Easton's Bible Dictionary
consists of one chapter, "concerning Edom," its impending
doom ( Obadiah
1:1 - 16
), and the restoration of Israel ( Obadiah
1:17 - 21
). This is the shortest book of the Old Testament.
There are on record the account of four captures of Jerusalem,
|(1) by Shishak in the reign of Rehoboam
Kings 14:25 );
(2) by the Philistines and Arabians in the reign of Jehoram ( 2
Chronicles 21:16 );
(3) by Joash, the king of Israel, in the reign of Amaziah ( 2
Kings 14:13 ); and
(4) by the Babylonians, when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
1:11 - 14
) speaks of this capture as a thing past. He sees the calamity as having already
come on Jerusalem, and the Edomites as joining their forces with those of the
Chaldeans in bringing about the degradation and ruin of Israel. We do not indeed
read that the Edomites actually took part with the Chaldeans, but the probabilities
are that they did so, and this explains the words of Obadiah in denouncing against
Edom the judgments of God. The date of his prophecies was thus in or about the
year of the destruction of Jerusalem.
Edom is the type of Israel's and of God's last foe (
Isaiah 63:1 - 4
). These will finally all be vanquished, and the kingdom will be the Lord's (
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
The fourth of the twelve minor prophets. We know nothing of him except what we
can gather from the short book which bears his name. The question of his date
must depend upon the interpretation of the 11th verse of his prophecy. He there
speaks of the conquest of Jerusalem and the captivity of Jacob as having occurred,
He probably refers to the captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, B.C. 688. It must have
been uttered at some time in the five years which intervened between B.C. 588
and 583. The book of Obadiah is a sustained denunciation of the Edomites, melting
into a vision of the future glories of Zion when the arm of the Lord should have
wrought her deliverance and have repaid double upon her enemies.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. The
theme of the book is the destruction of Edom. Consequent upon the overthrow of
Edom is the enlargement of the borders of Judah and the establishment of the kingship
of Yahweh. Thus far all scholars are agreed; but on questions of authorship and
date there is wide divergence of opinion.
1. Contents of the Book:
|(1) Yahweh summons the nations to the overthrow of proud
Edom. The men of Esau will be brought down from their lofty strongholds; their
hidden treasures will be rifled; their confederates will turn against them; nor
will the wise and the mighty men in Edom be able to avert the crushing calamity
(Obadiah 1:1 - 9).
(2) The overthrow of Edom is due to the violence and cruelty shown toward his
brother Jacob. The prophet describes the cruelty and shameless gloating over a
brother's calamity, in the form of earnest appeals to Edom not to do the selfish
and heartless deeds of which he had been guilty when Jerusalem was sacked by foreign
foes (Obadiah 1:10 - 14).
(3) The day of the display of Yahweh's retributive righteousness upon the nations
is near. Edom shall be completely destroyed by the people whom he has tried to
uproot, while Israel's captives shall return to take possession of their own land
and also to seize and rule the mount of Esau. Thus the kingship of Yahweh shall
be established (Obadiah 1:15 - 21).
2. Unity of the Book:
The unity of Obadiah was first challenged by Eichhorn in 1824, Obadiah 1:17 -
21 being regarded by him as an appendix attached to the original exilic prophecy
in the time of Alexander Janneus (104-78 BC). Ewald thought that an exilic prophet,
to whom he ascribed 1:11-14 and 19-21, had made use of an older prophecy by Obadiah
in 1:1 - 10, and in 1:15 - 18 of material from another older prophet who was contemporary,
like Obadiah, with Isaiah. As the years went on, the material assigned to the
older oracle was limited by some to 1:1 - 9 and by others to 1:1 - 6. Wellhausen
assigned to Obadiah 1:1 - 5 , 7 , 10 , 11 , 13 , 14 , 15b, while all else was
regarded as a later appendix. Barton's theory of the composition of Obadiah is
thus summed up by Bewer: "Obadiah 1:1 - 6 are a pre-exilic oracle of Obadiah,
which was quoted by Jeremiah, and readapted with additions (Obadiah 1:7 - 15)
by another Obadiah in the early post-exilic days; 1:16-21 form an appendix, probably
from Maccabean times" (ICC, 5). Bewer's own view is closely akin to Barton's.
