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Bible Commentaries

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

- Obadiah

by Dr. Robert Utley


I. Name of the Book

A. Named after the prophet/author

B. His name means “servant of YHWH” (BDB 715). Obed (BDB 715) means “servant.” The covenant name for deity, YHWH, is abbreviated by “iah” and added to another NOUN (i.e., Isaiah, Jeremiah and here, Obadiah). YHWH's name (BDB 217) is commonly added to NOUNS

1. “iah” ending to a proper name

2. “ע” and a vowel at the beginning of a proper name

C. It was a common Hebrew name referring to thirteen different people in the OT

1. the governor of King Ahab of Israel's house, 1 Kings 18:3-7, 1 Kings 18:16

2. descendant of King David, 1 Chronicles 3:21

3. person of the tribe of Issachar, 1 Chronicles 7:3

4. person of the tribe of Benjamin, in the line of King Saul, 1 Chronicles 8:38; 1 Chronicles 9:44

5. a Levite living near Jerusalem, 1 Chronicles 9:16

6. a Gadite who became part of David's fighting men at Ziklag, 1 Chronicles 12:9

7. a leader of the tribe of Zebulun in David's day, 1 Chronicles 27:19

8. a leader of the tribe of Judah in King Jehoshaphat's day, 2 Chronicles 17:7

9. a Levite who worked on the temple in Jerusalem in King Joash's day, 2 Chronicles 34:12

10. a leader who returned from Babylonian exile with Ezra, Ezra 8:9

11. a priest active in Nehemiah's day, Nehemiah 10:5

12. a gate keeper in Nehemiah's day, Nehemiah 12:25

13. the author of this small prophetic book, Obadiah 1:1


A. The Hebrew Bible is divided into three sections that are connected to the time of their writing and compilation:

1. The Law (Torah) which included Genesis Deuteronomy

2. The Prophets (nevi'im), which is divided into two sections:

a. the Former Prophets, Joshua Kings (not including Ruth)

b. the Latter Prophets, Isaiah Malachi (not including Daniel and Lamentations)

3. The Writings (kethubim), which can logically be divided into three genres or categories:

a. the Five Scrolls (Megelloth) which are special festival books read at certain feast days

(1) Ruth (read at Pentecost)

(2) Song of Songs (read at Passover)

(3) Ecclesiastes (read at Tabernacles)

(4) Lamentations (read to annually commemorate the destruction of the Temple in 586 B.C.)

(5) Esther (read at Purim)

b. historical books

(1) Daniel

(2) Ezra

(3) Nehemiah

(4) Chronicles

c. Wisdom Literature

(1) Job

(2) Psalms

(3) Proverbs

B. This book is part of the “latter prophets” (Ecclesiasticus 49:10)

C. It is part of “the Twelve,” a grouping of minor prophets” (Baba Bathra 14b)

1. they, like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, fit on one scroll

2. they represent the twelve tribes by the use of the symbolic number for organization

3. they reflect the traditional view (Baba Bathra) of the books' time period

D. The order of “the Twelve,” or Minor, Prophets has been linked by many scholars to a chronological sequence. However, there are problems with this view:

1. The first six books are listed differently in the Hebrew Masoretic Text and Septuagint.

MTHosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah LXXHoseaAmosMicahJoelObadiahJonah

2. Internal evidence puts Amos chronologically before Hosea

3. The date for Joel is highly debated. I list him as an early post-exilic prophet along with Obadiah

III. GENRE (this is classical Hebrew prophetic poetry). This book is the shortest book in the OT.


A. Nothing is known about the Prophet

B. There are several theories about the time in which he lived and wrote:

1. Sanhedrin 39b (Talmud) said he was King Ahab's servant (cf. 1 Kings 18:3-16)

2. Pseudo-Epiphanius (early church) in his “Lives of the Prophets” said he was a high military official of King Ahaziah (842 B.C., cf. 2 Kings 1:12ff)

3. John Calvin said he was an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem (586 B.C. by Nebuchadnezzar II or Babylon, cf. NRSV, p. 1183, TEV, p. 818).

