You know what’s really weird about Jonah, as a Bible book? Until now, there have only been a couple books out of the last 25 or so that I immediately remembered the main gist of, from my Sunday school days, before reading them. There was Daniel, which I knew would involve a lions’ den, and there was Job, which I knew would involve a dude who would get screwed over royally and painfully. And now, there’s Jonah, which I knew would involve a wha- err … o.k. a “great fish” which would swallow him right up. But what’s so weird about Jonah in comparison with the previous two books is how utterly simple it is.
Both Daniel and Job – although I had remembered the main gist of each correctly – were far more detailed and/or convoluted than what I recalled being taught in Sunday school as a kid. Daniel’s backstory leading into the lions’ den tale was quite comprehensive, and then post-lions, his book took a weird 6-chapter acid trip of a turn that I was not expecting. Job, similarly, spent a surprising 35 chapters on Job & friends just sitting around speculating about God’s motivations for torturing him. But Jonah, conversely – which is only 4 chapters long – is not only exactly what I learned as a kid, but it provides what might be even less detail than the Sunday school stories as I recalled them. It goes like this:
Obadaiah. Ohhhh badiah. Have you ever met anyone who gives any craps about Obadiah as a Bible book? Were you even aware it existed? I, certainly, had forgotten. But being that it’s the shortest book in the entire bible, I was absolutely thrilled to get here.
Of course, as it has been with these super short books thus far, Obadiah proved to be a far tougher nut to crack than I expected. The reason being in Obadiah’s case – All throughout its 21 verses, it references some dude named Esau. Esau?? Esau who? That name sounds familiar but … ohhhh right. If I rewind my brain back 30 books and nearly 4 long years ago, all the way back to Genesis when I very first started this project, it starts to come back to me. Esau was Jacob’s brother. We know Jacob well: son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, the father of the 12 sons who make up the 12 tribes of Israel. God gave Jacob the name “Israel”; he IS The Chosen One – the very father of Israel itself. But his bro Esau? We left him in the dust 30 chapters ago. He was apparently easy to forget for me.
The funny thing is that I’m now recalling that Esau was the founder of a nation that’s been a pretty major player in the Bible thus far – Edom. Sound familiar? One of Israel’s neighbors; a country that, just like every one of its other neighbors – Damascus, Moab, Ammon, etc. – has played the bad guy in these stories on the reg. And it makes sense, because Esau was cast as the “bad brother” in the fam back in Genesis, and was unfavored by God. Jacob was God’s fave. Esau was merely Jacob’s loser brother. So of course his country of Edom is one of the Bible’s key recurring villains – the Loki to Jacob/Israel’s Thor.
This is all well and good but, how does it relate to Obadiah? Let’s give a summary of the plot of the book. It starts off with an introduction of Obadiah. But where most other books normally give the setting at this point, Obadiah gives zero setting at all (you’ll recall I was also quite annoyed with Joel for this same offense). All we know at the beginning is, he’s a prophet, and he lives in either Israel or Judah. Here’s what happens from there:
Obadiah’s all like: “Hey Edom, we’re gonna KICK YOUR FOOKIN’ ARSES!!! You conceited bastards think you’re hot shit but we’re about to teach you a thing or two when we destroy you!! Just because you live up in those mountains like big tough guys, you think no one can defeat you, but guess what? God gave us permission and he’s behind us all the way, so get ready cause we’re coming for ya, bitches.”
Once upon a time, there was a prophet named Amos. He baked some cookies, and then he got famous.
O.k. fine, the idiocy of that joke is indicative of how hard it’s been for me to start writing this review even though I finished reading Amos over a week ago. I just don’t know how many times I can review the same story over and over and over again. We’ve been through 3 major prophets and 3 minor prophets now and it’s always essentially the same thing. Israel and/or Judah are misbehaving. God angry. God angry, god SMASH. God smash, God smash a lot. O.k. ohhhh k, God sorry God smash. God make things better again for God’s people.
So what’s different or interesting about Amos vs. everything else we’ve read so far? Per usual let’s start off with the setting and we’ll go from there. “1:1 The words of Amos, one of the shepherds of Tekoa—the vision he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam son of Jehoasha was king of Israel.” You may recall that both Hosea and Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Azariah (a.k.a. Uzziah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. They had been the earliest prophets of the bunch so far. Well Amos, it seems, actually slightly preceded both of those dudes (with some overlap). His active years were somewhere around the 765-753 BC timeframe, according to the estimates listed on Wikipedia. Those years are estimated based on the years of the reigns of Jeroboam and Uzziah, plus a historically verifiable earthquake that happened early on in this timeframe, which according to this verse, happened 2 years after Amos began to prophecy.