Obadiah, the shortest book in the Old Testament, is a dramatic example of God’s response to anyone who would harm his children. Edom was a mountainous nation, occupying the region southeast of the Dead Sea including Petra, the spectacular city discovered by archaeologists a few decades ago. As descendants of Esau (Genesis 25:19 – 27:45), the Edomites were blood relatives of Israel and, like their father, they were rugged, fierce, and proud warriors with a seemingly invincible mountain home. Of all people, they should have rushed to the aid of their northern brothers. Instead, however, they gloated over Israel’s problems, captured and delivered fugitives to the enemy, and even looted Israel’s countryside.
Obadiah gave God’s message to Edom. Because of their indifference to and defiance to God, their cowardice and pride, and their treachery toward their brothers in Judah, they stood condemned and would be destroyed. The book begins with the announcement that disaster was coming to Edom. Despite their “impregnable” cliffs and mountains, they would not be able to escape God’s judgment. Obadiah then gave the reasons for their destruction – their blatant arrogance toward God and their persecution of God’s children. This concise prophecy ends with a description of the “day of the Lord,” when judgment will fall on all who have harmed God’s people.
Today, God’s holy nation is his church – all who have trusted Christ for their salvation and have given their lives to him. These men and women are God’s born again and adopted children. As you read Obadiah, catch a glimpse of what it means to be God’s child, under his love and protection. See how the heavenly Father responds to all who would attack those whom he loves.
Writer of Obadiah
Obadiah. The only thing known about this prophet is his name (a common one in the Old Testament), which means “one who serves Yahweh.” It is unlikely that he is the same Obadiah as the official over Ahab’s household in First Kings, for the book seems to have been written after the fall of Jerusalem.
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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 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.
Historical Setting of Obadiah
Centuries earlier, twin brothers, Jacob and Esau, went their separate ways, but the Bible reports many clashes between those two nations, the Edomites and Israel.
One notable example was the refusal of the Edomites to let the Israelites cross their land as they traveled toward the land of Canaan. But the final insult to Israel must have been Edom’s participation in the looting of Jerusalem after the city fell to the Babylonians.
God declared in the Book of Genesis that He would bless the rest of the world through Abraham and his descendants. He also promised to protect His special people against any who would try to do them harm. This promise is affirmed in the Book of Obadiah, as God keeps faith with His people, in spite of their unworthiness and disobedience.
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