Let’s continue with scenes of judgment from Obadiah. People are being cut off and dismayed; at least we don’t have the verbs yet for hacking to pieces though, come to think of it, let’s just start with it. “Hewing” or “hacking to pieces” is, thankfully, an OT hapax, and we really aren’t sure precisely what it means, but it is what the Prophet Samuel does to Agag. Samuel is a multi-talented prophet, anointing some, rejecting others, hacking others to pieces, receiving visions from God, faithfully serving Eli. Well, in I Sam. 15:33 we have the verb שָׁסַף (shasaph), and everyone translates it as “hewing” or “hacking to pieces,” so I will go along with that. Back to Obadiah 10.
Obadiah 10: “For the violence of/toward your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.”
Well, we don’t have to do “cut off” (karath) but we will add the noun form of “shame” (בּוּשָׁה, bushah). We want to examine “violence” and “Jacob” (well, let’s just quickly dispense with it: יַעֲקֹב, Yaakov) and “cover” and “forever.” Each of these will no doubt lead to other words. Let’s begin with chamas (חָמָס, “violence”). It is the name of a contemporary group in the Middle East (Hamas), but the word has a richness in its multiple Biblical appearances. The verb חָמַס (chamas), is transliterated identically.
Let’s begin with chamas the noun. It appears 60x in the Bible; one of the references is in Ps. 55:9, where the author talks about seeing (raah) violence (chamas) and “strife” (רִיב, rib) in the city (iyr, which we have already seen). One also has the verb rib (רִיב), which means to “bring into judgment” or “bring a lawsuit.” Another verse with chamas is Job 19:7, “If I cry out ‘violence,’ I am not heard.” The “if” is really “lo/alas” and is הֵ֤ן (hen). “Cry out” is a very common experience in the Bible, and here it is captured by the verb צָעַק, tsaaq. Perhaps the most memorable verse in the Bible using “cry out” is Jeremiah’s plaintive cry to God, “For when I spoke, I cried out, ‘Violence and destruction. . .” In this case the verb for speak is the common דָבַר (dabar), but then “cry out” is a close relative of tsaaq; it is zaaq (זָעַק). The thing that he cries out is “violence” (chamas) and “destruction” (שֹׁד, shod). We have already run into the verb shadad, “to destroy,” and the noun shadudi, meaning “robbers.”
This is enough violence for a moment. Let’s now move to the verb for “cover” (“Shame covers you”). The verb “cover” is kasah (כָּסָה) and is immensely useful. In Gen. 7:20 we have the waters (mayim, already seen this) which cover (kasah) the mountains (har, already seen). A few verses later Rebekah “covers” (kasah) herself with a veil (צָעִיף, tsaiph). One more example will have to suffice: where the sons of Noah, to cover his nakedness after he gets drunk, “walk (halak; הָלַךְ) backwards (אֲחֹרַנִּית, achorannith) and cover (kasah) his nakedness (עֶרְוָה, ervah). What wonderful progress we are making—already 16 new words.
The final concept of Obadiah 10 is being cut off “forever” (עוֹלָם, olam). Olam is really a bit more tricky than that. It frequently appears with a preposition, either the le/me and thus can mean “forever” or “from of old,” but when it appears without the preposition it often just means “everlasting” or “eternal.” For example, God announces to Abraham in Gen. 17:19 an eternal (olam) covenant (berith) for his “descendants/seed” (זֶרַע, zera) “after” (אַחַר, achar) him. In Ex. 12:17 we have a law being given to “your generations” (word is dor, which we have seen) as a “permanent (olam) ordinance” (חֻקָּה, chuqqah). Chuqqah is simply the feminine form of choq (חֹק, law/ordinance/statute). Interestingly enough, the verb that stands behind these two nouns is chaqaq (חָקַק) and means to “inscribe” or “cut in.” Yet, the passages in which chaqaq appears almost always render it as “lawgiver/scepter/commander.” Don’t know why if it is a verb that the majority of its references are to the types of people. But its use as a verb is in the unforgettable passage from Job 19:23 where he wishes that his words were inscribed (chaqaq) in a book (סֵפֶר, sepher).
The prophecy of Obadiah is basically an attack on Edom for attacking Israel. God is certainly going to judge them, destroy them, do all kinds of bad things to them. We are learning a nice vocabulary of destruction, dismay, cutting off, deception and beguilement. That, as I have come to believe, is really the message of the Scriptures. There may be a passage here or there about the divine love and care for His people, but the stronger message is how God is going to clobber people—both his own people who don’t honor him as they should and then enemies who have attacked God’s people or just for some reason have ticked God off. That is what the study of sacred documents often revolves around—destruction. There are occasional “breaks’ where there are words of encouragement, love , fidelity or even some riveting and unforgettable stories, but for some reason the deafening voice I hear these days is destruction. About 23 new words.
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