This reflection is part of the ongoing Forest Hills Haftorah Series. The rest of the content can be found here: .

The year 586 was most definitely the worst year in Israelite and Judean history.

The glorious Judean capital of Jerusalem, existing as such for over half a millenium, was brought to destruction. The majestic Holy Palace of YHWH, brought to rubble. Homes, markets and businesses set aflame; Families torn apart; Captives being dragged off, suffering the shock of seeing the blood of their loved ones flowing through the streets.

The trauma of this year would be enough to bring people to tears for the next 2.5 thousand years (and counting).

It was a bad year.

There is something quite surprising though, about the aftermath of these events that I want to show you.

First, let's take a look at how our Ancient Histories portray some of these final moments, and here's the question I want to have in mind: Who is responsible for the horrors of 586?

The End

(א) וַיְהִי֩ בִשְׁנַ֨ת הַתְּשִׁיעִ֜ית לְמָלְכ֗וֹ בַּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי֮ בֶּעָשׂ֣וֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ֒ בָּ֠א נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּ֨ר מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֜ל ה֧וּא וְכָל־חֵיל֛וֹ עַל־יְרוּשָׁלִַ֖ם וַיִּ֣חַן עָלֶ֑יהָ וַיִּבְנ֥וּ עָלֶ֖יהָ דָּיֵ֥ק סָבִֽיב׃ (ב) וַתָּבֹ֥א הָעִ֖יר בַּמָּצ֑וֹר עַ֚ד עַשְׁתֵּ֣י עֶשְׂרֵ֣ה שָׁנָ֔ה לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ צִדְקִיָּֽהוּ׃


(ח) וּבַחֹ֤דֶשׁ הַֽחֲמִישִׁי֙ בְּשִׁבְעָ֣ה לַחֹ֔דֶשׁ הִ֗יא שְׁנַת֙ תְּשַֽׁע־עֶשְׂרֵ֣ה שָׁנָ֔ה לַמֶּ֖לֶךְ נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּ֣ר מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֑ל בָּ֞א נְבוּזַרְאֲדָ֧ן רַב־טַבָּחִ֛ים עֶ֥בֶד מֶֽלֶךְ־בָּבֶ֖ל יְרוּשָׁלִָֽם׃ (ט) וַיִּשְׂרֹ֥ף אֶת־בֵּית־יְהוָ֖ה וְאֶת־בֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וְאֵ֨ת כָּל־בָּתֵּ֧י יְרוּשָׁלִַ֛ם וְאֶת־כָּל־בֵּ֥ית גָּד֖וֹל שָׂרַ֥ף בָּאֵֽשׁ׃

(1) And in the ninth year of his reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar moved against Jerusalem with his whole army. He besieged it; and they built towers against it all around. (2) The city continued in a state of siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.


(8) On the seventh day of the fifth month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the chief of the guards, an officer of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. (9) He burned the House of YHWH, the king’s palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down the house of every notable person.

So? Who's the villain here?

It seems pretty clear here that the answer would be Nebuchadnezzar.

This isn't too surprising. Nebuchadnezzar was the "Big Bad Guy" of the beginning of the 6th century BCE. His father, Nebopelassar, was at one point merely an official in in the Neo-Assyrian Empire (they were the ones who exiled the Northerners in the 8th century BCE). When the last of the Neo-Assyrian emperors died, there was great instability for about 5 years, until Nebopelassar would emerge triumphant in 626, establishing a new family-dynasty and a new empire; the Babylonians.

Under Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians were strong enough to expect any and all kingdoms throughout the ancient near east to show fealty and pay tribute, in exchange for safety.

This was an offer that couldn't be refused. Unfortunately for the Judeans, their king at the time didn't realize this:

Big Mistake

(א) בְּיָמָ֣יו עָלָ֔ה נְבֻכַדְנֶאצַּ֖ר מֶ֣לֶךְ בָּבֶ֑ל וַיְהִי־ל֨וֹ יְהוֹיָקִ֥ים עֶ֙בֶד֙ שָׁלֹ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֔ים וַיָּ֖שָׁב וַיִּמְרָד־בּֽוֹ׃

(1) In his days, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up, and [King] Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years.

Then he turned and rebelled against him.

After the destruction, on their way to exile, some of the surviving Judeans would be sitting around by a riverside, bewailing their fate. And to their dismay, their Babylonian captors thought they would have a little fun, taunting the Judeans and asking them to sing, ironically, of their All-Powerful and Ever-Vigilante YHWH.

