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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

- Obadiah

by Editor - Joseph Exell


THE Book of Obadiah is occupied with one subject — the punishment of Edom for its cruel and unbrotherly conduct towards Judah at the time of some great national calamity, merging at the end in a prophecy of the restoration of Israel. We must not suppose, however, that Obadiah intends to limit his utterances to a denunciation of the Edomites. His words are not exclusively intended for their case. While what he says concerning their destruction is so be regarded as literally true, they are also taken as the type of nations hostile to God, and their overthrow prefigures the universal judgment on Gentiles, which should usher in the establishment of the kingdom of God, the sovereignty of Jehovah over all the world. The work consists of two parts — one (vers. 1-16) telling of the destruction of Edom, and the causes thereof; the other (vers. 17-21), of the salvation and final victory of Israel. It commences with a proclamation of Jehovah to the nations to come and do battle against Edom. Relying on the impregnable nature of her seat among the rocks of Petra, she fears no foe, yet thence the Lord shall bring her down. She shall suffer no mere predatory inroad, but shall be totally stripped and plundered. The allies in whom she trusted shall prove treacherous, and laugh her credulity to scorn. The wise men for whom she was widely celebrated shall fail to save her in that day; all her valiant chiefs shall become faint, hearted, and utter desolation shall be her portion. Why is Edom thus afflicted? It is in retribution for the wrong which she did to Israel, the covenant nation, to whom she was united by closest ties of kindred. When Judah was reduced to low estate, Edom rejoiced in her sister's calamity, beheld her disaster with malicious satisfaction, and sided with her enemies in the plunder and murder of the wretched inhabitants of Jerusalem. Such conduct the Edomites will, as the prophet foresees, repeat at the first opportunity; and for this, when God visits the heathen, they shall be marked out for destruction, and shall receive the measure which they meted to others. The last five verses comprise the second part of the prophecy. On Mount Zion there shall be those that escape, and deliverance shall be given to the house of Jacob. The Israelites shall be agents in God's hand for the accomplishment of his vengeance; they shall expel the invaders of their country, and spread abroad on every side; the dispersed among the Gentiles shall return to their fellow countrymen; and the great consummation shall arrive when "the kingdom shall be the Lord's."

The relation of Edom to Israel had for the most part been of the most unfriendly character. Quarrels between relatives are proverbially bitter; this was the case with these two nations. The hostility showed itself in the refusal to allow Israel to pass through their land on the way to Canaan; it led to wars with Saul (1 Samuel 14:47) and with David, who must have had good reason for his very severe treatment of them when he put to death all the males (2 Samuel 8:13, 2 Samuel 8:14, Revised Version; 1 Kings 11:15, etc.). Hadad, an Idumean chief, was one of Solomon's most inveterate opponents (1 Kings 11:14-22); and though the Edomites were for many years kept under by stern measures, yet they rebelled whenever they saw a hope of success. Thus they joined with Moab and Ammon in an invasion of Judaea in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22); under Jehoram they regained their independence, massacred the Judaeans who were in their borders, and, in alliance with Philistines and desert tribes, plundered the king's palace in Jerusalem and slew his sons (2 Chronicles 21:8, 2 Chronicles 21:17; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11). Some years later, however, they were successfully attacked by Amaziah, their stronghold Sela, or Petra, was taken, and the population was put to the sword, twenty thousand being slain in battle or butchered afterwards (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11, etc.). Yet they were hover completely subdued; they were always on the watch to smite Judah and to carry away captives (2 Chronicles 28:17). When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, they gladly joined the invaders (Ezekiel 35:0.; Ezekiel 36:5), helped to plunder the city and to cut off stragglers who endeavoured to escape. This hostile attitude of Edom towards God's people is the ground of the judgment denounced by Obadiah.