C. The name could be a title.


A. This book is linguistically related to Jeremiah 49:7-16 (Obadiah 1:1-9) and Joel 2:32 (Obadiah 1:17):

1. E. J. Young put them in this order: Obadiah, Jeremiah

2. R. K Harrison lists them in this order: Jeremiah, Obadiah, (450 B.C.) and Joel (400 B.C.). This makes the book early post-exilic.

3. Keil put them in this order: Obadiah, Joel, Jeremiah

4. The UBS, A Translator's Handbook on the Books of Obadiah and Micah, pp. 39-41, spells out the similarities in detail:

a. Obadiah 1:1a - Jeremiah 49:7

b. Obadiah 1:1-4 - Jeremiah 49:14-16

c. Obadiah 1:5 - Jeremiah 49:9

d. Obadiah 1:6 - similar to Jeremiah 49:10

e. Obadiah 1:8 - similar to Jeremiah 49:7

f. Obadiah 1:9a - similar to Jeremiah 49:22b

g. Obadiah 1:16 - similar to Jeremiah 49:12

B. It is obvious that the book relates to an invasion of Judah and harassment of the people of Jerusalem by the nation of Edom. Some possible dates

1. Jerusalem taken by Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt in fifth year of Rehoboam, 922-915 B.C. (cf. 1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chronicles 12:2-10).

2. Jerusalem taken by Arab league and the Philistines in the reign of Jehoram, 849-842 B.C. (cf. 2 Kings 8:20ff; 2 Chronicles 21:16-17; 2 Chronicles 22:1).

3. Jerusalem taken by Syrians in the reign of Joash, 837-800 B.C. (cf. 2 Chronicles 24:23-24).

4. Jerusalem taken by Israel (Jehoash) after defeat of Edom in the reign of Amaziah (cf. 2 Kings 14:7-14 (842 B.C.)

5. Judah attacked by Edomites (cf. 2 Chronicles 28:17; 2 Chronicles 19:8-9; 2 Kings 16:1-20).

6. Jerusalem taken by Nebuchadnezzar several times, 605, 597, 586, 582 B.C.:

a. 605 B.C. Jehoiakim's reign (cf Daniel 1:1-2)

b. 597 B.C. Jehoiachin's reign (cf. 2 Kings 24:8-17; 2 Chronicles 36:9-10; Ezekiel)

c. 586 B.C. Zedekiah's reign (cf. 2 Kings 24:18-21; 2 Chronicles 36:11-21; Lamentations 4:0; Psalms 137:7)

d. 582 B.C. Gedaliah, Babylonian Governor (cf. 2 Kings 25:22-26)

C. Of the possible historical settings (see above), there have been two dates most advocated by scholars:

1. an early date in Jehoram's reign (849-842 B.C.) because:

a. the position of the book in “the Twelve”

(1) 8th century grouping: Amos, Hosea, Micah, (Joel?), and Obadiah

(2) 7th century grouping: Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah

(3) post-exilic grouping: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi

b. Obadiah does not mention the destruction of the Temple (586 B.C.)

c. the nations mentioned are pre-exilic, not post-exilic

d. the sins are similar to those enumerated by the 8th century prophets (Amos, Hosea, Micah)

e. no Aramaic words, idioms or expressions

2. a late date relating to Nebuchadnezzar II's invasion of Jerusalem

a. Obadiah 1:11-14 seem to fit the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

b. Edom participated in this invasion

(1) rejoiced at Judah's fall

(a) Psalms 137:7

(b) Lamentations 2:15-17; Lamentations 4:21

(c) Ezekiel 36:2-6

(d) I Esdras 4:45, 50

(2) helped in Judah's fall:

(a) Ezekiel 25:12-14

(b) Ezekiel 35:1-15


A. Edom, Object of the Prophecy, Obadiah 1:1-9, Obadiah 1:18, Obadiah 1:21

1. Edom is the nation east of the Dead Sea; it is made up of the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother, (cf. Gen. 25-29; 32-33). Edom means “red” while Esau means “hairy” (cf. Genesis 25:25, Genesis 25:30).

