We know nothing of Obadiah (which means “servant of Jehovah”-there are 12 men in the Bible with this name) himself…other than historically he was a contemporary of Jeremiah…and that he worshipped Jehovah (v. 1-“the Lord GOD…the LORD”—GOD and LORD are both translations of YHWH).
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament…only 21 verses.
Because the message of Obadiah centers around the destruction of Edom he is sometimes referred to as the “prophet of doom.”
Time written & time covered in history:
This prophecy was given as the result of the plunder and destruction of Jerusalem (Judah, southern kingdom), in which the Edomites participated. Scripture records four times when Jerusalem was attacked in such a manner. These attacks were led by…
- Shishak, king of Egypt, 926 B.C. (during the reign of Rehoboam, cf. 1 Kings 14:25-26)
- Philistines and Arabians (during the reign of Jehoram, cf. 2 Chronicles 21:16-17)
- Joash, king of Israel, 790 B.C. (during the reign of Amaziah, cf. 2 Kings 14:13-14)
- Babylon, 605-586 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 24-25).
Because Obadiah mentions the “destruction” of Jerusalem (1:11-12)…most Biblical scholars believe that the event described by Obadiah took place during the reign of Zedekiah…when Jerusalem was burned by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).
- Reign of Jehoram, 848-841 B.C. (2 Chronicles 21:8,16,17; Amos 1:6)
- Reign of Amaziah, 796-767 B.C. (2 Chronicles 25:11,12,23,24)
- Reign of Ahaz, 731-715 B.C. (2 Chronicles 28:16-21)
- Reign of Zedekiah, 597-586 (2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Psalm 137:7)
There are other Scriptures that prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem (Isaiah 34:5-15; Jeremiah 19:7-22; Ezekiel 25:12-14; 35:1-15; Amos 1:11-12).
Edom (Idumaea) is a country located in a rocky range of mountains to the east of the Arabah…(the valley…100 miles long and 20 miles wide…that extends from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south…through which the Jordan River flows) and to the south of the Dead Sea. The mountain range is called Mount Seir. From the 13th to the 6th centuries B.C., they lived in Mt. Seir, a region of mountains south of the Dead Sea...Sela (Petra-which means “rock”) was its capital. It was located deep in the heart of the mountains…an almost impregnable stronghold…overlooking a beautiful valley. It was built high up on a perpendicular cliff (200-250 ft. high) like an eagle’s nest (v. 4). The only approach to the city being through a mile-long, deep gorge that had 700 foot cliffs on both sides. Sela boasted over 1,000 temples to its gods. They were magnificent structures cut out of the pink rock on the side of the mountains.
In the 5th century, the Nabateans captured their territory and they had to withdraw to Idumaea in southern Palestine. Herod the Great was an Edomite. The date that this book was written is uncertain. It is directly connected to a particular battle with the Edomites...and there were four such battles and invasions against Israel. More than likely, it is either the second battle-840 B.C. (by the Philistines and Arabians during the reign of Jehoram, from 848-841, 2 Chron. 21:16-17), or the fourth battle-586 B.C. (by Babylon during the years 605-586, 2 Kings 24-25).
The Edomites were the descendants of Esau and the bitter enemy of Israel (vv. 10-14; cf. Psalms 137:7-9). Edom means “red” and was the nickname given to Jacob’s brother Esau because he sold his birthright for red stew (Genesis 16:1). It was on Mount Sier (Sier means “rugged, hairy”, like Esau was hairy—Genesis 27:11) that Esau and his tribe had settled after selling his birthright to his brother Jacob. The antagonism that typified the relationship between Jacob and Esau continued to escalate over the centuries between their descendants (Genesis 27). The Edomites were constantly sending out raiding parties to attack Israel…then retreat back into the safety of the rocky gorges.
When Moses led the people out of Egypt the Edomites refused passage through the mountains (Numbers 20:14-21). This only reinforced the enmity between them (Genesis 25:23; 27:41).
Obadiah predicted that the Edomites would be “cut off forever,” “become as is they had never existed,” and “there will be no survivor of the house of Esau” (vv. 10,16,18).
However, he also predicted that a remnant of Judah would survive (vv. 17,19,21).
Within 5 years of the destruction of Jerusalem…Edom was attacked and completely destroyed (582 B.C.) by the same Babylonians (Nebuchadnezzar) they had joined in attacking Jerusalem. The Nabateans (from southern Jordan, Canaan, and northern Arabia) then took over the land area of Edom. The few remaining Edomites continued to live in southern Judea for about 400 years. They were conquered in 126 B.C. by the Jewish military hero, John Hyrcanus (one of the Jewish Maccabean rulers, 134-104 B.C.) and were absorbed into the Jewish nation. When the Jews were conquered by Rome (63 B.C.), an Edomite family by the name of Herod was placed in control of Judah. This was the last of the Edomites. When Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. by Titus, the emperor of Rome, the Edomites disappeared from history, forever.