The following eloquent passage from Dean Stanley's 'Lectures on the Jewish Church' (2:556) shows the attitude of Edom, and the feeling evoked by it in the breast of the Jews: "Deepest of all was the indignation roused by the sight of the nearest of kin, the race of Esau, often allied to Judah, often independent, now bound by the closest union with the power that was truly the common enemy of both. There was an intoxication of delight in the wild Edomite chiefs, as at each successive stroke against the venerable wall, they shouted, 'Down with it, down with it, even to the ground!' They stood in the passes to intercept the escape of those who would have fled down to the Jordan valley; they betrayed the fugitives; they indulged their barbarous revels on the temple hill. Long and loud has been the wail of execration which has gone up from the Jewish nation against Edom. It is the one imprecation which breaks forth from the Lamentations of Jeremiah; it is the culmination of the fierce threats of Ezekiel; it is the sole purpose of the short, sharp cry of Obadiah, it is the bitterest drop in the sad recollections of the Israelite captives by the waters of Babylon; and the one warlike strain of the evangelical prophet is inspired by the hope that the Divine Conqueror should come knee deep in Idumean blood."
The territory occupied by the Edomites extended from the southern end of the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf, and comprised an area of about two thousand square miles. Though it was a mountainous district, and well deserved its biblical names of "the mount of Esau" and "Mount Self," there was no want of fertile soil in its valleys and terraces. The ancient capital appears to have been Bozrah, a city that lay a few miles south of the Dead Sea. But at the time of Obadiah's prophecy this had been supplanted by the celebrated Sela, or Petra, the peculiar position of which place, with its difficult access, its rock-hewn dwellings, and natural defences, had tended to encourage in the Edomites a spirit of independence and security, which aught them to defy attack and to spurn all attempts at subjection.
There has always been great difficulty in visiting the modern representatives of the Edomites, though some few enterprising persons have penetrated their fastnesses, and given to the world the results of their investigations. A late traveller who has succeeded in inspecting Petra has described his visit in the Century Magazine, November, 1885, from which the following extracts are taken: "Petra is identified with the Hebrew Selah, 'a Rock,' the Amorite, Edomite, and Moabite stronghold (Judges 1:36; 2 Kings 14:7; Isaiah 16:1). Strabo (16:663; 5:15, edit. Did.) tells us of Petra as a city shut in by rocks in the midst of the desert, yet supplied abundantly with water, and important as a place of transit for Oriental productions. The city lay in a narrow valley, surrounded by precipitous hills. On the eastern and western sides the cliffs rise almost perpendicularly to the height of six or seven hundred feet. On the north and south the natural barriers are less formidable, and may, in places, be passed by camels. Many recesses, or small lateral valleys, open into the main valley. The circuit of the entire depression, including these lateral valleys, is about four miles .... The site of Petra lies halfway between the Gulf of Akabah and the Dead Sea, about seventy miles, as the vulture flies, from each. It has been said that there is but one entrance to Petra. Yet there is a 'back door,' so to speak, through which some travellers have made their way into the city, and by means of which they have also more suddenly made their departure. The real approach is through a narrow gorge (Wady Mousa) some two miles long, of which the gateway faces the east. This is reached from Palestine by way of Moab, east of the Dead Sea, and from the south by the route I took [viz. across the Red Sea, a few miles south of Suez; down the desert to Mount Sinai; thence north and east to the head of the Gulf of Akabah]. The back door may be gained from north or south by way of the Wady Arabah — the vast desert waste which lies between the Gulf of Akabah and the Dead Sea, into which it opens near the base of venerable Mount Hor .... Breaking our way through the jungle on the further side of the stream [the Sik], we found ourselves in the very heart of the necropolis of Petra... It may be useful to remind the reader, before we enter Petra proper, that all its principal structures, be they tombs, palaces, or temples, are excavated from the rock, and not constructed of quarried stone. The sides of the mountains are cut to smooth perpendicular faces, which are occupied by unbroken ranges of temples and of homes for the living and the dead. The interiors behind the ornate fronts are but caves squared by the old stone cutter, and are lighted only by their doors. Continuing our advance, we followed the stream a few rods, and descending as the pass narrowed, the entrance of the frightful chasm, seen afar off at sunrise, was reached at last. What an impregnable gateway! Spanning it is a fine buttressed arch, resting upon rock-cut foundations. Beneath this a little stream gurgles. We followed it through the only entrance — the 'front door' of Petra. The top of the northern wall of the defile was once inhabited. Excavations, bridges, terraced gardens, and various other evidences remain upon it of the industry and artistic taste of a wonderfully persevering people. When we had come fairly inside the gorge, we found it at times so narrow that two of us could not walk abreast. Its perpendicular sides vary in height from four hundred to seven hundred feet, and frequently, without absolutely meeting, they overhang to such a degree that the sky is shut out from the sight for a hundred yards at a stretch. On every side, more than a yard above the stream bed, channels are cut in the rock as conduits for water, and in some places terracotta pipes are found cemented in these channels. Tiny niches abound also, cut in the sides of the gorge — old pagan divinities, no doubt. The growth of oleanders becomes more dense as the gorge descends. Green caper plants dangle from the crevices, and here and there a graceful tamarisk is found in the shade. The tiny brook, the Sik, follows the whole way. The quarried stone scattered along the path indicates that the floor of the fissure was once paved. At every turn we saw evidences of indefatigable effort, and of how lavishly labour was expended by the people who lived in Petra in its days of power. For nearly two miles we followed the semi-subterranean passage. The pathway now descended; the water grew deeper, the opposing thicket more impassable, the scene more grand....Emerging from the gorge into an open area, we stood face to face with the strange edifice (the Khuzneh)....The colour is a delicate rose-pink, like that of the buildings further on in the city, almost unbroken by waves of other hue...As the inner gate of the cry beyond the Khuzneh was entered, to the right and left wondrous architectural fancies loomed up. On the left is a group of square-cut edifices, seeming at first like gigantic steps, but out of which varied facades appear upon a closer view. On the right is a trio of tombs and temples hewn from the end of a range of cliffs, the last one looking like a great grim warder at the city gate. Beneath are numberless excavations, each one of which, from its appearance, might have been used first as a home for the living before Being appropriated as a tomb....Now emerging into the expanse of the little valley, the full glory of the Edomite capital burst upon us. Nature built these stupendous walls, and man adorned them with patient workmanship, each artist vying with his fellow in shaping these rainbow cliffs into forms of beauty."

