The Minor Prophets: Obadiah

The Minor Prophets Hosea


I. Historical context

    A. 845 B.C. (Butler, Coffman, Hailey, Waddey); 586 B.C. (Lewis)

      1. There are several instances of Edom opposing Israel that could fit the events described
      2. Proponents of the late date argue: “Despite all cases made, the calamity here spoke of can hardly be other than that brought about by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. (cf. Obad. 20).” (Lewis)
      3. Coffman favors the early date, “during the days of Jehoram after the Philistines and the Arabians attacked and captured the city of Jerusalem. It is true, of course, that the eventual fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians is mentioned; but there is no reason whatever to understand this as anything else but a prophecy.” (Coffman)
      4. Reasons for the early date: “Edom had recently revolted (II Kings 8:20-22; II Chron. 21:820). Obadiah does not mention the wholesale deportation of the population as occurred in 586 B.C. Salves are not said to go east to Babylon, but to Phoenicia and the west (Ob. 20).” (Waddey)

    B. “The enmity between these two peoples dates from the birth of Isaac’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau (Gen. 25:21-26). The event that triggered the feud was Jacob’s obtaining of Esau’s birthright by deceit (Gen. 25:27-34; 27:1-45). God considered the Israelites and Edomites brethren. Edomites were not to be abhorred by Israel (Deut. 23:7) and Israel was forbidden to take Edom’s land (Det. 2:1-8). Edomites could enter the congregation of Israel after three generations (Deut. 23:8). The Edomites, however, were not inclined to show kindness or tolerance toward Israel. Edom’s anger tore ‘perpetually’ and he kept his wrath forever (Amos 1:11). During the long trek of the Exodus, they refused the weary Hebrews right of passage over their King’s Highway (Num. 20:14-21). Economics were a major cause of strife between the two nations. The border between them, the Arabah, was a major caravan route. Copper ore was found there in abundance.” (Waddey)

II. About the prophet

    A. “His name means ‘servant of the Lord.’ He was a godly, patriotic citizen of the kingdom of Judah who recorded his righteous indignation toward the wicked Edomites.” (Waddey)
    B. “Despite the fact of most scholars denying that Obadiah may be positively identified with any of the others, we are inclined to give credence to the allegation by Josephus that this Obadiah and the devout steward of Ahab’s household (1 Kings 18) who hid the true prophets from the wrath of Jezebel are one and the same person.” (Coffman)

III. Lessons for today

    A. The danger of pride (3-4)

      1. “The Edomites were justifiably proud of their fortress stronghold…Their great error was that of trusting in themselves instead of trusting in God.” (Coffman)
      2. “Edom’s pride and boasting rested on her assumption of strategic impregnability. One explorer of the territory has stated that a handful of men stationed in the Sik could easily hold off a whole army of invaders….Edom’s presumptuous boasting in her defenses and her wealth reminds us of many nations, both past and present, whose proud necks have been bowed by the Omnipotent Ruler of the Universe.” (Butler)
      3. “Pride is deceitful and ‘goes before a fall.’ Pride, which leads to vanity and a sense of independence from God, must be judged and exposed.” (Hailey)
      4. “The pride of the ‘elder brother’ will condemn one. Pride promotes strife, as seen in the disciples (Mark 9:33-37). Pride keeps one from believing God (James 3:13-18). Christians cannot worship with an arrogant heart (James 2:1-6). Strife is often produced by pride, and will prevent one’s worship (I Cor. 11:20). Christians should be willing to take ‘second place.’ No Christian will resent Christ’s lesson on ‘washing the saints’ feet.’ Pride and strife are sinful!” (Young)
      5. “The destiny, doom, and deliverance of nations are in the hand of God…He alone has the power to build up or to debase and cast down.” (Hailey)
      6. Proverbs 16:18; 1 Timothy 6:17

    B. The danger of siding with the enemy (10-14)

      1. “Obadiah is a standing rebuke to the spirit who prefers not to become involved in the problems of others, but it is even more a rebuke to him who finds a sadistic joy in the misfortunes of another.” (Lewis)
      2. “Wrong or violence is all the more heinous when committed against a brother and the Israelites (Jacob) were brothers to the Edomites (Esau). We recall others sinning against their own; Joseph and his brethren; Ammon and Tamar; Saul and Jonathan; David and Absalom. The strong ties of blood between the Edomites and the Israelites should have impelled the Edomites to give aid to the oppressed people of Judea, but quite to the contrary, they not only gloated over the plundering of their cities and villages but joined in with the enemies of the Israelites….We should not be surprised at the judgment of shame and ‘cutting-off’ pronounced upon the Edomites for their actions toward their brethren.” (Butler)
      3. “Christians cannot compromise with sin and wrong….God’s truth is not to be betrayed. God’s truth is not to be sacrificed. When one stands with the enemy, he is as ‘one of them.’” (Young)
      4. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18

    C. The knowledge that God will avenge evil (15-16)

      1. “In the last analysis, the justice of God is retributive. In the final judgment, men shall be rewarded according to what they have done during the present life; and there has never been a true theology that can get rid of this basic truth.” (Coffman)
      2. 2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-8; Matthew 6:14-15
      3. Remember that it is God to whom vengeance belongs, not man! (Romans 12:17-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9)

Butler, Paul T. (1968). The Minor Prophets: The Prophets of the Decline. Joplin, MO: College Press. [Online at]

Coffman, James Burton. (1981). Commentary on the Minor Prophets, Volume 2: Hosea, Obadiah and Micah. Austin, TX: The Firm Foundation Publishing House. [Textual commentary excluding introductory notes on each book available online at]

Hailey, Homer. (1972). A Commentary on the Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

Highers, Alan. “The Living Message of the Book of Amos.” (1977). The Living Messages of the Books of the Old Testament. Garland Elkins and Thomas B. Warren, editors. Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press, Inc.

Lewis, Jack P. (1966). Minor Prophets. Austin, TX: R.B. Sweet Co., Inc.

Waddey, John. (2011). The Testimony of the Twelve Minor Prophets. Delight, AR: Gospel Light Publishing Company. [Online at]

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