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Obadiah, Book of

Holman Bible Dictionary

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(oh buh di' uh) The shortest book of the Minor Prophets, preserving the message of Obadiah, the prophet.

The Prophet No source outside his book mentions Obadiah. “Obadiah” is a common name in the Old Testament. Meaning “servant of Yahweh,” it reflects his parents' faith and spiritual ambitions for their child. The title “The vision of Obadiah” turns attention to the divine author, “vision” being a technical term for a prophetic revelation received from God.

The Situation Historically, the book belongs to the early postexilic period, at the end of the sixth century B.C. Its central section, Obadiah 1:10-14 , deals with the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586 B.C., concentrating on the part the Edomites played in that tragic event. Edom was a state to the southeast of Judah. Despite treaty ties (“brother,” Obadiah 1:10 ) the Edomitea, along with others, had failed to come to Judah's aid and had even helped Babylon by looting Jerusalem and handing over refugees. Moreover, the Edomites filled the vacuum caused by Judah's Exile by moving west and annexing the Negeb to the south of Judah and even its southern territory (compare Obadiah 1:19 ).

Judah reacted with a strong sense of grievance. Obadiah's oracle responded to an underlying impassioned prayer of lament, like Psalm 74:1 , Psalm 79:1 , or 137, in which Judah appealed to God to act as providential trial Judge and Savior to set right the situation.

The Message The response begins with a prophetic messenger formula which reinforces the thrust of the title, that God is behind the message. Obadiah 1:2-9 give the divine verdict. Addressing Edom, God promised to defeat those supermen and topple the mountain capital which reflected their lofty self-conceit. Their allies would let them down, and neither their framed wisdom nor their warriors would be able to save them. This seems to look fearfully ahead to the Nabateans' infiltration from the eastern desert and their eventual takeover of Edom's traditional territory. The end of Obadiah 1:1 appears to be a report from the prophet that already a coalition of neighboring groups was planning to attack Edom.

The catalog of Edom's crimes (Obadiah 1:10-14 ) functions as the accusation which warranted God's verdict of punishment. Repetition raises “day” to center stage . The underlying thought is that Judah had been the victim of “the day of the Lord” when God intervened in judgment, and had drunk the cup of God's wrath (Obadiah 1:15-16; compare Lamentations 1:12; Lamentations 2:21 ). In Old Testament theology the concept of the day of the Lord embraces not only God's people but their no-less-wicked neighbors. This wider dimension is reflected in Obadiah 1:15-16 (compare Lamentations 1:21 ). The fall of Edom was to trigger this eschatological event in which order would be restored to an unruly world. Then would come the vindication of God's people, not for their own sakes but as earthly witnesses to His glory; and so “the kingdom shall be the Lord's” (Obadiah 1:21 ).

The Meaning Like the Book of Revelation, which proclaims the downfall of the persecuting Roman Empire, the aim of Obadiah is to sustain faith in God's moral government and hope in the eventual triumph of His just will. It brings a pastoral message to aching hearts, that God is on the throne and cares for His own.


I. God Knows and Will Judge the Sins of His People's Enemies (1–14).

A. Pride deceives people into thinking they can escape God's judgment. (1–4).

B. Deceitful people will be deceived by their “friends” (5–7).

C. Human wisdom cannot avoid divine judgment (8–9).

D. Conspiracy against “brothers” will not go unpunished (10–14).

II. The Day of the Lord Offers Judgment for the Nations but Deliverance for God's People (15–21).

A. Sinful peoples will receive just recompense (15–16).

B. God will deliver His people in holiness (17–18).

C. God's remnant will be restored (19–20)

D. The Kingdom belongs to God alone (21)

Leslie C. Allen

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Obadiah, Book of'. Holman Bible Dictionary.​dictionaries/​eng/​hbd/​o/obadiah-book-of.html. 1991.