God appearing to Obadiah in his dream (France, 13th century).
|Feast||November 19 (Catholic oo, Orthodox churches) Tobi 15 (Coptic)|
|Major works||Book of Obadiah|
Obadiah (pronounced //, Hebrew: עובדיה ʿOvadyah or עבדיהו ʿOvadyahu, or in Modern Hebrew Ovadyah; "slave of god") is a Biblical theophorical name, meaning "servant of God" or "worshiper of Yahweh." The form of Obadiah's name used in the Septuagint is Obdios; in Latin it is Abdias. The Bishops' Bible has it as Abdi.
"The political situation implied in the prophecy points to a time after the Exile, probably in the mid-fifth century B.C. No value can be attributed to traditions identifying this prophet with King Ahab's steward (... so Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 39b) or with King Ahaziah's captain (... so Pseudo-Epiphanius...)." — The Interpreters' Bible
According to the Talmud, Obadiah is said to have been a convert to Judaism from Edom, a descendant of Eliphaz, the friend of Job. He is identified with the Obadiah who was the servant of Ahab, and it is said that he was chosen to prophesy against Edom because he was himself an Edomite. Moreover, having lived with two such godless persons as Ahab and Jezebel without learning to act as they did, he seemed the most suitable person to prophesy against Esau (Edom).
Obadiah is supposed to have received the gift of prophecy for having hidden the "hundred prophets" (1 Kings 18:4) from the persecution of Jezebel. He hid the prophets in two caves, so that if those in one cave should be discovered those in the other might yet escape (1 Kings 18:3-4).
Obadiah was very rich, but all his wealth was expended in feeding the poor prophets, until, in order to be able to continue to support them, finally he had to borrow money at interest from Ahab's son Jehoram. Obadiah's fear of God was one degree higher than that of Abraham; and if the house of Ahab had been capable of being blessed, it would have been blessed for Obadiah's sake.
In some Christian traditions he is said to have been born in "Sychem" (Shechem), and to have been the third centurion sent out by Ahaziah against Elijah. The date of his ministry is unclear due to certain historical ambiguities in the book bearing his name, but is believed to be around 586 B.C.
He is regarded as a saint by several Eastern churches. His feast day is celebrated on the 15th day of the Coptic Month Tobi (January 23/24) in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite celebrate his memory on November 19. (For those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, November 19 currently falls on December 2 of the modern Gregorian Calendar).
Other Obadiahs in the Old Testament
Other individuals named Obadiah in the Old Testament are listed as:
- the servant of king Ahab of Israel (1 Kings 18:3). According to the rabbinic tradition, the tradition of the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches, this is the same individual as the prophet.
- the son of Hananiah, a descendant of king David of Israel through Solomon (1 Chronicles 3:21)
- the son of Uzzi, a descendant of the Hebrew patriarch Issachar (1 Chronicles 7:3)
- the son of Azel, a descendant of king Saul of Israel through Jonathan (1 Chronicles 8:38)
- the son of Shemaiah, a descendant of the Hebrew patriarch Levi (1 Chronicles 9:16)
- a warrior of the Tribe of Gad who served King David (1 Chronicles 12:9)
- the father of Ishmaiah, governor of the tribe of Zebulun during the reign of king David (1 Chronicles 27:19)
- a prince of the southern kingdom of Judah during the reign of king Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:7)
- a Levite, overseer of the reconstruction efforts during the reforms of king Josiah of Judah (2 Chronicles 34:12)
- the son of Joab, one of the individuals who returned from the Babylonian captivity with the priestly scribe Ezra, and possibly the Levite mentioned in (Nehemiah 8:9) as a porter of Jerusalem's gates after the city's reconstruction under Nehemiah (Ezra 8:9)
Similarity of name in Arabic
The name Obadiah is similar to the Arabic name 'Obaidah' and also 'Obaid'. The former having the meaning of 'servant of god' and the latter meaning 'slave' or 'young slave'. Specifically, 'Obaid', also transliterated as Ubaid, is the diminutive form of 'abd meaning 'slave' or 'servant'. The similarity of meaning is thought to be due to Arabic being the sister language of Hebrew.
- I Kings 18:2
- New Bible Dictionary, second edition. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, USA.
- The Interpreter's Bible, 1953, Volume VI, pp. 857-859, John A. Thompson
- "Tract Sanhedrin, Volume VIII, XVI, Part II (Haggada), Chapter XI", The Babylonian Talmud, Boston: The Talmud Society, p. 376 Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson
- Midrash Exodus Rabbah xxxi. 3
- Sanh. loc. cit.
- 2 Kings 1
- compilation and translation by Holy Apostles Convent. (1998), The Lives of the Holy Prophets, Buena Vista CO: Holy Apostles Convent, p. 4, ISBN 0-944359-12-4
- Denys Pringle, The Churches of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem: A Corpus. Vol. 2: LZ (excluding Tyre), p. 283.
- Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saints. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co., 1924.