Voices for Revival – Study of Minor Prophets (Pre-Exilic Period)
Book of Obadiah

Book on Obadiah

The book is named after the prophet who received the vision (1:1). It is the shortest book in the OT.

Obadiah means “servant of the Lord”. Nothing is known for certain about the author. There is no reference about him. And it is a common name. The mention of Jerusalem, Judah and Zion suggest he may be from the southern kingdom.

Background and Date:

It is difficult to determine the date of writing. The book was written shortly after the event describing the Edomites’ assault on Jerusalem in v10 – 14. The subject is about the judgment on the Edomites. There are 2 possibilities in terms of the period of ministry based on the following:

1) The invasion of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabs between 848 – 841 BC. during the reign of Jehoram (2 Chron 21:8 – 20).

2) The attack by Nebuchanezzar, king of Babylon, in the fall of Jerusalem between 605 – 586 BC. You can refer to the parallels description in Ob 1 – 9 and Jer 49:7 – 22.

The two proposed period would imply different kings and contemporaries.

If you subscribed to the first possibility, then the king during that time was Jehoram and his contemporaries would be Elijah and Elisha. If you subscribed to the second possibility, Zedekiah should be reigning in the southern kingdom and his contemporaries were Jeremiah, Habbakuk, Daniel and Ezekiel.

Babylonians  & Assyrian Empires

Conditions of People:

Obadiah - Conditions of People

In both periods, the people of God were in a time of wars. There were constant battles in the surrounding regions.

Special Notes:

The supporting reasons for the 2 disputed periods:

The reasons for an earlier date (1) during Jehoram’s reign are:

Obadiah’s description does not indicate the total destruction of the city, which took place during Nebuchadnezzar’s attack. Although the Edomites were involved in Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem (Ps 137, La 4:21), it is significant that Obadiah does not mention the Babylonians by name, nor is there any reference to the destruction of the temple or the deportation of the people; in fact, the captives appear to have been taken to the SW, not E to Babylon (v20).

Assuming there was not a third common source, it appears that Jeremiah borrowed, where appropriate, from Obadiah, since the shared verses form one unit in Obadiah, while in Jeremiah they are scattered among other verses.

The reasons for a later date (2) during Jeremiah’s time are:

It is a short book with only one chapter and lengthy description in details is not to be expected. However, the short description in v1 – 9 alone is so specific about the attack of Edom that matches Jer 49:7 – 22 which can only be the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the two prophets.

Key Themes:

Obadiah's Key theme

Obadiah is a case study of the curses and blessings in Gen 12:1 – 3, with two inter-related themes:

1) The judgment of Edom by God for cursing Israel.

2) Judah’s restoration.

The judgment of Edom by God for cursing Israel was apparently told to Judah, thereby providing reassurance that the Lord would bring judgment upon Edom for her pride and for her participation in Judah’s downfall. The Edomites traced their origin to Esau. The fact that God rejected Esau (Gen 25:23) in no way exonerates the Edomites. Thus, Edom’s participation in Israel’s disaster will bring on God’s wrath and judgment. Edom will be dislodged and sacked. (More background notes about the Edomites and Esau will be given out as handout to the teachers.)

While Edom would be destroyed, Mt Zion & Israel would be restored, delivered & God’s kingdom would triumph. Judah would prosper because God was with her. Obadiah’s blessing for Judah included the near fulfillment of Edom’s demise (v1-14) and the far fulfillment of the nations’ judgment and Israel’s final possession of Edom (v15 – 21).

Because this book is about the judgment on Edom, its key verse is summarised in 1:1 “… Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom …”

Additional background notes about the Edomites for the teachers:

Edom, proud of her own security, had gloated over Israel’s devastation by foreign powers. Since the Edomites were related to the Israelites (v10), their hostility is all the more reprehensible. Edom is fully responsible for her failure to assist Israel and for her open aggression. However, Judah would be restored and her power regained. This would include gaining the territory of the Edomites (v19 – 21; Is 11:14). Obadiah’s blessing for Judah includes the near fulfillment of Edom’s demise (v1-14) and the future fulfillment of the nations’ judgment and Israel’s final possession of Edom (v15 – 21).

The Edomites trace their origin to Esau, the firstborn (twin) son of Isaac and Rebekah (Gen 25:24 – 26), who struggled with Jacob even while in the womb (Gen 25:22). Esau’s name means “hairy”, because he was “all over like a hairy garment” (Gen 25:25). He is also called Edom, meaning “red”, owing to the sale of his birthright in exchange for some red stew (Gen 25:30). He showed a disregard for the covenant promises by marrying two Canaanite women (Gen 26:34) and later the daughter of Ishmael (Gen 28:9). He loved the outdoors and, after having his father’s blessings stolen from him by Jacob, was destined to remain a man of the open spaces (Gen 25:27; 27:38 – 40).

Esau settled in a region of mostly rugged mountains south of the Dead Sea (Gen 33:16, 36:8 – 9; Deu 2:4 – 5) called Edom (Idumea in Greek), the 40 miles wide area which stretches approximately 100 miles south to the Gulf of Aqabah. The famed King’s Highway, an essential caravan route linking North Africa with Europe and Asia, passes along the eastern plateau (Num 20:17). The struggle and birth of Jacob and Esau (Gen 25) form the background to the prophesy of Gen 25:23, “two nations are in your womb.” Their respective descendants, Israel and Edom, were perpetual enemies.

When Israel came out from Egypt, Edom denied their brother Jacob passage through their land, located south of the Dead Sea (Num 20:14 – 21). Nevertheless, Israel was instructed by God to be kind to Edom (Deut 23:7 – 8). Obadiah, having received a vision from God, was sent to describe their crimes and to pronounce total destruction upon Edom because of their treatment of Israel.

The Edomites opposed Saul (1043 -1011 BC) and were subdued under David (1011 – 971 BC) and Solomon (971 – 931 BC). They fought against Jehoshaphat (873 – 848 BC) and successfully rebelled against Jehoram (853 – 841 BC) They were again conquered by Judah under Amaziah (796 – 767 BC) but they regained their freedom during the reign of Ahaz (735 – 715 BC). Edom was later controlled by Assyria and Babylon; and in the fifth century BC. the Edomites were forced by the Nabateans to leave their territory. They moved to the area of southern Palestine and became known as Idumeans.

Herod the Great, an Idumean, became king of Judea under Rome in 37 BC. In a sense, the enmity between Esau and Jacob was continued in Herod’s attempt to murder Jesus. The Idumeans participated in the rebellion of Jerusalem against Rome and were defeated along with the Jews by Titus in AD. 70. Ironically, the Edomites applauded the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC (Ps 137:7) but died trying to defend it in AD 70. After that time they were never heard of again. As Obadiah predicted, they would be “cut off forever” (v10) and there would be “no survivor of the house of Esau” (v18).