One of these Judeans memorialized this moment in a poem, in which he opens up with a description of the setting:

An unreasonable request

(א) עַ֥ל נַהֲר֨וֹת ׀ בָּבֶ֗ל שָׁ֣ם יָ֭שַׁבְנוּ גַּם־בָּכִ֑ינוּ בְּ֝זָכְרֵ֗נוּ אֶת־צִיּֽוֹן׃

(1) By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat, sat and wept, as we thought of Zion. (2) There on the poplars we hung up our lyres, (3) for our captors asked us there for songs, our tormentors, for amusement, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”

It is in the lament that follows, however, when things take a very strange turn:

Never Forget

(ד) אֵ֗יךְ נָשִׁ֥יר אֶת־שִׁיר־יְהוָ֑ה עַ֝֗ל אַדְמַ֥ת נֵכָֽר׃ (ה) אִֽם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵ֥ךְ יְֽרוּשָׁלִָ֗ם תִּשְׁכַּ֥ח יְמִינִֽי׃ (ו) תִּדְבַּ֥ק־לְשׁוֹנִ֨י ׀ לְחִכִּי֮ אִם־לֹ֪א אֶ֫זְכְּרֵ֥כִי אִם־לֹ֣א אַ֭עֲלֶה אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַ֑ם עַ֝֗ל רֹ֣אשׁ שִׂמְחָתִֽי׃ (ז) זְכֹ֤ר יְהוָ֨ה ׀ לִבְנֵ֬י אֱד֗וֹם אֵת֮ י֤וֹם יְֽרוּשָׁ֫לִָ֥ם הָ֭אֹ֣מְרִים עָ֤רוּ ׀ עָ֑רוּ עַ֝֗ד הַיְס֥וֹד בָּֽהּ׃ (ח) בַּת־בָּבֶ֗ל הַשְּׁד֫וּדָ֥ה אַשְׁרֵ֥י שֶׁיְשַׁלֶּם־לָ֑ךְ אֶת־גְּ֝מוּלֵ֗ךְ שֶׁגָּמַ֥לְתְּ לָֽנוּ׃ (ט) אַשְׁרֵ֤י ׀ שֶׁיֹּאחֵ֓ז וְנִפֵּ֬ץ אֶֽת־עֹ֝לָלַ֗יִךְ אֶל־הַסָּֽלַע׃

(4) How can we sing a song of YHWH on alien soil?

(5) If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither; (6) let my tongue stick to my palate if I cease to think of you, if I do not keep Jerusalem in memory even at my happiest hour.

(7) Remember, O YHWH, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem’s fall; how they cried, “Strip her, strip her to her very foundations!”

(8) Fair Babylon, you predator, a blessing on him who repays you in kind what you have inflicted on us!

Does anything strike you as strange here?

How about the fact that whoever crafted this lament, for some reason, expresses bitterness at Edom (?????) !!! But where did this come from! Shouldn't the anger be directed at those Babylonians?

This is very strange indeed. Why express anger at Edom for something that the Babylonians did, as the poet goes on to conclude?

Well, look carefully at exactly what is said about Edom here. What are they doing?

Remember the Edomites, how they cried "Strip her! Strip her, all the way to her foundations!"

So the Edomites are not participating in the destruction; But they are standing by on the sidelines - and they seem to be watching gleefully, egging on the Babylonians as they lay waste to everything that Judah holds dear!

If this is indeed true, that Edom had acted thusly, it does make sense that Judah would be beyond bitter, sometimes perhaps even more bitter with Edom than the Babylonians. For, while it is true that Edom and Judah were in conflict throughout much of their histories, they did see each other as brethren.

Let's take a moment to retrace this. A passage in Genesis takes great pains to get the point across that the Edomites emerged from Esau:

(א) וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְד֥וֹת עֵשָׂ֖ו ה֥וּא אֱדֽוֹם׃ (ב) עֵשָׂ֛ו לָקַ֥ח אֶת־נָשָׁ֖יו מִבְּנ֣וֹת כְּנָ֑עַן אֶת־עָדָ֗ה בַּת־אֵילוֹן֙ הַֽחִתִּ֔י וְאֶת־אָהֳלִֽיבָמָה֙ בַּת־עֲנָ֔ה בַּת־צִבְע֖וֹן הַֽחִוִּֽי׃


