Lessons From the Scriptures: Obadiah 1-21
Divine Warnings That Affect You
“HE THAT is touching you is touching my eyeball.” (Zechariah 2:8) Those ominous words stand as a message of caution to everyone: Jehovah notices how nations treat his people. What happens, though, to a nation that flies in the face of such a divine warning and harmfully touches God’s people? The shortest book in the Hebrew Scriptures, Obadiah, answers.
Calamity for Edom
No one escapes Jehovah’s judgment. Obadiah’s prophecy, uttered about 607 B.C.E., foretold the expulsion of the Edomites from their land despite their seemingly secure position high “among the stars.” And although the personal life of this Bible writer is not revealed, he lives up to the meaning of his name, “Servant of Jehovah.” How? By heralding a devastating judgment. When Edom falls, she will be completely plundered by friends in covenant with her. Not even her wise and mighty ones will survive.—Verses 1-9.
God brings calamity upon those guilty of violence against his people. What is the reason for the Edomites’ calamity? Repeated acts of violence against the sons of Jacob, their brothers. As descendants of Esau, the Edomites were related to the Israelites. Yet, they are charged with plundering their kin, rejoicing maliciously in Jerusalem’s fall, and climaxing this by handing survivors over to the enemy. Thus, Edom has sealed its doom.—Verses 10-16.
The House of Jacob Restored
Jehovah’s promises are always reliable. In Obadiah’s day, Jehovah guaranteed that His people would repossess their land and more. No longer would Israel be divided. The house of Jacob, the two-tribe kingdom of Judah, would be reunited with the house of Joseph, the ten-tribe northern kingdom, in devouring Edom as fire eats up stubble and in occupying Edom’s territory. Ending on an encouraging note, Obadiah declares that the repatriated Israelites will unitedly worship their God and be his subjects. Indeed, the kingship will become Jehovah’s.—Verses 17-21.
Lesson for today: Ignored warnings yield harmful fruitage. Thus, Obadiah’s stark warning to Edom should reverberate in the ears of modern-day opposers of God: Those who fight against Jehovah and his people will be cut off eternally.
Lessons From the Scriptures: Jonah 1:1–4:11
AVOID calamity! Receive mercy! How? By heeding the lesson of a true story that is more than 2,800 years old—the book of Jonah. Written about 844 B.C.E. by the prophet Jonah of Galilee, it is filled with spiritual insight.
Jonah Runs Away
We should trust in Jehovah to support us in his service. However, Jonah flees a God-given task instead of relying on Jehovah to uphold him. True, his was no easy assignment. He was to warn shamelessly wicked Nineveh of divine calamity. But Jonah goes in the opposite direction, setting sail for Tarshish, now Spain. En route, a storm becomes so fierce that survival of the ship and crew seems impossible. Jonah confesses, the mariners toss him overboard, and the sea quiets. A great fish swallows the prophet.—1:1-17.
God’s servants can be confident that he will answer their prayers. Inside the fish, Jonah cries to Jehovah for help, prayerfully thanks God for deliverance from a watery grave, and promises to pay what he has vowed. In time, he is vomited out onto dry land.—2:1-10.
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
Never evade an assignment from Jehovah. Apparently having learned this lesson, the once reluctant prophet preaches in “the great city.” Jonah sounds a simple but pointed warning: “Only forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown.” In a most remarkable turn of events, the Ninevites repent and avoid calamity.—3:1-10.
Man cannot limit God’s mercy. Jonah’s anger grows because Nineveh is spared. But by means of a plant, Jehovah teaches Jonah that He will show mercy according to His own good pleasure.—4:1-11.
Lesson for today: Calamity can be averted by heeding divine prophecy! Imitate the Ninevites. Humbly listen to Jesus Christ, a prophet greater than Jonah.—Luke 11:32.
[Box on page 30]
BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ Obadiah Verse 7—In Bible times, “eating food” together with someone was virtually a covenant of friendship. How ironic! The Babylonians, “men in covenant” with the Edomites, would prove to be their destroyers. True, the Babylonians of Nebuchadnezzar’s day allowed Edom a share in Judah’s loot after Jerusalem was laid waste. But the later Babylonian king Nabonidus curbed once and for all the commercial and mercantile ambitions of Edom.
○ Verse 10—Edom was doomed to be “cut off to time indefinite” because of its caustic hatred and callous lack of natural affection for its brother nation, “the sons of Judah.” (Verse 12) Such national extinction meant that an Edomite state with a government and a population at a specific geographical location would disappear off the face of the earth. Today, there is no identifiable people of Edomite nationality; they have “become as though they had never happened to be.”—Verse 16.
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BIBLE TEXTS EXAMINED
○ Jonah 1:17—Because of its large head and gullet, the sperm whale is capable of swallowing a man. Although whales are rare in the Mediterranean, whalers once docked at Joppa. A fish known to follow ships in the Mediterranean and to eat whatever is thrown overboard is the great white shark. It too is capable of swallowing a man whole. In Jonah’s case, however, God used “a great fish,” perhaps a creature unknown to modern science.
○ 2:1, 2—Jonah surely did not have ideal conditions for composing a poem while in “the inward parts of the fish.” But he later recorded his experience. From the depth of his heart came words echoing those in the Psalms that expressed his sentiments.—Compare 2:2 with Psalm 120:1 and Ps 130:1; Jon 2:5 with Psalm 69:1.
○ 3:3—The size of Nineveh is not exaggerated. Although the walls surrounding it were only about 8 miles [13 km] in circumference, the name of the city evidently included its suburbs, which may have covered a distance of some 26 miles [42 km].
○ 3:10—The Hebrew word rendered “felt regret” means to “change one’s mind with regard to past (or intended) action.” Thus, Jehovah can ‘feel regret’ or change his mind about bringing punishment upon erring humans when they truly repent.