The Text of Obadiah 18
Let’s get right to the text. “And it will be that the house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame, but the house of Esau will become stubble. And they shall start a fire in them and consume them (that is, they shall consume Esau), and there shall not be a survivor for the house of Esau, because God says so.”
To The Words
Pretty bleak future for Esau, a pretty big payback just for standing around and not defending Judah. Well, there are many flame-related words here that we should note. But we begin with the simple בֵית (beth, “house”), which appears several times here and hundreds more in the rest of the Bible. Our focus however is burning. We have seen “fire” (esh), but the word “flame” (לֶהָבָה, lehabah) is new. New also is “stubble” (קשׁ, qash) as well as the verb “To kindle/burn/hotly pursue” (דָּלַק, dalaq). We may have something to say about sharid, which we have previously seen as “survivor.”
Let’s begin our journey with esh. It neatly appears with “brimstone” in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24). First, we have the town “Gomorrah” (עֲמֹרָה, Amorah), on which esh and גָּפְרִית (gophrith, “brimstone”) fell. Then, we note that the actual verb to describe the falling process is מָטַר (matar, “rain”). In a verse in the Psalms (11:6) that may actually be reminiscent of this verse we have, “He will rain (matar) upon (עַל, al) the wicked (rasha) esh and gophrith. A wind (ruach) that burns (זַלְעָפָה, zalaphah) will be the portion (מְנָת, menath) of their cup (כּוֹס, kos). Ps. 11:6 really is a most remarkable verse not only because of the theme of burning which is presented in several ways but because we can “feel” the burning through zalaphah. It only appears two other times in the Bible; one is in Ps. 119:53, “Burning indignation (zalaphah) has seized (achaz) the wicked (rasha).” After reading these words of Ps. 119, aren’t we starting to feel a bit better about our word mastery? Ten new words so far.
Let’s return and pick up “flame” (lehabah). In Num. 21:28 we have: “for (kiy) a fire (esh) went out (yatsa) from Heshbon, a flame (lehabah) from the city (קִרְיָה, qiryah) . . . “ We see an example of parallelism, and we see our vocabulary both consolidating and building. In Is. 10:17 we have a lehabah that both devours (akal, “eats”) and בָּעַר (ba’ar, “burns”). Perhaps the most famous Biblical example of something burning is the burning bush in Ex. 3:2. The Angel (מֲלְאָךְ, malak) of the Lord was seen/appeared (raah) to him in a flame (לַבָּה, labbah, which is a hapax and is the same word as lehabah, but you get credit for learning a second one!). It appeared in the middle (tavek, which we have seen) of a סְנֶה (seneh, “bush”), but the seneh was ba’ar but was not akal. Good progress!
Moving to Stubble and Kindling
Now let’s pick up the word for “stubble” (qash). This is what the House of Edom has to look forward to—becoming stubble. Qash appears more than a dozen times in the Bible. Jer. 13:24 is a wonderfully useful verse in this connection and says that God will “scatter” (פוּץ, puwts) them as qash that “passes on/is moved by” (עָבַר, abar) the wind of the מִדְבָּר (midbar, “wilderness”). Though we have seen two verbs already for “burning” (ba’ar/akal), one more is given us where qash is connected to burning: שָׂרַף, saraph. From Is. 47:14, “Behold (hinneh) they shall be (הָיָה, hayah—we no doubt have seen this verb many times, but I don’t think we have noted it) as qash, and the esh shall burn (saraph) and they shall not deliver (natsal, which we have seen) nephesh (“themselves”) from the hand (yad) of the lehabah.
Let’s complete this lesson today with the verb for “kindle” (dalaq, which actually is our fourth verb relating to burning or consuming things by flame). Dalaq appears only 9x in the Bible, with its first two appearances (Gen. 31:36 and I Sam 17:53) translated as “chasing/pursuing” rather than “kindling/burning.” Is it “hot” pursuit? I Sam. 17:53 talks about the children of Israel returning from pursuing (dalaq) after (achar) the Philistines (פְלִשְׁתִּי, Pelishti). The highly-compressed language of Ps. 7:13 has, “and for himself he prepares/makes ready (כּוּן, kun) instruments/vessels (keli) of “death” (מָוֶת, maveth). His “arrows” (חֵץ, chets) he has made (פָעַל, paal) for burning pursuit (dalaq, though this translation has been disputed).