The name Obadiah means “servant of the LORD.” It is a fairly common name in the Bible with eight distinct men by that name in the Old Testament (1 Chronicles 7:3; 8:38; 9:16; 12:9; 27:19; 2 Chronicles 17:7; 1 Kings 18:3; Obadiah 1:1). We know very little about any of them men, the prophet included, but from what we do know, the name is an apt description for most of them.
The prophet’s work seems to be set shortly after an invasion against Jerusalem. However, the descriptions are not consistent with the destruction at the hand of the Babylonians. About 160 years before the Babylonians came, the Philistines and Arabians defeated Jerusalem in the days of King Jehoram (approx. 845 BC). This is likely the time frame Obadiah prophesied in.
There are two primary messages in Obadiah: Edom will be destroyed and God’s people will be exalted. There was a history of trouble between Edom and Israel, a conflict which began with Esau and Jacob in the womb (Genesis 25:22-23).
After Israel came up from Egypt, they expected cooperation from Edom because of their common heritage, but Edom was hostile (Numbers 20:17-21). Because Edom refused to allow them passage, Israel had to go South, and then East, to go around the territories of Edom and Moab (who also refused them passage). In the days of king David, Edom was subdued by Israel (2 Samuel 8:14). They would revolt in the days of Jehoram, a fulfillment of Genesis 27:40). After the revolt, not only did they delight in Judah’s troubles, but also joined their enemies in looting God’s people. Luke Judah, Edom would fall to defeat at the hand of the Babylonians.
The sins of Edom listed by Obadiah are pride (v 3), violence (v 10), hindering rather than helping their brethren (v 11), gloating over Judah’s disaster (v 12), joining in the looting of Judah (v 13) and oppressing fugitives (v 14). In His judgment, God would bring them down (v 3-4), utterly plunder and destroy them (v 5-6), and God would bring their sins back upon them (v 15-16).
Concerning the house of Jacob, Obadiah said they would possess their possessions (v 17-20). God would restore His people, but their enemies would become stubble. Obadiah also pointed to the coming Saviour and His kingdom (v 21). He spoke of Saviours (plural), those who would be responsible for the physical deliverance; but also the eternal Saviour would come and provide an eternal kingdom.
Next week we continue with Jonah…