheres only with great difficulty in the other interpreters.”

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