Obadiah - Introduction
Obadiah, the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible, is located between two eighth‐century prophets, Amos and Micah. Though Obadiah contains no date formula, on the basis of its allusion to the fall of Jerusalem (586 BCE) it probably stems from the first half of the sixth century. Thus, its position in the sequence of the Minor Prophets is not based on chronology. Thematic considerations probably account for its placement after Amos: The subject of Obadiah, divine judgment against the Edomites, can be associated with Am 9.12 , and the “Day of the LORD” is a central idea for both books. Nothing is known about the prophet Obadiah. Since the name itself means “servant of the LORD,” it could simply be an epithet or title, as also seems to be the case with Malachi.
The book consists of poetic declamations against Edom, Israel's southeastern neighbor. Many biblical passages testify to the close relationship between these peoples (Gen 25; 27; 36; Num 20.1420.14; Deut 2, 42.4,8; 23.7; Am 1.11; Mal 1.2 ), as well as to hostility between them (Num 20.18–21; 1 Sam 14.47 ; 2 Sam 8.12–14; 1 Kings 11.14–22; Am 1.11; Mal 1.3 ). There are oracles against Edom throughout the prophetic corpus (Isa 21.11–12; 34; Jer 49.7–22; Ezek 35; Joel 3.19; Am 1.11–12; Mal 1.2–5 ). The strongest anti‐Edomite invective stems from the time of the exile, when the Edomites, according to Ps 137.7; Lam 4.21; Ezek 35.5–6 , participated in the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem (see 1 Esd 4.45 for a later exaggeration of this theme). Against the larger background of Edomite‐Israelite enmity, Obadiah, like these exilic writings, also focuses on Edom's complicity in the Babylonian conquest. Indeed, as indicated in the notes to the book, Obadiah's words of judgment bear striking similarities to this larger corpus of prophetic oracles against Edom.
In a book of only twenty‐one verses, it is difficult and, perhaps, unnecessary to isolate subsections. There is a slight shift in subject matter from vv. 1–18 , judgment directed against Edom, to 19–21, the vindication of Israel, which includes repatriation of its exiles and expansion into territories it had gradually lost since the eighth century BCE.