Read the Bible in a Year
This week, read: Lamentations 1-5; Obadiah 1; Psalm 137
At Least Know This
In the year 587 BC, the Babylonian army swept through Judah and destroyed the land. They took the leadership of Judah to live in Babylon. We call this the “Babylonian Exile.” Lamentations, Obadiah, and Psalm 137 were written during this time.
Author and Date
Early tradition says that Lamentations was written by Jeremiah. There’s no reason to believe this or doubt it.
Obadiah was written by the prophet of the same name. Little is known about him, except for a short passage in 1 Kings 18 (if indeed, this is the same Obadiah).
We don’t know who wrote Psalm 137.
These were written during the Babylonian Exile, 587 to 538 BC.
The Babylonians swept through Judah and conquered it quickly; Jerusalem was reduced to ruins. The way the Babylonians prevented revolts was to deport the leadership back to Babylon. Probably somewhere between 8000 and 15,000 people were taken to Babylon. Further, the people who were left in the land were left without all the resources of Jerusalem. Many moved to Egypt or other parts of the world.
Life in Babylon was not slavery. They were allowed to set up residences, get jobs, and connect with other people. But while Babylon was one of the best and modern cities in which to live, it was not where the Jews wanted to be. They wanted to worship in their own temple, and live in their own land. The Babylonian Exile was a terrible time to be a Jew, because they were held in a place where they didn’t want to be, by a foreign enemy, far away from where they believed their God to be.
With their kids going to Babylonian schools, and the adults having Babylonian jobs, they felt the need to retain their own culture and not be assimilated into Babylonian culture. They began to write down the oral stories that became the much of the Old Testament. It is likely that during this time they created the synagogues, a place to gather and discuss their faith. They also began to dig deeply into the Law (the first five books of the Bible). The priests said they were in Babylon because they didn’t follow the law well enough. The prophets said it was because they were idolatrous.
Lamentations is essentially a funeral song to Jerusalem. The pain is evident in 1:2-3. Jerusalem was once teeming with people, but now Jerusalem weeps. The author puts the blame of the destruction on the people of Judah—who were idolatrous and rebellious toward their God.
Obadiah is a judgement against the Edomites, who teamed up with the Babylonians to destroy Judah. In verse 8 and 15, they talk about the “Day of the Lord,” which is a term they used when referring to the Messianic age. Basically, Obadiah wants the Edomites destroyed, and he’s waiting for the Messiah to come and make that happen.
Psalm 137 is a poignant song that describes how the Babylonians have asked them to sing a joyful song from their land. But they reply, “How can we sing a song of joy when we are in a foreign land?”
Lamentations 3:25-26 is a profound promise in the midst of this terrible time. When everything around him is in ruins, the author announces “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.” Everything around the author is destroyed—he stands in the middle of smoking ruins. But he expresses a beautiful message of hope. It is powerful message for us today.
If you run across a passage that you have questions about, feel free to email the question to me.