The Book of Obadiah


s 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:

"Hi, 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, hookers, etc.]

"But 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.

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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 insane.

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 story!

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