Obadiah 1:5
If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?
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(5-9) The completeness of the overthrow awaiting Edom. It is no mere inroad of a marauding tribe. Something would escape the robber, though he might go away quite satisfied with his plunder; and even a raid in vintage time, for the purpose of doing all the mischief possible to the country, would leave here and there a scattered bunch, gleanings for the inhabitants when the spoilers had retired, but now everything is doomed to destruction. Edom is completely robbed and ransacked. Notice how the sad, almost pathetic, conviction of this breaks out—as if rather from a friend (see Introduction) than an enemy—in the parenthetical “how art thou cut off!” in the very middle of the sentence. Every one must perceive, the prophet seems to say, a higher hand at work here.

(5) Some grapes.—Gleanings, as in margin. (Comp. Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 24:13.)

(6) How are the things of Esau searched out!—Literally, How are they searched out Esau! Where Esau is either taken collectively = Edom as a nation, or we must supply, as in the Authorised Version, “the things of,” or, as Ewald, “they of.” For search, comp. Zephaniah 1:12.

His hidden things.—Heb., matspunîm, from tsapan = to hide, but whether hidden treasures or hiding places cannot be determined, as the word only occurs here.

(7-9) Overtaken by this terrible calamity, and deserted by her allies, Edom will turn in vain for counsel to her senators and wise men, and for support to her heroes and mighty men, for these will not only share in the general ruin, but are marked out for an overthrow as signal as their renown.

(7) All the men of thy confederacy. . . .—This desertion by allies is doubtless put prominently forward as the due retribution on Edom for his treachery and cruelty to his natural ally, his brother Jacob. The members of the confederacy are not specified. In Jeremiah 27:3 we find Edom associated with Moab, Ainmon, Tyre, and Sidon, in the warning to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. The two former would be the natural allies of Edom, and in Ezekiel 25:8 Seir is joined with Moab as reproaching Israel. From Psalm 60:8, we may add to these Philistia (comp. also Obadiah 1:19). The expression “have brought thee to the border” is variously understood. The most natural explanation is that the fugitives from the ruin of Edom, flying into the territory of neighbouring and allied tribes for help, are basely driven back to their own frontier, and left to their fate.

The men that were at peace with thee.—As in margin, the men of thy peace, an expressive Hebrew idiom occurring in Jeremiah 20:10; Jeremiah 38:22, and in Psalm 41:9, where it is translated “mine own familiar friend.”

Great difference of opinion exists as to the connection of this and the following clause, and as it stands the text presents considerable difficulty. By dropping the italicised words in our version, and omitting the semicolon, we get, “The men of thy peace have deceived thee, prevailed against thee and thy bread, have laid a wound under thee.” There are two verbal difficulties—(1) “wound,” Heb., mazôr, which occurs in Hosea 5:13 in the sense of a festering wound or abscess, but which the older translators here render ambush, or snare; ἔνεδρα (LXX.); insidiœ (Vulg.). Ewald and Hitzig, among moderns, prefer net, and defend it etymologically. This certainly gives good sense, and if zûr, of which it is a derivative, can have the sense of binding, may be correct. Our translators in Jeremiah 30:13, and Aquila and Symmachus in this passage, evidently give it that force (see also Lee’s Heb. Lex., sub voce). To squeeze or crush, however, seems the true meaning of zûr: as in Judges 6:38, of Gideon’s fleece; Job 39:15, of the eggs of the ostrich. The preposition tachath = under, also offers a difficulty; “Laid a wound under thee” suggests no intelligible meaning. But on the authority (though possibly somewhat doubtful) of 2Samuel 3:12, where the word is translated “on behalf of,” but where the context requires “without his knowledge,” and on the analogy of all other languages, we may (with Vatablus, Drusius, Luther, and L. de Dieu; see Keil) translate the word deceitfully, or without thy knowledge, a rendering in accordance with the parallelism. But the syntax of the passage still remains unexplained. What is the construction of lachmeka=of thy bread? From Psalm 41:9, “The man of my peace which did eat of my bread,” we are led to the conjecture that it forms part of a familiar, perhaps proverbial, expression for one bound by the closest ties of fellowship and hospitality, and we must, therefore, either supply a participle, these eating, as in the Psalm, or understand a second anshêy=men of. It is true there is no other instance of the phrase “men of thy bread,” but it is a conceivable Hebrew idiom. Keeping the parallelism we now get an intelligible rendering of the passage.

“Unto the border they sent thee, all the men of thy confederacy.

Deceived thee, ruined thee,

Men of thy peace, men of thy bread;

(They) gave thee a wound in secret.

No understanding (is) in him.”

