Introduction to Obadiah

By James M. Rochford

This is the shortest book in the OT, which makes it really difficult to date. Some place it as early as the ninth century (under Jehoram) or as late as the sixth century (after the destruction of Jerusalem). Luther placed it in the sixth century, but Archer writes, “A good majority of the evangelical scholars of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have inclined toward a much earlier date, that of Jehoram ben Jehoshaphat, 848–841.”[1] It must have been written at least by the sixth century, because Edom was destroyed by then (Mal. 1:3-4; Ezek. 32:29).

It is very difficult to know which Obadiah wrote this book, because “the name, which means ‘servant of Yahweh,’ is given to at least twelve other OT characters, none of whom seem obviously to be the author named in the book.”[2]

This book and Jeremiah 49 show a striking similarity to one another (Obad. 1-5; Jer. 49:9, 14-16). Who borrowed from whom? This is difficult to discern.

The focus of the book is the destruction of Edom (v.1). The city of Edom was embedded in a mountain fortress, which seemed impenetrable. But in the seventh century AD, Edom was conquered by Muslim warriors (AD 636). Today, it is a place for tourists. It has never been rebuilt.[3] Obadiah gives this prophecy to Edom, because Jerusalem’s destruction is imminent. He warns them not to overdo Jerusalem’s judgment, or God will bring the same to them.

 

[1] Archer, Gleason. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (3rd. ed.). Chicago: Moody Press. 1994. 333.

[2] Armerding, C. E. Obadiah. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel and the Minor Prophets (Vol. 7). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1986. 337.

[3] Geisler, Norman L. Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1999. 613.