Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Obadiah and the Biblical theme of "Brother"

"This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom—We have heard a message from the LORD: An envoy was sent to the nations to say, “Rise, and let us go against her for battle” (Obadiah 1).

Cain hated Abel, his younger brother, because Abel was faithful to the Lord. As the older brother, Cain was to be Abel’s guardian (his “brother’s keeper”). Instead, he murdered him (Genesis 4). This is the beginning of the brotherhood theme in the Bible.

This theme becomes prominent in the stories of Jacob and Joseph. We recall that Joseph’s older brothers did not guard him but sold him into slavery. A generation earlier we find Esau persecuting Jacob. Esau, the older, despised the covenant and virtually gave it away to Jacob. When the time came for Jacob to collect, however, Esau decided to murder him.

The enmity of Esau (Edom) against Jacob (Israel) continued throughout the Old Testament and into the New. The entire book of Obadiah is directed against Edom. We don’t know exactly when Obadiah prophesied, but we know that he wrote shortly after Jerusalem had been laid low by a Gentile army. Each time Jerusalem was sacked, the Edomites stood by and rejoiced (Obadiah 11). Then, when the Gentiles had gone home, the Edomite vultures descended on the stricken city to pillage it (Obadiah 13–14).

When Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of lentils, he made clear what he thought was in the soup by saying, “Let me have some of the red stuff, that red stuff” (Genesis 25:30). It is possible he apparently thought it was blood soup, forbidden food (Genesis 9:4). Because of this event, Esau received the extra name “Edom,” which means “red.”

Many scholars believe that Haman the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews in Esther, was a descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites, who fought King Saul (1 Samuel 15). The earlier Amalekites had intermarried with the Edomites (Genesis 14:7, 36:12). Thus, the conflict between Edom and Jacob continued at least until the time of Esther.

The Herods were Edomites, called in Greek “Idumeans” (note the similarity of sound: edom, idum). One Herod tried to kill the infant Jesus; another put Him on trial, and yet another put Paul on trial. But eventually the Edomites disappeared, fulfilling the prophecy of Obadiah.

Have you ever caught yourself jealously smiling in secret when a brother in the Lord has been laid low? This “Esau-tendency” is part of the sin-nature in all of us. If you’ve been enjoying such secret thoughts, ask God to help you turn them into virtuous thoughts of godly compassion, and seek to live more fully the life of Christian brotherhood.