Archive for June, 2012

Zechariah 1 (day 912) 30 June 2012

             Zechariah is a mixture of historical narratives, prophetic oracles and apocalyptic visions. Scholars have long suspected that the book is a collection of writings from several authors, Jeremiah being one favorite nominee. We will not spend too much time trying to figure this out, but will simply read the book and see what it has to say to us.

             1-6: Zechariah is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 along with Haggai. There he is called simply “Zechariah son of Iddo,” but we can be sure it is the same person. It is October, 520 B.C. in Jerusalem, although it is not clear from the opening lines that the prophet is in Jerusalem. He begins with God’s call to the people to repent their evil ways, and seems to receive a positive response from them.

             7-17: Skipping to January 519 B.C., we have the first in a series of eight visions. Zechariah sees horses hidden among trees in a glen. They are identified to him as those who have been patrolling the earth (compare Job 1:7 and 2:2). God reveals to Zechariah his impatience with the nations “that are at ease,” and tells him that Jerusalem will be comforted once again as God’s chosen.

             18-21: The second vision is a bit more perplexing. The four horns represent the nations that have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem: Egypt, Assyria and Babylon are obvious candidates, but the fourth is harder to identify – perhaps Ethiopia or Aram. The blacksmiths are there to terrify and strike down the “horns,” but it is difficult to identify them with real people or nations. Still, the point is that God will see to it that the great and arrogant nations of the day will be brought low, but Judah and Jerusalem will be strengthened.

 

Zechariah 2 (day 913) 1 July 2012

             1-5: The third vision has Zechariah eavesdropping on a couple of angels. The first is measuring the city. The second says there will be so many people coming to the city that it will overflow its walls; even so, God will protect them.

             6-13: Zechariah has God urging the exiles to escape from wherever they are to return to Zion. The once powerful nations that subdued Judah and Israel will be subdued by God. He calls the people to rejoice over God’s salvation and foresees the day when they will again be claimed by God as his own people. Moreover, God pledges to once again dwell in their midst, attracting other nations to Jerusalem that are seeking to become God’s people.

 

Zechariah 3 (day 914) 2 July 2013

             1-5: Satan, the erstwhile prosecutor in God’s court (compare Job 1:6-12, 2:2-6), is accusing Joshua the high priest (see Ezra 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4). The filthy rags Joshua is wearing represent the sin of the people for which God laid Jerusalem to ruin. Now, however, Zechariah sees God rebuking Satan. God takes Joshua’s guilt away, and by proxy the guilt of all the people, and he is given clean clothes to symbolize the washing away of sin.

6-9: The angel of the LORD who is watching the proceedings instructs Joshua that as long as he does what he is supposed to do he will be given charge of the temple and its functions. Joshua and his colleagues are an omen: just as the priesthood is being reestablished, so too will the throne be reestablished by the coming of the “branch,” a word which always means a descendant of David. (Christian commentators have seen a hint of Jesus in that designation.) The one stone with seven facets or faces or eyes seems to be symbolic of the removal of guilt in one day, with the number seven indicating completion or perfection: God’s plan is thus set in God’s mind.

10: In Micah 4:4 each person will sit under his own vine and fig tree, a way of describing a time of peace and prosperity that will ensue. In Zechariah that peace and prosperity extends to community as a whole as they gather freely under each other’s vines and fig trees.

 

Zechariah 4 (day 915) 3 July 2012

             1-14: The fifth vision is more complex and obscure to the modern mind. The lampstand with seven lamps is reminiscent of the one Moses placed in the tabernacle (25:31-37), but that one had only six lamps. The seven lamps are therefore clearly related to the seven-faceted stone from the last vision (3:9); they are symbolic of completion, that God has firmly established what he is planning to do. The bowl is an odd feature, and it is difficult to picture the arrangement. The two olive trees are also an odd feature at first, but verse 12 helps us begin to grasp the vision a little better. The olive trees are connected by tubes or pipes by which they supply the bowl, which feeds their oil to the lamps. The meaning of the vision is explained by an angel: The constant flow of oil from the trees to the lamps represents the Holy Spirit by which God will unfailingly guide Zerubbabel, the governor of the city. The image of the mountain being flattened is a metaphor which simply means Zerubbabel will accomplish the work of building the temple despite all odds. Verse 10 clearly links the seven lamps to the seven facets of the stone in 3:9. The identity of the two persons represented by the olive trees is impossible to determine, however, and may not be intended to refer to anyone in particular.

 

Zechariah 5 (day 916) 4 July 2012

             1-4: Vision #6: a flying scroll; a huge flying scroll, about 15’x30’. Zechariah hears God (or perhaps the angel) telling him the scroll has been sent out to condemn two particular crimes; stealing and swearing falsely. The choice of these two and only these two is surprising, but upon further examination we realize they are connected with each other in that they have to do with criminal justice. The gist of the vision seems to be that thieves are not being convicted and justly punished because of false testimony. But human courts are not the final courts; God’s verdict is that both the thieves and those who give false testimony will be consumed by God’s justice. In the context of returning exiles trying to rebuild Jerusalem, the temple, and their lost society, maintaining justice is of paramount concern.

             5-11: The angel is specifically identified as the speaker in vision #7. What Zechariah sees “coming out” is not a basket, but an ephah – a unit of measure roughly equivalent to a bushel. When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek a couple of generations before Jesus the translators apparently were not satisfied with having an amorphous unit of measure carrying a woman and so guessed that it must have been an ephah-sized basket, and modern English versions tend to follow that lead. While it may have been a basket, identifying the kind of container obscures the vision’s primary message that wickedness is being measured here. Indeed, wickedness is depicted as a woman, and that is not surprising when you realize that this vision is a condemnation of Babylon (called Shinar here – see Genesis 11:1-9). The Babylonians worshiped the fertility goddess Ishtar, an abomination to the Jews. The two winged women who carry “Wickedness” off to Shinar (Babylon) are not identified but perhaps have something to do with the fact that the worship of Ishtar involved women who served as temple prostitutes to allow worshipers to act out the fertility promised by their goddess.

