Obadiah and Jonah

Good morning! Today we have two minor prophets as our focus, but one of them is quite well known. Obadiah is a one-chapter book focused on the sins of Edom, a neighboring community to Judah which takes its name from Jacob’s brother Esau (also called Edom). After the chapter excoriating Edom, we get the delightful little book of Jonah, which is worth spending more of your time on today.

I have a soft spot for the book of Obadiah, which means “servant of God” and is my own full name. However, it hasn’t made much of an impact in Judeo-Christian history because of its brevity and its arcane focus on the Edomites. Notice that Edom is interchangeably called Esau as well, hearkening back to stories of Jacob (also called Israel) and his rivalry with Esau in the book of Genesis. Throughout Hebrew history, the Edomites have been occasional allies but more often opponents of Israel. Here, Obadiah’s rebuke of Edom comes because they failed to defend neighbor Judah at a time of its destruction. Obadiah describes a time when the survivors of exile will return and take possession over Mount Zion again, ruling over Mount Esau as well in the name of their god.

Jonah, by contrast with Obadiah, is a book with continuously-resonant details. I’m confident that most all of us have heard (or at least heard about) this story of a reluctant prophet sent by God with a message of repentance, yet whose resistance to the call puts him in the belly of a great fish. I’ll be especially interested in your impressions if you’ve not read Jonah “cover to cover” before. We have a general sense of the man’s journey, but I find that the most interesting details crop up throughout the narrative (especially at the end). Though this work is almost certainly a made-up story like Ruth or Esther, the “moral of the story” comes via these details.

In the book of Jonah, God prioritizes mercy and second chances rather than punishment. We see this first with Jonah, whose headstrong resistance to God’s calling has him foolishly hopping aboard a ship going the other direction. When his rebellion becomes known and he’s cast overboard, God doesn’t smite or drown him, but sends a large fish to keep him alive for three days and three nights. Further on in chapter 3, the gargantuan city of Nineveh heeds Jonah’s warning and adopts the sackcloth of repentance, even down to the animals! God relents of the calamity intended for Nineveh, and spares the city. Indeed, Jonah gets up in arms about how gracious and merciful God is! This is the kind of God I long to find and lift up in the Bible—whimsical, playful, forgiving and compassionate. Happy reading!

Read Obadiah and Jonah. (Note that the link here is only for Obadiah—you will need to click the button at the bottom of the linked page to read the four chapters of Jonah.)

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Micah. Thanks for reading!

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