Book of Obadiah

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The Book of Obadiah is an oracle concerning the divine judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel.[1] The text consists of a single chapter, divided into 21 verses, making it the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible.[2] In Judaism and Christianity, its authorship is attributed to Obadiah, a prophet who lived in the Assyrian Period.

In Judaism, Obadiah is one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the final section of Nevi'im, the second main division of the Tanakh. In Christianity, the Book of Obadiah is classified as a minor prophet of the Old Testament, due to its short length.

Content[edit]

The Book of Obadiah is based on a prophetic vision concerning the fall of Edom,[v.1,4,18] a mountain dwelling nation[v.8,9,19,21] whose founding father was Esau.[v.6][Genesis 36:9] Obadiah describes an encounter with Yahweh, who addresses Edom's arrogance and charges them for their "violence against your brother Jacob".[v.10]

Throughout most of the history of Judah, Edom was controlled absolutely from Jerusalem as a vassal state. Obadiah said that the high elevation of their dwelling place in the mountains of Seir had gone to their head, and they had puffed themselves up in pride. "'Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,' declares the Lord" (Obadiah 1:4, NIV).

In Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC), Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem, carted away the King of Judah, and installed a puppet ruler. The Edomites helped the Babylonians loot the city. Obadiah, writing this prophecy around 590 BCE, suggests the Edomites should have remembered that blood was thicker than water. "On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them... You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster." (Obadiah 1:11, 13 NIV)

Obadiah said in judgement Yahweh would wipe out the house of Esau forever, and not even a remnant would remain. The Edomites' land would be possessed by Egypt and they would cease to exist as a people. The Day of the Lord was at hand for all nations, and someday the children of Israel would return from their exile and possess the land of Edom.

Scholarly issues[edit]

Dating Obadiah[edit]

The date of composition is disputed and is difficult to determine due to the lack of personal information about Obadiah, his family, and his historical milieu. The date of composition must therefore be determined based on the prophecy itself. Edom is to be destroyed due to its lack of defense for its brother nation, Israel, when it was under attack. There are two major historical contexts within which the Edomites could have committed such an act. These are during 853 – 841 BC when Jerusalem was invaded by Philistines and Arabs during the reign of Jehoram of Judah (recorded in 2 Kings 8:20–22 and 2 Chronicles 21:8–20 in the Christian Old Testament) and 607 – 586 BC when Jerusalem was attacked by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, which led to the Babylonian exile of Israel (recorded in Psalm 137). The earlier period would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Elijah.

The later date would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. A sixth-century date for Obadiah is a "near consensus" position among scholars.[3] Obadiah 1–9 contains parallels to the Book of Jeremiah 49:7–22. The passage in the Book of Jeremiah dates from the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim (604 BC), and therefore Obadiah 11–14 seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II (586 BC). It is more likely that Obadiah and the Book of Jeremiah together were drawing on a common source presently unknown to us rather than Jeremiah drawing on previous writings of Obadiah as his source.[4] There is also much material found in Obadiah 10–21 which Jeremiah does not quote, and which, had he had it laid out before him, would have suited his purpose admirably.

Sepharad[edit]

The identity of the land of "Sepharad", mentioned only in Obadiah 1:20 is currently unknown. It is also unknown whether or not Sepharad is a city, district or territory. Persian inscriptions refer to two places called "Saparda", one area in Media and another in Asia Minor, arguably Sardis.

Scriptural parallels[edit]

The exact expression "the Day of the Lord", from Obadiah 1:15, has been used by other authors throughout the Old and New Testaments, as follows:

Old Testament[edit]

New Testament[edit]

For other parallels, compare Obadiah 1:1–8 with Jeremiah 49:7–16.

Protestant view[edit]

In relating to theme of Obadiah, it is important to underscore the punishment theme this book outlines against Edom. W.J. Deane and J.R. Thomson write this conclusion, "The Book of Obadiah is occupied with one subject – the punishment of Edom for its cruel and unbrotherly conduct towards Judah..."[5] One can link this idea of punishment to one of the major prophets Ezekiel who "...interprets the exile to Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem as deserved punishments for the sins of those who themselves committed them."[6] Verses 3–7[7] in Obadiah explain to the reader the reason for the punishment theme, "Confidence in one’s power, intelligence, allies, or the topographical features of one’s territory is often mentioned as an attribute of those who foolishly confront the Lord and are consequently punished."[8] Although destruction is vital to understanding Obadiah, it is of note to understand the destruction being a consequence of action.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press, New York (2009) p. 315
  2. ^ Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978, p. 191, ISBN 0-8407-5636-4
  3. ^ Jason C. Dykehouse (2008). An Historical Reconstruction of Edomite Treaty Betrayal in the Sixth Century B.C.E. Based on Biblical, Epigraphic, and Archaeological Data. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-549-59500-7.
  4. ^ Ehud Ben Zvi (1 January 1996). A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Obadiah. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 104–106. ISBN 978-3-11-080963-3.
  5. ^ Deane, W.J. & Thomson, J.R., The Book of Obadiah, The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 14 Amos – Malachi. Eds. Spence, H.D.M. & Exell, Joseph S., Eerdmans: Grand Rapids (1981). p.1
  6. ^ Coogan, M. "A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context". Oxford University Press, New York (2009) p. 319
  7. ^ "oremus Bible Browser : Obadiah 1". Bible.oremus.org. 2011-02-10. Retrieved 2012-01-26.
  8. ^ Henshaw, R.A. (revised by Zvi, Ehud Ben), The HarperCollins Study Bible. Ed. Attridge, H.W., HarperOne; New York. p. 1230

External links[edit]

Book of Obadiah
Preceded by
Amos
Hebrew Bible Succeeded by
Jonah
Christian
Old Testament