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Bible Commentaries
Obadiah 1

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-21



Obadiah 1:1-21

Following the chronology of Sampey’s Syllabus we commence our studies of the prophets with Obadiah.

This name means servant or worshiper of Jehovah and is found to be of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament, but cannot be identified with any other. His father’s name is not given. So, it is utterly impossible to know much about him. It has been determined with a good degree of certainty that he was a prophet of Judah.

The vision of Obadiah against Edom, or the punishment of Edom for its cruel and unbrotherly conduct toward Judah at the time of some great national calamity is the theme of his prophecy.

The date of this prophecy is a matter of great dispute. The time, according to the various scholars, ranges from 840 B.C. to 588 B.C. and some place it even later, but the author prefers the earlier date which places it shortly after the invasion of Judah and the plundering of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians. This occurred in the reign of Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:16-17; compare 2 Kings 8:20 ff.). The description of this event is brief, but doubtless many other captives were taken besides the royal family as herein indicated.

The attitude of Edom toward Israel was one of perpetual hostility. The history of this hatred for Israel commences with the trouble between Jacob and Esau, after which Esau settled the country about Mount Seir, afterward called Edom. Here Esau dispossessed the Horites, the original inhabitants. At the time of the Exodus the Edomites refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their territory and then continued in this state of hostility after the occupation of Canaan. This attitude toward Israel is seen in the succession of events in their history. They never lost an opportunity to show their dislike for the descendants of Jacob. It is this hatred which found expression in the time of Obadiah in their rejoicing at Israel’s calamities for which Obadiah pronounces the curse upon them.

The style of Obadiah is remarkably original. He uses many words and forms found nowhere else. The language is full of thought and pregnant with meaning. It has a vigor, terseness, and rapidity which carry the reader along and place him by the prophet’s side in fullest sympathy. One special characteristic of this prophecy is that of the close connection of its members without a break or interruption.

There are several other passages of Scripture which should be studied in connection with Obadiah:

1. Joel 2:23-3:19, in many particulars, seems to parallel Obadiah and, in all probability, Joel was acquainted with the prophecy of Obadiah and refers to it in Joel 2:32. A close study of the two prophecies reveals a striking parallel in them. Whether Joel borrowed from Obadiah, is a disputed question. However, the evidence seems to indicate that he did. If this be true, then the date of Obadiah is practically settled as being that of 840 B.C. rather than later.

2. Jeremiah 49:7-22 is, doubtless, an expansion of Obadiah 1:1-9. A careful inspection of the two prophecies leads to the conclusion that Obadiah is the original from which Jeremiah borrowed.

3. Ezekiel 35:1-15, Lamentations 4:21, Psalms 137:7, all seem to parallel the feeling of Obadiah expressed in Obadiah 1:10-18, yet they doubtless refer to a different occasion though they have a similar cause, viz: the perpetual attitude of hostility of Edom toward Israel.

A brief outline, or analysis, of Obadiah is as follows:


1. The title (Obadiah 1:1 a)

2. The theme (Obadiah 1:1 b)

I. A judgment announced (Obadiah 1:1-9)

1. The summons of the nations (Obadiah 1:1-2)

2. Edom, though proud and secure, shall be humbled (Obadiah 1:3-4)

3. The destruction shall be complete (Obadiah 1:5-9)

II. A reason assigned (Obadiah 1:10-16)

1. The charge specified (Obadiah 1:10-11)

2. A prohibition of the repetition of such offenses (Obadiah 1:12-14)

3. The day of restitution at hand (Obadiah 1:15-16)

III. A victory assured (Obadiah 1:17-21)

1. The forces in general (Obadiah 1:17-18)

2. The work of each in particular (Obadiah 1:19-20)

3. The kingdom established (Obadiah 1:21)

There is a summons in Obadiah 1:1-2 to the nations to arise against Edom and bring her to desolation. The reference is not very clear but the passage refers to someone, as seen by the prophet in the vision, going among the heathen to stir them up against Edom.

In Obadiah 1:3-4 we have a description of their pride. They were irreligious, proud, and self-centered. The position of the Edomites was secluded, they being dwellers of the mountains and living in houses hewn in rocks on the mountainsides. Their dwelling places were like the nests of eagles in the clefts of the highest rocks and almost inaccessible to an enemy. Petra, the capital, lay completely hidden in a rocky defile some two miles long, and could easily be defended by a handful of men. This remarkable place has been most graphically described by a late traveler. This description may be found in the "Pulpit Commentary" and the student will do well to read it. Note the comparison in Obadiah 1:4.

The completeness of the desolation here foretold is described by contrasting it with the work of thieves, robbers, and grape-gatherers in which the prophet shows that, unlike the thief or the grape-gatherer, the destroyer will not leave anything of them but will bring them to complete desolation.

The prophet assigns as the reason for their desolation the fact that Edom had sided with the enemy against Israel and had rejoiced at the calamity of God’s people in their defeat; he issues a prohibition against the repetition of such acts, and then he shows that the measure of their penalty should be their own treatment of Israel in view of the approaching day of restitution for the nations.

In this dark picture of the destruction of Edom and the other nations the prophet holds out the hope of Israel’s final victory over all the nations. According to this prophecy a remnant shall escape and shall become a fire and the house of Joseph a flame while Esau shall be as stubble. As fire burns stubble, so shall Jacob and Joseph consume Esau. Then follows a description of the details of the work of desolation out of which shall come the establishment of the kingdom of Jehovah over the whole earth.

The question naturally arises just here as to the fulfilment of these several prophecies. There are three of these that now claim our attention. (1) The conquest of the Edomites by the heathen on account of their cruelty to the Jews at the time of the capture of Jerusalem by the Philistines and Arabians. (2) A second conquest of them and utter extermination by the Jews. (3) The subsequent expansion of the Israelitish nation and the triumphant glories of Zion.

The first of these was to be effected by the heathen which is not very easily found in history on account of the loss of Edom’s historical records from 588-312 B.C. At the latter date we find the Nabataeans, a people of the Chaldean race and origin, in full possession of Edom. It was this people who made Petra famous for its buildings and commerce, but just when they got possession is not known. Josephus tells us of an invasion of this country by Nebuchadnezzar about five years after the destruction of Jerusalem. Probably he conquered this country and transported the Chaldeans and settled them there, upon which the Edomites established themselves in southern Judah where they were afterward exclusively found. This history fulfils the first prophecy.

The fulfilment of the second prophecy, viz: the conquest of Edom by the Jews, may be recognized more distinctly. Judas Maccabeus overthrew the Edomites at Arabattine and John Hyracanus captured the cities Adna and Marisa and subjugated all the Idumeans. He allowed them to remain where they were on the condition that they would be circumcised and adopt the Jewish customs. This they did and thus lost their nationality, but they still hung together as a party who were plundered by Simon of Gerasa. The few Edomites left were slain at the capture of Jerusalem and there was "not any remaining of the house of Esau; for Jehovah had spoken it." Now what of the expansion of the Israelitish kingdom? The promise that an escaped remnant should occupy Mount Zion was literally fulfilled at the return under Zerubabbel but the idea of the expansion was not. It had a typical and partial fulfilment in the days of the Maccabees but this expansion idea finds its fuller completion in Christianity and will be consummated in the millennium.

There are several important lessons in this book for us:

1. There is the lesson of the family feud, which is usually the most bitter and the most difficult to settle. Let us remember the lesson of Jacob and Esau.

2. There is the lesson of the dangers of pride and arrogance. Truly, "pride goeth before a fall."

3. There is the lesson of false confidence. No one is secure against the law of retribution. The clefts of Petra may be too difficult for man to scale but nothing can withstand God.

4. There is the lesson of God’s method of dealing out his wrath. "Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small." Edom received what she had given.

5. There is the lesson of hope in a dark hour. God’s plan and purpose are not accomplished in a day but he will see to it that no prophecy shall fail. Let Israel of today learn the lesson of patient, persistent pursuit of God’s plan for her, and his glory will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.


1. Who was Obadiah?

2. What the theme of his prophecy?

3. What the date and circumstances of this prophecy?

4. What was the attitude of Edom toward Israel and what the history which evidences this attitude?

5. What of the general character of the book?

6. What other passages of Scripture should be studied in this connection, and what is their relation to Obadiah?

7. Give a brief analysis of the book.

8. What the summons of Obadiah 1:1-2 and what the reference here?

9. What the characteristics of the Edomites and what of the place of their security?

10. How is the completeness of the desolation, which is here foretold, described?

11. What reason did the prophet here assign for such desolation, what prohibition issued and what the measure of their penalty?

12. What hope for Israel’s victory does the prophet here hold out to the people and how is it to be realized?

13. What can you say of the fulfilment of these several prophecies by Obadiah?

14. What the lessons of the prophecy of Obadiah?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Obadiah 1". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/obadiah-1.html.
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