 

Zechariah 6 (day 917) 5 July 2012

1-8: The 8th vision is reported. Some scholars wonder that there are eight instead of only seven, since the number seven seems to play so important a part in the book. That’s one of the reasons there is speculation that the final form of Zechariah includes some later additions (the 3rd vision is a usual suspect) and rearrangements. Also, modern commentators have attempted to see a chiastic structure of the visions, with the last repeating elements of the first, but they may be trying too hard to find evidence that supports the theory. In any case we find ourselves in a scene reminiscent of John’s vision in Revelation 6, but there the four horses are sent to carry out specific tasks. Here they represent the four winds and are sent in different directions. There are some problems in the narrative. Zechariah sees four horses, the angel only mentions three. The horses are sent out to the north, south and west, but not to the east. One explanation is that the horses, like the sun, come out of the east and so the red horse is already there and need not be sent. In spite of the difficulties it is clear that the main point of the vision is that God’s spirit is set at rest in the “north country,” clearly a reference to Babylon. Although Babylon lies primarily east of Jerusalem, one must travel along a northern route for the first leg of the journey. The essence of the vision, then, is that peace now prevails and the exiles are free to return to Jerusalem.

9-14: The names of the recent returnees from Babylon are not known elsewhere, but it is clear that Zechariah is to receive an offering from the latest group of returnees out of which he is to fashion two crowns. When the Hebrew was translated into Greek, the translators couldn’t see why two crowns were needed and so changed the text to refer to a single crown. It seems obvious, though, that two crowns are needed, one for Joshua the high priest, and one for Zerubbabel the governor. Zerubbabel is the logical candidate for “Branch,” since “Branch” is to rebuild the temple and Zerubbabel was said in 4:9 to be the one to do just that. Why his name is not mentioned here a bit of a mystery, though. The really interesting thing about this oracle is that the high priest will be crowned also, thus sharing authority with the crown prince for the government’s administration.

15: God’s word to Zechariah is that the work force needed for the construction of the temple will be provided by returnees from Babylon who continue to arrive in the city.

 

Zechariah 7 (day 918) 6 July 2012

             1-7: About two years later: The people at Bethel (one of the pagan shrine sites set up by Jeroboam to worship the golden calves – see 1 Kings 12:25-29) send an envoy to ask the priests if they should continue their practice of fasting in the fifth month. God’s word through Zechariah is that their fasting as well as their eating has not been for God in the first place, but rather “for themselves,” probably meaning that it was part of the religion Jeroboam had invented.

             8-14: Justice, kindness and mercy is what God wants rather than fasting (see Micah 6:8). God wanted them to treat one another well, especially those who are poor and outcast. They wouldn’t listen, and therefore God “scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations,” a reference to the destruction of Samaria and the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians.

 

Zechariah 8 (day 919) 7 July 2012

             1-8: Zechariah pictures a time of restoration. He hears God promising to once again bless Jerusalem and Mt. Zion, and sees a vision of a peaceful city with old people and children. In the ruins of Jerusalem during Zechariah’s time it would surely have been hard to believe that such a thing would ever come to pass, but nothing is impossible with God.

             9-13: Times are tough, but God will see us through and bless us yet, he tells them. Peace will manifest itself not only in allowing people to grow to ripe old ages and children to play safely in the streets, but also in the fields and vineyards.

Even nature is blessed by God’s blessing of the city.

             14-17: God proposes a new covenant and demands only a few things of them: honesty (speak the truth, love no false oath), justice (judgments that are true and make for peace), and kindness (do not devise evil in your hearts against one another). We are reminded of Micah 6:8: “What does the LORD require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly before your God.”

             18-19: Times of ritual fasting will become joyful events instead of bitter reminders of food shortages.

             20-23: People from everywhere will want to come to Jerusalem; God’s people will be held in high esteem among the nations because everyone will know God is with them.

 

Zechariah 9 (day 920) 8 July 2012

             1-8: These next two chapters are in the poetic oracle form that characterizes much of the prophetic literature. Its abrupt appearance here has caused many scholars to see it as evidence that the remainder of the book is from a different source, and in many commentaries chapters 9-14 are referred to as “Second Zechariah.” Hadrach is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible, and it is not known whether it is a separate locale or a poetic reference to Aram and Damascus. In general, though, what we have here is a catalogue of cities from Damascus and Hamath down the coast of the Mediterranean to the Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron and Ashdod (Gath is missing). God owns them all, he says. God claims Aram (verse 1) and Philistia (verse 7). Curiously, Tyre and Sidon are to be destroyed by fire, indicating that God has no use for them, perhaps because their seafaring trade resulted in many of the displaced people of Israel and Judah being dispersed around the Mediterranean.

             9-10: Verse 9 is quoted at Matthew 21:5 to anchor Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem firmly in the prophetic pronouncements of a coming messiah. Zechariah says that the coming king, called “Branch” elsewhere, will institute a rule of peace. No weapons will again bring destruction to Israel (Ephraim) and Judah (Jerusalem). In contrast to earlier prophesies about Branch, however, the coming king in these verses will extend his rule “to the ends of the earth.”

             11-13: He foresees the time when God’s people will be set free to return to Zion (“your stronghold”). The mention of Greece is surprising here, and leads some scholars to speculate that “second” Zechariah may have been written centuries later than the time of Darius, after the whirlwind career of Alexander the Great. But the word translated “Greece” is “Javan,” which can also refer to the Greek colony of Ionia along the western coast of present-day Turkey. The Ionians were seafaring merchants who likely had a large part in the dispersal of the Jewish people following the fall of Israel and Judah.

             14-17: In spite of the military imagery in these verses I don’t believe Zechariah means there will be an actual battle between Judah and Greece. He simply means that God will protect them from future enemies so that peace will reign while the nation is being restored to prosperity with an abundance of grain and wine.

 

Zechariah 10 (day 921) 9 July 2012

             1-2: Zechariah urges the people to ask God to supply their needs instead of depending on pagan religious practices. The worship of other gods (“teraphim,” small statues of pagan deities) is what brought them trouble in the first place, resulting in the nation wandering senseless like sheep without a shepherd.

             3-7: God will use Judah to provide the leadership that will bring lasting security for both Judah and Joseph (Israel). Ephraim (also Israel) will be restored as well as Judah in Zechariah’s vision of the future.

             8-12: He describes all the exiles and refugees of Israel returning from Egypt and Assyria. Echoing the crossing of the sea in the time of Moses, he imagines the Nile drying up.

