STUDY BOOK OF OBADIAH FROM INTRODUCTION TO BIBLE
AUTHOR AND TITLE
The superscription for the book identifies the genre as a “vision,” a prophetic revelation from God spoken through his prophet “Obadiah.” Unfortunately, the only thing known about this prophet is his name (a common one in the OT), which means “one who serves Yahweh.” It is unlikely that he is the same Obadiah as the official over Ahab’s household in 1 Kings 18:3–16 (9th century b.c.), for the book seems to have been written after the fall of Jerusalem (586; see Date).
Because the superscription gives no chronological information, readers can infer only the approximate time of the prophet from the book’s contents. Suggested dates range from very early (c. 850 b.c.) to very late (c. 400). Since the book presents the fall of Jerusalem as a past event (v. 11) and the fall of Edom as a future event, a probable date would be after 586 b.c. (the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon) and before 553 (Babylon’s campaign against Edom). Therefore, the most likely situation is the first half of the Babylonian exile. The place of writing is Jerusalem.
On the one hand, Edom, together with all other nations that oppose Israel’s God and his people, will experience God’s retributive judgment. On the other hand, God’s own covenant people, who have already experienced God’s judgment, will receive restoration from their God. The book ends with the promise of the kingdom of God.
PURPOSE, OCCASION, AND BACKGROUND
Obadiah exhibits numerous parallels with other OT texts, especially Jeremiah’s Edom prophecy (Jer. 49:7–22). Essentially the message of Obadiah spells out what Lamentations 4:22 announces: restoration for Zion but doom for Edom.
The Jerusalemites experienced God’s judgment (Obad. 16a) when enemies invaded and “cast lots for Jerusalem” (v. 11). The Edomites, the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau and one of Israel’s neighbors to the southeast, should have assisted their brothers during the Babylonian crisis. Instead they sided with the foreign invaders and even took advantage of Israel’s misfortune (vv. 10–14).
Holy Zion had been profaned, and God’s people were put to public shame. Edom felt secure in spite of its complicity in Israel’s demise. For all intents and purposes it looked as though Edom and the foreign nations were in charge, ruling over the future of Israel. The book of Lamentations reveals the extent to which Israel was devastated by the exile—politically, economically, and theologically. Does Israel have a future? Will Zion be profaned forever? Will the plan for Abraham’s offspring to bring blessing to the world come to nothing? Will Edom and the hostile nations triumph? Is God indifferent to all of this?
Into this bleak situation the prophet Obadiah proclaimed the word of Yahweh. The first half of Obadiah (vv. 1–15) addresses Edom with “you” singular. The prophet announces coming judgment against Edom and warns Edom to desist from its anti-Judahite hostilities before it is too late, before “the day of theLord” comes against “all the nations” (v. 15). The standard of the judgment will be strict retributive justice (v. 15).
The second half (vv. 16–21) addresses the people of Jerusalem with “you” plural in verse 16: “you … on my holy mountain.” Here the prophet gives hope to God’s beleaguered people with the good news of the future great reversal. On the terrible day of the Lord the hostile nations will receive God’s judgment, but those in Zion will be saved, and Zion will be holy (vv. 16–17a). All Israel will be reunited and given the Promised Land and victory over Edom (vv. 17b–20). The last line expresses God’s ultimate goal: to establish his kingly reign over all the earth (v. 21).
1. Enemies will be put to shame because of their enmity against God’s people (v. 10).
2. Every proud human effort at self-security will ultimately fail before God’s coming judgment (vv. 1–9).
3. God’s retributive justice is strict and fair, with the punishment corresponding to the misdeeds (v. 15).
4. Reunited Israel will experience God’s deliverance (vv. 16–17), possess the Promised Land, and defeat and rule over Edom (vv. 17–21).
5. In the future, Yahweh will definitively manifest his kingly rule (v. 21).
HISTORY OF SALVATION SUMMARY
Edom is the target of Obadiah’s prophecy of doom because it exemplifies hostility toward God’s people. The Edomites took delight in bringing disaster to Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem fell for its unfaithfulness, and even though Edom was one of God’s tools for bringing judgment, the Lord has tied himself to his people and will punish those who hurt them. Eventually, Jerusalem will be restored and its blessings will extend to the Gentiles (vv. 19–21). (For an explanation of the “History of Salvation,” see the Overview of the Bible. See also History of Salvation in the Old Testament: Preparing the Way for Christ.)
The primary genre is prophecy, and as is customary in prophecy, the predictions of the future are couched in oracles of judgment and an oracle of salvation or deliverance. The oracles of judgment against Edom are examples of satire, with discernible objects of attack and a satiric norm by which Edom and other nations are criticized.
THE SETTING OF OBADIAH
c. 570 b.c.
Though various dates have been given for the prophecy of Obadiah, it was most likely written sometime after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 b.c. but prior to the fall of Edom in 553. Obadiah condemned the Edomites, who were descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau, for attacking the Judeans during the Babylonian crisis rather than assisting them.
- First Announcement of Judgment to Edom (vv. 1–4)
- Second Announcement of Judgment to Edom (vv. 5–7)
- Announcement of Judgment, Accusation, and Warning to Edom (vv. 8–15)
- Promise of Restoration and Victory to Israel (vv. 16–18)
- Promise of Restoration and Yahweh’s Kingship (vv. 19–21)
1 The vision of Obadiah. Thus saith the Lord GOD concerning Edom; We have heard a rumour from the LORD, and an ambassador is sent among the heathen, Arise ye, and let us rise up against her in battle.
2 Behold, I have made thee small among the heathen: thou art greatly despised.
3 ¶ The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high; that saith in his heart, Who shall bring me down to the ground?
4 Though thou exalt thyself as the eagle, and though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down, saith the LORD.
5 If thieves came to thee, if robbers by night, (how art thou cut off!) would they not have stolen till they had enough? if the grapegatherers came to thee, would they not leave some grapes?
6 How are the things of Esau searched out! how are his hidden things sought up!
7 All the men of thy confederacy have brought thee even to the border: the men that were at peace with thee have deceived thee, and prevailed against thee; they that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee: there is none understanding in him.
8 Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau?
9 And thy mighty men, O Teman, shall be dismayed, to the end that every one of the mount of Esau may be cut off by slaughter.
10 ¶ For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off for ever.
11 In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them.
12 But thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother in the day that he became a stranger; neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah in the day of their destruction; neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress.
13 Thou shouldest not have entered into the gate of my people in the day of their calamity; yea, thou shouldest not have looked on their affliction in the day of their calamity, nor have laid hands on their substance in the day of their calamity;
14 Neither shouldest thou have stood in the crossway, to cut off those of his that did escape; neither shouldest thou have delivered up those of his that did remain in the day of distress.
15 For the day of the LORD is near upon all the heathen: as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.
16 For as ye have drunk upon my holy mountain, so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.
17 ¶ But upon mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness; and the house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.
18 And the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them, and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the LORD hath spoken it.
19 And they of the south shall possess the mount of Esau; and they of the plain the Philistines: and they shall possess the fields of Ephraim, and the fields of Samaria: and Benjamin shall possess Gilead.
20 And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel shall possess that of the Canaanites, even unto Zarephath; and the captivity of Jerusalem, which is in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.
21 And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the LORD’S.