Monday, September 27, 2010

Martin Luther's Commentary on Obadiah.

People wrongly think that I overdo my praise of the genius of Luther (that's right you snobby kierkegaardians, I said genius) but today I will prove them all wrong. In the library at school I decided to pick up Martin Luther's lecture on the book of Obadiah. It was awful. Simply awful. He devotes about four pages to this vastly important book, the second half of which is full of really bad allegorizing. Indeed from verses 17-21 (which very specifically address a re-distribution of territories among Israelites, a restored and expanded dominion uniting both the Northern and Southern kingdoms under the one kingship of the LORD, and an Israelite occupation of Edom and Philistia). Luther brings three shaky assumptions to the scripture which cause him to digress into allegory-

1. The Northern Kingdom of Israel is forever destroyed, so it is incomprehensible that the prophet speak of their literal return.
2. It is impossible that territories be re-distributed because the LORD allotted them irrevocably and immutably through Joshua.
3. History never makes mention of Philistia or Edom being governed and possessed by Jews.

Where does he get these assumptions? I have no clue. The other prophets abound in oracles about the return of Israel (cf. Ezek 37:15-28; 48; Jer 3:11-18 etc...). And an immutable territory allotment would presuppose the impossibility of Israel or Judah being exiled in the first place! Moreover, 1 Maccabees clearly states that Philistia and Edom were subdued under the reign of Judas the hammer (5:3, 65-68).

Luther was right to see the kingdom of Christ proclaimed in these final verses, only he shouldn't have spiritualized them. Christ indeed has a concrete task to complete with regards to the promises given to Israel, and we must ever be watchful for the fulfillment of the same in Obadiah.

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