(ח) וַיֵּ֤שֶׁב עֵשָׂו֙ בְּהַ֣ר שֵׂעִ֔יר עֵשָׂ֖ו ה֥וּא אֱדֽוֹם׃ (ט) וְאֵ֛לֶּה תֹּלְד֥וֹת עֵשָׂ֖ו אֲבִ֣י אֱד֑וֹם בְּהַ֖ר שֵׂעִֽיר׃ (י) אֵ֖לֶּה שְׁמ֣וֹת בְּנֵֽי־עֵשָׂ֑ו אֱלִיפַ֗ז בֶּן־עָדָה֙ אֵ֣שֶׁת עֵשָׂ֔ו רְעוּאֵ֕ל בֶּן־בָּשְׂמַ֖ת אֵ֥שֶׁת עֵשָֽׂו׃


(יט) אֵ֧לֶּה בְנֵי־עֵשָׂ֛ו וְאֵ֥לֶּה אַלּוּפֵיהֶ֖ם ה֥וּא אֱדֽוֹם׃ (ס)

(1) This is the line of Esau—that is, Edom. (2) Esau took his wives from among the Canaanite women—


(8) So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir—Esau being Edom. (9) This, then, is the line of Esau, the ancestor of the Edomites, in the hill country of Seir. (10) These are the names of Esau’s sons:


(19) Those were the sons of Esau—that is, Edom—and those are their clans.

Okay okay, we get it already! - Esau is the father of Edom!

This is significant, because, well, the forefathers of these two nations were twins!

Here is the moment of their birth. If you're able to, take a peek at the Hebrew and keep your eyes open for a nod to the future Edomites.


(כה) וַיֵּצֵ֤א הָרִאשׁוֹן֙ אַדְמוֹנִ֔י כֻּלּ֖וֹ כְּאַדֶּ֣רֶת שֵׂעָ֑ר וַיִּקְרְא֥וּ שְׁמ֖וֹ עֵשָֽׂו׃ (כו) וְאַֽחֲרֵי־כֵ֞ן יָצָ֣א אָחִ֗יו וְיָד֤וֹ אֹחֶ֙זֶת֙ בַּעֲקֵ֣ב עֵשָׂ֔ו וַיִּקְרָ֥א שְׁמ֖וֹ יַעֲקֹ֑ב וְיִצְחָ֛ק בֶּן־שִׁשִּׁ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה בְּלֶ֥דֶת אֹתָֽם׃

(24) When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb. (25) The first one emerged red, like a hairy mantle all over; so they named him Esau. (26) Then his brother emerged, holding on to the heel of Esau; so they named him Jacob.

below: Can you tell who is whom?

Did you find the "Edomite" reference? Hint - How do you say "red" in Hebrew? ---- Edom!

This is not the only narrative though, that connects, by way of puns, the figure Esau to the Edomite people.

Here is another hugely defining moment in the brothers' lives:

(כט) וַיָּ֥זֶד יַעֲקֹ֖ב נָזִ֑יד וַיָּבֹ֥א עֵשָׂ֛ו מִן־הַשָּׂדֶ֖ה וְה֥וּא עָיֵֽף׃ (ל) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֗ב הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי נָא֙ מִן־הָאָדֹ֤ם הָאָדֹם֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֥י עָיֵ֖ף אָנֹ֑כִי עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱדֽוֹם׃

(29) Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished.

(30) And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red red stuff [ha-adom ha-adom] to gulp down, for I am famished”—which is why he was named Edom.

Very interesting. In the same book, in the same chapter, we get two completely different etymological explanations as to why Esau's descendants would come to be known as the "Edomites," or "the Red ones."

In the first case, it was because Esau, himself, looked red from birth. While here in our second case, it is because he exchanged his birthright for some "red red stuff."

If you continue reading their story in the book Genesis, you'll see that these brothers were not always on the best of turns. (Admittedly, that's quite an understatement!)

(מא) וַיִּשְׂטֹ֤ם עֵשָׂו֙ אֶֽת־יַעֲקֹ֔ב עַל־הַ֨בְּרָכָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר בֵּרֲכ֖וֹ אָבִ֑יו וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו בְּלִבּ֗וֹ יִקְרְבוּ֙ יְמֵי֙ אֵ֣בֶל אָבִ֔י וְאַֽהַרְגָ֖ה אֶת־יַעֲקֹ֥ב אָחִֽי׃

(41) Now Esau harbored a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing which his father had given him, and Esau said to himself, “Let but the mourning period of my father come, and I will kill my brother Jacob.”

