Teaching the book of Obadiah this morning, I was reflecting on the issue of Israel and her neighbors: Jordan, The Palestinian Territories and Lebanon. According to this little book written (likely) sometime in the sixth century B.C. (though some have argued for as early as the 9th century) “Edom” and Gilead (which is within the boundaries of Jordan; vv.18, 19), the “Philistine plains” (part of the modern Gaza strip; v.19), and “Phoenician” and “Zarephath” (in modern Lebanon) are all to be destroyed and occupied by Israel.
The normal narrative I hear in my circles argues that it is Israel’s neighbors who have set themselves to see Israel utterly destroyed and thus should not be reasoned with (or so the story goes within certain camps). It is typically further argued that these neighbors are simply always fighting and are the culprits of the angst against Israel and thus no agreement should be made with them.
This narrative fails to account for the religious text of Obadiah which declares the destruction and dispossession of Israel’s neighbors at their hands. How would that potentially affect Israel being a legitimate negotiation partner? How should Israel’s neighbors consider a people who hold as sacred a text which is primary to the institution of this people being a people and which calls for their destruction?
These were questions which arose in my mind as we reflected on this text. What are your thoughts? How have you perceived trying to work with a people whose religious text seems to call for your destruction? Can their be concessions?
As a footnote, I understand the modern nation-state of Israel does not typically regard such texts as authoritative, though some certainly do. It nevertheless remains that this text belongs to Israel as a people.
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A Theology of the Spirit in the Former Prophets: A Pentecostal Perspective
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- Hearing the Prophets on Justice: A Response April 27, 2021
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- A Quick Exodus: A Brief Response January 4, 2021
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Excellent questions! I can’t really answer them, but I can add more to the list! I think it’s a great exercise to see ourselves through other peoples eyes. For example, Americans are prone to crying “Terrorist!” While in other parts of the world, American troops are viewed as terrorists. The easiest thing to do is to dismiss the tension this creates within us, just as it is easy to dismiss our own religious text seeming to call for the genocide of entire people groups. I believe the answers only come when we are willing to sit in the tension and listen to the Spirit rather than brush it off quickly. It’s uncomfortable.
do these questions assume modern Israel is the same as biblical israel?
Not at all. It assumes, however, that some (in Israel and the U.S.) still think the modern nation-state and Biblical Israel are the same.
No, there can be no concession, ultimately and for eternal purposes, at least. Israel as a ‘natural state’ may do the conceding, and has already done so, to no real avail. However, when “the Edomites, et al” spit in GOD’S EYE, now THAT is a different story. Egypt at Moses’ time was a darned sight bigger (at least in perspective at that time) than some of the ‘little stuff’ (though it’s getting bigger) than we have now. And LOOK what happened to Pharaoh AND all of Egypt. And it is considered historically that THIS Pharaoh lived about 15 more years in “slain Egypt”. Can you imagine the angst?
That was “just God working in the affairs of mankind/Israel,” albeit very stupendous. Truth: Mess with Israel, and you’re messing with God, and it ain’t gonna happen! This Must be the END TIMES with the way it’s all stacking up.
And besides all that, we have Traditional Gentile Christianity (TGC); i.e., no more Replacement Theology) AND Traditional Jews (TOJ) who are NOW Understanding who The Real Messiah Looks Like! You have connections with the God of Israel like THAT, and There’s War in The Heavenlies!
So of course the modern nation-state of Israel and Biblical Israel will be echad (at one) once again, but in GOD’S SENSE, not ours. The Throne of God will dwell with mankind — in Jerusalem, God of Israel’s chosen home here on Terra Firma.