 

Zechariah 11 (day 922) 10 July 2012

             1-3: Although the literary style of these verses would seem to link them to the previous chapter, the general theme of the failure and denouncement of the “shepherds” dominates chapter 11, and verses 1-3 thus form an introduction. God’s judgment is once again pictured as proceeding in stages from the north. The cedars of Lebanon are burned. The oaks of Bashan (the Golan Heights) are ruined. The glory of the shepherds is despoiled and the thickets of the Jordan are destroyed. Placing the shepherds between Bashan and the Jordan valley would indicate that these are the leaders of the northern kingdom of Israel that fell to the Assyrians.

             4-6: Playing out recent history, God assigns Zechariah the responsibility of being the shepherd of the northern kingdom of Israel (“the flock doomed to slaughter”). He is to pronounce judgment on the false shepherds who have mistreated and misled the people: God will cause the false shepherds to fall into the hands of a king; that is, the leaders of Israel will be overrun by foreign powers.

             7-14: Illustrating what happened to Israel, Zechariah imagines himself taking two staffs: “favor,” to symbolize God’s original relationship with Israel and Judah, and “unity,” to symbolize the reign of David and Solomon over a united Judah and Israel. He disposes of three unidentified shepherds and then resigns his office, leaving them to their fate. “Favor” is broken – God will no longer protect them. He demands his wages as the shepherd and is paid off (Christian readers will find special significance in the 30 shekels of silver – see Matthew 26:14). At God’s command he throws the coins into “the house of the LORD” (see Matthew 27:3-5). All of this is to say that the leaders of Israel, the northern tribes, would no longer accept God’s sovereignty, breaking the ties of unity that bound all the twelve tribes together and creating the separation that resulted in the two separate nations of Israel and Judah.

             15-17: Just as Zechariah has abandoned the sheep in his vision, God has called forth a worthless shepherd who decimates the flock and who will be destroyed in battle. The withering of the arm and blinding of the eye is a reference to the helplessness with which Israel met the invading Assyrian army.

 

Zechariah 12 (day 923) 11 July 2012

             1-5: Six political entities figure in this oracle – Israel, Jerusalem, the surrounding peoples, all the nations, Judah, and the house of David. It begins with a word concerning Israel, a term which, as used here, is inclusive of Israel and Judah. In the immediate post-exilic era there was a strong sentiment that the tribes from both Judah and Israel would be reunited as one. Quickly, though, the oracle moves specifically to Jerusalem. “Cup” of reeling in verse 2 could be rendered “threshold of reeling,” which I think makes better sense, giving a picture of invaders being tripped up as they try to enter the city. “All the surrounding peoples,” who have at one time or another been enemies of Jerusalem, are pictured stumbling as they attempt to enter the city by siege. In verse three the enemy is expanded to include “all the nations of the earth” come to plunder the city, but they will hurt themselves trying to “lift” it. Enemy forces attacking Jerusalem will be panicked and confused. In Judah, the countryside around about Jerusalem, the people will watch and see that the inhabitants of the city have God on their side.

             6: Thus inspired, the families in the Judean countryside will strike out against the enemies of the city, and be victorious. Jerusalem will remain intact.

             7-9: The “tents of Judah,” that is, the encampment of the army, will be victorious first so that the capital city, Jerusalem, and the monarchy centered there may not claim any superiority over the rest of the nation. In that way Jerusalem will be saved and its inhabitants will successfully defeat the siege and its leaders will seem to them like protecting angels.

             10-13:1: The oracle takes a sudden sad turn that is difficult to connect with anything described up to this point. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, acting together with the royal administration (the “house of David”) will “pierce” someone. It is clearly an act of murder, but afterward the people mourn as though the one they killed is their own child. In addition, the mourning will be private, not public, indicating a deep sense of guilt over what has happened, so deep the people cannot bear to be with each other. The mention of Hadad-rimmon in verse 11 is unique in the Bible and the event to which it refers cannot be identified, but seems to have been inserted to provide a contrast between the kind of mourning that engages the public and the very private grief that Jerusalem will experience. Finally, in 13:1 the event being mourned will turn out to be spiritually purifying for both the leadership and the common people of Jerusalem.

             Is there any wonder that early Christian commentators saw in these verses a description of Jesus? Indeed, verse 10 is quoted in the fourth gospel (John 19:37). The “one whom they have pierced” is an only child, a first-born son, whose death results in widespread mourning behind closed doors, and through whose death the people are cleansed “from sin and impurity.”

 

Zechariah 13 (day 924) 12 July 2012

             2-6: Continuing the description of future events begun in 12:6 (“On that day”), Zechariah addresses the religious trappings of the old vs. the new Jerusalem. Idols will be forgotten and prophets will be removed from the land along with the “unclean spirit.” The unclean spirit probably means that spirit or attitude under which idols were worshiped and false prophets spoke. We are surprised to read that fathers and mothers will murder their own child for being a prophet, but this is in keeping with the last chapter where, in response to the murder of the unidentified first-born son, grieving was carried out privately in each home. As to the punishment given, see Deuteronomy 18:20, where false prophesy is a capital offense. It would appear that Zechariah is outlawing prophecy altogether, although it is possible to read the text as applying only to false prophecy. The false prophets will respond to this new strict construction of the Law by laying aside their mantles, the visible sign of the office of prophet in Zechariah’s time (copying Elijah’s mode of dress) and claiming that they are farmers and have been all their lives. The wounds on their chests may be a result of self-flagellation, although there is no direct evidence in the Bible that prophets engaged in that form of demonstration.

             7-9: At 11:4 Zechariah was appointed by God to be “a shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter,” but I think we would be mistaken to imagine he is predicting his own death here. Jesus quotes verse 7 when he tells his disciples that they will all forsake him (Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27), and at John 10:18 he is quoted as saying, “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” Christians have long seen verse 7 as a messianic prophecy. Verses 8 and 9 remind us of Ezekiel (5:12) describing two thirds of the population being killed and one third scattered among the nations. Ezekiel, of course, was referring to the fate Judah and Jerusalem had undergone at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar some 70 years before the prophecies of Zechariah. Zechariah sees a different outcome of the surviving third: God will be their God and they will be God’s people (compare Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 14:11, 37:23, 37:27: and in the New Testament; Hebrews 8:10, Revelation 21:7).

 

Zechariah 14 (day 925) 13 July 2012

             1-2: The final chapter begins with a slight variant from the usual way of announcing the day of the LORD: “See, a day is coming for the LORD,” rather than the usual “On that day” (as in 12:6; 13:1, 2). It is thus difficult to know whether the prophet intends this as a brand new vision or a continuation of what was being described in the previous two chapters. All the nations were gathered against Jerusalem in 12:3. Here, though, more detail is given: the houses are looted, the women raped and half the population taken into exile. These are the unfortunate circumstances of war but specific mention of the violation of the women in the city is rare – only here and at Lamentations 5:11 (a passage in which the descriptions of atrocities goes ‘way beyond anything in Zechariah).

