Vayishlach

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The conflict between Jacob and his brother Esau concluded peacefully in the Parashah, which ends with an entire chapter detailing Esau’s descendants. Relations between them and Jacbo’s descendants, however, remained tense. In the Bible’s shortest book, read in its entirety for this Haftarah, Obadiah unleashes against Esau one of God’s most powerful rhetorical barrages, lambasting Esau’s descendants in Edom, to Judah’s southeast, for not standing with their cousins and neighbors, the Judeans, when enemies attacked Jerusalem. He exclaims that God will punish them, measure for measure (Hebrew: midah k’neged midah) for their betrayal: their allies will abandon them and lay them waste. Edom’s destruction and the rebuilding of Jerusalem will lead to the establishment of God’s name and divine kingship for the entire world. Centuries later in the late 2nd century BCE, the Hasmonean King John Hyrcanus conquered Edom and forcibly converted the Edomites to Judaism , thus ending the fraternal rivalry, perhaps in unity. Nonetheless, rabbinic traditions and subsequent generations of Jews have identified Edom with Rome, Christianity, and the West.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verse 1: God’s prophet exclaims His call unto the nations to battle Edom.

Obadiah 1:1

עובדיה א:א

The vision of Obadiah. Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom, “We have heard a message from the Lord, and an ambassador is sent among the nations. Arise, and let us rise against her in battle.”

חֲז֖וֹן עֹֽבַדְיָ֑ה כֹּֽה־אָמַר֩ אֲדֹקי ה' לֶאֱד֗וֹם שְׁמוּעָ֨ה שָׁמַ֜עְנוּ מֵאֵ֤ת ה' וְצִיר֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֣ם שֻׁלָּ֔ח ק֛וּמוּ וְנָק֥וּמָה עָלֶיהָ לַמִּלְחָמָֽה׃

Verses 2-4: God will cast down Edom from its mountainous heights of power and security, and make them the lowliest nation.

Obadiah 1:4

עובדיה א:ד

“[Even] if you [Edom] ascend high as a vulture, and if you place your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.

אִם־תַּגְבִּ֣יהַּ כַּנֶּ֔שֶׁר וְאִם־בֵּ֥ין כּֽוֹכָבִ֖ים שִׂ֣ים קִנֶּ֑ךָ מִשָּׁ֥ם אוֹרִֽידְךָ֖ נְאֻם־ה'׃

Verses 5-7: Obadiah laments, perhaps mockingly, how Edom’s allies betrayed, ransacked, and destroyed it.

Obadiah 1:7

עובדיה א:ז

All your allies banished you to the border. Those with whom you were at peace deceived and overcame you. [Your allies who ate] your bread [with you] placed snares under you. He [Edom] has no understanding...

עַֽד־הַגְּב֣וּל שִׁלְּח֗וּךָ כֹּ֚ל אַנְשֵׁ֣י בְרִיתֶ֔ךָ הִשִּׁיא֛וּךָ יָכְל֥וּ לְךָ֖ אַנְשֵׁ֣י שְׁלֹמֶ֑ךָ לַחְמְךָ֗ יָשִׂ֤ימוּ מָזוֹר֙ תַּחְתֶּ֔יךָ אֵ֥ין תְּבוּנָ֖ה בּֽוֹ׃

Verses 8-9: God will punish Edom by destroying its wisdom and military might.

Obadiah 1:9

עובדיה א:ט

Your mighty men, O [Edomite city of] Teman, shall be dismayed, so that everyone of Mount Esav will be cut off by slaughter.

וְחַתּ֥וּ גִבּוֹרֶ֖יךָ תֵּימָ֑ן לְמַ֧עַן יִכָּֽרֶת־אִ֛ישׁ מֵהַ֥ר עֵשָׂ֖ו מִקָּֽטֶל

Verses 10-14: Edom’s destruction is God’s punishment for having cheered and aided the enemies of his brother, the nation of Jacob/Israel when they attacked Jerusalem. The prophet admonishes Edom for eight transgressions.

Obadiah 1:11

עובדיה א:י״א

On the day you stood on the other side, on the day strangers captured his possession[s], and foreigners entered his cities and cast lots for Jerusalem -- you, too, were like one of them!

