Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. It is difficult to ascertain when this book was written, sometime between 850-200 BC. Dating this book is based upon the mention of the destruction of Jerusalem and the fact that many of the verses in the text are very similar to verses contained in the book of Jeremiah. Although I will not spend the time in class to compare these verses, it is worth the time for a teacher to compare Obadiah 1:1-4 and Jeremiah 49:14-16 as well as Obadiah 1:5-6 with Jeremiah 49:9-10.
This book is a condemnation of the attitude of the people of Edom as to their attitude displayed towards the people of Jerusalem when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon (see Obadiah 1:1-10). Psalms 137 also tells us that that people of Edom rejoiced when Jerusalem was sacked in 586 BC. We read: “Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof… Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones (Psalm 137:7-9).
At issue is our attitude towards those that have caused real or imagined offense against us. The people of Edom were descendants of Esau, so there was a blood relation between Edom and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (see Genesis 36:1; 1 Chronicles 1:35-43). The Edomites were neighbors to Judah and lived in the area south of the Dead Sea. Even though there was a close kinship between the Israelites and those of Edom, there was continual and mutual hatred between both groups. Wars were a common occurrence between Edom and Israel. To get this ancient text to a level where teenagers will relate with it, we must establish a relationship between the message the Lord is giving to Edom (Obadiah 1:1) and the teenagers in the seminary classroom. Once that common ground is established, we are golden.
I would ask, “How are we like the people of Edom? When have you (at least secretly in your heart) rejoiced when someone was publicly humiliated? Have you ever been happy watching someone fail? Have you ever aided in the failure of another person? Why did you do this?”
Usually when we have discussions like this students share how they were the victim of some slight by the another party. Most of the time we do not devise clever ways for people to fail without provocation, we can usually come up with a reason for our diabolical intentions! How we react to offenses is in large measure a way to gauge our own level of spiritual maturity. One of the messages of Obadiah is that we need not worry about the Edomites of our lives, that the Lord is aware of the offense and its personal nature, and that eventually those that cause others harm will meet justice.
What goes around comes around
We read in Obadiah, “For the day of the Lord is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head” (verse 15). In other words, what goes around, comes around. In the words of Hosea, “they have sown the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). We see several illustrations of this in the scriptures. After giving one or two from the scriptures, students will usually share times in their lives where they have seen this in action.
Some scriptural illustrations include:
Abinadi and King Noah and his priests (Mosiah 17:12-20)
Jesus Christ and Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37)
Alma/Amulek and the city of Ammonihah (Alma 9:17-19, 24, 14:12-14, 16:1-10)
David and Saul (1 Samuel 18:12-11, 19:1, 31:4-5)
Daniel and his adversaries (Daniel 6)
I really like how the author of Mosiah shapes how we can choose to view other people. When we look at the way the Lamanites viewed the Nephites in Mosiah 10:11-18, we see that how we view others can shape our emotional state and even our worldview. When we compare these verses with Mosiah 9:1, we see that by examining the good in the other person there is an antitode to the pride that can seep into our personal relationships. Spending time in class to see how Obadiah’s message has relevance today in the lives of teenagers will help them to look for ways to apply the scriptures when they are engaged in their own personal scripture study.
Laid the block on which the story was built
Another way to take the lessons learned in this book is to ask if a student has ever said something about them that wasn’t true.
Usually hurt feelings result from misperceptions of statements or events. We all see things from a different point of view. When we hear that someone has said something about us that isn’t true, our initial reaction is usually anger, hurt, or a desire to right the wrong that has taken place. Sometimes we have a desire to harm the person who has spread the rumor about us. Escalating the conflict will never solve the problem, it usually makes things worse.
The following example from the life of Joseph Smith helps to crystallize in the minds of the students this concept:
I went one day to the Prophet with a sister. She had a charge to make against one of the brethren for scandal. When her complaint had been heard the Prophet asked her if she was quite sure that what the brother had said of her was utterly untrue. She was quite sure that it was. He then told her to think no more about it, for it could not harm her. If untrue it could not live, but the truth will survive. Still she felt that she should have some redress. Then he offered her his method of dealing with such cases for himself. When an enemy had told a scandalous story about him, which had often been done, before he rendered judgment he paused and let his mind run back to the time and place and setting of the story to see if he had not by some unguarded word or act laid the block on which the story was built. If he found that he had done so, he said that in his heart he then forgave his enemy, and felt thankful that he had received warning of a weakness that he had not known he possessed. Then he said to the sister that he would have her to do the same: search her memory thoroughly and see if she had not herself unconsciously laid the foundation for the scandal that annoyed her. The sister thought deeply for a few moments and then confessed that she believed that she had. Then the Prophet told her that in her heart she should forgive that brother who had risked his own good name and her friendship to give her this clearer view of herself. The sister thanked her advisor and went away in peace (Jesse W. Crosby, in Hyrum Andrus, They Knew the Prophet, 162-163).