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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