Author: Obadiah

Date Written: 850-582 BC


Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament.  The prophet Obadiah cannot be easily identified with any other person named Obadiah in the Old Testament.  His name means "servant of Yahweh."  Simply, the book is a prophecy against the nation of Edom.


Edom, also called Idumea, was descended from Esau, the brother of Jacob.  The Edomites' land was south and east of Dead Sea, adjacent to southern Judah and extending south to the Gulf of Aqaba.  The nation had refused to let the Israelites pass through during the Exodus journey (Num 20:18).  They had been one Israel's traditional enemies and had been conquered as part of David's kingdom in the period of the united monarchy.


Since Obadiah does not make any clearly dated historical references, the book is very difficult to date.  The first option is to date Obadiah as roughly contemporaneous with Hosea and Amos and to associate the Edomite's actions with the rebellion against the Judahite king Joram in 2 Kgs 8:20-22 (2 Chr 21:8-10).  The more likely option is to see Obad 10-14 as referring to the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC.  Obad 14 and Ps 137:7 seem to indicate that the Edomites at least approved of the Babylonians leveling of Jerusalem and at most, helped them to destroy the city and capture Jewish refugees.  Ironically, Nebuchadnezzer and the Babylonians sacked Edom five years later, fulfilling Obadiah's word in Obad 15.


There are remarkable parallels between Obadiah and Jeremiah 49.  Scholars disagree as to whether one of prophets relied on the other or if the two relied on a common source.


Obadiah announces the Lord's judgment against Edom for the nation's sins against Israel.  The prophet mentions "the day of the Lord," which is a constant theme in the prophets (Obad 15, Isa 13:6, Jer 46:10, Ezek 30:3, Joel 1:15, Amos 5:18, Zeph 1:14).  The last section of the prophecy describes a time of vindication for the Lord's people, when Israel will rule over Edom.  The book illustrates the Lord's care for those who belong to him and reveals his character as a just God who will judge evil and reward fidelity.


By Mark Giszczak

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January 29, 2015

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