He thinks that Obadiah, writing in the 5th century BC, "quoted 1:1 - 4 almost,
though not quite, literally; that he commented on the older oracle in 1:5 - 7,
partly in the words of the older prophet, partly in his own words, in order to
show that it had been fulfilled in his own day; and that in 1:8 , 9 he quoted
once more from the older oracle without any show of literalness." He ascribes
to Obadiah 1:10 - 14 and 15b. The appendix consists of two sections, 1:15a, 16
- 18 and 1:19 - 21, possibly by different authors, 1:18 being a quotation from
some older prophecy. To the average Bible student all this minute analysis of
a brief prophecy must seem hypercritical. He will prefer to read the book as a
unity; and in doing so will get the essence of the message it has for the present
3. Date of the Book:
Certain preliminary problems require solution before the question of date can
(1) Relation of Obadiah and Jeremiah 49.
|(a) Did Obadiah quote from Jeremiah? Pusey thus sets forth
the impossibility of such a solution: "Out of 16 verses of which the prophecy
of Jeremiah against Edom consists, four are identical with those of Obadiah; a
fifth embodies a verse of Obadiah's; of the eleven which remain, ten have some
turns of expression or idioms, more or fewer, which recur in Jer, either in these
prophecies against foreign nations, or in his prophecies generally. Now it would
be wholly improbable that a prophet, selecting verses out of the prophecy of Jeremiah,
should have selected precisely those which contain none of Jeremiah's characteristic
expressions; whereas it perfectly fits in with the supposition that Jeremiah interwove
verses of Obadiah with his own prophecy, that in verses so interwoven there is
not one expression which occurs elsewhere in Jeremiah" (Minor Prophets, I, 347).
(b) Did Jeremiah quote from Obadiah? It is almost incredible that the vigorous
and well-articulated prophecy in Obadiah could have been made by piecing together
detached quotations from Jer; but Jeremiah may well have taken from Obadiah many
expressions that fell in with his general purpose. There are difficulties in applying
this view to one or two verses, but it has not been disproved by the arguments
from meter advanced by Bewer and others.
(c) Did both Obadiah and Jeremiah quote from an older oracle? This is the favorite
solution among recent scholars, most of whom think that Obadiah preserves the
vigor of the original, while Jeremiah quotes with more freedom; but Bewer in ICC,
after a detailed comparison, thus sums up:"Our conclusion is that Obadiah quoted
in Obadiah 1:1 - 9 an older oracle, the original of which is better preserved
in Jeremiah 49." The student will do well to get his own first-hand impression
from a careful comparison of the two passages. With Obadiah 1:1 - 4 compare Jeremiah
49:14 - 16; with Obadiah 1:5 , 6 compare Jeremiah 49:9 , 10 a; with Obadiah 1:8
compare Jeremiah 49:7; with Obadiah 1:9 a compare Jeremiah 49:22 b. On the whole,
the view that Jeremiah, who often quotes from earlier prophets, draws directly
from Obadiah, with free working over of the older prophets, seems still tenable.
(2) Relation of Obadiah and Joel.
There seems to be in Joel 2:32 (Hebrew 3:5) a direct allusion to Obadiah 1:17.
If Joe prophesied during the minority of the boy king Joash (circa 830 BC), Obadiah
would be, on this hypothesis, the earliest of the writing prophets.
(3) What Capture of Jerusalem Is Described in Obadiah 1:10 - 14?
The disaster seems to have been great enough to be called "destruction" (Obadiah
1:12). Hence, most scholars identify the calamity described by Obadiah with the
capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans in 587 BC. But it is remarkable,
on this hypothesis, that no allusion is made either in Obadiah or Jeremiah 49:7
- 22 to the Chaldeans or to the destruction of the temple or to the wholesale
transportation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem to Babylonia. We know, however,
from Ezekiel 35:1 - 15 and Psalms 137:7 that Edom rejoiced over the final destruction
of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans in 587 BC, and that they encouraged the destroyers
to blot out the holy city. Certain it is that the events of 587 accord remarkably
with the language of Obadiah 1:10 - 14. Pusey indeed argues from the use of the
form of the direct prohibition in Obadiah 1:12 - 14 that Edom had not yet committed
the sins against which the prophet warns him, and so Jerusalem was not yet destroyed,
when Obadiah wrote. But almost all modern scholars interpret the language of Obadiah
1:12 - 14 as referring to what was already past; the prophet "speaks of what the
Edomites had actually done as of what they ought not to do." The scholars who
regard Obadiah as the first of the writing prophets locate his ministry in Judah
during the reign of Jehoram (circa 845 BC). Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles tell
of the war of rebellion in the days of Jehoram when Edom, after a fierce struggle,
threw off the yoke of Judah (2 Kings 8:20 - 22 ; 2 Chronicles 21:8 - 10). Shortly
after the revolt of Edom, according to 2 Chronicles 21:16, the Philistines and
Arabians broke into Judah, "and carried away all the substance that was found
in the king's house, and his sons also, and his wives; so that there was never
a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons." Evidently the capital
city fell into the hands of the invaders. It was a calamity of no mean proportions.
