Prophetic Redemption of the Sephardim
Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.
Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and together with Brad TV in partnership, we are doing a series on the prophets. We started with the minor prophets, and now we get to the shortest book of prophecy in the Bible, the book of Ovadia or Obadiah.
This book has only 21 verses, a small chapter. I haven't had much opportunity to hear pastors talk about the book of Obadiah or use the book of Obadiah in their sermons. But for me and for a lot of Israelis, and a lot of Sephardic Jews, it's a very important book; not easy to understand, but very important.
First of all, we know very little about Obadiah. We have Obadiah mentioned about four times in the rest of the Bible; mainly in the book of 1 Kings and 2 Kings, and once in Chronicles. So naturally, scholars, when they read the book of a Obadiah, they think that it is the same Obadiah that was the chief steward of King Ahab in the days of Elijah, and fed 100 prophets of God, of Jehovah, hid them in caves in and around Mount Carmel and fed them for three years. When Jezebel hears about that, she probably murders him or has him murdered. So he leaves a widow with two boys, in deep debt. The debtors, those who hold the debt, want to take the boys as slaves until the debt is paid. The widow cries to Elijah the prophet, and Elijah helps her multiply olive oil and sell it in order to pay her debt and recover her children's safety.
That Obadiah, is called a righteous man: twice in chapter 18 of 1 Kings and also in chapter 4 of 2 Kings. There is commentary saying that it is the same Obadiah that wrote the book of prophecy under this name. I seriously have doubt of it. Here, we have Obadiah the prophet, and he starts his short book with the words,
“The vision of Obadiah.”
He's the only one that opens his prophecy addressing not Israel, not Jerusalem, not the Hebrew nation, but Edom, one of the sons of Esau.
Now, in order to understand the book of Obadiah, that deals mainly with our neighbors to the East of the Jordan, we have to go back to the book of Genesis, to the birth of Esau. Rebecca married Isaac. Isaac was 40 years old. Rebecca was around 18 to 20 years old when she married Isaac. She had twins, and the problems between these twins started in her womb, and the New Testament addresses this issue.
The rabbinical literature is full of discussion of these two boys, Esau and Jacob. They jockeyed with one another in the womb of Rebecca. And, and the word jockeying may not be the right word, but they ran around, they fought, they argued, they competed in the womb of Rebecca; who's going to come first.
Because Esau was stronger physically, he came out first. We say ginger, red hair, hairy with red hair. And that's why he was called Esau. And Edom is one of his descendants in the ethnography of the biblical nations around the land of Israel and the people of Israel.
This birth, in Genesis chapter 25, where the children struggled with each other in the womb, sets the tone for the relationship of Israel with its Arab neighbors. With the Edomites, the Moabites, the Ishmaelites, and the other neighbors around us.
To understand the book of Obadiah, we need to understand these two boys. Jacob was a tent dweller, a philosopher, a person who thought, contemplated, and a good businessman. Esau was an outdoors man, not a bookman. He was a hunter; strong physically, and a rough type of character.
These two boys give birth to two nations or two ethnic groups, and they compete with each other. They have bad periods and better periods. Finally, they made peace when Jacob returns with Leah and Rachel and children and livestock, from spending 21 years at the house of Laban, his uncle.
So Obadiah is prophesying. Let me go to the text of Obadiah and deal with the prophecy.
“Thus said the Lord concerning Edom. We have heard the report from the Lord and the messenger has been sent among the nations saying, ‘arise, let us raise up against her for battle.’ Behold, I will make you small among the nations. You shall be greatly despised. The pride of your heart has deceived you, you who dwell in the cliffs of the rock, whose habitation is high. You say in your heart, ‘who will bring me down to the ground?’ They have ascended as high as an eagle, and though you set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down, says the Lord."
We see here, right in the beginning of the book of Obadiah, he's dealing with Edom. It's not easy to understand this book because Israel is often times used as a parable, and is considered the smallest of all the nations. Here, in Obadiah, I believe that Edom and Esau are used also in a parable type paradigm.
You know, Edom and what is said here about Edom, is not only about Edom, that small nation on the east side of the Jordan River and the north side of the Dead Sea. No, it's much bigger than that. Why am I saying that it's much bigger than that? Because of the end of Obadiah. At the end of Obadiah, the last verses give us a prophecy about the relationship of Israel with Esau with Edom and the restoration of the exiles of Israel back to the land of Israel.
But not all the tribes; only those who were taken from Judah and exiled to Sepharad. Sepharad is Spain. In verse 20 of Obadiah, we have these two names. I'll read verse 20 in English:
"And the captives of this host of the children of Israel shall possess the land of the Canaanites as far as Tzarfat,” which is the name for France in the Bible. “And the captives of Jerusalem who are in Sepharad,”
which is the name of Spain in the Bible, “Shall possess the cities of the south.” The Hebrew word there for the south is the cities of the Negev.
The Negev is the name of a third of the land of Israel, the state of Israel, which is desert. Be'er-Sheva, and south, all the way to the Red Sea, is the Negev. It's a desolate, harsh, difficult desert. The only people that succeeded in the ancient world to live there, were the Nabataeans, a trading people.