             3-5: We’re back to “on that day,” and the record now takes on true apocalyptic dimensions with God directing the defense from the Mount of Olives (where Jesus was standing when he ascended – Acts 1:9-12). The mountain is split in two, providing a path for people to flee the city, although it is not said who is to flee – is it the 50% remaining after the other 50% have been exiled? Such is the hazy nature of apocalyptic visions. Azal (or Azel) is an unknown destination, and the earthquake referred to here is mentioned only at Amos 1:1 with no description of people fleeing. As the people flee, Zechariah says, “then the LORD my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.” Come where, to Azal? And, who are the holy ones – the righteous among the people, or angels? Details, details, we want details!

             6-7: The city will be bathed with continuous light, but I doubt Zechariah foresaw electricity and street lamps. Rather, he is describing the complete victory of the forces of light over the forces of darkness. Compare Revelation 21:23.

             8: A river is seen flowing out of Jerusalem, flowing both east and west. This is reminiscent of Ezekiel’s vision of the river emanating from the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12), and compare also John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 22:1-2. Plenty of light and a dependable source of water are the two necessary natural ingredients for developing a viable society.

             9: God’s kingship has always been over all the earth; Zechariah means that God’s sovereignty will be recognized over all the other gods and idols worshiped around the world.

             10-11: Zechariah pictures a transformation of all of Judah from Geba in the north to Rimmon in the south. It will become a fertile plain watered by the river flowing from Mt. Zion, and Jerusalem and Mt. Zion will be elevated above the surrounding lands.

             12-15: He describes in putrid detail the fate of Jerusalem’s enemies (“all the nations” of verse 2). The mention of Judah in verse 14 implies that there has been some enmity between the region of the former nation of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. There probably was: when the exiles returned to Jerusalem with leaders appointed by the Persian emperor the folks in the countryside were likely slow to acknowledge the authority of Ezra, Nehemiah, Zerubbabel, the high priest Joshua, and so forth. Now, however, Zechariah sees the city and the whole region of Judah united in war against the LORD’s enemies, and envisions their taking huge amounts of wealth from the invading armies.

             16-19: Finally, the foreign survivors of the great battle become themselves worshipers of the LORD. Those who refuse are punished, but the punishment is not specifically sent from God; rather it seems to naturally result from their godlessness. Obedience to the covenant with God was always seen as a way to assure adequate rain and abundant harvests.

             20: To this point in the Bible the only place where the inscription “Holy to the LORD” was allowed was on the headdress of the high priest, beginning with Aaron’s turban (Exodus 39:28-30). Now, with Jerusalem redeemed, even horses’ bells will bear that inscription, and everything will be deemed holy.

             21: Zechariah’s prophecy ends with the temple swept clean of buyers and sellers. This prophecy could well be why Jesus decided to chase the moneychangers et al from the temple, as recorded in the gospels (see for example Luke 19:45-46).

 

Haggai 1 (day 910) 28 June 2012

             1-6: The date given in the first line has been worked out by scholars to be August 29, 520 B.C. Haggai is mentioned at Ezra 5:1 and 6:14 along with Zechariah, whose book follows this one, but little else is known about him. His book is a narrative account of the same historical events reported in Ezra rather than the more poetic style of prophetic oracles, making it somewhat easier for the modern reader. The book spans events that took place over a period of 4 months toward the end of 520 B.C. He was obviously known as a prophet and respected as such by the high priest Joshua and the governor Zerubbabel. This chapter is a more extensive account of what was reported in Ezra 5:1-3. The exiles from Babylon have returned to Jerusalem and the question has arisen over whether it is time to rebuild the temple. Haggai turns the question on its ear: is it time for you to live in your finished homes while the temple is a pile of rubble? And then he asks the crucial question: do you think there might be a connection between the lack of a place of worship and your meager success in rebuilding the infrastructure of the city?

             7-11: The word Haggai gives from the LORD is that there is a connection. Therefore it is time to gather material to build a house for God.

             12-15: Zerubbabel, Joshua and “the remnant of the people” are mentioned twice in these verses. The first mention probably has to do with their beginning to cut the timber. Then Haggai assures them God is with them, and the second mention has to do with their response to the news that God approves of what they are doing. God’s approval always lends strength for the task. The date given in verse 15 is what we would call September 21st.

 

Haggai 2 (day 911) 29 June 2012

             1-9: October 17th. They have been building for nearly a month, and apparently without much progress for some of the older ones who remember the temple of Solomon have been complaining that the new temple just doesn’t measure up. God sees that the time has come to offer some encouragement and sends it through Haggai. Don’t worry about the lack of silver and gold, he says, because silver and gold belong to God and in time God will provide.

             10-19: We skip forward two months, to December 18th. The people are again discouraged. The foundation is laid, and still the people struggle with bare subsistence in the land. Haggai uses an interesting comparison. In their minds a thing could be in one of three conditions; holy, common, or unclean. If the holy touched the common it did not render the common holy; but if the unclean touched the common it rendered the common unclean. Therefore, the people being unclean, all they have to offer becomes unclean. Haggai seems to think this explains why they are still suffering shortages of grain and fruit and wine. But God is about to turn that order of things on its ear, he says. From that day on they will be blessed, he promises.

             20-23: We never learn whether that prophecy is fulfilled. Haggai’s narrative ends with a word of special encouragement to Zerubbabel that he is indeed the one God has chosen to lead them.

 

Zephaniah 1 (day 907) 25 June 2012

             1: Zephaniah prophesied during the reign of Josiah (641-609 B.C.). He may have been related to Josiah, if the Hezekiah mentioned here was the king of Judah during the time of the prophet Isaiah. Not much more is known of Zephaniah aside from hints within the text that he was imminently acquainted with Jerusalem and the temple.

             2-6: The book begins with a warning that God is displeased with the pagan worship that is being practiced in Jerusalem. The destruction he imagines is greater even than the destruction caused by the Great Flood of Genesis – even the fish of the sea will be swept away.

             7-9:  Zephaniah denounces those in power for dressing in foreign garb and mimicking pagan practices (for “leaping over the threshold” see 1 Samuel 5:5). These are the kinds of things introduced during the reign of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah, which persisted through the years and which Josiah sought to do away with during his reign.