The fulfilment of Obadiah's prophecy may be briefly summarized. It is most probable that, after the fall of Jerusalem, and notwithstanding the assistance which they gave to Nebuchadnezzar on that occasion, the Edomites were subdued by that monarch some five years later. History fails to assert this fact in unmistakable terms, but it is satisfactorily inferred from other considerations. Jeremiah prophesies (Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 27:3-6) that the Chaldeans shall attack this country as well as Egypt (Jeremiah 43:8-13), and Josephus ('Ant.,' 10:9. 7) narrates how they warred against Coele-Syria, the Ammonites, and Moabites, and then proceeded to invade Egypt. It is highly improbable that they left Petra unconquered in their rear, more especially as in all likelihood Edom joined with Ammon and Moah in resisting this aggression. Rather, the ruin mentioned by Malachi (Malachi 1:8, Malachi 1:4), "They shall build, but I will threw down," was then inflicted, and their "mountains were made a desolation, and their heritage given to the jackals of the wilderness." At this time the Nabathaeans, an Arabian tribe, and possibly sent thither by Nebuchadnezzar, took possession of Petra; and thus, according to Obadiah's word, the heathen rose up against her in battle, seized her stronghold, and brought her down to the ground. Antigonus, one of the generals of Alexander the Great, conquered this people and despoiled Petra, B.C. 312. The Edomites, who had established themselves in Southern Palestine, suffered heavy defeats at the bands of Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 5:3, 65); John Hyreanus compelled them to submit to the Mosaic Law (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 13:9, 1); Alexander Jannaeus completed their ruin (ibid., 15:4). The scanty remains of the people which existed at the siege of Jerusalem wore almost entirely put to the sword ('Bell Jud.,' 4:5, etc.; 5:6, 1); the few survivors of the massacre took refuge among the tribes of the desert, and were absorbed in their community, so that Origen could say that in his time their name and language had wholly perished ('In Job.').

§ 2. AUTHOR.

