Authorship and Date
The book of Obadiah bears the name of its author. The name Obadiah means “servant of Yahweh,” suggesting that the prophet was born and raised by godly parents. Obadiah mentioned no kings who ruled in his day. But the reference to the plundering of Jerusalem likely speaks of the city’s invasion either by the Philistines and the Arabian tribes around 845 BC (2 Chronicles 21:16–17) or by Babylon in 586 BC.
It seems better to go with the 845 BC date for at least three reasons. First, the Jews place the book between Amos and Jonah in the Hebrew canon, suggesting a preexilic date of writing. Second, the prophet Obadiah did not mention Babylon or the destruction of Jerusalem’s temple in 586 BC. Third, the prophet Jeremiah seems to quote from Obadiah (compare Jeremiah 49:14 with Obadiah 1:1, and Jeremiah 49:9 with Obadiah 1:5). Thus, it is likely that the prophecy of Obadiah was delivered around 845 BC.
Obadiah likely ministered during the reign of King Jehoram of Judah around 845 BC. In his days, Edom revolted against Judah (2 Kings 8:20). Then “the Philistines and the Arabs” invaded Judah and carried away the royal family except for Jehoahaz, Jehoram’s youngest son (2 Chronicles 21:16–17; Obadiah 1:11). Edom, as a closely related nation, should have helped Judah but failed to do so. For this reason, the LORD used Obadiah to proclaim a message of judgment to Edom.
The Message of Obadiah
The message of Obadiah is a prophetic condemnation of Edom for its arrogance and evil treatment of Judah during the time of Judah’s crisis. Edom’s pride and wickedness would lead to its own destruction, whereas Judah would be delivered. In the future day of the LORD, Israel and Judah will be reunited and restored. They will reclaim their traditional territories and will judge the Edomites. This prophecy served to comfort the people of Judah by reminding them of God’s covenant love for them. God’s judgement upon Edom was to give them what they wished upon others.
Structure of Obadiah
The book of Obadiah contains three major sections. The first section calls the nations to fight against Edom to defeat her for her pride and arrogance (vv. 1–9). The second section describes Edom’s violence against Judah (vv. 10–14). The third section describes Edom’s destruction as well as Judah’s restoration in the day of the LORD (vv. 15–21).
The book of Obadiah records the prophet’s vision concerning Edom, a country situated east of the Dead Sea and south of Moab (see map on side bar ). In this vision, the LORD shows the prophet how He will punish Edom for her mistreatment of Judah during her time of crisis. Rather than providing help to her sister Judah, Edom proudly laughed at her, pillaged her wealth, and actively engaged in her destruction. Consequently, the LORD announces His judgment on Edom, which becomes a pattern of His treatment for other Gentile nations. In the end times, the LORD will destroy Edom. But He will restore Israel and Judah, expand their territories, and rule over them as their sovereign King. The book’s outline is as follows: