*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Obadiah 1:1 meaning

The prophet Obadiah receives God’s revelation in a vision. In this message, God announces the defeat of Edom and calls the nations to arise to fight against her.

The book begins with a title identifying the nature of the prophecy and its author. The book’s title classifies it as a vision [“ḥāzôn” in Hebrew]. The term vision comes from a verb meaning “to see” or “to behold.” It is a term used for one form of divine revelation (Ezekiel 12:27; 13:16). It refers to some visual representations of God’s will (Amos 7). It tells us that the prophet saw and heard what God communicated to him.

The author of the vision is Obadiah. The name Obadiah means “servant of Yahweh,” suggesting that the prophet came from a godly family. There are several men in the Bible named Obadiah, making it difficult to determine the prophet’s personal life and family (See, for instance, 1 Kings 18:3; 1 Chronicles 3:21; 7:3; 2 Chronicles 17:7; Ezra 8:9, etc.). However, one thing is certain: Obadiah was a true prophet because God spoke to him in a vision. Thus, the prophecy of this book is a description of the vision of Obadiah.

After the title identifying the nature of the prophecy and its author, the book identifies the origin of the message with the formula Thus says the Lord GOD. The term translated as Lord here is “Adonai” in Hebrew, which means “master” or “ruler.” The Hebrew word translated as GOD is “Yahweh,” the covenant name of God (Exodus 3:14–15). The prophet Obadiah used the names Adonai and Yahweh together to tell his audience that his vision was not the product of his reflection. Rather, what he saw came directly from Yahweh, his master. Simply put, Obadiah was God’s herald or messenger.

The vision of Obadiah was a prophecy concerning Edom, a country situated east of the Dead Sea and south of Moab (see map on side bar). The Edomites were kinsmen to the Israelites since they were the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob, who was later renamed Israel (Genesis 25:19–26; 36; Deuteronomy 2:1–7). Similar to the relationship of the founders Jacob and Esau, the nation Edom had a mixed tradition in how they interacted with the Israelites. Edom often treated Israel as a traditional enemy (Numbers 20:14–21; Amos. 1:11–15).  However, on rare occasions they were allies (Deuteronomy 2:2–6; 2 Kings. 3:9). In Obadiah’s prophecy, Edom fell under God’s judgment for her mistreatment of God’s covenant people (vv. 10–14).

Obadiah then placed God’s message on hold to provide his listeners with some important background information. He used the first-person plural to include the people of the southern kingdom of Judah in his speech. He said, We have heard a report from the LORD. The pronoun “we” implies that both Obadiah and the people of Judah had heard the report.

The term translated as report can be rendered as “news” (1 Samuel 4:19; 1 Kings 2:28). The news or report that Obadiah and the people of Judah heard was important because it came from the LORD, their Suzerain (or Ruler), with whom they had entered into a covenant agreement (Exodus 19:18). Obadiah heard it and quickly realized that the LORD had spoken to comfort His covenant people. But what was the report about? Obadiah told the people of Judah that an envoy has been sent among the nations.

The word translated envoy occurs only six times in the Old Testament. It refers to a messenger who travels from place to place to deliver a message (Proverbs 13:17; 25:13). In the ancient world, when nations engaged in war, they often called on all covenant partners and vassal (subordinate) states, asking them to send troops and supplies for a combined effort. Messengers would then be sent among the allies to encourage them to honor their treaty commitments (1 Samuel 11:3–4). Here in Obadiah, the LORD sent an envoy among the nations to rally support against Edom.

The envoy’s message is short yet powerful. It is summarized as follows: Arise and let us go against her for battle. To arise means to get up or to stand. In our context, it means to be ready for war. The command to arise shows the urgency of the situation. Since the nation Edom was guilty, the LORD was about to judge her. He would use a coalition of nations as His instruments to punish Edom. Therefore, the LORD commanded the nations to arise so that they could fight against Edom on His behalf.

Biblical Text

The vision of Obadiah.
Thus says the Lord God concerning Edom—
We have heard a report from the
And an envoy has been sent among the nations saying,
“Arise and let us go against her for battle.”

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