(42) When the words of her older son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is consoling himself by planning to kill you.

But despite all of this, after a long time apart, long enough for them to reach manhood and build their respective families, they ultimately make amends when they finally reunite! (Or do they?):

At long-last

(ד) וַיָּ֨רָץ עֵשָׂ֤ו לִקְרָאתוֹ֙ וַֽיְחַבְּקֵ֔הוּ וַיִּפֹּ֥ל עַל־צַוָּארָ֖ו וַׄיִּׄשָּׁׄקֵ֑ׄהׄוּׄ וַיִּבְכּֽוּ׃


(יב) וַיֹּ֖אמֶר נִסְעָ֣ה וְנֵלֵ֑כָה וְאֵלְכָ֖ה לְנֶגְדֶּֽךָ׃ (יג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֵלָ֗יו אֲדֹנִ֤י יֹדֵ֙עַ֙ כִּֽי־הַיְלָדִ֣ים רַכִּ֔ים וְהַצֹּ֥אן וְהַבָּקָ֖ר עָל֣וֹת עָלָ֑י וּדְפָקוּם֙ י֣וֹם אֶחָ֔ד וָמֵ֖תוּ כָּל־הַצֹּֽאן׃ (יד) יַעֲבָר־נָ֥א אֲדֹנִ֖י לִפְנֵ֣י עַבְדּ֑וֹ וַאֲנִ֞י אֶֽתְנָהֲלָ֣ה לְאִטִּ֗י לְרֶ֨גֶל הַמְּלָאכָ֤ה אֲשֶׁר־לְפָנַי֙ וּלְרֶ֣גֶל הַיְלָדִ֔ים עַ֛ד אֲשֶׁר־אָבֹ֥א אֶל־אֲדֹנִ֖י שֵׂעִֽירָה׃ (טו) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר עֵשָׂ֔ו אַצִּֽיגָה־נָּ֣א עִמְּךָ֔ מִן־הָעָ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתִּ֑י וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לָ֣מָּה זֶּ֔ה אֶמְצָא־חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י אֲדֹנִֽי׃ (טז) וַיָּשָׁב֩ בַּיּ֨וֹם הַה֥וּא עֵשָׂ֛ו לְדַרְכּ֖וֹ שֵׂעִֽירָה׃ (יז) וְיַעֲקֹב֙ נָסַ֣ע סֻכֹּ֔תָה וַיִּ֥בֶן ל֖וֹ בָּ֑יִת וּלְמִקְנֵ֙הוּ֙ עָשָׂ֣ה סֻכֹּ֔ת עַל־כֵּ֛ן קָרָ֥א שֵׁם־הַמָּק֖וֹם סֻכּֽוֹת׃

(4) Esau ran to greet him. He embraced him and, falling on his neck, he kissed him; and they wept.


(12) And [Esau] said, “Let us start on our journey, and I will proceed at your pace.”

(13) But he said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail and that the flocks and herds, which are nursing, are a care to me; if they are driven hard a single day, all the flocks will die. (14) Let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I travel slowly, at the pace of the cattle before me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”

(15) Then Esau said, “Let me assign to you some of the men who are with me.”

But he said, “Oh no, my lord is too kind to me!” (16) So Esau started back that day on his way to Seir.

I don't know about you, but I personally find it curious as to why Jacob was unwilling to travel together with Esau? What do you think? Could Jacob have been suspicious as to the Esau's sincerity, and therefore fearing for his life?

The answer Jacob actually gives kind of seems like a cop-out. But if it is, I can't think of another answer more compelling than the explanation above.

Just as the relationship between Jacob and Esau was... complicated... so too was the relationship over the years between their descendants, the Judeans and Edomites; Sometimes enemies (eg. 1 Sam. 14) and sometimes friends (eg. 2 Kings 3).

But however fraught it was, at the end of the day, Judah's perception of its relationship with Edom was that they were brothers.

And no one ever said it better, or more straight to the point, then Moses himself:

(ח) לֹֽא־תְתַעֵ֣ב אֲדֹמִ֔י כִּ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ ה֑וּא (ס) לֹא־תְתַעֵ֣ב מִצְרִ֔י כִּי־גֵ֖ר הָיִ֥יתָ בְאַרְצֽוֹ׃

(8) You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your kinsman.

Which is what, if there is any truth to that which is described in the lament-poem above, would make Edom's reaction to Judah's ultimate downfall that much more painful... and unforgiveable.

