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.