AUTHOR, PLACE AND DATE OF WRITING
We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of the book's composition certain. The name itself (meaning "servant of Yahweh") was fairly common, and the prophet Obadiah was clearly not the Obadiah of 1 Kings 18:3-16.
Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event. On the other hand, Obadiah 1 I 14 indicates that a major calamity had recently struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah's troubles to their own advantage. Some scholars have proposed that this event was some preexilic setback that Judah had endured (e.g., 2Ch 21:16-17), but common sense and a broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 e.c. From the Nabonidus Chronicle, an important Akkadian source for the history of the Neo-Babylonian Empire (now housed in the British Museum), we learn that Edom itself fell in 553 B.C. to Nabonidus of Babylon. This combination of factors suggests that Obadiah was written between 586 and 553
Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendants of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God.
CULTURAL FACTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
Obadiah represents the culmination of prolonged tensions between Israel and Edom. Conflict between these nations dated back to the patriarchal period, when their respective ancestors, the twin brothers Esau and Jacob, had been at odds, and throughout their history the two nations had fought frequently (Nu 20:14-21; 1Sa 14:47; 1Ki 11:14; Isa 34:5). For all that, the people of Judah felt that the hostility shown them by Edom at what was possibly the lowest moment in their history was cruel and unjustified. The fact that God had rejected Esau (Ge 25:23: Mal 1:2-3; Ro 9:13) in no way excused Edom's disdain for Israel. Obadiah assured his readers that Edom's callousness and opportunism would not escape judgment, as indeed it did not. The Old Testament contains other prophecies against Edom (Jer 49:7-22; La 4:21-22; Eze 25:12-14; 35:1-15), but Obadiah is the only book dedicated entirely to this purpose.
AS YOU READ
Consider Obadiah's prophetic statements about the coming deliverance and restoration of God's people in light of the book of Revelation, which informs believers that, while sometimes it appears that evil has the upper hand, Christ's certain return will result in the ultimate victory of righteousness.
DID YOU KNOW?
The book of Obadiah includes the following themes:
1. Judgment for Edom. This briefest of Old Testament books assured God's people that God would punish those who abused them.
2. Deliverance and restoration for Israel. Obadiah teaches that God is sovereign over all nations. Although the enemies of God's people may have experienced momentary glimpses of glory, they would ultimately be defeated by God and their lands given to his people (vv. 19-21).
II. The Doom of Edom (2-14)
III. Edom in the Day of the Lord (15-21)
OBADIAH Edom was located south of the Dead Sea and north of the Gulf of Aqaba. The region boasts numerous mountains over 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in height, some pasturage and a few oases. Many Edomite dwellings were cut into the faces of these high, craggy mountains and gave rise to Obadiah's description of the Edomites as people "who live in the clefts of the rocks"and "soar like the eagle" (Ob 3-4). Some such ancient abodes are still visible today.
Edom prospered through its control of the major north-south caravan route, the "King's Highway," as well as through the mining of iron and copper. A pre-Edomite Early Bronze agricultural civilization flourished in this region, organized under seminomadic clan chiefs. Pharaohs were involved in Edom's copper mines from the fourteenth to the twelfth centuries B.C., and thus the area is mentioned often in Egyptian documents.
As descendants of Esau, the twin brother of the patriarch Jacob, the Edomites were considered "brothers" by Israel (cf. vv. 10 — 12). Moses unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate passage for the Israelites through the territory of the king of Edom. Saul fought against the Edomites, but David conquered Edom. His general, Joab, killed many adult males during a six-month occupation, although Hadad, a royal heir, escaped to Egypt (1 Ki 11:14-22). Edom revolted from under Joram (c.851 B.c.), but later Amaziah (c. 800 B.c.) captured its capital, Sela, and renamed it Joktheel. Edomites sometimes raided Judah (e.g., 2Ch 20; 28:16-17).
From 734 B.C. until the fall of Jerusalem, Edom was under Assyrian domination.3 Assyrian records mention three Edomite kings as tributaries: Qaus-malaku (732 B.c.), Aiarammu (701 B.c.) and Qaus-gabri (629 Edom prospered under Assyrian control, and its population increased consider-ably. Evidence of Edomite settlement during this period appears at several sites in southern Judah. Obadiah indicates that the Edomites participated in the 586 B.c. destruction of Jerusalem.
During the postexilit period Edom proper was overrun by Arabs until the Naba-teans became established there.5 Edomites (who were during the postexilic period called Idumeans) established Hebron as their capital.6 John Hyrcanus forcibly converted the Idumeans to Judaism in approximately 120 B.C. Antipater, an Idumean, became governor of Judea, and his son Herod ruled the region as king.' After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) ldumea and the Idumeans disappeared from history.