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God’s Word for You

Obadiah 7b revisited

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, March 24, 2018

Those who eat your bread
will set a trap for you,
but you will not detect it. (NIV)

I translated this phrase quite a bit differently two Saturdays ago, trying to understand the Hebrew text. Taken as it is in the NIV, could it be a reference or even a prophecy about Judas Iscariot? There are a couple of strikes against this passage as a prophecy about Judas, some things to say about it on both sides of the question, both against, and in favor.

To put us into the correct frame of mind, let’s consider a couple of points from the Last Supper:

Jesus said, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me” (Matthew 26:23). When Judas asked, “Surely not I, Rabbi?” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.” (Matthew 26:25). In John’s account of this scene, Jesus was also handing Judas a piece of bread during the meal (not yet the Lord’s Supper). “As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him. ‘What you are about to do, do quickly,’ Jesus told him” (John 13:27). And, “as soon as Judas had taken the bread, we went out. And it was night” (John 13:30). After this, Matthew says that Jesus consecrated the elements and instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-30).

Could Obadiah be talking about this scene?

On the one hand, Obadiah 7 ends with “but you will not detect it.” According to his human nature, Jesus did set aside his divine power in order to be crucified, but he still knew the thoughts and hearts of the people around him, including Judas. However, the prophetic part of the verse might not include the final phrase. Peter quotes Psalm 109:8b about Judas Iscariot in Acts 1:20, but does that mean that all of the Psalm (which, in context, is all about the same wicked man and his companions) applies to Judas? Also, most of Obadiah (if not all of it) is about Edom.

On the other hand, there are quite a few verses coming up in Obadiah which can also apply to Jesus and to our salvation through him, couched in terms of Mount Zion, beginning with “the Day of the LORD is near…” in verse 15, and understanding “people” (vs. 19) and “the house of Jacob” (vs. 17, 18) and similar words to be the true Israel, which is to say, those who believe in Jesus Christ. They are certainly the “deliverers” of verse 21—the messengers of the saving gospel, so that even the Edomites have the promise of salvation through Christ.

So, is Obadiah describing part of the betrayal scene of Jesus by Judas Iscariot? It used to be said that the early church read “too much” Jesus into the Old Testament. I fear that the modern church might read “too little” Jesus into the Old Testament. It would be wise, I think, to say that perhaps Obadiah’s words do indeed cast a shadow that reminds us of the hand of Judas dipping into the bowl of the Lord. Jesus was certainly betrayed by Judas, and behaved precisely as if he didn’t detect the trap—which is just what led to Judah’s despair and collapse into thinking he couldn’t be forgiven. This is Judas’ tragedy.

Jesus allowed himself to be handed over to the Romans, to be betrayed into the hands of the enemy. The judgment of Pilate was that he was innocent, but the chief priests of the Jews demanded that Jesus be crucified. Caiaphas the high priest spoke the truth: “It is better that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (John 11:50). Caiaphas “prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one” (John 11:51-52). Through Jesus, we have been saved and we have been gathered together so that we may dip our hands into his bowl without any guilt, without any sin—without any betrayal at all. He has covered over our sins.

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
(Romans 4:7)

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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