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Reference: Obadiah, Book Of


consists of one chapter, "concerning Edom," its impending doom (1:1-16), and the restoration of Israel (1:17-21). This is the shortest book of the Old Testament.

There are on record the account of four captures of Jerusalem, (1) by Shishak in the reign of Rehoboam (1Ki 14:25); (2) by the Philistines and Arabians in the reign of Jehoram (2Ch 21:16); (3) by Joash, the king of Israel, in the reign of Amaziah (2Ki 14:13); and (4) by the Babylonians, when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (B.C. 586). Obadiah (Ob 1:11-14) speaks of this capture as a thing past. He sees the calamity as having already come on Jerusalem, and the Edomites as joining their forces with those of the Chaldeans in bringing about the degradation and ruin of Israel. We do not indeed read that the Edomites actually took part with the Chaldeans, but the probabilities are that they did so, and this explains the words of Obadiah in denouncing against Edom the judgments of God. The date of his prophecies was thus in or about the year of the destruction of Jerusalem.

Edom is the type of Israel's and of God's last foe (Isa 63:1-4). These will finally all be vanquished, and the kingdom will be the Lord's (comp. Ps 22:28).

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The questions as to the origin and Interpretation of this, the shortest book of the OT, are numerous and difficult. The title describes the book as 'a vision' (cf. Isa 1:1; Na 1:1) and ascribes it to Obadiah. Obadiah is one of the commonest of Hebrew names, and occurs both before and after the Exile: see preceding article. Some fruitless attempts have been made to identify the author of the book with one or other of the persons of the same name mentioned in the OT.

The book of Obadiah stands fourth in order (in the Greek version, fifth) of the prophets whose works were collected and edited in (probably) the 3rd cent. b.c.; the collection since the beginning of the 2nd cent. b.c. has been known as 'The Twelve' (see Canon of OT; cf. Micah [Bk. of], ad init.). By the place which he gave this small book in his collection the editor perhaps intended to indicate his belief that it was of early, i.e. pre-exilic, origin. But the belief of an editor of the 3rd cent. b.c. is not good evidence that a book was written earlier than the 6th century. The relative probabilities of the different theories of its origin must be judged by internal evidence; this, unfortunately, is itself uncertain on account of ambiguities of expression.

It will be convenient to state first what appears on the whole the most probable theory, and then to mention more briefly one or two others.

The book contains two themes: (1) a prophetic Interpretation of an overwhelming disaster which has already befallen Edom (Ob 1:1-7,10-14,16 b); (2) a prediction of a universal judgment and specifically of judgment on Edom which is now imminent (Ob 1:8-9,16 a, Ob 1:16-21).

1. The prophetic interpretation of Edom's fall.

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There is nothing in this prophecy to fix its date. The whole of it relates to Edom or the Edomites. Edom (Esau) is characterised in scripture by his deadly hatred to his 'brother Jacob,' Ob 1:10. His pride is spoken of, exalting himself as the eagle, setting his nest in the firmament of heaven, and seeking his safety in the high caves of the rocks, which well answers to their habitations in Idumea.

Part of the prophecy may refer to the time when Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon. In Ps 137:7-8, Edom is associated with Babylon as against Jerusalem. Ob 1:12 to 14 of the prophecy exactly describe the manner of a people like the Arabs when a city was captured. There are seven reproaches against them: they helped to pillage the place, stood in by-places to cut off any that escaped, and delivered them up to their enemies. These intimations of their assisting in the destruction of Jerusalem have led to the prophecy being usually dated B.C. 587, the year following the destruction.

The prophecy, however, probably looks onward to the last days, when Israel, restored to their land, will be attacked by Edom, and kindred nations. Ps. 83. Idumea will be their rendezvous, and the sword of the Lord will be filled with blood. Isa 34:5-6. Obadiah depicts the Jews themselves as God's instruments for the destruction of Esau; which agrees with Isa 11:14; Da 11:41. "Upon mount Zion shall be deliverance . . . . the house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble." Ob 1:17-18. The destruction shall be complete: "every one of the mount of Esau" shall be cut off by slaughter; "there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau." Ob 1:9,18. Their land shall be possessed by Israel, for God's ways are retributive. The prophecy ends with "the kingdom shall be Jehovah's."

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