April 3, 2020

warning against predatory evil

The charges brought against the Edomites by Obadiah form our reflection today, these are at verses 11 – 14: 13You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster. 14You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.  Last week we examined the first charge under the label passive oppression.  Today we present Possessive oppression and Predatory evil.


The possessive oppression is presented in v. 13You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster.

Obadiah here repeats the fact that the Edomites found great joy in the execution of their violent acts against their kindred people, Israel.  The obtaining of pleasure during the committal of evil acts has been the subject of extensive study and yet it remains a chilling reminder of the damage that has been done to the human psyche by the fall.    It is usually the case that the attacking army would plunder the wealth of the subdued but here we find the Edomites marching through Israel’s gates after their defeat and helping themselves to the spoils. There is a sense in which robbing the wounded and the dead is particularly repugnant. We have heard countless news reports perhaps some of us have even witnessed accidents scenes where passers by were busy helping themselves to the property of the wounded, burning business places were looted or those who visit the home of the deceased brought their condolences and left with their bellies full and their bags stuffed with items from the home. While some may be bold enough to discount this as mere opportunism I call it for what it is robbery and callousness of the highest order.  This becomes even more difficult to accept when the helping themselves to the goods of the victim is family or friend. It is a stinging form of betrayal.  It is to make the person twice a victim.


There is another form that this possessive violence takes among us. There are those who give care to the indigent and steal their money from the bank

once they manage to influence or coerce the elderly into giving them such access or they help themselves to some of the remittances that they collect

on their behalf.  This is an ugly abuse of trust and an affront to the dignity of the elderly. Have we not sunk to a new low when we hear of armed robbers

taking away a wheel chair from a lady with a disability?


I should also mention those who thought it was a great business idea to sell grated avocado seeds as the natural remedy bizzy given its high demand

as a treatment for the Chikungunya Virus. In the words of the current advertisement against corruption “it haffi stop!”  Those of us who know of such persons and refuse to condemn their actions are once again guilty of the passive violence that we saw at verses 11 and 12 of the text.


The case against Edom doesn’t end there. Obadiah goes on to present the charge of predatory evil.  The long held bitterness would not be satiated by just gloating at their defeat nor pillaging their goods, it needed to also ensure that no one escaped the sword of the attackers and join in the slaying while they were at it.  Obadiah says to them at v 14You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble.


We get a sense that Edom had determined that this would be their day, that they would have the last word.  Imagine your family being attacked and you somehow manage to elude the marauders.  You put some distance between you and them , go round a bend in the road and stumble into a few of your distant relatives.  Your relief at seeing them is extreme but that relief is short lived because the outstretched arms that you thought would be a hug became the grip of capture.  You watch wide eyed in disbelief as your relative begins to execute your family before your eyes, then marches you back into the welcoming arms of your original attackers.   Recently I listened to a young man speak with absolute resolve about the need to kill another over a dispute that had turned deadly six years ago.  He spoke as if the incident had taken place the same day, he insisted with a look of steel that the alleged perpetrator MUST die. I am afraid that based on what I saw and heard and felt that day it is only a matter of him getting the right opportunity to carry out his firmly rooted desire for revenge.


Revenge is like a cancer, once it is allowed to rest in the heart after its initial entry it spreads through your entire being, it is pernicious and it is like a drug that eventually causes a shift from the logical centre of the brain to the emotive center.  “Forgiveness,” said Epictetus, “is better than revenge, for forgiveness is the sign of a gentle nature, but revenge is the sign of a savage nature.”  It takes quite a lot of self denial and surrender of the human will to the divine will to choose the path of love, to choose to let things go.  It should be no surprise to us that there is an intricate link between pride and revenge. Predatory violence can be identified in marriages, in protracted rancor among church members, the political tribalism, gang warfare and at the office.  The reconciliatory lifestyle of men like the late Nelson Mandella get international mention as if they are flukes of nature but the truth is the rest of the society who choose to carry grudges and pursue the exacting of the pound of flesh are the real flukes.  Let us resolve that we will rid our lives of the need to engage in possessive and predatory violence. It is when each of us commits to confront and eradicate these in our own lives we begin to have hope as a people.


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