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Daily Readings


Friday, May 29th, 2020

The Prophecy of Obadiah*

John 16:25-33
Ephesians 5:8-21
Psalms 71, 137† 73
Daily Chapter: Obadiah

(Read yesterday's here.)


*Notes

from the Daily Devotional Guide by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

The one thing we know for certain about the author of the Book of Obadiah is that he took a decidedly dim view of the Edomites. Nor was Obadiah alone in that respect, for there is reason to believe that more than one Israelite was somewhat tried by Deuteronomy's injunction not to despise the Edomite (23:7). Those descendants of Esau, after all, had obstructed the Chosen People's way to the Promised Land in the days of Moses (Numbers 20:21), and according to the prophet Amos in the eighth century, the Edomites, having "cast off all pity" (Amos 1:11), were involved in the international slave trade (1:6,9). . . .

Edom's most memorable offenses, however, occurred when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem in 587. At that time, they rejoiced at the city's downfall (Lamentations 4:21), exploiting its misfortune in a vengeful way (Ezekiel 25:12). Most serious of all was the vile complicity of the Edomites in the demolition of Solomon's temple, an outrage for which they are explicitly blamed in 1 Esdras 4:45.

This final offense likewise inspired a line of Psalm 137 (Greek and Latin 136), a lament composed in captivity, "by the rivers of Babylon" (v. 1), where the exiles sat and wept, remembering Zion. Reflecting on the holy city's recent, ruthless destruction, the psalmist bitterly recalled Edom's share in the matter: "Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom / The day of Jerusalem, / Who said, 'Raze it, raze it, / To its very foundation!'" (v. 7).

Obadiah's prophecy testifies that his own rancor toward the Edomites was prompted by the identical recollection. He particularly blames them for rejoicing at Jerusalem's downfall, despoiling the city, blocking the path of escape against those who fled, and handing the refugees over to their captors (vv. 12-14). He can scarcely forget that the descendants of Esau were, in fact, blood relatives of the Israelites.

Like Amos, who had earlier accused Edom of pursuing "his brother with the sword" (Amos 1:11), Obadiah speaks of "violence against your brother Jacob" (v. 10). His words stand forever in Holy Scripture as a warning to those who rejoice at or take advantage of the tribulations of others, or who neglect the ancestral ties that should prompt a readier compassion.

The prophetic doom pronounced by the Bible against the Edomites was vindicated in their displacement by the Nabateans in the fourth century b.c. Forced to migrate to southern Palestine, they were eventually subjugated by John Hyrcanus (134-104 b.c.). From that point on, they were simply assimilated into Judaism. One of them, named Herod, even became a king of the Jews, but he always sensed that someday a real descendant of David might appear on the scene and challenge his claim to the throne. It made him very nervous and unreasonable.


Commentary

from Daily Reflections by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon

Psalms 66 (Greek & Latin 65): The "works" of God being celebrated in this psalm, then, and for which we give thanks to His name, have to do with His accomplishing of our redemption in the paschal mystery, the death and Resurrection of Christ our Lord. . . .

Similarly the psalm's references to deliverance from enemies should be read in the context of the drama of Holy Week and the redemption thereby won. This is a psalm about the passage from death to life, for the enemies of the human race are sin and death. It is from these that Christ has set us free, restoring us to eternal favor with God: "He set my soul in life and does not let my footsteps falter. For You, O God, have tested us, You have smelted us as silver. You have brought us into a trap; You laid affliction on our back and caused men to lord it over us. We passed through fire and water, but You have brought us back to life."

The sense and sentiment of this psalm, then, are identical to the victory canticles in Exodus 15 and Revelation 15, celebrating the destruction of oppressive and death-dealing forces at Israel's deliverance from slavery. Psalm 65 may be thought of as another "seaside psalm," but this sea is "mingled with fire" (Rev. 15:2). Beside it stand the redeemed of the Lord, and "they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: 'Great and marvelous are Your works, / Lord God Almighty" (15:3). These are the "works" of our paschal redemption. "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast," wrote St. Paul at Passover season, only two decades or so into Christian history (1 Cor. 5:7).

Ezekiel 48: This highly schematic distribution of the Holy Land (into long narrow strips running east/west) is marked by several features: First, it is based on the disposition of the temple and adjoining areas as described in Chapter 45. Second, it is completely theoretical, inasmuch as the majority of the twelve tribes of Israel no longer existed as such; most of the ten tribes deported by the Assyrians in 722 had long been assimilated into the peoples of Mesopotamia. Third, the division of the land differs very significantly from the ancient division from the time of Joshua. If the tribes of Gad and Zebulon had somehow managed to return, they would have been very surprised to find themselves living in the Negev Desert (verses 26-27) instead of the fertile fields of Galilee!

In short, there are considerable difficulties attendant on interpreting this chapter of Ezekiel as a literal description of Israel's return to the Holy Land in 538. Like the mystical waters of the previous chapter, this geographical disposition should be interpreted in the light of New Testament ecclesiology, the twelve tribes representing the whole people of God, which is the Church of Jesus Christ.

These twelve tribes will each be honored with a gate entering the new Jerusalem (48:30-35; cf. Revelation 21:12). Instead of Yerushalaim (Jerusalem), the city will be called Adonaishammah ("the Lord is there"). This is a prophecy of God's New Testament Church, on which the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost.


Today's Saints

from Anno Domini 2020


Prayer

Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty God, that we who believe Thine only begotten Son, our Redeemer, to have ascended into heaven, may ourselves dwell in spirit amid heavenly things; though that same Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. —SAINT ANDREW'S MISSAL


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