2. Israel was commanded to respect Edom (cf. Deuteronomy 23:7)

3. Israel and Edom had continuing problems

a. Numbers 20:14-21

b. Judges 11:16-17

c. 1 Samuel 14:47-48

d. 2 Samuel 8:14

e. 1 Kings 11:14-25

f. 2 Kings 14:22; 2 Kings 16:5-6

g. 2 Chronicles 20:10-30; 2 Chronicles 21:8ff

h. Amos 1:6, Amos 1:9

4. Other prophecies against Edom

a. Isaiah 34:5ff; Isaiah 63:1ff

b. Jeremiah 49:7-22

c. Lamentations 4:21-22

d. Ezekiel 25:12-17; Ezekiel 35:1-15; Ezekiel 36:2-6

e. Amos 1:11-12

5. Edom was condemned because of

a. her pride, Obadiah 1:3-4

(1) in geographical security

(2) in political alliances and military power

(3) in commercial wealth

(4) in traditional wisdom

b. her violation of Judah, her kinsman, Obadiah 1:10-14

(1) rejoiced over the fall of Jerusalem (Lamentations 2:15-17; Lamentations 4:21)

(2) refused to help (Obadiah 1:15)

(3) active support of enemy (Obadiah 1:14)

(4) took Judah's property (Jeremiah 13:19)

c. her rejection and disdain of YHWH (Obadiah 1:16)

B. Edom may be a symbol (type) for all nations who rebelled against God and His people, Obadiah 1:15-21 (cf. Psalms 2:0).

C. Possible historical fulfilment of this prophecy

1. destruction of Edom by Neo-Babylon about 5 years after the fall of Jerusalem, 580 B.C.

2. displacement of Edom from Petra by Nabatean Arabs about 550-449 B.C. (cf. Malachi 1:2-5). Edom not mentioned in Nehemiah's list of surrounding enemies but is replaced by Arab tribes. Edom moved to the Negev.

3. defeat of Edom by Alexander's general Antigonus in 312 B.C. (recorded in Diodorus Seculus)

4. defeat of Edom in the Negev by Judah Maccabaeus around 175 B.C. (cf. I Maccabees 5:3,15; II Maccabees 10:15; Josephus' Antiquities of the Jews Obadiah 1:12:8:1; Obadiah 1:13:9:1)

5. Edom forced to accept Judaism by John Hyrcanus in 125 B.C. They are now called Idumeans.

6. The Roman General, Titus, completely destroyed the Idumean influence in A.D. 70.


Brief outline taken from The New International Commentary series on “Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah” by Allen, p. 142

A. The Destruction of Edom (Obadiah 1:2-9)

1. Edom's downfall (Obadiah 1:2-4)

2. the completeness of Edom's overthrow (Obadiah 1:5, Obadiah 1:6)

3. the treachery of Edom's allies (Obadiah 1:7)

4. Edom's loss of wisdom and warriors (Obadiah 1:8, Obadiah 1:9)

B. The Wrongdoing of Edom (Obadiah 1:10-14, Obadiah 1:15b)

1. Edom's unbrotherliness (Obadiah 1:10, Obadiah 1:11)

2. Edom's mockery (Obadiah 1:12)

3. Edom's trespassing (Obadiah 1:13)

4. Edom's collaboration and coming retribution (Obadiah 1:14, Obadiah 1:15b)

C. Edom on the Day of Yahweh (Obadiah 1:15a, Obadiah 1:16-21)

1. the Day of Yahweh (Obadiah 1:15a, Obadiah 1:16)

2. the role of the remnant (Obadiah 1:17, Obadiah 1:21)

3. Judean fire and Edomite stubble (Obadiah 1:18)

4. the land regained (Obadiah 1:19, Obadiah 1:20)


A. God's enemies and God's people's enemies will be punished. Edom is a type of a rebelling, unbelieving nation (cf. Obadiah 1:15)

B. God will glorify His people according to His covenant promises. Holiness is YHWH's goal for His people.

C. The historical situation will be reversed. Edom will be destroyed; God's people will be blessed.

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