A Response to “The Setting of Obadiah”
In his paper The Setting of Obadiah (Hassler, Mark A. 2016. “The Setting of Obadiah: When Does the Oracle Concerning Edom Transpire?” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 59 (2): 241–54. ) Mark Hassler seeks to answer the question of his subtitle: When Does the Oracle Concerning Edom Transpire? The answer to this question matters because it shapes one’s whole interpretation of the prophecy.
The Oracle’s Fulfillment
Hassler lays out the three primary options for the timing of Edom’s humbling, as predicted in Obadiah’s vision. He gives props and cons for both a 9th century B.C. fulfillment and a fulfillment in the 6th century B.C. The main issue he raises with both of these timings is that there is no historical record of anything close to what Obadiah describes actually happening to Edom in these centuries (see pages 243-246).
What Hassler then goes on to argue is that this vision awaits a future and earthly eschatological fulfillment. He lists 16 points of argument (on pages 246-254), made up primarily of parallel passages and cross references, though he includes some thoughts on interpreting prophecy and scripture more generally. The crux of his argument truly lies in the parallel passages. Especially passages such as Joel 2:32-3:21 (discussed on pages 246-247) as well as Jeremiah 49:7-22 (see page 248) and 25:12-38 (see page 250). Given the significant overlap between the prophecies and oracles in these passages with Obadiah’s vision, if it can be demonstrated that these prophecies yet await a future fulfilment, then it stands to reason that what Obadiah saw concerning Edom is yet future as well.
Hassler demonstrates, I believe convincingly, that the preponderance of biblical evidence supports a future fulfillment for Edom’s humiliation by the Lord. In spite of some attempts to split the book into discrete past/future parts (breaking after verse 14), the linguistic tie of “that day” (v8), “the day” (twice in v11, four times in v12, three times in v13, once in v14), and “the day of the Lord” (v15) demonstrates that this break may be a literary reality, but not one which separates with any time markers. The book takes place together in one time frame (253-254). And because nothing like what Obadiah describes has yet taken place, that fulfillment must yet be in the future.