Of Obadiah, the author of this prophecy, nothing whatever is known. Not even his father's name is given in the title of the book, which is simply, "the vision of Obadiah." The name itself (in Greek, ̓Αβδιού or ̓Οβδιού·, sc. Ορασις: in Latin, Abdias) signifies "Servant" or "Worshipper of Jehovah," and was common among the Hebrews; but the attempt to identify the prophet with any of the persons so called in Holy Writ is entirely unsuccessful, and has arisen rather from the natural desire to know more concerning this holy man than from any special evidence or probability. Persons of the Same name (though sometimes in different form) are found in 1 Kings 18:3; 1 Chronicles 3:21; 1 Chronicles 7:3; 1 Chronicles 8:38; 1 Chronicles 9:16, 1 Chronicles 9:44; 1 Chronicles 12:9; 1 Chronicles 27:19; 34:12; Ezra 8:9; Nehemiah 10:5; 2 Chronicles 17:7; 2 Chronicles 34:12; but none of these has any pretension to be considered our prophet. The contents of his prophecy prove that he belonged to the kingdom of Judah, and St. Ephrem asserts that he came from Sichem. His tomb was shown at Samaria in St. Jerome's time.

§ 3. DATE.

The age in which Obadiah lived and prophesied is a matter of great dispute, and, after all that can be said, must be considered as only probably ascertained. The most varying opinions have been held. While some regard him as the earliest, or among the earliest, of the minor prophets, others place him after the destruction of Jerusalem in the time of Captivity; and Hitzig sets his date as late as B.C. 812. The interval between the various dates amounts to six hundred years. "That is," says Dr. Pusey, "just as if men doubted, from internal evidence, whether a work were written in the time of William the Conqueror or in that of Cromwell; of St. Louis or Louis XVIII.; or whether Hesiod was a contemporary of Callimachus, and Ennius of Claudian; or the author of the 'Nibelungen Lied' lived with Schiller." The elements for determining this controversy are not very satisfactory. First, there is the position of the book in the Hebrew Bible. If this were proved to be strictly chronological, the question might be thus decided, and Obadiah might be regarded as prophesying about the age of Amos, next to whom he is arranged. The Septuagint places his book between Joel and Jonah, setting Micah before the former; and this order would give an approximately similar date. In the Hebrew arrangement the exilian or post-exillan prophets certainly occupy the last place; and Obadiah, occurring among the older seers, between Amos and Jonah, would appear to belong to an earlier age. But it is objected that this position is due to his prophecy being an expansion of the prediction about Edom in the concluding words of Amos (Amos 9:12), and has no bearing whatever upon his date. Though we can by no means concede this, and are disposed to lay great weight on the arrangement of the Hebrew canon, we must be guided by other considerations in determining the question. The contents of the Book supply two further aids. In ver. 11 Obadiah alludes to the capture of Jerusalem; and if we knew for certain to what event he refers, we should at once be in a position to settle the difficulty. We gather from his language that Jerusalem was taken and plundered; that her soldiers were sent into captivity; that her citizens were sold as slaves; and that Edom joined with the invaders, cut off stragglers, and rejoiced in the calamity of Judah. Nothing is said of the goal destruction of the city and the temple, nothing of the people recovering their lost home; they are supposed to be still occupying their own country (vers. 17-19), and thence extending their kingdom. Now, we read in the Old Testament of three, or perhaps four, occasions on which Jerusalem was taken. The first capture by Shishak, in the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2), was not attended with such evils as are noted in our prophecy, and took place at a time when the Edomites, being subject go Judah, could not have acted in the manner specified.

