Thursday, July 27, 2017

Oh Obadiah

Only a single chapter in length, the Book of Obadiah is the shortest book of the Bible. It is, additionally, unique in that it addresses the nation of Edom (descendants of Esau) rather than the nation of Israel. Short as Obadiah’s recorded prophecy may be, the prophet himself had quite an interesting story.

According to the Talmud Sanhedrin 39b, Obadiah served as the governor of the royal house of King Ahab (I Kings 13:3), who was one of the most wicked and ruthless  rulers of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Obadiah might easily have fallen for the blandishments of idolatry and immorality. However, it is recorded that “Obadiah feared the Lord greatly” (18:4). In fact, the Talmudic sage Rabbi Abba even noted that “greater [praise] was expressed of Obadiah than of Abraham, since of Abraham the word ‘greatly; is not used, while of Obadiah it is” (Sanhedrin 39b).

What singled Obadiah out for particular praise was an act mentioned twice in I Kings 18. “Was it not told, my lord, what I did when [Queen] Jezebel slew the prophets of the Lord, how I hid 100 men of the Lord’s prophets by 50 (separated into two groups) in a cave and fed them with bread and water?” (18:13).

One of the most interesting facts about Obadiah’s life is that, according to Rabbi Meir as cited by his disciple Ephraim Maksh’ah, “Obadah was an Edomite convert” (Sanhedrin 39b), which was one reason that he was chosen to relay prophecy to the Edomites.

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