בְּיוֹם֙ עֲמָֽדְךָ֣ מִנֶּ֔גֶד בְּי֛וֹם שְׁב֥וֹת זָרִ֖ים חֵיל֑וֹ וְנָכְרִ֞ים בָּ֣אוּ שערו [שְׁעָרָ֗יו] וְעַל־יְרוּשָׁלִַ֙ם֙ יַדּ֣וּ גוֹרָ֔ל גַּם־אַתָּ֖ה כְּאַחַ֥ד מֵהֶֽם׃

Verses 15-21: Israel’s survivors will return from abroad to Jerusalem, restore its sanctity, and conquer Edomu and other neighboring enemies, thereby demonstrating God’s retributive justice.

Obadiah 1:21

עובדיה א:כ״א

Saviors shall ascend Mt. Zion to judge the mountain of Esau - and the Lord shall have dominion!

וְעָל֤וּ מֽוֹשִׁעִים֙ בְּהַ֣ר צִיּ֔וֹן לִשְׁפֹּ֖ט אֶת־הַ֣ר עֵשָׂ֑ו וְהָיְתָ֥ה לַֽה' הַמְּלוּכָֽה׃

Obadiah’s Identity

There is a widespread debate about Obadiah’s identity and era. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 39b) claims that he was the same Obadiah, student of Elijah and servant of King Ahab, who sustained persecuted prophets in I Kings 18; some identify him as the unnamed husband of the Shunamite woman in I Kings 17, the opening story of the Haftarah for Parashat Vayeirah. The Talmud also claims that Obadiah was an Edomite convert to Judaism, explaining the prophet’s singular focus on Edom. Some consider him a colleague of Job’s, and a descendant of Elifaz (Genesis 36). Abraham ibn Ezra argues against the Talmud’s approach, identifying him with no other Biblical Obadiah. Since Obadiah prophesied about the destruction of the First Temple (verse 11), many contemporary biblical scholars claim that he lived in Judah in the immediate aftermath of Jerusalem’s destruction. Yet others place him in different eras, such as during the early Second Temple Era.

Connections

The Midrash interprets Obadiah’s prophecy to demonstrate that God will eventually terminate Israel’s current, seemingly endless exile, associated with Edom.

Midrash Tanchuma, Vayetzei 2:1

מדרש תנחומא, ויצא ב:א

The Holy One, blessed be He, showed our father Jacob the guardian angel of Babylon ascending seventy rungs of the ladder and descending; [the guardian angel of] Media [Persia] ascending fifty-two rungs of the ladder, and descending; [the guardian angel] of Greece ascending one hundred rungs of the ladder, and descending - but [the guardian angel] of Edom ascended the ladder - and Jacob didn’t know [whether it would ever descend.] Jacob, therefore, became fearful, saying, “Perhaps Edom will never have a descent!” The Holy One, blessed be He, said to him:’ ... even though you see him ascend unto Me, from there I will cast him down, as it is said (Obad. 1:4), ‘“[Even] if you ascend high as a vulture, and if you place your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,” says the Lord.’”

הֶרְאָה לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא לְאָבִינוּ יַעֲקֹב שָׂרָהּ שֶׁל בָּבֶל עוֹלֶה שִׁבְעִין עוּקִים וְיוֹרֵד, וְשֶׁל מָדַי חֲמִשִּׁים וּשְׁנַיִם וְיוֹרֵד, וְשֶׁל יָוָן מֵאָה וְיוֹרֵד, וְשֶׁל אֱדוֹם עָלָה וְלֹא יָדַע כַּמָּה. בְּאוֹתָהּ שָׁעָה נִתְיָרֵא יַעֲקֹב אָבִינוּ וְאָמַר, שֶׁמָּא לָזֶה אֵין לוֹ יְרִידָה. אָמַר לוֹ הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא...אֲפִלּוּ אַתָּה רוֹאֵהוּ עוֹלֶה אֶצְלִי, מִשָּׁם אֲנִי מוֹרִידוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר: אִם תַּגְבִּיהַּ כַּנֶּשֶׁר וְאִם בֵּין כּוֹכָבִים שִׂים קִנֶּךָ מִשָּׁם אוֹרִידְךָ נְאֻם ה' (עובדיה א, ד).

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com.