Oded was a prophet of Samaria, which was another name for the northern kingdom. He watched in horror as his countrymen returned from battle, having brutalized their relatives to the south.
Horror turned to fury as he confronted the triumphant army on its way home. To Oded’s way of thinking, divine punishment was one thing—but Israel had gone well beyond that, turning an already ugly battle into outright slaughter. Even worse, they planned to humiliate the surviving men, women, and children by making them slaves. Oded would not have it.
He knew the Law of Moses: An Israelite was not to enslave another Israelite (see Leviticus 25:39–43). Politics may have separated the northern and southern kingdoms; but in Oded’s eyes, they were all still fellow Israelites.
Remarkably, Oded’s words had their intended effect, humbling an entire army into obedience. It helped that some of Israel’s own military leaders joined Oded in condemning the army’s behavior. So the prisoners were fed and clothed, their wounds were treated, and they were taken back to Judah. The incident was a reminder that no political divide could erase the Israelites’ kinship with one another.
Some scholars believe that Oded’s story provided the inspiration for Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25–37). There are a number of parallels. In both stories, the victims’ wounds were anointed with oil. The man in Jesus’ story was placed on a donkey after his ordeal. In Oded’s story, those too weak to walk back to Judah were provided with donkeys to ride.
Last, the hero in each story came from Samaria. Both stories reminded their readers that no barrier—ethnic, social, religious, or political—trumps the biblical command to “love your neighbor as yourself.”