             10-13: The Fish Gate, the Second Quarter, and the Mortar were neighborhoods in the city. The LORD will search out all those who think God is incapable of doing good or ill and punish them.

             14-16: The Day of the LORD is described as a terrible and terrifying attack on the city. The people will be punished. Their ill-gotten wealth is worthless to them now. Note that the prophet sees the calamity as being worldwide and complete – a rather typical example of oriental hyperbole.

 

Zephaniah 2 (day 908) 26 June 2012

             1-4: Zephaniah calls the nation to repentance, using the familiar imagery of wind-blown chaff to describe the judgment of God that is coming. The Philistine cities mentioned in verse 5 are along the usual coastal invasion route taken by Egypt, Assyria and Babylon.

             5-7: The Philistine strongholds will be decimated. Zephaniah foresees that Judah will rule over those territories in the years to come. Judah did exercise some control over that area following a failed Egyptian invasion more than a century earlier.

             8-11: Now he turns to the nations adjacent to Israel/Judah on their eastern flank – Moab and Ammon – and prophecies destruction for them and sees them also under subjection to Judah and, more importantly, to Judah’s LORD. Moab and Ammon had in the past warred with Judah (2 Chronicles 20:1-30).

             12-15: He goes farther afield, now speaking a word against Ethiopia and Assyria. The Ethiopians had invaded Judah during the reign of King Asa (2 Chronicles 14:9-15). The Assyrians had besieged Jerusalem during the reign of Hezekiah, Zephaniah’s great-great grandfather, and had been thwarted by an invasion of the Egyptians who were also seeking to extend their control over Judah (see 2 Kings 19). During Zephaniah’s time the Assyrian empire was on the wane and their decline probably fueled his pronouncements against them.

 

Zephaniah 3 (day 909) 27 June 2012

             1-2: But Zephaniah’s primary pronouncements are against his own people. At first these verses seem to be related to the word against Nineveh in 2:13-15, but it becomes clear by the end of verse 2 that Jerusalem is now the target.

             3-5: So often the prophets focused on the corruption of the rich and powerful – the officials and judges – comparing them to wild beasts that devour indiscriminately. The prophets and priests are also denounced. Only the LORD, surprisingly pictured as being within the city, is righteous.

             6-7: God is speaking directly in these verses. God has laid whole nations low. Surely that fact alone should have sufficed as a warning, but the officials, judges, priests and prophets in Jerusalem paid no heed.

             8: God’s wrath has risen to the boiling point, and he threatens to destroy the world, a threat which reminds us of the story of the Great Deluge in Genesis.

             9-10: Evoking again images of the stories of Genesis – here the Tower of Babel can be faintly seen in the background – Zephaniah can nonetheless imagine God reversing the multiplication of languages that scattered the people of Shinar across the world, seeing people come from afar to do homage to the LORD. Christians, of course, are reminded of the story of Pentecost in Acts 2.

             11-13: A day of peace and restoration lies in the future. Nearly all the prophets who pronounced gloom and doom nevertheless saw God’s wrath resulting finally in the kind of world God wants us to have.

             14-20: The book ends with an exultant song of victory for God over all the enemies of Zion, and the restoration and exaltation of God’s people among all the peoples of the earth.

 

Habakkuk 1 (day 904) 22 June 2012

             1: Habakkuk is otherwise unidentified. We can place his writing to the years leading up to the Babylonian conquest of Judah, but no more definite time or place can be discerned. He introduces his book as an oracle, but we shall see that it reads more like a psalm with elements of the legal debate we remember from Job.

             2-4: Habakkuk begins with a complaint common to the prophets of Israel: justice is perverted in the land. The peculiar bent here, though, is his demand to know why God hasn’t done anything about it.

             5-11: God’s answer is that justice is on the way in the form of an invading army, the Chaldeans – a common reference to the Babylonians.

             12-14: Habakkuk responds, acknowledging God’s decree against Judah. But then he protests: God is eternal and almighty. Compared to God, people are like fish or insects.

             15-17: So why is God calling up an enemy that treats their foes like fish to be caught in a net? Is Babylon like God?

 

Habakkuk 2 (day 905) 23 June 2012

             1: The prophet waits for God’s response.

             2-5: God replies that although justice seems slow it is thorough. Injustice has a way of bringing about its own destruction in time. Meanwhile, the righteous keep the faith, a phrase quoted by Paul (Romans 1:17), while the unjust take advantage of the weak and poor.

             6-8: The remainder of the chapter is a series of five statements that the prophet believes will one day be said against those who have perverted the law for their own gain at the expense of others, each statement beginning with the words, “Alas for you…” This first one accuses them of heaping up riches for themselves and points out that the day will come when they will be treated as they have treated others.

             9-11: The second “alas” accuses them of building up their own house (family) at the expense of others, denounces them for setting themselves above others and warns that their deceitfulness will someday be published. If need be, “The very stones will cry out” – a phrase used on at least one occasion by Jesus (Luke 19:40).

             12-14: The third “alas” continue to widen the circle of their crimes; now they have cheated others so that they can build and own an entire town or city.

             15-17: The fourth “alas” expands the charge even further, from “neighbors” in verse 15 to “cities” in verse 17.

             18-19: Now we get down to it: the real problem is that these people worship other gods than the LORD. Alas to them because the gods they worship are no gods.

             20: They have forgotten that the LORD is present in the city.

 

Habakkuk 3 (day 906) 24 June 2012

             1: This chapter is a psalm. It is introduced as a prayer, but the musical notation at the beginning (Shigionoth – see Psalm 7), the reference to instruments in verse 19, the use of the pause, “selah” at points along the way, the overall structure, terminology and subject are reminiscent of many of the psalms.

             2: This verse is the prayer. The prophet beseeches God to act, to make himself known, and to act in mercy, not in wrath.

             3-15: In answer to the prayer, Habakkuk describes the appearance of God. It is in the familiar imagery of the Psalms. God is pictured to come as a great and awful storm across the land, shaking the earth, making the mountains tremble and the moon stand still. The “arrows flashing by” and the “gleam of your flashing spear” are typical descriptions of the fury of a thunderstorm.

             16: The prophet’s knees go wobbly. He has prayed for God to come. He has the assurance that God is coming. He will wait to see what God will do. That’s faith!

