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Hebrew 21
Obadiah 20-21



We continue with a fairly obtuse prophetic text that yields words for us that lead to other words that actually are useful as we study Biblical Hebrew.  We can translate verse 20 as follows: 


 “And the exiles/captives of this army of the sons of Israel which (shall possess) the Canaanites as far as Zarephath, and the captives/exiles of Jerusalem which are in Sepharad shall possess the cities of the Negeb.”


Again, we are not sure what is happening here, but Obadiah is trying to give a word of hope for the people of Israel that they will get their land back and will possess cities which no doubt had been stripped from them.  Not too many words to explore here.  גָּלוּת (galuth, “exile/captivity”) appears 15x and usually is connected with a name, such as Jehoiachin (II Kin. 25:27) or Cush (Is. 20:4). But we have a richer statement in Is. 45:13, where God declares about Cyrus that “I have raised/awakened/roused (עוּר, ur) him in righteousness (tsedeq), and I will direct/make straight (יָשַׁר, yashar) all his ways (derek). He shall build (בָּנָה, banah) my city (iyr) and not send out (shalach) exiles (galuth). . .”  


The verb ur, just mentioned, is useful to consider. It is a verb for awakening people to battle (Jud. 5:12), but this word also means one can “awaken” musical instruments.  Note Ps. 57:8, ur and kabod (in Hebrew it is “awake my glory”), but then ur (awake) נֶבֶל (nebel, harp) and כִּנּוֹר (kinnor, lyre). The word translated “harp” is often a word for “bottle” or “pitcher,” but it assumes the meaning of harp when listed with other instruments. Then there follows, “I will awake (ur) the dawn (שַׁחַר, shachar).”  A rich context for ur appears in Ps 78:32, where God is narrating wonderful things done for the people of Israel.  God, full of compassion (רַחוּם, rachum; this derives from the verb רָחַם, racham, “to have compassion,” which itself comes from רֶחֶם, rechem, the “uterus.”  Going on this small word journey assures not only that one doesn’t forget the r-ch-m root, but that one gets three words out of it!). God, being full of compassion (rachum), forgave (כָּפַר, kaphar) their sin/iniquity (עָוֹן, avon) and did not destroy (שָׁחַת, shachath) them. The idea of forgiving is derived from the word for “cover/covering/ransom (כֹּפֶר, kopher),” and gives us a fine picture of what forgiveness is about:  covering sin/transgression. Yom kippur (כִּפֻּר, “atonement”) is, as we all know, the Day of Atonement.  Fifteen words so far.  


Let’s move on to Obadiah 21, and conclude the prophecy.  “And saviors shall go upon Mount Zion, to judge the Mount of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” The only new word here is the final one:  מְלוּכָה, melukah, “monarchy/kingdom.” Yet, others are important both here and in the history of Israel, such as yasha (to save) and shaphat (to judge). Let’s take a turn on all three words.


In I Sam 10:16, Saul has just been anointed by Samuel but wants to keep the details secret from his family. He doesn’t tell them about the anointing.  He declares (נָגַד, nagad) certain details to his uncle (דּוֹד, dod), but keeps the matter (dabar) of the kingdom (melukah) to himself.  in another text, one can “capture” (לָכַד, lakad) a melukah (II Sam. 12:26). 


The word מֽוֹשִׁעִים֙ appears in Obadiah 21 to describe the “saviors” (from yasha) who will go up to Mount Zion.  The Scriptures drip with language of salvation or deliverance; let’s turn to some of it.  In Ex. 2:17 Moses rose up (qum) and helped/saved (yasha) some of the people and “watered” (שָׁקָה, shaqah) their flocks (tson). The Psalms have a special place for the verb yasha. In 18:27 God will save (yasha) humble (עָנִי, ani) people but will bring low (שָׁפֵל, shaphel) those who are high/exalted (רוּם, rum). Recall that when we talked about the “Lowlands” of Israel, they were called the “Shephelah.” In Ps. 20:6 we have the Lord “saving” (yasha) his “anointed” (מָשִׁיחַ, mashiach). God will answer (עָנָה, anah) from holy (qodesh) heaven (shamayim).  Twenty-five words.  One more “salvation” verse. . . to show how far we have come with our words:  Ps. 22:21 has, “Save (yasha) me from the mouth (peh) of the lion (אֲרִי, ari); and from the horns (qeren) of the wild oxen (רְאֵם, reem) you have answered me (anah).”


Let’s conclude with a few mentions of the word shaphat (to judge). Ex. 2:14 tells about the drama after Moses has killed an Egyptian in his quest to liberate the Hebrews. He is confronted by a Hebrew: “Who (miy) made/placed (sim) you as a prince (שַׂר, sar) or a judge (shaphat) over us? Do you speak/intend to kill (הָרַג, harag) me?. . . Moses was afraid and he said, “Surely (אָכֵן, aken), this matter (dabar) is known (yada).”  Let’s include with one more verse.  From Num. 35:24, “The congregation (עֵדָה, edah) shall judge (shaphat) between (bayin) the manslayer (from nakah, which we have seen) and between (bayin) the avenger (goel, from gaal, “to redeem a kinsman,” which we have seen)  of blood (dam), according to these judgments (מִשְׁפָט, mishpat).




We take leave of our brief companion Obadiah. It has helped us not so much in understanding a theological or historical message, but principally in providing words and an avenue leading to many more words. We see how our method is working.  Take a word from a verse, massage its appearances through the Scripture, pick up additional words, and then learn the new words in the contexts in which they appear rather than simply in a list of words to be memorized.  The language opens to us this way.

Hebrew 22

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