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The Catholic Study Bible A special version of the New American Bible, with a wealth of background information useful to Catholics.

Oracles against Edom

Oracles against Edom

Oracles of vengeance against Edom were common in the postexilic period. Compare the related utterances in Jeremiah 49, 7–22 . For the modern reader, these oracles pose the usual problem of how to deal with vengeance. In fairness, it should be noted that the logic of Obadiah is quite similar to that of Amos. There is a natural moral law that applies to the actions of all peoples. That law forbids violence against one's neighbors and then gloating over their distress. One who violates that law, however, loses its protection. The underlying principle is succinctly stated in verse 15 : “As you have done, so shall it be done to you.” The natural law requires that the punishment fit the crime. Obadiah indicts Edom for behavior similar to that for which Amos indicted Israel. While it may seem more noble to direct criticism against one's own people, the moral principle is the same. Edom deserved the prophetic denunciation.

Judgment upon the Nations

In broadening his attack to all the foreign nations, Obadiah uses the now familiar motif of the Day of the Lord (see the guide to Amos). Here the judgment is directed only against the foreign nations. Israel did not need a word of judgment at this time. The Day of the Lord here is simply the day of judgment. It implies a decisive change in the course of events, but nothing like the end of history or of the world. The judgment will be governed by the law of retribution: as you have done to others, so shall it be done to you. Obadiah applies this principle to whole nations rather than to individuals.

The Restoration of Judah

The idea that a remnant will be saved on Mount Zion was developed especially by Isaiah. In the present context one is struck by the modesty of the hope. The kingship of God does not imply that Judah will rule all the nations, only its immediate neighbors who have most recently afflicted it. While a note of vengeance is present it should not be exaggerated. The oracle is really a testimony to the indomitable hope of a people who had been reduced to poverty and insignificance, and were at the mercy of their neighbors. Belief in the kingship of God on Mount Zion was a deep‐rooted part of the Jerusalem cult under the monarchy (see for example, Pss 93; 97–99 ). In the aftermath of the exile it became a source of hope for deliverance.

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