INTRODUCTION

The Book of Obadiah is an oracle concerning the divine judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel.

The text consists of a single chapter, divided into 21 verses, making it the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible.

In Judaism and Christianity, its authorship is attributed to a prophet who lived in the Assyrian Period and named himself in the first verse, Obadiah. His name means “servant of Yahweh”.

In Christianity, the Book of Obadiah is classified as a minor prophet of the Old Testament, due to its short length.

In Judaism, Obadiah is considered a “later prophet”, placed in the last section (Nevi'im of the Tanakh, where it is one of the "Twelve Prophets."

The book of Obadiah is based on a prophetic vision concerning the fall of Edom, [v.1,4,18] a mountain dwelling nation [v.8,9,19,21] whose founding father was Esau. [v.6][Genesis 36:9] Obadiah describes an encounter with God who addresses Edom’s arrogance and charges them for their violent actions against their brother nation, the House of Jacob (Israel). [v.10]

The western half of ancient Edom is the Negev desert all the way to Eilat, all part of modern Israel.

The eastern half is possessed by the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan. In the days of Obadiah, the Edomites lived along the cliffs and mountaintops of the arid land south of the Dead Sea, all the way to the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea.

There was very little in the way of arable land, so the Edomites made their living supporting (and controlling) the main caravan route between Egypt and Babylon that passed through their whole land.

Throughout most of the history of Judah, Edom was controlled absolutely from Jerusalem as a vassal state.

Among the region's great powers, Edom was held in low regard.

Obadiah said that the high elevation of their dwelling place in the mountains of Seir had gone to their head, and they had puffed themselves up in pride.

"Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down," declares the Lord. (Obadiah 1:4, NIV)

In 597 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem, carted away the King of Judea and installed a puppet ruler.

The Edomites helped the Babylonians loot the city. Obadiah, writing this prophecy around 590 BCE, suggests the Edomites should have remembered that blood was thicker than water.

'"On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them... You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster."' (Obadiah 1:11, 13 NIV)

Obadiah said in judgement God would wipe out the house of Esau forever, and not even a remnant would remain.

The Edomites' land would be possessed by Egypt and they would cease to exist as a people.

But the Day of the Lord was at hand for all nations, and someday the children of Israel would return from their exile and possess the land of Edom.


DATING OBADIAH

The date of composition is disputed and is difficult to determine due to the lack of personal information about Obadiah, his family, and his historical milieu.

The date of composition must therefore be determined based on the prophecy itself.

Edom is to be destroyed due to its lack of defense for its brother nation, Israel, when it was under attack.

There are two major historical contexts within which the Edomites could have committed such an act.

These are during 853 – 841 BC when Jerusalem was invaded by Philistines and Arabs during the reign of Jehoram of Judah (recorded in 2 Kings 8:20–22 and 2 Chronicles 21:8–20 in the Christian Old Testament) and 607 – 586 BC when Jerusalem was attacked by Nebuchadrezzar II of Babylon, which led to the Babylonian exile of Israel (recorded in Psalm 137).

The earlier period would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Elijah as reflected in 1 Kings 18:1-16. In particular, 1 Kings 18:7-8 reads: "As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, 'Is it really you, my lord Elijah?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'Go tell your master, "Elijah is here."'" (NIV)

The later date would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, both of whom were prophets in the respective time periods.

A sixth-century date for Obadiah is a "near consensus" position among scholars. Obadiah 1-9 contains parallels to Jeremiah 49:7-22. The passage in Jeremiah dates from the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim (604 BC), and therefore Obadiah 11-14 seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar II (586 BC).

It is more likely that Obadiah and Jeremiah together were drawing on a common source presently unknown to us than Jeremiah drawing on previous writings of Obadiah as his source.

There is also much material found in Obadiah 10-21 which Jeremiah does not quote, and which, had he had it laid out before him, would have suited his purpose admirably.

Despite everything, however, there are some[citation needed] who support both dates and even some who support dates other than the two major possibilities presented.

Any date for the composition of Obadiah must be held tentatively.


CONTRAST WITH AMOS

In verse eighteen, it says that once judgment has been carried out, “There will be no survivors from the house of Esau” (NIV).

So, according to Obadiah there will not remain even a remnant after Edom’s judgment.

This is in contrast to Amos 9:12, where Amos refers to such a remnant, however, it is stated that their possession will be given to Israel.

Some scholars have suggested that Amos’s reference to Edom is symbolic of all nations who were once enemies of Israel and not intended to mean literal Edomites.

This is certainly the perspective of Luke as he recites the passage from Amos in Acts 15:17.

Edom is symbolic of the remnant of men and Gentiles who will eventually bear God’s name. Moreover, Frederick A. Tatford in Prophet of Edom’s Doom says that Obadiah’s prophecy is fulfilled today as there is currently no trace of anyone who may be identified as a fleshly Edomite.

 

SEPHARAD

The identity of the land of Sepharad, mentioned only here in this verse in the Bible, Obadiah 1:20, is currently unknown. It is also unknown whether or not Sepharad is a city, district or territory. The only clues for its possible existence are Persian inscriptions that refer to two places called "Saparda": one area in Media and another in Asia Minor, arguably Sardis.

 

SCRIPTURAL PARALLELS

The exact expression "the Day of the Lord”, from Obadiah 1:15, has been used by other authors throughout the Old and New Testaments, as follows:

Old Testament:

Isaiah 2, 13, 34, 58, Jeremiah 46:10, Lamentations 2:22, Ezekiel 13:5, Joel 1, 2, 3, Amos 5:18, 20, Zephaniah 1, 2, Zechariah 14:1, Malachi 4:5

New Testament:

1 Thessalonians 5:2, 2 Peter 3:10, Acts 2:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 2 Corinthians 1:14

For other parallels, compare Obadiah 1:1–8 with Jeremiah 49:7–16.

CHAPTER 1

THR PROPHECY AGANST EDOM

1:1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.

1:2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.

1:3 The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation [is] high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?

1:4 Though thou exalt [thyself] as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.

1:5 If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave [some] grapes?

1:6 How are [the things] of Esau searched out! [how] are his hidden things sought up!

1:7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee [even] to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, [and] prevailed against thee; [they that eat] thy bread have laid a wound under thee: [there is] none understanding in him.

1:8 Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise [men] out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?

1:9 And thy mighty [men,] O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.

1:10 For [thy] violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.

1:11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou [wast] as one of them.

1:12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.

1:13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid [hands] on their substance in the day of their calamity;

1:14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.

 

THE DAY OF THE LORD

1:15 For the day of the LORD [is] near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.

1:16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, [so] shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.

1:17 But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.

1:18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be [any] remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken [it.]

1:19 And [they of] the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and [they of] the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin [shall possess] Gilead.

1:20 And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel [shall possess] that of the Canaanites, [even] unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which [is] in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.

1:21 And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD'S.