The Book of Obadiah is a book of the Bible whose authorship is attributed to Obadiah, a prophet who lived in the Assyrian Period. Obadiah is one of the Twelve Minor Prophets in the final section of Nevi'im, the second main division of the Hebrew Bible. The text consists of a single chapter, divided into 21 verses with 440 Hebrew words, making it the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible, though there are three shorter New Testament epistles in Greek (Philemon with 335 words, 2 John with 245 words, and 3 John with 219 words). The Book of Obadiah is a prophecy concerning the divine judgment of Edom and the restoration of Israel.[1][2]


Fresco from St Mary's Church, Bergen, with a quote from Obadiah 17: "Upon Mount Zion there will be deliverance."

The Book of Obadiah is based on a prophetic vision concerning the fall of Edom,[3] a mountain-dwelling nation[4] whose founding father was Esau.[5][6] Obadiah describes an encounter with Yahweh, who addresses Edom's arrogance and charges them for their "violence against your brother Jacob".[7]

Throughout most of the history of Judah, Edom was controlled absolutely from Jerusalem as a vassal state. Obadiah said that the high elevation of their dwelling place in the mountains of Seir had gone to their head, and they had puffed themselves up in pride. "'Though you soar like the eagle and make your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down,' declares the LORD".[8]

In the Siege of Jerusalem (597 BC), Nebuchadnezzar II sacked Jerusalem, carted away the King of Judah, and installed a puppet ruler. The Edomites helped the Babylonians loot the city. Obadiah, writing this prophecy around 590 BCE, suggests the Edomites should have remembered that blood was thicker than water. "On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them... You should not march through the gates of my people in the day of their disaster, nor gloat over them in their calamity in the day of their disaster, nor seize their wealth in the day of their disaster."[9]

Obadiah said in judgment Yahweh would wipe out the house of Esau forever, and not even a remnant would remain.[10] The Edomites' land would be possessed by Egypt and they would cease to exist as a people.[11] The Day of the Lord was at hand for all nations, and someday the children of Israel would return from their exile and possess the land of Edom.[12]

Scholarly issues

Dating Obadiah

The date of composition is disputed and is difficult to determine due to the lack of personal information about Obadiah, his family, and his historical milieu. The date of composition must therefore be determined based on the prophecy itself. Edom is to be destroyed due to its lack of defense for its brother nation, Israel, when it was under attack. There are two major historical contexts within which the Edomites could have committed such an act. These are during 853–841 BCE when Jerusalem was invaded by Philistines and Arabs during the reign of Jehoram of Judah (recorded in 2 Kings 8:20–22 and 2 Chronicles 21:8–20 in the Christian Old Testament) and 607–586 BCE when Jerusalem was attacked by Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, which led to the Babylonian exile of Israel (recorded in Psalm 137). The earlier period would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Elijah.

The later date would place Obadiah as a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah. A sixth-century date for Obadiah is a "near consensus" position among scholars.[13] Obadiah 1–9 contains parallels to the Book of Jeremiah 49:7–22. The passage in the Book of Jeremiah dates from the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim (604 BCE), and therefore Obadiah 11–14 seems to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II (586 BCE). It is more likely that Obadiah and the Book of Jeremiah together were drawing on a common source presently unknown to us rather than Jeremiah drawing on previous writings of Obadiah as his source.[14] There is also much material found in Obadiah 10–21 which Jeremiah does not quote, and which, had he had it laid out before him, would have suited his purpose admirably.


Main article: Sepharad

The term "Sepharad" mentioned in the 20th verse of Obadiah comes from the Hebrew word for Spain.[15]

Scriptural parallels

The exact expression "the Day of the Lord", from Obadiah 1:15, has been used by other authors throughout the Old and New Testaments, as follows:

Old Testament

New Testament

For other parallels, compare Obadiah 1:1–8 with Jeremiah 49:7–16.

See also


  1. ^ Coogan, M. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in its Context. Oxford University Press, New York (2009) p. 315
  2. ^ Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978, p. 191, ISBN 0-8407-5636-4
  3. ^ Obadiah 1:1,4,18
  4. ^ Obadiah 1:8,9,19,21
  5. ^ Obadiah 1:6
  6. ^ Genesis 36:9
  7. ^ Obadiah 1:10
  8. ^ Obadiah 1:4
  9. ^ Obadiah 1:11, 13
  10. ^ Obadiah 1:18
  11. ^ Obadiah 1:15
  12. ^ Obadiah 1:17-21
  13. ^ Jason C. Dykehouse (2008). An Historical Reconstruction of Edomite Treaty Betrayal in the Sixth Century B.C.E. Based on Biblical, Epigraphic, and Archaeological Data. p. 11. ISBN 978-0-549-59500-7.[permanent dead link]
  14. ^ Ehud Ben Zvi (1 January 1996). A Historical-Critical Study of the Book of Obadiah. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 104–106. ISBN 978-3-11-080963-3.
  15. ^ "Sephardim". Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  16. ^ a b c d Obadiah 1:19
  17. ^ Obadiah 1:9
Book of Obadiah Minor prophets Preceded byAmos Hebrew Bible Succeeded byJonah ChristianOld Testament