For the arrangement of the second clause, which is put for deceived thee the men of thy peace, ruined thee the men of thy bread, see Song of Solomon 1:5, and Note there. In the last clause the margin reads of it: i.e., of the injury just mentioned, instead of in him. But it is better to take it as an abrupt declaration in the prophet’s manner (comp. “how art thou cut off!” in Obadiah 1:5) of the utter bewilderment that had come or was coming on Edom, unable either by counsel or force to withstand his foes.

(8) Shall I not . . .—Literally, Surely in that day—it is Jehovah’s saying—I will make sages disappear from Edom, and understanding from Esau’s mountain.

The tradition of a peculiar sagacity in Edom, and especially in Teman (see Jeremiah 49:7), lingered long. Job’s sage friend Eliphaz was a Temanite. In Baruch 3:22-23 we read: “It (wisdom) hath not been heard of in Chanaan, neither hath it been seen in Theman. The Agarenes that seek wisdom upon earth, the merchants of Meran and of Theman, the authors (margin, expounders) of fables and searchers out of understanding, none of these have known the way of wisdom, or remember her paths.” Jeremiah’s words show even more strikingly how high the reputation had been: “Is wisdom no more in Teman? is counsel perished from the prudent? is their wisdom vanished?” “The men of the world think that they hold their wisdom and all God’s natural gifts independently of the giver. God, by the events of His natural providence, as here by His word, shows, through some withdrawal of their wisdom, that it is His, not theirs. Men wonder at the sudden failure, the flaw in the well-arranged plan, the one over-confident act which ruins the whole scheme, the over-shrewdness which betrays itself, or the unaccountable oversight.” So the utter want of perception and foresight in Edom seems unaccountable, till we think of the Divine purpose and end in it all. The wise were destroyed, and the mighty men dismayed, “to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.” It is the prophetic statement of the truth of the old heathen proverb: “Whom God wishes to destroy He first dements.”

(9) For Teman, see Job 2:11.

Obadiah 1:5-9. If thieves come unto thee — See note on Jeremiah 49:9. How are his hidden things sought up! — Those treasures and riches which he took all possible care to conceal, that they might not be discovered by the enemy. All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border — Thy confederates marched out with thee, until thou wast come to the borders of thy country, and then they perfidiously joined with the enemy’s forces, and thereby deceived thee. And prevailed against thee — Namely, treacherously. They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee — Those that were maintained at thy cost, as thine allies, have given thee a secret blow. There is none understanding — Thou wast not aware of it. Shall I not, in that day, even destroy the wise men, &c. — At that time, when these evils shall come upon them, their prudence and skill shall altogether forsake them, and the wisest among them shall not know what to do, or shall give unsatisfactory, or foolish, counsel. When God designs a people for destruction, he causes such circumstances to arise, such a multiplicity of dangers, and so unexpectedly, to surround them, that their greatest wisdom is confounded, and the most skilful among them are quite at a loss how to act. See note on Jeremiah 49:7. And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, &c. — Teman was one of the grandsons of Esau, after whom some city and district in Idumea was named. Here it seems to be used to signify the whole country of Idumea. Certain it is that the Idumeans were looked upon as a strong and valiant people. Josephus says, they went as unconcernedly and as cheerfully into battle as to a banquet; but here it is threatened that a panic fear should seize upon this courageous nation, so that they should be entirely discouraged, and not able to stand against their enemies, or defend themselves; the consequence of which would be, a great slaughter of them.

