The prophecy of Obadiah is the shortest of the Old Testament prophets, consisting of only 1 chapter with 21 verses. The interesting fact is that this prophecy is against Edom. In the following section, we will see who Edom is, and why is the prophecy against Edom.
Firstly, the name Obadiah means servant or worshipper of Jehovah (the name for the LORD in the Old Testament). Thus, we see that Obadiah worshipped the Lord and was truly His servant. Who was Obadiah? There are at least 10 people in the Old Testament with the name Obadiah. Many commentators like to identify Obadiah with the same prophet in the days of Elijah and king Ahab of Israel, the same Obadiah who feared God and Elijah, and hid the true prophets of God from Jezebel. You can read this in 1 Kings 18. Others have different opinions about who Obadiah is and one has written “The silence of Holy Scriptures as to the prophet Obadiah stands in remarkable contrast with the anxiety of men to know something of him. They hoped that Obadiah might prove to have been the faithful protector of the prophets under Ahab; or the son of the Shunamite, whom Elijah called to life, or the Obadiah whom Jehoshaphat sent to teach in the cities of Judah, or the Levite who was selected, with one other, to be the overseer set over the repair of the temple in the reign of Josiah. Fruitless guesses at what God has hidden! God has willed that his name alone and this brief prophecy should be known in this world” (Dr. Pusey).
Why was this prophecy written? It was written as a sign of judgment against Edom and as a comforting message to Israel that the kingdom would be restored in the future. Who is Edom? There is a long history between Edom and Israel, going back to when Jacob and Esau were born in Genesis 25. Already before their actual birth God had announced to Rebecca and Isaac that the older son Esau would serve the younger son Jacob (Gen. 25:23). After despising his birthright for a simple meal of lentils, rose Esau’s hatred against Jacob (Gen. 27). Edom is the name of Esau’s descendants. The nation of Edom lived in the mountains of Seir south of the Dead Sea down to the Gulf of Akaba (Gen. 36:8-9). Esau was Jacob’s twin brother. Since Esau rejected his birthright, he despised what God had given him. Later when Edom was fully inhabited it was at the captivity of Israel that Edom rejoiced in his brother’s calamity. This is what Obadiah takes up (verses 10-14).
The following is a division of the prophecy of Obadiah:
- Verses 1-9 describe the future humiliation and destruction of Edom.
- Verses 10-16 provide the reasons for Edom’s destruction – Edom’s sin against Israel and the future day of the Lord.
- Verses 17-21 tell of the kingdom, salvation, and restoration of Israel in the future.
This outline is adapted from Arend Remmers’ outline of Obadiah and Arno Gaebelein’s annotated bible notes on Obadiah, which is found on www.biblecentre.org, a website full of resources for spiritual growth and help.