longtime readers of Back of the Bible know, the books making up
the ass-end of the Old Testament stick so closely to formula they
make A-Team reruns look staggering in their thematic variety.
You can pretty much choose any one at random and get some variation
on the following plot:
my name's _________, and I'll be your prophet this evening!"
"Did you know God loves you? He does! He's
also furious with you!"
[Long, damning vitriol about your unfaithfulness to God]
[Graphic, slightly erotic description of your
murder at the hands of same]
[Clumsy allegory involving figs, adders, locusts,
if you act now, you'll not only earn the Lord's
forgiveness... you'll get this handsome set of steak knives! Call
1-800-REPENTANCE! Don't wait!"
And that's pretty much the last twelve books of the Bible. The
problem here isn't the plot—it's a timeworn classic—but
rather brevity; or more specifically, that there isn’t any.
The Book of Zephaniah manages to stretch "God's angry"
to about 1600 words, for instance—a reader could walk away
from it with the ability to describe the reasons for the Lord's
displeasure, how many sausages He had for breakfast, and the cross-stitching
pattern on His sandals during the killing. I don’t know what
sort of rates the Lord was offering his freelance prophets. Clearly,
however, he was paying by the word.
The Book of Obadiah is the first book of the Back of the Bible
and, thankfully, also the shortest. All the classic themes Bible
fans have come to know and love are here—God’s love,
God’s forgiveness, God’s lavishly vivid promises of
imminent slaughter—but at a fraction of the length of the
prophets to follow. Obadiah’s successors may have expanded
the plotlines and added some character development—but at
the end of the day we can credit Obadiah for setting the Gold Standard
of what the voice of God sounds like: Thoroughly, rage-brimmingly
One key difference between the Book of Obadiah and subsequent BotB
books, however, is the target of God’s anger, which, in a
surprising twist, isn’t the people of Judea (usually
the go-to humans for the Lord's fury). No, this time it’s
the nearby town of Edom that's managed to steam God’s potatoes,
the poor hapless schmucks.
Why was Edom in the hotseat? Read on for the entire tedious, confusing
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