The Old Testament features stories of diverse characters whose lives represent God’s people: Rahab, the pagan prostitute who trusted the Lord and was saved. Ruth, the immigrant with no inheritance who was redeemed by a distant relative and became part of the royal family. Mephibosheth, the “dead dog” from the wrong clan, crippled in both feet, shameful, yet loved on account of someone else and invited to eat at the king’s table forever. Gomer, the serial adulteress whose husband bought her back from slavery. Joshua, the high priest whose filthy garments were replaced with fresh, clean ones.
With this list of characters, it’s no wonder we overlook Obed-Edom. His obscure name is a compound of two other names—Obed, David’s grandfather, and Edom, Esau’s nickname. No doubt, many of us would have to Google him to figure out who he was. Yet he beautifully illustrates what has happened to us—especially us Gentiles—through Jesus.
We first come across him in 2 Samuel 6, after one of the strangest stories in the Bible. Uzzah, a Levite, has just been struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant (which was forbidden) and carrying it on a cart (also forbidden). David is terrified. Like a man who has recently discovered he has acquired nuclear waste, he decides that he cannot keep the ark around. So he leaves it in the care of Obed-Edom. It stays there for three months, during which time “the Lord blessed him and his entire household” (v. 11).
So far, the story is remarkable. Obed-Edom is a Gittite. He’s from Gath, not Israel. He’s a Philistine, belonging to the nation that has, for generations, been a thorn in the side of God’s people. Yet because ...1