Obadiah 1:10-14 Being My Brother’s Keeper

It’s time for Obadiah 1:10-14! So take a second, click on the hyperlink you just read past, and read those 5 verses.

I’ll wait.

So, we read from the introduction, and even the last Obadiah blog, that the Edomites were family to Israel. Not considered family or like family but legitimate family of long ago. That the Israelites can trace the family tree and see that their long-lost cousin Jeb is actually an Edomite – and yet the Edomites and Israelites were at war – for like eons. This is The Hatfields and The McCoys to the extreme! THEY were just really bad neighbors who hated and killed each other back in the late 1800’s but this was, and is, completely different. They were of the same line, albeit long ago, and yet simply because “long ago” isn’t today, what we see in our text, doesn’t mean that you still aren’t family. And because the Edomites treated their family like enemies (even family of long ago and not of recent) they will be covered with shame and destroyed forever. “Covered with shame” – that doesn’t sound so bad does it? I mean come-on, once you’re at a point where shame means nothing then life can become pretty care-free, right? So “covered with shame” just sounds like a really itchy wool sweater when you have no undershirt. How bad can it be, right? (Well, if you’re talking about also having a really itchy hat with no hair, really itchy pants with no underwear, and then itchy socks too…then MAYBE we’re talking about a bad situation…)

A couple things for us to consider. In Hebrew it’s not just “shame” its disgrace, humiliation, and this complete shattering of everything that you are. In the English language we would look at this as some inner feeling and sense – and yet from the Hebrew understanding of it it’s not only inner but it’s outer and even beyond. It’s physical, mental, internal, external, as well as privately and publically. Shame, during this time, was a big deal and had big implications as it hindered and handcuffed you in all that you did as it affected you, your people, your community, your nation, and your ability to work with other people and nations around you. A nation could not survive on its own and needed allies – and shame could put a stop to all of those. Even to this day there are societies and nations that are shame-based and thus when you do something bad and you bring disgrace to your family your punishment is widely spread, known, and publically handed down thus bringing shame to you and your family. It’s why, many times, we also read of “honor” killings and even suicides as to many people bringing shame to the family is not only bad but the only way to make it better, both in your eyes, the families/societies eyes, is to commit suicide or kill the family member that brought it upon you (we would call it “murder” but they would probably call it something different).

With that being said, because of the violence against Jacob, because they stood “aloof” while other nations attacked, pillaged, and ransacked Israel, because foreigners entered her gates they, Edom, will be dealt with swiftly. And not only because they were “aloof” to all of this but because they watched without defending AND PARTICIPATED in it themselves – they were to be shamed AND THEN destroyed. So shame first…then killed. Which is very interesting for me to consider and reflect on. It’s as if killing wasn’t “bad” enough as the shame was more bad (badder?). So in this sense killing them was just a way to put an end to the real punishment… which was the all-encompassing shame.

So for her sins, for her rejoicing over the death of not only others but partaking in it, seeking to cause it, celebrating it, watching idly by and not defending their family…they will be dealt with. And so in verse 11 we get this hinge from their sins that then brings us to verses 12-14 with these “you should not” and “do not” as well as “in the day” and “on the day” that are almost rhetorical and yet not rhetorical too that leave the reader wondering, and commentators failing to agree on, are they things they did do or is Obadiah saying, “Don’t add to the list of sins by doing these things too!” or “When faced with this again, on that day…” So we just don’t know the context or focus. But the question we then must ask is, “does it matter?” that we don’t know? And while all scripture matters, and all words DO matter, does it matter so much that we lose the importance and the point? No. We can disagree on the intended place and space as long as we understand that God is declaring that you will not do this to HIS people – and to YOUR people. So whether you feel Obadiah is telling them that when they see others doing it and stand idly by that they are just as culpable since they didn’t act or, if they are being warned not to do it again or don’t even try to do it now…it doesn’t matter. The voice is of God declaring that sins done upon His covenantal people is not only bad but He will NOT stand by and watch.

And so we’re kind of stuck here for the moment because if we go on in the text (to verse 15 and beyond) then we’ll see that God declares judgment on ALL nations – but that’s for the next blog. This one is still about the shame caused when you harm those closest to you, allow others to harm those closest to you, and participate in the spoils when your family is taken down. There is something sacred about family that must always remain.