They traded along the spice route from Asia, from India and North of India, through the Negev Desert, through Israel. There, they loaded their stuff in Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa, Ptolemais or Akko, and all the way to Tyre in Lebanon and then took it to Europe to trade.
So, we have the names Tzarfat and Sepharad talking about exiles from Israel that were into these two countries. And Obadiah says that the captives that were taken from Jerusalem to Sepharad, to Spain, shall possess the series of the Negev. Then the Savior shall come from Mount Zion to judge the mountains of Esau and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.
Ah, very interesting. Why is it interesting? Because in the middle of the second century, after Yeshua, the Jews were taken out of the land of Israel. They were taken into captivity to Rome, to Greece, to Italy, to France, and what is Spain today.
These Jews were divided into two groups. The ones that were exiled to Spain and Portugal, to the Iberian Island, were called Sephardic Jews; that includes North Africa, Morocco, Algeria. The ones that were exiled further up to Germany and to middle Europe and to France, were called Ashkenazi Jews; because that part of the world was called Ashkenaz.
So we have these two groups of Jews, Ashkenazi Jews and Sephardic Jews. And here we are addressed by Obadiah, that the Jews that were exiled from Jerusalem, from Judea to Sepharad, to Spain, will be returned to the land of Israel, and will settle the Negev.
Very interesting. Why is it interesting? Because the Negev is still mainly desolate, still desert very sparsely inhabited. The people who dwell there are mainly Arab, Muslim, Bedouins: nomads. Now they've become wild and criminal, and the Negev is still basically empty from Jews. Be'er-Sheva is the large city in the Negev, but from Be'er-Sheva south to Eilat, is very sparse in population.
The Negev is waiting for the prophecy of Obadiah to be fulfilled.
Now we at Netivyah, are the pioneers to catch onto that prophecy and started to work to bring the Aliyah from South America, mainly Brazil, and from Portugal. There are 16 million Jews in Brazil and South America, who are officially victims of the Catholic Inquisition that burned only in Lisbon area in Southern Portugal, 44,000 Jews, who were forced to convert to Christianity, to Catholicism.
And then if they ate a kosher hamburger or went to synagogue on one of the holidays, they were tortured, examined, held in horrible conditions for months, and then finally burned alive. Some not alive, but many alive on the stake.
We believe that this prophecy is in the process of being fulfilled right now as we talk, because we are involved in that fulfillment in many ways. We are dealing with Israeli government,
with the Portuguese government, and the Jewish community in Portugal; trying to open up the doors, the doors of Israel, so that these lost Jews in Portugal and in the Portuguese speaking countries, can return home. Because the Negev is waiting empty, generally speaking, empty, waiting for these Hispanic Jews, Portuguese Jews, to return home according to this prophecy of Obadiah.
But the last verse of this prophet Obadiah is:
"The savior shall come from Mount Zion." No, "The Savior shall come to Mount Zion to judge the mountain of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord's."
This is a very interesting text. In other words, Jews bring judgment on the mountains of Esau, east of the Jordan River, and the kingdom shall be the Lord's.
But I don't think it's talking about the geography here. Here is what I think. Edom is a name that in the early centuries after Christ, the Rabbis called Rome. Edom is Rome. The “Esau” is Jesus in the cryptic hidden secret language of the Jews in Southern Europe, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Why is Esau Jesus? Because the name Esau has these letters.
The name of Yeshua, in Hebrew, is also with one extra letter in the beginning, a Yod. Yeshua spelled exactly the same, only one added letter. The name, the theophoric opening. So Yeshua embeds in it, the name Esau.
The Jews in the diaspora, all the way from the early Christianization of that part of Europe until today, when they talk and they don't want to offend the Christians, they say Esau instead of Jesus. Rabbinical Jews, not all the Jews, say Esau. They use the name Esau, and Rome is Edom. And it could be that we have this very, very interesting use already in the New Testament itself.
When Jacob, James, quotes from Amos chapter 9 verse 11, 12, 13, in Acts chapter 15, it has a different reading than the Hebrew Masoretic text of the Bible, the rest of Edom. And that's more correct in the context of Amos and also in the context of Acts chapter 15. But he doesn't say there, Edom; he says Edom, meaning Rome. There, Rome is Edom.
It's all very interesting, but not so simple. And what's not so simple is that most of the prophecy of Obadiah is not about Israel, not against Israel, but against our first cousins, descendants of Esau, who dwell in the east of the Jordan River.
Obadiah is a fascinating, short, and for the Sephardic Jews like myself, it's a window of hope and of light for the redemption of the exiles from Spain, Portugal, South America, Central America, and the Hispanic Jews. Hope of returning them back to the land of Israel, to rebuild, and resettle, and turn the Negev Desert, green.
God bless you all. Pray for us. We are fighting this battle for Aliyah for these Jews from the Hispanic and Portuguese speaking countries. Shalom from Jerusalem.