The second occasion belongs to the reign of Jehoram, when the Philistines and Arabians (the latter being a loose designation of the roving tribes of the wilderness and the inhabitants of the country south of Judea) invaded Judah, plundered much treasure from the house of the king, and carried away his wives and all his children save his youngest son, Jehoahaz. The description is brief, and further details are wanting; but it can scarcely be doubted that other captives were taken besides the royal family; and that if the palace of the king was sacked, the city and its inhabitants could not have got off scatheless. Amos (Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9, Amos 1:11) is probably alluding to the same event when he speaks of the injuries perpetrated by the Philistines, Phoenicians, and Edomites; and Joel (Joel 3:3-6), when he complains that the Phoenicians sold the Judaeans into captivity to the sons of the Grecians, and (Joel 3:19) foretells the desolation of Egypt and Edom for their violence against the children of Judah in their (the Jews') land. It is objected that "the house of the king," in 2 Chronicles 21:17, does not mean the royal palace, but only the camp where was the king's temporary abode, because in the following chapter we read, "The band of men that came with the Arabians to the camp had slain all the eldest" children. But this proves nothing; the sons may have been killed in the camp (though the account does not say so), and the invaders may have gone on go Jerusalem, now left unguarded, and plundered it. Nor is it likely that they would have found much substance in a temporary camp. It is true that the Edomites are not expressly named among the allied peoples who took part in this raid; but they may well be included in the vague term "Arabians;" and at any rate the latter could not have attacked Judah without their consent, which they were ready to give at this particular time, when they had just recovered their freedom from the rule of David's line, and were glad of an opportunity of vengeance. Of the animosity and active hostility of Edom a further proof is afforded by Psalm 83., composed, perhaps, in the time of Hezekiah, where among the nations confederate against Israel are mentioned "the tabernacles of Edom and the Ishmaelites."

The third occasion when Jerusalem suffered at the hands of enemies was when Joash King of Israel defeated Amaziah, and brake down the wall of the city (2 Kings 14:8, etc.; 2 Chronicles 25:17, etc.). But this cannot be the catastrophe to which Obadiah refers, as he calls the invaders strangers and foreigners, and describes the calamity as much greater than the partial disaster then incurred.

The fourth capture of Jerusalem is its final destruction by the Chaldeans. Now, the language of Obadiah does by no means adequately depict this terrible catastrophe. There is no mention of Assyrians or Babylonians. The utter destruction of the city and temple, and the dissolution of the kingdom, are nowhere stated or implied. Compare our prophet's words with those of Jeremiah and Ezekiel describing the overthrow, and how tame and insufficient they seem in the face of such utter ruin! Could any true patriot have said only thus much, and have omitted so many points which added intensity to the disaster? What are the strongest expressions used? The fatal time is called thrice, "the day of their calamity;" twice, "the day of distress;" once, "the day of their destruction" and "disaster," when "foreigners entered the gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, and carried away her substance." Pillage and rapine are intimated, but nothing more. Where is any similar reproach to that of the psalmist, "Remember, O Lord, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem, who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof!"? Could Obadiah have failed to recall this cruel cry of the Eremites in detailing their offences against his people, if he were referring to their conduct at the Chaldean invasion? Then, again, there is no trace in our prophecy of any wholesale deportation of the people or of the desolation of the land. The nation is regarded as still seated in its own country, and adding to its possessions (Obadiah 1:17); not as returning from captivity. These considerations seem to point to the conclusion that Obadiah refers, not to the final destruction of Jerusalem, but to some previous calamity; and none that we are acquainted with coincides with the expressions with which he describes it, except the capture by the Philistines and Arabians in the time of Jehoram, which may possibly simplify the chronological difficulty by affording a terminus a quo, especially if any reason could be found for regarding this event as recent when Obadiah wrote.

