This is the shortest of all the books of prophecy. It has only 21 verses. The book explains the subject of judgement. There was punishment for the Edomite thieves. They often made life very hard for the people of Judah. (Judah was the southern kingdom of the Jews.)

[Note: Edomites were the enemies of the Jews. They came from Esau. He was the brother of Jacob. They lived in the land of Edom. It was a country southeast of the land of Judah.]

The date of the book is probably after 586 BC (Before Christ). Obadiah gave a clear message from God. Obadiah was in the land of Judah. This was during the time of the exile. And it was probably very early in that time. He was the only prophet who spoke while he was in Judah. Other prophets spoke from outside the land.

The prophet did not mention Judah's sins. A Christian writer suggested a reason for this. His name is H. L. Ellison. And his book is called ‘Men Spoke from God’. He said that it was because Judah was in the time of exile. So God's punishment had already come. This would also explain verse 17. It referred to a future time. ‘The nation of Jacob will take back the things that belong to it.’

‘Obadiah’ means ‘Servant of God’. God gave a task to Ezekiel. It was to bring hope to the exiles who were in Babylon. The task of Obadiah was similar. He had words of hope too. The words were for the people who were still living in Judah. They were feeling sad. And their lives were very hard. We must notice something. Many ideas in this book are in the book of Jeremiah too (49:7-22).

God Refused to Accept them (Verses 1-14)

Obadiah spoke about the people of Edom. They were cruel when the Jews were in exile. The Edomites (from the family of Esau) were the enemies of the Jews. They had argued with the Jews a long time before. The arguments began when the Jews were wandering in the desert. The people of Edom would not let the Jews go through the Edomite land to safety. (Read Numbers 20:14-21. Compare Deuteronomy 23:7-8.) The Jews were bitter. They became angrier in the time before the exile. (Read 2 Samuel 8:13-14; 1 Kings 11:14-25; 2 Kings 8:20-22; 14:7-10; 2 Chronicles 28:16-17.) But they hurt the Jews most during the time of the exile.

The people of Edom were cruel. They insulted the Jews. (Compare Lamentations 4:21-22; Ezekiel 35.) Mount Seir refers to the land of Edom. This is the reason why the same subject is in the book of Psalms. (Compare Psalms 60 and 137.) Other prophets taught about it too. (Read Isaiah 34; Ezekiel 25:12-14; Joel 3:19; Amos 1:11; Malachi 1:2-5.)

The people of Edom were cruel all the time. Their hate was bitter. So it is hard to know the meaning of the prophecy of Amos (2:1-3). Amos said that God would punish the people of Moab. This was another land. And their punishment was because they were cruel to Edom!

This was what Obadiah taught. He said that God's judgement would come upon the cruel nation of Edom. There were two reasons for God's judgement. First, the people of Edom hated the Jews. Second, they were proud before God.

Obadiah said much about four sins of the people of Edom. They had all made God very sad.

  • They were proud of their strength in battle (1-6).
  • They cheated when they used clever political plans (7-9).
  • They did not care about other people (12-13a).
  • They wanted more and more possessions (13b-14).

God's Punishment was Certain (Verses 15-16)

Crowds of Edomites attacked the Jews. The Jews were very poor. They did not have any power. And there were no strong leaders in the army or in the state. The leaders were now in Babylon (2 Kings 24:14-16; 25:12). And the rest of the people had no power against such cruel enemies.

But the word of Obadiah brought comfort to them. They were feeling disappointed, hungry and unhappy. They were sad about many people who had died. And they did not know why God had let these bad things happen. Then Obadiah came. He said, ‘God is still powerful and he is in control. These are terrible times. But do not forget ‘The Day of the Lord’.

The subject of judgement was not cruel or unkind. It was necessary to remind the Jews that God rules the world. There was a danger. Many of them might stop trusting God. This was because of the people who did not know God. These people seemed to be able to do anything to God's people. The gods of Edom and Babylon seemed to be winning.

So Obadiah reminded the Jews about the judgement that God had promised. It would be:

Coming soon. ‘The day of the Lord is near.’

Universal. It is for ‘all the nations’. God would punish all those who hurt other people. So God would not punish only the people of Edom.

Right and proper. ‘The bad things that you did to other people will happen to you.’ Everything about the coming judgement would be proper and fair. God is full of mercy. But he is also holy. And he will always do what is right.

God Promised to Rescue (Verses 17-21)

There were only a few people left in Judah. Most of the people were in Babylon. And the few Jews who were still in Judah were very sad. Many of their friends and families had died. And everything in their lives was bad. Then a wonderful thing happened. Obadiah spoke words of great hope to them (17).

‘There will be a rescue. You will be my special people.

The nation will take back the things that belong to it.’

Obadiah helped them to understand that they were God's people. Things were bad then. But they were still in God's powerful care. Obadiah believed that they were:

  • The people whom God saved (17).
  • The people to whom God gave power (18).
  • The people whom God ruled (20-21).

The prophet's final words offered hope and peace. The times were difficult and dangerous. And his words were for those sad little groups who gathered round him. He said, ‘The kingdom will belong to the Lord’. It will not belong to the Edomites.

These are words for our time too. Often there is so much that is evil. Wicked things seem to defeat what is good. BUT ‘The kingdom will belong to the Lord’.