The advocates of a late date call attention to three points that weaken the case
for an early date for Obadiah:
|(a) The silence of 2 Kings as to the invasion of the Philistines
and Arabians. But what motive could the author of Chronicles have had for inventing
(b) The absence of any mention of the destruction of the city by the Philistines
and Arabians. It must be acknowledged that the events of 587 BC accord more fully
with the description in Obadiah 1:10-14, though the disaster in the days of Jehoram
must have been terrible.
(c) The silence as to Edom in 2 Chronicles 21:16 f. But so also are the historic
books silent as to the part that Edom took in the destruction of Jerusalem in
It is true that exilic and post-exilic prophets and psalmists speak in bitter
denunciation of the unbrotherly conduct of Edom (Lamentations 4:21, 22; Ezekiel
25:12 - 14 ; 35:1 - 15 ; Psalms 137:7 ; Malachi 1:1 - 5; compare also Isaiah 34
and 63:1 - 6); but it is also true that the earliest Hebrew literature bears witness
to the keen rivalry between Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:22 ; 27:41 ; Numbers 20:14
- 21), and one of the earliest of the writing prophets denounces Edom for unnatural
cruelty toward his brother (Amos 1:11 ; compare Joel 3:19 (Hebrew 4:19).
(4) The Style of Obadiah.
Most early critics praise the style. Some of the more recent critics argue for
different authors on the basis of a marked difference in style within the compass
of the twenty-one verses in the little roll. Thus Selbie writes in HDB:
"There is a difference in style between the two halves of the book, the first
being terse, animated, and full of striking figures, while the second is diffuse
and marked by poverty of ideas and trite figures." The criticism of the latter
part of the book is somewhat exaggerated, though it may be freely granted that
the first half is more original and vigorous. The Hebrew of the book is classic,
with scarcely any admixture of Aramaic words or constructions. The author may
well have lived in the golden age of the Hebrew language and literature.
(5) Geographical and Historical Allusions.
The references to the different sections and cities in the land of Israel and
in the land of Edom are quite intelligible. As to Sepharad (Obadiah 1:20) there
is considerable difference of opinion. Schrader and some others identify it with
a Shaparda in Media, mentioned in the annals of Sargon (722-705 BC). Many think
of Asia Minor, or a region in Asia Minor mentioned in Persian inscriptions, perhaps
Bithynia or Galatia (Sayce). Some think that the mention of "the captives of this
host of the children of Israel" and "the captives of Jerusalem" (Obadiah 1:20)
proves that both the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian exile were already
past. This argument has considerable force; but it is well to remember that Amos,
in the first half of the 8th century, describes wholesale deportations from the
land of Israel by men engaged in the slave trade (Amos 1:6-10). The problem of
the date of Obadiah has not been solved to the satisfaction of Biblical students.
Our choice must be between a very early date (circa 845) and a date shortly after
587, with the scales almost evenly balanced.
4. Interpretation of the Book:
Obadiah is to be interpreted as prediction rather than history. In Obadiah 1:11
- 14 there are elements of historic description, but 1:1 - 10 and 15 - 21 are
Comms.: Caspari, Der Prophet Obadjah ausgelegt, 1842; Pusey, The Minor Prophets,
1860; Ewald, Commentary on the Prophets of the Old Testament (English translation),
II, 277, 1875; Keil (ET), 1880; T.T. Perowne (in Cambridge Bible), 1889; von Orelli
(English translation), The Minor Prophets, 1893; Wellhausen, Die kleinen Propheten,
1898; G.A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, II, 163, 1898; Nowack, Die
kleinen Propheten, 1903; Marti, Dodekapropheton, 1903; Eiselen, The Minor Prophets,
1907; Bewer, ICC, 1911. Miscellaneous: Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets,
33; Intros of Driver, Wildeboer, etc.; Selbie in HDB, III, 577-80; Barton in JE,
IX, 369-70; Cheyne in EB, III, 3455-62; Peckham, An Introduction to the Study
of Obadiah, 1910; Kent, Students' Old Testament, III, 1910.
John Richard Sampey
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, book of obadiah, define, destruction of edom, esau, jerusalem, obadiah, prophecy, shortest book of the old testament, vision