             17-19: The troubles listed – a poor harvest of figs and olives, the disappearance of flocks and herds – are typical losses when an invading army scavenges the land. The point here is that the prophet has faith that God will act, and that faith enables him to have a cheerful heart in the face of trouble.

 

Nahum 1 (day 901) 19 June 2012

1: Nahum is thought to be a Judean prophet whose oracle was given in the years preceding the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The Assyrian empire had begun to collapse after the death of Ashurbanipal about 627 B.C., and the prophet gives a word from God during that time when the people of Judah must certainly have been anxious about what might happen. The location of Elkosh is unknown, but is thought to have been somewhere in southern Judah.

2-5: The beginning of the oracle characterizes God as the terrible and terrifying jealous ruler of creation before whose presence even the mountains shake and the world heaves.

6-11: No one can stand before the wrath of God. Verse 7 is obviously spoken as a comfort to Nahum’s fellow citizens. The “you” in verse 9 is plural and most likely refers to Israel (as it clearly does in verse 12-13). No-amon is Thebes in Egypt, which was taken and sacked by the Assyrians under Ashurbanipal some fifty years before as a result of an attempt by the Egyptians to push the Assyrians out of their country. The individual mentioned in verse 11 is impossible to identify, but could easily be a reference to all or any of the rulers of Assyria who invaded Israel and Judah.

12-13: These verses are best understood as being addressed to Israel and/or Judah.

14: This verse, on the other hand, seems clearly meant for Nineveh.

15: As the Assyrian empire crumbles, the prophet sees Judah receiving a messenger of good news that peace is near. The “wicked” (Assyria) will never again invade Judah. A celebration is called for.

 

Nahum 2 (day 902) 20 June 2012

1: Nineveh fell in 612 B.C. at the hands of an alliance of Babylonians, Medes, Cimmerians and Scythians. Nahum challenges the Assyrians to defend themselves, believing their defense will be in vain.

2:  Nahum sees the approaching destruction of Nineveh and the collapse of the Assyrian Empire as a sign that God will restore Israel and Judah to their former greatness.

3-10: He paints a picture of the siege and conquest of Nineveh. Nineveh was sacked and burned and the populace killed or exiled into slavery by the Babylonians and Medes.

11-13: Assyrian art often depicts lion hunts with kings and royals in pursuit of the noble beasts. In these verses Nahum turns the tables: the Assyrians are themselves the lions that are being hunted, and Nineveh the lion’s den that is being devastated by the scarlet clad army.

 

Nahum 3 (day 903) 21 June 2012

1-7: Nahum pictures the ruin of Nineveh in vivid language that brings out sight and sound for the reader. In verse 4 Nineveh is likened to a prostitute, though the text is not clear in exactly how Nineveh’s actions would draw one to that simile, but God’s punishment of Nineveh is pictured as the public defilement of a prostitute by exposing her nakedness in broad daylight and covering her with “filth,” which probably means animal and/or human waste.

8-11: Thebes, a prominent Egyptian city on the Nile about 500 miles from the Mediterranean, was ransacked by the Assyrians in 633 B.C. Nahum is drawing a comparison between Nineveh and Thebes, and prophesying that Nineveh will suffer the same fate.

12-13: Nahum points to a weakened empire that is ready to fall at the next attack of the Babylonians and Medes.

14-17: The deteriorating condition of the empire is described as a fence on which a swarm of locusts has settled and then moved on. The locusts are the merchants which up to now have been cultivated by a greed-ridden society, but when the collapse of Assyria comes the merchants will move on to other markets and will be of no help to the city.

18-19: The oracle ends. A corrupt nation comes to an end because its leaders, its shepherds, were corrupt. The wound is mortal. Nineveh will suffer the same fate as the nations that have ceased to exist because of Assyrian cruelty.

 

 

Micah 1 (day 894) 12 June 2012

             1: This verse contains all we know about the prophet Micah. Moresheth was a small village southwest of Jerusalem. He claims to have been active during the reigns of three Judean kings; Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, which places him somewhere between 742 – 687 B.C. He is thus a prophet from the southern kingdom of Judah, though he prophesies mostly against the northern kingdom of Israel.

             2- 7: Initially the two thrones are cast alike: the high places (shrines and altars) are God’s targets, both in Jerusalem and in Samaria. Therefore Samaria will be wasted because of the worship of pagan deities on the high places. The comparison of Samaria with a prostitute reminds of us Hosea’s characterizations.

             8-9: The prophet laments the coming destruction of Samaria, and warns that Judah will suffer the same fate.

             10-16: Many scholars think these verses allude to the invasion in 701 B.C. by Sennacherib. The towns listed here, most of them unknown, are thought to lie along the coastal plain west of Jerusalem, the route Sennacherib took to lay siege (unsuccessfully) to Jerusalem. Gath was a Philistine stronghold in the same general area, and Micah does not want them to know about the fall of Judah’s cities; thus he says, “Tell it not in Gath.”

 

Micah 2 (day 895) 13 June 2012

             1-2: Micah describes the kinds of atrocities committed by the rich and powerful against the common people.

             3-5: God, he says, will turn the tables on them, and the deeds they commit so wantonly against others will be committed against them.

             6-11: But they do not wish to hear such things, and preach to Micah that he should not preach. Micah counters that his words do good to those who are upright, but the rich and powerful are mistreating the common people and depriving their children of the blessings God would give them. They don’t want to listen to Micah, but they’ll listen, he says, to anybody who preaches prosperity to them.

             12-13: In a sudden shift from the present to the future, Micah says that God promises that the survivors, the remnant left behind after the destruction, will be led by a king who is led by God.

Micah 3 (day 896) 14 June 2012

             1-3: Micah continues the attack on the rich and powerful rulers of Israel. He paints an awful picture of the way they treat the common people; surely it is figurative language to emphasize the hopeless position they put the people in.

             4: Eventually the rich and powerful will cry to the LORD, he says, but it will be too late: God will “hide his face from them.”

             5-8: Now the focus is on the religious leaders who have been making themselves prosperous at the expense of the people. The seers, the diviners and the prophets will have nothing to say when the day of God’s justice comes. Their words will be weak and powerless, but Micah will be filled with power, the spirit of the LORD, justice and might to enable him to continue pointing out their misdoings.

             9-12: Micah turns again to the southern kingdom. The rulers and priests are all in it for gain at the expense of the people. They think God is with them but God is about to turn Jerusalem into a heap of ruins, and nothing will be left standing on Mt. Zion.