I remember as a 6th grader my older sister (who is a year older and a 7th grader at that time) was being picked on by an older boy while we were on the school bus. What started with words and teasing escalated to him pulling her hair and bringing her to near-tears… and in that moment I stood up for my sister, defended her, and nearly made the older boy cry as I grabbed a handful of his bushy hair and declared that I would let go of his once he let go of my sisters. And while it embarrassed him it also nearly made me wet my pants as I couldn’t believe I did what I did and I had no clue what THEN would happen to me once he let go of hers and I let go of his (I never thought it through – I only reacted). I wasn’t an aggressive person – and I’m still not. I didn’t go around picking on people or getting in the way of quarrels but something happened inside when my sister was being picked on. I realized, in that moment, that only myself or my best friend Dan could pick on Kay (my sister)…nobody else had that right and so I would defend her!

Family is supposed to mean something – and here it clearly did not and so God will deal severely with not only those who harm his covenantal children – regardless of their familial line. But it’s more than just an attack to family, it’s an attack against the God of righteousness and justice as he protects the innocent and judges the sinful and holds to what it means to make a promise of protection to a people – HIS people. I appreciate how one author writes that violence against your family, the very person it is your duty to be a redeemer for, that is the issue here. So because they did not redeem, they themselves, are just as wrong.[1]

From a truly biblical perspective, and while verse 15 jumps us to “all nations” being worthy of the “Day of the Lord” (that’s a day of judgment) I think an easy jump for us is to remember that we ALL are our “brothers keepers.” We all are family. Not only as we trace all our lineages back to Adam but if we declare that God is the creator of all the universe then that includes you and me. That I can be a white male living in the middle of Colorado, USA and yet I have a sister who was born in Asia and lives in the middle of China. Different mothers, different fathers, different cultures, different skin tones, different dialects, different clothing styles and food interests – and yet brother and sister we are…and because of that I must defend her at all costs, vouch for her around every corner, pray for her every evening, and come running at a moment’s notice should she need my help. Now clearly that becomes difficult as I don’t know who she is and I cannot go around saving every single person at a moments notice – and yet I CAN seek, hope, love, pray, and help to better all people. And why are we called to do that? Why are we moved to do all that we can for not only our blood-line, not only our church family, but all people and all voices around the world? Because God is their creator and Jesus Christ IS THE REDEEMER. That’s right – we worship the One creates all and who redeems – and we, as followers, are called to live like Christ, be like him, love like him, and help like him. And if we declare that Christ redeems then we must declare what we read throughout the New Testament (and we see it in Boaz in the book of Ruth as Boaz becomes a kinsman redeemer – which points us to Christ as THE kinsman redeemer) that Christ, through his sacrifice and blood, takes us from family-less people to adopted sons and daughters of the Most High. And because Christ redeems us and restores us we then can go back and see that He restores us BECAUSE WE NEEDED TO BE RESTORED.

You and I are no better than Edom. You and I are no better than all the rest of the world in how we stand idly by and watch while some sins against people happen other times we step in and help. You and I are no better than Edom in that we WILL, and HAVE, taken advantage of others for our own gains. You and I are no better than Edom as we DO rejoice over certain people when things happen to them…we just try to justify our feelings and say they deserved what happened to them. The truth of the matter is that we needed redemption and we needed a redeemer because we too, just like Edom, deserve God’s wrath and yet because of God’s love, because of Christ’s sacrifice, while we were sinners God still chose to save us, redeem us, adopt us, and gather us in.

The challenge that these verses give us is that family should defend each other and Edom failed to do that. Instead of running to Israel’s aid they laughed at her, rejoiced in her fall, pillaged after she was ransacked, and invited people in to harm her and God will not stand by and allow that to happen to his children. The challenge of these verses is that you and me are Edom in many many ways – and yet the grace and hope of these verses is that we worship a God who does NOT do what we do. He does NOT watch, gloat, celebrate, and invite harm into his family. Instead, he opens his arms, sends his Son, and deals with the enemy head-on by redeeming us (his enemy) and overcoming death (God’s ultimate enemy – Satan). And praise be to God for that!


[1] Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994. Print.

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