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Introduction to the Book of Obadiah

Julian Spriggs M.A.

The Book of Obadiah is the shortest book in OT, with only twenty-one verses. There are ten distinct predictions forming seventeen verses, or 81% of the whole book.

Obadiah the prophet

Obadiah’s name means 'Servant of Yahweh'. There are thirteen different people mentioned in the Bible as Obadiah, making it one of the commonest names. We have no way of knowing who the Prophet Obadiah was. Obadiah prophesied against the nation of Edom. He was probably a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.

Historical background

The date of Obadiah is difficult to determine, as there are few clues. There are two main views, based on times when Edomites plundered Jerusalem:

1) During the reign of Jehoram (843-840 BC)

Some people suggest a date of approximately 844 BC, connecting the book in with 2 Chr 21:16f and 2 Kg 8:20, during the reign of Jehoram. There is no mention of destroyed temple or description of the fall of Jerusalem. The nations mentioned in the book are not neighbours from the time of the exile, but earlier foes such as the Philistines. Obadiah rebukes the same sins as Amos did in the eighth century.

2) During the reign of Zedekiah (597-586 BC)

More often the book is dated sometime after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 BC. Verses 11-14 appear to fit most naturally with the destruction of Jerusalem, when Edom was particularly hostile to Judah, and rejoiced over her fall (Ps 137:7, Ezek 25:12-14, 35:1-15, Lam 4:21).

Other suggestions are during the reign of Amaziah (803-775 BC - 2 Chr 25:11-12,23-24) or during the reign of Ahaz (741-726 BC - 2 Chr 28:16-21). Whatever the date we know that Jerusalem was plundered and sacked (probably either by Philistines in 844 (2 Chr 21:16f) or Babylon 586 BC) and Edom had delighted in this and shared in the plunder. The Edomites are particularly rebuked for standing aloof while Jerusalem was being attacked, siding with the attackers, gloating over Judah's misfortune, rejoicing on the day of their ruin, boasting in day of their distress. They also entered Jerusalem and looted goods, cut off the fugitives from the city and delivered up survivors in day of distress (v11-14)

Outline of Book

v1-9 The overthrow of Edom is certain
v3-4 They will be shaken from their security
v5-6 They will be plundered by their enemies
v7 They will be deserted by their allies
v8-9 They will be stripped of wisdom and might

v10-14 The reason for Edom's downfall
v10 Edom's hostility to Jacob her brother
v11 Edom's alliance with Judah's foes
v12-14 Edom's part in Judah's overthrow

v 15-16 Edom will be judged

v17-21 Israel will be restored

The nation of Edom

Various names are used for Edom in the OT. The most common is Esau, Mount Esau or The House of Esau. Another is Seir or Mount Seir (Gen 36:8), named after the mountainous region in the north-west of Edom. Sometimes one of the cities of Edom is used to indicate the whole nation. These include Teman, Dumah, Dedon, Bozrah and Selah (Petra).

The land occupied by the Edomites is south and east of the Dead Sea. It is a rocky mountainous ares, east of the Arabah (100 miles (160 km) North to South, 20 miles (30 km) East to West). Much of the land was inhospitable, but there were good areas to cultivate. The trade route connecting Mesopotamia and Egypt called 'The King's Highway' passed through the southern extremity of this region, thus adding to the treasury of Edom. Edomites went out on raiding parties, then returned to impregnable strongholds.

The Edomites were descended from Esau, the older twin brother of Jacob (Gen 36:1,8-9). Even before the children were born to Rebekah, she was told that, two nations are in your womb ... the elder shall serve the younger" (Gen 25:22f). Esau sold his birthright for some food (Gen 25:27-34) and became the type of all irreligious people who are insensitive to spiritual values, as described by the author of Hebrews, "See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God, that no root of bitterness spring up and cause trouble, an by it the many become defiled, that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau ... For you know that afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears". (Heb 12:15-17).

Esau had occupied this area around the time when Jacob came back from Haran (Gen 32:3) and was well established by the time of the Exodus and living by a monarchic pattern. Jacob was forbidden to travel through Edom, so had to go round the country (Num 20:20-21). God had given Edom their land and Israel was not to take them.

