The Word Is Alive

The Book of Obadiah

In this, the shortest book of the OT, it seems the prophet Obadiah considered each word a high-priced commodity. Apparently, he was unable to afford any words describing himself or his family in any way. Therefore, while twelve other men named Obadiah appear in Scripture, OT scholars cannot identify with certainty any of them as the author of this book. Although the ultimate identity of this prophet is shrouded in mystery, Obadiah’s emphasis on Jerusalem throughout this prophecy of judgement on the foreign nation of Edom, allows the reader to at least to presume that Obadiah came from somewhere near the holy city in the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Dating the Book of Obadiah accurately is nearly impossible due to the scant historical information contained in the book. While several options have been proposed by scholars, the best argument places Obadiah in the 840s BC, making him the earliest writing prophet, a few years prior to Joel, and a contemporary of Elisha. The biggest piece of evidence for this early date comes from Obadiah 1:10–14, which indicates an Edomite invasion of Jerusalem. While Edom was too weak a nation to ever invade Judah on its own, Edom no doubt participated with other nations when the winds of change blew in its favour.

In the 840s BC, when Edom rebelled against King Jehoram of Judah, the Philistines and the Arabians also invaded Jerusalem (2 Kings 8:20–22 and 2 Chronicles 21:16–17). While 2 Chronicles does not indicate the Edomites’ participation in the invasion, Obadiah 1:10–14 pictures the violent behaviour that the Edomites carried out on their neighbours, waiting on nearby roads to cut down those fleeing from the invaders within Jerusalem. The Edomites could have easily heard of Jerusalem’s invasion by foreign powers and entered themselves into the fray so that they too might benefit from plundering their neighbours in Jerusalem.

The majority of the book pronounces judgement on the foreign nation of Edom, making Obadiah one of only three prophets who pronounced judgement primarily on other nations; Nahum and Habakkuk are the others. While others of the prophetic books contain passages of judgement against Edom and other nations, Obadiah’s singular focus points to a significant, albeit difficult, truth about humanity’s relationship with God: when people remove themselves from or place themselves in opposition to God’s people, they can expect judgement, rather than restoration, at the end of life.

Obadiah’s name, meaning ‘worshipper of Yahweh’, offers an interesting counterpoint to the message of judgement he pronounced on Edom, Judah’s neighbour to the southeast. As a worshipper of Yahweh, Obadiah placed himself in a position of humility before the Lord; he embraced his lowly place before the Almighty God.

The introduction and commentary to this short book can be found in one document by clicking here.

There is Supplementary Material and a mind map of the structure of the Book of Obadiah that may prove useful for study.