 

Micah 4 (day 897) 15 June 2012

             1-4: An idyllic vision of things to come: the raising up of Zion as the highest of the mountains is an image we have seen before, along with the beating of plow swords into plowshares, for verses 1-3 are nearly identical to Isaiah 2:2-4. The saying about sitting under the fig trees is a picture of peace and tranquility.

             5: The other nations need instruction because they each live according to their particular religious cults and thus need correction from the one nation that lives according in the way they have been taught by the true and only God.

             6-8: Now Micah pictures a return of the exiles to Jerusalem where God will be the ruler and the kingdom of David will be restored.

             9-10: An interesting idea is here: the poor ravaged people are being sent into exile to Babylon because that is where God will rescue them! The curse of exile becomes a blessing.

             11-13: The nations that gather for the spoil – Edom, Amon, Moab – don’t realize that the fall of Jerusalem is part of God’s plan to elevate Jerusalem above them all, and they will be “as sheaves on the threshing floor.”

 

Micah 5 (day 898) 16 June 2012

             1: A difficult verse to translate, scholars differ on whether verse 1 should be connected with the previous passage (in the Hebrew Bible this verse is labeled 4:14), with the following passage, or stand alone. I have no opinion in the matter, but the tenor of the verse seems to connect it to the conquest of Israel which resulted in the displacement of the population.

             2-5a: Following verse one, which seems to leave Israel defeated, these verses herald a new beginning. The ruler (a general term distinct from “king”) who will come from Bethlehem hearkens back to the anointing of David, who was from that village. For Christians it also hearkens ahead to the birth of Jesus according to the interpretation given by the wise men to Herod (Matthew 2:6). Christians have also often interpreted verse 3 as a reference to the Virgin Mary. It could as well simply be a metaphor for the time of painful suffering the people must go through before the restoration begins. Verse 4 seems to refer most clearly to a reestablishment of the line of David, who was a shepherd. The prophecy that the new ruler will be “the one of peace” is often taken as a description of the teachings of Jesus.

             5b-6: Perhaps the best way to understand these verses is to take Assyria as a reference to any empire that seeks to overrun the land of God’s people, and the shepherds and rulers who will govern “Assyria” is then a way of saying that God’s protection will be seven or eight times as great as before.

             7-9: In any case it is clear that Micah believed the time would come when the Jews would be strong and independent and in no danger from other nations.

             10-15: These words seem to be addressed to the Assyrians and other nations that eye Israel/Judah as a target for expansion. It also could be Micah’s condemnation of the northern kingdom of Israel, for it was their worship of other gods that raised God’s wrath against them.

 

Micah 6 (day 899) 17 June 2012

             1-2: Here is the familiar court scene where God summons Israel to make his accusations, and offers them the opportunity to mount a defense.

             3-5: God recites their history together, from Egypt to Gilgal. The story of Balaam, the diviner who is paid to curse Israel but blesses them instead, is told in Numbers 22-24. Shittim was a locale in Moab where Israelite men engaged in immoral sexual liaisons with Moabite women, resulting in a plague that killed 24,000 (Number 25:1-9; also mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:6-8, and referenced again in the New Testament at Revelation 2:14). Gilgal was the first camp of the Israelites when they arrived in the Promised Land. Joshua erected an altar there to commemorate their crossing of the Jordan River (Joshua 4:19-24).

             6-8: Verse 8 is, in my opinion, perhaps the most important verse in the Old Testament that deals with our relationship with God. Religious rites and rituals aside, the virtues of justice, kindness and humility is that God wants of us.

             9-15: The verdict is announced. The sentence is severe. The punishment will be total deprivation and destruction.

             16: Omri was the Israelite king who moved the capital to Samaria. His reign is summarized in 1 Kings 16:21-28. His son Ahab succeeded him. Under Ahab the worship of Baal became widespread as a result of his marriage to the Sidonian princess Jezebel (see 1 Kings 16:29-34).

 

Micah 7 (day 900) 18 June 2012

             1-3: The primary charge is against those in charge – officials, judges, and “the powerful.” They are all corrupt, and God will deal with them.

             4-6: What’s more and what’s worse is that the corruption of the rich and powerful has corrupted everyone else, to the point that deceit and treachery can be expected from even one’s friends and family.

             7-10: The prophet turns to the LORD for vindication, knowing that he too has sinned, but willing to bear “the indignation of the LORD,” and certain that God will ultimately vindicate him. The woman mentioned in verse 10 has been the subject of speculation among commentators. The most likely explanation is that she simply represents the opposition the prophet has faced from the people.

             11-17: The prophets never can seem to let doom be the last word, can they? Micah sees a day of restoration for Israel and even an expansion of their territory. He asks God to shepherd them to greener pastures, certain that the nations that have been Israel’s bane will see in Israel’s restoration evidence that the God of Israel rules supreme over the earth.

             18-20: The prophecy of Micah ends with a statement of faith that God will forgive and restore. It is a remarkable thing that God’s prophets, living as they did in the darkest days of their people, saw even in their suffering evidence of God’s sovereignty and God’s love. We should be so hopeful in our darkest days.

 

Jonah 1 (day 890) 8 June 2012

             1-3: There is a reference at 1 Kings 14:25 of a Jonah son of Amittai, a prophet who lived during the reign of King Jeroboam II of Israel. It is tempting to equate him with the main character in the book of Jonah, but scholars don’t generally think much of that idea. There is some animosity expressed toward the Assyrians in the book of Jonah – Nineveh was a capital city of the Assyrian Empire. However, the Jonah in this book is never called a prophet, and it is impossible to tell from the book exactly what relationship exists between Israel and Assyria.
             In any case it is a great morality tale, and as such is different from anything else in the collection of prophetical books. God tells Jonah to go cry out against Nineveh for its wickedness. Jonah promptly books passage to Tarshish, which we think was on the coast of Spain. In other words, he headed for the point on earth that was as far away from Nineveh as one could travel in those days.

             4-6: A storm arises at sea. Jonah was asleep in the hold when the captain begged him to call out to his God; which reminds me, by the way, of the scene in the gospels when Jesus was asleep in the boat with his disciples and a storm arose at sea (Matthew 8:23-27). They awakened Jesus and he stilled the storm.

             7-10: If you want to find out who’s to blame for some calamity, roll the dice. That’s how they thought in those days, and Jonah was quickly identified as the source of their troubles. Once Jonah is identified as the offender, and identifies his God to them, they are certain that Jonah’s God is the cause of the storm.

