Obadiah 19-21 Meaning.

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Richard Miller

Puritan Board Freshman
Greetings brothers and sisters. Grace and peace to you through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I have been studying Obadiah, and I wanted to get PB's take on the last few verses of Obadiah.

Here are the verses in question (in ESV):
19 Those of the Negeb shall possess Mount Esau,
and those of the Shephelah shall possess the land of the Philistines;
they shall possess the land of Ephraim and the land of Samaria,
and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 The exiles of this host of the people of Israel
shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Zarephath,
and the exiles of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
shall possess the cities of the Negeb.
21 Saviors shall go up to Mount Zion
to rule Mount Esau,
and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.

It seems like the verses are indicating that the Jews will possess a very large amount of land sometime in the future. As I scan over some commentaries on these verses, it seems like the common view is that it relates to the Gospel's spread.

This is what Calvin wrote about verses 19-20 (not 21, sorry if the punctuation is off):

"The Prophet proceeds with the same subject, -- that God would not only gather the remnants of his people from the Babylonian exile, but would restore the exiles, that they might rule far and wide, and that their condition might be better than it was before: for the Prophet, as I think, directs the attention to the first blessing of God, which had been deposited in the hand of Abraham. God had promised to the posterity of Abraham the whole land from Euphrates to the sea. Now this land had never been possessed by the children of Abraham. This happened, as it is well known, through their sloth and ingratitude. David in his time enlarged the borders; but yet he only made those tributaries whom God had commanded to be destroyed. So this blessing had never been fulfilled, because the people put a hindrance in the way. The Prophet now, speaking of the restoration of the Church, tells the people, who would return from exile, that they were to occupy the country which had been promised to their fathers as though he said, "There will come to you a full and complete inheritance."

Now it is certain that this prophecy has never been completed: we know that but a small portion of the land was possessed by the Jews. What then are we to understand by this prophecy? It does unquestionably appear that the Prophet speaks here of the kingdom of Christ; and we know that the Church was then really restored, and that the Jews not only recovered their former state from which they had fallen, but that their kingdom was increased: for how great became the splendor of the kingdom and of the temple under Christ? This then is what the Prophet now means, when he promises to the Jews the heritage which they had lost; yea, God then enlarged the borders of Judea. Hence he shows that they should not only be restored to their former condition, but that the kingdom would be increased in splendor and wealth, when Christ should come. Let us now run over the words.

Possess then shall they the south of the mount of Esau. The space was no doubt great: even when David reigned, the Jews did not possess that part or south portion of mount Seir. Then the Prophet, as I have said, shows that the borders of the kingdom would be more extensive than they had been. And the plain, he says, of the Philistines On that side also the Lord would cause that the Jews would extend farther than their kingdom. And possess they shall the fields of Ephraim Here I will not spend much labor in describing the land: but it is enough for us to understand that the design of the Prophet was to show, that the state of the people after their exile would be far more splendid than it had been before, even under the reign of David. What he means by Gilead is not very clear: but it is not probable that mount Gilead is referred to here, which was not far distant from the tribe of Benjamin, but rather that a town or some place distant from that part, and not included in their portion, is pointed out.

He afterwards adds, And the migrations of this host of the children of Israel, etc. There is here an obscurity in the words. The Hebrews by Canaan mean the Illyrians as well as Germans, and also the Gauls: for they say, that the migration, which shall be dispersed in Gaul, and in Germany, and in these far regions, shall possess the southern cities. Now by Zarephath they understand Spain. But we know, as we have elsewhere said, that the Jews are very bold in their glosses: for they are not ashamed to trifle and to blend frivolous things; and they assert this as though it were evident from history, and easily found out. Thus they prattle about things unknown to them, and this they do without any reason or discrimination. The Prophet, I doubt not, means here that all those territories, which had been formerly promised to the children of Abraham, would come into their possession when the Lord would send his Christ, not only to restore what had fallen, but also to render the state of the people in every way blessed. The import of the whole then is, that the Jews shall not only recover what they had lost, but what had not hitherto been given them to possess: all this the Lord would bestow on them when Christ came."

So is Calvin's idea about that passage that: In that large area of land, God's people will dwell, which speaks to how great things will be once the Messiah comes? And that it would be not an earthly kingdom that would possess the land, but rather God's people living around the world (a spiritual kingdom)?

Also, what is your take on those verses? I want to know what you think and I am trying to understand Calvin here.

Thanks for reading my long post about not-often referenced verses. But hey, it's still God's word, so I wanna understand it.
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Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I think you've understood Calvin's interpretation correctly. And I think Calvin gets it pretty much right. He would say, again I think correctly, that the perfect and full realization of the prophecy comes in the new heavens and earth. What is possessed by faith now (as in the example of Abraham) is possessed by sight when the age-to-come has arrived.

Richard Miller

Puritan Board Freshman
I think you've understood Calvin's interpretation correctly. And I think Calvin gets it pretty much right. He would say, again I think correctly, that the perfect and full realization of the prophecy comes in the new heavens and earth. What is possessed by faith now (as in the example of Abraham) is possessed by sight when the age-to-come has arrived.

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
I think attention to be drawn to Christ’s command to his Apostles to begin their post-ascension ministry in Jerusalem. In a sense, I suspect that may have been a way to fulfill prophecies such as these (the latter part of Ezekiel particularly comes to mind), which would reinforce interpretations that align with Calvin’s, which you referenced here.
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