The lament-poem of Psalm 137 is not the only place where this anger emerges. We have a very short oracle from an ancient Judean prophet named Obadiah. Were this to be considered a "book," it would be the very shortest in the TaNaKh-collection, being no more than one chapter.

But it is as long as it needs to be, for it really only wants to speak to one thing. In its entirety, it is a revenge fantasy that the prophet paints of Edom's future downfall, as a consequence of how she had mistreated Judah back in 586.

Let's look at the first few lines:

Don't even try it

(א) חֲז֖וֹן עֹֽבַדְיָ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַר֩ אֲדֹנָ֨י יְהוִ֜ה לֶאֱד֗וֹם שְׁמוּעָ֨ה שָׁמַ֜עְנוּ מֵאֵ֤ת יְהוָה֙ וְצִיר֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֣ם שֻׁלָּ֔ח ק֛וּמוּ וְנָק֥וּמָה עָלֶיהָ לַמִּלְחָמָֽה׃ (ב) הִנֵּ֥ה קָטֹ֛ן נְתַתִּ֖יךָ בַּגּוֹיִ֑ם בָּז֥וּי אַתָּ֖ה מְאֹֽד׃ (ג) זְד֤וֹן לִבְּךָ֙ הִשִּׁיאֶ֔ךָ שֹׁכְנִ֥י בְחַגְוֵי־סֶּ֖לַע מְר֣וֹם שִׁבְתּ֑וֹ אֹמֵ֣ר בְּלִבּ֔וֹ מִ֥י יוֹרִדֵ֖נִי אָֽרֶץ׃ (ד) אִם־תַּגְבִּ֣יהַּ כַּנֶּ֔שֶׁר וְאִם־בֵּ֥ין כּֽוֹכָבִ֖ים שִׂ֣ים קִנֶּ֑ךָ מִשָּׁ֥ם אוֹרִֽידְךָ֖ נְאֻם־יְהוָֽה׃

(1) Thus said Lord YHWH!, regarding Edom:

We have received tidings from YHWH, and an envoy has been sent out among the nations: “Up! Let us rise up against her for battle.”

(2) Look! I will make you least among nations, You shall be most despised. (3) Your arrogant heart has seduced you, You who dwell in clefts of the rock, In your lofty abode. You think in your heart, “Who can pull me down to earth?” (4) Should you nest as high as the eagle, Should your eyrie be lodged ’mong the stars, Even from there I will pull you down —declares the YHWH!

What seems to be happening is that the prophet Obdadia is granted a vision of a proclamation that is making its way throughout the world, proclaiming that the nations are to prepare for battle, everyone being marshaled against solely Edom.

But then we then get a shift in perspective; As the nations start heeding the call, we see YHWH himself turning to Edom, with a message that is utterly terrifying:

You can run, but you most definitely cannot hide. Even if you make it all the way up to the very heavens, I will drag you back down.

In conversation once about the various genres in the TaNaKah-works, someone suggested horror, citing the lion-fanged locusts of the prophet Joel as his reason. (Gosh, remember those? Here's the link to our limmud if you want to revisit it, but don't blame me for any nightmares: )

Well, I think this passage, in Obdaiah, is yet another reason that the horror section is a reasonable suggestion.

The first place YHWH mentions that the Edomites might fruitlessly try to hide in this passage is amongst the rocks.

This is quite a common "protection-image" throughout the works in the TaNaKh.

Here's a nice example from Isaiah 32:

Sheltering Rocks

(א) הֵ֥ן לְצֶ֖דֶק יִמְלָךְ־מֶ֑לֶךְ וּלְשָׂרִ֖ים לְמִשְׁפָּ֥ט יָשֹֽׂרוּ׃ (ב) וְהָיָה־אִ֥ישׁ כְּמַֽחֲבֵא־ר֖וּחַ וְסֵ֣תֶר זָ֑רֶם כְּפַלְגֵי־מַ֣יִם בְּצָי֔וֹן כְּצֵ֥ל סֶֽלַע־כָּבֵ֖ד בְּאֶ֥רֶץ עֲיֵפָֽה׃

(1) Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, And ministers shall govern with justice;

(2) Every one of them shall be Like a refuge from gales, A shelter from rainstorms; Like brooks of water in a desert, Like the shade of a massive rock In a languishing land.

But, as is always the case when it comes to the ancient Judean and Israelite prophets, there is more here than meets the eye.

Note Obadiah's choice of his word for "rock" in the Hebrew - Sela. (And the same word appears in Isaiah above.)

But "selah" mean something else to the ancient Judeans, as well.

Check out this map. Look carefully!

See anything interesting? There is a city literally named Sela all the way to the north of the Edomite territory!

So on one hand, while YHWH is certainly saying that there is no hope for Edom even if she hides amongst the crags of the rocks, he is also saying something along the lines of, I know Edomite territory. I know you might try to take refuge in your city, Selah. And I'll find you there.

But there's more where this came from! For Obadiah continues:

(ה) אִם־גַּנָּבִ֤ים בָּאֽוּ־לְךָ֙ אִם־שׁ֣וֹדְדֵי לַ֔יְלָה אֵ֣יךְ נִדְמֵ֔יתָה הֲל֥וֹא יִגְנְב֖וּ דַּיָּ֑ם אִם־בֹּֽצְרִים֙ בָּ֣אוּ לָ֔ךְ הֲל֖וֹא יַשְׁאִ֥ירוּ עֹלֵלֽוֹת׃

(5) If thieves were to come to you, Marauders by night, How you have been destroyed! - For would they not steal all they want?

If grape-harvesters would come, would they not leave gleanings???

What's most interesting in this passage here, for our purposes, is Obadiah's use of grape-harvesters to refer to people who would come in and pillage the Edomites. What is this term in Hebrew? ----Botsrim.

Well, go ahead and take a look at our Edomite map again! What do you notice? (Major hint: Look right next to Sela.)

YHWH is hinting, by way of puns, at his familiarity with Edomite terrain and geography. The Edomites might have thought that they would have home-turf advantage if YHWH would venture to sally forth against them.

YHWH's response? Think again.

Later on in Obadiah's oracle, YHWH begins to recount why it is that he is so furious with Edom. Well, we already saw a hint of this in the anonymous lament-poem, composed by the Babylonian river.

Here is Obadiah's take:

On that day...

(י) מֵחֲמַ֛ס אָחִ֥יךָ יַעֲקֹ֖ב תְּכַסְּךָ֣ בוּשָׁ֑ה וְנִכְרַ֖תָּ לְעוֹלָֽם׃ (יא) בְּיוֹם֙ עֲמָֽדְךָ֣ מִנֶּ֔גֶד בְּי֛וֹם שְׁב֥וֹת זָרִ֖ים חֵיל֑וֹ וְנָכְרִ֞ים בָּ֣אוּ שערו [שְׁעָרָ֗יו] וְעַל־יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ יַדּ֣וּ גוֹרָ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֖ה כְּאַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם׃ (יב) וְאַל־תֵּ֤רֶא בְיוֹם־אָחִ֙יךָ֙ בְּי֣וֹם נָכְר֔וֹ וְאַל־תִּשְׂמַ֥ח לִבְנֵֽי־יְהוּדָ֖ה בְּי֣וֹם אָבְדָ֑ם וְאַל־תַּגְדֵּ֥ל פִּ֖יךָ בְּי֥וֹם צָרָֽה׃ (יג) אַל־תָּב֤וֹא בְשַֽׁעַר־עַמִּי֙ בְּי֣וֹם אֵידָ֔ם אַל־תֵּ֧רֶא גַם־אַתָּ֛ה בְּרָעָת֖וֹ בְּי֣וֹם אֵיד֑וֹ וְאַל־תִּשְׁלַ֥חְנָה בְחֵיל֖וֹ בְּי֥וֹם אֵידֽוֹ׃ (יד) וְאַֽל־תַּעֲמֹד֙ עַל־הַפֶּ֔רֶק לְהַכְרִ֖ית אֶת־פְּלִיטָ֑יו וְאַל־תַּסְגֵּ֥ר שְׂרִידָ֖יו בְּי֥וֹם צָרָֽה׃ (טו) כִּֽי־קָר֥וֹב יוֹם־יְהוָ֖ה עַל־כָּל־הַגּוֹיִ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֤ר עָשִׂ֙יתָ֙ יֵעָ֣שֶׂה לָּ֔ךְ גְּמֻלְךָ֖ יָשׁ֥וּב בְּרֹאשֶֽׁךָ׃

(10) For the outrage to your brother Jacob, Disgrace shall engulf you, And you shall perish forever.

(11) On that day when you stood aloof, When aliens carried off his goods, When foreigners entered his gates And cast lots for Jerusalem, you were as one of them!

(12) You should not have gazed with glee On your brother that day, On his day of calamity!

You should not have gloated over the people of Judah On that day of ruin! You should not have loudly jeered On a day of anguish!

(13) You should not have entered the gate of My people On its day of disaster, Gazed in glee with the others On its misfortune On its day of disaster, And lay hands on its wealth On its day of disaster!

(14) You should not have stood at the passes To cut down its fugitives! You should not have betrayed those who fled On that day of anguish!

(15) For the Day-of-YHWH is nearing upon ALL of the nations! Just as you did, so shall it be done to you; Your conduct shall be requited.


If there was any confusion as to why Edom was so deserving of YHWH's anger, well, it's made pretty clear here.

This basically takes what warranted but one comment in the lament-poem above, and expands it completely, going into much more detail.

So what did Edom to on that day? Let's list them:

  • Stood aloof (didn't help);
  • Cast lots for Jerusalem (looked forward to claiming the land for themselves);
  • Gazed with glee;
  • Gloated;
  • Jeered;
  • Collected the spoils;
  • Cut down the fugitives

I didn't notice this as I was reading through Obadiah the first time around - but now that I have all of YHWH's criticisms arranged in bullet-points, it really seems like there is narrative progression, beginning with Edom's mere watching, then becoming continuously more active before finally participating completeley in the murder and mayhem by the end.

(Do you see this, too?)

Note also the recurring refrain, the emphasis that this all occurred on that day.

Any thoughts about why Obadiah mentions this again, and again, and again? Don't we know what day he's speaking about after even the first mention?

I'm not entirely sure I understand what the intended rhetorical effect of this is - but we've seen something like it before! Back when we looked into one of Zecharia's oracles in A Day Is Coming... (Here is the link: .

Here is how that limmud began:

A day is coming...

If there is anything we can be sure of upon reading the last chapter of the oracles of Zecharia, it is this statement above.

He announces this with his opening words, and will then continue to, well basically, just about beat us over the head with it, over and over and over and over again. By the end of this chapter, we will have heard the word "day" at least a dozen times, and the phrase "And on that day" - ביום ההוא - seven times.

There are other places where this occurs as well. Take a look, for example, at chapter 7 of the oracles of Isaiah, and you'll repeatedly encounter the line On that day. So I find it interesting that, when speaking about a day of significance, be it in the future as in Zechariah, or in the past as in Obadaiah, that they would hammer this idea home again and again.

I want to point out something strange that happens in verse 15. While we thought that Obadiah had been anticipating a day of judgement specifically for Edom, he suddenly includes all nations!

Why the shift, when it has bee so clear so far that it was specifically Edom who committed such betrayal?

I'm not sure I have a compelling answer to this question, but it does beg another:

Who is the "you" of verse 15? It it Edom? Or all the nations?

Here is the verse again:

For the Day-of-YHWH is nearing upon ALL of the nations! Just as you did, so shall it be done to you; Your conduct shall be requited.

I wonder if there is not a particular "you" in mind at all, but that this is YHWH expressing a universal principle, which these days we might say as, What goes around, comes around.

Or, if you are an ancient Israelite or Judean, you might prefer:

(כז) כֹּֽרֶה־שַּׁ֭חַת בָּ֣הּ יִפֹּ֑ל וְגֹ֥לֵ֥ל אֶ֝בֶן אֵלָ֥יו תָּשֽׁוּב׃

(27) He who digs a pit will fall in it, And whoever rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.

And while this individual ends up being rebuked for false council, perhaps Job's friend was on the right track when he said the following:

(ח) כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר רָ֭אִיתִי חֹ֣רְשֵׁי אָ֑וֶן וְזֹרְעֵ֖י עָמָ֣ל יִקְצְרֻֽהוּ׃

(8) As I have seen, those who plow evil And sow mischief reap them.

So back to Obadiah, perhaps the "you" in verse 15 could be directed generically to everyone.

What you intend for others, so shall it happen to you.

Unfortunately for Edom, they intended for wicked, so they are now reaping what they themselves had sown.

Obadiah goes on:

(טז) כִּ֗י כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֤ר שְׁתִיתֶם֙ עַל־הַ֣ר קָדְשִׁ֔י יִשְׁתּ֥וּ כָֽל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם תָּמִ֑יד וְשָׁת֣וּ וְלָע֔וּ וְהָי֖וּ כְּל֥וֹא הָיֽוּ׃ (יז) וּבְהַ֥ר צִיּ֛וֹן תִּהְיֶ֥ה פְלֵיטָ֖ה וְהָ֣יָה קֹ֑דֶשׁ וְיָֽרְשׁוּ֙ בֵּ֣ית יַֽעֲקֹ֔ב אֵ֖ת מוֹרָֽשֵׁיהֶם׃

(16) That same cup that you drank on My Holy Mount Shall all nations drink evermore, drink and babble, and be as if they had never been.

(17) But on Zion’s mount a remnant shall survive, And it shall be holy. The House of Jacob shall dispossess Those who dispossessed them.

I want to share just two thoughts on these lines. Firstly, read through verse 16 in Hebrew if you can, and you might pick up, as Robert Alter points out, an untranslatable pun.

Secondly, here is a nice comment from Bob Utley's (wonderful!) You Can Understand the Bible Commentary Series (2014):

The verb “to be” is repeated twice in [verse 16] and twice more in [verse 17]. It is a role reversal emphasis. Edom was, but will cease to exist. Israel, though on the verge of non-existence, will blossom again!

Like Robert Alter's point, this one can only really be appreciated if you read the Hebrew. It's well-worth it!

The last few lines of Obadiah's oracle is on a a note of triumph. (For Judah, that is. Not, unsurprisingly for Edom.)

I want to just look at the very last line:

(כא) וְעָל֤וּ מֽוֹשִׁעִים֙ בְּהַ֣ר צִיּ֔וֹן לִשְׁפֹּ֖ט אֶת־הַ֣ר עֵשָׂ֑ו וְהָיְתָ֥ה לַֽיהוָ֖ה הַמְּלוּכָֽה׃

(21) For liberators shall march up on Mount Zion to wreak judgment on Mount Esau; and kingship shall be YHWH's.

Here's a comment from the Jewish Study Bible commentary:

In other words, at that time [YHWH] will be manifest (in Israel and in the entire world) as the king. In this case, Obadiah, like Deutero-Isaiah, is imagining an ideal future in which a Davidic messiah plays no role.

Interesting! What do you make of this reading? Do you think that by saying YHWH is king, this precludes there also being some kind of human king as well? Can both possibly be true?

Personally, I tend to be with the JSB commentary on this one. In fact, a long way back, we looked at this in more depth during our The Messiah Reimagined limmud. Here's the link if you want to revisit it:

And there you have it, that is the entirety of the oracles that we have from Obadiah! When's the last time you ever studied a whole book of the TaNaKh?

(We skipped a few verses here and there, but you basically saw the whole thing.)

And as it turns out, there is a sequel to all of this!

For the Herald of Zion, a much-later prophet, invites us into his mind as he actually sees a vision of YHWH returning from having exacted the vengeance that Obadiah was hoping for. And we even already looked at this in-depth, in our Glory! Glory, Hallelu-Ya! limmud :

In closing, I want to just take a moment to acknowledge that this oracle is fraught with difficulties for us. The extent of the intensity of Obadiah's anger towards Edom, for us, is shocking, as we encounter it so far removed from his reality and his experience. But it is important to recognize that Obadiah was not alone in this, as we see from the Herald of Zion and the lament-poem above.

But, as hopefully you have come to notice and appreciate, our prophets and poets of yore were most definitely not always so vengeance-focused. So I'd like to leave us on a positive note, just to act as a counter to all of the fury in Obadiah.

There are SO MANY passages to choose from. This one comes from a beautiful prayer-poem-hymn, Psalm 145:

(ח) חַנּ֣וּן וְרַח֣וּם יְהוָ֑ה אֶ֥רֶךְ אַ֝פַּ֗יִם וּגְדָל־חָֽסֶד׃ (ט) טוֹב־יְהוָ֥ה לַכֹּ֑ל וְ֝רַחֲמָ֗יו עַל־כָּל־מַעֲשָֽׂיו׃

(8) YHWH is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in kindness.

(9) YHWH is good to all, and his mercy is upon all His works.

Israelites and Judeans believed, so deeply, in the eternal truth of verses such as those quoted here, and they celebrated YHWH for being good, compassionate, and merciful to ALL, often and loudly.

That doesn't mean that there would never have been an appropriate context in which a voice like Obadiah's could emerge, a voice of heartbreak and betrayal and fury; But I think such moments should, and most definitely were, tempered or balanced with the conviction that everyone - Judean and Edomite alike (and beyond!) - has access to the ability tap into YHWH's goodness and his love, if only we reach out with a sincere and a deeply yearning heart.