             11-16: They try to lighten the ship, to no avail, so at his behest they throw him overboard, and immediately the sea grows calm. They are so surprised they apparently forget all about poor Jonah splashing around a few yards away.

             17: While they offer a sacrifice, God takes care of Jonah by sending a fish to swallow him. The next time you want to ask God to rescue you, remember that God has strange ways of rescuing people.

 

Jonah 2 (891) 9 June 2012

             1-9: A psalm of deliverance is spoken by Jonah while in the belly of the fish. You will recognize elements of Jonah’s prayer that are in common with many of the psalms: a cry of distress and plea for deliverance, a description of the suffering the supplicant has undergone, a description of how God comes to the rescue, and an ascription of praise to God for God’s mighty deeds of deliverance.

10: God tells the fish to spit him out. Luckily, he is spat onto dry ground. Do notice how everybody and everything in the story immediately obeys whatever God says, except Jonah.

 

Jonah 3 (892) 10 June 2012

             1-5: Again God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh and this time Jonah sets out forthwith, and we are not at all surprised. The dimensions of the city, a three day’s walk, are surely exaggerated, but that gives the author a way of emphasizing the response of the Ninevites. Jonah goes only one day’s walk – a third of the way – stops and declares God’s message, and the people immediately repent! Don’t you find it a curious thing is that Jonah has not called them to repentance, has not accused them of anything at all, nor has he mentioned God? Jonah has simply said, “Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” There is no information about how or by whom the overthrow will happen. It could be anything from a bloodless coup to a prolonged siege to fire and brimstone from the sky. Nevertheless, the people of Nineveh immediately take it to heart as a call for spiritual renewal. Contrast their response to the response of the people of Israel and Judah to all the warnings of all the prophets sent by God through decades and decades. Of course, that may be the point of the story of Jonah. He represents every prophet of God who has no choice but to go where God wants him to go, do what God wants him to do, and say what God wants him to say. The people of Nineveh are the model listeners who are immediately stricken by a word from God even when it is not specifically cited as a word from God!

             6-9: When the king of Nineveh hears about it, he also repents in sackcloth and ashes and declares a city-wide fast! He is the ideal king who is willing to give up anything and everything to be obedient to God, unlike all the kings of Judah and Israel who were given so many chances to turn their country around.

             10: God changes his mind and Nineveh is spared. What else could God do? (Note that the 40 days have passed.) Just think what might have been if Israel had repented? Just think what might have been if Judah had repented?

 

Jonah 4 (day 893) 11 June 2012

             1: The end of the story of Jonah contains a number of difficulties and is more complicated than it appears upon first reading. There is no explanation for Jonah’s displeasure, so the reader’s imagination comes immediately into play. Is Jonah angry because he wants Nineveh to be destroyed? Is Jonah angry because the thing he has gone through so much trouble to announce has not come to pass, and he feels that God has played a big trick on him? Does he resent the fact that God left him no choice but to carry out the mission, when the word could have been sent through anybody else?

             2-3:  We learn now that Jonah and God had a bit more conversation over the matter than was revealed before. Even so, why bother to flee to Tarshish? Why not simply refuse to go? It would seem from Jonah’s complaint in verse 2 that he really wished to see Nineveh destroyed, and resisted going because he knew God would be easily persuaded not to carry out the threat. He is so disappointed and/or humiliated that he wants to die, which seems to me to be a little extreme.

             4: The question from God in verse 4 is really an invitation for Jonah to examine his motives and his emotions. Should Jonah be angry that Nineveh was not destroyed, or should he accept God’s mercy even for his enemies?

             5: Jonah goes out of the city and sits down to watch what will happen. This is a little curious since it seems apparent from his exchange with God that nothing is going to happen. He makes a booth for himself and sits in the shade to wait and watch.

             6: This verse is the most curious of all. There is no need for the bush because Jonah is already sitting in the shade of the booth he has made. It is almost as if the author forgot mentioning the booth a verse back.

             7: So, let’s forget about the booth. The next day the bush withers and Jonah is left without any protection from the elements.

             8: God sends a hot, dry, windy day. Jonah nearly faints, but the situation does fit with his desire to die.

             9: The text does not say that Jonah is angry about the bush, but God asks if he has a right to be angry. Jonah believes he is.

             10-11: Here comes the moral of the story: The enemy’s city is filled with innocent people. Jonah got all worked up over a bush; shouldn’t God be all worked up over the fate of more than 100,000 people?

             Shouldn’t God be concerned about our enemies?

 

 

Obadiah (day 889) 7 June 2012

                 1-4: Welcome to the shortest book in the Old Testament. Not much is known about Obadiah, but the subject of his book would indicate that he was a prophet in Jerusalem during the time of the Babylonian invasion. The name means “worshiper of God” and some think it should not be taken as an individual’s name at all. The book of Obadiah is a prophecy against Edom. We have already read a number of pronouncements against Israel’s neighbors, Edom included (as in Isaiah 21:11-12, Jeremiah 49:7-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14 and Amos 1:11-12), but the entire book of Obadiah is dedicated to the destruction of those folks over yonder across the Jordan who were enemies of Israel (and Judah) since the time of Moses (see Numbers 20:14-21).

                 5-9: God’s vengeance against Edom will be awful indeed, with such destruction that nothing worth having will be left. The reference to Esau hearkens back to the tradition that Edom was settled by Jacob’s brother (Genesis 36:8). Teman was a region and a town in Edom, though not the capital. It is mentioned here because Teman was also the name of Esau’s grandson (Genesis 36:11), so the familial bond between Judah and Edom are emphasized. The name “Mount Esau” only occurs in Obadiah, and is likely not a place name but an acknowledgement of the ancient kinship and enmity between Esau/Edom and Jacob/Judah.

                 10-14: The rape of Jerusalem is recounted, with Edom’s participation in the sacking of the city after the Babylonians destroyed it.

                 15-16: The “Day of the LORD” is seen by Obadiah as the time when God will take vengeance on the nations that took part in Judah’s destruction.

                 17-21: Jerusalem will be restored, and those who return to Jerusalem shall rule over Edom in the future. Here the prophecy widens a bit to have Judah ruling over more territory after their restoration than was the case before their destruction. Not only Edom but also Philistia will be subject to Jerusalem, as well as Samaria, Gilead, Phoenicia and the Negeb.