|Minor Prophets: Major Messages
The Book of Obadiah
1. A slow unhurried reading of Obadiah is essential. Read each chapter before you look at the related section of the Study guide. Read the chapter again while you are using the study guide, and read it a third time when you are finished. This process will give you a powerful sense of the series of events and meanings in each chapter. It is important to feel comfortable with all the names, places, and announcements in Obadiahís prophecy. When possible, some historical information will be included in the study guide to increase reading comprehension and enhance application.
2. Our reading of the one chapter of Obadiah will begin with quotes from a work of the Writings called Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms (hereafter referred to as P&P). This work has a verse-by-verse overview of Obadiah that summarizes the internal sense. Our research will help move us from this general summary to the particulars of the internal sense.
3. Another important reference tool is Searleís General Index to Swedenborgís Scripture Quotations. This reference shows where in the Writings a verse(s) of the Word is either explained specifically or used to illustrate a doctrinal point that we can use in our study. There is also another use of this work. As we study, each researcher will be led by the Lordís Providence in myriad of ways and according to specific needs or states. Knowing how to use this book will help us look up related passages that will add to our knowledge of the three-fold Word.
4. You will soon discover that not every verse, word, name, etc. is directly quoted and explained in the Writings, but there are often other references to the same name, place, or thing in the explanation of a different verse of the Word. The hope is that reflection on these other references and their associated doctrine will help us see possible applications to our full study of Obadiah. We will need to use "derived doctrine" often. Please donít run away from this maligned term. If we use it properly, admitting openly that it is derived, we bring no harm to the internal sense.
5. Keep a notebook handy during your study times. Write out insights, questions, and any summaries you find helpful in organizing your thoughts about each chapter. The goal of this study guide is not to give a detailed summary of the internal sense but to start each researcherís quest for deeper insight.
6. At the end of each chapter in the study guide, you will find a study review. The review includes a summary of each section to help you reinforce and build on your understanding of several of the key points.
7. Begin each study unit with a devotional prayer asking the Lord to guide and direct your thoughts. Studying in this sphere has the power to inspire and open our minds with a higher spiritual priority that will keep us in the company of the Lordís angels. As the Writings teach, we must seek to love truth for truthís sake. Such an approach will free each reader from preconceived ideas that might limit his or her ability to "see" the intent and message of the Lordís Word.
Welcome to the study of the shortest book in the Word. Obadiah has one chapter and twenty-one verses. As brief as this book is, scholars raise many questions about it. They debate its author and date of composition, and they point to the striking similarity between passages in Obadiah and Jeremiah to question whether Obadiah actually witnessed the things he wrote about or saw them in a dream or vision from the Lord. As always, we need to briefly consider the interesting issues the scholars raise. Some of their observations wonderfully highlight things the Lord intended us to find in the Word that serve as a base or "containant" for the deeper spiritual things of the internal sense. On the other hand, we can set aside some of their debates because they are resolved when the spiritual sense is opened to reveal and explain the internal sense of the Word.
Letís consider a specific issue to illustrate this point. Biblical researchers note several similarities or parallelisms in Obadiah and Jeremiah. For example, the words "grape gatherers came to you" appear in both Obadiah 1:5 and Jeremiah 49:9. Who, ask the scholars, wrote that prophetic sentence first? Jeremiah wrote it first, they have determined. Here is how they came to that conclusion: Obadiah 1:10-14 seems to refer to the capture of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar. They believe Jeremiah 49 was composed following the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. Ergo, Jeremiah said it first.
In its introduction to the book of Obadiah, the Oxford Annotated Bible suggests another explanation for the similarities: that both prophets borrowed these passages "from a collection of sayings transmitted orally by prophetic circles."
At this point, it seems prudent to ask if these theories have any spiritual importance for us. Do we really need to determine who wrote these prophetic words first? Does a collection of "oral prophetic sayings" have anything to do with the internal sense? Isnít the repetition itself of greater spiritual significance than those who said it?
The Writings answer, as noted below, that repetition is good and intrinsically necessary for the message of the spiritual sense. Repetition is the work of the Lord and not individual prophets!
Repetition in the Word is not there because one prophet borrowed from another. So that we can better answer future criticisms that the Word is repetitious, letís consider these teachings:
We have no direct information about Obadiahís life and the dates of his birth and death. We know that his name means "a servant of the Lord." Among the Jewish people, Obadiah was a popular choice for a name, so it is not surprising to find numerous Obadiahís mentioned in important Old Testament events. There are some scholars willing to go out on a limb to identify one of the Obadiahís mentioned in the Word as the author of this prophetic book. For those who would venture into such a pursuit, there are at least nine Obadiahís in the Old Testament to consider.
Whenever the Word withholds background information on one of the Lordís "chosen," I canít help but think it is the Lordís way of keeping us focused on the message of the Word and not the individual. Therefore, tying Obadiahís lineage to one of the nine Old Testament references seems superfluous. Whatís your point of view on this quest to find a historical connection?
Obadiahís prophecy expresses the Lordís displeasure with the Edomites. What sin or evil had they committed that would cause their downfall? Their heritage goes back to Esau, so Jacob was their uncle. In other words, they were blood relatives to the children of Israel.
Note how the Word uses correspondences to identify Edomís transgressions:
Letís take one last look at the outline of the literal sense of Obadiah. We can identify four major sections of Obadiah:
With this introduction and overview, letís enter this wonderful and helpful study of Obadiah as it announces and celebrates the birth of the New Church.