Reading Obadiah alongside the Good Samaritan
Most of us are familiar with the story of the good Samaritan. But there is more than one story in the Bible about deciding what to do with vulnerable travelers.
The vision of Obadiah.
1 Thus says the Lord GOD concerning Edom:
We have heard a report from the LORD, and a messenger has been sent among the nations: “Rise up! Let us rise against it for battle!”
2 I will surely make you least among the nations; you shall be utterly despised.
3 Your proud heart has deceived you, you that live in the clefts of the rock, whose dwelling is in the heights. You say in your heart, “Who will bring me down to the ground?”
4 Though you soar aloft like the eagle, though your nest is set among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the LORD.
5 If thieves came to you, if plunderers by night—how you have been destroyed!—would they not steal only what they wanted? If grape-gatherers came to you, would they not leave gleanings?
6 How Esau has been pillaged, his treasures searched out!
7 All your allies have deceived you, they have driven you to the border; your confederates have prevailed against you; those who ate your bread have set a trap for you—there is no understanding of it.
8 On that day, says the LORD, I will destroy the wise out of Edom, and understanding out of Mount Esau.
9 Your warriors shall be shattered, O Teman, so that everyone from Mount Esau will be cut off.
10 For the slaughter and violence done to your brother Jacob, shame shall cover you, and you shall be cut off forever.
11 On the day that you stood aside, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you too were like one of them.
12 But you should not have gloated over your brother on the day of his misfortune; you should not have rejoiced over the people of Judah on the day of their ruin; you should not have boasted on the day of distress.
13 You should not have entered the gate of my people on the day of their calamity; you should not have joined in the gloating over Judah’s disaster on the day of his calamity; you should not have looted his goods on the day of his calamity.
14 You should not have stood at the crossings to cut off his fugitives; you should not have handed over his survivors on the day of distress.
15 For the day of the LORD is near against all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.
16 For as you have drunk on my holy mountain, all the nations around you shall drink; they shall drink and gulp down, and shall be as though they had never been.
17 But on Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and it shall be holy; and the house of Jacob shall take possession of those who dispossessed them.
18 The house of Jacob shall be a fire, the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau stubble; they shall burn them and consume them, and there shall be no survivor of the house of Esau; for the LORD has spoken.
19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau, and those of the Shephelah the land of the Philistines; they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria, and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 The exiles of the Israelites who are in Halah shall possess Phoenicia as far as Zarephath; and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad shall possess the towns of the Negeb.
21 Those who have been saved shall go up to Mount Zion to rule Mount Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.
|Luke 10:25–37 (NRSV)
Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” 27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Luke 10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Luke 6:27–36 (NRSV)
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
In the early sixth century BC, as Babylon invaded from the North, Judeans fled south into Edom. Israel and Edom have a complicated history, to say the very least. They are at once brothers, neighbors, and enemies.
When I read Obadiah alongside the story of the good Samaritan, in the context of Jesus’s teaching, it occurs to me that when we’re asking, “Who is my neighbor?” we’re really asking, “Do I recognize my brother?”
Edom cut off the Judean refugees of war, turned them away, even handed them over. Obadiah is clear: their culpability is really about their failure to recognize their brothers and sisters. All they could see, after centuries of strife, was enemies.
So I want to know, who is the American church: the Edomite or the Samaritan?
Will I let my enemy become my neighbor? Will I recognize my enemy as my family?
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Make neighbors of those who have done wrong to you.
Do to your enemies what your brothers and sisters would do to you.
Because they already are your brothers and sisters too.