Consisting of one chapter with 21 verses, Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. The superscription calls it the “Vision of Obadiah.” The subject of the book, made very clear from the start, is Edom. The nation of Edom was fathered by Jacob’s brother, Esau, as detailed in Genesis 36, so they were actually relatives of the Israelites. Deuteronomy 2 tells us that God had given the Edomites Mount Seir and the mountain land around it for them to live in, which goes to explain a bit about verse 3’s description of them and their false sense of security:
The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rock,
in your lofty dwelling,
who say in your heart,
“Who will bring me down to the ground?”
Dating this book is not difficult. Verse 11 speaks of the fall of Jerusalem as a past event, and the fall of Edom itself as a future event. The former event was in 586 B.C., and Babylon took Edom down in 553 B.C. – a span of about 33 years. So the book was probably written during the first half of the Babylonian exile. In 586, when Israel was being attacked, the Edomites who were the brother nation of Israel, joined in (instead of assisting them), as they were hoping to gain favor with Babylon. They brutalized them, plundered Jerusalem, and even thwarted the escape of those who would flee the destruction. This book foretells God’s vengeance on them for their part in the persecution of God’s people. It certainly answers the plea of Psalm 137:7.
Though the message is that those who oppose God and His people will get their just judgment (verse 15), the book ends with the promise of restoration for His covenant people and the promise of the kingdom (verses 19-21).
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers