Avraham ben Yaakov


The rabbis taught that Obadiah was a GER TZEDEK (righteous convert) from Edom (Sanhedrin 39b) - he was a descendant of Eliphaz the Teimanite, the companion of Job (Yalkut Shimoni) - and that he received Torah from Elijah the Prophet. Obadiah prophesied in the time of Ahab king of Israel and Yehoshaphat king of Judah . He lived in the kingdom of Israel under the rule of Ahab and Jezebel - he was Ahab's chamberlain - yet he resisted their evil influence. The rabbis pointed out that whereas Abraham was described only as "fearing God" (Genesis 22:12), Obadiah was characterized as "fearing God VERY MUCH" (I Kings 18:3; Sanhedrin 39b). Although prophesy normally rested only on those of Israelite lineage, Obadiah attained prophesy in the merit of his self-sacrifice to save the true prophets whom Jezebel sought to kill. He hid one hundred prophets in two caves and after using up his own considerable wealth to feed them, he borrowed on interest from King Yehoram, signing over his own children as collateral for the loan (II Kings 4:1).

Obadiah's prophecy relates mainly to the nation from which he came: Edom . "The Holy One blessed be He said: Let one who dwelled between two villains (Ahab and Jezebel) yet did not learn from their deeds come to prophesy against Esau, who dwelled between two Tzaddikim (Isaac and Rebecca) and did not learn from their deeds". Obadiah's prophecy ends with the great salvation of Israel at the end of days and the revelation of God's glorious kingship over all the world.

The book of Obadiah is read as the Haftara of parshas VAYISHLAH speaking of Jacob's encounter with Esau and the latter's descendants.

Verse 1: "So says the Lord (ADNY) God (YKVK with nikud of Elokim)." As discussed in the commentary on Amos, the juncture of these two divine names alluding respectively to Malchus and Binah indicates that the destined fate of Edom is agreed by the Beis Din shel Matah (Malchus) in conjunction with the Beis Din shel Maalah (Binah). All the nations will eventually make war against Edom (Metzudas David).

Regarding the identity of Edom, RaDaK (on Obadiah 1:1) writes: "The land of Edom (south east of the Dead Sea) does not today belong to the children of Edom because the nations were mixed up and the majority are either Christian or Moslem and it is impossible to recognize which of them comes from Edom, Moab, Ammon or the other ancient nations, because they all went into exile from their lands and became mixed up with the other nations. But Rome was initially mostly made up of Edomites. When the prophets speak of the destruction of Edom , they were referring to what will happen at the end of days."

Verse 2: "I will make you small among the nations". Isaac and Rebecca both called Esau their "big" son (Genesis 27:1 & 15) but God says, "Before Me he is small" (Rashi). The rabbis taught that Edom is called "small" because they did not have their own script or language (Avodah Zara 10a). This fits in with RaDaK's teaching that the Edomites infiltrated other nations, presumably adopting their languages and alphabet. Thus Haman - from the seed of Amalek, who was Esau's illegitimate grandson - attained power in Persia [and his descendants appear to have gained power in Iran today as well as over other groups that promote the killing of Jews].

Verse 3: "Thou who dwellest in the clefts of the rock." Rashi explains that Edom leans on the "staff" of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, but they will not help him. Rashi also identifies the Hebrew word for "clefts", HAGVEY, with the word HAGA="destruction" (cf. Isaiah 19:17). Rashi renders the latter in Old French as BREITEINA. Whether this is a secret allusion identifying Edom with Britain is left for the reader to decide.

Verse 4: "Although you soar aloft like the eagle and though you set your nest among the stars, from there will I bring you down." The eagle was the emblem of the Roman and Byzantine empires as well as being the emblem of the U.S.A. [Does the prophecy that God will bring Edom down even from among the stars indicate that the American attempt to dominate outer space to ensure military superiority will eventually fail? China 's recent knocking out of a space satellite may presage this.]

Verse 5: "If thieves come to you and robbers by night, how come that you will be in a slumber (alternative rendering: cut off)?" Today the predominantly Edomite nations of Europe and America are suddenly beginning to wake up to the fact that vast numbers of foreign immigrants have entered their lands and are consuming their resources at a rate that is very alarming to their home-born citizens!

Verse 7: "All the men of your confederacy have driven you to the border.." Does this verse also allude to the way America 's allies have left her alone in the mire in Iraq ?

Verse 8-9: The leadership of the west does indeed today seem to have fallen into the hands of fools who seem bent on their own ultimate self-destruction.

Verse 10-11: "For your violence against your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you". The final destruction of Edom will come about in vengeance for the evil they perpetrated against Israel at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple . RaDaK (on v 11) writes that Titus and his forces who destroyed the Temple were Edomites, many of whom still lived in the land of Edom, and although they were under the power of Rome, the Roman rulers themselves were Edomites, and when Titus laid siege to Jerusalem the Edomites were delighted and did everything in their power to hand over Jewish fugitives to the Romans, whereas they should have come to their aid since they were their brothers.

"And foreigners entered his gates and cast lots upon Jerusalem , and you too were one of them." In our own times, Israel 's chief "allies", U.S.A. and Britain , are constantly pushing for a "settlement" that involves the division of Jerusalem .

Vv 12-14: Edom should not have stood from afar jubilantly witnessing Israel 's suffering.

Vv 15-16: God will requite the nations measure for measure.

V 17: In the end the House of Jacob will repossess all that the nations took from them and be restored to Zion .

V 18: Joseph will be the flame that sets fire to Esau's house of straw! It is the moral purity of Joseph - archetype of the Tzaddik - that will prevail over Esau. See Rashi on Genesis 37:1 for further explanation.

V 19: This verse prophecies that at the end of days, the people of Israel will inherit both the territories of Edom to the south east of Israel and also all of their own ancestral lands west and east of the River Jordan, including the territories that were not fully conquered in the days of Joshua and the Judges (see Metzudas David).

V 20: The cities of the south of Israel will be inherited by "this exiled host of the Children of Israel who are among the Canaanites as far as France and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Spain ". RaDaK (ad loc.) explains that "this exiled host" refers to the exiles that Titus took to Germany , France and Spain , and that it was the inhabitants of Jerusalem who went into exile in Spain , from where they spread out to other lands in the Roman Empire and to what are today Islamic lands. In other words, the Land of Israel will eventually be repossessed by Jews of both Ashkenazic (from France and Germany etc.) and Sephardic ( Spain , Islamic lands) backgrounds. This prophecy has been realized within our lifetimes. RaDaK also brings a tradition that the inhabitants of Germany were the Canaanites who fled from their land in the time of Joshua. This adds the profoundest historical irony to the fact that Germany started the Holocaust.

And in the end of days, "Liberators shall ascend upon Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau , and the kingdom shall be God's".




By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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