The Hebrew of Obadiah 3 is fairly dense and, at this stage of our journey, I don’t want to highlight those grammatical difficulties or extremely rare words, so the focus will be on accessible words. Here is a translation:
“The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the clefts of the rock, high above habitation, (you) who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the earth?’”
The verse is an address to Edom, excoriating it for its pride. That is where we will start: זָדוֹן (zadon) means “pride/insolence/arrogance.” When the word appears in the “conversation” between David and his older brother (I Sam. 17:28), we have “I know your pride (zadon) and the wickedness/insolence.” The verb for “knowing” is the common yada, which we have seen. “Wickedness” is רֹעַ (roa), which occupies the “evil” space with a few other words looking similar to that one. zadon only appears 11x in the Bible; one other occasion is in Jer. 50:32, where the Prophet says that the zadon will “stumble/stagger/totter” (כָּשַׁל, kashal) and “fall,” using naphal, which has already appeared in our work. Perhaps the most famous instance of zadon’s appearance is in Prov. 11:2, “When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom.” Shame is קָלוֹן (qalon), which is derived from קָלָה (qalah), which means “to be lightly esteemed or dishonored.” As Deut. 27:16 says, “Cursed (אָרַר, arar) is the one who dishonors (qalah) father or mother. . and all the people (עַם, am), ‘Amen” (אָמֵן).
The prophecy says to Edom that the pride of his heart (leb, which we have already seen) has “deceived/beguiled” him. “Beguile” is נָשָׁא (nasha), which appears 15x. It almost always means “to deceive,” but an occasional “to lend at interest/be a creditor” tends to throw us off a bit. Its most famous appearance is in Gen. 3:13 where Eve is saying that the “serpent” (נָחָשׁ, nachash) deceived (nasha) her and she “ate” (verb is the common אָכַל, akal). Obadiah will go on to say that “the pride of your heart has deceived you, you dwellers in the clefts of the rock.” Let’s just study “dwell” and “rock,” leaving “clefts” for another time. To “dwell” is the common שָׁכַן, shakan, and the “rock” is סֶלַע, sela, which can either be a “rock” or a “crag” or a “cliff.” Thirteen words.
One vivid and memorable verse about rocks is in Num. 20:11 where Moses, in disobedience to God, decide to strike the rock twice with his rod. A few words neatly arise from this: “to strike” is from the common verb נָכָה, nakah; sela is the word for “rock.” The concept of “twice” is represented by the plural of a word that means a “beat/occurrence/once/a time” פַעַם, paam. So, it is put in the plural here, paamim. The “rod” of Moses is his מַטֶּה, matteh, which can refer either to a rod or staff or a tribe of the people. It appears more than 250x, so is a word worth learning.
Two little words in Obadiah 3, מְרוֹם שִׁבְתּוֹ, merom shibtto, come, respectively, from the noun merom, which itself is derived from the verb רוּם, rum, “to be high/exalted. Merom means “high/height/on high.” Sometimes it might be used figuratively, to describe someone who “haughtily” (i.e., “high”) lifted up the eyes (II Ki. 19:22), but it usually has a physical, visual meaning, such as the “heights of the mountains” (הַר, har, is “mountain”; II Ki. 19:23). The online dictionary explanation of shibtto is unsatisfactory; it has to related to a word relating to “dwelling,” such as יָשַׁב, yashab. The pride of Edom is manifest in the last few words of Obadiah 3, where he asks, “Who will bring me down to the ground?” These eight English words are captured in three Hebrew words: מִי, mi, “who?”—which we haven’t yet seen; then the verb for bringing down or descending is יָרַד, yarad, “to go down.” The verb yarad is among the most common verbs in the Hebrew Bible, and whenever you can imagine a situation of someone who has “gone down” somewhere, you probably have yarad. In this case God is saying that He will bring Edom down (yarad) “to the earth,” where “earth” is the common אֶרֶץ, erets.
Obadiah 4 and Conclusion
Obadiah 4 may be rendered: “‘Though you are high as the eagle and though you make your nest between/among the stars, I will bring you down from there,’ says the Lord."
Obadiah 4 gives God’s definitive warning. Though Edom is like an eagle, soaring high, and sets his nest high in the stars, God will bring him down. The “bringing down” is the same concept as in verse 3, and is expressed with the same verb (yarad), though it suffices to say, “I will bring you down,” with no need to point to the ultimate destination (erets). interesting to me in this twelve-word verse are a number of “small words,” such as אִם, im, generally rendered “if,” though here it is twice translated “though.” We have a “thus says the Lord,” but rather than using the verb amar, which we have seen, the author uses the word נְאֻם, neum, a “speech/utterance” of the Lord (yahweh). The little preposition בֵּין (bayin) means “between” and is very common.
I will only mention two simple and clear nouns in this verse, saving the more difficult or abstract words for later, as our knowledge deepens. Though Edom flies high, as an “eagle” (נֶשֶׁר, nesher, 26x) so that it makes its “nest” (קֵן, qen, 13x) among the “stars” (כּוֹכָב, kokab, 37x), God will bring it down from this lofty height. Each one of these three final nouns would likely not be memorized in a Hebrew Bible class because they just don’t appear often enough, but if you construct the language based on sentences that you come across, or by concepts or words that are normal in your own language patterns, you develop a much fuller (and more easily memorable) collection of words. And, if we had time (and we will have time as we leisurely go through the entire lexicon of Biblical words), we would begin to associate words with other words that go with them, such as “heavens” or “moon” or “sun” with “stars,” and then we would have an easy-to-remember collection of useful words. So, that is our quest. And we add about 26 words to our growing list. . .