But if we regard this calamity of Jerusalem as the event which the prophet has in view, we cannot, of course from this fact alone, settle the disputed question of his date. It is plain that the language employed in vers. 11 and 16 implies that the event is passed; and our Authorized Version, by a mistranslation of the intervening passage, emphasizes this inference. Thus in vers. 12, etc., we have, "Thou shouldest not have looked on the day of thy brother;... neither shouldest thou have rejoiced over the children of Judah," etc. It is certain that this rendering is grammatically wrong, and that al with the future can only be prohibitive; the words, therefore, ought to be translated, "Do not look," etc.. This rendering makes the reference future; and it is said that, if Obadiah were speaking of a past event, he would not give an eightfold injunction not to do something which had already been done. It is not God's wont to warn when it is too late to repent. In answer to this, to argue that the prophet, in poetical form, is describing the past as future, seems scarcely sufficient. Rather, the truth appears to be this: In ver. 11 he is, as we concluded before, alluding to a definite capture of Jerusalem; in the following verses he is warning the Edomites not to act in the manner specified when calamity has overtaken Judah. Judging from what they had done formerly, he surmises that they will repeat the same conduct whenever occasion shall arise. He knows well how bitter and unwearied is Edom's hostility against Judah; he has seen how she behaved in the late invasion, how she sided with the enemy and made her gain from her sister's misfortune; and he urges her to act not again in this way. His prophetic eye looks forward to the future calamity that shall befall his country; from the view of the disaster which he had witnessed under Joram, he rises to the vision of a greater and more complete ruin; one is a type and prophecy of the other; and the behaviour of Edom in the former case is a rehearsal of what she will do in the latter. If the prophet's words, though nominally addressed to the Edomites, were not intended as a warning to them, and, as is most probable, never came under their notice, we may regard them as virtually foretelling their action and consequent punishment, and hence imparting comfort to the faithful few with the hope of a glorious future. The punishment which he invokes is, doubtless, primarily the consequence of their recent conduct; but the prediction embraces other crimes of a similar nature, which will increase the penalty when the moment for its judgment shall arrive. Thus far we have seen reason to decide that Obadiah wrote, not directly after the Chaldean invasion, but after the raid of the Philistines and Arabians, while the catastrophe was still present to men's memory. Again, the enemies are an indefinite mass composed of heathen tribes, not a determinate foe such as the Chaldeans. And the captives are not taken to the far east, but to the north, to Phoenicia and to western regions. Of fugitives to Egypt no mention is made. With the Chaldean invasion in his view, Obadiah could not have used these expressions. There is another consideration which makes for the same inference, and that is his relation to other prophets. The coincidence of thought and expression between Obadiah and Joel cannot be accidental. One must have been acquainted with the other; or both must have had recourse to a third original. Thus Joel says (Joel 2:32), "In Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as the Lord hath said;" and Obadiah (ver. 17), "In Mount Zion there shall be those that escape." Joel 3:2, Joel 3:3, "Whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land; and they have east lots upon my people;" Obadiah 1:11, "Foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem." Joel 3:4, Joel 3:7, "I will return your recompense upon your own head;" Obadiah 1:15, "Thy recompense shall return upon thine own head." "The day of the Lord is near" (Joel 3:14; Obadiah 1:18); "Jerusalem shall be holy" (Joel 3:17); "Mount Zion shall be holy" (Obadiah 1:17); "Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence done to the children of Judah" (Joel 3:19); "For the violence done to thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shalt be cut off forever" (Obadiah 1:10). That Joel borrowed from Obadiah, Keil considers proved by the expression in Joel 2:32 (according to the numbering of the English Version), "as the Lord hath said," where, as we have seen above, he repeats Obadiah's words, which occur nowhere else. This, however, is not conclusive, as Joel may be merely asserting his own claim of Divine authority, and may not necessarily be quoting another prophet's utterance. Many other critics incline to the opinion that Joel rests on Obadiah; if this could be demonstrated, the dispute concerning the date of the latter might be approximately settled. But this opinion is at best presumptive, and depends on such allegations as that Obadiah never imitates predecessors, except in the one case of an allusion to Balaam's prophecy (vers. 4, 18, etc.); that he is more original than Joel; and that it is not probable that in his short book he should have had recourse to others for ideas and expressions.

The relation between Obadiah and Jeremiah is capable of more satisfactory determination. There are nine verses in the former (vers. 1-9) which are found in the latter (Jeremiah 49:7-22). In the former these occur consecutively, and form one connected whole; in the latter they are dispersed over a wider space, and disunited by the insertion of other thoughts. The prophecy of Obadiah against Edom is an orderly and regular production, with a beginning, middle, and conclusion, passing on naturally to the climax; Jeremiah denounces Edom at various times and in various manners, but his prediction has no internal unity, and is not worked up into a perfect whole. Jeremiah, too, has on other occasions borrowed largely from Ms predecessors. It is impossible that Obadiah should have prefaced his work with the words, "The vision of Obadiah," and "we have heard tidings from the Lord," if he was taking such large extracts from previous writings. A careful inspection of the two prophets (noting especially how Jeremiah has softened the ruggedness and changed the unusual expressions in Obadiah) will lead to the conclusion that Obadiah is the original from whom Jeremiah borrowed, just as he introduces verses from Isaiah in his denunciation of Moab, and a passage from Amos (Amos 1:4) in the judgment of Damascus (Jeremiah 49:27). Thus the prophecy of Obadiah was anterior to that of Jeremiah, whose utterance against Edom belongs to the fourth year of Jehoiakim. The question still remains — How long anterior? Some intimation of the truth may be gleaned from the fact that there are found in Obadiah phrases and sentences common to Amos and Joel, but nothing from writers later than these. If these prophets cited Obadiah, cadit quaestio; if he quoted them, why did he refer to no later writings? The presumption is that he lived close to their time.

