SummaryObadiah, one of the twelve Minor Prophets, announces judgment on the nation of Edom for its sins against Judah and Jerusalem. Specifically, the prophet denounces Edom for gloating over the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., and accuses Edom of looting Jerusalem and handing over her fugitives. For these sins, says the prophet, Edom itself will be destroyed. This prophetic book, the shortest book in the Old Testament, ends by speaking of the "day of the LORD," when the nations will be defeated, Israel will be restored, and "the kingdom shall be the LORD's."
Though a very short book, Obadiah gives us the classic prophetic vision of judgment and hope. Jerusalem has fallen; Edom and the other nations seem to be victorious, but that is not the end of the story. The "day of the LORD" is coming, when the nations will be judged, and Judah and Israel will be restored. Such is a powerful vision of hope for a people in exile.
Where Do I Find It?
Obadiah is the thirty-first book of the Bible, the fourth book of the so-called "minor" (or shorter) prophets, the group of twelve prophetic books that close the Old Testament.
Who Wrote It?
The book is attributed to a prophet named Obadiah, but we have no biographical information about him. The name Obadiah seems to have been fairly common, as eleven other people by that name are mentioned in the Old Testament. None of them can easily be identified with the writer of this exilic book.
When Was It Written?
The description of Jerusalem's fall in Obadiah 11-14 places the date for the book's composition after 587 B.C.E. Given the detailed description of the Edomites' actions during the calamity, it seems likely that Obadiah was written not long after the events described, that is, sometime during the Babylonian exile (587-538 B.C.E.).
What's It About?
The book of Obadiah recounts the downfall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C.E., condemns Edom for its part in the catastrophe, and holds out hope for "the day of the LORD," when Israel and Judah will be restored, and Edom will be destroyed.
How Do I Read It?
Obadiah is a prophetic book, rooted in particular historical circumstances but looking to a future time when God's reign will be established on earth. You should read it, therefore, both with some knowledge of its historical background and with an understanding of its future vision. Obadiah is concerned both with the events of 587 B.C.E. and with a coming age that is in God's hands. Like most prophetic books then, Obadiah calls its readers to have faith in God as they find themselves in an already-and-not-yet time, a time between what has already happened and what God has promised is yet to come.
AUTHOR: Kathryn Schifferdecker, Associate Professor of Old Testament