Saul had conflict with Edom but David subdued them putting garrisons throughout the land (2 Sam 8:14). This opened up the way for Solomon to build a port at Ezion-Geber on the Gulf of Aqaba, and exploitation of the copper and iron mines in that territory.

Edom joined other nations to fight against Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20). Edom rebelled in the reign of Jehoram (848-841 BC) and became independent for forty years (2 Chr 21:16, 2 Kg 8:21).

Amaziah started the re-conquering Edom and Uzziah, his successor, completed the conquest, he restored the port at Elath, but a few years later Edom formed an alliance with Israel and Syria and carried captives away from the southern Kingdom in 735 BC and gained independence (2 Kg 16:5-6, 2 Chr 28:16-17). Judah never recovered Edom.

In 732, Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria subdued Edom to be a vassal state. This lasted for one century. It quietly accepted Babylonian suzerainty in 604 BC. Edom joined Nebuchadnezzar in the overthrow of Jerusalem in 586 BC and were overjoyed (Ps 137:7, Lam 4:21-22, 2 Chr 36:11-21, Ezek 35:5,12,15).

In the era after the exile Edom came under Arab control and by the fourth century had been overrun by the Nabataeans who made their capital in Petra, carved in cliffs in mountain canyons. Some Edomites moved into the area south of Judah forming the Idumaean peoples, others were absorbed by the Arabs.

Judas Maccabeus had a victory over the Idumeans in the Akrabattene in 164 BC. John Hyrcanus occupied all of Idumaea about 120 BC and compelled its people to adopt Judaism.

The Idumeans naturally came under the Romans when Rome took over Palestine. One result was that from these peoples came Antipater, the father of Herod the Great, as governor of the country in 63 BC. His son founded in 37 BC the final dynasty of Palestinian rulers.

After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 the Idumeans disappeared from history thus ending the Edomites.

Summary of history of Edom

Date BC OT Reference Event
Gen 25:21-26
Gen 30
Jacob and Esau born
Esau called Edom = Red
1900 Gen 32:3
Gen 36:5-8
Esau inland of Edom (Seir)
Moved through lack of space
1400 Num 20:14-21 Edom refused Israel safe passage
c.1020 1 Sam 14:47 Saul fought Edom and had victories
c.1000 2 Sam 8:13
1 Kg 9:26
David put garrisons in Edom
controlled port city
c.940 1 Kg 11:14 Edom rebelled against Solomon
c.865 1 Kg 22:47
2 Kg 3:7-9
Jehoshaphat subdued Edom
c.844 2 Kg 8:20 Edom rebelled against Jehoram First Option for date of Obadiah
c.844 2 Chr 21:16-17 Philistines and Arabs invade Judah and carry away captives (Jehoram)
c.770 2 Kg 14:7-10
2 Chr 25:14
Amaziah defeated Edom (and worshipped Edom's gods)
c.760 2 Chr 26:2 Uzziah restored Elath (Edom) to Judah
c.720 2 Chr 26:2
2 Chr 28:16
Under Ahaz Edom regained independence
Ahaz called on Assyrian help because of Edom's continued attacks
732 Tiglath Pileser III of Assyria took Edom and Syria
604 Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took Edom Second option for date of Obadiah
587 Ps 137:7
Ezek 35:5
Edom allied with Babylon when they captured Jerusalem
5th cent Came under Arab control. Edomites moved to Negeb and became Idumeans
4th cent Overrun by Nabataeans
164 1 Macc 5:1-5
Jos Ant 13.8.1
Idumea defeated by Judas Maccabeus
120 Jos Ant 13.9.1
John Hyrcanus occupied all of Idumea and forced them to become Jews
63 Came under Pompey's rule (Rome)
Antipater became Governor of Judah
37 Herod the Great became king of Judah
AD 70 Idumeans disappear from history

Other prophesies against Edom

Amos 1:11-12
Is 21:11
Is 34:5-17
Jer 49:7-22
Lam 4:21-22
Joel 3:19
Ezek 25:12-14,35
Ezek 35:1-15,47
Ps 137
(Mal 1:3)

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS