The book of Obadiah (Obadiah 1)

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We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of his book’s composition certain. The name itself (meaning “”servant of Yahweh”) was fairly common, and the prophet Obadiah was clearly not the Obadiah of 1 Kings 18:3-16.

Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event. On the other hand, Obadiah 11-14 indicates that a major calamity had recently struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah’s troubles to their own advantage. Some scholars have proposed that this event was some preexilic setback that Judah endured (e.g. 2 Chronicles 21:16-17), but common sense and broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. From the Nabonidus Chronicle, an important Akkadian source for the history of the Neo-Babylonian empire (now housed in the British Museum), we learn that Edom itself fell in 553 B.C. to Nabonidus of Babylon. This combination of factors suggests that Obadiah was written between 586 and 553 B.V.

Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendants of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God.

Obadiah represents the culmination of prolonged tensions between Israel and Edom. Conflict between these nations dated back to the patriarchal period, when their respective ancestors, the twin brothers Esau and Jacob, had been at odds, and throughout their history the two nations had fought frequently (Numbers 20:14-21, 1 Samuel 14:47, 1 Kings 11:14, Isaiah 34:5). For all that, the people of Judah felt that the hostility shown them by Edom at what was possibly the lowest moment in their history was cruel and unjustified. The fact that God had rejected Esau (Genesis 25:23, Malachi 1:2-3, Romans 9:13) in no way excused Edom’s disdain for Israel. Obadiah assured his readers that Edom’s callousness and opportunism would not escape judgement, as indeed it did not.

The Old Testament contains other prophecies against Edom (Jeremiah 49:7-22, Lamentations 4:21-22, Ezekiel 25:12-14, 35:1-15), but Obadiah is the only book dedicated entirely to this purpose.

When you read, consider Obadiah’s prophetic statement about the coming deliverance and restoration of God’s people in light of the book of Revelation, which informs believers that, while sometimes it appears that evil has the upper hand, Christ’s certain return will result in the ultimate victory of righteousness.

Did you know that Edom’s arrogance was grounded in its virtually impregnable mountain strongholds (verse 3)? Did you know that the Edomites safeguarded their wealth – accumulated by trade – in vaults in the rocks (verse 6)? Did you know that Edom, particularly Teman, was known for its wise men? Eliphaz, one of Job’s three friends, was a Temanite (verse 8).


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