Date: Sixth Century B.C.
The shortest book in the Old Testament, Obadiah deals with the relationship between Judah and its southern neighbor, Edom. Obadiah is prophesying the fall of Edom because of its inhumane treatment of Judah. The fact that the two peoples were distantly related is important in understanding the book. Esau, to whom the Edomites traced their ancestry, was the brother of Jacob, to whom the Judahites traced their ancestry. Esau rightfully was to inherit the blessing of his father, Isaac, but sold it for a bowl of porridge. Jacob, though deceptive, received the blessing instead. Because of Esau’s act, he became a symbol in Judah of a profane person, insensitive to spiritual values.
Judah’s descendants settled just north of where Esau’s descendants settled, and relations between the two groups were never very cordial. There were frequent border clashes between the two countries, usually with Judah winning. The two major cities of Edom were Sela and Bozrah. Teman, mentioned by Obadiah, was in the southern part of Edom. Sometimes the whole country is called Mt. Esau, in contrast to Mt. Zion, which stood for Jerusalem or Judah.
When the Babylonians arrived, Edom saw its chance. The Edomites followed the Babylonians in, letting them do most of the fighting and then took whatever they wanted for themselves. That behavior earned them the scorn of the prophet and the punishing hand of God. Edom was destined to fall, said Obadiah, and fall it did, in 312 B.C. So two nations fell for their sins. Judah, however, would learn its lesson and be allowed to return to start over. Edom would remain a heap of ruins forever.
Theological Themes in the Book of Obadiah
The message of Obadiah is simple. Edom will be destroyed for its indifference, cowardice, and pride, as will all who choose to live in defiance of God.
Outline for the Book of Obadiah
- Prophecy against Edom Obadiah 1:1-14
- The day of the Lord and Judah’s blessing Obadiah 1:15-21