The central themes of Obadiah are:
- “It is directly spoken to Edom and Zion and represents Esau and Jacob, the two sons of Isaac. But it appeals to us all with our two natures—the earthly represented by Esau on one side, so proud and bold, and the spiritual by Jacob, chosen and set apart by God.”
- What the Bible is All About, Mears, p. 294
This chart will help you remember what the people in the book of Obadiah represent (read it from top to bottom):
Brothers Esau Jacob
Nations Edom Israel
Citizenship Earthly Heavenly
Character Proud/Rebellious Chosen/Set Apart
Through the Bible in One Year, Stringfellow, p. 96
They (Jacob and Esau) represent two opposing forces – the flesh and the Spirit. Esau was a good-looking man, active, healthy, out-going, athletic; Jacob was a home-body, full of deceit and selfish plans. If you were choosing one of these boys, no doubt you would have selected Esau; but God chose Jacob. Throughout the Bible he is known as “the God of Jacob.” This is God’s grace. Salvation is not by merit; it is by grace and grace alone. God used Jacob to father the tribes of Israel; God gave His covenants and promises to Jacob, not to Esau.
So, Jacob represents the child of God, chosen by God’s grace, often sinning and failing, but ultimately gaining his inheritance. He represents the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-26). Esau pictures the flesh – attractive, powerful, proud, grasping, rebellious, and always seeming to be on the winning side. But God has pronounced judgment on the flesh, and one day that judgment will fall…
The struggle between Esau and Jacob, flesh and Spirit, runs all through the Bible. The Herods of the NT were Edomites. One of them killed the Jewish babies in his attempt to destroy Christ (Mt. 2:16-18); another Herod murdered John the Baptist; another one killed James the brother of John (Acts 12). The struggle between the Israelis and the Arabs today is but a continuation of this same battle that started in Gen. 25:21-26. Flesh vs. Spirit, pride vs. submission, man’s way vs. God’s way: the struggle will go on until Christ returns and establishes His kingdom.
Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, Warren Wiersbee, p. 310
Obadiah predicted the day when Israel will return to again possess the Promised Land…and the Messiah’s kingdom will be established.
The day will come when the Jews will “possess their possessions”: their land, their temple, their city, and their kingdom. The key word in vss. 17-20 is possess. Certainly owns the land because of god’s eternal promise to Abraham. She owns her city, too. But she does not fully possess them, for her land has been overrun by the Gentile nations for centuries. There is coming the day, however, when Jesus Christ will return to give Israel back her possessions that she might enjoy them and use them to the glory of God.
Expository Outlines on the Old Testament, Warren Wiersbee, p. 310
Edom’s Doom Obadiah 1:1-16
Obadiah 1:1-2 The Judgment of Edom is Declared
Obadiah 1:3-16 The Sins of Edom are Identified
- Obadiah 1:3-4 pride…they thought that because they lived among the towering mountain cliffs that no one could ever conquer them
Obadiah 1:5-6 The Destruction of Edom will be Complete
Obadiah 1:7-16 The Sins of Edom are Identified, cont’d.
- Obadiah 1:7-9 confederacy against Israel…the very nations that had allied with them against Israel w ill then turn back against them
- Obadiah 1:10 violence…because they fought against Israel…even though they are related by blood
- Obadiah 1:11-12 rejoicing over Israel’s calamity
- Obadiah 1:13 looting and plundering of Israel when it was attacked…they took advantage of Israel’s distress instead of helping them
- Obadiah 1:14 hindering the Israelites from escaping when Assyria attacked them
Obadiah 1:15 The Judgment of Edom is Punitive
Their own behavior will be the standard for their punishment.
- Obadiah 1:16 drunken celebration…they joined the Assyrians in drinking to the destruction of Jerusalem at the site of the Temple
Zion’s Deliverance Obadiah 1:17-21
Obadiah 1:17 The People of Israel will be Established
All of the lands that were once Israel’s will be returned to them (:19-21)
Obadiah 1:18 The People of Edom will be Demolished
Edom’s people would be completely destroyed and would never again rise up as a kingdom.
Prayer: Father, Edom was judged in part for rejoicing over the defeat of Israel. Please don’t ever let me have happiness or find satisfaction over the troubles of other people…even if they are evil people. Help me to always have a heart of love and compassion. Like You…even when we sinned against You…You still loved us. Help me to always have Your heart and mind in reference to others.