From what has been said, we conclude that Obadiah is one of the earliest of the minor prophets, that he lived about the time of Jehoram, and prophesied at latest (as Dr. Pusey thinks) during the minority of Joash.


There can be no doubt that the style of Obadiah is remarkably original. In his very diction he deviates from the Beaten track, using many words and forms which occur nowhere else. Though his language is simple, it is very suggestive, full of thought, and pregnant with meaning. Pure and idiomatic, it breathes a high antiquity, unmixed with later forms, and distinct from that of the greater prophets. There is a vigour, and terseness, and a rapidity, which carry the reader along, and place him by the prophet's side in fullest sympathy. Obadiah delights in interrogation and apostrophe, in vivid detail, and concise statement. He is often highly poetic, never monotonous. What force and pathos are there in the sustained description of the injuries inflicted by strangers on Jerusalem, ending in the sudden address to Edom, "Thou wast as one of them" (ver. 11)! What power in the warning against malicious pleasure at a neighbour's disaster, with its oft-repeated expression, "in the day" (vers. 12-14)! What solemnity in the summing up of the prophecy, "And the kingdom shall be the Lord's"! A regular sequence of thought runs through the whole book. To find in this very uniform and consistent prophecy nothing but literary patchwork, as Graf and Ewald, for instance, have done, is a groundless neologian fancy, These critics suppose that the former part of the prophecy (vers. 1-10) was an extract from an older seer — the true Obadiah or an unknown writer; that the latter portion belongs to the time of the Captivity, and was added by the compiler. The sagacity that thus arbitrarily dissects the work is singularly at fault in this case. It requires only an unprejudiced eye (even if we exclude a belief in the predictive element) to see that our book is one whole, that its parts progress equably and uniformly, that the conclusion follows naturally on what precedes; so that if we had to find one special characteristic of the prophecy, we should say that it is distinguished by the close connection of its members without break or interruption.


Among mediaeval commentators upon Obadiah we may mention Hugo a S. Victore, whose interpretation is wholly mystical. Ephraem Syrus has left a commentary on this prophet. Luther's 'Enarrationes in Abdiam' are well known. Other works are those of Bishop Pilkington, 'Exposition; ' Pfeiffer, with a Latin translation of the Commentary of Arbabanel; Raynoldi; Leusden; the text, Hebrew and Chaldee, with the notes of Jarchi, Aben-Ezra, and Kimchi; Crocius, with rabbinical interpretations; Bishop Horsley, 'Critical Notes;' Hendewerk, 'Obadiae Proph. Oraculum'; Caspari, 'Der Prophet Obadja'; Seydel; T.T. Perowne, in 'Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges.' An Armenian Version was published by A. Acoluthus, in 1680, and a Syriac by Grimm, in 1799,


The book divides into two parts.
Part I. (Vers. 1-16) The destruction of Edom, and the cause thereof.
§ 1. (Vers. 1-9.) The heathen nations are summoned to take vengeance on Edom. In spite of her impregnable position, they shall bring her low and strip her of her wealth, being aided and encouraged by her own allies.
§ 2. (Vers. 10-14.) This punishment falls upon her as the result of the malice and unfriendliness which she has displayed towards Israel in the time of her calamity, in that she rejoiced at her sister's disaster and took part with her enemies.
§ 3. (Vers. 15, 16.) For this cause Edom shall be remembered in the day of the Lord; she shall suffer at the hands of the heathen what she inflicted on others.
Part. II. (Vers. 17-21.) The restoration of Israel.

§ 1. (Vers. 17-20.) The house of Jacob shall be delivered, and shall add to its possessions, and spread far and wide.
§ 2. (Ver. 21.) Salvation shall come to Zion, and "the kingdom shall be The Lord's."

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