1:1-16 This prophecy is against Edom. Its destruction seems to have been typical, as their father Esau's rejection; and to refer to the destruction of the enemies of the gospel church. See the prediction of the success of that war; Edom shall be spoiled, and brought down. All the enemies of God's church shall be disappointed in the things they stay themselves on. God can easily lay those low who magnify and exalt themselves; and will do it. Carnal security ripens men for ruin, and makes the ruin worse when it comes. Treasures on earth cannot be so safely laid up but that thieves may break through and steal; it is therefore our wisdom to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven. Those that make flesh their trust, arm it against themselves. The God of our covenant will never deceive us: but if we trust men with whom we join ourselves, it may prove to us a wound and dishonour. God will justly deny those understanding to keep out of danger, who will not use their understandings to keep out of sin. All violence, all unrighteousness, is sin; but it makes the violence far worse, if it be done against any of God's people. Their barbarous conduct towards Judah and Jerusalem, is charged upon them. In reflecting on ourselves, it is good to consider what we should have done; to compare our practice with the Scripture rule. Sin, thus looked upon in the glass of the commandment, will appear exceedingly sinful. Those have a great deal to answer for, who are idle spectators of the troubles of their neighbours, when able to be active helpers. Those make themselves poor, who think to make themselves rich by the ruin of the people of God; and those deceive themselves, who call all that their own on which they can lay their hands in a day of calamity. Though judgment begins at the house of God, it shall not end there. Let sorrowful believers and insolent oppressors know, that the troubles of the righteous will soon end, but those of the wicked will be eternal.If thieves came to thee - The prophet describes their future punishment, by contrast with that which, as a marauding people, they well knew. Thieves and robbers spoil only for their petty end. They take what comes to hand; what they can, they carry off shortness of time, difficulty of transport, necessity of providing for a retreat, limit their plunder. When they have gorged themselves, they depart. "Their" plunder is limited. The "grape-gatherer" leaves gleanings. God promises to His own people, under the same image, that they should have a remnant left Isaiah 17:6; Isaiah 24:13. "Gleaning grapes shall be left in it." It shall be, "as gleaning grapes, when the vintage is done." The prophet anticipates the contrast by a burst of sympathy. In the name of God, he mourns over the destruction which he fore-announces. He laments over the destruction, even of the deadly enemy of his people. "How art thou destroyed!" So the men of God are accustomed to express their amazement at the greatness of the destruction of the ungodly Psalm 73:19. "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" Isaiah 14:4, Isaiah 14:12. "How hath the oppressor ceased! How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" Jeremiah 50:23. "How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken! how is Babylon become a desolation among the nations!" Jeremiah 51:41. "How is Sheshach taken! How is the praise of the whole earth surprised." 5. The spoliation which thou shalt suffer shall not be such as that which thieves cause, bad as that is, for these when they have seized enough, or all they can get in a hurry, leave the rest—nor such as grape-gatherers cause in a vineyard, for they, when they have gathered most of the grapes, leave gleanings behind—but it shall be utter, so as to leave thee nothing. The exclamation, "How art thou cut off!" bursting in amidst the words of the image, marks strongly excited feeling. The contrast between Edom where no gleanings shall be left, and Israel where at the worst a gleaning is left (Isa 17:6; 24:13), is striking. In this verse the prophet doth in an abrupt manner of speech, mixed of wonder and doubt, express the strange havoc and desolation made in Edom, as if lie had said, Who have been here? or in what posture wast thou found, O Edom! that such strange desolution is found in thee?

If thieves by day had spoiled thee, they would not have thus stripped thee. If robbers, which practise their violences in the night, had been with thee, they would have left somewhat behind them.

How art thou cut off? here is either a trajection, this placed here which must be read first in the verse, or an exclamation of one as in haste to know whence such unexpected events; or an insulting derision of that pride which boasted so much and performed so little in self defence.

Would they not have stolen till they had enough? thieves and robbers take till they have what is sufficient for them at present and leave the rest, but here is nothing left.

If the grape-gatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes? if Edom be a vine, and gathered, some gleanings would be left by grape-gatherers; but, alas, here have been those that have cut up the vine! and is all thy confidence and boasting come to this?

If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night,.... Whether the one came by day, and the other by night, or both by night, the same being meant by different words, whose intent is to plunder and steal, and carry off what they can; thy condition would not be worse, nor so bad as now it is: for

how art thou cut off! from being a nation, wholly destroyed; thy people killed, or carried captive; thy fortresses demolished, towns and cities levelled with the ground, and all thy wealth and substance carried off, and nothing left: these are either the words of God, or of the prophet, setting forth their utter ruin, as if it was already; or of the nations round about, wondering at their sudden destruction. Some render it, "how silent art thou!" (q) that is, under all these calamities: or, "how art thou asleep!" or "stupefied!" as the Targum and Jarchi; not to be upon thy guard against the incursions of the enemy, but careless, secure, and stupid, and now stripped of everything: had common thieves and robbers broke in upon thee,

would they not have stolen till they had enough? as much as they came for, or could carry off; they seldom strip a house into which they enter of everything in it; they come for some particular things, and, meeting with them, they go off, and leave the rest:

if the grape gatherers come to thee, would they not leave some grapes? that is, if men should come into thy vineyards, and gather the grapes, and carry them off by force or stealth, would they take them all a way? doubtless they would leave some behind; some would be hid under the boughs, and be left unobserved by them: or the allusion is to gatherers of grapes, who gather them for the owners, and at their direction, who were wont to leave some clusters for the poor to glean after them; but in the case of Edom it is suggested that nothing should be left, all should be clean carried off; the destruction would he complete and entire. The Targum is,

"if spoilers as grape gatherers should come unto thee, &c.''

see Jeremiah 49:9.

(q) "quomodo redactus es in silentium?" Calvin; "quomodo siles?" some in Tarnovius; so Syr.

{d} If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?

(d) God will so destroy them that he will leave none, even though thieves when they come take but until they have enough, and they that gather grapes always leave some behind them. See Geneva Jer 49:9

5, 6. The completeness of the destruction and desolation of Edom is depicted by a double contrast. Two cases are supposed in which something would be left behind. The thief or the robber would take his fill and depart: the grape-gatherer would not strip every cluster from the vine. But the enemies of Edom would do worse than either of these. They would spare nothing, nor stay their hand till they had left her utterly desolate and bare.

how art thou cut off] These words are an exclamation of the prophet, forced from him by the utter devastation which in prophetic vision he sees before his eyes. This is no work of the common robber, of the ordinary spoiler!

Verse 5, 6. - To prove the completeness of the destruction that shall befall Eden, the prophet supposes two cases of despoiling in which something would be left behind. It will be far worse than any mere raid of thieves; nothing will be spared. Verse 5. - Thieves... robbers. The former are ordinary thieves who pilfer secretly; the latter are robbers who act with violence, or members of a marauding expedition. How art thou cut off! An interposed ejaculation of the prophet, sympathizing with the Edomites for the utter desolation which he sees in vision. Septuagint, Ποῦ ἄν ἀπεῥῤίφης; "Where wouldst thou have been east away?" taking a different reading; Vulgate, Quomodo conticuisses? "How wouldst thou have been silent?" i.e. for fear. Till they had enough. Would they not have taken such plunder as they wanted, and then decamped? The grape gatherers would leave some bunches untouched, which escaped their notice. There is no reference to the charitable law in Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21, which would not affect, or be known unto, these grape plunderers. Obadiah 1:5The prophet sees this overthrow of Edom from its lofty height as something that has already happened, and he now depicts the utter devastation of Edom through the medium of the enemies whom Jehovah has summoned against it. Obadiah 1:5. "If thieves had come to thee, if robbers by night, alas, how art thou destroyed! would they not steal their sufficiency? If vine-dressers had come to thee, would they not leave gleanings? Obadiah 1:6. How have the things of Esau been explored, his hidden treasures desired! Obadiah 1:7. Even to the border have all the men of thy covenant sent thee: the men of thy peace have deceived thee, overpowered thee. They make thy bread a wound under thee. There is no understanding in him." In order to exhibit the more vividly the complete clearing out of Edom, Obadiah supposes two cases of plundering in which there is still something left (Obadiah 1:5), and then shows that the enemies in Edom will act much worse than this. אם with the perfect supposes a case to have already occurred, when, although it does not as yet exist in reality, it does so in imagination. גּנּבים are common thieves, and שׁדדי לילה robbers by night, who carry off another's property by force. With this second expression, the verb בּאוּ לך must be repeated. "To thee," i.e., to do thee harm; it is actually equivalent to "upon thee." The following words איך נדמיתה cannot form the apodosis to the two previous clauses, because nidmēthâh is too strong a term for the injury inflicted by thieves or robbers, but chiefly because the following expression הלוא יגנבוּ וגו is irreconcilable with such an explanation, the thought that thieves steal דּיּם being quite opposed to nidmâh, or being destroyed. The clause "how art thou destroyed" must rather be taken as pointing far beyond the contents of Obadiah 1:5 and Obadiah 1:6. It is more fully explained in Obadiah 1:9, and is thereby proved to be a thought thrown in parenthetically, with which the prophet anticipates the principal fact in his lively description, in the form of an exclamation of amazement. The apodosis to 'im gannâghı̄m (if robbers, etc.) follows in the words "do they not steal" ( equals they surely steal) dayyâm, i.e., their sufficiency (see Delitzsch on Isaiah 40:16); that is to say, as much as they need, or can use, or find lying open before them. The picture of the grape-gatherers says the same thing. They also do not take away all, even to the very last, but leave some gleanings behind, not only if they fear God, according to Leviticus 19:10; Deuteronomy 24:21, as Hitzig supposes, but even if they do not trouble themselves about God's commandments at all, because many a bunch escapes their notice which is only discovered on careful gleaning. Edom, on the contrary, is completely cleared out. In Deuteronomy 24:6 the address to Edom passes over into words concerning him. עשׂו is construed as a collective with the plural. איך is a question of amazement. Châphas, to search through, to explore (cf. Zephaniah 1:12-13). Bâ‛âh (nibh‛ū), to beg, to ask; here in the niphal to be desired. Matspōn, ἁπ. λεγ. from tsâphan, does not mean a secret place, but a hidden thing or treasure (τὰ κεκρυμμένα αὐτοῦ, lxx). Obadiah mentions the plundering first, because Petra, the capital of Edom, was a great emporium of the Syrio-Arabian trade, where many valuables were stored (vid., Diod. Sic. xix. 95), and because with the loss of these riches the prosperity and power of Edom were destroyed.

(Note: Jeremiah (Jeremiah 49:9) has greatly altered the words of Obadiah, dropping the comparison of the enemy to thieves and grape-gatherers, and representing the enemy as being themselves grape-gatherers who leave no gleaning, and thieves who waste till they have enough; and thereby considerably weakening the poetical picture.)

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